How to walk with coffee
“Ever wondered why it’s so hard to walk with a cup of coffee without spilling?” writes Natalie Wolchover for Life’s Little Mysteries. “It just so happens that the human stride has almost exactly the right frequency to drive the natural oscillations of coffee, when the fluid is in a typically sized coffee mug. New research shows that the properties of mugs, legs and liquid conspire to cause spills, most often at some point between your seventh and tenth step. So says a pair of fluid physicists at the University of California at Santa Barbara.” Their advice:
- To avoid driving the oscillations that lead to a spillage, walk slowly.
- Watch your cup, not your feet. The researchers found that when study participants focused on their cups, the average number of steps they took before spilling increased greatly.
Choking on high stakes
“When there are high financial incentives to succeed, people can become so afraid of losing their potentially big payoff that their performance suffers,” reports Psych Central. “It is an unexpected conclusion, said researchers at the California Institute of Technology, who suggests that the prevailing notion is that the more people are paid, the harder they will work. But after looking at brain scans of volunteers performing a specific motor task, the researchers report as people become worried about losing a potential prize, their performance suffers. And the more someone is afraid of loss, the worse they perform, said Vikram Chib, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar and lead author of the study.”
“Service areas on [Japanese]expressways not only serve as gas stations or resting places for drivers, but are becoming hot-spot destinations in their own right,” The Yomiuri Shimbun reports. “Travelers can shop, dine and listen to live performances while taking a break from the road. They can even bring their dog to play in an open space. … Popular and exclusive services near highways even attract visitors who don’t drive. Bus tours are organized for people without cars who want to visit the service areas.”
Are we hit by dark matter?
“The average human body gets hit by a particle of dark matter about once a minute, according to new calculations based on several dark matter detection efforts,” says National Geographic News. “Dark matter is an invisible form of material that’s thought to exist because scientists have observed its apparent gravitational effects on galaxies and galaxy clusters. Scientists estimate that the mysterious substance makes up almost 80 per cent of the matter in the universe. So far, no one’s been able to pinpoint the particles that make up dark matter. But a leading candidate is a theoretical group known as Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, or WIMPs … they typically zip straight through most of the stuff in the universe, including people. But WIMPs of certain masses can collide with atomic nuclei on occasion – and it now appears such collisions might happen more often than previously thought. ‘Before we did this work, I thought a WIMP collided with one of your nuclei once in your lifetime,’ said Katherine Freese, a professor with the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics at the University of Michigan. ‘Turns out it’s more likely to be one a minute.’”
Sensory overload at school
“Officials say a fire alarm that went off at a Connecticut high school was activated by a student’s ‘overabundance’ of body spray in a locker room,” The Associated Press reports. “Firefighters were called to Middletown (Conn.) High School shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday. Officials told The Middletown Press that the student used an excessive amount of the scented spray and created a cloud of mist right below a heat sensor, which tripped the fire alarm. … Officials deemed the call a ‘routine accidental.’”
Forecast? Limited visibility
“The number of U.S. satellites watching Earth is expected to plummet by 2020, and weather forecasting, including hurricane tracking, could suffer as a result, a new report warns,” says the Los Angeles Times. “The study, released [two weeks ago]by the nation’s top science advisors, estimated that the fleet of science satellites operated by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would ‘decline precipitously’ from a peak of 110 probes last year to fewer than 30 in 2020. The drop is a result of several factors, including budget problems and rocket accidents, and scientists said the United States risked blurring its vision of Earth if it did not act quickly to replace satellites expected to die during the next eight years.”
Thought du jour
“To change one’s life: 1. Start immediately. 2. Do it flamboyantly. 3. No exceptions.”
– William James (1842-1910), American psychologist and philosopher