Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Science of Love (for Valentine’s Day)

What do laboratory notebooks and the facial features of your next date have in common? They might hold the key to true love for you. In fact, even though the time may have passed when you would ask for parental consent before asking someone on a date, your own parents have more influence on your love life than you might imagine.

Science of Love

Parental Influence

It’s no secret that parents matter when it comes to love. Your upbringing and personal beliefs have a lot to do with what you find tolerable in another person and can impact who you fall in love with, but that isn’t the science behind parental influence. The fact is that most people subconsciously fall for those who share facial features and scents with their parents. If you just cringed at that idea, it’s okay. There’s more science to it than that.

Steps to Long Lasting Love

One researcher has filled her lab notebook with all of the details of the steps required to develop long-lasting love. Helen Fisher from Rutgers University identified the chemicals involved in love, based on her own notes and the evidence discovered while investigating the mating habits of prairie vole.

Step One: Primal Lust

Lust is all about the hormones. Testosterone and estrogen play a large part in this phase. In fact, they are the things that make people go out “looking” and can even govern when you do and don’t feel like having sex, even if you have an existing partner. Obviously, there are other elements involved or you wouldn’t be picky about who you sought out during this phase.

Step Two: Elements of Attraction

During this phase, specific neurotransmitters are so active that they can lead to temporary insanity. This is the phase during which you may have a hard time sleeping, and you spend most of your time thinking about the person you are attracted to. Below are the neurotransmitters responsible for this phenomenon.

  • Serotonin: A lack of this chemical in the body can lead to depression, so it’s not hard to imagine what an excess can do. When it comes to things like poor decision making based on emotional overload, this is the chemical responsible.
  • Dopamine: Nicotine and cocaine also make this neurotransmitter active. This is the neurotransmitter that gives you increased energy and is sometimes responsible for a lack of ability to sleep.
  • Norepinephrine: Commonly called adrenaline, this neurotransmitter is responsible for the fight or flight response that causes your heart to beat a bit faster and your palms to feel sweaty.
  • Step Three: Get Attached

    Oxytocin and Vasopressin are the two main ingredients for this phase. Oxytocin is the chemical that is released by the mother when she gives birth to a child. It’s also released during orgasm and is thought to be the cement that helps for long-lasting love bonds. Oddly enough, Vasopressin helps control the kidneys, but when it was suppressed in prairie vole, the male no longer fought for the female and wasn’t as devoted to her, suggesting that this is a necessary component for ongoing attachments.

    Consider the science behind your next relationship. You might even use your own laboratory notebook to track phases or help you keep a straight head when the hormones hit.

    Valentine's Day

    5 Science Mysteries that Might Be Solved in 2016

    Every scientist has their laboratory research notebook at the ready and is feeling hopeful about 2016. That’s because 2015 brought a whole host of discoveries and advances. Each time a new scientific discovery is made, it opens the doors for endless discoveries to jump off from it. After all, research is only limited by the current knowledge base. That’s why the world can and should expect great scientific things in 2016.

    Lab notebook

    How Many More Synthetic Elements Can Be Created?

    2015 brought the groundbreaking discovery of four more elements. These elements were added to the existing periodic table, but that’s not where things end. Instead, it’s where they begin. Scientists are continually working to create new elements themselves. They do this by smashing particles together. With four new elements on the table, you can expect lab notebooks to fill up with plans for new synthetic elements, as well.

    What Is Dark Matter?

    There has never really been a question of whether or not dark matter exists. The problem is, it can’t be seen or really measured. Scientists are aware of dark matter because of the impact it has on other things, rather than because they’ve seen the matter themselves. Since there is 5 times as much dark matter as there is matter that can be seen, it’s important to start learning more about it. Scientists have their sights fixed on doing just that this year.

    Is Bigfoot Real?

    This time, scientists come in the form of observers and operators of unmanned aerial vehicles. These drones can go places that aren’t easy to get to, and they can see more than has ever been seen because of it. They have already been able to capture images of elusive animals. Since they can go in areas that aren’t heavily populated, they may be able to catch a glimpse of creatures like Bigfoot, which, if they do exist, are likely to be hiding out in remote areas.

    Is There Life on Mars?

    2015 offered the astounding discovery of water on Mars. A history of a water-drenched land was provided, but there are also existing salt water areas. Scientists know that where there is water on Earth, there is life. It stands to reason that the same methodology might apply not just to Mars, but to Jupiter, and to a moon of Saturn, Enceladus.

    Life-on-Mars

    What Do Gravitational Waves Look Like?

    The world has long been aware that gravity exists, but has never seen gravitational waves. In 2015, there was an upgrade to a machine designed to look for waves that are 10,000 times smaller than protons. The upgrade hasn’t been revealed, but rumors have already started to circulate, and the scientific community is expecting big things from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)

    Naturally, these aren’t the only questions that scientists seek to answer in 2016, but the changes and discoveries of 2015 did make answering these questions more of a possibility than ever before. With a lab notebook at the ready, each scientist is going into 2016 with a new sense of wonder and motivation.

     

     

    Why Is a Praying Mantis Wearing 3D Glasses?

    Imagine a scenario where you are reading notes in a laboratory research notebook. Now, imagine that the scenario in the notebook involves forcing an insect to hang upside down, but the insect isn’t just hanging upside down. It’s hanging upside down while watching a 3D movie, and wearing 3D glasses. It sounds like something out of a bizarre science fiction novel instead of a professional notebook. As an authentic study, it has a lot of value to add to the scientific community.

    Laboratory research notebook

    Insect Vision

    Humans have forward-facing eyes and stereopsis. That means that both of the eyes can come together to create one 3D image through the brain. Insects don’t have forward facing eyes, and they didn’t evolve along the same lines as humans. Therefore, it was concluded they didn’t have stereopsis. Because they hunt live prey, scientists often wondered how they survived without 3D vision.

    To understand how 3D vision affects your life, compare two viewing scenarios. If a box was sitting in your living room, and the open end faced you, you would jump when something in the box leapt toward you, because 3D vision allows you to perceive that something is coming in your direction. Now, consider the scenario using a television rather than a box. If something leaps toward you on the television, there is no depth to it, so you don’t perceive it as a threat. This is called 2D vision. 3D vision helps living beings understand the distance between them and something or someone else. It’s a survival trait in more ways than one, and it is becoming clear that insects may also have this trait.

    Movies for the Praying Mantis

    Recently, Jennifer Ready designed and built a theater for a praying mantis. The theater used 3D imaging. The mantis, whose hunting position involves being suspended upside down, was affixed with 3D “glasses” in the way of two different-colored lenses. Only, unlike humans, the mantis doesn’t perceive the color red very well, so red was replaced with green. The movie may as well have been titled “Attack of the Flying Discs,” because it involved small discs that looked as if they were flying. Their flight pattern was designed to be similar to that of the prey the mantis usually seeks out.

    The climax of the movie occurred when the disc appeared to be within 2 cm of the face of the mantis. This is the range at which the mantis strikes out for its prey. The scientists were not disappointed. The mantis did strike out and was most likely confused as to why it captured exactly nothing. The harmless disc continued its flight across the computer screen that the mantis was viewing.

    What exactly can be learned from this? In all seriousness, it changes the way scientists understand the perception of insects. For the average person, the notes in this scientific notebook mean that red is probably the best color to use when you are trying to sneak up on a praying mantis.

    Scientific notebook

    Sustainable Bricks Made from Plastic Bottles

    In a time when people are making every effort to conserve energy and still live comfortably, the scientific notebook that holds the information to make sustainable bricks from plastic bottles is most welcome. As convenient as plastic is, it is a menace to the oceans and the wildlife that lives there. Even on land, it fills the landfills endlessly. The very idea that it might possibly be used to build homes or other structures is enough to rouse interest.

    Plastic Replaces Sand

    Plastic Replaces Sand

    When bricks are made, sand is used as their filler. Combined with cement and water, the sand makes a durable material with which to build homes that are structurally low maintenance. Rosana Gaggino and the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research came up with a process that allows the bricks to be built by combining polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic with cement, rather than sand. If the plastic particles were not put to a specific use, it would take around 500 years for them to decompose.

    Benefits of Using Plastic in Bricks

    Other than the benefit to the planet, the information found in the engineering notebooks offers faster, more direct benefits to people in general. While this method recycles plastic bottles to the tune of 20 bottles for every brick, it also provides better insulation for homes than the traditional bricks that are used to create structures for humans to live in. In fact, they hold heat up to five times more effectively than bricks built with sand.

    The ripple effect is overwhelming. Not only does the plastic get reused and kept out of the landfills, but erosion from the use of sand and dirt is also reduced. At the same time, it will take less energy to heat the homes that rely on these “ecological” bricks for their construction. On top of that, a concept not yet addressed in the engineering notebooks is that the plastic may even hold up longer than the sand, meaning that less maintenance is necessary even in the long run. Of course, the only way to test that theory is over time, but, given the decomposition rate of the plastic, it would seem sound enough.

    Other Uses for Plastic

    Considering that the government has already approved the use of these ecological bricks in government-owned homes, it would seem likely that they will be more inclined now to approve the allocation of funds for more research into other areas where plastic might be useful.

    It is unclear how the expense of the ecological bricks compares to the expense of traditional bricks when it comes to the purchase price. Yet now is the time to think about more than just today and, instead, start thinking about the future. If methods like this are not used in large quantities very soon, survival itself may become a struggle, and there won’t be any time or people to fill those notebooks with new ideas. Reusing plastic can’t stop at pens made out of recycled plastic when there are so many benefits to bigger projects, like homes made out of ecological bricks.