From On-Line Dating to Woolly Mammoth Fakery

Robert Starr

Computer Knows Not How to Love

While many dating websites, such as eHarmony or OkCupid, profess to use scientific algorithms to find you that perfect someone, a recent review in the journal “Psychological Science in the Public Interest” has cast doubt upon that claim. Specifically, the researchers note that, though the sites profess “science-based results,” none of them have made their systems available to the scientific community for peer review. One of the authors, Harry Reis of the University of Rochester, noted, “It is highly unlikely that what you can learn about two people before they have ever met can account for more than a trivial amount of what determines if a relationship will succeed over a long period of time.”

Shocks Boost Memory

You’ve got a test tomorrow and haven’t studied yet? Along with the flash cards, why not try some good old-fashioned electrocution? Scientists hooked patients’ brains up with electrodes and had them play a computer game where they’d navigate around a city in a taxicab. After reaching the correct location, the scientists would zap the patients’ brains with a (mild) shock and found that when the patients would go to the destination a second time, they’d take a shorter route. This was a fantastic result with potential implications for both treatments and future research, which could explore other kinds of memory, specifically the nonspatial variety.

Woolly Mammoth Not Caught on Film

A video making its way around the Internet purports to show a live woolly mammoth, thought to have been extinct for millennia, wandering around Siberia. Unfortunately, but expectedly, the video has turned out to be a hoax. While it’s not exactly clear how the footage was faked, it’s clear that it was intentionally blurred, according to video experts. Additionally, the original footage was uncovered, minus the mammoth. Ludovic Petho, who filmed the original video while documenting his journey across Siberia stated, “I don’t recall seeing a mammoth; there were bears, deer and sable, but no woolly mammoths.”

Zebras Earn Their Stripes to Avoid Flies

A recent study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology strongly suggests that zebra stripes may have evolved in order to prevent tsetse fly bites. The researchers tested tsetse flies to see which surfaces they liked most and which they liked least, and discovered that the flies mostly avoided striped surfaces. The reason is likely due to the fact that the stripes reflect multiple light patterns, as opposed to the uniform patterns reflected by solid surfaces. All of this stems from the way the flies view the world and their attraction to uniform polarized light, such as that reflected off of pools of water where they lay their eggs. More research needs to be done, preferably in the wild, but this is a significant step forward in understanding zebras and their main identifiable

New Record for Oldest Living Thing

A DNA analysis of Mediterranean sea grass has determined that some of it has been alive for somewhere between 12,000 and 200,000 years. According to the dating techniques, it’s very likely that some of the samples are at least 100,000 years old, which would make them the oldest living things on the planet. The grass reproduces asexually, spreading itself over areas of nearly 10 miles and weighing more than 6,000 tons in total. Unfortunately, its life may be coming to an end, as climate change affects the sea grass’s environment and makes it difficult for the species to continue to grow. While the sea grass had a good run, it’d be a shame if we were the ones responsible for killing it off.

Printed on Thursday, February 16, 2012 as: Scientific innovations prove unusual