Triple-Decker Weekly

Scientists have worked out that modern pop music really is louder and does all sound the same. [Reuters]

The near-death experience (NDE) is a phenomenon of considerable importance to medicine, neuroscience, neurology, psychiatry, philosophy and religion. Unfortunately, some scientists have been deterred from conducting research upon the NDE by claims that NDE’s are evidence for life after death, and sensationalist media reports which impart the air of a pseudoscience to NDE studies. Irrespective of religious beliefs, NDE’s are not evidence for life after death on simple logical grounds: death is defined as the final, irreversible end. Anyone who ‘returned’ did not, by definition, die — although their mind, brain and body may have been in a very unusual state. […] All features of a classic NDE can be reproduced by the intravenous administration of 50 – 100 mg of ketamine. [Karl Jansen]

People who have had NDEs describe a tunnel, a light, a gate, or a door, a sense of being out of the body, meeting people they know or have heard about, finding themselves in the presence of God, and then returning, changed. […] Since at least the 1980s, scientists have theorized that NDEs occur as a kind of physiological self-defense mechanism. In order to guard against damage during trauma, the brain releases protective chemicals that also happen to trigger intense hallucinations. This theory gained traction after scientists realized that virtually all the features of an NDE—a sense of moving through a tunnel, and “out of body” feeling, spiritual awe, visual hallucinations, and intense memories—can be reproduced with a stiff dose of ketamine, a horse tranquilizer frequently used as a party drug. [The Daily Beast]

A near-death experience is very similar to an out-of-body experience, which is where people think they’re floating away from their body, turned around seeing their body lying there. In a near-death experience, there is often a tunnel of light you go down towards meeting your maker. […] Other researchers write target numbers or words on pieces of cardboard and place them on top of cabinets and wardrobes in hospital wards, in the hope that somebody having a near-death or out-of-body experience will look down and see them. To date they haven’t. Which again suggests that this is an illusion rather than a genuine experience. [Richard Wiseman/The Browser]

Sex differences in relationship regret: The role of perceived mate characteristics […] Regret reported by men in both study 1 and study 2 varied as a function of the perceived attractiveness of the participants’ actual and potential mate. Regret reported by women in study 2 varied as a function of the perceived stinginess of the participant’s mate and perceived wealth of the participants’ potential mate. Study 3 found that sex differences in type of regret (with men regretting inaction more than women) occurred only when the mate presented in the scenario was described in ways consistent with mate preferences. Together these findings suggest that regret differs between the sexes in ways consistent with sex differences in mate preferences. [Evolutionary Psychology]

A decade ago a study made an extraordinarily bold claim: that semen has antidepressant properties in women. Although widely-reported, there seems to have been a lack of critical response to this study and apparently no follow up studies have been done to test whether this claim is actually valid . […] What the study actually found was that women who did not use condoms during sex had lower levels of depressive symptoms compared to women who usually or always used them, and to women who abstained from sex altogether. […] It seems possible that sexual enjoyment has an antidepressant effect that may be reduced by condom usage. [Eye on Psych]

The need for closure is an individual’s motivation to find an answer to a question and the degree to which they can tolerate the uncertainty of not knowing an answer to the question. People high in need for closure see the world as black or white, and strive for quick resolutions to problems. They are fearful of not knowing. People low in the need for closure are more tolerant of uncertainty, though all humans have a basic need for certainty and predictability. One of the major themes to David DiSalvo’s “What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite” is that although our brain craves certainty, oftentimes things are not as they seem. He advocates taking more time and being aware of our evolutionarily hard-wired cognitive processes and their strengths and limitations. People have the basic need to feel that they are right, or certain, in their evaluation of the environment. This certainty can be accomplished by seeking out information in only a small segment of the environment; this tendency is called the selectivity bias. Rather than considering all the available information, people pick and choose to what they attend. When we selectively attend to information that confirms what we already believe, we fall prey to the confirmation bias. If information that could potentially discredit a belief is ignored, the person can maintain that their beliefs are correct. [Evolutionary Psychology | PDF]

Botox functions by blocking the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from being released by the axon terminal of a neuron. Typically, acetylcholine binds to receptors on muscle, causing contraction; inhibiting this results in paralysis. In the 1890s, psychologist William James promoted his facial feedback hypothesis. James believed there was a link between physical facial expressions and emotional states. Indeed, a number of studies in the 1980s and ’90s support this notion. In the May issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Research, researchers […] reported that paralyzing the glabellar frown region—the area between the eyebrows—with Botox significantly improved symptoms in depressed individuals. [Gaines, on Brains]

In a new study published in the journal Vision Research, researchers at the University of Southern California show that the eyes and attention of men and women meander in distinctly different ways. […] Men, when focused on the person being interviewed, parked their eyes on the speaker’s mouth. They tended to be most distracted by distinctive movement behind the interview subjects. By contrast, women shift their focus between the interview subject’s eyes and body. When they were distracted, it was typically by other people entering the video frame. [EurekAlert]

This study focuses on the relative frequencies of various sexual activities and the ways in which those activities are portrayed in homosexual and heterosexual pornographic films. Many anti-pornography arguments are based on the alleged oppression and degradation of women in pornography. Others (Salmon & Symons, 2001) have suggested that the main focus of pornography is not about contempt for women and that if it was, gay pornography should differ dramatically from heterosexual pornography. This paper tests that hypothesis. Sixty films that ranked amongst the most popular heterosexual and homosexual DVDs were examined with regard to the types of sexual activities that occur and the interactions between the participants. We found few major differences in pornography aimed at a homosexual versus heterosexual male audience, other than those that reflect the different anatomy involved, and none that reflect an anti-female agenda. [Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology | PDF }

When analyzing cremated remains it is important to be aware of the broader burial and not focus so narrowly on the remains themselves if one wants to be able to understand the funeral process. We can learn a lot about the funeral from the bones themselves when they have been burned. The coloring on the remains, the amount of warping and the completeness can reveal fire temperature, how the body was placed on the pyre, whether it was clothed or was burned as dried bone, and if there were any problems with the burning (such as interruption by weather or incomplete incineration). However, often when cremation remains are collected there are macrobotanical or charcoal fragments which can further aid in interpretation by revealing details of the actual pyre construction. [Bones don’t lie]

Whenever a successful writer gets busted for “cheating,” the narrative always involves the collective wondering of why they would take such a risk. We saw this with the downfall of Jayson Blair and Johann Hari, and most recently with Jonah Lehrer. […] “How could such a seemingly talented journalist, and only 31 years old, have thrown it all away?” What’s interesting is that this question takes a noble view of the offender. The implication is always that the person got to the top on their merits, and then drastically changed their behavior due to situational pressures. People rarely consider that the offender might have risen to the top because they’re predisposed to bending rules or inhabiting the gray areas in an advantageous way. […] Why assume that everything the offenders accomplished up until their downfall was based purely on virtuous actions? […] It’s worth mentioning Seth Mnookin’s recent post highlighting previously unknown errors made by Lehrer. Mnookin concludes by essentially saying that Lehrer is a cheater, and has always been a cheater. [ peer reviewed by my neurons]

No scientific evidence exists to suggest that eye behavior or gaze aversion can gauge truthfulness reliably. Some people say that gaze aversion is the sure sign of lying, others that fidgety feet or hands are the key indicators. Still others believe that analysis of voice stress or body posture provides benchmarks. Research has tested all of these indicators and found them only weakly associated with deception. […] Lies can be betrayed in verbal and nonverbal leakage independently. However, the authors have chosen to further examine this area, analyzing the combined contribution of verbal and nonverbal leakage to the prediction of deception or truthfulness. [FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin]

The first Target store opened in the U.S. in 1962. […] Target found itself having to investigate things like slip-and-falls, shoplifting, theft by employees, and the like. To do so, they created a centralized investigation unit in their Minneapolis, Minnesota headquarters. And over time, this unit became more and more advanced. Today, it and a sibling outfit in Las Vegas are, combined, one of the more sophisticated crime labs out there. And even that may be an understatement. In 2006, an FBI agent familiar with the labs told the Washington Post that “[o]ne of the nation’s top forensics labs is located at Target’s headquarters building in downtown Minneapolis. They have abilities and technology that far surpasses many law enforcement agencies in the country.” [Now I Know]

You’re on the bus, and one of the only free seats is next to you. How, and why, do you stop another passenger from sitting there? New research reveals the tactics commuters use to avoid each other, a practice the paper describes as ‘nonsocial transient behavior.’ [EurekAlert]

The Rorschach is what psychologists call a projective test. The basic idea of this is that when a person is shown an ambiguous, meaningless image (ie an inkblot) the mind will work hard at imposing meaning on the image. That meaning is generated by the mind. By asking the person to tell you what they see in the inkblot, they are actually telling you about themselves, and how they project meaning on to the real world. But the inventor of the test, Hermann Rorschach, never intended it to be a test of personality. [BBC]

Woman in sumo wrestler suit assaults ex-girlfriend who waved at man dressed as Snickers bar.

The controversial billionaire is rumored to be planning to clone a dinosaur from DNA so he can set it free in a Jurassic Park-style area at his new Palmer Resort in Coolum.

How did dinosaurs have sex?

Indian police still using truth serum.

What truths does “truth serum” sodium pentothal actually reveal?

If you’re a lawyer in New York, there’s no sweeter deal than getting assigned to an estate case in Surrogate’s Court. The work is often routine — selling assets, paying bills, contacting heirs — but the pay can reach into the millions. Landing such a gig requires currying favor with one of the city’s seven surrogate judges, who handle wills and estates. They have the power to appoint lawyers and approve their sometimes jaw-dropping invoices. The jobs often go to the judges’ friends, associates or campaign contributors, court authorities admit. Looting of the estates can sometimes result. [NY Post]

The secret online weapons store that’ll sell anyone anything.

Australian bottlenose dolphins that use marine sponges to forage for food have been found to socialise in cliques, in the first definitive example of subculture in animals.

Did Bill Gates steal the heart of DOS? The mystery of the rumored theft of CP/M by a little company called Microsoft can finally be investigated—using software forensic tools.

How Germans changed their minds about Jews, 1890-2006.

Horace Goldin sawing a woman in half. The magician’s secrets were revealed in the 1930s when he went to court to defend his signature illusion, much like Apple’s secrets are being brought to light in a patent lawsuit the company has brought against Samsung. [NY Times]

A handful of people — only 33 confirmed to date — can remember almost every moment of their lives after about age 10 in near-perfect detail. The researchers note that people with the condition did not score high on routine memory tests and have a different kind of super memory than people who can remember long lists of facts and numbers.

Inside L.A.’s bizarre human hair business.

What will we be eating in 20 years’ time?

Is barefoot running really better?

Three Fun Ways To Have Three Hands – For You At Home.

Six things men can learn from getting hit on by men.

Family of elephants.

Siberian Bear Hunting Armor From The 1800s.