|Reprinted from Uncle John's
Bathroom Reader: Fast-Acting
There are scientific findings that expand our knowledge and make life
better for mankind. These, however, aren't such findings, but they are
darned interesting. Here are a few things that science has proven:
E-mail Rots Your Brain
In 2004 scientists at the King's College, London University were commissioned
by Hewlett-Packard to see what toll compulsive e-mail checking and Internet
chatting have on a worker's "functioning IQ." Eighty volunteers
participated in clinical trials and another 1,100 people were interviewed
for the study.
Findings: Sixty-two percent of the interviewees were
"addicted" to checking e-mail and exchanging text messages,
which they did not only at their desks, but also "during meetings,
in the evenings, and on weekends." The scientists dubbed this phenomenon
Infomania takes a noticeable toll on productivity. "An average worker's
functioning IQ falls 10 points when distracted by ringing telephones and
incoming e-mails ... more than double the four-point drop seen in studies
on the impact of smoking marijuana," the scientists concluded. A
10-point drop is the equivalent of trying to put in a full day of work
after missing an entire night of sleep.
Traffic Jams Can Kill You
Study: Researchers with Germany's National Research
Center for Environment and Health interviewed 691 people who'd suffered
heart attacks between 1999 and 2001. The researchers asked them to describe
all of their activities in the four days leading up to their heart attacks.
The results of the study were published in the November 2004 issue of
the New England Journal of Medicine.
Findings: People who've been stuck in traffic in the
past hour are nearly three times more likely to suffer a heart attack
than people who haven't been stuck in traffic. Overall, nearly 1 in 12
heart attacks was linked in some way to traffic congestion. Men are at
a greater risk than women, and people over age 60 are at a greater risk
than those under 60.
If you have to be stuck in traffic, you're actually better off in a car
than you would be riding the bus, the subway, or a bicycle. Heart attacks
were 2.6 times more likely for people stuck in a car, 3.1 times more likely
for people on public transportation, and 3.9 times greater for bike riders.
"Because the association was also observed for persons who used public
transportation, it is unlikely that the effect is entirely attributable
to stress linked with driving a car," researchers say.
So is it the stress associated with being stuck in traffic that causes
heart attacks, or is it the exhaust fumes - or some other factor? Who
knows? "Given our current knowledge, it is impossible to determine
the relative contribution of risk factors such as stress and traffic-related
air pollution," the researchers say.
Dudes Say "Dude" More Than Dudettes Do
Study: In 2004 University of Pittsburgh linguist-dude
Scott Kiesling published a paper in the journal American Speech
on the word "dude" and its many uses.
Findings: Blame it on Spicoli, dude: Kiesling traces
the current popularity of the word "dude" to the 1982 movie
Fast Times at Ridgemont High, featuring that Sean Penn dude.
Men are more likely to use the word "dude" than women are.
They're also more likely to use it with men than with women. When they
do use it with women, the woman is usually just a friend; women with whom
dudes are intimate are rarely if ever referred to as "dude."
According to Kiesling, "dude" owes much of its popularity to
the fact that it connotes "cool solidarity" - young men use
it to express friendship or closeness, without being so close as to invite
suspicion that they are gay. Dude!
Crosswords and Sex Grow Brain Cells
Study: Conducted by Dr. Perry Bartlett of the University
of Queensland's Brain Institute, in Australia.
Findings: In April 2004, Dr. Bartlett announced that
mental and physical exercise may delay the onset of brain disease such
as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's by creating and nurturing new brain cells
to replace ones that have been lost. Brain cell creation and growth appear
to be stimulated by a chemical called prolactin - and prolactin levels
rise during mental and physical exertion. (They're also high when you're
pregnant.) "Perhaps one should run a long distance or do crossword,"
Dr. Bartlett suggests. "Prolactin levels also go up during sex,"
he says, "so one could think of a number of more interesting activities
than going jogging in order to regulate the production of nerve cells."
Parents Favor Cute Kids Over Ugly Ones
Study: Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada
went to 14 different supermarkets and observed the interactions between
400 different parents and their children. They also ranked the "physical
attractiveness" of each child on a scale of 1 to 10.
Findings: When Mom did the shopping, 13.3% of the children
judged "most attractive" were secured with the seat belt in
the shopping cart seat; only 1.2% of the "ugliest" children
were. With Dad the disparity was even greater: 12.5% of the "most
attractive" children were belted in; none of the ugliest
Ugly children were allowed to wander away from their parents more of
then than attractive kids, and were allowed to wander farther away than
attractive children were.
Good-looking boys were kept closer to their parents than pretty girls
were, although the researchers concede that this may be because girls
are perceived to be more mature and responsible than boys of the same
What does all this mean? Scientists aren't sure. Some speculate that
evolution may play a role: parents may unconsciously perceive attractive
children as being genetically more valuable. But Emory University psychologist
Dr. Frans de Waal disagrees. "If the number of offsprings are the
same for ugly people and handsome people, there's absolutely no evolutionary
reason for parents to invest less in ugly kids," he says.
Dumb Blonde Jokes Slow Blondes Down
Study: German researchers at Bremen's International
University asked 80 women with different hair colors to take intelligence
tests, then monitored them carefully as they took the tests. Half of the
women were told "dumb blonde" jokes before they took the test.
(Jokes like: "Why do blondes open containers of yogurt while they're
still in the supermarket? Because the lid says, 'Open here.'")
Findings: No word on how well the blondes or anyone
else did on the intelligence tests - that wasn't the point, and the university
didn't release the results. But it did keep track of how quickly
the women completed the tests: The blondes who were told dumb blonde jokes
took longer to complete their tests than the blondes who weren't told
jokes. Did the dumb blond jokes make blondes dumber? No, the researchers
say: the jokes made them more self-conscious, which caused them
to work more slowly and cautiously so they wouldn't make mistakes. "The
study shows that even unfounded prejudices generally dismissed as untrue
can affect an individual's confidence in their own ability," says
Jens Foerster, one of the social psychologists who administered the study.
Germans Prefer Money to Sex
In December 2004, the German edition of Playboy magazine commissioned
a poll of 1,000 Germans. The pollsters asked participants if they were
given a choice between more free time, more money, and more sex, which
one they would choose.
Findings: 62% of Germans said cash, 26% said more free
time, and only 6% said more sex. (That might explain why Germany has a
declining birth rate.)