News, Science, Studies

When Rhode Island accidentally legalized prostitution rapes and STDs dramatically fell

Rhode island rape reports compared with three similar states. The vertical line in the timeline is when people took notice of the prostitution loophole. Image: NBER

In the 1980s, concerned that the state statute on prostitution was too broad and could potentially infringe on First Amendment freedoms, lawmakers in Rhode Island decided to make it more explicit by cutting some articles. They went a bit too far, though, and accidentally removed the section defining the act itself as a crime. It wasn’t until 2003 that courts found that they couldn’t prosecute people for prostitution related felonies. Six years later, legislators corrected the law, but during this time it was found that public health and safety improved dramatically. Namely, gonorrhea among women declined by 39 percent, and the number of rapes reported to police in the state…

Psychology, Studies

Why you feel the urge to jump off a ledge. No, you’re not suicidal


A few months ago I went hiking with some of my friends in an absolutely stunning mountain setting. We climbed a country road for half an hour or so on foot, then reached a chalet right in the middle of a pin tree clearing and had a few beers with the keeper there who was gracious enough to show us around. He told us about this incredible place only a few minutes walks away where we would find a 50 foot waterfall the likes of which we’ve only dreamed about. Naturally, we won’t for it. It took us a hell of a lot more (but I thank him for lying, in retrospect), but…

Health & Medicine, Mind & Brain, News, Studies

Sleep aids and anxiety pills can kill


There’s no secret prescriptions drugs have taken off in the past few decades, amounting to a multi-billion dollar industry. Millions are hooked on them, despite this why are so many policymakers or key people of interest shutting an eye on the potential perils these drugs pose? In the quest to treat symptoms, not diseases, physicians prescribe psychotropic drugs to those suffering and looking for an easy way out – one pill that makes life easier and bearable. Delivered right from a pharmacy, with a nice FDA stamp on them, people naively buy them thinking they’re safe. So, how safe are these actually? A study found that users of sleep aids…

Biology, Health & Medicine, Research, Studies

You may be using antibacterial soap incorrectly


Most people nowadays buy antibacterial soaps instead of normal ones, because they believe it keeps them safe and protects them for the oh-so dreaded bacterial infections. Apparently, there’s little evidence that antibacterial soaps provide any additional protection than the regular kind. The problem: most people don’t use them properly. For that matter, it may be wiser to ban antibacterial soaps and some other derived products altogether, to keep microbes from adapting. The main active ingredients in antibacterial soaps are triclosan and triclocarban. These chemicals aren’t limited to soaps, though. The germ-free frenzy has caused the introduction of a myriad of related products that contain these anti-microbial agents from detergents, to…

Biology, Electronics, News, Studies, Technology

‘Herding’ cells with direct electric current may aid in tissue engineering

The top image shows a patch of epithelial cells. The white lines in the middle image mark the electric current flowing from positive to negative over the cells. The bottom image shows how the cells track the electric field, with blue indicating leftward migration and red signaling rightward movement (credit: Daniel Cohen)

The human body is littered with free ions and salts, which goes to explain why so much of our physiology is controlled by electrical signals, from neural pathways to muscle articulation. Very related, researchers at UC Berkeley have shown for the first time that direct current can be used to deliberately guide migration of a sheet of epithelial cells. Practically, the scientists ‘herded’ the cells to move along the direct current electric field, like a sheepdog controls sheep. The implications may be numerous, as driving current at key biological locations – say a wound – could accelerate healing though the use of so-called “smart bandages”. Epithelial cells are those  cells that line the…

Mind & Brain, News, Psychology, Research, Studies

How we think before we speak

Proportion of fixations (gazes) on the agent (person acting) and patients (object of the action) when describing simple situations (a) and more complex situations (b). In the case of simple situations, the spoken utterance begins slightly later than in complex ones (vertical line in the graphs) because the speaker plans further in advance in the first case. © MPI for Psycholinguistics

The common saying “think before you speak” is often used after a person spoke something inappropriate. It implies that the person in question has not given enough thought to the consequences of his spoken words. Obviously we can’t speak without thinking, though, so naturally the question arises: how do we plan out our utterances? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nimwegen sought to answer this question. Their findings suggest that the temporal coordination of thought and speech depends on the situation, namely on how complex it is. If the situation requires simple descriptions and dialogue, the speaker will in most cases plan the utterances in advances, while in…

Animals, News, Studies

Breed not the dominant factor in canine aggressiveness


It’s always depressing when we hear stories of dogs attacking people, more so when injuries lead to death. As always after such an unfortunate, yet statistically isolated, event there’s always a massive group of people bantering and calling for “something to be done.” In some countries, public pressure can rule death sentences for thousands of dogs. There’s also a general belief that some breeds are more aggressive than others. Is the breed or the dog’s education the dominant factor that makes it aggressive? Is a pit bull more likely to bite you because of its breed or because the owner trained him to behave this way? In a recent article…

News, Psychology, Research, Studies

Screening job candidates on facebook backfires for employees


Who would have thought snooping into people’s private lives pisses them off? A new study by North Carolina State University researchers found that  job candidates who found out their social media profiles were being peered through by employers  were less likely to view the hiring process as fair. In consequence, these people are less likely to accept a position when being offered and are more likely to quite if they’re already employed. In the case of hard to come by talent, the researchers note, the decision to spy on potential employees becomes painfully backfiring. Social media espionage The researchers performed two experiments to test what kind of behavioral effect corporate spying…

Psychology, Studies, World Problems

Living a happy or meaningful life – what’s the difference?


While happiness and meaningfulness often overlap, the two are distinct states of being. A Stanford project looked into the lives of various people inline between the two and found some key differences based on how people choose spend their time and what experiences they cultivate. The findings may surprise some of you, while others will choose to dismiss them. After all, a study about “life” is far from being conclusive – in this case, there’s no such thing as a right answer. Their conclusions suggest that happy people tend to live in the present moment and are classed as takers, whereas meaningfulness is associated with givers. The researchers studied the answers…

Animals, News, Studies

Chimps are rational, not conformist – study shows


The fact that chimpanzees are extremely intelligent should no longer surprise anyone. Most people also know that they have their own social cues and are very sensitive to them, but even so, they usually refuse to conform to what the majority of group members are doing, preferring to stick with their personal preferences. However, now, a new study has shown that they do change their strategy when they can obtain greater rewards. Chimps are curious by nature, showing a rich palette of interests, both intellectually and socially. But they are also rather hesitant to abandon their personal preferences, even when it becomes ineffective; many researchers suggested that they are slaves…