Can Science Beat Jet Lag? Airlines Seek Help for 19-Hour Flights

A wave of ultra-long flights that will get you halfway around the world in one hop is pushing airlines to deal with the one extra you can’t escape: Relentless insomnia, debilitating fatigue and tormented bowels, better known as jet lag.

Qantas Airways Ltd., which will start the first non-stop service between Australia and Europe in March, is working with scientists in Sydney to discover ways to limit body-clock breakdown on the 17-hour flight. They’ve tried to make the color and intensity of the jet’s interior lights mimic dawn and dusk. Cabin temperatures and specially made meals will aim to put passengers to sleep or keep them awake—depending on the time at the destination.

Key to the problem is circadian disruption—messing with the internal body clock that regulates everything from brainwave activity to hormone production and cell regeneration.

The main cue for resetting that clock is light, said Steve Simpson, academic director of the Charles Perkins Centre, which is carrying out the research with Sydney-based Qantas. But there’s a baked-in biological catch: the clock can only reset by about 90 minutes a day, even in the right conditions. An ill-timed dose of sunshine or a badly chosen snack at the wrong hour can mean days of suffering, he said.

Angus Whitley, Bloomberg, February 5, 2018

What makes some men sexual harassers? Science tries to explain the creeps of the world.

Over the years, Pryor — a psychologist at Illinois State University — and others have used socially engineered situations in laboratories to study how well the test predicts people’s behavior. And over time, they’ve identified these factors as the most distinctive in harassers: a lack of empathy, a belief in traditional gender sex roles and a tendency toward dominance/authoritarianism.

They also found in studies that the environment surrounding such harassers has a huge effect, Pryor said in a phone interview.

“If you take men who score high on the scale and put them in situations where the system suggests they can get away with it, they will do it,” he said. “Impunity plays a large role.”

“In study after study, we’re seeing that power makes you more impulsive. It makes you less worried about social conventions and less concerned about the effect of your actions on others,” said Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at the University of California at Berkley.

One of Keltner’s experiments, for example, found that people who see themselves as wealthier were more likely to cut pedestrians off on a crosswalk. Another found that those who felt powerful were even more likely to take candy from childrenOther experiments have shown that powerful people become more focused on themselves, more likely to objectify others and more likely to overestimate how much others like them.

William Wan, Washington Post, December 22, 2017

This simple solution to smartphone addiction is now used in over 600 U.S. schools

He founded a company, Yondr, whose small, gray pouches swallow phones and lock them away from the fingers and eyes of their addicted owners. Since it started in 2014, hundreds of thousands of the neoprene pouches have been used across North America, Europe and Australia

People entering a school, courtroom, concert, medical facility, wedding or other event are asked to slip their phones into the pouches when they enter. Once locked, the phones stay with their owners until they are ready to leave the premises, and then the devices are released from their tiny prisons at an “unlocking base.” The pouches can be rented for a single event or on extended leases. They are now used in more than 600 U.S. schools.

At San Lorenzo High School in California, which this school year began requiring students to Yondr (yes, it’s a verb) their phones from the beginning of first period until the end of the last, the difference has been stark. Grades have gone up, and discipline problems have plummeted, said principal Allison Silvestri. Referrals for defiance and disrespect are down 82 percent, she said, adding that before Yondr, most of them stemmed from arguments between students and teachers over phone use in class.

Tara Bahrampour, Washington Post, February 5, 2018

More Than a Trillion Planets Could Exist Beyond Our Galaxy

Scientists have long been unable to find exoplanetsplanets outside the solar system—beyond the confines of the Milky Way. After all, our galaxy is a warped disc about a hundred thousand light-years across and a thousand light-years thick, so it’s incredibly difficult to see beyond that. But now, a new study is saying there could be extragalactic exoplanets.

The study, published February 2 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, gives the first evidence that more than a trillion exoplanets could exist beyond the Milky Way.

Beyond Our Galaxy

Using information from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and a planet detection technique called microlensing to study a distant quasar galaxy , scientists at the University of Oklahoma found evidence that there are approximately 2,000 extragalactic planets for every one star beyond the Milky Way. Some of these exoplanets are as (relatively) small as the moon, while others are as massive as Jupiter. Unlike Earth, most of the exoplanets are not tightly bound to stars, so they’re actually wandering through space or loosely orbiting between stars.

Elaina Zachos, National Geographic, February 5, 2018

Spending Time With Grandparents Makes Kids Less Prone To Ageism, Says Study

A new study published in the journal Child Development found that children who have good relationships with their grandmas and grandpas are less likely to show bias towards older adults.

“The most important factor associated with ageist stereotypes was poor quality of contact with grandparents,” says lead researcher Allison Flamion, a psychology graduate student at the University of Liege, in a press release. “When it came to ageist views, we found that quality of contact mattered much more than frequency.”

Annamarya Scaccia, Huffington Post, February 2, 2018

Why do fans riot after a win? The science behind Philadelphia’s Super Bowl chaos.

Psychologists and sociologists have studied the phenomenon of sports fan violence and have found some interesting answers. Researchers attribute violent behavior to a heady mixture of factors: intense fan identification with a team, behavioral changes when people become part of a mob, and strong psychological and physiological responses when your team wins or loses.

And when American sports fans riot, it is almost always in celebration of a victory rather than a defeat.

People often split themselves into categories based on occupation, ethnicity, gender or other factors. Unlike race or gender, over which people have no choice, sports fandom is like a religion: It’s self-selecting but also strongly influenced by the environment, including family and other people with whom you grow up.

That sense of belonging it bestows can often be beneficial. In studies on college students, Wann has found that fans who identify strongly with a team often are less likely to feel lonely or alienated and have higher self-esteem.

William Wan and Amy Ellis Nutt, Washington Post, February 5, 2018