Daily Smart Fact

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Archive for the ‘Biology’ Category

Daily Smart Fact #15: Too tired for the hanky panky, ladies? Just start crying to dampen the mood.

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Key Takeaway: A new study indicates that the smell of women’s tears considerably dampens men’s sexual desires.

I stumbled upon this little ditty because I was scouring the interwebs for some interesting articles and found an article titled “Can a Virgin Give Birth” and I was like “wha?” which led to a related article about how women may have physically evolved to avoid rape (I may write on this topic some other time) which eventually led to this article from Businessweek: “Women’s Tears Tell Men to Back Off“.

Anyway, I was fascinated by all articles, although I did find some areas that I don’t agree with…but that’s for another time.

A team of scientists from Israel ran a series of experiments that led them to to conclude that the smell of women’s tears greatly dampen’s a man’s sexual arousal.

  • Women are less sexually attractive – in the first experiment, 24 male participants smelled women’s tears as well as odorless saline solution. After smelling the women’s tears, they found pictures of women’s faces less sexually appealing after sniffing the tears than after sniffing the saline solution.
  • Lower brain activity in regions that typically show arousal – in the last experiment, “MRI brain images of 16 men shown sexually arousing pictures and movies indicated that those who sniffed tears beforehand had lower activity in brain regions that typically show activity during arousal.”
Similar studies have not been done with men or children’s tears. I speculate that children’s tears heighten women’s nurturing region of the brain while the smell of men’s tears probably has the same effect in dampening sexual desires.  But who knows? Maybe the smell of men’s tears signal to women that the man is sensitive and caring, therefore a great potential lifemate?
Any scientists out there game to study that one?

Written by Bea

May 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Daily Smart Fact #12: Go ahead and sleep around, ladies! Men don’t care if you’re slutty.

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Key Takeaway: “Researchers at the University of Iowa find that men increasingly are interested in intelligent, educated women who are financially stable — and chastity isn’t an issue.” In fact, compared to 1939 survey results in which men desired chastity above intelligence in women, it was valued dead last in 2008.

I wrote a post on how women’s preferences for male physical attributes changed based on their menstrual cycle about a week ago and realized that I should probably put similar scrutiny on men’s preferences for women.  What good is the feminist movement if I don’t give some equal air time to men’s preferences in women? 🙂 Interestingly enough, I couldn’t find anything that seemed to be consistent from one source to the other.  But here’s what I did find:

  • According to Live Science, men valued intelligence, education, and financial stability the most in looking for their opposite sex partners.
  • Men also apparently appreciate heavy-set women in the looks department and have foot fetishes, according to this article based on search engine queries.
  • Men want to be taller than their women, or at least more powerful according to this study (although the actual experiment seems to be a little fishy).
  • When given the option between a playboy centerfold and more “average shaped woman”, men prefer the average shaped woman. I’m dubious..but here’s the source.
Granted, I’m sure there’s a gazillion articles and resources out there that will have many different findings and I’m not going to deny that I’ve chosen these articles a bit…biasedly.  But I found these articles quite interesting and downright funny (foot fetishes, ha!) and wanted to share.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Thanks pingiwingi for the boob pic.

Written by Bea

May 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Biology

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Daily Smart Fact #11: If you use 10% of your brain, then you’re probably a vegetable

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Key Takeaway: The notion that we use only 10% of our brain is laughable. Most of the brain is active almost all of the time.

I recently saw the movie “Limitless.”  The main premise involves a writer (Bradley Cooper) who becomes hooked on a drug that allows him to use essentially 100% of his brain (instead of the measly 10% that everyone else uses); as a result he becomes this version of a demi-god.  He can consume large amounts of information, predict the future (sorta), outwit/outsmart/outtalk everyone around him – and all because he takes this drug that lets him use 100% of his brain.

Having taken a neuroscience class in college, I knew this wasn’t true but decided to do some digging around anyway because I’m fascinated by how such a myth like this could sustain itself in our society.

Here’s some quick facts that I could find, from Scientific American:

  • The “10% myth”: Although there’s no definitive culprit to pin the blame on for starting this legend, the notion has been linked to the American psychologist and author William James, who argued in The Energies of Men that “We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.”
  • “It turns out though, that we use virtually every part of the brain, and that [most of] the brain is active almost all the time,” Gordon adds. “Let’s put it this way: the brain represents three percent of the body’s weight and uses 20 percent of the body’s energy.”
  • Even in sleep, areas such as the frontal cortex, which controls things like higher level thinking and self-awareness, or the somatosensory areas, which help people sense their surroundings, are active.
This passage, I believe, describes it best:
Take the simple act of pouring coffee in the morning: In walking toward the coffeepot, reaching for it, pouring the brew into the mug, even leaving extra room for cream, the occipital and parietal lobes, motor sensory and sensory motor cortices, basal ganglia, cerebellum and frontal lobes all activate. A lightning storm of neuronal activity occurs almost across the entire brain in the time span of a few seconds.
The human brain is an awesome thing!

Written by Bea

May 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Biology

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Daily Smart Fact #9: Visualize someone’s name across their forehead to remember it later

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Key Takeaway: Need to remember a name? Picture it written across the person’s forehead; the visual image will help you remember it later. This was a favorite trick of Franklin Roosevelt, who was renowned for his ability to remember names.

So…this probably doesn’t fall into the definition of “fact” but I find it interesting so I’m going to write about it.  In the process of becoming older and well, dumber, I also feel like my memory is not as good as it used to be.  Sad, I know.  Here’s some interesting tips I found on how to improve your memory.  I’m going to try these out in the upcoming weeks – if you try it out and have any other helpful tips, please provide in the comments!

  • Repeat whatever you need to memorize – a name, an address, a phone number – when you first hear it. Saying it out loud helps lock it into your memory.
  • Memorize on an empty stomach – the hormone that improves memory is highest when the stomach is empty.
  • Do crossword puzzles, play Sudoku, take up bridge — games like these stimulate the mind, helping the brain grow new neural pathways, improving your mental ability.
  • Drink purple (organic) grape juice – Research has found that drinking eight ounces of Concord grape juice a day improves memory by 20%, thanks in part to loads of antioxidants.
Resources: helpguide.org (great Mnemonic device table), Howcast,

Written by Bea

May 21, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Biology

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Daily Smart Fact #8: Itchy and watery eyes are from allergies; Aches and fevers are from colds

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Key Takeaway: Allergies can happen any time of the year as long as you’re exposed to the offending allergen; whereas colds tend to happen during the winter months.

It’s Spring and that time of the year when I start feeling crappy with sneezing, runny nose, and general yuckiness.  Having just gotten over the flu, I was looking forward to the warmer weather of Spring.  Unfortunately, the warm weather brought allergies!  But was it really allergies?  Or was I suffering from another cold?  How can you tell the difference?  And how do you know what medicine to take?

Here’s what I could find:


  • Anytime of the year – as long as you’re exposed to the offending allergen
  • Main allergy symptoms –  runny or stuffy nose (usually clear mucus), itchy watery eyes
  • Other symptoms (sometimes) – cough, fatigue, sore throat
  • Not symptoms – Aches and Fevers
  • Occurs mostly in the winter months
  • Main cold symptoms – coughing, aches, fever, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose (usually yellow mucus)
  • Other symptoms (sometimes) – aches, fatigue
  • Not symptoms – itchy, watery eyes
Get more info at WebMD.

Written by Bea

May 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Biology

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Daily Smart Fact #6: If you’re a man and in a long term relationship, its probably because you’re pretty

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Key Takeaway: Women (subconsciously) prefer men with more “feminine” faces because these men tend to be better dads and life partners.  But they want to breed with men with “masculine” faces.

I remember hearing something awhile back about how women’s preferences in men tend to change throughout their menstrual cycle.  So I did some digging around and found this fascinating article “The Science of Magnetism” that highlights what I remember.

  • Essentially, women tend to be more attracted to men with more feminine faces (e.g., softer jaw line, large eyes, big smile) because it signals the characteristic of being a good mate, life-long partner, and most importantly, a great dad.
  • Its when women are fertile, though, that we tend to be more attracted to men with typic “masculine” features (e.g., strong jaw line, prominent cheekbones – results of high testosterone levels).

An excerpt from this article says it best about this interesting phenomenon:

Facial attractiveness in men signals better genetic stock, greater genetic variability and higher testosterone levels. However, men who are genetically good stock make poorer partners and parents than men of genetically lower quality. Very masculine facial characteristics larger jawbones and more prominent cheekbones suggest to women negative attributes relevant to relationships and paternal investment. The more masculine a face, the more the perceived dominance and negative behaviour aspects (such as coldness or dishonesty). Therefore women often prefer men with slightly more feminine faces. Men who possess the childlike features of large eyes, the mature features of prominent cheekbones and a large chin, the expressive feature of a big smile, and high-status clothing are seen as the most highly attractive.

BUT we women want to breed with men who signify that they have more testosterone and therefore the superior gene pool.  In essence, women in stable relationships are with men of “poorer genetic stock.” According to the article, in a study of partnered women, “most found single men were most attractive only when they were briefly in their fertile phase; otherwise they were not attracted to them.”


Written by Bea

May 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Daily Smart Fact #5: Your alarm clock may be the culprit for your bad night of sleep

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Key Takeaway: Tiny light rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you’re not fully awake.

I had a bad night of sleep last night.  When I was younger and even through my college days, I slept like the dead.  My first trip back home for the winter holidays after my finals is a perfect example of that.  I fell fast asleep in my seat on the plane shortly after take off.  An hour later, I woke up only to find out that we were back on the tarmac.  Confused, I asked my neighbor what was going on.  The man was incredulous “you slept through that?”  It turned out that there were some engine problems and we had to land back down.  The engines were screaming so loudly, my neighbor said he had to plug his ears with his hands.  Yup, I slept through that whole episode.

Nowadays, I can wake up from a pin drop.  We have blackout shades in our room because the light disrupts our sleep.  So I decided to learn more about how sleep works and what the cause could be for a restless night.  Here’s some facts I found from The National Sleep Research Project.

  • Tiny luminous rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you are not fully awake.  The light turns off a “neural switch” in the brain, causing levels of a key sleep chemical to decline within minutes.
  • To sleep, our body temperature needs to drop off.  Body temperature and the brain’s sleep-wake cycle are closely linked.  that’s why hot summer nights can cause a restless sleep.  The blood flow mechanism that transfers core body heat to the skin works best between 18 and 30 degrees. As you get older, the comfort zone shrinks to between 23 and 25 degrees – one reason why older people have more sleep disorders.
  • Some studies have shown that women need up to a hour of extra sleep than men, and not getting it may be one reason why women are more susceptible to depression than men.
  • A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours of lost sleep for parents in the first year (YIKES!)
  • Anything less than 5 minutes to fall asleep at night means you’re sleep deprived. You should ideally take 10 to 15 minutes to fall asleep.
Thanks brucebeh for the photo.

Written by Bea

May 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Biology

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Daily Smart Fact #1: You are more like your mom than your dad

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Key Takeaway: Moms provide slightly more than 50% of the genetic material to the child via mitochondria and cytoplasm.

One of my favorite classes in college was a Neuroscience class I took with Robert Sapolsky.  He is an incredible scientist and an even awesomer professor.  He’s done a ton of studies on the impact of stress / cortisol in humans and monkeys and is the author of “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”, probably one of the most entertaining biology books you’ll ever read.

Anyway, in one of his lessons, he mentioned to us how we are more like our moms than our dads.  You see, in making a baby, the mom provides the egg cell and the dad provides the sperm cell.  50-50.  But the egg cell not only provides genetic materials but also provides energy source via mitochondria, which includes the mother’s genetic material.

I found an interesting article “Irony of an excessive women’s emancipation” from the Jakarta Post (of all places) that explains it quite well:

In fact, biologically, women make a larger contribution to the offspring than men. Normally, in the process of making new humans, two gametes are needed.

A woman will provide an egg cell (ovum) and the man gives sperm. It is important to note that the egg cell provides more material than the sperm.

The sperm cell only provides genetic material, while the egg provides not only genetic materials but also cytoplasm and mitochondria as the energy source for the new being.

Chew on that!

Written by Bea

May 12, 2011 at 7:45 am

Posted in Biology

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