What's the buzz

What's the buzz

Superhero suit to stop bone loss in astronauts

Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists have designed a suit made of elastic material deliberately cut too short for the wearer, and has stirrups that wrap around the feet so that it stretches when the wearer puts it on.

The elasticity of the stretched material then pulls the wearer’s shoulders towards their feet just as gravity would. In normal gravity a person’s legs bear more weight than the torso. The suit mimics this using vertical ribbons of inelastic material, each stitched into the suit in a series of caterpillar-like loops. The more it stretches, the greater the force it exerts, so by allowing the suit’s legs to stretch more than its torso the wearer’s legs are subjected to the strongest force.
However, Jean Sibonga, a bone specialist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, doesn’t think it will stop bone loss entirely. While the body's weight does play a part in maintaining bone density, she said that impacts and muscle activity play a bigger role in bone health.

Hands can detect typos even when the mind doesn’t

For professional typists, the act of typing is almost an automaton and now a new study reveals why. “We all know we do some things on autopilot. What we don’t know is how people are able to control their autopilots,” Gordon Logan, Centennial Professor of Psychology and lead author of the new research, said.

The team had skilled typists type in words that appeared on the screen and then report whether or not they had made any errors. Using a computer programme they created, the researchers either randomly inserted errors that the user had not made or corrected errors the user had made.

They also timed the typists’ typing speed, looking for the slowdown that is known to occur when one hits the wrong key. They then asked the typists to evaluate their overall performance. The researchers found the typists generally took the blame for the errors the programme had inserted and took the credit for mistakes the computer had corrected.

However, their fingers, as managed by the autopilot, were not fooled - the typists slowed down when they actually made an error, as expected, and did not slow down when a false error appeared on the screen. “This suggests that error detection can occur on a voluntary and involuntary basis,” Crump said.

Smokers more likely to be impulsive, indecisive

A new study has revealed that people who smoke are more likely to be impulsive and indecisive than those who have never smoked in their life. Researchers of the Charite - Universitatsmedizin Berlin and Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) have found that a specific region of the cerebral cortex of smokers is thinner than that of people don’t smoke.

This region is decisive for reward, impulse control, and the making of decisions.
To investigate the relation between cortical thickness and nicotine dependence, the brains of 22 smokers and 21 people who have never smoked in their lives were investigated with the aid of a magnetic resonance tomograph. A comparison of the two groups showed that in the case of smokers, the thickness of the medial orbito-frontal cortex is smaller than in the case of people who have never smoked.

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