SciTech Briefs

Toddlers learn to share at early age

A toddler’s selfishness can be distinguished by 15 months of age, researchers at the University of Washington found. A test group of 47 toddlers was shown two videos: one with food distributed evenly between two people and another with food unevenly distributed. Researchers recorded the toddlers’ relative attentiveness during the videos, indicating which video they were more surprised with. Of the infants who appeared unsurprised by an even food distribution, 92 percent displayed altruistic behavior. In the same vein, infants who were surprised by an uneven food distribution were more likely to behave selfishly, showing an unwillingness to share their favorite toys.

Source: The Telegraph

Women found to leave science early

Roughly 50 percent of women in science, engineering, and other technology fields quit their jobs in their mid- to late-30s. A study at Harvard University found that there are five reasons for this mass exodus of highly trained female employees: hostile workplace culture, isolation, differing “work rhythms,” difficulty of balancing household responsibilities with demanding jobs, and uncertainty in promotion. This sudden dropout rate is one of the reasons that, though 41 percent of the educated and highly qualified workforce is women, they hold very few executive roles.

Source: Harvard Business Review

Chemist creates Star Trek-like lab

Peter Murray-Rust has created a lab inspired by the starship computer from the TV series Star Trek, in which the environment records all lab actions and is intelligent enough to respond to basic commands. Murray-Rust integrated RFID tags into his labcoat sleeves, glassware, and reagents; added sensors which record experiments continuously; and integrated voice-activated note taking into his lab space at the University of Cambridge. He estimated that it would only cost about $3,000 for the hardware to implement this open-source system in another lab.

Source: Chemical & Engineering News

QR codes help with field studies

Quick Response (QR) codes have been proposed as a means for teachers to more easily carry out biological field studies. Traditionally, exploring an area in hopes of scientific discovery required a lot of prior knowledge or a textbook for reference when a species was collected. Now, however, students can scan a QR code associated with the species they just found and receive a plethora of information about collection technique, safety, natural habitat, and more. This application of QR codes is intended to take the tedium out of field studies and allow students to learn more intuitively.

Source: The American Biology Teacher

Birth control affects partner choice

In addition to the numerous side effects of birth control, including nausea, vomiting, or cramps, the pills may also influence partner choice. A 2,500-subject research study has shown that women who meet their partner while on birth control are less likely to be sexually satisfied and generally find their partners less sexually attractive. Researchers hypothesize that normal ovulation causes a fluctuation between picking a reliable future father and picking a sexually attractive partner. They further hypothesize that the interruption of this normal cycle could cause women to make choices based more on fatherly traits.

Source: CBS

Bone density in anorexia cases

One side-effect of anorexia nervosa, a common eating disorder that results in severe weight-loss, is the loss of bone mineral density (BMD), leading to much weaker bones. Researchers have recently found a promising approach to combating this bone loss. A simple oral application of high doses of estrogen did not improve BMD. However, research has shown that by applying estrogen in a cycle that mimics puberty, the patient’s bones will substantially strengthen over time.

Source: Journal of Bone and Mineral Research