July 14, 2014
The World Cup has come to an end. The players have gone home, the stadiums have emptied, fans around the world have gone back to their daily lives. Did your team win? Lose? If you find yourself reaching for the potato chips more often this week, chances are good you aligned yourself with the losing team.
Apparently, the successes and failures of our favorite sports teams have an effect on our moods, our general outlook, and even our diets. Researchers have found that football fans whose teams have lost are far more likely to eat lots of fatty food the day after the game than those fans whose teams have won. And if you live in a town that follows football with gusto, the greater your helpings of doughnuts and guacamole.
This makes sense when you think about how our moods affect our eating habits. They call it “comfort food” for a reason—we eat it when we need to be comforted. And when our team does badly on the field, we get depressed. We need comfort. We need casseroles.
The team’s wins and losses are our wins and losses, even on a physiological level. Men experience an increase or decrease in testosterone depending on whether their team won or lost. Part of the attraction of watching a game is that rush of adrenaline, that feeling that life hangs in the balance. We love the dopamine that floods our neural sensors when the game is going our way. And when our team takes a hit, some of us react with a rage we rarely feel when doing something mundane like paying bills or walking the dog.
Being a sports fan also gives us a place of escape. When we watch our team light up the field, the court, or the rink, we’re no longer regular people who spend most of their time worrying about money, global warming, and that new, misguided tattoo. The rules are different. We can yell and scream, insult other people, and embrace the person sitting next to us, whether we know him or not.
And even as we escape, we belong. The fans of your team are your friends, they’re your sporting family. And it feels good to belong to a close family, even one that’s united by team colors rather than genetics.
Keep in mind, though, if your team is dragging behind, that high-caloric food isn’t the answer to a rough game. That will only make us slower. Neither is the destruction of community property a productive reaction. No, the best way to handle the agony of defeat is to read up on the science of why you feel so low. And then get back to training.
Thursday, November 6, 2014, 9:00 am
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, 2800 Opryland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214, United States
Come visit Nomad Press at the 2014 AMLE annual conference, see why Nomad titles are the perfect resource for the Middle School classroom. Don’t forget to ask about our show specials.
Show runs November 6 -7, 2014.
July 8, 2014
An octopus? On dry land? Aren’t octopuses supposed to stay in the murky depths of the ocean, squeezing themselves into tiny spaces?
Dr. Julian Finn of the Museum Victoria filmed this particular octopus stroll. It turns out that finding an octopus on land is not unusual, but they’re nocturnal. They typically come out at night, so it’s rare that we diurnal humans catch a glimpse of them.
Want to know another amazing thing about octopuses? They keep about three-fifths of their brains in their arms. And not only is much of their intelligence in their arms, each arm acts as if it has a mind of its own. If you cut one off in the lab (the octopus will grow another one), it can move around for up to an hour. Luckily, the arms can also recognize each other so they don’t get tangled up.
They can also recognize and remember people even after a long period of time. One octopus at the New England Aquarium took a disliking to a female volunteer and squirted water at her every chance he got. The volunteer left for several months, but when she returned, she was greeted with a face full of salt water, courtesy of the octopus, who hadn’t performed that move with anyone else in many weeks.
The stories of octopus smarts are many. There’s the octopus who turned a Tylenol bottle into a toy. There’s the one who was observed building a small wall of rocks around the entrance to her cave so she could sleep safely. Octopuses have been known to carry coconut shells for instant shelter in the face of danger. There are lots of octopuses who have successfully freed food from all manner of complicated containers, not the least impressive of which was a childproof pill bottle.
Octopuses live only a few short years, and they spend most of their time alone. So why have they developed such a high level of intelligence? The usual evolution-based reasons for being smart—longevity and social immersion—are missing. Some scientists think their lack of shell has caused them to become highly intelligent creatures. They’ve had to figure out how to survive in a world that’s eager to feast on their soft, exposed bodies.
Humans and octopuses are vastly different creatures, but the opportunity to learn from each other is limitless. What can we discover about neural diseases, regeneration, and adaptability? By studying octopuses and their behavior, we’re propping open a door between two very different experiences of the same world.
To read more about amazing octopuses, visit
July 1, 2014
It’s hurricane season! The Atlantic hurricane season starts June first and the Pacific season starts even earlier on May 15th. From now until November 30th, scientists will be keeping their eye on the eyes of the storms.
Hurricanes form over warm ocean water. Air right above the water warms and rises, and cooler air rushes into the space the warm air leaves behind. That air warms and rises too, creating a cycle that grows into a powerful, spiraling windstorm.
The center of that spiral is a calm place called the eye. Hurricanes are categorized by how fast their winds are moving around that eye. Category 1 hurricanes have winds between 74 and 96 miles per hour (119 and 194 kilometers per hour) and Category 5 hurricanes have winds up to 155 miles per hour (250 kilometers per hour).
Once it moves over land, a hurricane loses its power and falls apart. But it can do a lot of damage before it dissipates. Remember Hurricane Katrina? Over 1,800 people died in that 2005 storm, and that was only the third deadliest hurricane in U.S. history.
The deadliest hurricane to land in the United States was recorded in 1900 in Galveston, Texas. On September 8, a category 4 hurricane battered the city with winds of 145 miles per hour (233 kilometers per hour). Between 6,000 and 12,000 people were lost in the storm, and many parts of the city were swept away.
We know a lot about a storm that happened over 100 years ago because of the availability of primary sources. A primary source is a photograph, letter, interview, article, or anything that was written or recorded during the event.
You can even watch video footage of the aftermath shot by Thomas Edison’s assistant. At the time, only about four cameras existed in the country. It’s amazing that we have these films today to help us understand the scope of the damage and devastation.
You can also read eyewitness accounts of the storm from survivors. One man, John D. Blagden, who worked at the Galveston Weather Bureau, wrote a letter home a day or so after the storm. He writes, “Of course you have heard of the storm that passed over this place last Friday night, but you cannot realize what it really was. I have seen many severe storms but never one like this.”
He goes on to describe scenes of loss, names of whole families that perished, and a landscape that was unrecognizable as the home he’d made there. You can read more eyewitness accounts here:
What can we learn from a hurricane that hit before any of us, or even our parents, were born? Plenty. Primary sources are vital to both historical and scientific study. We use them to make sense of how the world was and to find clues about how the world is now. Scientists predict that storms are going to increase in intensity as the climate grows warmer, and we’ll need as much information about how to handle rough weather as we can find.