Plus: High-Tech Anti-Bacterial Coating, Why You Should Doodle in Meetings and Quantum Mysteries Explained.
When Bronze Beats Silver
Olympians fortunate and skilled enough to perform at the top of their events are part of an elite club: the gold, silver and bronze medal winners. Whether in running, swimming or some other athletic competition, these champions can convincingly claim to be the three best competitors in the world. But oddly enough, a third-place finish is often more satisfying than coming in second, studies suggest.
Researchers around the world who have studied footage of Olympic medalists receiving their awards and giving post-competition interviews have noted a trend: while the gold and bronze medal winners are usually ecstatic about their achievement, the silver medalists appear less excited, or sometimes even crestfallen.
Psychologists from Cornell University and the University of Toledo believe the “sad” silver medalist trend might be due to counterfactual thinking, Scientific American explains. Although the silver medalist has outlasted and outcompeted every person in the world but one, he or she might be focusing on how close the gold was. Meanwhile, the bronze medalist is likely thinking about how he or she came close to not placing at all, making a medal-worthy finish that much more satisfying.
“Silver medalists may torment themselves with counter-factual thoughts, of ‘If only…’ or ‘Why didn’t I just. Bronze medalists, in contrast, may be soothed by the thought that, ‘At least I won a medal,’” according to a study analyzing the 1992 Olympic Games.
State-of-the-Art Bacteria-Proof Coating
When bacteria bind together to form biofilms, commonly found in metal pipes and cavities, they can severely undermine the integrity and performance of a single product or the entire infrastructure of a building. Now, scientists have developed a new and highly effective way to prevent this type of deterioration.
Researchers from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute recently unveiled SLIPS (slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces), a substance that essentially tricks bacteria into thinking they have no place to attach to and grow. SLIPS is composed of thousands of ultra-thin stacks with a smooth flat layer of liquid lubricant at the top. This makes the material incredibly slick — too slippery for bacteria to cling to, and it can even repel ice and snow.
“The researchers reported that SLIPS worked, reducing the formation of three of the most notorious, disease-causing biofilms — including potentially-lethal E. coli — by 96-99 percent over a seven-day period That figure was 35 times more than the next best option: a surface treated with polyethylene glycol,” Fast Company’s Co.Exist blog notes. “The researchers describe this result as going beyond state-of-the-art technology, because no other surface can maintain its material without being toxic.”
In addition to being an effective bacteria-proof coating, SLIPS can also handle extreme temperature and pressure conditions, is compatible with a wide range of products, is optically transparent and self-healing. Here’s a video showing the coating’s effectiveness is graffiti prevention:
Why You Should Doodle at Work
During those dull lengthy meetings when our minds start to wander, it’s pretty common to doodle — even President Obama admits to doing it. The good news is that scribbling during work can be beneficial, according to a study from psychologist Jackie Andrade at the University of Plymouth.
For her study, Andrade subjected a group to a monotonous mock telephone message and asked them to monitor the recording for key names. One subgroup was encouraged to doodle by shading in shapes while the other merely listened. “The doodling group performed better in the monitoring task and recalled 29 percent more information in a surprise memory test,” according to the study paper.
In addition to remembering more names, the doodlers were also better than the non-doodling group at recalling other parts of the recording that they weren’t instructed to monitor. Andrade points out that the sketching likely reduced daydreaming, something that may have distracted the non-doodlers during the experiment.
So the next time you catch a colleague doodling, don’t assume he’s simply distracted, because he might actually be paying more attention than you.
Quantum Weirdness Explained
The field of quantum physics is based on some of strangest and most difficult to explain phenomena. At its center is the mysterious wave function, a mathematical formula for calculating quantum probabilities—the problem is that most scientists know the wave function works, but no one knows how or why.
A helpful, animated video from New Scientist breaks down the differing theories and explanations used to understand quantum physics and the wave function in particular:
Have a great weekend, folks.