Light Friday: Why Do We Clap?

Plus:
A Frog That Hears with Its Mouth
How Employment Affects Depression
See-Through Speakers Hold Potential for Medical Devices
A Dose of Pun 


Clapping is a nearly universal expression of gratitude, pleasure, and overall happiness. But how did this behavior originate?

Many believe that clapping was originally a response to excess emotion that could not be adequately expressed vocally. But today, science shows that clapping is often performed out of social obligation. Indeed, in the 6th Century, B.C., Greek noble Cleisthenes declared clapping to be a civic duty, since the populace was not able to individually meet and greet their respective social leaders at public functions.

Other research has demonstrated that clapping helps individuals meld into a crowd, even hide their emotions. Vsauce explains all this, as well as how technology and the Internet are creating new forms of digital “claps.”

A Frog That Hears with Its Mouth

Kermit the Frog’s classic pose – wide open mouth, nodding from side to side — seems to be a jubilant reaction to good news or the thwarting of another of Piggy’s schemes to get him into a wedding chapel, but could it be that the lovable Muppet was just listening for something?

Scientists at the French National Centre for Scientific Research recently discovered that the Gardiner’s frog, long-though to be deaf due to peculiar anatomy, actually uses its mouth to hear. The innocuous Gardiner’s frog is only 11 mm and lacks a middle ear, which most frog species use to hear. In most frogs, the middle ear vibrates to activate the inner ear, which transfers electric signals to the brain for interpretation.

Researcher Renaud Boistel, who co-wrote the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, lead his team in an experiment to play recordings of other Gardiner’s frogs in a lab to see if lab specimens would react.

The little guys began hopping toward the speakers to find their new friends. So without a middle ear, how were these frogs hearing?

X-rays in Grenoble solved the mystery. It turns out the Gardiner’s frog has very thin tissue in its mouth, which allows sound vibrations to pass through the mouth cavity and into the frog’s inner ear, at which point sound processing proceeds as normal.

“Ultimately the structure allowing these earless frogs to hear (the mouth) is already present and serves other functions such as feeding and sound production,” Dr. Boistel told the Christian Science Monitor. “It is a quite unexpected result, but in the end a simple and elegant solution.”

How Employment Affects Depression

Even though most American workers are stressed out about at least one thing at work, a new study highlights the bright side of employment when it comes to health: job holders are far less likely to suffer from depression than the unemployed, according to the latest Gallup-Healthways Index.

Gallup’s survey responses from over 100,000 Americans uncover a link between employment and the mood disorder, indicating that people who are not in the workforce have almost triple the depression rates (16.6 percent) of employees who work full-time hours (5.6 percent). The news is even better for those with a zest for entrepreneurship, as self-employed people are least likely workers to be depressed, with a 5.1 percent depression rate.

Among all ages, younger workers aged 18 to 25 and those 65 and older tend to have the lowest depression rates, and black and Hispanic males earning $90,000 per year are also less likely to suffer from a major case of the blues. On the flip side, those with a higher tendency for depression are usually ages 22 to 64, earn less than $36,000 a year, are white, or are females.

“It is possible that there is something about employment contributes to lower depression rates, or it could be that those who have depression are less able to seek out and retain employment,” according to authors at Gallup.

Amazingly, though, depression dips for those 65 and up, and dramatically so by age 76. The lesson in all of these findings: if you’re unhappy now, remember that some situations do get better with age.

See-Through Speakers Hold Potential for Medical Devices

Material scientists at Harvard University have built a prototype speaker using transparent, gel-based electronics. The breakthrough is interesting not so much because of its near-transparency, but rather the way it transmits currents.

Today’s electronics communicate and operate through the transfer of electrons. But the new gel-based technology transmits currents using ionic charges. As Venture Beat points out, this is significant because it is the same way the human body sends signals to the brain and vice versa. This could lead to better interactivity between medical devices and the human body, as well as create new possibilities for prosthetics and even artificial muscles and organs. This is aided by the technology’s stretchable and pliable nature.

Venture Beat also speculates about the use of the substance in noise-canceling windows, eyeglasses, and other wearable technologies.

The video below shows the speaker tuning up and playing audio from YouTube videos.

Finally: A Dose of Pun

tLittleHorseext

I was going to tell you a joke…

but I’m a little horse.

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