WTF Fun Fact 13597 – Unique Perception of Soccer Goalkeepers

In the dynamic world of soccer, goalkeepers have always been seen as outliers. While they defend their posts, these players face the arduous task of making quick decisions under pressure, often with fragmented information. New research sheds light on the exceptional way goalkeepers perceive their surroundings, revealing significant differences in their multisensory processing capabilities.

Enhanced Multi-Sensory Processing of Soccer Goalkeepers

Michael Quinn from Dublin City University, himself a former professional goalkeeper, embarked on this study to validate a longstanding soccer belief. He, alongside his team, found that, unlike other players, goalkeepers have an intrinsic knack for making swift decisions. This is the case even when faced with limited sensory data. It’s not just a feeling within the soccer community; now, there’s scientific evidence supporting the notion that goalkeepers genuinely “see” the world differently.

In an innovative approach, Quinn and his team examined temporal binding windows among professional goalkeepers, outfield soccer players, and those who don’t play soccer. This window represents the time frame within which individuals combine sensory data from various sources.

A Deep Dive into the Goalkeeper’s Brain

The study had participants discern visual and auditory stimuli that appeared in different sequences and intervals. Interestingly, goalkeepers exhibited a more refined ability to discern these multisensory cues, indicating their superior estimation of timing. This precision stands in stark contrast to outfield players and non-players.

Furthermore, goalkeepers demonstrated less interplay between visual and auditory cues. This suggests they tend to separate sensory information rather than blending them. This unique ability stems from their need to process various cues simultaneously. The trajectory of a ball, combined with the sound it makes when kicked, are essential inputs for a goalkeeper’s split-second decision-making.

Origins and Future Explorations into the Perceptions of Soccer Goalkeepers

While the current findings illuminate the distinct perceptual world of soccer goalkeepers, the cause of these differences remains a mystery. Does intense, specialized training from an early age shape their multisensory processing? Or are inherent abilities leading young players to gravitate toward the goalkeeper position?

David McGovern, the study’s lead investigator, expressed curiosity about other specialized soccer positions. Could strikers or center-backs also exhibit unique perceptual tendencies? The team at Dublin City University aims to unravel these questions in subsequent studies. They will explore the development and influences on a goalkeeper’s extraordinary sensory processing capabilities.

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WTF Fun Fact 13594 – Benefits of the Snooze Button

There are more benefits of the snooze button than just getting an extra few minutes of sleep.

For many, the snooze button been branded as the ultimate “sleep disruptor.” But new findings from Stockholm University’s Department of Psychology may be about to turn this common belief on its head.

Snoozing: A Maligned Habit?

It’s a widely held belief that tapping that tempting snooze button might be doing us more harm than good. Critics claim it disrupts our sleep patterns, making us groggier and less alert when we eventually rise. But, is there any scientific basis to this belief?

The recent study led by Tina Sundelin of Stockholm University is turning this narrative around. Contrary to popular belief, hitting the snooze button might actually support the waking process for those who regularly find solace in those few extra minutes.

A Deep Dive into the Benefits of the Snooze Button

This comprehensive research involved two phases. The initial study surveyed 1,732 individuals on their morning habits. Findings highlighted that a significant number, especially among young adults and night owls, lean heavily on the snooze function. Their main reason? Feeling overwhelmingly fatigued when the first alarm rings.

The second phase delved deeper. Thirty-one habitual snoozers spent two nights in a sleep lab. On one morning, they had the luxury to snooze for an additional 30 minutes, while the other morning demanded an immediate wake-up call. Results revealed that most participants actually enjoyed more than 20 minutes of additional sleep during the snooze time. This had little impact on the overall quality or duration of their night’s rest.

What Does the Snooze Button Really Do?

Here’s the kicker: not only did the snooze function not disrupt the participants’ sleep, it also ensured no one was jolted awake from deep slumber. Moreover, those who indulged in that extra rest displayed slightly sharper cognitive abilities upon waking. Factors such as mood, overall sleepiness, or cortisol levels in the saliva remained unaffected.

Sundelin points out, “Our findings reveal that a half-hour snooze does not negatively impact night sleep or induce sleep inertia, which is that groggy feeling post-wakeup. In some instances, the results were even favorable. For example, we noticed a reduced chance of participants waking from deep sleep stages.”

While these findings might be a relief for serial snoozers, Sundelin adds a word of caution: “The study primarily focused on individuals who habitually hit the snooze button and can effortlessly drift back to sleep post-alarm. Snoozing might not be a one-size-fits-all solution.”

For those who relish those additional moments of rest in the morning, this research brings good news. Snoozing, at least for regular snoozers, doesn’t seem to steal away the quality of our sleep. On the contrary, it may subtly boost our cognitive processes during the waking stage.

So, the next time your alarm sounds and you’re contemplating another round with the snooze button, remember: You might not be losing out at all by grabbing those few extra minutes of shut-eye.

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Source: “You don’t lose if you snooze” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13591 – The Grandmother Hypothesis

Have you heard of the grandmother hypothesis? Basically, it means grandma was right about washing behind your ears!

When it comes to maintaining skin health, certain regions, like behind the ears and between the toes, often get overlooked. Research by the George Washington University reveals why paying attention to these areas is essential. The skin microbiome, which refers to the collection of microbes residing on our skin, has shown variation in composition across different skin regions, be it dry, moist, or oily.

Exploring the Grandmother Hypothesis

The GW Computational Biology Institute set out to explore the widely accepted but scientifically unproven “Grandmother Hypothesis.” Keith Crandall, Director of the Computational Biology Institute, recalls the age-old advice from grandmothers: always scrub behind the ears, between the toes, and inside the belly button. But why? The belief is that these less frequently washed areas might house different bacterial compositions compared to more regularly scrubbed parts of the body.

To put this to the test, Marcos Pérez-Losada and Keith Crandall designed a unique genomics course, involving 129 graduate and undergraduate students. These students collected data by swabbing areas like behind their ears, between their toes, and their navels. For comparison, samples were also taken from drier regions such as calves and forearms.

Revealing Differences in Microbial Diversity

The results were enlightening. Forearms and calves, often cleaned more diligently during baths, displayed a broader and presumably healthier range of microbes. This is compared to hotspots like behind the ears and between the toes. A balanced skin microbiome is essential for skin health. A dominance of harmful microbes can disrupt this balance, potentially leading to skin conditions such as eczema or acne.

The study’s outcomes suggest that cleaning habits indeed impact the microbial population on the skin, further influencing its health. Thus, the age-old advice from our grandparents holds some truth after all!

Implications of the Grandmother Hypothesis

The research carried out by the GW Computational Biology Institute provides significant insights into the skin microbiome of healthy adults. It serves as a benchmark for future studies. There is still a long way to go in understanding the intricacies of how the microbial community on our skin impacts our overall health or disease state.

The study titled “Spatial diversity of the skin bacteriome” marked an essential milestone in the field. It sheds light on the diverse bacterial communities residing in different parts of our skin. Published in the renowned journal Frontiers in Microbiology on September 19, it is a stepping stone to further research in this rapidly evolving domain.

In conclusion, paying heed to the lesser-focused regions of our skin, as our ancestors advised, might be the key to ensuring a balanced and healthy skin microbiome. So next time you shower, remember to scrub those often-neglected areas!

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Source: “Skin behind the ears and between the toes can host a collection of unhealthy microbes” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13590 – Choosing Ignorance

When faced with moral decisions, many people are choosing ignorance about the repercussions of their actions. Recent studies explore why individuals might select the path of willful ignorance, and the findings are illuminating.

The Study of Choosing Ignorance

What makes a person deliberately overlook the consequences of their actions? According to the American Psychological Association, 40% of individuals, when given the choice, will opt for ignorance. More intriguingly, they often do so to give themselves leeway to act selfishly.

As lead author Linh Vu, MS, from the University of Amsterdam, describes it: “Everyday scenarios frequently show people choosing ignorance. A classic instance is when customers disregard the ethically questionable origins of products they purchase.” The pressing question that Vu and her colleagues grappled with was the extent and implications of such intentional ignorance.

The findings stem from a meta-analysis of 22 individual studies, encompassing a whopping 6,531 participants. These studies either took place in a research lab setting or online. A majority of these research initiatives followed a design where participants received information about the ramifications of their decisions, while others had the discretion to know or not.

Consider this example: Participants had to select between a $5 reward and a $6 reward. Choosing the former meant an anonymous person (or charity) would receive the same amount. If they opted for the latter, the anonymous entity would get a mere dollar. Some participants could decide whether to know the consequences, while others were informed outright.

A consistent finding across these studies? An astounding 40% actively chose ignorance. Furthermore, those who opted not to be informed were significantly less altruistic. There was a 15.6% greater likelihood of individuals showing generosity when they were cognizant of the results of their decisions.

Benevolence or Self-Image?

The research suggests that this inclination towards choosing ignorance could be linked to one’s desire to project a positive self-image. Willful ignorance permits individuals to retain this self-perception, even if they don’t act altruistically.

Study co-author Shaul Shalvi, a behavioral ethics professor at the University of Amsterdam, further shed light on this phenomenon. Individuals who sought to know the consequences were 7% more inclined to show generosity than those automatically provided with information. It indicates genuinely altruistic folks prefer to be in the know about their actions’ aftermath.

Shalvi points out, “A vast portion of altruistic tendencies we notice stems from societal expectations. While many willingly make ethical choices when informed of the outcomes, their motivation isn’t always altruistic. Societal pressure and the urge to perceive oneself positively play a significant role. Since righteous deeds often come with sacrifices, such as time, effort, or money, choosing ignorance becomes a convenient escape.”

However, one limitation to note: all studies under this meta-analysis were conducted in Western Europe or the US, or on platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk. This hints at the need for more diverse research settings in the future. After all, understanding this behavior in its entirety requires a broader perspective and could provide clues on countering such deliberate oversight.

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Source: “‘I’d rather not know’: Why we choose ignorance” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13584 – Owls Don’t Have Eyeballs

Owls don’t have eyeballs. At least not in the traditional sense.

If Owls Don’t Have Eyeballs, What Do They Have?

Owls possess elongated, tubular eyes that are fixed in their sockets. This unique design provides them with exceptional vision, especially in low light.

The reason behind this peculiar eye shape is all about maximizing light intake and enhancing their depth perception. With their long, tube-shaped eyes, owls can collect and process a significant amount of light. This feature is vital for a creature that does most of its hunting during twilight hours or in the dark of the night.

Now, since owls can’t move their eyes within their sockets like humans can, they’ve developed an incredible neck flexibility. An owl can rotate its head up to 270 degrees in either direction. Imagine turning your head almost entirely backward! This ability allows them to have a wide field of view without needing to move their bodies.

The Trade-Off

There’s always a trade-off in nature. While owls can see far and wide with their tubular eyes, their peripheral vision is limited. That’s where their keen sense of hearing comes into play. Together with their exceptional eyesight, their auditory skills make them formidable nocturnal hunters.

An owl’s retina has an abundance of rod cells, which are sensitive to light and movement. These cells help the owl detect even the slightest movement of prey in dimly lit conditions. And while they have fewer cone cells, responsible for color vision, recent studies suggest that owls can see some colors, particularly blue.

Given the size and prominence of an owl’s eyes, protecting them is crucial. Owls have a third eyelid known as a nictitating membrane. This translucent lid sweeps across the eye horizontally, acting as a windshield wiper to remove dust and debris. It also helps in keeping their eyes moist.

The unique eye structure of owls has fascinated scientists and researchers for years. By studying how owls see, we gain insights into improving visual technologies, especially those required to function in low-light conditions.

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Source: “Do Owls Have Eyeballs: The Unique Vision And Skills Of Owls” — DiscoveryNatures

WTF Fun Fact 13568 – Smoking Math

Smoking math? No, it’s not a typo. Researchers at Ohio State University found a surprising correlation during a research study in 2020. Smokers with better math skills are more inclined to quit smoking.

Crunching the Numbers on Smoking Math

To kick things off, researchers gauged the mathematical abilities of 696 adult smokers using a standardized test. After this assessment, participants encountered eight diverse cigarette warning labels, each paired with risk statistics. For instance, one of the statistics presented was, “75.4 percent of smokers will die before the age of 85, compared to 53.7 percent of non-smokers.”

Brittany Shoots-Reinhard, the study’s lead author, shared a crucial observation: individuals with heightened math skills retained more of the risk statistics. This increased retention directly influenced their perception of smoking dangers and their intentions to quit.

Math, Memory, and Momentum

While all participants saw the same warning labels, memory retention varied. High-emotion labels, like images of diseased lungs, seemed less memorable initially compared to low-emotion ones, such as cartoon gravestones.

However, a follow-up after six weeks revealed the high-emotion warnings stayed more vivid in participants’ minds over time.

The Role of Numeracy in Smoking Math

A pivotal revelation from the data was the role of numeracy. Smokers with higher math abilities remembered smoking-related risks better, which in turn elevated their intentions to quit.

Shoots-Reinhard emphasized the need to re-evaluate how we present risk data to smokers, especially those who may struggle with understanding numerical information. Simplified communication strategies, like infographics, might bridge the comprehension gap for the less numerate.

The Road Ahead

This research shines a spotlight on the importance of effective risk communication. As Shoots-Reinhard asserts, understanding risk equips smokers to make informed decisions. The ultimate aim? To empower more smokers with the knowledge and resolve to quit.

In a nutshell, Ohio State University’s research reveals a profound insight: the road to quitting smoking intertwines not just with understanding health risks but also with one’s ability to comprehend numbers. For many smokers, the motivation to quit might well be a matter of math.

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Source: “Smokers good at math are more likely to want to quit” — Science Daily

WTF Fun Fact 13564 – Parasites Make Zombie Ants

Just what we need – zombie ants. Although, to be fair, this whole brain-controlling parasite thing sounds MUCH worse for the ants.

Nature’s Puppet Show

In Denmark’s Bidstrup Forests, ants unknowingly perform a choreographed dance. It’s orchestrated by a tiny parasite – the lancet liver fluke. This flatworm manipulates ants, driving them to the tip of grass blades and priming them for consumption by grazing animals.

It’s a strategy that ensures the parasite’s survival and researchers from the University of Copenhagen have delved deeper into the nuances of this relationship.

Creating Zombie Ants

One would imagine the parasite drives the ant to the grass top and leaves it there. But nature, as usual, is more complex.

A research team from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences discovered that the fluke intelligently navigates the ant’s actions based on temperature.

In the cool embrace of dawn and dusk, when cattle and deer graze, the infected ants climb to the grass’s pinnacle. But as the sun rises and temperatures soar, the fluke directs its ant host back down the blade, protecting it from the sun’s potentially lethal heat.

In other words, not only do the flukes turn the ants into “zombies,” the process is affected by temperature. The temperature-driven “zombie switch” fascinated the researchers. There was clear evidence that lower temperatures correlated with ants attaching to grass tips.

A Parasitic Mystery

Inside an infected ant, a multitude of liver flukes resides. Yet, only one needs to sacrifice itself to venture to the brain to assume control, altering the ant’s behavior.

This pioneering fluke, after ensuring the ant’s consumption by a grazer, also meets its end in the hostile environment of the grazer’s stomach.

However, the others, safely encased within the ant’s abdomen, are shielded in protective capsules, ensuring their survival and journey into the grazing animal’s liver.

By modifying their host’s behavior, these parasites significantly influence the food chain dynamics, affecting who eats whom in the natural world.

While understanding temperature-dependent control is a significant leap, the precise mechanics remain elusive. What chemical concoction does the liver fluke deploy to zombify the ants? That’s the next puzzle the team aims to solve.

While the concept of “mind control” might seem like science fiction, for the ants in the clutches of the liver fluke, it’s a daily reality.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Brain-altering parasite turns ants into zombies at dawn and dusk” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13563 – Boosting Math Learning

A study from the Universities of Surrey and Oxford, Loughborough University, and Radboud University in The Netherlands suggests that electrical noise stimulation might be a tool to enhance math learning, especially for those who typically struggle with the subject.

What’s Neurostimulation?

Neurostimulation, a non-invasive technique that involves exciting specific brain regions, has the potential to enhance learning. However, we’ve long been limited in our understanding of the physiological transformations it induces in the brain – and the extent of subsequent learning outcomes.

The researchers aimed to fill this knowledge gap by investigating how electrical noise stimulation, when applied to the frontal part of the brain, might affect mathematical learning.

We’re not sure if that sounds better or worse than just studying harder. (Though this method typically involves applying a small electrical current to the scalp to influence the brain’s neuronal activity, and it doesn’t hurt.)

The Study

The study enlisted 102 participants. Their mathematical prowess was evaluated using a set of multiplication problems. Subsequently, the researchers divided them into four groups:

  1. A learning group exposed to high-frequency random electrical noise stimulation.
  2. An overlearning group that practiced multiplication problems, even beyond mastery, with the same high-frequency stimulation.
  3. Two placebo groups: both a learning and an overlearning group, where participants experienced similar conditions to real stimulation but without significant electrical currents.

Electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings were essential in this study as they provided a window into the brain’s activity both before and after the stimulation.

Stimulating the Brain for Math Learning

The study discovered a fascinating link between brain excitation levels and the impact of electrical noise stimulation.

Specifically, individuals who exhibited lower brain excitation when initially assessed on mathematical problems seemed to benefit from the stimulation by demonstrating improved mathematical abilities.

On the contrary, those with naturally higher brain excitability and those in placebo groups did not show notable improvements after the experiment.

Not everyone’s brain responds in the same way to external stimuli. The research indicated that individuals whose brains were less excited by mathematics before the stimulation showed improvement in mathematical abilities after the electrical noise stimulation. Those with already high levels of excitation did not show the same benefits.

This differential response suggests that the stimulation may have a sort of “ceiling effect” where it’s only effective up to a certain level of natural brain excitability.

The Implications of the Experiment

It may be the case that those with inherently lower brain excitability might be prime candidates for such stimulation, potentially experiencing a jump in learning outcomes. However, individuals with high brain excitability might not find the same benefit.

Professor Roi Cohen Kadosh reflected on the broader significance of the findings. He highlighted the profound nature of learning in human life, from mundane daily tasks like driving to intricate skills like coding. This research, according to him, gives a deeper understanding of the mechanisms and conditions under which neurostimulation could be effective.

The Future of Learning Math

The findings from this study hold the promise of reshaping approaches to learning. By understanding when and how to apply neurostimulation, tailored learning strategies could be developed.

Of course, everyone will form their own opinion about whether tinkering with the brain is worth the outcome.

While this study offers exciting insights, it’s part of an ongoing scientific conversation to see if the results are repeatable.

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Source: “Electrical noise stimulation applied to the brain could be key to boosting math learning” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13562 – FOMO a Reason For Having Children

Societal norms and pressures to conform shape our decisions, including the reason for having children.

According to the Rutgers study, 7% of American parents express regret about having children. This sentiment is even more pronounced in European countries, with 8% in Germany and a startling 13.6% in Poland expressing the same regret. What’s behind these numbers? One primary driver seems to be FOMO.

Is FOMO a Reason For Having Children?

It’s human nature to measure one’s progress against peers, often leading to feelings of envy or the pursuit of societal acceptance. While these feelings typically dictate our consumer choices or lifestyle habits, the profound effect they might have on intimate decisions, like starting a family, has remained relatively unexplored until now.

The research from Rutgers reveals that a notable fraction of parents in the U.S. experience regret about their choice to have children. A significant factor behind these sentiments? The lurking presence of FOMO.

Deciphering Parenthood’s FOMO

Professor Kristina M. Scharp at Rutgers offers insights into the deeper motivations that underpin the choice of parenthood.

For many, societal standards exert considerable influence. In addition, there is a prevailing notion that embracing parenthood equates to unlocking unparalleled love and a sense of purpose.

Contrary to this widely-held belief, her study implies that the fear of being left out of a pivotal life journey might be the driving force for many, This can even overshadow genuine parental aspirations.

Gleaning Insights about the Reasons for Having Childrenfrom Online Conversations

To grasp the underlying sentiments more comprehensively, the researchers explored the discussions on the /r/childfree platform on Reddit. This digital space offers a haven for those who consciously choose to remain without children. So, by examining the discussions, the research team hoped to decode the multifaceted feelings and experiences surrounding the choice of parenthood.

Three distinct perspectives on parenting emerged from their examination: the idyllic view of parenting, the challenging and taxing nature of parenthood, and viewing parenthood as an inevitable path.

A previously uncharted factor weaving through these discussions was FOMO.

This revelation holds significant implications for how individuals approach family planning. Grasping these latent motivations can empower individuals to make decisions that resonate with their true values, rather than succumbing to societal pressures.

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Source: “Family planning and the fear of missing out” — ScienceDaily