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Scientists Know Why People See Faces in Toast

Scientists Know Why People See Faces in Toast

Some brains more likely to see face-like patterns than others

People see mysterious faces in their food all the time. Not too long ago a chicken nugget shaped like George Washington’s head sold for more than $8,000, and the Virgin Mary appeared on a grilled cheese sandwich that later sold for $28,000. Jesus is spotted on toast so often that now there’s a special toaster designed to put him there, and a group of Finnish researchers recently decided they were going to figure out why this keeps happening and why some people are predisposed towards spotting faces in their breakfasts.

“An ability to see faces is more common in some people than others due to differences in how our brains process information,” said Tapani Riekki, one of the researchers.

According to NBCNews.com, the study compared a group of test subjects based on whether they self-identified as religious, non-religious, believers in the paranormal, and skeptics. The test subjects viewed photos on a screen and were given four seconds to spot a face-like pattern in each picture. Ninety-eight pictures had face patterns, and 87 did not.

The researchers observed that the religious test subjects and believers in the paranormal were significantly better at spotting the faces in the images, but they also perceived more face-like patterns in the test images that the scientists hadn’t actually put there.

According to Riekki, the main difference between the groups was how much information they had to see before deeming a pattern to be “face-like.” A couple sesame seeds that resemble eyes can be enough to trigger the idea of a face in some people. There’s still no word on what makes a person go from perceiving a random face shape to thinking it’s someone specific like Elvis or the Virgin Mary, though, so we’re probably going to be entertained by celebrity sightings in food for the foreseeable future.

“It’s normal, and actually fun, that our mind plays tricks and triggers the face perception when no actual faces are present,” Riekki said. The woman who got $28,000 for her old grilled cheese sandwich certainly laughed all the way to the bank.


Santa Cruz is seeing more great white sharks. Now researchers know why

Monterey Bay’s warmer waters have seen an increase of great white sharks migrating from Southern Califorina.

Great white sharks have moved north as conditions in the Pafific Ocean have changed.

Barcroft Media / Getty Images 2015 Show More Show Less

Scientists Kevin Weng (left) of the University of Hawaii, John O’Sullivan of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Chris Lowe of California State University Long Beach tag a young great white shark off Southern California as part of Project White Shark, a multi-institutional research collaboration aimed at learning more about the life cycle, ecology and behavior of the sharks.

Santa Cruz County didn&rsquot used to be a place where you&rsquod see a lot of sharks.

The cool but inviting waters of the Monterey Bay have long been the cherished turf of carefree surfers and relaxing beachgoers and, of course, seals, seabirds and the occasional humpback.

But a few years ago, surprising numbers of young great white sharks began showing up. The apex predators converged largely off the coast of the community of Aptos, swimming so close to shore that sometimes the long, dark frames of a half dozen great whites could be spotted. The summer spectacle, which caught even the best marine scientists off guard, hasn&rsquot let up.

Researchers, in a study published Tuesday, now say they understand why the sharks are there. The young great whites, in another worrisome consequence of climate change, have found that the warming waters of the Monterey Bay have become suitable nursing grounds because of the temperature. Historically, they had preferred the mild conditions of Southern California and northern Mexico.

&ldquoFrom the very beginning, we identified that this is not a shark paper. This is a climate paper,&rdquo said Kyle Van Houtan, chief scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and one of the authors of the new study in the journal Scientific Reports. &ldquoThese sharks, by venturing into territory where they have not historically been found, are telling us how the ocean is being affected by climate change.&rdquo

By analyzing the whereabouts of more than a dozen electronically tagged sharks, the large collaborative of researchers behind the paper found that prior to 2014 the preferred range of the animal went as far north as Santa Barbara. But after a marine heat wave known as &ldquothe Blob&rdquo hit the Pacific that year, the favorable conditions, marked by temperature, shifted north as far as Bodega Bay and the sharks followed, according to the tracking tags and observations by fishermen and others.

While the Blob has largely dissipated, Monterey Bay, and particularly the waters near Aptos, have remained warmer and more hospitable to the young sharks. Ocean temperatures in the area average about 55 degrees Fahrenheit but have risen as high as 69 degrees in recent years.

The juveniles like these warmer conditions because they&rsquore smaller than the adults, less than 10 feet in length, and don&rsquot regulate their temperature as well. They tend to nurse in shallow coastal waters where they feed on fish, skates and rays. Once they&rsquore 2 or 3 years old and begin to approach their full size of up to 20 feet and several thousand pounds, they strike out for colder, deeper water, including such notorious shark hotbeds as the Farallon Islands.

The study&rsquos authors say the great whites in Monterey Bay aren&rsquot much interested in humans. However, in May of last year, a 26-year-old surfer was fatally bitten not far offshore of Manresa State Beach in Aptos, one of few attacks in the area&rsquos history.


Genetic Causes

Experts think there may be a link between schizophrenia and your genes -- a chemical code you inherit from your parents that lives in every cell in your body. This code helps determine everything from eye color and height to parts of your personality.

In some cases, a change in a single gene -- scientists know of at least 10 different possible ones -- can raise your risk for schizophrenia by anywhere from four to 50 times, depending on the gene.

In other cases, the cause may be the deletion of a certain set of genes. For example, the "3q29 deletion" cuts 21 specific genes and raises your risk by 40 times.

Only about one in 100 people get schizophrenia. But out of 100 people with the 3q29 deletion, about 40 will get schizophrenia. Another deletion, "22q11," raises your risk by about 30 times.

On top of that, there are thousands of tiny genetic variations that each raises your risk for schizophrenia by much smaller amounts. By themselves, they don't amount to much, but they can start to add up if you have enough of them.

Scientists can analyze your genes to assess all these variations and put the results into a "polygenic risk score." Those with the highest scores are eight times more likely to get schizophrenia than those with the lowest scores.


Persona, Strangely Human at the Musée du Quai Branly

Our brains are wired to recognise a human face. Even when there’s only a slight suggestion of facial features the brain interprets an image – our minds fill in the blanks. Scientists know this as ‘pareidolia’, while lay people tend to call it the ‘Jesus in the toast effect’.

There is a point, however, where the resemblance to a human face by something that is not human can become a little creepy – scary even. We may shudder at a pile of dismembered mannequins, or a puppet like Chucky, or the mere suggestion of the shape of a lifeless body. New generations of robots have been made to look increasingly humanoid – beautifully so – to make us more comfortable in our interactions with them, but there comes a certain point where the resemblance backfires and our new friend starts to make us feel very, very, uneasy. All we want is to get as far away from ‘the thing’ as possible. This phenomenon is known as ‘uncanny valley’.

View of the exhibition Persona at the Musée du Quai Branly ©Sylvia Davis

The exhibition Persona explores these blurred lines where an object starts to become animate. It brings together anthropology, robotics and fine art. It’s just riveting. The visit takes one hour and you’ll find yourself wanting to read up on the subject for months to come. I overheard people saying “Oh, yes, ha ha, that’s clever,” at the beginning of the exhibition, and towards the end I was hearing the same people say, “Okay, now I’m officially freaked out.” Don’t miss Persona. It’s a glimpse into a very near future.

TIP: Take advantage of the extended evening hours at the weekend to see the internal garden illuminated with the backdrop of the Tour Eiffel. It’s quite magical.

Persona: Strangely Human, until November 13 at the Musée du Quai Branly, 37 quai Branly, Paris 7th. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 11am to 7pm, Thursday to Saturday until 9pm. Métro: Alma-Marceau / Iéna. Tickets: €9 (€7 concessions). Tel: +33 1 56 61 70 00


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Cinnamon-Another Powerful Sirtfood

Cinnamon appears in the Sirtfood Diet as a top 40 Sirtfood, with the most unequivocal research showing maximum benefit comes from combining Sirtfoods together. Sirtfoods are so named because they contain substances that activate Sirtuin or ‘skinny’ genes, the same genes as exercise and fasting.

While always known that cinnamon lowers blood sugar we didn’t for sure know why. Now brand new research presented just this month at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology showed it is by activating Sirt-1.
And with it acting at a genetic level researchers say benefits go beyond blood sugar making it a metabolic powerhouse with anti-aging properties.

Scientists have long suspected that cinnamon can help prevent blood-sugar spikes and protect against insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes. But how, exactly, has remained a mystery—and while some studies have suggested a strong effect, others have been inconclusive.

Amy Stockert, associate professor of biochemistry at Ohio Northern University Raabe College of Pharmacy, has been studying cinnamon for years. In 2015, her research showed that type 2 diabetics who took daily cinnamon supplements saw greater reductions in blood sugar than those who took a placebo.

Some of these effects lasted even after participants stopped taking the supplements, says Stockert, which suggested that lasting changes had been triggered at the cellular level. “We started to suspect that one of the proteins involved in gene expression was being influenced by cinnamon,” she says.

Her new research focuses on Sirtuin-1 (also called Sirt-1)—a protein that’s active in insulin regulation. “We know that Sirt-1 acts on another protein that affects how glucose is transported,” says, “so it made sense that it might be the key player.”

Scientists know that Sirt-1 is activated by resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine that’s been touted for its anti-aging and cholesterol-lowering properties. Cinnamon contains similar compounds, known as phenols, which Stockert thought might also bind to Sirt-1 molecules in the same way. She and her colleagues used a computer model to test this hypothesis and discovered that the cinnamon phenols had similar, sometimes even stronger interactions with the protein.

This suggests that the phenols in cinnamon also activate Sirt-1, providing a possible explanation for their beneficial properties. “If that’s true, it means cinnamon is doing more than just lowering blood sugar,” says Stockert. “It’s acting on a protein that affects lipid metabolism, cell growth changes, and the expression of a variety of genes.”

Stockert’s previous research found that people who consumed 1 gram a day of cinnamon saw blood sugar reductions comparable to what would be expected from prescription drugs. But she believes that even smaller quantities—like those used in cooking and seasoning—could also have benefits.

“If cinnamon interacts with this enzyme in the way our model suggests, it could possibly be linked to anti-aging, antioxidant control, a lot of really important health benefits,” she says. “And it shouldn’t take one gram a day to see those effects.”

Stockert recommends buying cinnamon—whole or ground—from reputable spice companies. Her team is now studying the effects of cinnamon on fat cells and hope to expand their research to muscle and liver cells, as well.

You can add cinnamon to oatmeal, toast, butternut squash, chili and more. It is also recommended that it be added to other Sirtfood-based meals.

This isn’t the first time cinnamon’s been touted for its health benefits beyond blood sugar control—and it’s certainly not the final word. But given the low risk and reported benefits, it seems a worthwhile addition to your diet, if you like the taste.


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Scientists themselves keep observing new species every year and admit that modern science is not familiar with all of the strange animals existing today. This leaves room to such unique and even bizarre discoveries collected in this post! Inspired by Reddit, we put together a selection of such unheard-of creatures and weird animals as a Dumbo Octopus, Pink Fairy Armadillo, Star-Nosed Mole, and Aye-Aye.

The last one, Aye-Aye (not to be confused with aye aye, captain), deserves a paragraph of his own, not only because it&rsquos a weird animal, but also of its unique foraging method, called percussive foraging. That means that the Aye-Aye taps on wood to locate grubs by the sound of a hollow tree trunk, then gnaws the wood to make a hole from which then, using his elongated middle finger, he extracts out the grub and eats it. The other most known animal to forage this way is a woodpecker. In other words, Aye-Aye is probably one of the coolest animals there is.

Scroll down below to get acquainted with the strangest animals there is, and consider yourself warned as not all of them are super cute and fluffy!


Here Are 29 Ridiculous Science Facts That We Illustrated

Lidia Bertesteanu
Community member

It all started a couple of months ago while arguing with my Let's Get Sciencey brother in arms, Marco. The subject? How many Eiffel Towers deep is the ocean?

Of course, we Googled and "mathed" our way to the answer.

After that, we kept looking for more random science facts to feed our awkward personalities that rely only on weird bits of trivia when put in the awful situation of attending a party.

The hardest thing for us was to find at least one genuine scientific source to back up the facts we found, so, after filtering all our information, arguing like two bitter old ladies, and continuously raising our standards, we gathered 100 weird science facts.

However, ain't nobody got time to read 100 facts. So we selected our favorite 29 and illustrated them, just to prove how freaking ridiculous they are.


What's your "ageotype"?

The research team behind the study sorted 43 people into aging categories, or "ageotypes," based on biological samples collected over the course of two years. The samples included blood, inflammatory substances, microbes, genetic material, proteins and by-products of metabolic processes. By tracking how the samples changed over time, the team identified about 600 so-called markers of aging &mdash values that predict the functional capacity of a tissue and essentially estimate its "biological age."

So far, the team has identified four distinct ageotypes: Immune, kidney, liver and metabolic. Some people fit squarely in one category, but others may meet the criteria for all four, depending on how their biological systems hold up with age.

"Now, it's going to be a lot more than just four categories," said senior author Michael Snyder, a professor and the chair of genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California. For instance, one participant in the study appeared to be a cardiovascular ager, meaning their cardiac muscle accumulates wear-and-tear at a greater rate than other parts of their body. "If we [surveyed] 1,000 people, I'm sure we'll find other cardio agers and that category will become better defined." And with more research, even more patterns of aging may emerge, Snyder added.

In the past, scientists have hunted for markers of aging in enormous datasets for large populations, Snyder, told Live Science. Researchers pinpointed markers of aging by comparing data from young people to that of older people, but for individuals, that kind of data captures only a specific moment in time. It cannot reveal how a given person might change as they age, Snyder said.

In a clinical setting, that means population-based markers might not be the best measure to determine how a patient is aging, or what combination of medical treatments might suit them best, he added.

"Population-based decisions are crude at best," Synder said. They won't necessarily hold up for you, per se."

By tracking specific people through time, Snyder and his co-authors hoped to learn how aging markers differ between individuals. Their study participants ranged in age from 29 to 75 and provided at least five biological samples over the course of two years. Even within that relatively short time frame, several patterns of aging emerged.

For example, immunological agers accumulated more markers of inflammation through time, while metabolic agers accrued more sugar in their blood, indicating that their bodies were metabolizing glucose less efficiently. Similar to scores on a personality test, each individual's aging "profile" included a combination of traits, mixed and matched from different ageotypes.


Let’s Rock and Roll

I can say from my own experiments that rock dust can be useful in my garden. But it’s not the only amendment you need. It’s also not useful in every situation.

Rock the rock dust when appropriate. Roll it aside for scenarios like raised beds or boxed garden beds when it just doesn’t make sense. Oh, and always take good notes so you remember what works and doesn’t!