Why Reading In The Car Makes You Carsick
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Are you reading this in the car right now? Feeling a little sick? You're not alone. Nearly 80% of the general population experiences motion sickness at some point in their life. That's because although humans have changed in many ways over our evolutionary history, our brains still need to catch up to modern travel methods. That sickly feeling you get reading in a moving vehicle all starts with your thalamus. Neuroscientist Dean Burnett from Cardiff University explains to Melissa Dahl at New York Magazine: "It's the job of the thalamus to interpret all the sensory signals the body sends its way." In everyday life, those sensory signals come from your muscles as you move, your eyes as you observe what's going on around you, and even your inner ear, which contains balance sensors that tell you which way is up and how much you're moving. But when you're reading in a car, your muscles and eyes tell your thalamus that you're sitting still while your inner ear says that you're in motion.
The Stroop Effect Is A Window Into Perception
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How easy is it to name the color of a word? As it turns out, not that easy—at least when it clashes with what the word says. This difficulty is known as the Stroop Effect, named for J. Ridley Stroop, whose 1935 study was the first to demonstrate this phenomenon. When you see the word "black" written in black ink, naming the color of the ink is easy. Same with seeing the word "pillow" in black ink. But when "black" is written in green, it may take you at least a moment to figure out the right answer. This is a demonstration of how our brain is so comfortable with some tasks that they happen automatically; in this case, we read and interpret words without paying attention to the physical characteristics of the letters themselves. This effect is so reliable that it's used in many psychology studies to test attention. Try it yourself in the videos below.
MIT's Terahertz Camera Can Read Closed Books
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In September 2016, researchers at MIT published a paper in Nature Communications discussing a new device they developed: a camera that can read closed books. The camera uses terahertz radiation, a kind of radiation that falls between the microwave and infrared spectrums and has the unique ability to make different chemicals produce their own distinct frequencies. This is what helps it tell the difference between ink and paper, and therefore detect individual letters and words on a page. Another cool feature of terahertz radiation: its ability to come out in very short bursts. Just as smaller pixels help improve the resolution of an image, shorter radiation bursts improve the resolution of a scientist's data. This level of resolution helps the camera's built-in sensor know when it has passed through an individual page. As of the publishing of the paper, the camera was only strong enough to read through the first nine pages of a book, but the researchers are confident that technological improvements will come soon. Once the camera is ready for prime time, it will prove useful for museums, libraries, and other facilities that need to examine historical documents that could be damaged with the slightest touch. Explore the science of radiation with the videos below.
Whether You Read or Listen, Your Brain Processes Books The Same Way
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As more books become available in audio format, more and more diehard readers seem to reject the audiobook as "cheating." But science says that your brain does just as much work—and receives just as much benefit from—listening to a book as it does reading one. According to a New York Magazine interview with psychologist Daniel Willingham, two processes take place when you read a book. One is decoding, where your brain translates letters on a page into words that have meaning, and the other is language processing, where you figure out what the words mean together in the context of the story. When it comes to language processing, the mental processes between reading and listening are identical: a 1985 study found that if you read books well, you also listen to them well, and vice versa, and a 1977 study found that college students were able to summarize a story equally well after reading it as after listening to it. Decoding, for its part, is unique to reading. But this doesn't really matter, since after you've passed a certain reading level—around late elementary school or so—decoding becomes second nature and doesn't require any extra mental power. Discover what reading—and listening to—books can do for your brain with the videos below.
Arthur Lintgen's Ability To Read Vinyl Record Grooves
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Just by looking at the surfaces of a vinyl record with the naked eye, Arthur Lintgen can identify the song that it plays. In 1981, Lintgen's skills were put to the test in front of a live audience by a music professor from Temple University. The professor and his graduate students presented Lingten with 20 records, and he was able to identify the music and composer on each just by examining the records' surfaces in normal lighting. His skill only works with classical music, however. Lintgen says modern music just looks "like gibberish." So far, the only explanation for Lintgen's ability is that he's a dedicated music lover. In fact, he never knew about his ability until a friend, who knew Lintgen to be a music lover, challenged him to try it. To Lintgen's surprise, he could identify the music with ease. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.