Today in research: the plight of single people, who smoked a cigarette in Spider-Man, early warning earthquake systems, and a math problem.

  • Throwback research of the day: teens still very much affected by cigarette smoking in movies.  We don't really remember who was smoking cigarettes in the first Spider-Man, the Matrix or Bridget Jones. But some people do. Those three movie titles were cited by BBC News as some of those that had depictions of smoking that influenced teens to do the same: "Adolescents who saw the most films depicting smoking were 73% more likely to have tried a cigarette than those exposed to the least. And they were 50% more likely to be a current smoker." We're still trying to remember who smoked in Spider-Man... was it James Franco? [BBC News]
  • The 'plight of the American single person is cause for growing concern.'  Single people have been well-documented research topic. And today, The New York Times finds a vein that examines discrimination against single people during what has been deemed "National Single and Unmarried Americans Week." The gist, the newspaper explains, is that "some researchers are concerned that the marriage equality movement is leaving single people behind." Two example studies cited: a 2009 one called "I'm a Loser, I'm Not Married, Let's Just All Look at Me" and a new book called "Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters and How to Stop It." [The New York Times]
  • California researchers want an operational early-warning earthquake system; it's expensive. Even though it makes sense that one of the most earthquake-prone states should have an public system to warn residents about an impending quake, it doesn't look like one will be fully operational soon. The Associated Press checks in with a small team of CA researchers who are currently testing an early warning system and finds a big reason why it isn't up and running: "Technology hurdles aside, the work suffers from lack of funding....Scientists estimate it will cost $80 million over five years to create a statewide public alert system and millions more annually to maintain it." [Associated Press]
  • Pop quiz. Answer this question:

"A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?" 

Answer: if your gut reaction, like this blogger's answer, was "10 cents, I think?" then you'd be incorrect. The right answer is 5 cents (explanation here). And, according to Harvard researchers who asked 822 participants a lot of these types of questions, if you gave the incorrect "10 cents" answer you displayed "intuitive" thinking. That thinking type was "casually" linked by their study with having a stronger belief in God. The point of the research, it seems, wasn't to make belief in God a "who's smarter" contest (IQ did not differ between thinking styles, they write). It was just to show that "basic ways of thinking about problem solving in your everyday life are predictive of how much you believe in God," said one author, David Rand. They are also predictive, we'd add, of how long it's been since you solved math problems. [Eurekalert - American Psychological Association]