Discovered: Old people don't smell bad, we don't need more aerosol in the air, fewer food choices aren't always better, and fixing a spinal cord injury.
- Old people don't smell bad, just different. Before we get to the actual findings, for this study to ever have been born there must have been a general consensus that old people smelled bad, right? Why else would science test this out? Did the researchers just wonder if people of different ages had different body odors? From personal experience, we already know 7th graders smell the worst. (Have you ever been locked in an enclosed space with a gaggle of 13-year-olds?) No matter the motivation, science tested it out, having young people sniff "body odor samples" (sweat?) from three different age groups: "young" 20-30 years old, "middle-age" 45-55, and "old-age" 75-95. (Note the researchers forwent any age group that includes 13-year-olds.) The sniffers could tell the difference between the oldest age group and the other groups. But, they did not find them unpleasant or intense. Apparently, that would not have been the case if they knew beforehand that it was for certain old people stench. "It is likely that the body odors originating from the old individuals would have been rated as more negative if participants were aware of their true origin," explains the research. [The Washington Post, PloS One]
- We don't need more aerosol in the air. This might sound obvious to some, but some science brains have suggested that putting more aerosol up there might deflect global warming. The idea was that these particles would scatter solar energy away from Earth's surface. In case you haven't heard, we have a lot of that these days. But, new research finds this is not such a good idea, as it would make the sky whiter than it is today, which would mean less sunlight, which could depress humanity. "Although our study did not address the potential psychological impact of these changes to the sky, they are important to consider as well," explains researcher Ben Kravitz. The whole thing is just a really bad idea. "I hope that we never get to the point where people feel the need to spray aerosols in the sky to offset rampant global warming," adds researcher Ken Caldeira. "This is one study where I am not eager to have our predictions proven right by a global stratospheric aerosol layer in the real world." Let's just not. [Carnegie Institution]
- Fewer choices aren't always better. In America, the land of choice, there's this idea that limitng choices of bad things will make us choose better things. Science has discovered, at least with junk food, that is almost true. "Limiting variety was helpful for reducing intake for that type of food group, but it appeared that compensation occurred in other parts of the diet," explains researcher Hollie Raynor. Basically, with fewer options, the participants ate less crap, but replaced the calories with other foods. That still means the variety thesis is working, right? Better to pile on in the broccoli department than with the Sour Patch Kids. [Reuters]
- Fixing a spinal cord injury? OK, huge caveat before we get started. This has so far only worked in rats. Now we can proceed. Science has fixed a once broken spine using electrical stimulation and a training course. Researcher Grégoire Courtine explains the theory behind the rehabilitation as such. "The way I think about it is that there is this little island of spare tissue in the injured area, and the neurons in that island begin to act as a relay center, bypassing the injury," he explains. With this treatment, which involved electric treatments, drugs and 30 minute daily movement sessions, rats whose spines had been injured -- but not completely cut -- could walk on their own and even run up stairs. Even in rats, that's incredible. [New York Times, Science]
Image via Shutterstock by Glenda M. Powers.