Discovered: How our brains quickly compute potential partners; the universe is almost out of new stars; wine engineered to prevent headaches; a new sponge that looks like a candelabra.
Speed dating's effects on the brain. There's a lot to process in speed dating scenarios. It can be hard to gauge compatibility and attraction when you're in some loud bar with only a few minutes, most of which will be spent on awkward introductory small talk. Trinity College Dublin and Caltech scientists led by Jeffrey Cooper studied how the brain handles speed dating situations, placing subjects under MRI machines and asking them to look at photographs of people and quickly determine their likelihood of going on a date with them. Those subjects later met the people from the photos in live speed dating events. Comparing the results of the real life meet-up with the MRI scans, Cooper and his colleagues were able to show that subjects were more likely to end up going on an actual date with those whose photos lit up their dorsomedial prefrontal cortexes during the experiment. Activity in the paracingulate cortex also predicted a match, and Cooper says this region "seems to be the one doing the heavy lifting in terms of sorting people you’re going to say yes to and the people you’re going to say no to." [ScienceNews]
The universe is running out of stars to produce. Is our universe reaching the end of an era? Relying on data collected from three of the world's best telescopes, an international team of astronomers has determined that most of the stars that will ever exist in our universe have already been born. The period of star formation that took place between 9 and 11 billion years ago was particularly active, giving rise to about half the stars we now see in the sky. Mapping out the trend of star formation, the astronomers predict that the universe has already produced 95 percent of all the stars it will ever birth. Lead researcher David Sorbal of Leiden University writes:
The production of stars in the Universe as a whole has been continuously declining over the last 11 billion years; it is 30 times lower today than at its likely peak 11 billion years ago. If this trend continues, no more than five percent more stars will exist in the Universe. We are clearly living in a Universe dominated by old stars. All of the action in the Universe occurred billions of years ago!
Look at this new candelabra-shaped sponge. I mean, how can a living creature look like that? Though it looks like something out of H.P. Lovecraft story, the Chondrocladia lyra, or harp sponge, is apparently very real. Geologists combing the deep sea floor off the coast of northern California discovered this carnivorous sponge, notable for its numerous, upward-reaching branches. Other sponges feed by simply filtering water for tiny microorganisms, but the harp sponge is a bit more devious. Its stringy tendrils ensnare passing crustaceans and copepods, then its digestive cells go to work turning the prey into food. See the creepy creature in action in the video below:
Histamine-proof wine. No, scientists have unfortunately not yet been able to engineer miracle wine that prevents hangovers. But they are working on tackling the histamine-related headaches some drinkers get with wine, beer, cheese and other food and drink that rely on microbiological processes. A team of German researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the Dienstleistungszentrum Ländlicher Raum Rheinpfalz have been able to target and reduce the biogenic amines in wine that can cause headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and drops in blood pressure. "It is important to make efforts in order to reduce biogenic amines in wine, since this problem shall increase in future," says Dr. Helmut König. [Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz]