research

Caffeine high is really just undoing no-caffeine low

Some people think caffeine gives them a boost. And it does. Back to your normal baseline.

Apparently your daily pick me up is more “pick me back up” than a boost to your performance.

Peter Rogers, from the University of Bristol’s Department of Experimental Psychology and one of the lead authors of the study, said: “Our study shows that we don’t gain an advantage from consuming caffeine — although we feel alerted by it, this is caffeine just bringing us back to normal. On the other hand, while caffeine can increase anxiety, tolerance means that for most caffeine consumers this effect is negligible.”

Approximately half of the participants were non/low caffeine consumers and the other half were medium/high caffeine consumers. All were asked to rate their personal levels of anxiety, alertness and headache before and after being given either the caffeine or the placebo. They were also asked to carry out a series of computer tasks to test for their levels of memory, attentiveness and vigilance.

Like all drug addicts I drink caffeine for the taste, and not for the effect… and to get rid of my nasty withdrawal headaches without resorting to nurofen (panadol doesn’t work).

When I survey

This week the Sydney Morning Herald published yet another survey on religiosity in Australia. The results continue to show that the majority of Australians call themselves Christians while the minority are actually actively involved in church… how should the church fix that disparity?

The more conventional Christians, those who believe in – and occasionally worship – a personal God make up a neat 50 per cent of the nation.

There are some interesting demographic breakdowns…

Women are more certain that God created the world (27 per cent to 18 per cent) and wrote the Bible (40 per cent to 28 per cent) but aren’t so sure every word of the Good Book has to be taken to be literally true (25 per cent to 30 per cent). The least Christian community in Australia is young men; the most Christian are women of a certain age.

It seems that the “progressives” are gaining some traction.

They [Christians] are convinced (94 per cent) that Christ was a historical figure; fairly confident (91 per cent) that He was the Son of God; increasingly sceptical (72 per cent) about the Virgin Birth; and oddly – considering its key importance to the faith – uncertain that He rose from the dead (85 per cent). These beliefs are held very confidently. The Nielsen poll found almost nine out of 10 Australian Christians were absolutely or fairly certain of their beliefs.

Across all faiths and no faith 34 per cent of the population thought these texts were the word of God. A clear majority (61 per cent) thought they were written by man. Christians showed far greater confidence in the Bible (58 per cent) than other religions showed in their texts (35 per cent).

Then the findings just got a little weird…

Astrology
Christians seem hardly more likely (44 per cent) than the rest of us to put their faith in the stars.

Psychics
The Christians in our midst are markedly more likely (52 per cent) to put their faith in telepathy, clairvoyance, psychic healing etc.

The beliefs regarding science and the origin of life were also pretty interesting…

Most Australians believe God played a part in the process. That He created all life at a stroke about 10,000 years ago is believed by 23 per cent of us. That He guided a long process over time is believed by another 32 per cent. The beliefs of Australian Christians are even more dramatic, with 38 per cent supporting Genesis and another 47 per cent favouring the God of Design.

In the year in which the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth was celebrated around the world, only 12 per cent of Australian Christians believe his theory of natural selection. For all the talk of Darwin’s preeminence in modern science, attitudes to evolution remain the litmus test of belief and disbelief in Australia. Christians offer the most meager support, while 89 per cent of those who deny God’s existence back Darwin.

What do the other 11% who deny God’s existence back?

Heaven, hell, angels, witches and the devil get a tick from about 10 per cent of those who doubt or disbelieve the existence of God. A quarter support miracles; 27 per cent put their faith in astrology and UFOs; and a mighty 34 per cent believe in ESP. So a third of the nation’s atheists, agnostics and doubters have turned their back on God, but not on magic.

But it seems Australia is trending towards atheism. Nearly half of young men aged under 25 identify as atheists. Atheism is de rigueur for the angry young man.

Men outnumber women by two to one in the ranks of the deniers. They are joined by nearly half (42 per cent) of Australians under 25. But only a quarter of those over 55 are as sure that no God awaits them as their end approaches.

Here are the results for a similar survey in the US.

  • 82% of American adults believe in God
  • 76% believe in miracles
  • 75% believe in heaven
  • 73% believe Jesus is God or the Son of God
  • 72% believe in angels
  • 71% believe in the survival of the soul after death
  • 70% believe in the resurrection of Jesus
  • 45% of adults believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution
  • 40% believe in creationism.
  • 61% of adults believe in hell
  • 61% believe in the virgin birth (Jesus born of Mary)
  • 60% believe in the devil
  • 42% believe in ghosts
  • 32% believe in UFOs
  • 26% believe in astrology
  • 23% believe in witches

A unified theory of Supermanness

A scientist have finally figured out Superman. He was, until this point, a riddle wrapped in an enigma. A blue and red enigma. Why do superheroes wear tights? Is it for mobility or aesthetics?

This new study, by a guy named Ben Tippett, started by debunking commonly held misconceptions about the Kryptonian.

“Siegel et al. Supposed that His mighty strength stems from His origin on another planet whose density and as a result, gravity, was much higher than our own. Natural selection on the planet of krypton would therefore endow Kal El with more efficient muscles and higher bone density; explaining, to first order, Superman’s extraordinary
powers. Though concise, this theory has proved inaccurate. It is now clear that Superman is actually flying rather than just jumping really high; and his freeze-breath, x-ray vision, and heat vision also have no account in Siegel’s theory”

The report found that Superman does not have many powers – he in fact has one power that manifests in different ways.

“We conjecture that all of Superman’s powers come from His ability to alter the inertial mass of objects in his immediate vicinity or with which he is in personal contact.”

The findings were supported by convincing diagrams.

Reality bites

Simone and Ben are continuing their love affair with vampires.

I’ve got bad news for them… Vampires are mathematically impossible.

Problem solved.

Seriously, these researchers have conclusively demonstrated (PDF) that vampires would wipe out the human population in just two and a half years… It’s pretty similar to the zombie study I posted a while back.

Let us assume that a vampire need feed only once a month. This is certainly a highly conservative assumption given any Hollywood vampire film. Now two things happen when a vampire feeds. The human population decreases by one and the vampire population increases by one.

Sounds like a reasonable assumption right… Here’s the conclusion…

“We conclude that if the first vampire appeared on January 1st of 1600 AD, humanity would have been wiped out by June of 1602, two and half years later.”

It seems this study was deemed quite controversial by other mathematicians and an economist who argued that other factors should have been considered. You can read about that where I found it – here.

Be a blockhead


Tetris makes you smarter. Which makes Robyn the smartest of all my Facebook friends.

This is a scientifically proven fact (well, almost) backed up by proper medical research… Here’s the study.

Here’s the summary from wired

“The study, funded by Tetris‘ makers and authored by investigators at the Mind Research Network in New Mexico, shows that playing the classic puzzle game had two distinct effects on the brains of research subjects: Some areas in the brain showed greater efficiency (the blue areas in the diagram above), and different areas showed thicker cortexes, which is a sign of more grey matter (red).”

Mind map

Apparently in the past you could visualise the relationship between different streams of science by tracking the references and citations in scientific journals.

You got something like this:

Now, because most scientific journals are posted online research has been conducted into deeper, broader connections between journals. Using the method described here:

“Over the course of 2007 and 2008, we collected nearly 1 billion user interactions recorded by the scholarly web portals of some of the most significant publishers, aggregators and institutional consortia. The resulting reference data set covers a significant part of world-wide use of scholarly web portals in 2006, and provides a balanced coverage of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.”

It’s only really interesting because it produces a picture like this…

Kevin Kelly simplifies the research methodology into easier to understand terminology.

“Instead of mapping links, this new method maps clicks. The program reads the logs of the servers offering online journals (the most popular way to get articles today) and records the clickstream of a researcher as they hop from one article to the next.”

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