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10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week

Curved beer glasses may get you drunk faster than straight ones -- and other fascinating finds.

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“The study only looked at the time to finish only one drink, so researchers are curious to see if the effect lasts throughout a night of drinking.”

Call me? 

6. Reach out and disconcert someone

You might think drinking helps cement bonds, but it can sometimes break them just as easily. Turns out cell phones have a similar irony. Yes, they help us to stay connected, but they can also make us feel more tenuous in our connections, writes  Helen Lee Lin of Scientific American . A set of studies from the University of Essex shows that the mere presence of a cell phone in a room can make us feel less connected to others. 

The researchers, Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein, had two strangers leave their personal belongings behind to talk in a private booth where they could see two items -- in one case, a book and a pocket notebook, in the other a book and a cell phone. In follow-up questionaires the “pairs who chatted in the presence of the cell phone reported lower relationship quality and less closeness.” In a second experiment, each pair of strangers were assigned either a casual or a more meaningful topic (plastic trees and important recent world events, respectively), again with either the cell phone or notebook present. The casual pairs reported no difference in feelings of “trust and empathy” but there were marked differences concerning the deeper topic -- those pairs reported feeling like the quality of the talk was worse, their trust of the other person and the other person’s empathy for them was less. 

Lin writes, “The new research suggests that cell phones may serve as a reminder of the wider network to which we could connect, inhibiting our ability to connect with the people right next to us. Cell phone usage may even reduce our social consciousness.”

Not only that, but with our myriad forms of communication, in every room and in our pockets, it’s just that much easier to be PO’d when someone never calls us back. 

7. Atto boy!

I try not to do that. If you call me, I will do my best to get back to you in an attosecond.

An attosecond is an “incomprehensible quintillionith of a second” and I bring it up because here on my home turf, at the University of Central Florida, a research team has created the world’s shortest laser pulse -- “a 67 attosecond pulse of ultraviolet light” reports CFN-13 News . It would take 15 million billion pulses of this light to equal one second. The effort was led by UCF Professor Zenghu Chang, who named the light pulse Double Optical Grating (DOG) and also made a super-fast camera to measure the DOG, the Phase Retrieval by Omega Oscillation Filtering (PROOF). 

The ultra-fast laser will be a huge step in helping with the study of quantum mechanics -- the movement of energy and matter on the tiniest, most microscopic level. “The technique could lead scientists to understand how energy can be harnessed to transport data, deliver targeted cancer therapies or diagnose disease.”

8. Eye eye

Talk about something happening in the blink of an eye. Actually, the blink of an eye lasts 400 milliseconds, so an attosecond is far shorter than a blink. A blink is how long it takes to change a TV channel. It’s also how you may one day be changing your TV channel.

Welcome, Eye-Control TV reviewed here by Brian Heater on Engadget . It’s not yet perfect, he says, but it's still pretty cool, using a good-sized black sensor that needs to be calibrated to the user in order to interpret various blinks and eye movements to change channels and adjust volume. Regular blinks don’t mess with it; you have to use a fairly definite I-Dream-of-Jeannie blink. Heater says there’s a “learning curve” involved with things like selecting pictures with your eyes in order to choose what video to watch, but though it might take a little more development to make it market-ready, it’s inarguably cool to think that one day “Where’s the remote?” will be a phrase no one understands.