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10 Amazing Things You'll Want to Know About This Week

Scientists have done it again...this week there's robot fish, inflatable bike helmets, invisibility cloaks, the first prank call and so much more.
 
 
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Photo Credit: ARENA Creative/Shutterstock.com

 
 
 
 

Heard there was something going on with Facebook and the stock market this week, but since I can’t afford stockings much less stocks, that sort of thing is hard to pay attention to. It’s especially tough to notice when scientists are offering up robot fish, inflatable bike helmets and a new door swung wide open into the future with the first commercial firm sending a rocket to the International Space Station. Here are 10 amazing things you’ll want to know about this week. 

1. Light rider.

About a week ago, on the very dark corner of my street I ran across a cyclist….

God forbid! No one wants to hit a cyclist, except maybe with the palm of one’s hand when they ride at night without a light, any reflective wear and very little to distinguish themselves from the darkness around them. Which some of them do. 

Enter the Monkey Light 8-Bit LED bike light by ThinkGeek (as seen on Nerd Approved), which consists of a battery pack that snaps into your wheel hub and a light unit on the tire rim that gives you many options to light up the night. Wheels on fire, indeed…the demo video shows a variety of light displays. If you won’t wrap yourself in blinking Christmas lights on your night rides (as I wish you would) this might help you be more visible to motorists. 

Cycling safety is on a lot of people’s mind’s lately -- quite literally in the case of the Hovding, a scarf worn around the neck that doubles as an inflatable bike helmet.  Laura Laker writes about her experience wearing the Hovding on the Guardian’s Bike Blog and says it was overall "comfortable -- and even comforting,” though a slight heaviness and potential discomfort in warmer weather were concerns. The Hovding has built-in motion censors that detect crash-scenario movement and inflate the helmet in .1 seconds. Though the video on the site makes getting hit on a bike look terrifying even if you were wearing a Macy’s parade balloon. 

You ride for your health, after all. Why not protect yourself from cars as well as heart disease? 

2. To intuit, get out of it. 

Sometimes we find it hard to see the cyclists right in front of us and sometimes we find it hard to see the solutions right in front of us, especially when we’re trying our hardest. Why is it that when we’re racking our brains for an idea we come up snake eyes, but all of a sudden when we’re doing the dishes a solution comes to us that might as well be gift-wrapped?

Psychologists at UC Santa Barbara must have been allowing their minds to wander because they came up with a great bit of research showing that “zoning out” is really helpful when you need a creative solution to a problem.  Matt Kaplan wrote about the space-out study in Nature: Psychologists presented 145 undergrads with problems requiring “unusual uses” solutions, i.e., how many uses can you think of for various household items like a clothes hanger or a brick in just two minutes?

In between these problems the researchers divided the students into four groups, one of which rested, one of which had no break, one of which engaged in a demanding mental task and one of which engaged in a mind-wandering activity. Students who did the undemanding activity showed 41 percent improvement when they tried the unusual uses task again; the other groups showed no change.

But (you knew this was coming) they only improved in the tasks they had already encountered. When given new puzzles they showed no change. So, "The implication is that mind-wandering was only helpful for problems that were already being mentally chewed on. It didn’t seem to lead to a general increase in creative problem-solving ability,” says Benjamin Baird, one of the psychologists. 

 
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