Ladies: Treatments Might Work Better If You’re Crushing on Your Doctor


A hormone that encourages women to befriend another person may boost the placebo effect, according to a new study. Vasopressin, which research suggestsmakes men more anxious and competitive, may have made women in the study relax and feel more at ease and trusting. The results were published online last month in Biological Psychiatry.

Read more in Modern Notion.


Clam Chowder Memories

Brad and I on the California coast in 2010.

Brad and I look for snails amid on the rocky California coast in 2010.

I perched on a porous boulder at the edge of California’s Monterey Bay with my three-year-old son, Brad. The September sun warmed our backs – local’s weather, as it is fondly called, when the summer rain and mist lift after the tourist season quiets down. A huge Styrofoam cup balanced on the rock between Brad and me. We took turns spooning out thick, creamy clam chowder, blowing to cool each bite.

Clam chowder was my son’s favorite food back then, and we visited the Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf every Monday morning for a year to share a cup of chowder, our weekly ritual while his dad was at work. Just my son and I on the rocks. But we were a nomadic military family. We would be leaving Monterey and its chowder soon for the East Coast. And like every other move, home would be where the Army sent us.

Read more at Brain, Child.

I took Brad camping at Assateague Island in October 2013.

I took Brad camping at Assateague Island in October 2013.

Alligators Bellow Their Size, And So Do You

Alligators use their deep bellows to broadcast their size, like shouting their measurements into a megaphone, according to a study published this month inThe Journal of Experimental Biology. The research adds to what science already knew: birds and mammals—including you—use sounds to let everyone around them know how big they are.

Read more at Modern Notion.

Were You There?

A 10th-grader perches on the edge of her chair as her biology teacher lectures on evolution. She listens intently. The years she’s spent in Sunday school and church services have prepared her for this very moment. Her hand shoots up, and the teacher calls her name. Breathless, she asks a question.

“How do you know evolution really happened? Were you there?”I was that student, and I remember the knot that formed in my stomach whenever my high school science teacher directed class discussion toward that dreaded E-word. I remember the day I asked him if he was there when an ape evolved into a human. Some of my classmates rolled their eyes. I wasn’t even trying to make a joke about his age. For me it was a serious question, almost sacred.

Terry Wortman was my science teacher from my sophomore through senior years, and he is still teaching in my hometown, at Hayes Center Public High School in Hayes Center, Nebraska. He still occasionally hears the question I asked 16 years ago, and he has a standard response. “I don’t want to interfere with a kid’s belief system,” he says. “But I tell them, ‘I’m going to teach you the science. I’m going to tell you what all respected science says.’ ” Read more at Slate.

Be Careful What You Flush: Common Meds Could Ruin Your Summer Clambake

The drugs we take daily—Advil, Innopran, Prozac and the Pill—harm the marine life that forms the base of the aquatic food chain, and those effects could move right up the chain to us.

Luciane Alves Maranho of the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Sao Paulo, Brazil, exposed bristle worms—segmented critters that live in the oozy sediment on the bottom of a lake or ocean—to trace amounts of drugs prescribed for seizures, pain relief, heart conditions, depression and birth control. Maranho found that our common medicines changed enzymes in the worms’ central nervous systems and adjusted their cellular energy. The study appears in the August 2015 issue of Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety.

Read more at Modern Notion.

The Colour of Music

Timbre, in contrast to the other fundamental elements of sound, is defined by what it is not. It is not the pitch, loudness, intensity, or duration of sound. It is everything else. Timbre is the color of sound. Every instrument, for example, has its own shade, its own nuances. Obviously, the colors are not visual. A clarinet does not sound green or purple, but a clarinet does have a unique auditory texture or color that psychoacousticians, scientists who study sound perception, call timbre.

Read the full text on Your Brain Health blog.

The Psychology of Anti-Vaxxers

Image credit: Tom and Katrien, flikr CC 2.0

Image credit: Tom and Katrien, flikr CC 2.0

Skyler Smoot, a cooing, smiling 12-week-old baby, is in danger. His brown eyes sparkle, his toes wiggle, his hands wave, but his health lies at the heart of a controversy between parents and doctors.

“I’m just afraid, you know?” his mother, Jacklyn, says. “I’m afraid of what could happen to him.”

Skyler isn’t vaccinated.

Read the full story in The Atlantic

Body Stories: Online Journal Video Proposal

Body Stories is an collaborative online journal proposal I developed with Debbie McCulliss, Gail Overstreet, and Laurie Clark in our Technology Tools, Multimedia, and Digital Publications for Writers course in the Johns Hopkins MA in Science Writing program. We proposed that Body Stories would celebrate the body in all its forms with a diverse array of body narratives. By writing about our bodies, we can come to terms with our fragmented existence and develop the sense that our bodies belong to us.

Debbie McCulliss arranged to associate Body Stories with the JHU literary journal, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review.

My responsibility on the team was researching social media strategy and creating the video presentation.