SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Bigger brains make for smarter people
Washington: Are you nicknamed “thick-headed” in school? Well, stop cursing
you mates, for being literally thick-brained suggests one is smart, concludes a
new study.

Prof Yash Pal

Prof Yash Pal

This Universe
I wonder if the greater distance from the hot interior of the earth does also not contribute to the lower temperature at great heights, in addition to the thinness of the air?

Trends

Talking in colour: imaging helps social skills
Scientists look for ways to make food tastier for cancer patients
Six embark on 105-day simulated trip to Mars
Sharks have wimpy bites
Genes tell butterflies to head south

 


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Bigger brains make for smarter people

Washington: Are you nicknamed “thick-headed” in school? Well, stop cursing
you mates, for being literally thick-brained suggests one is smart, concludes a
new study.

A Honda Motor company employee puts on a headgear with codes attached during a demonstration of Honda’s new technology linking brain thoughts with robotics at the Japanese automaker’s headquarters in Tokyo. A Honda Motor company employee puts on a headgear with codes attached during a demonstration of Honda’s new technology linking brain thoughts with robotics at the Japanese automaker’s headquarters in Tokyo. — AP photo

For a long time now, researchers
have been unearthing conflicting
evidence regarding where intelligence
lies in the brain.

For example, in 2000, researchers
in England and Germany discovered
that intelligence seemed to depend
exclusively on the brain’s frontal lobes.

“That was a bit surprising,” Live Science quoted neuroscientist and psychiatrist Sherif Karama at the Montreal Neurological Institute, as saying.

“It was hard to understand why something as complex as intelligence was restricted to just a few places in the brain,” the expert added.

After some years later, other teams of investigators found signs that intelligence was based in other parts of the brain.

However, there was one problem with all these experiments — they each looked at relatively small numbers of children.

To finish off the debate, using MRI Karama and his colleagues scanned the brains of 216 healthy boys and girls ages six to 18 from a range of ethnic groups and socioeconomic statuses.

The kids were also made to take intelligence exams testing analogies, vocabulary, reasoning and visual-spatial skills.

From the analyses, boffins discovered that intelligence was linked in general to the thickness of the “grey matter” — the cerebral cortex of the brain, which plays a key role in memory, thought, language and consciousness.

“It’s not just a few regions. It’s dispersed all throughout, in the areas associated with integrating information coming from diverse areas of the brain, which makes sense,” Karama said.

The expert explained that if one looked at the average thickness of the cortex in these children, the differences between the lowest and highest IQs is on the order of a half-millimeter.

Karama stressed these findings do not mean that cortex thickness — or intelligence — is based solely on genetics. “Environment plays a role, to be sure,” he said.

“You could help treat a lot of cognitive decline,” Karama added. The study has been published in the March-April issue of the journal Intelligence. — ANI

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This Universe
Prof Yash Pal

I wonder if the greater distance from the hot interior of the earth does also not contribute to the lower temperature at great heights, in addition to the thinness of the air?

I agree that the interior of the earth is very hot. It is clear from eruptions of melted rocks from volcanoes, innumerable pouring of lava in deep sea, renewal of the earth crust through outpouring of extremely hot material from the bowels of the earth and the countless hot water springs found all over the world.

In addition there is the upwelling heat so easily felt in deep mines as evidence that heat from the interior of the earth wells up continuously to warm the surface a bit, in spite of the fact that earth crust is a strong insulator.

Therefore, one will have to accept that the earth surface must be a little warmer than it would have been if the earth inside were not so hot.

But the earth surface is affected far more by the solar flux. This is clear from the difference in temperature between seasons and between day and night.

In any case the magnitude of the heat transfer to the atmosphere depends on the surface temperature whatever its cause or origin. 

The atmosphere is heated very little by solar energy raining on us. After all it is nearly transparent to sunlight. However it can be heated by convection, stealing energy from the ground.

As we go to high altitude the air pressure falls and adiabatic cooling sets in. If there were no other way of supplying energy to the atmosphere, the air temperature at the top of the troposphere would fall below minus 80 degrees Celsius.

It does not get quite that cold because of two reasons. Moisture evaporated from the oceans and the ground is also convected up to condense into rain and ice, releasing its latent heat energy into the atmosphere.

The second reason is that infra-red radiation emitted by ground is absorbed by water vapour and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; it is well known that excess of carbon dioxide can lead to global warming.

Readers wanting to ask Prof Yash Pal a question can e-mail him at palyash.pal@gmail.com.

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Trends
Talking in colour: imaging helps social skills

Karrie Karahalios can show a child with Asperger’s Syndrome when he’s lost in a conversational riff or a taciturn spouse when he doesn’t speak very much. Their voice appears on a computer terminal as vibrant colours — red, yellow, blue, green — the image growing in size if the voice gets louder, overlapping another color as it interrupts or abruptly narrowing with silence. — Reuters

Scientists look for ways to make food tastier for cancer patients

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy leave a lingering bad taste in the mouth of cancer patients and possibly causes malnutrition, according to a compilation of existing studies. A bad taste in the mouth leads to poor nutrition because patients avoid eating, said Susan Duncan, professor of food science and technology at Virginia Tech. Approximately two-thirds of cancer patients, who receive chemotherapy, report decreased or lost taste acuity or metallic taste which can impair chances of their survival. — Indo-Asian News Service

Six embark on 105-day simulated trip to Mars

Six European men embarked on a 105-day simulated trip to Mars at a Russian space institute on Tuesday to test how humans would cope with the long isolation. The volunteer crew of four Russians, one German and a Frenchman smiled and waved to cameras before sealing themselves in the maze of cramped compartments in an imitation spaceship. — Reuters

Sharks have wimpy bites

Sharks have wimpy bites for their size and can crunch through their prey only because they have very sharp teeth — and because they can grow to be so big, researchers reported on Tuesday. Their studies of shark jaws show that lions or tigers win hands down when it comes to jaw strength — but sharks prevail in the water because of their wide jaw size. “Pound for pound, sharks don’t bite all that hard,” Daniel Huber of the University of Tampa in Florida, who led the study, said in a telephone interview. — Reuters

Genes tell butterflies to head south

Scientists have uncovered a group of 40 genes that appear to make North America’s monarch butterflies fly thousands of miles south each autumn. It is the first time that researchers have honed in on the exact genes driving migratory behavior in any animal. — Reuters


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