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What effect does urban greenspace have on children's behaviour?

28 October, by Justine Larson[ —]

In increasingly urbanised environments, there’s some evidence to suggest that dedicated greenspace might have a beneficial impact on childhood aggression and depression

Marianito sat in the clinic office looking downcast. He’d been referred to me in the primary care clinic because of fights at school. Despite complaints from the school about aggression, to me, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, he presented as a soft spoken and quiet 12-year-old of Salvadorean parents. After telling me a little about his favorite video games, he told me that some of the kids at school “have been messing with me” because “I’m fat and I smell.”

Marianito was morbidly obese, and to make matters worse for a twelve-year-old, he had a condition called encoporesis, in which he would have bowel movements without warning at school, leading to bad smells and social humiliation.

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Thriller: why do our brains allow us to enjoy being scared? | Dean Burnett

28 October, by Dean Burnett[ —]

Halloween is a time when we celebrate horror, People enjoy being scared, even though they technically shouldn’t. It’s because our brains are confusing ...

If you were to be presented with a scene of unimaginable gore, where several of your fellow-humans were being hacked to death and their entrails and vital fluids scattered liberally around the room, your immediate reaction would presumably be to run away from this horror, and try to find safety (assuming you weren’t busy vomiting). It would be a bit weird, alarming even, if you were to offer to pay to watch this scenario, possibly while eating popcorn or nachos (which may also lead to vomiting if taken to excess).

And yet, countless people technically do exactly that. The Saw franchise alone has grossed close to a billion dollars at the box office, and that’s just one series of horror films, just at the cinema. There are far more options and formats out there, all dedicated to presenting people with scenes of intense gore and/or fear. And people lap it up (not literally, that would be awful). The point is, there’s clearly a huge market for things which should logically scare or repulse us.

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Laura Mvula and the science of loving Mary Poppins - video

https://www.theguardian.com/music/laura-mvulaplay episode download
28 October, by Ian Anderson, Michael Tait and Richard Vine[ —]

Laura Mvula has always had an emotional connection to Mary Poppins: singing lullaby Stay Awake with her brother and sister when they were kids inspired her to make music. But how does science interpret the effects of music and memory on the brain? We took her to the Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience Lab in the Ear Institute at UCL where Dr Maria Chait and Dr Ulrich Pomper designed an experiment to find out.

Read more about the experiment and the results of Laura’s test

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Mars lander's catastrophic crash: new images released

28 October, by Hannah Devlin Science correspondent[ —]

Giant crater caused by impact, and scattered components, shown in European Space Agency photographs

The European Space Agency has released new images of its doomed Mars lander, which is thought to have disintegrated after hitting the planet’s surface at high speed – rather than touching down gently as planned.

A giant crater caused by the Schiaparelli spacecraft’s impact can be made out and visible nearby are two different components of the lander – its heatshield and parachute.

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UK national sperm bank stops recruiting donors

27 October, by Kevin Rawlinson[ —]

Failure to attract enough volunteers has apparently led to a scaling down of the facility’s operations

Britain’s first national sperm bank has stopped recruiting new donors only two years after it opened, amid reports that it had successfully signed up only seven men during that time.

Related: Our sperm donor system is impotent. Time for a rethink | Kate Brian

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Male contraceptive jab almost as effective as female pill, trial shows

https://www.theguardian.com/society/contraception-and-family-planningplay episode download
27 October, by Hannah Devlin Science correspondent[ —]

Results could pave the way for men and women to share equal responsibility for birth control, despite unpleasant side-effects that halted the study early

A male contraceptive jab has been shown to be almost as effective as the female pill in a trial that could pave the way for men and women being able to share equal responsibility for birth control.

In the study, 350 men were given injections of hormones that were shown to dramatically lower their sperm count by “switching off” the male reproductive system. The drugs caused some unpleasant side-effects, however, meaning that the trial had to be halted early.

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Dinosaur brain tissue discovered for first time in 130m-year-old fossil

27 October, by Nicola Davis[ —]

Thought to belong to a relative of the Iguanodon, the thin layer of mineralised matter is the first fossilised brain tissue found for any land-living vertebrate

A brown, pebble-sized object found in a rock pool on a beach near Bexhill, Sussex bears the first evidence of fossilised dinosaur brain tissue, scientists say.

Found in 2004 by an amateur fossil collector, the object is the cast of a dinosaur’s brain cavity, and appears to show a thin veneer of mineralised tissues on its surface.

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Swifts spend ten months a year entirely airborne, study reveals

27 October, by Hannah Devlin Science correspondent[ —]

Research using miniature tracking devices suggests that swifts eat and sleep in the sky, as some birds did not land at all during their migratory period

Swifts already hold the title of the fastest fliers on Earth and now the small soot-brown birds have been revealed as one of nature’s greatest endurance athletes, after scientists discovered they spend ten months of the year entirely airborne.

Using miniature trackers, scientists observed that some birds did not land once during their migratory period, suggesting that they eat and sleep in the sky.

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Jesus's tomb in Jerusalem exposed by conservationists

https://www.theguardian.com/world/israelplay episode download
27 October, by Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent[ —]

Shelf where Jesus’s body is thought to have been taken after crucifixion is exposed in $4m restoration of Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The tomb in which Jesus’s body is believed to have been laid after his crucifixion has been exposed by conservationists for the first time in centuries.

A marble slab covering the rock-carved tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City has been lifted as part of a delicate $4m restoration of the most sacred monument in Christianity, according to a report in National Geographic.

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Cannabis may enhance night vision

27 October, by Mo Costandi[ —]

New research shows that the drug makes cells in the retina more sensitive to light

25 years ago, pharmacologist M. E. West of the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, noted that local fisherman who smoke cannabis or drink rum made with the leaves and stems of the plant had “an uncanny ability to see in the dark,” which enabled them to navigate their boats through coral reefs. “It was impossible to believe that anyone could navigate a boat without compass and without light in such treacherous surroundings,” he wrote after accompanying the crew of a fishing boat one dark night, “[but] I was then convinced that the man who had taken the rum extract of cannabis had far better night vision than I had, and that a subjective effect was not responsible.”

Some of these crew members told West that Moroccan fishermen and mountain dwellers experience a similar improvement after smoking hashish, and in 2002, another research team travelled to the Rif mountains in Morocco to investigate further. They gave a synthetic cannabinoid to one volunteer, and hashish to three more, then used a newly developed piece of kit to measure the sensitivity of their night vision before and after. Confirming West’s earlier report, they found that cannabis improved night vision in all three of their test subjects.

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