The human body: An inspiring biological work of art? Or a meaty sack of germs and fluids? Either way, there’s still a lot we don’t know about what goes on in there — and scientists are constantly attempting to find out more. Here are the most interesting things we discovered about our bodies in the last seven days:
Being Lonely Might Be Worse for You Than Being Obese
Nearly 43 million adults over the age of 45 in the U.S. alone are thought to be suffering from “chronic loneliness,” according to a study by the AARP. Worse, they think the trend is only increasing, with more and more people living alone — a quarter of the population, per the most recent census data.
At the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, described the situation as “an epidemic of loneliness,” warning that study after study has showed that social isolation leads to “premature mortality,” and that “the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators.” This apparently includes obesity, which is generally thought to be America’s number one health crisis.
Bottom line: If you eat your feelings because you’re lonely, you may be screwed.
Scientists Have Figured Out Why Some People Have No Concept of Personal Space
An experiment with fruit flies — people love doing experiments on fruit flies! — has found that dopamine (the brain’s “reward” chemical, also a huge part of addiction issues) can affect the size of your preferred personal space “bubble.” Too little dopamine caused the male flies to want to get the hell away from each other, while too much made them all touchy-feely. (For the lady fruit flies, either too little or too much increased their need for distance.) Ultimately, it’s hoped that the research might help explain and treat those who struggle to deal with, or understand the rules of, social interaction. Frankly, we’d settle for a way to get rid of the damn fruit flies — oh, wait, no, they’ve already experimented with that, too.
Salt Is Good for You Now Because Sure, Why Not
Scientist James DiNicolantonio claims in his new book that for optimal health, we should all eat more salt, not less. This, he insists, will cut the amount of sugar in our diets, reduce instances of bone disease and memory loss, and eradicate diabetes. Pretty much everyone in the world disagrees with him.
Pets Have the Same Impact on the Environment as 13.6 Million Cars
Research started by UCLA geographer Gregory Orkin came to the conclusion that having pets is terrible for the planet. Because of the amount of meat our pets eat (roughly a third of what the human population eats) — as well as the enormous carbon footprint that comes with rearing animals for food — Orkin believes our pets are responsible for 64 million tons of methane and nitrous oxide, equivalent to driving nearly 14 million cars continuously for a year.
Also of huge concern is the fact that, unlike human waste — which is recycled in lots of gross but helpful ways — most doggy doo and cat poop is put into plastic bags and thrown in the trash, which again, is awful for the environment. Bad dog, Fido. Bad.
Emoji Use Is Helping Computers to Understand the Concept of Sarcasm
If only it also worked for internet commenters.