Animals Are Gay, Too

In recent years as LGBTQ rights have become a hot social/political topic, there has been a lot of “science” thrown around about the matter. One thing that people tend to get especially hung up on is whether homosexual behavior in humans is “natural.” We could go down the rabbit hole of explaining that “natural” and “good” are not intrinsically correlated in any way. But instead for a moment, let’s entertain the question. One angle we can look at to investigate the “naturalness” of any behavior is to see if non-human animals participate in said behavior.  Researching this was tons of fun, so I hope you enjoy reading about how animals are gay, too.


The Dark Side of Hospital Culture

While doing some research for another blog, (Brains Unite) I thought I would look into some of the gender differences experienced by doctors. To my disappoint (but not surprise) the first several hits that came up were studies on the gender inequality of sexual harassment experienced by female doctors and residents (doctors-in-training).

What is it like to be a jellyfish?

Imagine that you’re a jellyfish. You float lazily through the water, using your tentacles as drift nets to passively hunt for food. Your tentacles pulse to slowly move closer to your jellyfish comrades, who have aggregated under the shade of a mangrove tree… Do you have a mental picture? Likely, what you’re imagining is having a human brain inside a jellyfish body. It is very difficult (perhaps impossible) for humans to imagine what it’s like to live inside the brain of another creature. It’s even more difficult for us to imagine what it is like to be a jellyfish, because jellyfish don’t have brains. (Consider some of the questions that arise when imagining that you are a jellyfish: Do they have all our senses? Do they have some we don’t have? Is a jellyfish aware of being a jellyfish? What does not having a brain feel like?)

Six Back-to-School Tips Supported by Science

I’ll admit that I’m one of those weird people that genuinely loves school. This is in part because I’ve had the good fortune to attend an excellent university these last two years. It doesn’t hurt that I like to learn, either. As a junior in college, I think most of my peers are stuck in their learning habits. After all, we’ve been doing this school thing for fifteen years now. But not all learning techniques are made equal—Research has shown that changing up your study routine can have a major impact on how well you retain the material. Here are six tips for getting the most out of your study time, no matter what grade you’re in:

Broken Hearts and Broken Bones: Your Brain Feels Them the Same

Have you ever wondered why rejection hurts so much? Many writers describe emotional pain in physical terms with expressions like “hurt feelings” and “broken heart.” Are these sayings just for poetic effect? That’s what I thought, until I did a little research. To my surprise, it looks like that scientists of the last couple decades are beginning to suspect something that writers have known since before Shakespeare: our brains process broken hearts and broken bones the same way.

Book Review: “Neurotribes” by Steve Silberman

Neurotribes, by Steve Silberman, may be one of the most controversial books of the decade. In a nutshell, Neurotribes is about the “Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity” (as stated on the cover of the book). What is “neurodiversity,” you may ask? Neurodiversity is more than just a word, it’s a paradigm. It stands for the idea that there is a large amount of variation in individual brain function and behavioral traits in the human population, and that this variation is both normal and natural.

Science Doesn’t Prove Anything

“Science proves it: Money really can buy happiness” – LA Times “Science Proves That With Practice, Your Brain Can Become Better At Tasting Wine” – Huffington Post “Science Proves You Can’t Hold Your Baby Too Much” – What’s wrong with these headlines? The phrase “science proves” is one of my biggest pet peeves. Writers love it because it’s dramatic and attention-catching, but it’s also incredibly misleading. This may come as a surprise, but science doesn’t prove anything. It never has. It never will.

The Invisible Influence of Pheromones

Sexual selection is one of the driving forces of evolution, and yet is has received little attention from the scientific community in comparison to its more-popular cousin, natural selection. Sexual selection is a natural process that acts on an organism’s ability to obtain and successfully reproduce with a mate. Looking deeper into the mechanisms of sexual selection has the potential to not only increase our understanding of evolution, but also our understanding of human behavior. In fact, recent research has shown that sexual selection has played a larger role in human evolution than previously assumed (1, 2).

The Surprising Health Benefits of a Walk in the Woods

Take a moment to remeber the last time you took a walk through nature. When I think about nature here in the Pacific Northwest, images of lush greenery, tall trees, and rushing water come to mind. Why is nature so appealing to us? One evolutionary explanation is that nature is intrinsically healthy for humans. Time spent in nature has been shown to reduce a huge variety of health issues, including obesity, anxiety disorders, and cancer rates (1).

Book Review: ‘The Invention of Nature’ by Andrea Wulf

When first received Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature as a gift from a friend, I had only vague ideas about who Alexander von Humboldt was. As I delved into Wulf’s astonishingly well-researched narrative, I was impressed at every turn by both the author and the subject of the book.