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Finally: Medical Proof That Math Makes Your Head Hurt?

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Splitting the bill after dinner can be a big headache for some people. Now researchers have an idea why.

The question: For the math-averse among us — number-crunchers like Nate Silver notwithstanding — a simple equation can cause a major headache. Why do some people find the task of balancing a checkbook or trying to split a bill after dinner to be incredibly daunting?

How it was tested: Researchers from the University of Chicago worked with 14 adults proven to have "math anxiety" based on their responses to an initial series of queries. These questions weren't actual math problems: Instead, researchers presented participants with theoretical scenarios like receiving a math textbook or taking a difficult math class in order to graduate. The volunteers weren't anxious people in general, say researchers, but rather possessed a "heightened sense of anxiety" when presented with math-related situations. For the actual experiment, their brains were hooked up to an fMRI machine, and they were given equations to verify. For example: (12 x 4) - 19 = 29.

The outcome: To the surprise of researchers, it was the anticipation of doing math, not necessarily the math itself, that elicited responses from participants that were similar to, well, being in pain. In particular, just being presented with math problems activated parts of the posterior insula, which is "a fold of tissue located deep inside the brain just above the ear that is associated with registering direct threats to the body as well as the experience of pain." More interestingly: The process of actually doing math didn't cause these same brain areas to register on fMRI.

What the experts say: "For someone who has math anxiety, the anticipation of doing math prompts a similar brain reaction as when they experience pain — say, burning one's hand on a hot stove," said study co-author Professor Sian Beilock in a statement. Previous studies have demonstrated that the higher someone's math anxiety, which can start as early as first grade, the stronger the response via brain scan.

The lesson: Anxiety isn't just a proxy for poor math skills, but it can be an indicator for a "real, negative psychological reaction." Educators and officials should therefore consider treating math anxiety like they would other phobias.

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Space
SpaceX's Landing Blooper Reel Shows That Even Rocket Scientists Make Mistakes
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SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches.
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On March 30, 2017, SpaceX did something no space program had done before: They relaunched an orbital class rocket from Earth that had successfully achieved lift-off just a year earlier. It wasn't the first time Elon Musk's company broke new ground: In December 2015, it nailed the landing on a reusable rocket—the first time that had been done—and five months later landed a rocket on a droneship in the middle of the ocean, which was also unprecedented. These feats marked significant moments in the history of space travel, but they were just a few of the steps in the long, messy journey to achieve them. In SpaceX's new blooper reel, spotted by Ars Technica, you can see just some of the many failures the company has had along the way.

The video demonstrates that failure is an important part of the scientific process. Of course when the science you're working in deals with launching and landing rockets, failure can be a lot more dramatic than it is in a lab. SpaceX has filmed their rockets blowing up in the air, disintegrating in the ocean, and smashing against landing pads, often because of something small like a radar glitch or lack of propellant.

While explosions—or "rapid unscheduled disassemblies," as the video calls them—are never ideal, some are preferable to others. The Falcon 9 explosion that shook buildings for miles last year, for instance, ended up destroying the $200 million Facebook satellite onboard. But even costly hiccups such as that one are important to future successes. As Musk once said, "If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."

You can watch the fiery compilation below.

[h/t Ars Technica]

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Health
8 Potential Signs of a Panic Attack
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It's not just fear or worry. In fact, many panic attacks don’t look like panic at all. Panic attacks come on rapidly, and often at times that don't seem to make sense. The symptoms of panic disorder vary from person to person and even from attack to attack for the same person. The problems listed below are not unique to panic attacks, but if you're experiencing more than one, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor either way.

1. YOU'RE DIZZY.

Doctors sometimes call the autonomic nervous system (ANS) the "automatic nervous system" because it regulates many vital bodily functions like pumping blood all on its own, without our having to think about it. Panic attacks often manifest through the ANS, leading to increased heart rate or decreased blood pressure, which can in turn lead to feeling lightheaded or faint.

2. YOU'RE LOSING YOURSELF.

Feeling detached from yourself is called depersonalization. Feeling detached from the world, or like it's fake or somehow unreal, is called derealization. Both forms of dissociation are unsettling but common signs that a panic attack has begun.

3. YOU'RE QUEASY.

Our digestive system is often the first body part to realize that something is wrong. Panic sends stress hormones and tension to the gut and disrupts digestion, causing nausea, upset stomach, or heartburn.

4. YOU FEEL NUMB OR TINGLY.

Panic attacks can manifest in truly surprising ways, including pins and needles or numbness in a person's hands or face.

5. YOU'RE SWEATY OR SHIVERING.

The symptoms of a panic attack can look a lot like the flu. But if you don't have a fever and no one else has chattering teeth, it might be your ANS in distress.

6. YOU KNOW THE WORST IS COMING.

While it may sound prophetic or at least bizarre, a sense of impending doom is a very common symptom of panic attacks (and several other conditions). 

7. BREATHING IS DIFFICULT.

The ANS strikes again. In addition to the well-known problems of hyperventilation or shortness of breath, panic attacks can also cause dyspnea, in which a person feels like they can't fill their lungs, and feelings of choking or being smothered.

8. YOU'RE AFRAID OF HAVING A PANIC ATTACK. 

Oddly enough, anxiety about anxiety is itself a symptom of anxiety and panic attacks. Fear of losing control or getting upset can cause people to avoid situations that could be triggering, which can in turn limit their lives. 

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