They Might Be Giants Release Educational Science Album for Kids

Nerd parent alert: new TMBG album of science stuff for kids available now! (iTunes Link)

Indie pop icons They Might Be Giants have long been known for embedding factoids in their songs. For example, their cover of "Why Does the Sun Shine" features the opening hook: "The sun is a mass of incandescent gas; A gigantic nuclear furnace; Where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees!" (To be fair, TMBG didn't write that tune; see the original version by Tom Glazer.) But then there's the presidential nerd material: TMBG wrote a detailed trivia-heavy song about the oft-forgotten president "James K. Polk," and the art trivia like "Meet James Ensor." And don't get me started on their cuneiform-heavy explanation of "The Mesopotamians."

So it comes as no surprise that TMBG has come out with a CD/DVD combo release called Here Comes Science (link opens iTunes), again combining facts with pop, but finally aiming their laserbeam of awesomeness at one of my favorite topics: science. From an interview with the Underwire blog, the two Johns say:

"We wanted to be sure to get our facts right, so we brought in a wonderful fellow named Eric Siegel, who is the director of the New York Hall of Science," Flansburgh said. "Hopefully, that vetting process was rigorous enough to stave off a cultural boycott from the scientific community. We covered mostly the classic stuff: the elements, astronomy, the circulatory system, cells, photosynthesis and the light spectrum. But there isn't a lot of material about applied science on the album, although there is a song about computer-assisted design that has a mind-bending video on the DVD."

And here's the charming video for "Electric Car" off the new release, featuring vocals from Robin Goldwasser:

More Awesome TMBG Stuff for Kids

TMBG have now done four albums aimed at kids. Links below open iTunes, though these are also available as CDs and in the case of Here Come the 123s as a CD/DVD set.

TMBG Kids Stuff: Here Come the ABCs -- the fun way to learn the ABCs; Here Come the 123s -- a video/audio combo for learnin' your numbers; and No! -- an album about being a kid and being different.

Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too

There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

Keystone/Getty Images
Uncombable Hair Syndrome Is a Real—and Very Rare—Genetic Condition
Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

Everyone has bad hair days from time to time, but for roughly 100 people around the world, unmanageable hair is an actual medical condition.

Uncombable hair syndrome, also known as spun glass hair syndrome, is a rare condition caused by a genetic mutation that affects the formation and shape of hair shafts, BuzzFeed reports. People with the condition tend to have dry, unruly hair that can't be combed flat. It grows slower than normal and is typically silver, blond, or straw-colored. For some people, the symptoms disappear with age.

A diagram of a hair follicle

Although there have been only about 100 documented cases worldwide, one of the world's leading researchers on the condition, Regina Betz, of Germany's University of Bonn, believes there could be thousands of others who have it but have not been diagnosed. Some have speculated that Einstein had the condition, but without a genetic test, it's impossible to know for sure.

An 18-month-old American girl named Taylor McGowan is one of the few people with this syndrome. Her parents sent blood samples to Betz to see if they were carriers of the gene mutation, and the results came back positive for variations of PADI3, one of three genes responsible for the syndrome. According to IFL Science, the condition is recessive, meaning that it "only presents when individuals receive mutant gene copies from both parents." Hence it's so uncommon.

Taylor's parents have embraced their daughter's unique 'do, creating a Facebook page called Baby Einstein 2.0 to share Taylor's story and educate others about the condition.

"It's what makes her look ever so special, just like Albert Einstein," Taylor's mom, Cara, says in a video uploaded to YouTube by SWNS TV. "We wanted to share her story with the world in hopes of spreading awareness."

[h/t BuzzFeed]


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