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Prettier at Closing Time: How Beer Goggles Work

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One of my all-time favorite songs, for which my girlfriend always calls me a redneck, is Mickey Gilley’s "Don't the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time." As the title suggests, it’s about the fact that a little booze makes everyone a little easier on the eyes. Does science have an explanation for “beer goggles,” or is it magic—and proof that alcohol is here because some higher power is looking after us?

A study published last year in the journal Alcohol suggests that it may have something to do with symmetry (prior to that, an eyecare industry-funded study had worked out an elaborate formula that accounted for several factors present in the average pub). Almost all organisms with more than one cell exhibit some sort of symmetry, whether it's radial, biradial, spherical or bilateral (notable exceptions: sea sponges and adult flatfish, like flounder). You could cut me, or a dog, or an apple or a dinosaur in half, and one side would be pretty much a mirror image of the other. Some organisms have more lines of symmetry than others, and some individuals are more symmetrical than others.

Now, symmetry probably isn’t something you’re really thinking about when cruising for eligible members of your preferred gender in a bar, but you may be looking for it subconsciously. Humans tend to judge symmetrical faces as more attractive than asymmetrical ones and may have a strong evolutionary preference for it, since symmetry might be a signal of good health and good genes.

In the Alcohol study, researchers from London's Roehampton University went to a few bars near campus and found both inebriated and sober students. They showed all of them 20 images of a pair of faces and 20 images of a single face, and asked which faces in the pairs were the more attractive of the two, and whether or not the solo faces were symmetrical.

The sober kids overwhelmingly said the more symmetrical faces in the pairs were more attractive. They were better able to determine which of the solo faces were more symmetrical, too. The drunk students, on the other hand, had less of a preference for symmetry and a deadened ability for detecting it (and women more so than men).

The researchers concluded that a “reduced ability to perceive asymmetry” could underlie “increased frequency of mate choice.” In layman’s terms, what the study suggests is that alcohol doesn’t necessarily make everyone more beautiful. It’s just that beer goggles degrade our ability to recognize asymmetry when we see it.

L.G. Halsey, J.W. Huber, R.D.J. Bufton, A.C. Little. “An explanation for enhanced perceptions of attractiveness after alcohol consumption.” Alcohol. Volume 44, Issue 4, June 2010.

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The Delicious Chemistry of Sushi
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The secret to sushi's delicious taste is invisible to the human eye. Chefs spend years training to properly prepare the Japanese culinary staple, which consists of fresh fish and seasoned rice, either served together or wrapped in seaweed. At its most elemental, as the American Chemistry Society's latest Reactions video explains below, the bite-sized morsels contain an assortment of compounds that, together, combine to form a perfectly balanced mix of savory and sweet. They include mannitol, iodine, and bromophenol, all of which provide a distinctive tang; and glutamate, which adds a savory, rich umami flavor (and turns into MSG when it's combined with a sodium ion).

Take a bite of science, and learn more fun facts about the Japanese culinary staple's long history and unique preparation method by watching the video below.

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Courtesy the University of Colorado Boulder
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Fossilized Poop Shows Some Herbivorous Dinosaurs Loved a Good Crab Dinner
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Lead author Karen Chin of the University of Colorado Boulder
Courtesy the University of Colorado Boulder

Scientists can learn a lot about the prehistoric world through very, very old poop. Just recently, researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder and Kent State University studying fossilized dinosaur poop discovered that some herbivores weren't as picky about their diets as we thought. Though they mostly ate plants, large dinosaurs living in Utah 75 million years ago also seem to have eaten prehistoric crustaceans, as Nature News reports.

The new study, published in Scientific Reports, finds that large dinosaurs of the Late Cretaceous period seem to have eaten crabs, along with rotting wood, based on the content of their coprolites (the more scientific term for prehistoric No. 2). The fossilized remains of dinos' bathroom activities were found in the Kaiparowits rock formation in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a known hotspot for pristine Late Cretaceous fossils.

"The large size and woody contents" of the poop suggest that they were created by dinosaurs that were well-equipped to process fiber in their diets, as the study puts it, leading the researchers to suggest that the poop came from big herbivores like hadrosaurs, whose remains have been found in the area before.

Close up scientific images of evidence of crustaceans in fossilized poop.
Chin et al., Scientific Reports (2017)

While scientists previously thought that plant-eating dinosaurs like hadrosaurs only ate vegetation, these findings suggest otherwise. "The diet represented by the Kaiparowits coprolites would have provided a woody stew of plant, fungal, and invertebrate tissues," the researchers write, including crabs (Yum.) These crustaceans would have provided a big source of calcium for the dinosaurs, and the other invertebrates that no doubt lived in the rotting logs would have provided a good source of protein.

But they probably didn't eat the rotting wood all year, instead munching on dead trees seasonally or during times when other food sources weren’t available. Another hypothesis is that these "ancient fecal producers," as the researchers call them, might have eaten the rotting wood, with its calcium-rich crustaceans and protein-laden invertebrates, during egg production, similar to the feeding patterns of modern birds during breeding season.

Regardless of the reason, these findings could change how we think about what big dinosaurs ate.

[h/t Nature News]

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