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This Just In: Men Dumbfounded by Chatting With Women

On Arrested Development, when George Michael Bluth finds himself around his cousin Maeby, he begins stammering and mumbling. He freezes up. And while George Michael's behavior elicits laughs, it might also cause some empathy. Researchers found that heterosexual men commonly experience cognitive deficits after interacting with women—and they think they understand why.

Researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands asked both men and women to complete a Stroop test, which is a series of tasks that assesses a person's ability to think. (Such tests commonly show participants the word green written in blue ink and measure the quickness and accuracy of a participant's reaction.) Then subjects participated in two trials based on daily interactions.

For the first, participants were told to read Dutch words to a camera; the recording would help someone practice lip reading. The participants learned the name of the observer but few other details. After the task, the subjects took another Stroop test. Women performed just as well on the Stroop test no matter if they believed a man or a woman was watching them. But the men were a different story; if they thought that a woman was watching them, they performed poorly. The mere thought of an interaction with women caused men to act, well, stupid.

Again, the researchers told the participants they would need to read aloud for a lip reading practice video. Half of them learned that men would observe them, the other half women. This time, the subjects did not perform the reading; they simply took a Stroop test. Men who believed women would watch them flubbed their tests again. Once again, the thought of interacting with a woman disrupted men's brainwaves. Women's scores remained steady.

The researchers hypothesized that men freeze up in interactions with women because they think of it as a possible dating opportunity. They also theorize that men might be awkward and dumb because of societal expectation; men feel they must impress women and this pressure causes brain freeze.

[via Archives of Sexual Behavior]

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science
The Prehistoric Bacteria That Helped Create Our Cells Billions of Years Ago
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We owe the existence of our cells—the very building blocks of life—to a chance relationship between bacteria that occurred more than 2 billion years ago. Flash back to Bio 101, and you might remember that humans, plants, and animals have complex eukaryotic cells, with nucleus-bound DNA, instead of single-celled prokaryotic cells. These contain specialized organelles such as the mitochondria—the cell’s powerhouse—and the chloroplast, which converts sunlight into sugar in plants.

Mitochondria and chloroplasts both look and behave a lot like bacteria, and they also share similar genes. This isn’t a coincidence: Scientists believe these specialized cell subunits are descendants of free-living prehistoric bacteria that somehow merged together to form one. Over time, they became part of our basic biological units—and you can learn how by watching PBS Eons’s latest video below.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Buckingham Palace Was Built With Jurassic Fossils, Scientists Find
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The UK's Buckingham Palace is a vestige from another era, and not just because it was built in the early 18th century. According to a new study, the limestone used to construct it is filled with the fossilized remains of microbes from the Jurassic period of 200 million years ago, as The Telegraph reports.

The palace is made of oolitic limestone, which consists of individual balls of carbonate sediment called ooids. The material is strong but lightweight, and is found worldwide. Jurassic oolite has been used to construct numerous famous buildings, from those in the British city of Bath to the Empire State Building and the Pentagon.

A new study from Australian National University published in Scientific Reports found that the spherical ooids in Buckingham Palace's walls are made up of layers and layers of mineralized microbes. Inspired by a mathematical model from the 1970s for predicting the growth of brain tumors, the researchers created a model that explains how ooids are created and predicts the factors that limit their ultimate size.

A hand holding a chunk of oolite limestone
Australian National University

They found that the mineralization of the microbes forms the central core of the ooid, and the layers of sediment that gather around that core feed those microbes until the nutrients can no longer reach the core from the outermost layer.

This contrasts with previous research on how ooids form, which hypothesized that they are the result of sediment gathered from rolling on the ocean floor. It also reshapes how we think about the buildings made out of oolitic limestone from this period. Next time you look up at the Empire State Building or Buckingham Palace, thank the ancient microbes.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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