REUTERS/PETR JOSEK/LANDOV
REUTERS/PETR JOSEK/LANDOV

11 Problems Music Can Solve

REUTERS/PETR JOSEK/LANDOV
REUTERS/PETR JOSEK/LANDOV

Music is a splendid thing. It can cheer you up when you're sad, make you dance like a fool, and allow you to drown out the world when you need to. But music has its scientific uses, too. The documentary Alive Inside details how dementia patients react positively when given iPods filled with their old favorite songs. The music seems to help them "come alive" again. While listening to familiar songs, many of the documentary's patients can sing along, answer questions about their past, and even carry on brief conversations with others.

"Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience," says neurologist Oliver Sacks, who appears in the film. "Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory."

The documentary follows recent studies showing that music can improve the memories of dementia patients, and even help them develop new memories.

Here, a look at some other things music has been known to "cure":

1. Low Birth Weight

Babies born too early often require extended stays in the hospital to help them gain weight and strength. To help facilitate this process, many hospitals turn to music. A team of Canadian researchers found that playing music to preemies reduced their pain levels and encouraged better feeding habits, which in turn helped with weight-gain. Hospitals use musical instruments to mimic the sounds of a mother's heartbeat and womb to lull premature babies to sleep. Researchers also say that playing calming Mozart to premature infants significantly reduces the amount of energy they expend, which allows them gain weight.

It "makes you wonder whether neonatal intensive care units should consider music exposure as standard practice for at-risk infants," says Dr. Nestor Lopez-Duran at child-psych.org.

2. Droopy Plants

If music helps babies grow, can it do the same thing for plants? Dorothy Retallack says yes. She wrote a book in 1973 called The Sound of Music and Plants, which detailed the effects of music on plant growth. Retallack played rock music to one group of plants and easy listening music to another, identical group. At the end of the study, the 'easy listening' plants were uniform in size, full and green, and were even leaning toward the source of the music. The rock music plants had grown tall, but they were droopy, with faded leaves, and were leaning away from the radio.

3. The Damaging Effects of Brain Damage

Of the 1.5 million Americans who sustain brain damage each year, roughly 90,000 of them will be left with a long-term movement or speech disability. As treatment, researchers use music to stimulate the areas of the brain that control these two functions.

When given a rhythm to walk or dance to, people with neurological damage caused by stroke or Parkinson's disease can "regain a symmetrical stride and a sense of balance." The beats in music help serve as a footstep cue for the brain.

Similarly, rhythm and pitch can help patients sing what words they can't say. A study of autistic children who couldn't speak found that music therapy helped these children articulate words. Some of these kids said their first words ever as a result of the treatment.

"We are just starting to understand how powerful music can be. We don't know what the limits are." says Michael De Georgia, director of the Center for Music and Medicine at Case Western Reserve University's University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland.

4. Teen Loitering

Public libraries, malls, and train stations already know this: Teenagers typically don't like classical music. In fact, they dislike it so much that "it sends them scurrying away like frightened mice," says the LA Times. The theory is that when the brain hears something it dislikes, it suppresses dopamine, "the pleasure chemical." And as teenagers' moods fall, they go elsewhere to find something to bring it back up.

So if you want the neighbor kids to get off your lawn, turn up the Tchaikovsky.

5. Hearing Loss

OK, maybe music can't cure hearing loss, but it may help prevent it. A study of 163 adults, 74 of them lifelong musicians, had participants take a series of hearing tests. The lifelong musicians processed sound better than non-musicians, with the gap widening with age. "A 70-year-old musician understood speech in a noisy environment as well as a 50-year-old non-musician," explains Linda Searling at the Washington Post.

6. A Broken Heart

Not the kind caused by rejection, but the kind caused by a heart attack. Music can help patients who are recovering from heart attacks and heart surgery by lowering blood pressure, slowing the heart rate and reducing anxiety. As a preventative, try listening to "joyful" music, or songs that make you feel good. Research says listening to songs that evoke a sense of joy causes increased circulation and expanded blood vessels, which encourages good vascular health.

7. Poor Sport Performance

In 2005, a UK study found that listening to music during sports training can boost athletic performance by up to 20 percent. That's roughly equal to the boost some athletes get from illegal performance-enhancing drugs, except music doesn't show up on a drug test. For best results, try music with a fast tempo during intense training and slower songs during cooldown.

8. Grumpy Teens

In a 2008 study, researcher Tobias Greitemeyer wanted to study how lyrics impacted teenagers' attitudes and behavior. To do so, he exposed one group of teens to "socially conscious" songs with a positive message, like Michael Jackson's "Heal the World." Another other group listened to songs with a "neutral" message. The researchers then "accidentally" knocked over a cup of pencils. The group listening to positive songs not only rushed to help more quickly, but picked up five times as many pencils as the other group.

9. Illiteracy

A 2009 study comparing two groups of second graders from similar demographics suggests learning music boosts reading abilities. The only major difference between the two groups was that one learned music notation, sight-reading and other skills, while the control group did not. Each group was tested for literacy before and after the school year. The end-of-year scores for the control group improved only slightly from their beginning of the year scores, while the kids with a music education scored "significantly higher," especially on vocabulary tests.

10. Sluggish Alcohol Sales

Are you a wine store owner suffering from an overstock of German vino? Try pumping some German tunes through your store. A 1999 study showed that doing so boosted German wine sales, and similarly, playing French music boosted French wine sales. Customers said they were completely oblivious to what music was being played.

11. Wine Snobbery

Ever purchased a bottle of wine with recommended listening printed on the bottle? Well, makers of cheap wine may want to consider that tactic. A group of researchers say certain types of music can "enhance" the way wine tastes by up to 60 percent. In a study, wine-drinkers rated white wine as 40 percent more refreshing when it was accompanied by "zingy and refreshing" music ("Just Can't Get Enough" by Nouvelle Vague was their go-to zingy song). The taste of red wine was altered 60 percent by "powerful and heavy music" like Orff's "Carmina Burana."

"The tongue is easy to dupe." says Jonah Lehrer at Wired.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some $8 chardonnay that needs a little help from Tina Turner.

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Central Press/Getty Images
Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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iStock
11 of the Most Extreme Junk Foods Ever Created
iStock
iStock

It should come as no surprise that National Junk Food Day is traditionally celebrated on July 21—smack dab in the middle of the dog days of summer, when the streets run thick with ice cream trucks and county fairs boast the kind of fried treats that can only be described as “awesome” (both in the modern sense and the more dated, whoa, we are in awe of that usage). But National Junk Food Day shouldn’t be celebrated with commonplace junk food; oh, no, it deserves something far bigger and better. So save your potato chips and chocolate bars for another day, and get ready to try some truly wild treats.

1. THE KFC DOUBLE DOWN


KFC

Perhaps the most unexpectedly clever way to create a new extreme junk food item is to turn a non-junky foodstuff into something that just oozes calories and decadence. Fried chicken giant KFC knew that—and played it up to major effect—when they introduced the KFC Double Down to America back in 2010. The sandwich foregoes the most traditional aspect of any sandwich (the bread!) and substitutes two fried chicken filets. In between the two pieces of chicken? Bacon, two different kinds of cheese, and the Colonel’s “secret sauce.” There’s no room for a bun here, folks.

2. PIZZA HUT'S HOT DOG STUFFED CRUST PIZZA

We may associate items like fast food pizza and hot dog-stuffed anything with all-American palates, but cheesy juggernaut Pizza Hut saw things a bit differently. In 2012, the chain introduced a pizza with a hot dog-stuffed crust to our neighbors across the pond, treating their UK customers to the kind of taste sensation some people might have had literal nightmares about. Is it a pizza? Is it a hot dog? Somehow, it’s both—and yet something much more.

3. FRIENDLY'S GRILLED CHEESE BURGERMELT


Friendly's

Once again, a wily restaurant chain took a normal food item—in this case, a hamburger—and amped up its junk factor by doing away with something as commonplace as buns, in favor of an entirely different (and, yes, very junky) item. In 2010, Friendly’s rolled out its very own spin on the Double Down, slamming a regular old burger between not one, but two grilled cheese sandwiches. Who needs buns when you can have four pieces of bread, gooey cheese, and unfathomable amounts of butter?

4. GUY FIERI'S CHEESECAKE CHALLENGE

Whiz-bang chef Guy Fieri has long drawn ire for his more wild culinary creations, but what sets his cuisine apart from that of other junk food aficionados is his steadfast dedication to the key elements of any extreme item: size and odd combinations. Fieri’s “Guy's Cheesecake Challenge” is currently on the menu of his Vegas Kitchen and Bar, but it’s easy enough to replicate at home: Just halve a cheesecake, throw it on a plate, and douse liberally with hot fudge, pretzels, and potato chips. (What, no bacon?)

5. DENNY'S FRIED CHEESE MELT


Denny's

In August 2010, Denny’s introduced the Fried Cheese Melt, a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with fried mozzarella sticks. Yes, it was served with both French fries and a side of marinara sauce, because it’s important to eat vegetables with every meal.

6. DUNKIN' DONUTS'S GLAZED DONUT BREAKFAST SANDWICH


Dunkin' Donuts

If you’ve ever hit up your local Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast and found yourself stumped when it came time to decide if you wanted a donut or a breakfast sandwich to get your morning motor revving, Dunkin' Donuts came up with a brilliant culinary brainstorm in 2013: the fast food favorite unveiled a breakfast sandwich that used glazed donuts as “bread,” wrapped around bacon and peppered egg.

7. JACK IN THE BOX MUNCHIE MEAL

What Jack’s Munchie Meals lack in creativity, they more than make up for in pure, unadulterated size and content. Each Munchie Meal—there are four total—features a massive sandwich (from the Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger to the Spicy Nacho Chicken Sandwich, and all sorts of wild fried things in between) accompanied with two beef tacos, “Halfsies” (a combo of fries and curly fries), and a 20-ounce fountain drink. These intense snack boxes are still available at most Jack in the Box locations, but you’ll have to wait until after 9 p.m. to procure your very own.

8. PIZZA HUT CHEESY BITES REMIX PIZZA

Apparently, there’s nothing that Pizza Hut loves more than using its crust as a delivery system for other junk food items. The hut that pizza built may have crammed hot dogs and hamburgers on to their pie sides, but there was something special about the Cheesy Bites Remix pizza. It featured fried cheese pockets stuffed with three different varieties of extra junk, from spicy seasoning to cream cheese and sesame to mozzarella and parmesan.

9. DEEP FRIED BUTTER

County and state fairs have long been hotbeds (sizzling, oily hotbeds) of wild, deep-frying invention. Dunking things in batter and then tossing them into a vat of oil is a nifty way to turn almost anything into a delicious crisp pocket of junky decadence, perfect for utensil-free eating—but that doesn’t mean that everything needs to get the deep-fried treatment. While deep-fried Oreos may be a stroke of brilliance, deep fried butter is just plain madness. Here’s a quick test: If you wouldn’t eat something if it weren’t deep-fried, don’t eat it if it is deep-fried. When was the last time you ate an entire stick of butter? See? Point proven.

10. THE BACON BUN BURGER

Not content to have a bacon sandwich between two chicken filets? Is a grilled cheese bun replacement not for you? Then try making your very own hamburger buns out of bacon. Carbs are bad for you, right?

11. FRIED ICE CREAM SANDWICH

The Florida State Fair is the proud home of the first fried ice cream sandwich, a junky treat that bears a name that doesn’t even begin to explain what it holds between its buns. It’s not a fried ice cream sandwich so much as a bacon cheeseburger (technically a sandwich) topped with a ball of fried ice cream. It might be a good meal for multi-taskers—no need to worry about dessert—but it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing good for anything else.

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