All Mammals Take the Same Amount of Time to Poop, Scientists Find

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iStock

Yes, everyone poops. Moreover, at least when it comes to mammals, everyone poops for about the same amount of time, according to a new study. The research, described in the journal Soft Matter and brought to our attention by the Science of Us, examined mammals as small as cats and as large as elephants, finding that they all took around 12 seconds to defecate.

The study examined elephants, giant pandas, and warthogs at the Zoo Atlanta, dogs at a park, the dimensions of feces and large intestines, and mathematical models to better understand how animals poop. The Georgia Institute of Technology researchers found that regardless of the animal’s total size, the mammals studied had feces that were double the length of their rectum, and whether that rectum was an inch-and-a-half long or almost 16 inches long, their feces took about 12 seconds to exit the body.

The researchers only studied animals with cylindrical feces (excluding rabbits, rodents, and ruminants like cows in the process), collecting stool samples from 34 zoo animals, seven farm animals, and two species of animals (unidentified) living at Georgia Tech. They also observed animals pooping at Zoo Atlanta firsthand and watched 19 different YouTube videos that featured animals doing their business.

Through their observations and theoretical calculations on the fluid mechanics of defecation, the researchers found that all animals exert the same amount of pressure while pooping. They also found that bigger animals had more poop to get rid of, but they also had thicker mucus layers lining the walls of their large intestine, which helps move the poop out of the body at a faster clip. Combine these two factors, and you get pretty consistent poop durations across the animal kingdom—12 seconds—despite the wide range of body sizes. (Constipation happens when the feces moving through the large intestine soak up that mucus layer. Think of it like trying to go down a waterslide that is completely dry.)

This study did not examine every animal on Earth, but the finding is in line with research on the other potty habits of mammals. Previous work—awarded an Ig Nobel Prize in 2015—found that all mammals pee for about the same amount of time (21 seconds). It’s evolutionarily plausible, too. Pooping makes it hard to run away from predators (a significant number of sloths die when they leave the treetops to poop at ground level, in fact) and a quick heave-ho of the bowels is safer than straining in one location for 20 minutes.

The researchers hope their study will be used for more than just satisfying the curiosity of colon obsessives, though. “By understanding the physics of defecation, we will provide not only new ideas for medical diagnostics, diapers, and incontinence products but also transport methods for the feces of humans, pets, and agriculturally important animals,” they write.

[h/t Science of Us]

Yes, You Have Too Many Tabs Open on Your Computer—and Your Brain is Probably to Blame

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iStock.com/baona

If you’re anything like me, you likely have dozens of tabs open at this very moment. Whether it’s news stories you mean to read later, podcast episodes you want to listen to when you have a chance, or just various email and social media accounts, your browser is probably cluttered with numerous, often unnecessary tabs—and your computer is working slower as a result. So, why do we leave so many tabs open? Metro recently provided some answers to this question, which we spotted via Travel + Leisure.

The key phrase to know, according to the Metro's Ellen Scott, is “task switching,” which is what our brains are really doing when we think we're multitasking. Research has found that humans can't really efficiently multitask at all—instead, our brains hop rapidly from one task to another, losing concentration every time we shift our attention. Opening a million tabs, it turns out, is often just a digital form of task switching.

It isn't just about feeling like we're getting things done. Keeping various tabs open also works as a protection against boredom, according to Metro. Having dozens of tabs open allows us to pretend we’re always doing something, or at least that we always have something available to do.

A screenshot of many tabs in a browser screen
This is too many tabs.
Screenshot, Shaunacy Ferro

It may also be driven by a fear of missing information—a kind of “Internet FOMO,” as Travel + Leisure explains it. We fear that we might miss an important update if we close out of our social media feed or email account or that news article, so we just never close anything.

But this can lead to information overload. Even when you think you're only focused on whatever you're doing in a single window, seeing all those open tabs in the corner of your eye takes up mental energy, distracting you from the task at hand. Based on studies of multitasking, this tendency to keep an overwhelming number of tabs open may actually be altering your brain. Some studies have found that "heavy media multitaskers"—like tab power users—may perform worse on various cognitive tests than people who don't try to consume media at such a frenzied pace.

More simply, it just might not be worth the bandwidth. Just like your brain, your browser and your computer can only handle so much information at a time. To optimize your browser's performance, Lifehacker suggests keeping only nine tabs open—at most—at one time. With nine or fewer tabs, you're able to see everything that's open at a glance, and you can use keyboard shortcuts to navigate between them. (On a Mac, you can press Command + No. 1 through No. 9 to switch between tabs; on a PC, it's Control + the number.)

Nine open tabs on a desktop browser
With nine or fewer tabs open, you can actually tell what each page is.
Screenshot, Shaunacy Ferro

That said, there are, obviously, situations in which one might need many tabs open at one time. Daria Kuss, a senior lecturer specializing in cyberpsychology at Nottingham Trent University, tells Metro that “there are two opposing reasons we keep loads of tabs open: to be efficient and ‘create a multi-source and multi-topic context for the task at hand.’” Right now, for example, I have six tabs open to refer to for the purposes of writing this story. Sometimes, there's just no avoiding tabs.

In the end, it's all about accepting our (and our computers') limitations. When in doubt, there’s no shame in shutting down those windows. If you really want to get back to them, they're all saved in your browser history. If you're a relentless tab-opener, there are also browser extensions like OneTab, which collapses all of your open tabs into a single window of links for you to return to later.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

Will the Sun Ever Stop Shining?

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iStock.com/VR_Studio

Viktor T. Toth:

The Sun will not stop shining for a very, very long time.

The Sun, along with the solar system, is approximately 4.5 billion years old. That is about one-third the age of the entire universe. For the next several billion years, the Sun is going to get brighter. Perhaps paradoxically, this will eventually result in a loss of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, which is not good news; It will eventually lead to the death of plant life.

Within 2.5 to 3 billion years from now, the surface temperature of the Earth will exceed the boiling point of water everywhere. Within about about 4 to 5 billion years, the Earth will be in worse shape than Venus today, with most of the water gone, and the planet’s surface partially molten.

Eventually, the Sun will evolve into a red giant star, large enough to engulf the Earth. Its luminosity will be several thousand times its luminosity at present. Finally, with all its usable nuclear fuel exhausted and its outer layers ejected into space, the Sun’s core will settle down into the final stage of its evolution as a white dwarf. Such a star no longer produces energy through nuclear fusion, but it contains tremendous amounts of stored heat, in a very small volume (most of the mass of the Sun will be confined to a volume not much larger than the Earth). As such, it will cool very, very slowly.

It will take many more billions of years for the Sun to cool from an initial temperature of hundreds of thousands of degrees to its present-day temperature and below. But in the end, the remnant of the Sun will slowly fade from sight, becoming a brown dwarf: a cooling, dead remnant of a star.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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