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How You Hold Your Phone Reveals Whether You're Left- or Right-Brained

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In 1861, Pierre Paul Broca, a French surgeon, had a patient he referred to as “Tan.” After an accident, the patient had become aphasiac, meaning he could not speak. The only word he could utter was "tan" (think Hodor in Game of Thrones). Broca hypothesized that an area on the left side of the brain controlled speech, and when it sustained damage, people couldn’t speak (now called the Broca’s area).

This early discovery led to the theory that different hemispheres of the brain, left and right, controlled various functions, such as speech or logic. And this evolved into the idea that the dominant side of the brain affected personality characteristics—left-brain people are thought to be more analytic, objective, and logical, while right-brain people are believed to be more creative and insightful. Now, researchers have discovered that they can determine whether someone is a left- or right-brain person by looking at how they use their cell phones. 

Researchers at the Henry Ford Medical Center at Detroit wondered why people held their cell phones on one particular ear, and suspected that being left- or right-brained influenced it—between 70 and 95 percent of the population is right-handed and, of these people, 96 percent are left-hemisphere dominant.

The researchers asked 717 subjects to fill out an online survey, which determined their hemispheric dominance (left or right) and how they used their cell phone. Of the subjects, 90 percent were right handed and 9 percent were left handed. The researchers found that 68 percent of the righties held their phones to their right ear and 25 percent to the left, while 7 percent couldn’t commit to a side. Seventy-two percent of southpaws held their phones to the left side, 23 to the right side, and 5 percent had no preference. The average cell phone usage amounted to about 540 minutes per month over the past nine years.

The researchers note that there is a 73 percent association between hand dominance and the side people hold their cell phones—so how we use our cell phones allows people to predict whether someone is right- or left-brain dominant. While understanding this connection could lead to better cell phone design, the researchers believe it will help them better understand the relationship between mobile phones and brain tumors and help them improve brain imaging techniques.

"Our findings have several implications, especially for mapping the language center of the brain," says Michael Seidman, director of the division of otologic and neurotologic surgery at Henry Ford and one of the authors of the paper.

"By establishing a correlation between cerebral dominance and sidedness of cell phone use, it may be possible to develop a less-invasive, lower-cost option to establish the side of the brain where speech and language occurs.”      

The paper appears in JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery.

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Animals
How a Pregnant Rhino Named Victoria Could Save an Entire Subspecies
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

The last male northern white rhino died at a conservancy in Kenya earlier this year, prompting fears that the subspecies was finally done for after decades of heavy poaching. Scientists say there's still hope, though, and they're banking on a pregnant rhino named Victoria at the San Diego Zoo, according to the Associated Press.

Victoria is actually a southern white rhino, but the two subspecies are related. Only two northern white rhinos survive, but neither of the females in Kenya are able to reproduce. Victoria was successfully impregnated through artificial insemination, and if she successfully carries her calf to term in 16 to 18 months, scientists say she might be able to serve as a surrogate mother and propagate the northern white rhino species.

But how would that work if no male northern rhinos survive? As the AP explains, scientists are working to recreate northern white rhino embryos using genetic technology. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has the frozen cell lines of 12 different northern white rhinos, which can be transformed into stem cells—and ultimately, sperm and eggs. The sperm of the last northern white male rhino, Sudan, was also saved before he died.

Scientists have been monitoring six female southern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo to see if any emerge as likely candidates for surrogacy. However, it's not easy to artificially inseminate a rhino, and there have been few successful births in the past. There's still a fighting chance, though, and scientists ultimately hope they'll be able to build up a herd of five to 15 northern white rhinos over the next few decades.

[h/t Time Magazine]

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entertainment
Why Our Brains Love Plot Twists
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From the father-son reveal in The Empire Strikes Back to the shocking realization at the end of The Sixth Sense, everyone loves a good plot twist. It's not the element of surprise that makes them so enjoyable, though. It's largely the set-up, according to cognitive scientist Vera Tobin.

Tobin, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University, writes for The Conversationthat one of the most enjoyable moments of a film or novel comes after the big reveal, when we get to go back and look at the clues we may have missed. "The most satisfying surprises get their power from giving us a fresh, better way of making sense of the material that came before," Tobin writes. "This is another opportunity for stories to turn the curse of knowledge to their advantage."

The curse of knowledge, Tobin explains, refers to a psychological effect in which knowledge affects our perception and "trips us up in a lot of ways." For instance, a puzzle always seems easier than it really is after we've learned how to solve it, and once we know which team won a baseball game, we tend to overestimate how likely that particular outcome was.

Good writers know this intuitively and use it to their advantage to craft narratives that will make audiences want to review key points of the story. The end of The Sixth Sense, for example, replays earlier scenes of the movie to clue viewers in to the fact that Bruce Willis's character has been dead the whole time—a fact which seems all too obvious in hindsight, thanks to the curse of knowledge.

This is also why writers often incorporate red herrings—or false clues—into their works. In light of this evidence, movie spoilers don't seem so terrible after all. According to one study, even when the plot twist is known in advance, viewers still experience suspense. Indeed, several studies have shown that spoilers can even enhance enjoyment because they improve "fluency," or a viewer's ability to process and understand the story.

Still, spoilers are pretty universally hated—the Russo brothers even distributed fake drafts of Avengers: Infinity War to prevent key plot points from being leaked—so it's probably best not to go shouting the end of this summer's big blockbuster before your friends have seen it.

[h/t The Conversation]

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