The Reason Why Lobsters Turn Bright Red When You Boil Them

Fudio/iStock via Getty Images
Fudio/iStock via Getty Images

If the fire-engine red of the lobster on your plate makes you painfully aware that it was boiled alive, think of it this way: The bright color is simply the result of a chemical reaction.

Lobsters’ usual greenish-blue hue serves them well in life, camouflaging them from the predatory eyes of cod, haddock, and other large fish that prowl the ocean floor. Anita Kim, a scientist at the New England Aquarium, explained to Live Science that this color results from the combination of two molecules.

One is astaxanthin, a bright red carotenoid that lobsters absorb by eating things that contain it. The other is crustacyanin, a protein that already exists in lobsters. When crustacyanin binds with astaxanthin, it twists the molecule into a different shape, which changes how it reflects light. So instead of red, live lobsters are blue.

Then, when you boil one of the tasty crustaceans, the heat causes the crustacyanin molecules to contort into new shapes. In doing so, they release the astaxanthin molecules, which rebound to their original shape and red color. Michele Cianci, a biochemist at Italy’s Marche Polytechnic University where the phenomenon was investigated, likened it to manipulating a rubber band with your hands. “You can impose any kind of configuration you want,” he told Live Science. “When you release the rubber band, it goes back to its own shape.”

The same thing happens with shrimp, which go from ghostly gray to pink when you cook them. How, then, do flamingos turn pink from eating raw, almost colorless shrimp? Crustacyanin releases its hold on astaxanthin during the flamingos’ digestion process just like it does when heated.

By the way, don’t feel guilty about having torn your lobster away from its one true love—they don’t really mate for life.

[h/t Live Science]

The Reason Why Baking Makes You Feel Good, According to Psychologists

Liderina/iStock via Getty Images
Liderina/iStock via Getty Images

Whether you're nibbling a slice of zucchini bread or an extra-chewy chocolate chip cookie, it’s always fun to be the taste tester for a friend or relative who loves to bake. And, while eating products created with love (and sugar) probably makes you feel good, the baker is reaping some psychological benefits, too.

Studies have shown that creative activities like baking and knitting contribute to an overall sense of well-being. Boston University associate professor of psychological and brain sciences Donna Pincus told HuffPost that there’s “a stress relief that people get from having some kind of an outlet and a way to express themselves.”

Baking is also a great way to practice mindfulness, because it requires you to focus on following very straightforward directions in a specific order. In other words, most of the decisions have already been made for you, allowing you to concentrate on the details while nudging your mind away from the stressors and anxieties of your life outside the kitchen. Julie Ohana, a licensed clinical social worker and culinary art therapist, explained to HuffPost that baking is therapeutic because it helps you practice the “balance of the moment and the bigger picture.” While you’re measuring and mixing ingredients, you’re probably visualizing how they’ll all come together to create a fulfilling final product, and deciding how and when you’ll share it with others.

Sharing your desserts—altruistically rather than for attention or competition—is another mood-booster, making you “feel like you’ve done something good for the world, which perhaps increases your meaning in life and connection with other people,” Pincus said. It can also function as a mode of communication. Susan Whitbourne, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts, told HuffPost that “it can be helpful for people who have difficulty expressing their feelings in words to show thanks, appreciation, or sympathy with baked goods.”

If baking just isn’t for you, that’s OK, too—try one of these other stress-reducing tactics instead.

[h/t HuffPost]

The Reason Why Objects in a Car’s Side-View Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

aydinozcanbaz/iStock via Getty Images
aydinozcanbaz/iStock via Getty Images

“Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” It's a warning you see in basically every car, but why can't passenger-side mirrors display objects accurately? Well, it's actually a careful design choice made with safety in mind.

The way we see things is dependent on how light reflects off objects around us. An object's color, texture, shape, and other characteristics influence the direction and intensity of light that bounces off them. If the objects are reflected off an intermediate object, like a mirror, our perception of the original object may be distorted.

The shape of the mirror also makes a difference in our perception. In the U.S., passenger-side mirrors are convex (curved slightly outward), whereas driver-side mirrors are flat. A convex mirror placed on the passenger side reduces the driver's blind spots on that side of the vehicle by presenting a wider field of view, but it also makes other cars appear farther away due to a slight distortion caused by the shape. The flatter mirror on the driver’s side produces a more accurate depiction of what’s behind the car with a more narrow field of view, since light bounces off in the same direction that it hits the mirror and doesn't distort the reflection of the object.

When the two mirrors' reflections are combined in the driver's point of view, drivers have the ability to both see wider areas on the passenger side while keeping their eyes (mainly) on the road. The flat-convex combo has been the U.S. standard for years, though the U.S. Department of Transportation is looking into the safety benefits of two convex mirrors, which European cars usually sport.

For now, always remember to check your mirrors frequently, and look over your shoulder before you change lanes. (Don't forget your turn signal!)

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