The 20 Catchiest Songs (According to Science)

The catchiest song is "Wannabe," by the Spice Girls! At least that's the conclusion researchers in the UK have come to after a year-long study.

In the experiment, developed by the UK's Museum of Science and Industry, people played an interactive online game called Hooked on Music, created by computational musicologist John Ashley Burgoyne and a team at the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht. The game contained 1000 clips of best-selling songs spanning seven decades, from the 1940s until the present day. There were four different ways to play, as Cnet describes:

Recognise that Tune, where users had to hum along with the track, continuing when the sound dropped out and gauging whether they were still in time when the sound resumed; What's the Hook, where users had to listen to two different clips from the same song and choose which clip was catchier; Time Trial, where users had to recognise as many songs as possible in three minutes; and In a Row, where users had to recognise as many songs in a row as they could.

Researchers analyzed the data of 12,000 participants, which revealed that, on average, it took users just 2.29 seconds to recognize "Wannabe." Here's the full list:

1. "Wannabe," Spice Girls - 2.29 seconds
2. "Mambo No. 5," Lou Bega - 2.48 seconds
3. "Eye of the Tiger," Survivor - 2.62 seconds
4. "Just Dance," Lady Gaga - 2.66 seconds
5. "SOS," ABBA - 2.73 seconds
6. "Pretty Woman," Roy Orbison - 2.73 seconds
7. "Beat It," Michael Jackson - 2.80 seconds
8. "I Will Always Love You," Whitney Houston - 2.83 seconds
9. "Don't You Want Me," The Human League - 2.83 seconds
10. "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," Aerosmith - 2.84 seconds
11. "Poker Face," Lady Gaga - 2.88 seconds
12. "MMMbop," Hanson - 2.89 seconds
13. "It's Now or Never," Elvis Presley - 2.91 seconds
14. "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet," Bachman-Turner Overdrive - 2.94 seconds
15. "Billie Jean," Michael Jackson - 2.97 seconds
16. "Karma Chameleon," Culture Club - 2.99 seconds
17. "Baby One More Time," Britney Spears - 2.99 seconds
18. "Devil in Disguise," Elvis Presley - 3.01 seconds
19. "Rivers of Babylon," Boney M - 3.03 seconds
20. "Candle in the Wind," Elton John - 3.04 seconds

The researchers hope to figure out not only what makes a song catchy but how musical memory works, which could help people with dementia. "There has already been some research that shows that if you can find the right piece of music, something that had a very strong meaning, playing that piece of music can be very therapeutic," game creator Burgoyne said. "But the challenge is figuring out what is the best piece of music."

[h/t The Science of Us]

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Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds
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Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

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Scientists Find a Possible Link Between Beef Jerky and Mania
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Scientist have discovered a surprising new factor that may contribute to mania: meat sticks. As NBC News reports, processed meats containing nitrates, like jerky and some cold cuts, may provoke symptoms of mental illness.

For a new study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, scientists surveyed roughly 1100 people with psychiatric disorders who were admitted into the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore between 2007 and 2017. They had initially set out to find whether there was any connection between certain infectious diseases and mania, a common symptom of bipolar disorder that can include racing thoughts, intense euphoria, and irritability.

While questioning participants about their diet, the researchers discovered that a significant number of them had eaten cured meats before their manic episodes. Patients who had recently consumed products like salami, jerky, and dried meat sticks were more likely to be hospitalized for mania than subjects in the control group.

The link can be narrowed down to nitrates, which are preservatives added to many types of cured meats. In a later part of the study, rats that were fed nitrate-free jerky acted less hyperactive than those who were given meat with nitrates.

Numerous studies have been published on the risks of consuming foods pumped full of nitrates: The ingredient can lead to the formation of carcinogens, and it can react in the gut in a way that promotes inflammation. It's possible that inflammation from nitrates can trigger mania in people who are already susceptible to it, but scientists aren't sure how this process might work. More research still needs to be done on the relationship between gut health and mental health before people with psychiatric disorders are told to avoid beef jerky altogether.

[h/t NBC News]

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