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A Way to Get Every Last Drop of Ketchup

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We all know the drill: You go to brush your teeth and, upon reaching for the toothpaste tube, notice it's nearly empty. But some part of you knows there’s enough in there for at least one more brush. You squeeze from the bottom of the tube, desperately hoping just one little drop of Crest will emerge.

Or how about this one: You sit down to a hot plate of french fries only to find that, by the time you’ve hit the ketchup bottle hard enough to produce enough of the condiment to coat about three fries, they’ve gone cold. How much time wasted? How much food wasted?! The struggle is real, and it’s a surprise no one has done anything about it until now. 

Enter LiquiGlide, the brainchild of MIT dropout David Smith. He heard our distress calls and has answered them with a super-slippery coating that makes any viscous material—from toothpaste to peanut butter to wood glue—flow easily from a bottle. No more desperate tube-squeezing or violent bottle-shaking. Watch: 

The LiquiGlide coating serves as a slippery buffer between a surface and a liquid material. Smith and LiquiGlide’s president, Carsten Boers, describe the stuff as a “structured liquid” that is “rigid like a solid, but it’s lubricated like a liquid.” It can be sprayed on a surface to make it permanently wet.

But if we’re going to be putting this magical material in our ketchup bottles, can we be sure it’s safe to consume? Smith and Boers are secretive about the exact formula for LiquiGlide (“we’ve patented the hell out of it”), but say it's odorless, tasteless, and made of non-toxic FDA-approved materials. “The materials we use for the food coatings are actual food,” Boers told Fast Company

This week, the company announced an exclusive licensing agreement with Elmer’s Products Inc., the makers of every preschool kid’s favorite craft adhesive. “We certainly see a chance for a competitive advantage,” Anthony Spath, associate manager for innovation and business development at Elmer’s, told The New York Times

Here’s LiquiGlide at work on a bottle of glue: 

“They actually sell more product—as the consumer always dispenses a full dosage, they actually empty the product quicker than without the coating,” Boers said. “It's an exceptional win-win: the consumer gets the product out easier and the brand sells more.” 

LiquiGlide’s goal, aside from making all our lives a little bit easier, is to reduce waste. They estimate they could save roughly one million tons of food from being thrown away each year if every sauce bottle were equipped with a layer of LiquiGlide’s coating. And the material has other potential applications, too, like preventing clogs in oil pipelines, keeping windshields crystal clear, and improving medical equipment. It can also do wonders for saving every last drop of paint in a bottle, and has licensed its technology to a packaging company in Australia with this idea in mind. 

The exclusive deal with Elmer’s will likely be temporary to keep with LiquiGlide’s goal of reducing waste on a large scale. A LiquiGlide-treated mayonnaise bottle and a toothpaste tube could be on the market by 2017, and Smith says he expects his slippery invention “to be ubiquitous” in a few years.

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The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression
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Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]

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The ‘Scully Effect’ Is Real: Female X-Files Fans More Likely to Go Into STEM
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FBI agent Dana Scully is more than just a role model for remaining professional when a colleague won't stop talking about his vast governmental conspiracy theories. The skeptical doctor played by Gillian Anderson on The X-Files helped inspire women to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, according to a new report [PDF] from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which we spotted at Fast Company.

“In the world of entertainment media, where scientists are often portrayed as white men wearing white coats and working alone in labs, Scully stood out in the 1990s as the only female STEM character in a prominent, prime-time television role,” the report explains. Previously, anecdotal evidence has pointed to the existence of a “Scully effect,” in which the measured TV scientist—with her detailed note-taking, evidence-based approach, and desire to autopsy everything—inspired women to seek out their own science careers. This report provides the hard data.

The Geena Davis Institute surveyed more than 2000 women in the U.S. above the age of 25, a significant portion of whom were viewers of The X-Files (68 percent) and women who had studied for or were in STEM careers (49 percent). While the survey didn’t ask women whether watching Dana Scully on The X-Files directly influenced their decision to be a scientist, the results hint that seeing a character like her on TV regularly did affect them. Women who watched more of the show were more likely to say they were interested in STEM, more likely to have studied a STEM field in college, and more likely to have worked in a STEM field after college.

While it’s hard to draw a direct line of causation there—women who are interested in science might just be more inclined to watch a sci-fi show like The X-Files than women who grow up to be historians—viewers also tended to say Scully gave them positive impressions of women in science. More than half of respondents who were familiar with Scully’s character said she increased their confidence in succeeding in a male-dominated profession. More than 60 percent of the respondents said she increased their belief in the importance of STEM. And when asked to describe her, they were most likely to say she was “smart” and “intelligent” before any other adjective.

STEM fields are still overwhelmingly male, and governments, nonprofits, schools, activists, and some tech companies have been pushing to make the field more diverse by recruiting and retaining more female talent. While the desire to become a doctor or an engineer isn’t the only thing keeping STEM a boy’s club, women also need more role models in the fields whose success and accomplishments they can look up to. Even if some of those role models are fictional.

Now that The X-Files has returned to Fox, perhaps Dana Scully will have an opportunity to shepherd a whole new generation of women into the sciences.

[h/t Fast Company]

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