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Look Inside the Placebo Effect

Placebos occupy a pretty weird place in the world of medicine. They get results, and yet contain no actual medicine. They can work even when we know we’re getting them, although just how well they work may depend on your DNA.

We tend to assume that the people who get better after using placebos are dupes, and that the effects are strictly psychological. The reality is so much more complicated than that. As Joe Hanson explains in this video from PBS’s “It’s Okay to Be Smart,” placebo treatments can produce actual physiological changes in patients, causing the brain to release chemicals that can decrease pain and even ease some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. 

And not all placebos are created equal—far from it. Everything from a placebo's medium (tablet, pill, or injection) to its coloring and packaging can affect its efficacy. "Clearly," says Hanson, "the critical ingredient in a placebo is expectation."

Check out the video to find out how placebo treatments started, what they’re made of, and why they’ve been giving the pharmaceutical industry so much trouble lately.

Header image via It's Okay to Be Smart, YouTube.

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26 Facts About LEGO Bricks

Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

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Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
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Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.

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