July 21, 2017

Weekend reads: What happens when you hold in your sneeze

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    Human vision has a tough time recognizing doctored photos. Bad news for the digital era: Turns out people aren't very good at determining whether a photo has been manipulated—and there's not much evidence suggesting there's anything we can do to change that, according to a new study in Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications. For the study, researchers at the University of Warwick in England asked about 700 respondents to look at a series of pictures, some of which had been manipulated, to see if they could distinguish the doctored images from the originals. While the respondents were able to correctly identify an original photo or doctored image 66 percent of the time, they were able to locate the precise manipulation only 45 percent of the time. Think you might do better? You can take the same test as the respondents here.

    What would happen if you held in all of your sneezes? Holding in your sneeze isn't the worst health decision in the world—but it's not the best decision either, according to Dale Tylor, an otolaryngologist in California. When sneezing, human beings can launch particles out of our noses at a speed of 40 MPH, reaching distances of up to 30 feet from the sneezer, Steve Rousseau writes for Digg—and as Tylor points out, that kind of force can sometimes get dangerous. "There can be a risk of injury if there is a violent sneeze, with air pushing into the region of the orbit or brain," he said, citing risks of ruptured ear drums or popped blood vessels in the eye. He added, "We recommend that if you feel like you have to sneeze DON'T plug the nose and instead open the mouth and try to get the sneeze to come out as a cough."

    Rachel Schulze's reads

    How a 9-year-old came across a million-year-old fossil. When Jude Sparks, age 9 at the time, tripped while on a walk with his family in Las Cruces, New Mexico, last November, he fell into what turned out to be a more than 1 million-year-old fossil of an extinct elephantine creature. At the time of the fall, Spark's parents took a photo and reached out to Peter Houde, a biology professor at New Mexico State University, who successfully excavated the fossil in May, identifying the remains as a Stegomastodon—an elephantine creature that lived an estimated 1.2 million years ago. Citing the fragility of such remains—which Houde hopes to put on display at his university—Houde said, "We're really, really grateful that [the Sparks] contacted us, because if they had not done that, if they had tried to do it themselves, it could have just destroyed the specimen."

    A long, smelly summer. Feeling burdened by the heat this summer? Well, olfactorily speaking, you're probably doing better than the denizens of 1858 London, according to a new book, "One Hot Summer: Dickers, Darwin, Disraeli and the Great Stink of 1858," by historian Rosemary Ashton. Ashton explained that during the summer of the so-called "Great Stink," London "was continuously hot for two to three months with temperatures up into the '90s quite often." At the same time, the Thames was full of sewage from London's booming population. Facing criticism—especially from newspapers—parliament the following summer passed water purification legislation. 

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