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December 21, 2017

Long weekend reads: Still scrambling for the perfect gift? Science has some advice.

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    The do's and don'ts of gift giving, according to science. If you're scrambling to find the perfect gift, research has a couple tips on the best do's and don'ts, Jamie Ducharme writes for TIME. Listing the key "don'ts" of gift giving, Ducharme cites studies recommending you focus more on the gift itself rather than a large price tag; avoid giving "socially responsible" gifts, such as a donation to a charity in a friend's name, to casual acquaintances who could feel slighted by the selection; and don't try  to disguise an unsatisfactory gift in a pretty package. On the "do" side, studies suggest that gift recipients prefer receiving the gifts they've asked for (rather than a surprise gift); appreciate gift cards; like gifts that reflect both their interests and the interests of the gift-giver, such as a favorite book; and enjoy gifts that will last for the long-term, such as a kitchen gadget.

    A new type of self-repairing polymer glass may mean the end of smashed cellphone screens. Researchers from the University of Tokyo are working on glass made from a low-weight polymer called "polyether-thioureas," which can repair breaks when pressed together by hand, according to a study in Science. The researchers said their work on this self-healing glass—which they said marks the first hard substance of its kind that can re-attach at room temperature—could bolster sustainability efforts by protecting otherwise fragile screens and devices. A graduate school student, Yu Yanagisawa, inadvertently discovered the glass' unique properties while researching the substance as a glue, finding that he could re-attach cut edges of the material after compressing them for 30 seconds.

    Rachel Schulze's reads

    Could genes be to blame for chronic bad breath? Bad breath—or halitosis—might have a genetic explanation, according to a new paper from researchers at the University of California-Davis. According to McClatchy, 3% of the population has chronic bad breath without an obvious cause. The new paper found that bad breath sufferers had mutations on their SELENBP1 gene, which, when working properly, creates a protein in the body that breaks down methanethiol—a sulfurous compound produced during digestion. The researchers found that mice who were genetically edited to have a mutated SELENBP1 gene also had elevated levels of the compound.

    What's hidden in Rome. Subway construction in Rome has led archaeologists to a trove of historical artifacts—some of which go back to the Paleolithic era. The findings include "decorative marble elements, petrified peach pits from ancient Persian cuttings, and 16th-century terra-cotta plates from a nearby hospital," Elisabetta Povoledo reports for the New York Times. Artifacts are on display at San Giovanni subway station, which is set to open early next year. 

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