Winning Science September 12, 2014

Ever have that moment–perhaps at the DMV–when you wondered if the person you were talking to were actually brainless? Well a woman in China can truly make that claim, at least in part.  After she received a brain scan for dizziness and nausea, it was discovered that her entire cerebellum was missing.  Turns out, the woman is one of only nine known adults to have been born with this condition. While it is not unheard of for this to happen, the vast majority of persons who suffer from it die at a young age. In this woman’s case, the only symptoms were slightly impaired motor functions and a mild slur when she speaks. It says a lot about how well put together our bodies are when they can compensate for things like this.

missing cerebellum

I suspect that the people I yell at are actually just morons.

Pretty much every science fiction fan is familiar with the idea of a manufactured exoskeleton. Lord knows I’m a fan of that Cat yellow loader that Ripley uses in Aliens, but for the most part, I’ve just relegated that kind of thing to science fiction, rather than science fact. Thanks to the folks at Lockheed Martin, an industrial exoskeleton might not be so unrealistic. They’ve recently developed a system that aides industrial workers who use heavy tools like grinders by providing support for those tools. In studies, Lockheed has seen increases in productivity in excess of twenty times the normal amount. The suit hopes to prevent working fatigue, which requires workers to stop working and rest and lowers productivity. The exoskeleton is designed to be lightweight, maneuverable and easy to use in tight quarters, such as those found in ship construction and overhaul conditions.


The US Navy has recently purchased two exoskeletons and are studying their effectiveness.

Today’s last piece is less science, and a little more Op-Ed, but I must say that I agree with the author entirely. Scientific American Mind editor Ingrid Wickelgren discusses the benefits of doing mindless tasks. Specifically, she talks about the idea that mindless tasks are good for our creativity, that it allows our brain to subconsciously solve problems and have those wonderful flashes of insight that can be so rewarding. And while this particular piece might be an opinion post, Wickelgren does cite several actual scientific studies and books that lend credence to her idea. I have often found that I have moments of great clarity when my mind is doing absolutely nothing. Usually it’s while I’m driving, though thankfully I learned that Siri can take notes, so it’s much less dangerous to my fellow commuters.

I am a little surprised at the number of people who have those moments of insight after just waking up. Usually it takes several cups of coffee before I remember my own name.

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