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Field Narrows For Manned Mars Trip Candidates – On Science

January 3, 2014

Do brain training apps really make you smarter?

Add this to the long list of smoking risks.

Who’s ready for cars to drive themselves.

And do you have what it takes to colonize Mars. Coming up today…On Science

Hello and welcome to On Science. I’m Emerald Robinson.

First there were 200,000. Then there were 1,000. But who will be the lucky 40? Or unlucky? Depends on how everything unfolds. The MarsOne Project announced that they have narrowed the field from 200,000 down to 1,058 candidates to compete for the one-way spot to Mars. They said they separated out the cream of the crop—those who they felt were physically and mentally adept to become the first human colonists on Mars. And surprisingly none of the applicants who submitted videos in the nude were chosen. Don’t they realize it’s cold on Mars? They might need their clothes. More than 107 countries are represented with 586 men and 472 women. Look ladies, odds are in your favor. But the easy part is over. Now candidates will be put to the test, being subjected to rigorous situations that will show who’s fittest to go. Those who advance will compete on a MarsOne-sponsored reality show. I guess good luck to all the candidates.

Are brain training apps really making you smarter? A new study from the University of Oregon says that those brain training programs work, but there’s a catch. These games do enhance performance for the particular task involved in the game, but that advantage doesn’t necessarily carry over to other cognitive abilities. The team looked specifically at inhibitory control. There were two groups, an experimental group that was trained in inhibitory control and a control group that performed another task that did not affect inhibitory control. The researchers found performance improvement in the training group but not in the control group, though it was relatively small. And since the focus was solely on inhibitory control, they were unable to conclude whether or not improvement extended further than that to other executive functions of the brain. Researchers say they hope the revealing study will lead to the design of better prevention tools to promote mental health.

And you definitely shouldn’t be playing those brain teaser games while you’re driving. According to new research from NIH and Virginia Tech, drivers spend about 10% of the time behind the wheel taking their eyes off the road to talk, text, and other distractions. And they found newly-licensed teenagers are the worst. There’s a reason why their insurance premiums are higher. The study found that it wasn’t talking in particular that was the dangerous part of the phone call, but the dialing. After installing cameras, GPS, and other gadgets in cars of teenagers and adults alike, they found that younger drivers were 7 times more likely to crash or near-miss while dialing and four times more at risk if texting. For us older kids, only dialing really increased the chances of an incident. And while it’s novice drivers researchers say have a higher crash risk, it’s important that everyone keep their eyes on the road.

We wouldn’t have to worry about any that if the car just drove itself! Well, that’s not too far off in the future, my friend. Self-driving cars are expected to hit roads around the world before 2025 – and when they do, watch out! A new study says that by 2035, nearly 54 million autonomous vehicles will be on the road with predicted annuals sales of around $12 million. The study by IHS Automotive predicts that, by that time, both commercial and personal vehicles in use will be self-driving. They also expect that accident rates will plunge to near zero, probably because we won’t be distracted driving. And they will create less environmental impact because their driving patterns will be geared to reduce emission levels. The first hurdle, however, will be price. At first it will be a luxury feature says, IHS, but then the premium will drop to about a grand for entry-level car. Hey, it’s still cheaper than paying for a full-time chauffeur. I can’t wait!

In case the high risk for cancer and heart disease wasn’t reason enough to get you to kick the habit, here’s another reason for you. Researchers at the University of Rochester in New York warn that tobacco smoke disrupts the body’s circadian rhythms and ruins sleep quality. The reason is that tobacco smoke causes a significant drop in the anti-aging protein, SIRT1. The decrease in this protein damages the clock protein BMAL1, which results in an interruption in the biological clock. They say future developments from this study could find a way to treat smokers who suffer from this, or why don’t you just make it easy on yourself and quit smoking?

And that’s it for On Science…see you right back here tomorrow!



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