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Depressed Today? You’re Not Alone – On Science

January 6, 2014

Why is this the bluest Monday of them all?

What good does a novel do for your brain?

Did we almost ring in the New Year with an asteroid?

And what NASA rover really has spirit. Coming up today…On Science!

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

Well it’s Monday y’all. Ugh. And it’s officially the worst day of the year. I’m not exaggerating. Today is Blue Monday—supposedly the worst day of the year according to study done by academic Cliff Arnall in 2005. Arnall came up with this classification based on weather conditions, debt levels, failed New Year’s resolutions and the number of days that had passed the end of Christmas. It other words—reality hits today kids. But more research confirmed Blue Monday. A three year analysis of tweets revealed that today there will be almost five times the average number of tweets relating to guilt about being unhealthy, weather complaints will be six time higher, and men will actually feel more miserable than women. Well, we’ve just got to make it through today folks!

Here’s an idea to get you through Blue Monday—pick up a good novel. A study from Emory University looked at the lingering effects of reading a story on the brain. Participants read the novel “Pompeii” and were subjected to brain scans each morning and for five days after finishing the book. Scans showed elevated connectivity in the left temporal cortex, which is associated with language, in the mornings after the reading assignment. They said this effect was almost like muscle memory. Elevated levels of connectivity were also seen in the primary sensory motor region of the brain, which is responsible for grounded cognition. For example, thinking about running can activate the neurons related to the physical act of running. So reading not only figuratively puts you in someone else’s shoes, but biologically as well!

And here’s a good story right out of a science fiction novel. According to NASA, the first asteroid of the season was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey. And it wasn’t a small rock. Asteroid 2014 AA was the size of a small car and had the potential of striking Earth. But here’s a Happy New Year—it didn’t. Here’s the scary part—it was only discovered right before it was set to enter Earth’s atmosphere. That’s not much warning time! The asteroid entered about 1,900 miles east of Caracas, far away from landmass. That’s still a little too close for comfort!
Besides detecting asteroids, NASA’s always doing big things. This week NASA will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its Mars Exploration Rover Spirit touching down on the Martian surface. The twin to the Opportunity rover, Spirit landed on the Red Planet on January 4, 2004, after a 7-month-long journey. The original mission called for 90 Martian days of exploration, but ended up being 2,208 Martian days after several extensions. Spirit took high resolution images of the Martian surface, drove a total 4.8 miles, and became the first robot to summit a hill on another planet. And most importantly, the rover revealed the presence of pure silica on the Martian surface by accident. The presence of silica revealed there were once hot springs or steam vents, which could have supported microbial life. That little rover has Spirit.

And here’s something I could go without finding! After a 49-million-year hiatus, a cockroach has reappeared in North America. This particular cockroach had been thought to be solely Old World and had a long-standing fossil record in Europe. However, new evidence reveals its origins may be rooted in the New World. Four ancient species of this cockroach were found in Baltic amber deposits in Colorado’s Green River Formation. Researchers aren’t sure why this particular cockroach became extinct in the New World but thrived in the Old World. Well, I really can’t say I’m sad to be short a cockroach.

And that’s what’s up today On Science. Catch you right back here tomorrow!



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