Spooning: it’s not just a romantic way to sleep through the night; it’s also good for your brain, according to recent research out of Johns Hopkins.
According to Hopkins neurologist Rachel Salas, human beings evolved to sleep together; in prehistoric times, piling the whole family into the bed helped keep everyone warm and safe against predators. In contemporary times, predators are less of a problem, but sharing a bed is still good for you. Spooning releases oxytocin, that feel-good chemical, and may help reduce blood pressure and promote healing. “Humans are social creatures. We want someone nearby,” she told the Wall Street Journal.
Nonetheless, some people aren’t necessarily suited for co-sleeping. “If you wake up often from ambient noises or get hot in your sleep, keeping your bed to yourself may be exactly what you need,” Salas notes.
It’s cool to be an astronomer and all, but how do you actually go about studying the universe? If you’re Johns Hopkins astronomer Alexander Szalay, you build a telescope. But not just any telescope — a $9.5 million dollar virtual telescope that allows scientists to explore more than 1.8 million galaxies and 320,000 quasars.
Basically, a New Mexico telescope has been capturing images from the universe for a dozen years. Its data is open to both researchers and the public, but, as Szalay notes, “open data is not necessarily accessible.” In other words, the information is there–but there’s just too much of it to be able to sort through. Szalay’s mission will be to create, essentially, “the astronomy version of the Human Genome Project,” he explains. That involves building software that allows people access to the ginormous data set that’s already been captured.
“There’s lots of data, so it’s a little like drinking from a fire hose. It’s not just about computing,” Szalay says. “We’re trying to build a new kind of scientific instrument—a virtual telescope and microscope of data—one that can observe data and find and extract knowledge to help you see the patterns.” To that end, his team has been awarded $7.6 million from the NSF, with another $1.9 million to come if everything works out okay.
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