Finding Mr Right

This post is a take over by my best friend Abi! 

  mr right

Hi!

So I’m not your usual intelligent, sassy Lucy and I know very little about science, but I do know a lot about blogging. I have my own blog (ramblingsofablonde.co.uk) and know a bit about psychology as I’m currently doing a masters in forensic psychology at the University of Kent. As it’s nearly February (the month of luuurve) single lads and ladies are hunting high and low for that special someone to celebrate the very commercialised valentine’s day with. Often people claim that they’re single because they’re waiting for ‘Mr (Mrs) Right’, but is there really a ‘Mr Right’ out there and what causes us to be attracted to some people, but not to others? This is a topic that has fascinated psychologists for years and often debates in the literature are conflicting, but what is it that attracts us to each other?

1similarity

Although the saying, ‘opposites attract’ is often branded around, psychological evidence claims that in fact, it’s similarity that draws two people together. Byrne, Clore and Smeaton (1986) created a model that suggested that the similarity of personality and of attitudes is what attracts one individual to another. However, similarities could also lie in age, ethnicity, religion, culture, intelligence, social class etc, all of which can make an individual more attractive to a similar other.

2proximity 

You are more likely to be friends with and be attracted to, those who are physically close to you. This is referred to as the mere exposure effect, in which people like novel stimuli when they encounter them repeatedly. Festinger, Schachter & Back (1950) tested this and found that participants were more likely to be friends with those who lived closer to them compared with those who live further away. Therefore, your potential partner lives/works very close to you – creepy eh?

 3phys

There’s no escaping it and it’s probably the most obvious, but we are attracted to one another purely on the basis of how we look (what a shallow society we live in!) One of the reasons this is so powerful, is because it’s immediately apparent, it’s the first thing we’re drawn to. Physical attractiveness is evident from birth, Langlois, Ritter, Casey & Sawin (1995) found that good looking babies received more affectionate interactions than less good looking babies, they are also seen as less interfering in later life. With the development of online dating, physical attractiveness can also play a role. The qualities of a profile picture are the strongest predictors of whole profile attractiveness (Fiore, Shaw Taylor, Mendelsohn, Hearst, 2008).

 4association

Not only are we attracted to those with whom we share a pleasant experience, but we also like people who are associated with pleasant events. This may be meeting someone whilst in a happy mood or having a favourable memory of the day you met each other, but whatever it is, the individual becomes positively valued because they are associated with that positive event and thus appear more attractive.

So if you’re looking for Mr Right this February, these are the qualities you need to exploit in order to promote your attractiveness. One last thing, if you’re female, wear red! Researchers have found that wearing red, leads men to view women as more attractive and more sexually desirable (Elliot & Niesta, 2008). The best thing is, men don’t even realise this happens, so you’ll be making them more attracted to you without them thinking you’re putting a lot of effort in!

If you get a chance, don’t forget to check out my blog – ramblingsofablonde.co.uk, for fashion, beauty and ramblings.

abi sig 

Is there evidence for Lucozade as a hangover cure?

Is your go-to hangover cure Lucozade, or another energy/sports drink?

The amount of people that swear by these isotonic drinks to cure their hangover woes is evident if you just look around a university lecture room on a Thursday morning, Tesco Value Powerade everywhere! So I wondered, is there any actual scientific reasoning behind why sports drinks provide a good hangover cure?

Lucozade always accompanies my boyfriend on a hungover match day.
Lucozade always accompanies my boyfriend on a hungover match day.

– They hydrate you more than other drinks

A lot of research has gone on that shows sports drinks like Powerade or Lucozade actually hydrate you better than water. This works because sports drinks contain electrolytes – specifically sodium – which helps you to retain the water you take in (rather than pee or sweat it all out at once). This water retention can make you feel much better as many of the hangover symptoms are thought to be from the dehydrating effects of alcohol.

– They release energy slowly

Another reason why these drinks may help is that they contain carbohydrates, which release energy slowly. This means you won’t get a sudden rush of energy then a big crash, but you will feel a bit better, with more energy for a longer period of time – perfect for when you have a long day ahead after a night out. The carbohydrates also increase uptake of water in the gut, so you can increase your level of hydration even more.

– Lucozade VS Sprite

A friend of mine insists that sprite is better for relieving morning after symptoms. But research actually suggests that after the sugar rush and immediately feeling better, you will get a big sugar crash and end up feeling as crap as you did earlier. Sprite is also carbonated and it is thought that these bubbles make the remaining alcohol go to your head, making the hangover cling on for longer.

– Beer with electrolytes in – could this mean hangover free beer??

A research team in Australia have invented and tested a beer with electrolytes in, they found it was a significantly more effective at keeping subjects hydrated than normal commercial beers. The subjects who drank the electrolyte beer were able to retain more water, and also had reduced hangover symptoms. They also said it tasted the same, however the alcohol percentage was much lower than regular beers. I reckon that if these beers could be made with a slightly higher alcohol content, they could be the future for those who want to drink and not suffer the next day (i.e basically everyone…). I wonder if they could add electrolytes to cocktails and wine? Now there is some research worth funding!

So, next time you have that morning after feeling, a sports drink is actually a pretty smart idea!

Till next time,

Lucy

xxx

Follow me on Bloglovin!

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/13511945/?claim=grh42w3vedq”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Hi everyone!

Just a quick note to say that I have added my blog to Bloglovin, so you can keep up to date with all my brand new sparkly posts if you follow me on there!

Also, thought I would let you know, that coming soon on Sparkly Science is some more on hangover cures, a debate on using marijuana as a cancer cure, looking at the science behind good mascara, the science behind flirting and much more!

Till next time,

Lucy

xxx

A review: “The Institute of Sexology” exhibition at The Wellcome Collection

When my boyfriend agreed to spend our Saturday at a museum I was quite surprised. I am the museum geek in the relationship and he normally isn’t that interested, but then he sent me the link to the sexology exhibition at The Wellcome Collection and his sudden interest in a museum trip made a bit more sense.

I had high expectations of this exhibition, and it didn’t disappoint. There is something exciting about such a taboo subject being ‘set free’ in public, which may explain why it has been so popular. This made it fairly busy on a Saturday, but their timed ticket system seemed to manage the visitor flow so it wasn’t crowded.

The Institute of Sexology and The Wellcome Collection in Euston.
The Institute of Sexology and The Wellcome Collection in Euston.

The layout of the exhibition was well thought out and the story of how the field of sexology has developed was built upon as we went round the exhibit. There was a wide range of objects on display, but my eye was immediately drawn to some of the older objects, such as sex toys from the 1900’s. I don’t think I was the only one trying to suppress giggles when looking at these items, but it was interesting to see how much sexual experiences have changed over the years. I also found myself impressed with the letters on display, such as those written by Sigmund Freud and Marie Stopes. The hand written notes made their ideas much more engaging, and they had been beautifully preserved.

The different ideas of sex from Marie Stopes and Sigmund Freud were explained in detail, but it was highlighted that they shared one key ideal, that “sexual satisfaction was central to human happiness”. Stope’s idea that sex is not just for reproduction, but to be enjoyed was one that has been explored in the field of sexology and was alluded to in several parts of this exhibition.

An interesting highlight was the ‘Sexual Parameters Survey’ by Carole Schneemann, this was a chart with real sexual experiences listed on it in detail (a fancy alternative to notches on the bed post). If you visit the exhibition, look at this chart in detail, its one of those ‘it’s so awkward I can’t look, but so intriguing I can’t stop looking’ type things. It had details of each sexual encounter such as areas that were contacted with hands or by mouth, where orgasm occurred and thoughts during sex. Strangely it also contained the occupation of sexual partners, I have no idea why that would make a difference? Did she think dentists make better lovers than gardeners?

Research on sexuality by Dr Kinsey was a focal point in the exhibition. It was Kinsey that thought of homosexuality and heterosexuality as a continuum instead of two separate absolute things (see the chart in the picture below). These ideas were complimented by a video of real students discussing sexuality and sexual freedom.

Kinsey thought of sexuality as a continuum
Kinsey thought of sexuality as a continuum

It was also interesting to see how much contraception has given freedom for people to explore the sexual experience, and how much scope this has given to the study of sex.

We finished our visit with one of the ‘hands on’ talks related to the exhibit. Ours was on ‘sex and pleasure‘ and objects were discussed and passed around including a vibrator and a female condom. The presenter was hilarious and was full of interesting facts, like how female condoms are more popular than normal ones in some countries.

Overall it was a really interesting afternoon, and I would highly recommend it!

For more info follow this link: http://www.wellcomecollection.org/exhibitions/institute-sexology?gclid=CMWdv8mFnsMCFfQatAodqXcA0Q

Till next time,

Lucy

xxx

The 5:2 diet: Scientifically proven benefits, or just another diet fad?

The 5:2 diet, also known as the ‘intermittent fasting diet’ is becoming a popular choice of diet, with celebrities like Miranda Kerr and Jennifer Anniston leading by example. It consists of consuming no more than 600 calories a day (500 for women) for 2 days a week (these are known as the fasting days), then eating whatever you like the rest of the week. I know many people who swear by this diet, saying it helps them lose weight, maintain a healthy weight and even aid digestive problems. It has also been said to speed up metabolism and even slow down ageing. But I wondered, is there any scientific support for its wonderful claims? Or is it just another fad?

Books on the 5:2 diet have become top sellers!
Books on the 5:2 diet have become top sellers!

The Scientific backup:

One way that this diet is said to work is by activating a gene, SIRT1, which has been found to stop fat being stored. SIRT1 has also been found to repair DNA and cells during fasting and was found to have anti-ageing affects, (Interestingly, Some of this was discovered in yeast cells!).

In experiments on mice doing the 5:2 diet, higher levels of BDNF were produced (it’s a fancy brain protein). This was found to improve learning and memory – suggesting that it may even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease (though this has not been studied in humans yet!!).

This diet has been found to increase the effectiveness of Insulin. Insulin is produced when we eat and stores excess glucose in the liver, this process is said to become more effective during intermittent fasting, which can reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Intermittent fasting has also been associated with a drop in levels of a hormone, IGF-1. Lower IGF-1 levels have been found to reduce risks of age related diseases such as cancer. This was tested on mice that were genetically engineered to not respond to IGF-1, and they lived twice as long! I doubt humans on the 5:2 will live twice as long, but there seems to be some decent backup for various health benefits that could potentially make us live longer.

The Problems:

  • Although there are some studies that have found this diet to be effective, this evidence is limited! Many of the claims of 5:2 rely on animal models, and only a few human studies have been done. This means that why it all seems at first like the answer to all of life’s problems, more studies need to be done to give it a bit more cred.
  • The subjects in studies where 5:2 has been effective didn’t binge eat and drink on the normal calorie days. It doesn’t look like you can have complete diet freedom on the 5 days you aren’t fasting; sadly it looks like you still have to show some level of restraint.
  • Finally, here’s a tip, if you know someone on the 5:2 diet and need to ask them a favour, don’t ask them on their low calorie days, you may not get a good result. Although there seems to be long-term benefits, the short term reality is that people can become cranky and easily annoyed on their fasting days, particularly when they first begin the diet.

So there we have it, the 5:2 is based on sound scientific ideas, but it needs a few more studies in humans until we can take all of its benefits as gospel.

Till next time,

Lucy

xxx

How to keep a New Year’s Resolution: according to science

I’m not sure what’s worse, the fact that puddings and mulled wine have been replaced by salads and green tea, or the cheesy ‘new year, new me’ quotes that seem to be plastered all over Facebook.

We've all been there... http://weknowmemes.com/tag/new-years-resolution-meme/
We’ve all been there… http://weknowmemes.com/tag/new-years-resolution-meme/

One good thing that does come along with January is New Year’s Resolutions, but whether it’s losing weight, quitting smoking, working harder or something more imaginative, statistics say that most of us will return to our former, fat and lazy ways by February. Fed up with this yearly failure, I looked into the scientific research that has been carried out to help us keep these resolutions.

1) Don’t Stress about it:

Too much stress has been found in many studies to reduce willpower and inhibit our ability to resist temptation. Dr Amit Sood, a Professor of Medicine says this is because stress releases a cocktail of hormones, putting you into a ‘primitive survival mode’, making us impulsive, so we just grab that slice of cake or cigarette without being able to resist it.

Stress can also directly increase appetite, as it causes the release of hormones such as cortisol. Long term cortisol releases signals for your body to replenish its food supply after a stressful situation or a ‘fight’ (it’s evolutionary, our endocrine system hasn’t caught up with modern life yet), therefore stress makes you crave food, particularly high calorie food. Hormones released by stress also make us store more fat, so if your resolution involves losing weight, keeping calm and taking the pressure off will help.

stressed dessert
This isn’t just a coincidence, the more stressed we are, the more likely we are to indulge in desserts.

2) Don’t fantasize too much:

You might think that daydreaming and happy thoughts might help you achieve your goals, but a study by an NYU psychology professor found that women who fantasized more about being skinny actually lost less weight. It was found in a further study by this group that the women who had more positive fantasies had less energy; these fantasy thoughts actually sap the energy from us, so we don’t build up enough energy to do those sit ups, (or whatever it is we are trying to do).

So if we stop daydreaming constantly about a beautiful beach body, we might have a bit more success in actually achieving one.

3) When you do dream, use ‘Mental Contrasting’:

The same professor from NYU researched the idea of ‘mental contrasting’. This is a simple idea, you think about your New Year’s resolution, and then think about the obstacles in your way of reaching your goal. This is thought to work by forming associations and neuronal connections in the brain between the reward in the future and the obstacles in the way, so that the subconscious part of your brain ‘understands’ the reason for the obstacles and struggles you will face. In studies this way of thinking has improved academic scores, made people work harder, resulted in people exercising more and eating healthier and even helped people stop smoking. But be careful, for it to work you have to think of the goal then the obstacle in that order, and you need to have positive expectations of yourself keeping the resolution too.

4) Use Positive reinforcement:

Positive reinforcement means that you make an association between your resolution and an immediate positive outcome. There are endless studies on this and it remains a fundamental idea on behavioural change. For example, a common New Year’s resolution is taking up running, but once you associate it with having to get out of bed early and don’t immediately see a good effect, your mind associates running with negativity and you begin to swap your morning jog for a lie in and a scroll through twitter. But if you think about running as a privilege rather than a chore, and remember the benefits in overall health (though you may not see a physical change for a while), you will begin to form associations between running and positive feelings, making you more motivated to get up and go. This is the basic psychology behind ‘mind over matter’. Using physical rewards can work too, like ‘if I run 3 times a week  for 3 weeks I can buy myself a new handbag’, seems strange but it’s actually backed up by research. These rewards release dopamine, which encourages us to repeat the behaviour.

On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon uses positive reinforcement by rewarding Penny's good behaviour with chocolate.  If it's good enough for Sheldon it must be legit.
On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon uses positive reinforcement by rewarding Penny’s good behaviour with chocolate. If it’s good enough for Sheldon it must be legit.

5) Finally: If you do slip up, or completely fail, treat yourself with ‘self-compassion’

Self-compassion means not beating yourself up about failures and being mindful that we are human and all make mistakes. It sounds simple, but it has been found to work: research at the University of Texas found that those who treated themselves with self-compassion felt the same support, understanding and kindness that a friend would have showed to them, and were much more likely bounce back from their failures and get back on track with their resolutions.

So there we have it, don’t stress, don’t daydream, think of your obstacles, reward yourself and don’t throw your toys out the pram if it all goes wrong.

Till next time,

Lucy

xxx

The formula for walking in heels

Those who have seen me on a night out will know that I cannot for the life of me walk in heels. My attempt to walk in high heels has been likened to ‘bambi on ice’, and the associated throbbing pain in the balls of my feet usually turns me into ‘that skank who is bare footed carrying her heels’. It is not a good look, so I usually resign myself to flats, (also not a good look for me, I’m only 5ft 2”ish).

This made me think, is there a way that physics can make heels comfier, so I don’t look like an idiot?

How high?

Ever wondered why some people can wear the sky high heels with no problem, and why some people like me can’t stand a couple of inches? A Professor at the University of Surrey has developed a formula for the best height of a heel for each person. The fancy formula looks like this: h=Q x (12 + 3s/8) and includes factors such as:

-Shoe size

-Cost of the shoe; more expensive means more height allowed, we apparently put up with more pain for pricey shoes

-How fashionable the shoe is and how many heads it will turn; beauty is painful, and we know it.

– Experience in wearing heels; practice makes perfect, so you can go slightly higher without wobbling.

-Amount of alcohol consumed; apparently this makes higher heels more difficult to walk in. (Personally I always find heels easier the more drunk I get, but maybe I just become less aware of how much I am falling over).

So considering all these factors it suggests that a woman with some experience in walking in heels should go no higher than a 5 inch heel to remain stable. This does however refer to stiletto heels, and physics suggests that a wider heel would be more stable at a greater height than a stiletto.

Smaller surface area of the shoe = more pressure = more pain:

In basic terms, the smaller the surface area of the heel (i.e. stilettos), the greater the pressure is on the area of your foot which is in contact with the floor. A wider, chunkier heel would create a larger surface area, which would reduce the pressure felt on your feet.

Here is the maths: pressure = force/area.*

My stilettos (shown below) have a heel surface area of 70mm² and lets say for simplicity the force applied on walking is x. That would make the pressure x divided by 70.

My stilettos, thin heel means more pressure.
My stilettos, thin heel means more pressure.

My chunky wedges have a heel surface area of 950mm², reducing the pressure to x divided by 950. As x/950 is much less pressure than x/70, in theory that should make these lovely shoes much more comfy….

My chunky platform shoes: wider heels mean less pressure.
My chunky platform shoes: wider heels mean less pressure.

Heels that Pythagoras would be proud of:

Research also suggests that the placement of the heel at the correct distance along the shoe is also important, to reduce the angle of the foot (it’s based on Pythagoras theorem, it actually has a use!). If the foot is at a steeper angle, more pressure is on the ball of the foot and your foot and ankle will feel strained.

So when you’re looking for comfy shoes, think of the heel as part of a right angled triangle (see below). The steeper the angle of the longest edge of the triangle, the more uncomfortable the shoe is likely to be.

The red and blue lines show the angle of the foot in the shoe, a steeper angle means more pain and less balance.
The red and blue lines show the angle of the foot in the shoe, a steeper angle means more pain and less balance.
The blue line is steeper than the red, which could explain why the pink heels are much more painful and wobbly than the white ones.
The blue line is steeper than the red, which could explain why the pink heels are much more painful and wobbly than the white ones.

 Heels designed with physics in mind:

I stumbled across some shoes that use springs, rubber balls and hydraulics to absorb impact, so less pressure is felt on your feet. These shoes designed by Silvia Fado are not only beautifully intriguing, but very functional. Although they aren’t what I would consider as ‘everyday wear’ the principles explored on impact absorption could one day lead to comfortable, gorgeous shoes.

Shoes with a spring and hinge hydraulic system: http://www.silviafado.com/kinetictraces/
Shoes with a spring and hinge hydraulic system:
http://www.silviafado.com/kinetictraces/

So there we have it, heels 5 inches or less, with a larger surface area are the way forward. Somebody didn’t give these girls the memo though:

Till next time,

Lucy

xxx

*If you’re being technical you would use metres squared, and work out the force=mass*acceleration, and state pressure in pascals, but I have simplified this for the purpose of this explanation in layman terms.