Ah, the tanning booth - a cancer-causing security blanket for high schoolers headed to spring break in Mexico and prom. (Not that I have a bias.) Sunless tanning lotions and sprays exist, of course, but the resulting tell-tale orange streaks can deter hopeful sun goddesses from the UVA/B-free alternatives.

Enter the injectable fake-bake. Melanotan is an analogue of the naturally occurring alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone and induces melanogenesis (note: do not confused melanotan with melatonin, a hormone associated with circadian rhythms). For those willing to inject themselves with an experimental drug, melanotan seems to provide said risk-takers with a tan sans sun or tanning bed exposure.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. As part of the commemoration of this event, the space shuttle Endeavour brought a version of it up to the International Space Station 15th November 2008.




Credit: NASA/JSC
Those mortifying accidents. Stephen J. Dubner unleashed a pent-up flood of guilt and shame from readers of his New York Times column.

Ever written an email, then sent it in haste … to the wrong person? Or cc’d people who shouldn’t have seen your candid message? Or mistakenly received an email that was not meant for your eyes? Within days after Dubner told his tale, 166 readers shared their stories of regret, outrage and in Marci Alboher’s case, a happy ending. Wonder what’s the proper etiquette in this new world of instantly sendable missives? Like advice on avoiding such mishaps?
Bluntly speaking, we are more likely to cooperate in a group when those who don’t get punished. “Darwin had a blind spot. It wasn’t that he didn’t see the role of cooperation in evolution. He just didn’t see how important it is.” Little has changed until relatively recently.

We were raised to compete because we were taught it was a matter of survival of the fittest. Yet, as David Brooks noted, even today, some believe in upfront combat and some in consensus.

Speaking of working together (or not), in many situations experts are not as accurate as a large group can be. “In fact, large groups, structured properly, can be smarter than the smartest member of a group.”
That irritating co-worker you’re stuck sitting by (again!) sees a decidedly different side of you than your best friend does. That’s because you have many people inside of you (no they’re not imaginary). That’s what veteran science writer, Rita Carter discovered as she began reading about bi-polar personalities for Mapping the Mind. Emerging research shows that several, “personalities are made and kept separate in the human brain” … of everyone. Want a glimpse of how many you have? Depending on the situation and who you’re are around, different people pop out and speak for you.
You, too, may laugh in amusement at these Candid Camera style “experiments.” Yet, ruefully, I acknowledge that I might conform within minutes… well seconds?

Also, see this other well-known (among psychologists, anyway) “people are sheep” experiment by Solomon Asch. Would you trust your eyes or an authority’s pronouncement? Afterwards, many psychologists concluded that the perceived power of the “authority” has a huge effect on our compliance.

Here’s a gratifying update.
We instinctively experience situations as individuals or as part of a group.  As David Brooks suggests today, the world is divided into those with an individualist or a collectivist mentality. Guess which group is larger.
Neuroscientist Tania Singer and her team recruited volunteers to play a game. Some were asked to play by the rules. Others were instructed to ignore them. To not play fair.

After all participants played the game together, they were then asked to observe each other in a second activity. Scientists measured some of the volunteers’ brain activity as they observed some of their former game opponents apparently being subjected to different levels of pain.

Result?   The brain areas that signal pain became active in all who thought they were observing pain in others. This provides neural evidence of their empathy.
I had this video forwarded to me, and have to say that initially I was stunned.

"Man!  This pilot is one lucky guy!" 

But then I immediately began to wonder, why didn't I see this on the news - like a billion times?  I mean, if a camera happens to capture a horse running loose on the highway, all the major networks seem to carry it on the 5:00 news.  But this?  I hadn't seen it on a single channel.



You might say I am fond of Sweden and its Nobel Prizes. Now that the Mars500 shortlist includes also a Swede, there implies another delight: The Swedish Biogas might save the day for men and women in space missions.

Biogas for Mars?  Biogas is simply a biofuel that is obtained when organic matter is decomposed biologically in the absence of oxygen. A typical biogas has the following composition in percentages:

Methane:  50-75
Carbon Dioxide:  25-50
Nitrogen:  0-10
Hydogen Sulfide:  0-3
Oxygen:  0-2
Hydrogen:  0-1