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Garth Sundem is a Science, Math and general Geek Culture writer, TED speaker, and author of books including Brain Trust: 93 Top Scientists Dish the Lab-Tested Secrets of Surfing, Dating, Dieting... Read More »


Last week while baking muffins with my son's preschool class, I set fire to the school. Okay, technically I didn't set it on fire—it was only butter smoke from the tin that set off the alarm, necessitating the entire school of a couple hundred kids filing out to the basketball courts while the fire department arrived en mass.

Anyway, after the holiday break my wife will be back for Wednesday cooking and I don't imagine Thanksgiving will be NEARLY so exciting. Besides, Leif was line leader that day, and he was really, very proud to lead the class evacuation.

JonathanLiuMessEquations relating speed and mass go back to Newton and beyond.

But what about relating speed and MESS?

Simply, how fast should you expect a clean kids' room to get messy?
In the Iowa Gambling Task, a participant is presented with four, facedown decks of cards. He or she can flip over cards from any deck. Most cards earn a reward and some cards incur a penalty. Of the four decks, some are better (contain more reward-earning cards) than others.

Over time, participants should learn which decks are best and start flipping cards only from the highest-paying decks. The test is thought to measure the emotional component of learning, or intuition—based on reward and punishment, participants begin to "feel" which decks are best and worst.
If only you could ditch that traumatic memory, that craving, that debilitating fear of ventriloquist dummies (autonomatonophobia)! But these tendencies are so deeply ingrained that try as you might, you can't dig them out. Maybe you can drug them out.

The process of recalling a memory is like a rolling snowball——a trigger provides the first ball, which then rolls through various parts of your brain picking up the additional elements it needs to become a full memory.
Are you traumatized by terror flicks? Maybe more than you know. Scary  movies actually create a light version of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is what causes bad dreams and irrational fears of kids riding Big Wheels in hotel hallways (and, perhaps more rationally, of Jack Nicholson peeking through axe holes into your bathroom). 

And by exploring how people stop these dreams and fears, researchers are learning how we might combat more serious PTSD. For instance, researchers find that talking about a horror movie afterward reduces the occurrence of bad dreams.

photopunx2 via flickrWant a real Halloween nightmare? Imagine filling your child's  too-small bucket in the first three houses and going home with only a  small slice of your kid's potential rake. But if you allow your little monster (or in my case, blue whale with pink and purple barnacles), to carry a big bag, you should be prepared to spend the hours and hours (and hours) needed to fill it.

Bad news: there are nightmares on both  ends of the bag guesstimation spectrum.