Skip to main content

Ten Times Science Made Us Feel Better About Humanity in 2015

A toast to this year's most awesome science headlines.
(Photo: cjmacer/Shutterstock)

(Photo: cjmacer/Shutterstock)

In case you missed it: We really love research here at Pacific Standard, particularly the social sciences, and any insights they might shed into what makes our beautifully complex minds tick. But before you write us off as a bunch of dweebs, take note of some of the science we've highlighted from this year, from potentially high-out-of-their-minds dinosaurs, to research proving that parents having nothing to fear if their kid prefers Iron Maiden over Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Our favorites:

  • Wooing a new sweetheart to go on a first date typically means ripping off the proverbial Band-Aid and placing a nervous phone call. But email could be far more effective; people who send romantic emails feel more emotionally aroused and may communicate their feelings more successfully than those who opt for the good ol' voicemail.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy may be more effective than light boxes in boosting spirits and reducing wintertime blues when the seasons change.
  • Member of a choir? Research shows our caveman-era ancestors loved to sing together, too, and used choral groups several-hundred singers' strong to cement social bonds.
  • An amber fossil discovered in Myanmar preserving the oldest piece of grass ever was also found to contain traces of a 100 million-year-old ergot fungus—the very same fungus from which LSD is derived. Grass-eating dinosaurs may have pondered the meaning of the universe millions of years before Timothy Leary ever did.
  • Three to five cups of coffee a day can reduce the risk of dying by as much as 15 percent. That morning buzz does the body good.
  • So much for anarchy and satanic worship—research shows young heavy metal fans of the 1980s matured into happier youths and more well-adjusted adults than their peers with other tastes in music.
  • When considering a post-workout meal, there's no shame in swapping a Clif Bar for a Big Mac. From a nutritional standpoint, there's actually little difference between an energy bar and a hamburger; both have roughly the same amount of calories, fat, carbs, and protein.
  • Science proves dogs are a man's best friend. Both humans and canines experience increased levels of a hormone linked to bonding and social behavior when they look into each others' eyes. A pet dog experiencing a rise in the hormone can even trigger a similar response in its owner too.
  • Kids as young as 13 months might understand more about social interactions and intentions than we'd previously thought.
  • Forget beta-blockers, meds, or booze; thanks to virtual reality, the illusion of feeling invisible can reduce social anxiety and lower heart rates by a few beats per minute.

Science for the win.