Jun. 18, 2013

Angry Legos, Roman Wonder Concrete, Beating Boredom, and More

by Jordan Davidson

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Each week we’ll round up links to science stories or studies that blow our mind, tickle our funny bone, or generally strike our fancy.
 
Trouble in Toyland?
Like us, Legos have aged over the decades—and their faces show it. A New Zealand-based researcher tracked 35 years of facial expressions on thousands of the iconic figures and found that the classic yellow mug with a broad, simple smile, has given way to more complex expressions. Lego faces now encompass a broad range of emotions including happy, angry, surprised, scared, and enigmatic. The change reflects what seems to be a trend in new Lego series with conflict-based themes, such as “Little Pirates.” The jury is out on how this visage variety affects child development, but for worried parents, there’s always Mr. Potato Head to turn that frown upside-down.
 
I Can (Scorse)see!
For most of his life, Bruce Bridgeman had poor depth perception because his eyes pointed outward. But when he saw the Martin Scorsese flick Hugo in 3D, his vision changed. Objects seemingly jumped out from the background. What’s more, the improvement has lasted since he watched the movie in February 2012. Nobody’s sure exactly what happened, but Bridgeman—whose specialty is, coincidentally, the visual system—suggests that the 3D film activated a small group of cells in his brain that play a role in stereo vision.
 
Beating Boredom
Your kids are whining that they’re bored. What’s an exasperated parent to do? Research suggests that when tykes complain of boredom, they’re in a tense, negative state, often showing signs of stress, such as an accelerated heart rate. While it might be tempting to ease their frustration with action movies and video games, those are short-term fixes that don’t address the root of the problem. Instead, experts suggest that parents talk with their children about why they’re bored and help them dream up playtime activities.
 
How Rome Was Built
The ancient Romans built for the test of time. The concrete structures they erected in harsh maritime environments have endured for 2,000 years while modern concrete shows signs of degradation within 50 years. Plus, the Latin product had a much smaller carbon footprint than today’s intense fossil fuel-burning kind. Now, research by a team at the University of California, Berkeley, is shedding new light on the Roman wonder concrete, which could lead to improvements in the durability and environmental friendliness of today’s construction material.
 

 

About Jordan Davidson

Jordan Davidson is a freelance writer based in New York.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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