Kathryn Friedlander explores the ‘kick’ we get from cracking a really good cryptic crossword clue.
A number of stories in the press earlier this year reported work carried out in Vienna and London on solving puzzles in a brain scanner. The study suggested that solving a clue to a puzzle can trigger a highly rewarding ‘Aha!’ (or ‘Eureka!’) insight moment, which releases dopamine into the brain. This is the reward chemical associated with daily activities such as eating, winning money … and having sex. This led to headlines promising that cryptic crosswords were ‘better than sex’… but what’s the reality behind the hype?
Gill Hill explains why investigating creative problem solving is sometimes – quite literally – child’s play.
People might be surprised to hear that the games they played as children can help scientists to explain how people think. For example, researchers have recently used rock, paper scissors as a model for decision making. Furthermore, chess is seen as a pursuit for ‘thinkers’ around the world, and we have consequently seen lots of research exploring psychological processes whilst people play.
The challenge was set by MK Innovates to provide exciting and interactive activities that engage young people – and especially girls – from Milton Keynes and the surrounding area with science. As always, the CREATE team were keen to get in on the act and we’ve identified some core aspects of our research to showcase at the event.
‘Here’s a question: ‘Why do we spend our childhood in fear of exams, then quite willingly put ourselves through pretty much the same tests as adults?’ … The short answer is: fun. The joy of quiz is in making a gratifying game out of all that knowledge sploshing around in our heads – fascinating information, but information for which our jobs and our personal lives stubbornly refuse to find any use’.
So begins this engaging romp through the world of quizzing: an engrossing compendium of trivia and analysis drawn from social history, psychology and real-life ‘behind-the-scenes’ knowledge, based on Alan Connor‘s own experiences as a quiz editor for the BBC2 quiz Only Connect.
Soapbox Science may be just the platform you need to launch your academic career. Gill Hill looks back over her personal successes of the past year, since her appearance at Milton Keynes, and urges all female scientists to take the plunge.
About this time last year I noticed an announcement on the University of Buckingham‘s round-up email. It was a call for female scientists to take part in our local Soapbox Scienceevent, to be held in Milton Keynes shopping centre in the summer of 2016. Although initially hesitant, I talked myself into applying, thinking it would be good for me to have to talk about my PhD research to a public audience.
One year on I thought I’d reflect on my Soapbox experience, in the hope of encouraging other female scientists to apply.