February 1, 2013

Cyclists always seem to be smiling.     Photo: Tejvan Pettinger/Flickr

Study: Bike Commuters Are Happiest

Walkers a close second

Commuters who bike to work are the most satisfied with their morning travel, according to a new study by Portland State Urban Studies Planning Graduate School. The study concludes that commuters who walk to work were almost as happy as cyclists, the least happy being solo drivers. Considering that 76.6 percent of Americans drive alone to work, the findings should resonate with most of us.

Lead researcher Oliver Smith indicates that getting to work using your own power increases what he terms "commute well-being."

Major factors that dragged down well-being scores included traffic congestion (non-existent for bike riders), crowded transit vehicles, safety concerns (especially for bikers), and travel times longer than 40 minutes (for auto drivers only).

Via BikePortland.org

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    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Flight Diverted Over Passenger Revolt

Dispute over free upgrade

A JetBlue flight carrying 137 people from New York to San Diego was diverted to Denver on Thursday night after one unruly woman refused to suffer the indignity of seeing someone else get a free upgrade. Another passenger who videotaped the incident on her cell phone says that the woman became enraged when one passenger was allowed to move to a better seat without paying the premium price. The woman was removed from the plane in Denver without incident. In the video, passengers can be seen cheering her departure. JetBlue has decided to treat the incident as a customer service issue and will not be filing charges against the woman.

Via Fox 31 Denver

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A Siberian Husky.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Why Your Dog Loves Belly Rubs

Neural pathways behind petting

Ever wonder why your pooch will do just about anything for a belly rub? Now, science has an answer for you. A group of American scientists have identified the neural basis for why mammals, from mice to humans, enjoy being stroked. In a paper published in Nature, researchers from the California Institute of Technology, the University of Louisville, and the University of Pittsburgh found that stroking mice stimulated MRGPRB4+, a specific, rare neuron linked to the hair follicles, Discover reports.

Researchers genetically engineered mice so the MRGPRB4+ neurons would glow when active. Then they inserted a microscope into the mice’s spinal cords to see what happened as they stroked, poked, and pinched the mice. Certain neurons responded to unpleasant stimuli like pokes, but the MRGPRB4+ neurons only responded to stroking.

While professional mouse-petter may sound like the cutest job in academia, early versions of the experiment were significantly less cuddly. In 2007, a group of researchers tried and failed to stimulate the neurons using a swatch of mouse skin.

Via Discover

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    Photo: Ssppeeeeddyy/Flickr

4 Volcanoes Erupting in Russia

Film of unprecedented quartet

Four volcanoes in Russia are simultaneously erupting within 110 miles of each other. That’s rare in itself, but Tobalchik, Shiveluch, Besymjanny, and Kisimen also seem to be supplied by four separate sources.

 Here’s Spiegel Online with more on the extremely rare occurrence:

That, though, is what has taken place in recent weeks on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's far east. Four different cones and mountains, all within 180 kilometers of each other, have been active simultaneously since late November. Given that volcano experts don't believe that the four volcanoes are being fed from the same magma source, the parallel eruptions would seem to be the geological equivalent of winning the lottery.

The Moscow-based photography group Airpano was able to film all of the volcanoes in one day, creating this totally stunning 360-degree video of all four eruptions. Here's how they did it:

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