Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Some findings:

Pride is not an entirely bad thing...

A feeling of pride, when it’s convincing, acts something like an emotional magnet. In a recent study, Ms. Williams and Dr. DeSteno of Northeastern had a group of 62 undergraduates take tests supposedly measuring their spatial I.Q. The patterns flashed by too fast for anyone to truly know how well they did.

The researchers manipulated the amount of pride each participant felt in his or her score. They either said nothing about the score; remarked, in a matter-of-fact tone, that it was one of the best scores they had seen; or gushed that the person’s performance was wonderful, about as good as they had ever seen.

The participants then sat down in a group to solve similar puzzles. Sure enough, the students who had been warmly encouraged reported feeling more pride than the others. But they also struck their partners in the group exercise as being both more dominant and more likable than those who did not have the inner glow of self-approval. The participants, whether they had been buttered up or not, were completely unaware of this effect on the group dynamics.

“We wondered at the beginning whether these people were going to come across as arrogant jerks,” Dr. DeSteno said. “Well, no, just the opposite; they were seen as dominant but also likable. That’s not a combination we expected.”...

Therapists say that in time, people usually do better when they come clean...

But in the short term, projecting pride may do more than help manage others’ impressions. Psychologists have found that wearing a sad or happy face can have a top-down effect on how a person feels: Smile and you may feel fleetingly happier. The same most likely is true for an expression of pride. In a 2008 study, the Northeastern researchers found that inducing a feeling of pride in people solving spatial puzzles motivated them to try harder when they tackled the next round.

Pride, in short, begets perseverance. All of which may explain why, when the repo man is at the door, people so often remind themselves that they still have theirs, and that it’s worth something. Because they do, and because it is.

However much pride may go before a fall, it may be far more useful after one.

Pepto-bismol contains bismuth subsalicylate, and is therefore ...radioactive...OK, kinda sorta radioactive...

Although bismuth-209 is commonly thought to be the heaviest stable isotope that exists in nature, theory suggests that it should be metastable and decay via alpha-particle emission to thallium-205. This decay is not easy to measure because the alpha particles generated have very little energy, which means that the isotope decays at a very low rate.

The equipment used by the Orsay team consists of two “heat and light” detectors that are enclosed in a reflecting cavity and cooled to 20mk. The first detector- containing bismuth-209, germanium and oxygen – undergoes a slight temperature rise when it absorbs an alpha particle. This temperature change is measured in the form of a voltage pulse whose amplitude is directly proportional to the energy released. The second detector, made from a thin disk of germanium, registers the light flashes from alpha-particle events.

The team performed two measurements, one with 31 grams of bismuth in the detector and the other with 62 grams. The scientists registered 128 alpha-particle events over 5 days and found an unexpected line in the spectrum at 3.14 MeV - now attributed to bismuth-209 decay. The half-life was calculated to be (1.9 +/- 0.2 ) x 1019 years, which is in good agreement with the theoretical prediction of 4.6 x 1019 years.

Now, that 1/2 life is admittedly older than the age of the universe, but still!

(HT: Starts with a bang.)

This news about bismuth is apparently not new, but when I read the above post in Starts with a Bang, it said lead was the heaviest stable element, and I knew bismuth was heavier, therefore...

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