Reader’s Scigest 08-05-14

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By Sadie Bartholomew

Welcome to the Table

Element 117, a super-heavy artificial atom with 117 and 177 neutrons, is about to take the highest seat in the periodic table. The news comes after a group of scientists based at the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Germany created four atoms of the element by shooting titanium at berkenium. The element is highly unstable and the atoms decayed after less than a tenth of a second; nevertheless the team could identify the element by studying the decay chain – making them the second team to make the discovery. It is now likely that element 117 will be officially recognised by the group responsible for maintaining the periodic table. It will lie in group 17, the halogen group. The element currently has the uninspiring temporary name of ununseptium, meaning 117 in Latin. Let’s hope it is christened with a more memorable name.

Take Note!

A report in the journal Psychological Science claims that taking notes by hand leads to better understanding of lecture material than taking notes on a laptop. The researchers provided a quiz for Princeton and UCLA students after showing them videos of talks and giving them time to review their notes. Students with written notes performed better on average in the quiz than those with typed notes. Additionally, the written notes were shorter by around a hundred words, but the words were more refined than the words in the typed notes; the authors of the report suggest that those who hand-write notes have rethought the material to make it most meaningful to them, aiding memorisation, while laptop users tend to type up the lecturer’s words directly.

Benefits of Horseplay

Young people who spend time riding or grooming horses are less stressed than those who don’t, according to a new study. 130 teenagers who were taking part in a 12-week after-school course on horsemanship, interacting with horses in various ways, gave saliva samples before and after the course. These samples were tested for the stress hormone cortisol; lower cortisol levels were observed for teenagers on the course than for teenagers in a control group. Previous research has already shown that playing with household pets is good for children because it increases their self-esteem. The researchers hope that horses will be used in new therapies to help those with mental health issues.

Photograph: eXtension Horses on flickr

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