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Nina In New York: 5 News Stories To Make You Smile After A Rough Week

A new study suggests that hobbit humans had larger brains than we'd previously believed. (credit: National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo)

A new study suggests that hobbit humans had larger brains than we’d previously believed. (credit: National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo)

Marathon Bombings

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
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By Nina Pajak

Last week was exhausting, no?

We’ve experienced the full range of emotions —despair, distress, powerlessness, anxiety, sadness, rage, confusion, vindication, relief, and then back to anger and confusion and sadness with each horrible story that rolled in.

I won’t be the next Internet writer to give you my thoughts on everything from bombings to ricin to fertilizer plant explosions in Texas. But I will say I’m exhausted.

For me, in times of anxiety and upheaval and general bad voodoo, I thrive on distraction. Laughter. A reminder that while things have gotten extraordinarily, sadly, terrifyingly real, there is still just as much foolishness going on to provide a little balance and perspective.

So here you go. Here’s to a better seven days than the last, okay?

Teens are still as dumb as ever, despite previous warnings. Remember when we discussed the “cinnamon challenge,” lo these many months? It’s the latest in teenage idiocy, sweeping the nation for reasons that continue to elude me. Here’s how it goes: One dummy swallows a spoonful of straight cinnamon because of course they do. Said dummy attempts to swallow it, typically winds up spewing it everywhere and choking and crying and coughing and potentially getting hospitalized and severely damaging lungs as a result. Goes up on YouTube, friends all laugh. Despite the many, many instances of this going awry, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a new study yesterday warning (again) of the dangers of engaging in this type of activity. “Why can’t teenagers just drink Zima and awkwardly hook up in friends’ basements, instead of doing this s*&^?” said Dr. Fresbitz, a fake person I just made up. Listen, you guys. I’m about to have a baby. I’m going to do my darndest to raise this child to be the type of child that doesn’t ingest spoonfuls of spices for no benefit or reason whatsoever just because his or her friends said “triple dog dare ya,” but I won’t lie. I’m frightened.

Hobbit Humans Had Big Brains! Braaaains. Wait. Who? According to this article on Discovery.com, a new study in cryptically-named publication “Proceedings of the Royal Society B” proves that hobbit humans had larger brains than we’d previously believed. And by we, I mean someone else, because news of these so-called hobbit humans just rocked my world. Are they like the mole people who live in the earth’s core? Or are they from Middle Earth and do they blahblahblah Lord of the Rings joke?  It turns out they are a primitive species of humans from which we, Homo erectus, may have evolved. Or from which we split off and evolved. Or with whom we interbred and then evolved. Or something. Science! Anyway, they were 3’6″  tall with disproportionately short legs compared to their arms and feet and lived in isolation on a tiny, remote Indonesian island until around 12,000 years ago. Their revised brain size now puts them on the same playing field as chimps. Go ahead, LOTR weirdos. Freak out.

It’s not about how much sex you’re having. It’s about how lame your friends are. An incredibly pointless and obvious illuminating new study out of questionably over-funded University of Colorado Boulder finds that not only is frequency of sex directly proportionate to a person’s happiness, but that level of happiness is affected by whether or not they feel they’re having more or less sex than their peers. The publisher of the study and an associate professor of sociology at the university said in the press release: “’Having more sex makes us happy, but thinking that we are having more sex than other people makes us even happier.'” The study was conducted over the course of 13 years and surveyed 15,000 people. My own, anecdotal studies have been conducted unscientifically over the course of thirty years and includes a sample of . . . er . . . not 15,000 people. But I have miraculously come to the same conclusion: people are insecure. Cut it, print it, bronze it, hang it over the doorframe. I’m pretty sure we can call this one for the rest of time. Look how much money I just saved the academic community!

Beer taste good. Make people happy. Another fascinating new study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology (I subscribe, but you can usually find it on the rack next to Us Weekly), suggests that the mere taste of beer—without any of the intoxicating side effects which make us feel all warm and fuzzy and belchy and fat and dirty—is enough to trigger the release of dopamine. That’s the “pleasure chemical” of the brain, for you lay people. One would initially like to comment on the idiocy and uselessness of coming to this conclusion, but the authors of the study make an interesting point, distilled by LiveScience.com: “having a way to assess predisposition to alcohol abuse could be useful.” I get it. Snark retracted. Still, I prefer my headline.

French women don’t need bras. Or so their male scientists would have you believe. According to a 15-year study, they found that going bra-less can lead to less sagging and higher nipples. Said one woman who participated in the study: “At first, I was a little reluctant to the idea of running without a bra, but I got started and after five minutes, I had no trouble at all.” Check and mate, men of France. Well played. Slow clap. “Scientific study” my derriere.