TIME Research

Level Up! Gamers May Learn Visual Skills More Quickly

HaloFest for Xbox One
Matt Sayles—Invision/AP Xbox fans play games from the popular “Halo” franchise at HaloFest at the Avalon Theatre in Los Angeles on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014

Practice not only makes perfect, it may improve gamers' ability to learn

A small study from Brown University suggests video gamers, who are already known to have a better visual-processing skills, may also be able to improve on those attributes faster than the average person.

According to Brown University press, the study analyzed nine gamers and compared them with nine nongamers during a two-day trial. Researchers required participants to complete two visual tasks, one right after the other. The next day they repeated the exercises (in a random order) and compared how participants improved.

What they found is that the second task interfered with the ability of nongamers to improve on the first — while gamers improved equally well on both exercises.

“We sometimes see that an expert athlete can learn movements very quickly and accurately and a musician can play the piano at the very first sight of the notes very elegantly … maybe [gamers] can learn more efficiently and quickly as a result of training,” senior author Yuka Sasaki said.

The authors admit the findings require more study, conceding that there is no proof that video games caused the learning improvement, since people with quick visual-processing skills could be naturally drawn to gaming.

TIME climate change

White House Outlines Plans to Cut Carbon Emissions By Up to 28%

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Getty Images

The plan is the first step toward achieving an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050

The White House reaffirmed a commitment to cut carbon emissions by up to 28% by 2025 in a Tuesday submission to the United Nations that promises new regulations on power plants, new fuel economy standards for some vehicles and rules to address methane emissions.

The plan, the first step toward achieving an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, calls for a dramatic increase in the rate at which the U.S. reduces carbon pollution, from 1.2% per year between 2005 and 2020 to between 2.3% and 2.8% between 2020 and 2025.

“This submission is ambitious and achievable,” said Brian Deese, a senior advisor to the President on climate change, on a conference call. “We know this is good for our economy, good for our health and good for our future.”

The plan, submitted to meet an informal United Nations target date, reaffirms a commitment made by the U.S. in November to cut its carbon emissions by more than a quarter by 2025. At the time, the U.S. and China—the world’s two largest emitters of carbon—made a bilateral commitment to take the lead on the issue, with China agreeing to stop growth in its carbon emissions by 2030.

The commitments of the U.S. and China, along with those of other countries that have submitted plans to the UN, are intended to make a statement that will encourage other countries ahead of a U.N. conference in December intended to produce a binding international agreement on climate change. Leadership aside, the plans already submitted promise to make a dramatic impact on global carbon emissions. Together the U.S., China, the European Union and Mexico, all of which have submitted plans, represent 58% of the world’s carbon emissions.

The U.S. plan, which relies on actions that don’t need Congressional approval, will likely face pushback from Republicans who have already sought to undermine the effort. U.S. officials said Tuesday that proposals are designed to remain in place for years beyond the Obama administration.

“The undoing of the kind of regulation that we’re putting in place is something that’s very tough to do,” said Todd Stern, special envoy for climate change at the State Department, on a conference call.

The plan drew immediate praise in environmental circles. Natural Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh in a statement that she believes the plan can be “met” and “even exceeded.”

“This important commitment sends a powerful message to the world: Together we can slash dangerous carbon pollution and combat climate change,” she said.

TIME space travel

This Is How Ants React in Space

Catherine Ledner—Getty Images

With surprising agility, study finds

Ants aboard the International Space Station showed a surprising ability to regain their footing as they slipped and tumbled through zero gravity, according to a new study that released an ant colony in space just to see what would happen next.

The ants were ferried on a supply rocket to the International Space Station in 2014, where researchers observed how different species might adapt their search habits to a radically new environment.

“The ants showed an impressive ability to walk on the surface in microgravity, and an even more remarkable capacity to regain their contact with the surface once they were tumbling around in the air,” researchers wrote in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Researchers say the results could offer deeper insights into how ants conduct searches of new terrain without centralized commands, an area of particular interest in robotics, and also an area of comedic interest first explored by a prescient episode of the Simpsons:

TIME animals

Science Has Found Out What Music Your Cat Should Be Chilling to While Being Neutered

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Unsurprisingly, AC/DC is not it

During surgical operations, cats aren’t huge fans of adult contemporary ballads or fist-pumping rocks anthems. In fact, research has found that felines much prefer the lush sound of classical music when going under the knife.

In an experiment detailed this week in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, veterinary clinicians at the University of Lisbon studied how 12 female pet cats responded to different genres of music, while undergoing neutering.

To gauge the animals’ responses, the clinicians recorded their respiratory rates and pupil diameters, which are an indication of their depth of anesthesia.

During the experiment, the cats were fitted with headphones and then exposed to two minutes of silence — as a control — before listening to portions of Barber’s “Adagio for Strings (Opus 11),” Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”

“The results showed that the cats were in a more relaxed state (as determined by their lower values for respiratory rate and pupil diameter) under the influence of classical music, with the pop music producing intermediate values,” reports Science Daily.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, listening to AC/DC while being spayed induced “a more stressful situation.”

[Science Daily]

TIME Research

Can You Draw the Apple Logo From Memory?

In one study, only 1 out of 85 participants could

Corporate logos are designed to be not only recognizable but also memorable. So why is it that so few people are able to accurately reproduce logos when put to the test?

Researchers say it’s most likely because memories are recorded in broad strokes, while details are often forgotten, according to a new study published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Over the course of the study, 85 UCLA undergraduates were asked to reproduce an Apple logo from memory. Only one was able to draw the image correctly.

Here are some of the versions they came up with. Only one is correct — can you tell which one?

“There was a striking discrepancy between participants’ confidence prior to drawing the logo and how well they performed on the task,” said Alan Castel, a senior author of the study. “People’s memory, even for extremely common objects, is much poorer than they believe it to be.”

Try it for yourself.

[Science Daily]

TIME animals

Young Male Monkeys Prefer Spending Time With Daddy, Study Says

A rhesus macaque monkey grooms another on Cayo Santiago, known as Monkey Island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, Tuesday, July 29, 2008.
Brennan Linsley—AP A rhesus macaque monkey grooms another on Cayo Santiago, known as Monkey Island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, on July 29, 2008

Turns out quality father-son time is not just a human phenomenon

Male rhesus macaque monkeys prefer the company of their fathers, according to a new study, marking one of the first times gender partiality has been exhibited in primates before they leave the colony.

Rhesus macaques are generally found in Asia, but by studying a colony on the small Puerto Rican island of Cayo Santiago the team was able to identify individual moneys and document socialization patterns, according to the BBC, citing a report in the American Journal of Primatology.

Researchers discovered that infants and juveniles spent more time with their mothers, but as they developed into adulthood the role of the father (and his relatives) becomes increasingly important.

Scientists think this is because male monkeys eventually leave the colony, so young adults spend more time with their fathers to help them prepare for the challenges of a nomadic lifestyle.

While gender preference had been observed in primates before, the new study shows that parental bias begins before the males go off on their own — a departure from the previous idea that favoritism is the result of females forming strong bonds with their relatives by remaining in the group when the males leave.

[BBC]

TIME climate change

Antarctica May Have Just Set a Record for Its Hottest Day Ever

Antarctica
Getty Images Emperor penguins on an ice edge in Antarctica.

The continent appears to have hit 63.5 F for the first time thanks to global warming

You may want to consider balmy Antarctica for your next Spring Break. Weather bloggers at Weather Underground report that the continent likely hit a record-breaking high of 63.5 F (17.5 C) on Tuesday.

Antarctica has been heating up in recent years, thanks to global warming. The region’s temperature has risen an average of about 5 F (2.8 C) in the last half century, according to the British Antarctic Survey. Studies have also documented melting ice along Antarctica’s coasts.

Tuesday’s record is all the more impressive considering that it was set just one day after Antarctica had reached a new high of 63.3 F (17.4 C) on Monday. Prior to those two record-setting days, the hottest the continent had ever gotten was 62.8 F (17.1 C) on April 24, 1961.

But the record is not yet official. The reading was logged on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, which may not be considered part of the continent in weather record keeping. The World Meteorological Organization is expected to examine whether the area was indeed in Antarctica or whether it is technically located in Argentina.

Read Next: The Antarctic’s Floating Ice Shelves Are Melting At an Alarming Rate

[Weather Underground]

TIME climate change

People Across the Globe Switch Off Their Lights for Earth Hour

AUSTRALIA-ENVIRONMENT-ENERGY-EARTH HOUR
Peter Parks—AFP/Getty Images Fireworks fade as lights go out on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House to signal the start of the Earth Hour environmental campaign, among the first landmarks around the world to dim their lights for the event on March 28, 2015.

From Australia to Austin, global citizens send a message about climate change

Seven thousand cities in 162 countries across the globe are turning off their lights for Earth Hour this year. Each city will dim their skyline beginning at 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday.

Earth Hour started in 2007 as a World Wildlife Fund event in Australia and has grown to become a global message that citizens across the world must work together to fight climate change. Some of the world’s best-known landmarks will go dark this year, including the the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the United Nations building in New York City and the Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro.

This year’s earth hour takes on extra significance ahead of the UN meeting on climate change in Paris scheduled for December.

Read next: Antarctica May Have Just Set a Record for Its Hottest Day Ever

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME A Year In Space

Liftoff! A Year in Space Begins

Scott Kelly and his crewmates take off for the International Space Station

You’d think you’d have trouble deciding how to spend your last day on Earth if you were about to leave it for a year. But the fact is, you’d have nothing to decide at all. Every bit of it would be planned for you—literally second by second—as it was today for cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko and astronaut Scott Kelly, in advance of their liftoff at 1:42:57 AM local time. Kornienko and Kelly are set to be aboard the International Space Station for the full year; Padalko will be there for six months.

The three men were instructed to nap until nine hours before launch, or precisely 4:42:57 PM in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where the Russian launch facilities are located. They left their quarters exactly one hour later, at 5:52:57 PM, settled into the space center ready-rooms and began their pre-flight preparations at 6:52:57. And on the day would tick.

For the families, all those hours were a much more ambling business—time they had to contrive to fill on their own. As Kelly was getting his final hours of mandated terrestrial sleep, his daughters, Samantha and Charlotte, 20 and 11, his partner Amiko Kauderer and his twin brother Mark—a retired astronaut—visited Baikonur’s outdoor market in a hunt for spices Kauderer and the girls wanted to take home. Mark, who had arrived in Baikonur yesterday still wearing his characteristic mustache—the only thing that allows most people to distinguish between him and Scott—had shaved it off this morning.

“Do I look like my brother now?” he asked, and then added mischievously, “Maybe I am…”

Kauderer, who works as a NASA public affairs officer and has witnessed her share of launches as well as her share of spouses steeling themselves—at least outwardly—for the experience, carried herself with the same apparent calm. So did the girls, who have seen their father fly off to space three times before. As for what Scott himself was feeling, Mark was reasonably sure it was nothing terribly special.

“He’s been through this routine four times already,” he said. “Actually, when you count the times you don’t launch, it’s probably six or seven.”

MORE: Watch the Trailer for TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year In Space

That routine pressed on today regardless of what Scott might or might not have been feeling. At 7:52 PM, the crew, still clad in Earth-appropriate jumpsuits, left the ready-rooms for the 100-yard walk to the buses that would take them to the suit-up building. A rousing Russian song played over loudspeakers, while crowds were kept behind rope lines, both to prevent a crush and protect the astronauts who, though walking without surgical masks, were still under medical quarantine.

Once they were sealed inside their bus, however, the lines collapsed and the crowd surged forward. A child was lifted to touch the window. Padalko pressed both of his hands on the glass while a woman reached up and pressed hers opposite. In Russia—if not in the U.S.—cosmonauts are every bit the cultural phenomena they were half a century ago.

No one outside of flight technicians saw the crew again for another two hours—until they had been suited up and the families were brought in for a final goodbye—the men leaving the Earth on one side of a glass and the loved ones staying behind on the other, communicating via microphones. “Poka, poka”—Russian for “bye-bye”—Padalko’s daughters called to him again and again.

Mark, who made two visits to the space station on his shuttle flights, was less sentimental in bidding farewell to his brother. “I left some old T-shirts up in the gym,” he said. “Want to bring them down for me?”

“You look good without that mustache,” Scott answered.

“Yeah, I’ll probably grow it back on the flight home. I miss it already.”

Scott’s exchanges with Amiko, Charlotte and Samantha were less playful, more tender, and afterwards, when Roscosmos officials declared the five minutes allotted for the visit over, Amiko gathered the girls in a hug. “We have to hold it together,” she says. “That’s our job, to hold it together and to help him.”

Finally, family, media and space officials left the suit-up building and walked to the parking lot just outside. The crew emerged a few minutes later to a fusillade of camera flashes and walked to three designated spots painted on the asphalt. American, Russian and Kazakh flags fluttered behind them and Roscosmos officials stood before them, bidding them a final goodbye. Padalko, the commander, stood in the middle during the little ceremony, and he occupies the middle seat in the spacecraft as well. A Soyuz veteran, he has joked that he could fly the craft with nothing but a pair of cabbages in the seats on either side of him.

Maybe. But if he meant that in the months and years he was training for this flight, there was no sign of it on the night he left. The crew, who would depend on one another for their lives tonight, boarded their bus, drove to the pad and climbed into their spacecraft. Two and a half hours later, at the designated second, their Soyuz rocket’s 20 engines lit and they left Kazakhstan—and the planet—behind them.

TIME will be covering Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the trailer here.

TIME space

Astronaut Scott Kelly Takes Off for International Space Station

A fiery display marks the start of a remarkable mission

It took Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Gannady Padalka less than nine minutes to drive to work on Saturday. That’s the easy part. The hard part is that Padalka won’t punch out for six months; for Kornienko and Kelly, it will be a year.

MORE: Watch the Trailer for TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year In Space

Their office, of course, is the International Space Station (ISS). And their drive began at 3:42 p.m. ET Friday, or 1:42 a.m. Saturday in Kazakhstan, where their Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, en route to space. The 510-second sprint to low-Earth orbit will be followed by a six-hour chase, in which the Soyuz will slowly gain ground on the station, finally docking at about the same time people in Kazakhstan will be arriving at their decidedly more prosaic places of business.

TIME will be covering Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the trailer here.

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