Northern vs. southern hair whorls, Sun & Shine, Quantum depression

This week’s Feedback column (that I write) in New Scientist magazine has four segments. Here are bits of each of them:

  • Southern hair whorls — Three northern hemisphere scientists – Marjolaine Willems, Quentin Hennocq and Roman Hossein Khonsari in Paris, France – teamed up with a southern hemisphere scientist – Juan José Cortés Santander in Santiago, Chile – for a study they call “New insights on the genetics of hair whorls from twins and the southern hemisphere”. “We obtained unexpected results,” they say. What they found, should it prove accurate, adds a twist to earlier research about how, and maybe why, hair swirls this way or that on a person’s scalp…
  • Come rain or shine — Though produced in a land famous for damp and gloomy weather, the UK-based Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society is not without Sun and Shine. Steve Rothman alerted Feedback to the cheery fact that in 1994, the journal published a paper by two scientists at the University of Reading, UK. The paper is called “Studies of the radiative properties of ice and mixed-phase clouds”. The scientists are called Zhian Sun and Keith P. Shine. It is a classic case of nominative determinism. Feedback notes that eight years later, another Sun and another Shine shed light on a different subject….
  • Quantum thinking — The field of psychology has a basic problem: almost no two psychologists seem to agree on an exact definition of “a thought”. Or an exact definition of love, happiness, sadness, hate or other main concepts – call them “states of mind” – that psychologists study. Because of that, no two psychologists can be confident that when they use the same word, they are both talking about the same thing. That has always made it difficult for psychologists to use maths or physics to analyse, with much precision, almost anything about how people think and feel. The difficulty hasn’t delayed them from trying….
  • Quantum depression — “We believe that our study will serve as a reference for researchers studying similar topics,” say the authors of a physics preprint called “Using quantum computing to find out why students are depressed”. They may be correct.