The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top stories are corridor dynamics, hypnosis, and E-taste.

Article written by Fuad Mosis.

Don’t know where you’re going? We do

We all have an inbuilt satnav which instructs us how best to navigate a crowded area or when it’s dangerous to continue moving forward, usually without a second thought. A team of scientists set out to model the seemingly random pedestrian movement in a university corridor by tracking individuals walking through it over the course of a year. Actually, a ‘preferred’ average path was observed, in both the left-to-right and right-to-left directions of the corridor, as well as fluctuations including long pauses and U-turns. These dynamics were reproduced in a model that was able to integrate this combination of repetitive and random movement. In the future, these models can be applied to understanding pedestrian traffic and crowd control in busy places, including train stations and museums. One day we may even understand what goes down at Oxford Circus. Have a look at the original article or a quick report.

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Image: Corridor dynamics

You are feeling sleepy ((⏱))… and you will believe in hypnosis

Have you ever seen live hypnosis and believed it to be utter hogwash? Science is starting to give us some answers on its validity. One research team used ‘intentional binding’ as a tool to test how effective hypnosis is. This is a phenomenon where an action and its subsequent result are believed to be closer in time to each other if the action is voluntary, compared to involuntary. Participants pushed a button that produced a sound after a short delay. This was done either voluntarily or under involuntary conditions, in which their finger was tied to a loop pulled by the research staff. The time difference they perceived between action and sound for the voluntary state was much shorter than the involuntary state. Under hypnosis, participants were told that their finger would automatically move to press the button following a handclap. Interestingly, the perceived time between pressing the button and the sound was much closer to that seen in the involuntary state of the initial test. This could scientifically prove that hypnotised people are more vulnerable to the power of suggestion. See the original article for more information or a detailed summary.

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Image: Hypnosis in action

Fancy a drink (online)?

This one is for the online socialite, especially if you enjoy sending snaps of your creations in the kitchen. Now you can also share the ‘taste’ of your drink online. One team used a colour sensor alongside a pH meter to accurately record the colour and acidity of lemonade and transmit this information to a tumbler in another location. The acidity readings were transformed into electric pulses to replicate the sourness of the original lemonade picked up by the consumer’s taste buds, meanwhile elegant lighting systems replicated the colour. While this is only the first step in digitally recording what a drink tastes like, recording the actual flavour remains an ambition for the foreseeable future. Such technology could allow consumers to enjoy binary alternatives of their favourite beverages as opposed to the sugary and acidic originals. Check out this great article for more details.

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Image: Pixel cocktails

Article written by Fuad Mosis.