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New infographics show how Americans cope with hurricanes

Some stress out. Some read. Some drink.

Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty
  • New infographics reveal how we deal with approaching hurricanes.
  • We're ultimately defenseless, but here's how we get though it all.
  • Among the storm prep essentials? Alcohol.

As weather becomes more extreme, we can expect the intensity of hurricanes to be on the rise. As it is, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the average yearly costs are already about $28 billion. Most of that tab has been run up in just three states: Florida, Texas, and Louisiana. Of course, these aren't the only states seeing catastrophic weather, and the dollar amount doesn't begin the describe the often devastating impact of big storms on victims' lives.

Farah & Farah, a law firm specializing in personal injuries, decided to find out what people who are experienced in surviving hurricanes do to get ready. Using Amazon's Mechanical Turk, they questioned 1,200 storm veterans about what the approach of a big storm means to them and how they prepare for, and handle, trouble weather. A page of revealing infographics, dubbed Handling Hurricanes, is the result.

No biggie. Or yes biggie.

When asked just how stressful they find an approaching storm, it turns out that people from Georgia, which has had relatively few hurricane disasters, are the most bothered of anybody. Louisiana and Texas come in next, which makes sense given their track record. Surprisingly, Floridians, the people who are far and away most clobbered by big storms, are surprisingly blithe about them, at least compared to Georgians. (Sunshine Staters are a breed apart, and we'll have a closer look at them later.)

Ants and grasshoppers

No one in a region that regularly experiences hurricanes can say they're totally surprised when the dark clouds come rolling in. But, like the children's story of the ant and the grasshopper, some people plan ahead, remaining in a state of preparedness, and some people wait until a storm is bearing down. Storm prep costs can add up, especially right before clouds roll in, when the scarcity of supplies and food causes prices to spike — if goods are still available at all. A rational case could be made for preparing before the weather turns.

That having been said, the survey found that nearly 70 percent of people wait until close to the last minute to get ready. Standing out as most forward-thinking are Louisianans, who have seen with Katrina just how bad a storm and its aftermath can be, and how coming back afterward can take a very long time, when it's possible at all.

Different strokes

Of course, what preparing for a hurricane means depends on who you ask, and the survey revealed how the answer may depend on your age.

Baby Boomers, who generally do a more through prep, consider their number one task to fill a bathtub with potable water. For Gen Xers and Millennials, the prime directive is to take pictures of valuables for post-maelstrom insurance claims. Millennials also consider it important to fashion a headlamp of some sort — you never know when selfies will be taken.

Since all normal activity is on hold...

If you haven't been evacuated from your home as the darkness falls, what's next? You're as ready as you can be, so...

Most people, by far, read during a big storm, at least as long as they have light to read by, presumably. For women, the second-most common bad-weather activity is having deep conversations. Men aren't far behind — it's their third place choice. In second for men is listening to music, and third place for women? Zzzzzzz.

Storm sex? Sure, for 35.6 percent of men, but just 23.4 percent of women. There could be a few different reasons for the disparity. We'll leave that little guessing game to you.

Ten percent of women make shadow puppets. Aw. For those wishing it would just stop — likely people with young children — there are pillow forts to be built. Aw, again.

Then there's that 25.4 percent of women and 27.2 percent of men…

Stormy (hic) weather

So about that 25.4 percent of women and 27.2 percent of men, hurricane readiness must include acquiring hooch. Their favorite thing to drink as the world maybe ends is — no surprise — beer.

Drinkin' in the rain...

About half of those surveyed who drink go out during the madness for fun. People full of liquid courage also brave the elements for less ridiculous reasons, such as evacuating — hopefully someone else is driving — and performing rescues and repairs.

Half of the people surveyed don't go out. Darwinism at work?

About those Floridians

It's by no means the case that people from Florida get so many storms that they don't care. It's just that it's part of life there, and Farah & Farah thus award them their own breakdown.

In three of the five examined regional areas, about 70 percent of respondents buy alcohol when preparing for a storm. Only in the cities of Tampa, St. Pete, and Clearwater do less than half of the people surveyed liquor-up, even though they're the most stressed by approaching storms. Still, a solid majority of these people go out during storms — in fact, in Jacksonville, only 9.1% don't. Yipes.

Don’t mess with Mother Nature

Sorry. Too late. We have. It certainly feels like weather is getting more extreme, and recent storms seem to have served as an inflection point for many people regarding their attitudes about climate change. Turns out the dire warnings have been optimistic — it wasn't supposed to get so crazy so soon, right? Vox recently published a great article describing what our options going forward are. It turns out it may not be too late just yet. It's well worth a read.

Hulu's original movie "Palm Springs" is the comedy we needed this summer

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.

Gear
  • Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
  • As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
  • The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
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Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

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Our ‘little brain’ turns out to be pretty big

The multifaceted cerebellum is large — it's just tightly folded.

Image source: Sereno, et al
Mind & Brain
  • A powerful MRI combined with modeling software results in a totally new view of the human cerebellum.
  • The so-called 'little brain' is nearly 80% the size of the cerebral cortex when it's unfolded.
  • This part of the brain is associated with a lot of things, and a new virtual map is suitably chaotic and complex.

Just under our brain's cortex and close to our brain stem sits the cerebellum, also known as the "little brain." It's an organ many animals have, and we're still learning what it does in humans. It's long been thought to be involved in sensory input and motor control, but recent studies suggests it also plays a role in a lot of other things, including emotion, thought, and pain. After all, about half of the brain's neurons reside there. But it's so small. Except it's not, according to a new study from San Diego State University (SDSU) published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

A neural crêpe

A new imaging study led by psychology professor and cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno of the SDSU MRI Imaging Center reveals that the cerebellum is actually an intricately folded organ that has a surface area equal in size to 78 percent of the cerebral cortex. Sereno, a pioneer in MRI brain imaging, collaborated with other experts from the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands.

So what does it look like? Unfolded, the cerebellum is reminiscent of a crêpe, according to Sereno, about four inches wide and three feet long.

The team didn't physically unfold a cerebellum in their research. Instead, they worked with brain scans from a 9.4 Tesla MRI machine, and virtually unfolded and mapped the organ. Custom software was developed for the project, based on the open-source FreeSurfer app developed by Sereno and others. Their model allowed the scientists to unpack the virtual cerebellum down to each individual fold, or "folia."

Study's cross-sections of a folded cerebellum

Image source: Sereno, et al.

A complicated map

Sereno tells SDSU NewsCenter that "Until now we only had crude models of what it looked like. We now have a complete map or surface representation of the cerebellum, much like cities, counties, and states."

That map is a bit surprising, too, in that regions associated with different functions are scattered across the organ in peculiar ways, unlike the cortex where it's all pretty orderly. "You get a little chunk of the lip, next to a chunk of the shoulder or face, like jumbled puzzle pieces," says Sereno. This may have to do with the fact that when the cerebellum is folded, its elements line up differently than they do when the organ is unfolded.

It seems the folded structure of the cerebellum is a configuration that facilitates access to information coming from places all over the body. Sereno says, "Now that we have the first high resolution base map of the human cerebellum, there are many possibilities for researchers to start filling in what is certain to be a complex quilt of inputs, from many different parts of the cerebral cortex in more detail than ever before."

This makes sense if the cerebellum is involved in highly complex, advanced cognitive functions, such as handling language or performing abstract reasoning as scientists suspect. "When you think of the cognition required to write a scientific paper or explain a concept," says Sereno, "you have to pull in information from many different sources. And that's just how the cerebellum is set up."

Bigger and bigger

The study also suggests that the large size of their virtual human cerebellum is likely to be related to the sheer number of tasks with which the organ is involved in the complex human brain. The macaque cerebellum that the team analyzed, for example, amounts to just 30 percent the size of the animal's cortex.

"The fact that [the cerebellum] has such a large surface area speaks to the evolution of distinctively human behaviors and cognition," says Sereno. "It has expanded so much that the folding patterns are very complex."

As the study says, "Rather than coordinating sensory signals to execute expert physical movements, parts of the cerebellum may have been extended in humans to help coordinate fictive 'conceptual movements,' such as rapidly mentally rearranging a movement plan — or, in the fullness of time, perhaps even a mathematical equation."

Sereno concludes, "The 'little brain' is quite the jack of all trades. Mapping the cerebellum will be an interesting new frontier for the next decade."

Economists show how welfare programs can turn a "profit"

What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?

A homeless man faces Wall Street

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
  • It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
  • The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
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