Addictive Behavior Isn’t Just for Addicts. We’re All Hooked.

Infographics that show how we’re all addicted to something.

One of the hardest things standing in the way of treatment for addiction is the stigma attached to it. A recent study reported addiction patients feeling dehumanized even during the process of recovery, finding themselves “excluded from the decision-making process, discriminated against, ‘treated unfairly’, and [feeling] powerless when interacting in the heath and dental care systems.” Many view addicts as somehow different and unknowable, weak and morally bankrupt. How interesting, then, that “normal people” engage in so many addictive behaviors themselves.


Rehab Pathway has just published the results of a survey they conducted with 1,000 Americans, using questions based on criteria the American Psychological Association uses to assess substance abuse. Rehab Pathway didn’t ask respondents specifically about “substance abuse,” but rather about “normal” everyday dependencies. Subjects were instructed to answer as honestly as they could.

(All of the infographics below are by Rehab Pathway.)

How Many of Us Are Hooked on at Least Three Everyday Activities

A surprising number of men and women said that they were obsessed with doing at least three of the same things each and every day.


Here’s how that shakes out by gender. Shocking — suspicious — finding: 92.9% of women watch explicit porn while only 78.4% of men do?


And it turns out that no matter what kind of work we do, we’re all pretty much creatures of habit, to put it kindly.


How We Feel About Our Daily Java

So more than half of us think we should drink less coffee, but…nah. Especially that 91% of us who would drive more than 10 miles every day for a cuppa Joe.


No Pain, No Gain

We must be a very fit nation with 91% of us so deeply committed to exercise. We’re not? Hm.


Just, Please, Don’t Disconnect Us

This one is maybe the least surprising. We know we’re addicted to the internet, and we only sometimes care.


Addicted to Love, or Something Like It

Okay, porn. Here are the obsessive everyday deets. Such devotion.


Social Creatures

Even though 98.1% of us check our social media accounts first and last thing each day, interestingly, only 31.3% would pay $10 for it.


TV or Not TV. That Is the Question.

The answer? TV. Especially binge-watching, with many of us even willing to lose sleep over it.


Who’s an Addict?

All of these activities are legal, and there’s no risk of going to jail for them, though at times it does seem rehab might be useful. And given how familiar addictive behaviors are to us all, as demonstrated by Rehab Pathway’s data, we can’t really say we don’t understand addiction, even though it’s obviously true that some addictions are more extreme and damaging than others. Looking at ourselves, we can see how dependencies can take hold in any of us, and allowing addiction to remain its stigma — seeing it as something totally foreign to the way we conduct our own lives — isn’t fair, it isn’t kind, and it makes no sense at all.

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It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction

From the study: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/361/6408/eaau1184
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  • It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
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Why "nuclear pasta" is the strongest material in the universe

Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.

Accretion disk surrounding a neutron star. Credit: NASA
Surprising Science
  • The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
  • You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
  • This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.

Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.

Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.

The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.

Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv

Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.

The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.

While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.

One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.

"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"

Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.

The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.

Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.


How a huge, underwater wall could save melting Antarctic glaciers

Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.

Image: NASA
Surprising Science
  • Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
  • Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
  • The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.

The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.

To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.

In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.

An "unthinkable" engineering project

"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.

One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.

The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.

Source: Wolovick et al.

An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.

But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.

Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.

"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.

"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."

A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.

"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."