The Pleasure of the Tweet

David Linden: It turns out that we humans are hardwired to get a pleasure buzz from uncertainty.  You might think that when you gamble, you only see the pleasure circuit of the brain activated when you win.  And that’s not true.  So imagine if we have you in a brain scanner, and we’ve got a little video roulette wheel up on the screen. And it spins, and then the ball falls into the roulette wheel slot, and you win or you lose. 

Well, it turns out that if we image your brain in that interval that while the ball is spinning on the roulette wheel, you have increasing activation of your pleasure circuit.  You’re not just getting pleasure when you win; you’re actually getting a pleasure buzz during that period of uncertainty. 

Now, I think that has a real important implication for email, text messaging, instant messaging and Twitter.  So what happens?  You’re walking down the street, your phone buzzes or beeps in your pocket.  You pull it out.  You look on your Smart Phone and you’ve got a message and then you get to read it.  Well, the buzz in your pocket is signaling you’re going to get information pretty soon.  You don’t know what it is, but you’re going to get it.  And I think if we had you in a brain scanner during the time when you’re getting that out of your pocket and you’re opening up your phone and you’re getting to look at… we would see that same slow mounting activation of your pleasure circuitry that we see while the ball was spinning in the roulette wheel.  And then depending on what the message is, well, that might be either pleasurable or not pleasurable depending on the content of the message. 

But I think uncertainty and our predisposition for liking it is central to the addictive, pleasurable quality of modern electronic messaging. 


Directed by Jonathan Fowler
Produced by Elizabeth Rodd

Do digital media have any sweeping, unique pleasure-giving qualities? David J. Linden, Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says the effect is a lot like the pleasure we get from gambling.

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

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  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.