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6 Discoveries You Can Read In Open Access Journals

This week is Open Access Week, a week highlighting scientific research that the public can access. Here are six things you could learn from Open Access papers.

1. Your words reveal who you are

Schwartz et al. 2013 / Via dx.doi.org

A study of 75,000 people on Facebook by scientists showed they could make a good guess about your gender from what you posted. That’s not just a matter of checking if Barney or Betty said something. The actual words used in updates tend to be used by one sex and not another. If you talk a lot about shopping you’re more likely to be a Wilma than a Fred. They were also able to track Age, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness. Read about it at DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0073791

2. Peru’s past could provide the medicine of the future

Bussmann and Sharon 2006 / Via dx.doi.org

The people of what is now northern Peru have been practicing traditional medicine for over two thousand years. Some plants were first used by the Moche people, 100 CE and can still be found in the markets of Trujillo today. While the cures for magical illnesses aren’t likely to be popular oustide Peru, there are remedies for physical problems that might prove useful with testing. The testing will have to be quick though, a lot of the plants traditionally used are disappearing. Read about it at DOI:10.1186/1746-4269-2-47

3. The market for tinfoil hats is bigger than you realise

Andrew Gray / Via Flickr: 97534175@N00

It’s easy to dismiss someone who disagrees with you as a conspiracy theorist, but could it actually be true? Scientists have analysed opposition to scientific consensus on three issues, Global Warming, Vaccination and GM Foods. If this were a matter of political alignment then opposition would split along predictable lines. In fact they found that an ability to believe in conspiracies was the key factor in rejecting science. Not only that, but the more evidence you publish showing a conspiracy isn’t real, the more it proves to doubters that the conspiracy is real. Conspiracy theorists aren’t stupid, they’re creative. If you want to read more you can, but it’s not likely to change your mind. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075637

4. If you want to look older, lie on a riverbed

William Murphy / Via Flickr: 80824546@N00

Carbon dating is done by comparing the isotopes of two carbon atoms, Carbon-12 and Carbon-14. Usually when scientists carbon date something, they assume the artefact has just been lying around with no interference. If there’s only half the Carbon-14 you’d normally expect in something, compared to Carbon-12, you know it’s around 5000 years old. But what if something interfered with the carbon, and replaced the Carbon-14? Research shows that rivers percolating through limestone are picking up a lot of very old carbon and this will replace some carbon of waterlogged archaeological artefacts in freshwater. Some artefacts can look thousands of years older than they really are. Read about it at DOI:10.1186/2050-7445-1-24

5. Nothing predicts weather like an insect on a date

Pellegrino et al. 2013 / Via dx.doi.org

You can use the sexual habits of insects to predict the weather, if that’s the kind of thing you want to do. Insects keep an eye on the weather because it could be the difference between life and death. Scientists have found one way they do this is by sensing atmospheric pressure. When pressure drops a storm could be on its way. Sure enough, beetles responded by being much less interested in sex than usual. Male armyworms in contrast don’t like rising pressures. It means you can use insects as a kind of natural barometer. Read about it at DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0075004

6. Global Warming could mean the end of wine as we know it

Alan Antiporda / Via Flickr: 9153440@N06

Wine isn’t simply about growing the right grapes, it’s about growing them in the right place. Global warming could make some regions very difficult places to grow grapes. Oddly, it’s not the heat when the sun is out that’s the problem. Night time temperatures are higher too, and these are heating the soil. The increased temperature means that plants are losing more water than usual at night. It’s possible that some wine growing will migrate, but that could be a problem for wines that are legally tied to a specific region. Read about it at DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcs298

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