Daily Orbit – Doggie Empathy

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 12,936
    8-8-13: On this episode of the Daily Orbit, dogs mimic your yawns, NASA is looking to a future landing on Jupiter’s moon Europa, and hot cocoa may improve your thinking skills.

    Emerald Robinson: What makes a doggie yawn? Could NASA be headed to Europa in the future? A homozygous look at space travel and it's a go for hot cocoa on the Daily Orbit!

    Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit, I'm Emerald Robinson. We already know that yawns are contagious even for dogs. But a new study finds that dogs respond more frequently to their owner's yawns than to a stranger's.

    What does this mean? Up until now researchers were unclear as to if the dog's reactive yawning was a mild stress response or an empathetic response. They now believe it's probably the latter since they responded more frequently to their master's yawns. They concluded that contagious yawning in dogs is emotionally connected in a similar way to humans. Oh my gosh, sorry.

    Now this is interesting. Jupiter's moon Europa has fascinated astronomers with its Earth-like qualities and possibility for vast oceans. And NASA says we need to find out more. A recently released NASA-backed report looked at how an exploratory mission might work on the surface of this enigma in 2020.

    Though it would take years and millions of miles to happen, a robotic lander on Europa would examine the surface composition, ocean, if it has one and geology. They say it's the most likely place in our solar system beyond Earth to have life today. The lander would conduct experiments in much the same way that Curiosity is on Mars, penetrating Europa's icy surface and looking for biomarkers carried up from the oceans. Interest in Europa has risen in the wake of the recent release of the movie Europa Report, a science fiction thriller that depicts a manned mission to that moon. Thrilling!

    But if there ever was a manned mission to Europa, it might not do a body good. Space travel is hard on the human body and two twins are testing just how hard and it was all their idea. In March 2015, astronaut Scott Kelly will head to the International Space Station while his twin brother Mark, also having some previous space experience will stay here on Earth to attend to his wife Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who survived a 2011 assassination attempt.

    The twins are offering their bodies up for study. Doctors will take observations of the two to understand how different these similar human bodies will be after Scott's year-long stent in space. The project is being called Differential Effects on Homozygous Twin Astronauts Associated with Differences in Exposure to Spaceflight Factors. That's a mouthful.

    Maybe astronauts should take a lot of hot chocolate with them to the ISS. A new study says that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day may help older people keep their brains healthy and thinking skills sharp. Scans showed that the hot cocoa increased blood flow to the brains of people who suffered from impaired blood flow.

    Certain areas of the brain need more energy to complete tasks so they need more blood flow, which is a relationship called neurovascular coupling and it may play a big role in diseases like Alzheimer's. So drink your hot cocoa! That's a doctor's orders that I can definitely follow.

    And you might be tempted to have 3 cups of cocoa after a sleepless night. New research says that people are more likely to reach for junk food than healthier culinary alternatives following a sleepless night. MRI scans showed impaired activity in the frontal lobe, which governs complex-decision making skills-in sleep-deprived participants.

    They also reported increased activity in deeper brain areas linked to rewards. So no sleep blunts the brain's judging and decision-making and amplifies desire. Researchers feel that this may be why those who sleep less tend to be overweight or obese. So sleep enough and have two cups of hot cocoa. Check. And that's all for your Daily Orbit. See you tomorrow Orbiters!