Degrees of Separation: When You're Most Optimistic, How Much Time You Spend Blinking and More

By Anna FunkAug 7, 2019 5:00 PM
Blink GIF - Wikimedia Commons
(Credit: Frank van Marwijk/Wikimedia Commons)


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18 Sextillion Years

That’s 18 trillion billions, or about one trillion times the age of the universe — and it’s also the half-life of a radioactive form, or isotope, of the element xenon. Researchers at Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory recently made the first direct observation of the isotope’s nuclear decay; they believe studying such uber-slow isotopic decays ultimately may help them spot dark matter. 

55 Years Old

The age at which optimism is highest, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis. Optimism is lowest in people’s 20s, then rises through middle age before plateauing at age 55, suggests the study of 1,169 adults. 

6 Times

How much faster than average your DNA ages if you’re a medical resident. A study published in Biological Psychiatry measured the length of telomeres — parts of chromosomes that shorten as you grow older — before and after the first-year residency of 250 brand-new doctors. Over the course of a year, the researchers found that the residents’ telomeres shortened six times more than the average general population rate; they linked the accelerated shrinkage to the new doctors’ long work hours. 

16 Minutes 

The amount of sleep that could make or break your workday, according to a new study in Sleep Health. Researchers found that losing just a quarter of an hour compared with your normal amount of shut-eye decreased focus and increased stress at work the following day.

10 Percent

How much of your waking day is spent with your eyes closed, thanks to blinking. Your brain doesn’t notice this, though, because it just picks up on the visual stimulus right where it left off. In essence, this pauses your perception of time, according to a new study in Psychological Science

100 Nanometers

The size of the tiniest-ever pixels — the lit-up cells that make up an image on a screen — in a new material engineered by researchers at the University of Cambridge. The tech uses teeny tiny gold particles spread across a reflective surface to trap light. Electricity can change the particles’ chemical composition such that they change color. And the whole system scales up so easily, it could be used to create giant flexible displays the size of buildings. 

[This story originally appeared in print as "Degrees of Separation."]

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