Scientific Life Hacks (Part Two) by Angelica Y. Yang


And we're back with the second part of our science life hacks! In the first segment, we discussed how to make life easier inside the kitchen, and at parties using basic scientific principles. In this second segment, we will share how to make the most out of your coffee experience (calling out all the coffee lovers out there!), as well as the science behind a brain freeze - and how to cure it in seconds!

Life Hacks for Coffee

Need a quick energy boost for a study session? 


Why does coffee keep you awake? Coffee contains a substance called caffeine, a natural plant-produced drug that stimulates the central nervous system, increases alertness, and gives you those temporary energy boosts. Aside from coffee, caffeine can also be found in chocolate, tea, softdrinks, and pain relievers. 

When you drink coffee, caffeine passes through your small intestine and gets absorbed into your bloodstream. Without caffeine, the energy receptors in your brain bind themselves to adenosine molecules, chemical compounds that cause drowsiness. When caffeine replaces the adenosine molecules and bind to your brain's energy receptors, the reverse happens. The nerve cells speed up, and give you a jolt of energy. 

How is this related to napping for 20 minutes? Well, science tells us that sleep actually clears adenosine from the brain, allowing the caffeine to bind to your brain receptors. Be sure to set your alarm clock to exactly 20 minutes. If you sleep longer than that, you can get sleep inertia, which makes it more difficult for you to wake up. For the caffeine to bind with your brain receptors, you must be fully awake. 

Want better-tasting coffee? 


To make a great cup of coffee, you have to chill your room-temperature coffee beans in the fridge before grinding them. Scientists from the University of Bath discovered that cold coffee beans produced a better and fuller coffee flavor.

"The key is particle distribution," they wrote in a full report published in the April 2016 issue of Nature magazine. "Grinding colder coffee beans produces a more uniform particle distribution, with decreased particle size."

Cooling the coffee beans also significantly decreases how much mass is lost when they're subjected to sublimation and evaporation in brewing. The results are increased flavor, and enhanced aroma.

Now, you may be wondering, how cold does the coffee bean have to be? Just remember: the colder, the better! The colder your coffee beans are, the finer and more uniform the particles will be from the grind.

Is your coffee too bitter?


Many netizens online say that adding a pinch of salt - either to the grounds before brewing, or directly into a brewed cup - will cancel out the bitterness in coffee. Science tells us that the molecules of salt bind to the part of our taste buds that detect bitter flavors, and block them properly binding. 

To prove that salt actually made coffee less bitter, The Huffington Post conducted a blind taste test involving three coffee samples: two of which each had a pinch of salt, and one which had none. Although the salt made the two coffee samples more "full-bodied", both still tasted quite salty. The Huffington Post then concluded that while salt did reduce the bitterness, it made the coffee taste, well, salty. Another alternative would be adding cream and sugar, which would have the same effect of "mellowing" out the bitterness of coffee. 

 Instant Cures Backed by Science

Beat insomnia and get a good night's rest


According to the Valley Sleep Center website, your circadian rhythm can be likened to your body's internal clock. Why do you feel sleepy during the afternoon, or why do you take long naps, then suddenly find yourself super energetic at night? That's because of your circadian rhythm, which regulates your sleep patterns and energy levels. 

The human body is programmed to get tired when it is dark, and be alert when there is light. However, this is not the same with electric light, the same light that our touchscreen phones and laptops have. Because of electric light which can be very bright, your body may be 'tricked' into believing that it is still daytime, even though it's already past midnight.

So how do you get your circadian rhythm back on track? Researchers from Harvard Medical School state that your body may have a secondary food clock that works like the circadian rhythm, but instead of being triggered by light, it is triggered by hunger.

Initial research shows that fasting, or not eating for 12-16 hours will short-cut the circadian rhythm's normal triggers and reset your body clock. Don't forget to drink lots of water if you plan to do this. Also, your first meal after fasting must be a healthy one. 

Un-freeze your brain in seconds!


Whenever you're quickly gulping down an ice-cold Slurpee on a hot day, you can get that numb and tingly feeling in your brain. That, my friend, is called a brain freeze.

A brain freeze is your body's way of telling you to slow down with eating cold food, and to take it easy. When you put something cold on your tongue, you are rapidly changing the temperature of your body, causing a surge of blood into your brain. The increased flow of blood may be a temperature-regulation mechanism.

When your brain detects something cold, it tells your body to pump more blood to the brain to keep it functioning in a warm environment. However, this activity may raise the pressure inside the skull and cause brief headaches known as brain freeze. 

When you get a brain freeze, stop drinking the Slurpee. Next, quickly hold your tongue up to the roof of your mouth or drink something warm to normalize your mouth's temperature. 

Enjoyed the second part of The Mind Museum Blog's Science Hacks? Like and share this post to keep your friends and family updated about the wonderful world of science!

REFERENCES: 

1. Asprey, D. (2016). Coffee Naps: The Bulletproof Power Nap, Explained. Retrieved from: https://blog.bulletproof.com/coffee-naps-bulletproof-power-nap/
2. Caffeine. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/caffeine.html
3. Can You Correct Your Circadian Rhythm? (2011). Retrieved from http://valleysleepcenter.com/can-you-correct-your-circadian-rhythm/
4. Fung, B. (n.d.). The Science of Brain Freeze (!). Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/04/the-science-of-brain-freeze/256235/
5. Lasher, M. (2016). Science Finally Figured Out How To Make Coffee Even Better. Retrieved from http://time.com/4370061/coffee-hack-cold-beans/
6. Thomson, J.R. (n.d.). Adding Salt To Your Coffee Reduces Bitterness: Fact or Fiction? Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/13/salt-in-coffee-fact-fiction_n_6462404.html
7. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "Neuroscientists explain how the sensation of brain freeze works." ScienceDaily, 22 May 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130522095335.htm

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