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Hank enlightens you with the science behind the news, including the dynamics of recent "ice quakes," new insights into the neurology of marijuana, and the body language of victorious athletes. Winning!

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body language

pot use and schizophrenia

Welcome fellow curiosity seekers to 2014. Were your holidays marred by, I don't know like, mysterious explosions in the early morning hours? On the morning of Christmas Eve such blasts reportedly awakened people in Toronto, around New Years Eve the same thing in Vermont and New York state. If you live near the Great Lakes or maybe by some other body of water and you've been hearing things go boom in the night then you and your community may be suffering from cryoseism, also known as ice quakes; more accurately frost quakes. 

Cryoseism is a natural phenomenon that occurs when wet ground freezes very quickly as happened in many places during the sudden and severe cold snap that hit much of the US and Canada recently. When saturated ground dips below zero degrees Celsius the water in it freezes, and in the process expands about 9 percent. This creates a sudden build up in pressure that can only be released through the ground's surface. Despite its name, cryoseism isn't actually seismic activity; the bursts tend to be very small, very localized and most of the time they leave no visible trace. So the next time you think you hear explosions on a lake December night, just think of it as nature's way of ringing in the new year. 

2014 is also shaping up to be a banner year for the plant known as Cannabis sativa, also known as marijuana, which can now be used legally even for recreational purposes in Colorado. Last month, new rules went into effect in the state of Washington which made pot legal in 2012 and on December 23 the president of Uruguay signed an order making the drug legal there too.

But as more people are used to getting easier access to pot, scientists are sounding of notes of caution about its use. Doctors at Northwestern University reported recently that daily pot use can actually change the structure of your brain, and not for the better.  The physicians studied people in their 20s who had used pot daily for more than 3 years.  MRI scans found that the region of their brains related to memory had physically shrunk and in some cases, collapsed.  And the younger the people were when they first started using, the more deformed their memory centers were.  Pretty unsurprisingly, these users performed poorly on memory related tasks, compared to control subjects, but the more concerning finding from the study is that the brain abnormalities found in chronic users closely resemble those found in people with schizophrenia, a neurological disease that causes hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and problems with working memory.  You can read all about it in the links below, all I can say is take care of your neurons and they'll take care of you.  

And finally, who doesn't like to feel like a winner?  The Olympic games in Sochi get underway in less than a month, and they are providing their own interesting insights into human behavior.  A new study released today, for instance, reveals that the body language of victory appears to be universal, across time and culture.  A pair of psychologists from San Francisco State University came to this conclusion after they and some observers watched sporting events of many kinds in many countries to read how athletes react when they found out that they had won their event.  The found that the same specific set of gestures came together time and again to form what they call 'a dominance threat display', like aaaughhauah.  In case you've never won anything in your life, I'll describe it to you: arms raised, usually with fists up above the shoulders, chest puffed up, head thrown back, yaaaaaaaah, yeah, it feels good, try it, you just feel better.  Psychologists say that this kind of flaunting is more than mere pride but a physical display of domination over competitors, and it was even observed in athletes who had been blind from birth, suggesting that it is an innate behavior and not learned.  

But you know who I think the winners are?  You, for watching this episode of SciShow News, especially if you're one of our cherished Subbable subscribers.  If you'd like to sponsor a graphic with your name on it, or get a SciShow poster signed by the whole crew, you can learn about these and other perks by going to  And of course, you can also find us on Facebook and Twitter, and don't forget to go to and subscribe.

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