The Pulse

Happy Birthday, America! To celebrate the holiday, we dig into the science that makes fireworks sparkle, flags durable, and hot dogs delicious. Plus, what brain researchers are learning about the pursuit of happiness and feelings of patriotism.

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Monday, July 3, 2017 Permalink

Science And The Fourth Of July

The Tahoe Daily Tribune, Jonah M. Kessel / AP Photo
 

The Tahoe Daily Tribune, Jonah M. Kessel / AP Photo

Happy Birthday, America! From the very beginning, science has shaped this country. Many of the Founding Fathers — Madison, Jefferson, Washington — were science geeks, and their methodical way of thinking is reflected in the Declaration of Independence. To celebrate the holiday, we dig into the science that makes fireworks sparkle, flags durable, and hot dogs delicious. Plus, what brain researchers are learning about the pursuit of happiness and feelings of patriotism. 
 

Science-minded men

Many of America’s founders had a passion for science. We visit the American Philosophical Society - America's oldest scientific society founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin, to hear how scientific thought influenced the minds - and political pursuits - of the founders.

HOT DOGS

It’s July 4th a and time for all that traditional food including the very American hot dog. But at a time when there’s a lot of focus in the U.S. on healthy eating, the dog doesn’t stack up very well. The salt, fat and nitrate content alone can cause anything from cancer to heart disease to high blood pressure. And that doesn’t even cover the side dishes and how we cook our dogs which could also come with a health warning. So what’s a patriotic hot dog lover to do? Can we have our hot dog and eat it too? The Pulse’s Elana Gordon meets up with a nutritionist to discover if there’s such a thing as healthy hot dog and how we can add it to our Independence Day menu.

Psychology of Patriotism, interview

Social and cognitive scientist Emile Bruneau says that patriotism comes down to empathy: typically, we have more empathy for our “in group” and less empathy for those in the “out group.” He says this insular behavior (now patriotism) developed because it was evolutionarily advantageous, and he’s particularly interested in how it applies to nations and groups in conflict with one another.

Science in movies

Holiday weekend in the summer means: Blockbuster movies!

Does it matter whether or not Hollywood blockbusters defy the laws of physics? The National Academy of Science has a service for Hollywood directors and writers to get help from scientists, but it’s not just a team of science fact checkers, the point is to for people in the entertainment industry to meet actual scientists and get inspiration from real research. We’ll meet a theoretical physicist who consulted on the upcoming Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok, and a psychologist and trauma expert who says that as a result of how dissociative identity disorder was portrayed in the movie Split, patients have gotten questions from friends and family wondering when they’ll switch and turn into murderers.

Representing America in wool, silk and nylon

The Stars and Stripes are a common sight on July 4th. We explore the history of textile science through the American flag - from its wool origins to invention of nylon. We’ll visit the Betsy Ross house in Philadelphia - and explore the invention of nylon at DuPont in Delaware.

Science of Happiness:

Happiness makes us smarter, healthier and can even help slow down aging, according to a rising wave of research exploring ‘science of positivity.’ Today preschools and universities alike implement the finding of happiness research, and experts say that’s just the tip of iceberg. We explore what’s on the horizon for the science of happiness, and why critics argue we should think twice before drinking the happiness koolaid.