Profile: Jyoti Madhusoodanan

I grew up across India in six different cities. With each move, I constructed mental landscapes of home by asking endless questions about everything around me, from plants, rocks and weather patterns to festivals, languages and diverse lifestyles. Factual answers grounded my perceptions of these changing geographies.
The joy of inquiry led me across continents to graduate school, where I tracked a viral hitchhiker through bacterial genomes using DNA sequences and electron microscopes. However, turning data into research papers left me unsatisfied. Over time, I learned that the nuances that completed my childhood explorations were people: their histories and their journeys to fathom the places we lived.
Finding these human elements of scientific discovery captivates me. Every question-filled trip reveals another personal tale of science—and takes me home to a new story.

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NoteStreams By Jyoti Madhusoodanan

Understanding Fear: What Scares Us Most

Maybe you’ve seen a ghost, or been told the house in the above picture is haunted, or watched enough scary movies to associate houses like this with spooks.But which of these three is the most likely to scare you away?
Fear is a conditioned response, meaning that we learn to be afraid through a variety of mechanisms, including past experiences, direct instruction, and learned associations. There’s little evidence, though, to show whether one kind of conditioning is stronger than the other.
Studies could help us understand how we learn to avoid stimuli that are perceived as unpleasant even in the absence of repeated exposure, and perhaps eventually point to ways that we could overcome some fears.

Category: Science

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Need to Listen Carefully? Look Away!

A dish clatters to the floor, and you spin around to view the damage. A friend calls out from beyond your line of sight, and you turn toward the sound. We’re instinctively aware that looking at the source of a sound makes it easier to understand—except when your eyes trick your brain into hearing things.
In a phenomenon known as the McGurk illusion, the syllables you hear sound different if you simultaneously watch a person’s mouth moving in the shape of another syllable.
Seeing is believing for this!

Category: Science

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Is Climate Change Impacting Coffee?

When thinking about the impact of changing climate (increased droughts, wilder fluctuations in seasons) and increasing pest activity on food production—my thoughts tend toward crops such as rice, wheat, and corn. Not so much wine, chocolate, or coffee, though I probably consume more coffee throughout the day than I do these other staples.
A recent study showed that warming air and land temperatures can change the distribution of the coffee berry borer - a critter that causes exceeding $500 million per year...
Is your coffee in peril?

Category: Science

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