Weekly: Is personalised medicine overhyped?; Pythagoras was wrong about music; How your brain sees nothing

Weekly: Is personalised medicine overhyped?; Pythagoras was wrong about music; How your brain sees nothing

By New Scientist


Two decades ago, following the Human Genome Project’s release of a first draft in 2001, genetic testing was set to revolutionise healthcare. “Personalised medicine” would give us better treatments for serious conditions, clear pictures of our risks and individualised healthcare recommendations. But despite all the genetic tests available, that healthcare revolution has not exactly come to fruition. Amid news that genetic testing poster child firm 23andMe has hit financial troubles, we ask whether personalised medicine was overhyped.

Ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras once established strict mathematical rules for what constitutes pleasing music – those rules involve ratios and harmonies that were the basis of much of Western music theory. But comprehensive new research finds people’s preferences have little to do with Pythagoras’ rules.

The invention of the numeral zero to represent nothing is a cornerstone of some of our greatest accomplishments as a species, like calculus, literature and philosophy. Now researchers have figured out how our brains comprehend the idea of nothing – and it may have started as registering the absence of predators, prey, or even weather conditions. The experiment finds where “nothing” lives in our brain and traces back the invention of the numeral zero to our animal roots.

If you want to make friends with a dog but are wary of petting them, there is a way. All you need to do is follow them around and copy their movements. Research into this behavioural synchronisation could prove beneficial to helping nervous pups connect better with people.

Plus: Making plankton poo heavier with clay – for the environment; YouTube’s recommendation algorithm seems to have stopped inadvertently radicalising people; the specific chemical compounds that make an orange taste orangey.

Hosts Christie Taylor and Timothy Revell discuss with guests Clare Wilson, Jacob Aron, James Woodford and Sam Wong. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com.

Music credit:

“Bonang,” Wesleyan University Virtual Instrument Museum 2.0, accessed February 29th, 2024, https://wesomeka.wesleyan.edu/vim2/items/show/3

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