Science Briefs: Using smartphones won’t ease depression

Researchers: Depressed people who turn to their smartphones for relief may only be making things worse.
Researchers: Depressed people who turn to their smartphones for relief may only be making things worse. AP

Don’t count on smartphone to ease depression

Depressed people who turn to their smartphones for relief may only be making things worse.

A team of researchers found that people who substitute electronic interaction for the real-life human kind find little if any satisfaction. In a paper published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, they argue that relying on a mobile phone to ease one’s woes just doesn’t work.

Using a mobile phone for temporary relief from negative emotions could worsen psychological conditions and spiral into unregulated and problematic use of mobile phones, said Michigan State University’s Prabu David.

“The research bears out that despite all the advances we’ve made, there is still a place for meaningful, face-to-face interaction,” he said. “The mobile phone can do a range of things that simulate human interaction. It seduces us into believing it’s real, but the fact remains it’s still synthetic.”

New iPhone app can ID region’s plants

The N.C. Botanical Garden at UNC-Chapel Hill has released a new iPhone app – FloraQuest – that provides mobile devices with the contents of the 1,320 page “Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States,” a comprehensive guide to the identification, taxonomy, habitats and distribution of more than 7,000 vascular plants native to the Southeast.

The app, which was developed by the UNC Herbarium at the NCBG, allows users to pinpoint and identify specific plants by answering key questions about the plant and providing definitions of botanical terms. The app is currently available at the Apple Store for $7.99.

Free presentation about raptors

In an ever-changing environment, birds of prey – such as hawks, owls and falcons – have had to adapt to changes in their habitat. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, the Charlotte Nature Museum is hosting “Wisdom of the Woods: Raptor Rapture,” a presentation about the biology of these birds and the struggles they face. Museum staffers will be joined by representatives from the Carolina Raptor Center who will talk about the center’s life-saving and rehabilitative services. The event is free and does not require museum admission. The museum is at 1658 Sterling Road. Details: Staff reports

A little norovirus can go a long way

Researchers at N.C. State and Wake Forest University have reported the first direct evidence that vomiting can spray virus particles similar to norovirus – better known as “the winter vomiting bug.”

“When one person vomits, the aerosolized virus particles can get into another person’s mouth and, if swallowed, can lead to infection,” said N.C. State professor Lee-Ann Jaykus, co-author of a paper reporting the work. “Those airborne particles could also land on nearby surfaces like tables and door handles, causing environmental contamination. And norovirus can hang around for weeks, so anyone that touches that table and then puts their hand to their mouth could be at risk for infection.”

The paper was published this month in the journal PLOS ONE.

The research team developed and used a vomiting device that allowed them to precisely control the volume, viscosity and pressure of simulated vomiting. “At most, only 0.02 percent of the total virus in the vomit was aerosolized,” Jaykus said. “But that can still amount to thousands of virus particles – more than enough to infect other people.”