Issue 18


In this issue:

  • How to become a member of the coolest new club on the internet.

  • How city layouts can affect your navigation skills (or lack thereof).

  • Dough-n't be surprised by this future pizza option.

  • Seeing men everywhere, cracking knuckles, and how UV light might play a role in the future.

We know April Fool's was last week, but we wanted to play. One of the stories in this issue is a lie, can you find it?
(Hint: it's not the first one)
~Lab Leaks

Not to be shellfish 🦐, but this story is actually about us.

We have some exciting news that we just couldn’t wait to share so we figured — screw it, we’ll write the first story about ourselves.

Well don’t leave me hanging.

A few issues ago, we invited you (our beloved readers) to start sending us stories to cover in the newsletter. Much to our delight, we’ve received submissions for almost every issue since then. Now, we’re matching that enthusiasm and taking things to the next level through an elite membership program .

What does that mean?

Starting today, you can show off your love for Lab Leaks by signing up to become a member of the new and improved Leak Curator program (if you’re worried that it sounds like a lot of work, we pinky promise it’s not). As a Leak Curator, you’ll receive one additional email from us per month containing a shortlist of potential story ideas, like this:


You just vote for the one you like the best, and we’ll feature the winning story in the next issue!

What’s in it for me?

If getting to choose what goes in the next issue isn't enough, we’re also instituting a shiny new point system for handing out rewards. If you vote for the story that ends up winning, you earn a point. Get enough points, and you can cash them in for exclusive Lab Leaks merchandise.

Anything else?

Curators will also be able to submit general topics that they might want to learn more about. Confused about blockchain? Hit us up. Heard about a new disease but don’t know how to make sense of it? Let us know. Anything (science-related) you send our way, we'll try and incorporate in an upcoming Lab Leaks issue.

That's a lot of perks.

Well, we wanted you to feel special. All of this (and potentially more in the future) is yours — all you gotta do is tell us what you like. Seems like a pretty good deal, tbh.


The Leak: Our goal at Lab Leaks has always been to bring science to the people, and building a community of readers is part of that. Now, you can opt-in as a member of the Leak Curator program to shape the future of Lab Leaks (in return for a boatload of rewards ⛵🎁). Sign up here (seriously, you won’t regret it).


Why are some people so bad at navigation?

Sense of direction is extremely variable from one person to the next. Some folks walk around like they have a GPS in their head. Others struggle to find the back door of their own house. What exactly creates these differences? It turns out — age, gender, education, and…the city you grew up in?

I’m intrigued.

A group of scientists carried out a massive experiment with almost 400,000 people across 38 countries using a phone video game app called Sea Hero Quest. The point of the game is to navigate around a virtual world, searching for hidden sea creatures. As people played, the scientists analyzed whether the environment that one grew up in could influence their in-game navigation abilities.

What did they find?

In general, people who grew up in rural areas were much better at navigating around the game than city-dwellers. It was almost as if individuals who grew up in structured, planned urban environments were overall less skilled at figuring out directions than those who grew up in rural areas where the streets were longer and more winding. Further backing up this theory, people who grew up in unplanned, organically laid-out (aka chaotic) cities like New Delhi outperformed their counterparts from grid-like (aka boring) cities like Chicago.

What if I moved somewhere as an adult?

Unfortunately, the city you live in now doesn’t seem to matter. It’s where you were raised as a child that largely predicts how well you navigate.


The Leak: According to a new study, the entropy of the environment you were raised in can have long-lasting effects on your navigation skills. Grew up reading street signs in a neatly ordered grid? Be prepared to struggle (sorry New Yorkers).


Camembert our story about vegan cheese? Time to gear up for part 2...

Yeast-less pizza dough. Some people realllly can’t tolerate yeast, making classically leavened bread a non-starter for them. A team of Italian materials scientists couldn’t bear the fact that there are people out there who can’t eat pizza, so they decided to take matters into their own hands.

Why is making pizza dough without yeast so hard?

Yeast helps create air pockets in the dough so that it rises in the oven. While baking soda can also achieve this effect, chemical additives tend to alter the unique properties (viscosity, taste, stretchiness, etc.) that make pizza dough so damn mouthwatering. In a recent paper, scientists report an alternate method to “gas-foam” the pizza dough in a high pressure chamber, injecting it with a ton of tiny air bubbles (kinda like carbonating a beverage). Bake this gas-foamed dough, and voila — you get a puffy, risen pizza base.


The Leak: If you’ve sworn off of pizza because you can’t eat yeast, gas-foamed pizza doughs are coming to the rescue. Finally, someone’s putting the scientific method to good use.

Find people who crack their knuckles annoying?

Next time, you can let them know that their knuckle-popping habit may increase their odds for contracting arthritis. A new longitudinal study looked at two cohorts of individuals (labeled “crackers'' and “non-crackers”) over the span of four decades. Overall, the crackers ended up with twice as many arthritis cases as their non knuckle-cracking counterparts. Pretty knucked up, if you ask us.


Ever looked at an object and thought it resembles a face?

You’re not alone — most people have a tendency to see faces that don’t really exist, even in inanimate objects. This phenomenon (called Pareidolia) has long fascinated scientists. According to two new studies, both children and adults are more likely to perceive such illusory faces as male rather than female. Talk about subconscious sexism.

If you're in the market for a futuristic air purifier...

Might we suggest some UV lights instead. According to a new study, a specific type of UV light called “far-UVC” (emphasis on the far at 222 nanometers), can reduce indoor airborne microbes by 98%. Far-UVC appears to be safe for people (but deadly for bacteria and viruses, including Covid-19), making it potentially a valuable tool for fighting contagious airborne illnesses (we hear those are kind of a problem right now).

In case you missed it:

  • What'll take longer, clinical trials or changing attitudes towards male contraception? 🤔

Did you figure out which story was fake?

You may think it's true, but
knuckle cracking doesn't actually lead to arthritis. Crack away!

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