13 science stories for the holiday season (with free access to research)

From the value of tipping and the dangers of de-icing salts to what makes a child's voice angelic — and picking the perfect sausage

Elsevier Research Selection Seasonal Special

[divider]Many of Elsevier's most fascinating scientific studies are summed up in Elsevier's Research Selection, an email sent by the Elsevier Newsroom to health and science journalists. Research included is peer-reviewed and has been publicly available for no more than six weeks (usually as articles-in-press).

The research papers are available to credentialed journalists through free access to ScienceDirect, the world's largest repository of scientific full-text information.

For all of our readers, the studies featured here are freely available for three months, until March 20, 2014.

This is a special edition in recognition of the holiday season, spotlighting some of the latest research on a wide range of topics.


Gifts and giving

On the Complementarity of Prosocial Norms: The Case of Restaurant Tipping During the Holidays

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2013.10.014
'Tis the season of good will — and better tips!

Access for science journalists

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Christmas is a time that often increases voluntary behavior which is intended to benefit another person (prosocial behavior). This research, published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, set out to investigate the well-understood prosocial norm of generosity at Christmas, and the effect this had on tipping behavior. It was found that tipping increased during the holiday season, but this is driven by those who are already generous tippers suggesting that prosocial norms can be complementary.

Social networks and externalities from gift exchange: Evidence from a field experiment

Journal of Public Economics | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2013.08.003
Gift giving improves service

As Christmas draws closer, it could be worth giving some extra thought to who you buy presents for – maybe your doctor should be on the list. Research, published in the Journal of Public Economics, examined what happened when patients gave a small gift to their doctor at a Chinese hospital outpatient clinic. Researchers found that when patients gave a small gift, doctors reciprocated with better service and fewer unnecessary prescriptions of antibiotics.

Selfless giving

Cognition | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2013.07.009
What influences our generosity?
Why are some people more giving than others, and what influences generosity? This study, published in Cognition, measured levels of generosity and the connection with the future self and with others. It was found that those who anticipate more personal change over time give more generously to others, and that its effect on generosity is distinct from several other influences. A relationship was also found between personal change and actual charitable giving.[divider]

Food and drink

Eating Breakfast and Dinner Together as a Family: Associations with Sociodemographic Characteristics and Implications for Diet Quality and Weight Status

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2013.08.011
Family meal time is important for adolescent health

Christmas is a time when families tend to spend more time together, particularly around mealtimes. This study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, examined the differences in family meal frequencies for adolescents. Results from almost 3,000 participants and their families, found that those adolescents who ate breakfast more regularly with their families had a higher intake of fruit, whole grains and fibre and a lower risk of being overweight or obese.

Champagne cork popping revisited through high-speed infrared imaging: The role of temperature

Journal of Food Engineering | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jfoodeng.2012.11.006
The physics of champagne cork popping

Many of us will celebrate this holiday season by indulging in luxury food and drink, including champagne. This study, published in the Journal of Food Engineering, looked at the process of champagne cork popping. Researchers examined cork popping for various temperatures of champagne using high-speed infrared imaging. The velocity of the cork popping out of the bottleneck increased with the champagne temperature as did the volume of gaseous CO2 emitted. Only a small fraction of the total energy released while cork popping was found to be converted into the form of cork's kinetic energy (only about 5%); most of the total energy seems therefore dissipated into the form of a sound shock wave (the characteristic "bang").

Effect of fat quality on sausage processing, texture, and sensory characteristics

Meat Science | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meatsci.2013.11.001
Putting the bang in those bangers
Pigs in blankets are a great dish from the traditional Christmas meal. But what's the key to a perfect sausage? A study, published in Meat Science, has evaluated the effects of fat quality on various quality characteristics in fresh sausage. Researchers found that changes in fat quality minimally affected sausage quality and taste.


Travel and traffic

Comparison of crashes during public holidays and regular weekends

Accident Analysis & Prevention | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aap.2012.10.021
Lack of seatbelt use biggest road safety issue over holiday season

Many people travel more during the festive season. This study, published in Accident Analysis & Prevention, looked at the differences in traffic collisions during the holiday period and normal weekends. Results showed that injury crashes during the holidays are largely over-represented. Of the most common risky behaviors non-use of restraints is more prevalent during the holidays; driver intoxication and speeding are less prevalent.

Traffic Violations in Guangdong Province of China: Speeding and Drunk Driving

Accident Analysis & Prevention | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aap.2013.11.002
Males in private vehicles most likely to participate in traffic violations

During the holiday season, there is thought to be an increase in the amount of risky behaviour from drivers. This study, published in Accident Analysis & Prevention, looked to identify common factors which indicated that a traffic violation would occur, these included: driver, vehicle, road and environmental factors. Results showed that there was a significantly higher probability of both speeding and drink driving when the following factors were present in a scenario: male drivers, private vehicles, a lack of street lighting at night and poor visibility.[divider]

The great outdoors

Spatio-temporal analysis of remotely-sensed forest mortality associated with road de-icing salts

Science of the Total Environment | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.11.103
De-icing salt can prove fatal for roadside trees

During winter months salt is used to de-ice highways. This study published in Science of the Total Environment, looked at the effects of road de-icing salts on mortality in surrounding trees using high-resolution and long-term remote sensing data. The analysis revealed a clear trend of increased mortality in trees with an increased chance of them being hit by aerial deposition of de-icing salt, mainly within 10 metres from roads. The damage caused by soil uptake of salt was weaker than aerial deposition, but extended to at least 100 metres from the roads. Immediate effects of salt following de-icing application were only distinct in wet years, otherwise it is shown to have strong and consistent one-year lagged effects of salt application on the incidence of mortality.

Cardiac and pulmonary benefits of forest walking versus city walking in elderly women: A randomised, controlled, open-label trial

European Journal of Integrative Medicine| | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eujim.2013.10.006
Forest walks have positive impact on heart health

During the festive season, many of us head outdoors for family walks, to burn of food, get some fresh air and spend time with families. This study, published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, compared forest and city walking to assess health benefits for elderly women. Results showed that an hour of forest walking lead to significant differences in arterial stiffness and pulmonary function, whereas city-walking showed no significant change.

Activity patterns in reindeer with domestic vs. wild ancestry

Applied Animal Behaviour Science | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.10.010
Reindeer with wild ancestry are more active
This study, published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, looked at female activity patterns in two reindeer herds, Norefjell-Reinsjøfjell (domestic ancestry) and Rondane (wild ancestry). Results gathered over two years, showed that the herd with wild ancestry travelled around two times further during summer and hunting seasons than those with domestic ancestry.[divider]


Trends in community violence in England and Wales 2005–2009

Injury | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.injury.2013.06.020
Less violence in the December month
During the holiday season, there is an increase in the number of social occasions, many of which could lead to incidents. This study, published inInjury, assessed injury records from emergency departments over the last decade to determine patterns in violence levels in England and Wales. Results showed that on average six in every 1000 people are injured annually through violence (males 9.8 and females 3.4 per 1000). During the month of December, violence levels fell for both men and women every year. One suggested reason is a higher concentration of police and other agency action over Christmas and New Year celebrations.

"Ring" in the solo child singing voice

Journal of Voice | http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2013.09.001
Analyzing the voice of an angel
We are familiar with the angelic sound of children's choirs, especially at Christmas. This study, published in the Journal of Voice, aims to investigate the acoustic nature of the unique 'ring' or 'brightness' present in solo child singers, particularly in relation to their 'non ring' production. The singers were observed to produce notes with and without ring, and these recordings were analysed in the frequency domain to investigate their range.[divider]

Elsevier Connect Contributor

Sacha BoucherieThe Elsevier Research Selection for Journalists is produced and distributed by the Elsevier Newsroom, which serves as an intermediary between the scientific community and general public. Press Officer Sacha Boucherie works closely with Elsevier's journal publishers, editors and authors at one end and with science journalists and reporters at the other end with the aim of spotlighting and promoting interesting, topical research articles. She is based in Elsevier's Amsterdam headquarters and holds a master's degree in social psychology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

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