10 ways to hack your life with science

Want to get ahead in life? New book The Geek Guide to Life offers scientific advice on everything from dating and dancing to sleeping and stone skimming - here are 10 tips to get you started.

5th October 2016
10 ways to hack your life with science © Phil O’Farrell

Make food taste better

According to the work of 'gastrophysicist' Prof Charles Spence, meals are tastier if eaten off round, white plates with heavy cutlery. In another Spence study, 700 volunteers were played music whilst eating takeaway. Indian food was rated more highly when indie music was playing, whereas Thai and Japanese food tasted better with jazz. Justin Bieber's music consistently lowered the enjoyment of almost every food group (seriously!).

Make food taste better © Phil O’Farrell
© Phil O’Farrell

Succeed at online dating

Unsurprisingly, your photo is key – people say they draw more information about someone's personality from their photo than their words. A 2016 study found that an open posture is important, so those leaning back or spreading their arms were more likely to receive romantic interest. With the words, stick to a 70:30 ratio of who you are to what you're looking for.

Succeed at online dating © Phil O’Farrell
© Phil O’Farrell

Choose your car colour

If you’re buying a new car, avoid black. An Australian study of 850,000 accidents over a 20-year period found that black cars were 12 per cent more likely to be involved in a crash than white cars, rising to 47 per cent at dawn or dusk when the light is low. Research has also shown that black cars are some of the most likely to be stolen.

Choose your car colour © Phil O’Farrell
© Phil O’Farrell

Take the perfect nap

The ideal napping time is six to seven hours after waking, around 2pm for most people. This is far enough away from bedtime not to interfere with your sleep cycle. It may sound counter-intuitive, but try downing an espresso before taking your 20-minute snooze. The caffeine will enter the brain just as you’re waking up, boosting your energy levels.

Take the perfect nap © Phil O’Farrell
© Phil O’Farrell

Improve your memory

Coffee can help here too – studies have shown that caffeine can boost your ability to remember something up to 24 hours after drinking. The key is to drink the coffee after reading or experiencing the thing you want to remember. If you're not a fan of coffee, doodling and chewing gum have also been shown to help things stick in the brain. Meanwhile, if you want to remember someone's name, the best way is to say it out loud to another person.

Improve your memory © Phil O’Farrell
© Phil O’Farrell

Win at rock-paper-scissors

It's settled many a dispute, but mathematical analysis of the game has shown that it isn't as random as you might think. People play rock the most and paper the least. What's more, analysis has shown that players are more likely to repeat a winning move. If they lose, on the other hand, their next move is more likely to be the next one in the list (i.e. if they play rock and lose, their next move is more likely to be paper).

Win at rock-paper-scissors © Phil O’Farrell
© Phil O’Farrell

Boost your job prospects

A job interview is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences, but you can use science to get ahead. A study by Yale scientists found that interviewers were more likely to give positive evaluations to interviewees whose hands were warm during the initial handshake. That old adage about a firm handshake rings true too. In one study, participants were rated on their handshake and interview performance. Those with a tighter grip subsequently did better overall.

Boost your job prospects © Phil O’Farrell
© Phil O’Farrell

Choose the best time to settle down

Modern culture would have us believe that there is no choice in when to settle down – you fall for 'the one' and that's it. But it might pay to take a slightly more mathematical approach. The key figure here is 37 per cent. That's the percentage of potential partners you should date and reject before you settle down. For most people this is after four relationships. Statisticians say that this best balances the risk of choosing too late or too soon, allowing you enough dating experience to find out what you like whilst avoiding deliberating so long that you run out of options.

Choose the best time to settle down © Phil O’Farrell
© Phil O’Farrell

Win at Monopoly

Countless family arguments have been started over a game of Monopoly, but how do you give yourself a better chance of coming out on top? For starters, buy the orange properties: as a group they’re the most visited on the board. Also, focus on building three houses on a set before beginning to develop another group – you're likely to return your outlay more quickly, giving you more money to spend elsewhere.

Win at Monopoly © Phil O’Farrell
© Phil O’Farrell

Become a master stone skimmer

The magic number here is 20 degrees. According to a study published in Nature, that's the angle at which your stone should hit the water. Pick a flat, round stone approximately five centimetres (two inches) in diameter. Use your finger to set it spinning as it leaves your hand, aiming for a launch speed of at least 2.5 metres per second (5.6 mph).

Become a master stone skimmer © Phil O’Farrell
© Phil O’Farrell

Geek Guide to LifeThe Geek Guide to Life by Colin Stuart and Mun Keat Looi is out 6 October (£16.99, André Deutsch)

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