Behind lab doors

    Contrary to the tediousness that regular coursework suggests, Northwest­ern is home to a number of surprising and unusual academic investigations across a variety of fields. From football ticket auctions to chin beauty stand­ards, here are six research projects from the past year—they’re likely more fas­cinating than anything you’ll read in your Intro to Macroeconomics textbook.

    Purple pricing
    NU economists Sandeep Baliga and Jeffrey Ely are experimenting with pricing models on University athletics. For select games, they’ve introduced Purple Pricing, an auction-based method in which the seat prices start high and continually drop until tickets sell out. Buyers are then refunded the difference between their bid and the low price. The idea is to incentivize early buying, discourage resale and maximize profit. Sales for the Ohio State and Michigan games this football season used Purple Pricing and revenues increased by hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result.

    Hot chins
    Anthropolo­gy research­ers, among them Northwestern doctoral student Zaneta Thayer, discov­ered significant inconsistencies in chin shape across popula­tions. The study found indige­nous Australians have the most unique chin patterns relative to other populations, and also challenged the theory, long held by psychologists, of the univer­sally attractive jutting jawline. suggesting the existence of “region-specific mating prefer­ences,” according to the paper.

    Face threats
    Embarrassing Face­book encounters, or “face threats,” as communica­tion studies professor Jeremy Birnholtz calls them, produce more anguish in people who allow profile visibility to co-workers, family and friends. Subjects with higher levels of general Internet know-how are also prone to greater reserva­tion in response to an undesired Facebook post or exchange.

    Fishy limbs
    Our bodies op­erate like fish more than we might think. Neurobiology professor David McLean and postdoctoral fellow Martha Bagnall studied baby zebrafish, a tropical freshwater minnow, and found locomotive process­es resembling those of human extensors and flexors. These findings help neuroscientists understand how to better treat neural problems.

    Stretchy batteries
    Electronics can now be placed anywhere—even inside human joints—thanks to the world’s first cordless stretchable lithium-ion bat­tery. McCormick professor Yonggang Huang and Univer­sity of Illinois material scientist John Rogers developed a re­chargeable, foldable and twist­able battery that can operate for eight hours and stretch up to three times its original size.

    Word therapy
    The remedy to a lackluster marriage? The written word. Psychology professor Eli Finkel studied 120 couples, who reported their relationship satisfaction, love, intimacy, trust, passion and commitment every four months for two years. Couples demon­strated a decline in marriage quality over the first year, but those who participated in three, seven-minute reflective writing exercises during the second year were more likely to main­tain marital satisfaction and sexual desire.


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