If hacking scandals and privacy invasions didn't offer enough reasons to jump on the #deletefacebook movement, here's another one.

Australian researchers investigated the effects of a short break from Facebook on a person's stress and wellbeing, and found it had a positive effect.

"Taking a Facebook break for just five days reduced a person's level of the stress hormone cortisol," said Dr Eric Vanman, of the University of Queensland's School of Psychology.

"However, while participants in our study showed an improvement in physiological stress by giving up Facebook, they also reported lower feelings of wellbeing.


"People said they felt more unsatisfied with their life, and were looking forward to resuming their Facebook activity."

Vanman said there were a number of theories behind the mixed results.

"Abstaining from Facebook was shown to reduce a person's level of the stress hormone cortisol, but people's own ratings of their stress did not change — perhaps because they weren't aware their stress had gone down," he said.

"People experienced less wellbeing after those five days without Facebook — they felt less content with their lives — from the resulting social disconnection of being cut-off from their Facebook friends.

"We don't think that this is necessarily unique to Facebook, as people's stress levels will probably reduce anytime they take a break from their favourite social media platforms."

The study involved two groups of active users of Facebook, with one group instructed to stay off Facebook for five days and the other group using Facebook as normal.

All 138 participants in the study provided saliva samples at the beginning and end of the study to measure changes in their cortisol levels.

The idea for the study came from Vanman's own experience of quitting Facebook from time to time.


"When I told colleagues about my 'Facebook vacations', I found I wasn't alone," he said.

"Others admitted that they took similar breaks from Facebook when they found it too stressful or overwhelming - quitting Facebook for several days or
weeks but then reconnecting.

"One of my students kept herself off Facebook by having her friend change her password so she wouldn't be tempted to come back on, but eventually she broke down and got the password from her friend after two months had passed.

"Facebook has become an essential social tool for millions of users and it obviously provides many benefits. Yet, because it conveys so much social information about a large network of people, it can also be taxing.

"It seems that people take a break because they're too stressed, but return to Facebook whenever they feel unhappy because they have been cut off from their friends.

"It then becomes stressful again after a while, so they take another break. And so on."

The cigar-shaped space oddity

This artist's impression shows the first interstellar asteroid: Oumuamua. Photo / ESO/M. Kornmesser
This artist's impression shows the first interstellar asteroid: Oumuamua. Photo / ESO/M. Kornmesser

A telescope in outback Western Australia has been used to listen to a mysterious cigar-shaped object that entered our Solar System late last year.

The unusual object — known as "Oumuamua" — came from another solar system, prompting speculation it could be an alien spacecraft.

So astronomers went back through observations from the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope to check for radio transmissions coming from the object between the frequencies of 72 and 102MHz — similar to the frequency range in which FM radio is broadcast.

While they did not find any signs of intelligent life, the research helped expand the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) from distant stars to objects closer to home.

When Oumuamua was first discovered, astronomers thought it was a comet or an asteroid from within the Solar System.

But after studying its orbit and discovering its long, cylindrical shape, they realised Oumuamua was neither and had come from interstellar space.

Telescopes around the world trained their gaze on the mysterious visitor in an effort to learn as much as possible before it headed back out of the Solar System, becoming too faint to observe in detail.

"We didn't set out to observe this object with the MWA but because we can see such a large fraction of the sky at once, when something like this happens, we're able to go back through the data and analyse it after the fact," explained Distinguished Professor Steven Tingay, of Australia's Curtin University.

"If advanced civilisations do exist elsewhere in our galaxy, we can speculate that they might develop the capability to launch spacecraft over interstellar distances and that these spacecraft may use radio waves to communicate."

"Whilst the possibility of this is extremely low, possibly even zero, as scientists it's important that we avoid complacency and examine observations and evidence without bias."

The MWA is located in Western Australia's remote Murchison region, one of the most radio-quiet areas on the planet and far from human activity and radio interference caused by technology.

It is made up of thousands of antennas attached to hundreds of "tiles" that dot the ancient landscape, relentlessly observing the heavens day after day, night after night.

Tingay said the research team was able to look back through all of the MWA's observations from November, December and early January, when 'Oumuamua was between 95 million and 590 million kilometres from Earth.

"We found nothing, but as the first object of its class to be discovered, Oumuamua has given us an interesting opportunity to expand the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence from traditional targets such as stars and galaxies to objects that are much closer to Earth.

"This also allows for searches for transmitters that are many orders of magnitude less powerful than those that would be detectable from a planet orbiting even the most nearby stars."

Oumuamua was first discovered by the Pan-STARRS project at the University of Hawaii in October.

Its name loosely means "a messenger that reaches out from the distant past" in Hawaiian, and is the first known interstellar object to pass through our Solar System.

Combining observations from a host of telescopes, scientists have determined that Oumuamua is most likely a cometary fragment that has lost much of its surface water because it was bombarded by cosmic rays on its long journey through interstellar space.

Researchers have now suggested there could be more than 46 million similar interstellar objects crossing the Solar System every year.

Hottest pepper leaves man with thunderclap headaches

A young man ended up in emergency care with excruciatingly painful episodic headaches after eating a
A young man ended up in emergency care with excruciatingly painful episodic headaches after eating a "Carolina Reaper", the world's hottest chilli pepper. Photo / 123RF

Taking part in a hot chilli pepper eating contest might have some unexpected consequences, doctors warn.

Their warning comes after a young man ended up in emergency care with excruciatingly painful episodic headaches after eating a "Carolina Reaper", the world's hottest chilli pepper.

His symptoms, described in the journal BMJ Case Reports, started immediately after he had eaten the chilli, with dry heaves.

But he then developed severe neck pain and crushingly painful headaches, each of which lasted just a few seconds, over the next several days.

His pain was so severe that he sought emergency care, and was tested for various neurological conditions, the results of which all came back negative.

But a CT scan showed that several arteries in his brain had constricted, prompting doctors to diagnose him with thunderclap headache secondary to reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS).

RCVS is characterised by temporary artery narrowing often accompanied by thunderclap headache.

It doesn't always have an obvious cause, but can occur as a reaction to certain prescription meds, or after taking illegal drugs.

This is the first case to be associated with eating chilli peppers, explain the authors, although they point out that eating cayenne pepper has been linked to sudden constriction of the coronary artery and heart attacks.

"Given the development of symptoms immediately after exposure to a known vasoactive substance, it is plausible that our patient had RCVS secondary to the Carolina Reaper," the authors wrote.

The man's symptoms cleared up by themselves.

And a CT scan five weeks later showed that his affected arteries had returned to their normal width.