Archive for July, 2009

NCBI ROFL: Is that a ruthenium polypyridine complex in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

By ncbi rofl | July 31, 2009 4:06 pm

This figure speaks for itself:

Thanks to Samson and Stephanie for today’s ROFL!

Weird Science Roundup: The Robot Revolution Has Begun

By Allison Bond | July 31, 2009 3:37 pm

Yee-haw! It’s the blog roundup.Robots are fighting fires in London, and thereby sparing humans from the dangers of blazes started by explosive industrial gas.

• Meanwhile, researchers are looking to pizza parlors for techniques to help them come up with a way to make robots more dexterous.

• He shoots, he scores! Check out this video of a soccer-playing robot. What’s next—World Cup, Robot Edition?

• Batter up! Make way for the robo-pitcher.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Robot Model Struts the Catwalk in Japan
Science Not Fiction: Hungry Robots. What Could Go Wrong?
Discoblog: New Humanoid Robot Shows More Emotion Than Some Humans
DISCOVER: 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Robots
DISCOVER: When Robots Live Among Us

MORE ABOUT: robots, roundup

Scientists Examine Underwear Astronaut Wore for a Month

By Allison Bond | July 31, 2009 2:11 pm

underwearIf you think changing your underwear day after day gets tedious, try doing it while orbiting the Earth. What better opportunity is there, then, to test a new type of undies that are anti-odor, anti-bacterial and water-absorbent—and that allowed an astronaut on the shuttle Endeavour to wear the same pair for a month straight.

Koichi Wakata, who was in orbit for four-and-a-half months, also tested socks, pants, and shirts that use the same technology. The AP reports:

NASA’s space station program manager, Mike Suffredini, stressed the importance of testing new products, especially those aimed at improving astronauts’ quality of life. There’s no way to wash clothes in space. Station residents simply ditch dirty outfits, along with other garbage, in cargo ships no longer needed that are sent plunging in flames through the atmosphere.

Scientists say they are excited to examine Wakata’s high-tech underthings to see how well they worked. For their sake, let’s hope that the undies are, in fact, as odor-resistant as the manufacturers claim.

Related Content
Discoblog: “Handerpants” Claim to Promote Good Hand Health
Discoblog: Cooking in Space: Slow, Mediocre, and Dangerous
Discoblog: What Happens to Your Underwear in Space?

Image: flickr / hans s

MORE ABOUT: astronauts, underwear

NCBI ROFL: Gaming at work positively correlated with multitasking

By ncbi rofl | July 30, 2009 4:26 pm

Games at work: the recreational use of computer games during working hours.

“In an online survey, 833 employed users of online casual games reported on their use of computer games during working hours… Furthermore, individuals with higher levels of work-related fatigue reported stronger recovery experience during gameplay and showed a higher tendency to play games during working hours than did persons with lower levels of work strain. Additionally, the social situation at work was found to have a significant influence on the use of games. Persons receiving less social support from colleagues and supervisors played games at work more frequently than did individuals with higher levels of social support. Furthermore, job control was positively related to the use of games at work.”


Can Pheromone Body Wash Make You More Desirable?

By Allison Bond | July 30, 2009 2:50 pm

perfumeIf you’re hoping to appear more attractive to potential mates, the solution may be simple: Just shower with some pheromone-laden body wash, or dab on some lip gloss containing these so-called “attraction chemicals.”

At least, that’s what the makers of an increasing number of pheromone-based products want you to believe. Body washes, cosmetics, perfumes, and more all boast of their pheromone contents. There’s just one problem: There is no scientific evidence that people produce or respond to pheromones at all, or that dabbing them on will make you more attractive to potential mates.

This dearth of scientific evidence didn’t dissuade Dial, however. The soap-maker recently released a “pheromone-infused” body wash, then held a speed-dating “experiment” in which nine blindfolded women had to choose between nine men (some had used the wash, some hadn’t) they would go out with in order to “prove” the wash worked.

The way someone smells can obviously affect how much you want to be around them; in fact, scent has even been shown to influence attraction. But it’s never been proven that humans can “smell” pheromones, and their purported effects are far from scientific fact. According to the New York Times:

“There has been a lot of misconception about what human pheromones do,” said Dr. Charles Wysocki, a behavioral neuroscientist at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and an author of “Human Pheromones: What’s Purported, What’s Supported,” a recently published report commissioned by the Sense of Smell Institute, a branch of the Fragrance Foundation. “We want to raise a flag and say, where’s the evidence? How human pheromones work is still totally questionable.”

At least we can take consolation in the noble cause the product developers have in mind:

“We don’t claim using our product you’re going to hit a home run,” said Ryan Gaspar, a [Dial] brand manager. “We say, ‘We’ll get you to first base.'”

Related Content:
Discoblog: The Nose Knows: Men’s Sweat Smells Like Cheese, Women’s Like Onions
Discoblog: Attention Women: You Can Sniff Out a Man’s Sexual Intentions
Discoblog: First Rule of Being a Successful STD: Make Sure the Host Still Has Sex

Image: flickr / lissalou66


Rorschach Exposed! Doctor Posts Test Secrets on Wikipedia

By Allison Bond | July 30, 2009 12:33 pm

inkblotAre you a professional hoping to alienate others in your field? Perhaps you could try the technique used by a Canadian doctor who posted all 10 inkblots used in  Rorschach tests to Wikipedia, along with complete descriptions of the most common responses to the images.

Although some psychologists debate the usefulness of the test, which was invented in 1921, it remains the second most-used psychological test today. Many in the field worry that patients who come into the Rorschach test with preconceptions could “game” the test, resulting in a skewed diagnosis.

The New York Times reports:

For [psychologists], the Wikipedia page is the equivalent of posting an answer sheet to next year’s SAT. They are pitted against the overwhelming majority of Wikipedia’s users, who share the site’s “free culture” ethos, which opposes the suppression of information that it is legal to publish…

What had been a simmering dispute over the reproduction of a single plate reached new heights in June when [ER doctor] James Heilman…posted images of all 10 plates to the bottom of the article about the test, along with what research had found to be the most popular responses for each.

We’re not quite sure how posting the inkblots online would benefit anyone. But then, we can’t know what was going on in the doctor’s head…maybe we should recruit a couple of psychologists to figure it out.

Related Content:
Discoblog: “Seeing” Sounds and “Hearing” Food: The Science of Synesthesia
Discoblog: Worst Science Article of The Week: Twitter Will Make You Eeevil
Discoblog: Twitter to Replace World History in England Schools

Image: flickr / Brian Sawyer

NCBI ROFL: Don't blame necrophiliacs–they're just devolving into amoebae.

By ncbi rofl | July 29, 2009 4:28 pm

A comparative biology and dynamic interpretation of necrophilia

“The authors discuss some aspects of Necrophilia based on classic Freudian instinctive theories. Parallels are seen between different levels of life development on Earth and the basic antagonistic drives (Eros and Thanatos) in an attempt to explain this rare and unusual paraphilia. The authors mention, that in unicellular organisms, e.g. Amebas and Schizomycetae, there often does not exist what could be called “the death of an individual”, when by splitting two new “individual organisms” are created and no death as such occurs… …Necrophilia could be interpreted as a regressive desire to return into a phylogenetically older stage of life development, where no individual dies, and life continues without interruption.”

Modern Love: P.A. Woman to "Marry" Rollercoaster

By Allison Bond | July 29, 2009 2:43 pm

rollercoasterPlenty of people love roller coasters—but few as much as Amy Wolfe, a 33-year-old Pennsylvania woman who plans to marry one.

Wolfe is the latest in a series of people who have married inanimate objects, from the Berlin Wall to the Eiffel Tower. This type of sexual behavior has a name: objectum sexual, meaning a person becomes attracted to, and even falls in love with, non-human (or even -animate) objects.

According to a perhaps-too-detailed report by The Metro U.K.:

[The woman] enjoys a “satisfying” sexual relationship with a fairground ride – a “magic carpet” themed ride named 1001 Nachts – and now plans to marry it. The 33-year-old rides the machine 300 times a year and uses pictures of it to satisfy herself at home.

Because she lives about 80 miles from the amusement park, the relationship has been long-distance. But even if Wolfe relocates to be closer to “her” ride, we’re willing to bet this marriage will have, er, more than its fair share of ups and downs.

Related Content:
Discoblog: The End of Divorce? Growing Numbers of People Marrying Inanimate Objects
Discoblog: Love Potion Number 10: Oxytocin Spray Said to Increase Attraction
Discoblog: What Viagra? New Spray Increases Male Performance Time

Image: flickr / Thomas Euler


A Giant Leap for Cheddarkind: Brits Launch Cheese Into Space

By Allison Bond | July 29, 2009 12:19 pm

cheeseHumans have sent plenty of things into space—monkeys, other humans, and those cute little invertebrate tardigrades, just to name a few.

Then came the hope that we could add solid cheese to that list. A group of British cheesemakers attempted to send the dairy product 18.6 miles into the atmosphere using a weather balloon with a GPS tracking device, and digital camera attached.

Once the 300-gram chunk of cheddar cheese reached its destination, the cheesemakers hoped, it would float peacefully back to Earth, thanks to a parachute that deployed once the balloon hit space. But to the chagrin of cheese-lovers everywhere, the mission met with disaster, and the cheese is now MIA, according to the Daily Mail:

Within ten minutes of taking off the tracking system failed. “We think it’s somewhere in the East of England—possibly in Essex or Hertfordshire,” said Dom Lane, of the West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers’ Group. “We wanted to take a photograph of a piece of cheddar floating majestically in the firmament with the curve of the Earth below it.”

Let’s hope the cheese doesn’t fall from the sky onto some unfortunate fellow’s head.

Want to see more? Check out this cheesy video, courtesy of BBC News.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Caution: Your Cheese Grater May Be Radioactive, Study Finds
Discoblog: Dear Aliens: Would You Like Some Processed Chips?
Discoblog: Children’s “Teddy-nauts” Shot Into Space
Discoblog: Bugs that Can Travel in Space…Naked

Image: flickr / Joi

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Aliens Therefrom
MORE ABOUT: cheese, launch, space, strange

Worst Science Article of the Week?

By Melissa Lafsky | July 28, 2009 6:05 pm

Women are getting “hotter” as more beautiful women reproduce at a higher rate and have a higher proportion of girls to boys? We post, you decide:

MORE ABOUT: bad science, evolution

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