Archive for February, 2011

NCBI ROFL: Smelly Week: Individually identifiable body odors are produced by the gorilla and discriminated by humans.

By ncbi rofl | February 28, 2011 7:00 pm

It’s smelly week on NCBI ROFL! All week long we’ll feature the funniest papers about the science of stink. Enjoy!

“Many species produce odor cues that enable them to be identified individually, as well as providing other socially relevant information. Study of the role of odor cues in the social behavior of great apes is noticeable by its absence. Olfaction has been viewed as having little role in guiding behavior in these species. This study examined whether Western lowland gorillas produce an individually identifiable odor. Read More

Experts' Shocking Warning: Don't Let Fish Chew on Your Feet

By Patrick Morgan | February 28, 2011 12:26 pm

The next time fish-pedicure enthusiasts dunk their feet in a vat of squirming, skin-nibbling, toothless carp, they may get more than they bargained for—especially if those fish just feasted on diseased skin. Health officials, fearing the spread of infections, have now launched a major investigation into this allegedly fishy beauty technique.

In the UK, fish pedicures are booming, which is great for beauty clinics because the procedure costs upwards of £50 ($81 U.S.).  Visitors place their feet in a tank full of Garra rufa fish—a variety of Turkish toothless carp—and sit back while the fish eat away their dead skin. These foot-fetishistic fish have been nicknamed “doctor fish,” and though more and more UK citizens are dunking their feet, the UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) has a hunch that this procedure may be doing more harm than good.

Over the past six months, several environmental health officers have contacted the HPA about the dangers of fish pedicures, leading to the present investigation, which hopes to discover whether fish spa pedicures spread infections. Quoting an HPA agency member,  BBC News reports:

“Alongside colleagues in environmental health, Health Protection Scotland and the Health and Safety Laboratory, the HPA will examine the most up to date evidence of any possible risks associated with Garra rufa fish pedicures and will publish guidelines that will be available UK-wide.”

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After 55 Hours, Pint-Sized Humanoid Emerges as Winner of First Robot Marathon

By Patrick Morgan | February 28, 2011 1:06 am

Forget about RoboCup, where teams of robots kick soccer balls around indoor fields. The first ever robot marathon finished up over the weekend, and one knee-high humanoid took home the prize with just one second to spare.

This video shows the winner’s final stretch:

Five robots competed in Robo Mara Full, the world’s first marathon for our plastic and metallic friends. The race, funded by the city government of Osaka, began on Friday; 54 hours, 57 minutes, and 50 seconds later, Robovie-PC finally completed its 422th lap, thereby hitting the 26.2-mile mark and sealing the victory. With an average speed of 0.48 miles per hour, these machines are no speed demons.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

NCBI ROFL: And the grossest study award goes to…

By ncbi rofl | February 25, 2011 7:00 pm

Assessing Male Condom Failure and Incorrect Use.

“BACKGROUND: It has not been well established whether common indices of male condom failure are valid predictors of biologically meaningful exposure during condom use. METHODS: To address this gap, the authors compared self-reported condom malfunctions (i.e., breakage and slippage) and incorrect condom practices to 2 following objective measures of failure: prostate-specific antigen (PSA) detected in vaginal swabs collected after condom use and structural integrity of used condoms. The study, conducted in 2000-2001, evaluated 635 male condoms used by 77 women attending an outpatient, reproductive-health clinic in Birmingham, AL. Read More


NFL Hopefuls' New "Smart Shirts" Know Them Inside & Out

By Patrick Morgan | February 25, 2011 4:36 pm

The game may be the same, but the gear is different: This Saturday, as NFL prospects try to impress coaches at the Combine workouts, a few players will don smart shirts–souped-up sports attire that measures everything from players’ heart rates to g forces of acceleration.

Designed by Under Armour and Zephyr, this sophisticated shirt is called the Under Armour E39. It weighs less than 0.3 pounds and boasts a load of sensors that sit just below the athlete’s sternum; the sensors include a triaxial accelerometer, a heart-rate monitor, and a breathing-rate monitor. As an athlete practices, trainers can follow the player’s vital signs on their smartphones, laptops, or any other device that can receive Bluetooth data. As Wired explains:

“What we have is something very close to the body’s center of mass that’s measuring the accelerometry data from that center of mass,” Under Armour vice president Kevin Haley told

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Events, Technology Attacks!

The Mafia Was Wrong: You Can't Quickly Dissolve a Body in Acid

By Patrick Morgan | February 25, 2011 11:56 am

It’s a sad day for aspiring kingpins and Mafia godfathers–it turns out that you can’t dissolve a corpse within minutes by dunking it in sulfuric acid. If that’s not bad enough, scientists have also shown that even if you wait days, acid alone cannot fully destroy “the evidence.”

This Mafia technique of disintegrating human flesh is known as a “white shotgun” (or “lupara bianca”) murder, a term that entered public parlance in the early 1980s when police in Palermo, Sicily, discovered vats of acid in a Mafia boss’s digs. The crime leader, Filippo Marchese, had his goons kill their victims and dissolve the bodies in a room known as “the chamber of death.” But violent people tend to meet violent deaths, and Marchese was himself dissolved in acid sometime in 1982.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Crime & Punishment, Top Posts

NCBI ROFL: Scientific study gives green light to drinking before GREs!

By ncbi rofl | February 24, 2011 7:00 pm

The effects of binge drinking on college students’ next-day academic test-taking performance and mood state.

“AIM: To assess the effects of binge drinking on students’ next-day academic test-taking performance. DESIGN: A placebo-controlled cross-over design with randomly assigned order of conditions. Participants were randomized to either alcoholic beverage [mean = 0.12 g% breath alcohol concentration (BrAC)] or placebo on the first night and then received the other beverage a week later. The next day, participants were assessed on test-taking, neurocognitive performance and mood state. Read More


Scientist to Research Subject: Really, You Have 3 Arms

By Patrick Morgan | February 24, 2011 11:03 am

One day you might not have to ask someone to lend a helping hand–because you’ll have a third arm of your own. At least, that’s a possible application of a mental trick scientists performed on 154 healthy volunteers: These men and women were made to feel as if they had three arms.

To pull off this ruse, the researchers placed a prosthetic arm next to a volunteer’s two real arms, and they touched the subject’s right hand and the rubber hand in exactly the same place at the same time. Because the taps were synchronized, the volunteer’s brain was tricked into feeling them both. According to Science Daily:

“What happens then is that a conflict arises in the brain concerning which of the right hands belongs to the participant’s body,” says Arvid Guterstam, one of the scientists behind the study. “What one could expect is that only one of the hands is experienced as one’s own, presumably the real arm. But what we found, surprisingly, is that the brain solves this conflict by accepting both right hands as part of the body image, and the subjects experience having an extra third arm.”

To prove that the test subjects really were having three-arm experiences, the scientists threatened both the fake and real hands with a knife, and determined that the subjects’ palms sweated the same amount in both circumstances. In other words, they had the same stress levels regardless of whether a real hand or the prosthetic was in danger.

As for applications, the researchers surmise that similar techniques could help someone paralyzed on one side to gain a feeling of ownership over a prosthetic. “It is also conceivable that people with demanding work situations could benefit of an extra arm, such as firemen during rescue operations, or paramedics in the field,” the study’s leader, Henrik Ehrsson, told Science Daily. Hey, what about the rest of us?

See Ed Yong’s post on Not Exactly Rocket Science for more details…

Related Content:
80beats: In a Sensory Hack, What You Touch Affects What You See
80beats: Virtual Reality Gives Out-of-Body-and-Into-Someone-Else’s Experience
80beats: DARPA’s Next Prosthetic Arm Will Connect to Your Brain
Not Exactly Rocket Science: The Quantum Leap effect – creating a body-swapping illusion

Image: Guterstam et al.

NCBI ROFL: Human left-sided cradling preferences for dogs.

By ncbi rofl | February 23, 2011 7:00 pm

“Photographs of men and women holding dogs were analyzed for side-holding preferences. Read More

More Proof That We Live in the Future: Mind-Controlled Cars

By Patrick Morgan | February 23, 2011 4:30 pm

Driving a car using only one’s thoughts is no longer the stuff of science fiction. It may not be ready for commercial use, but scientists have successfully completed a road test of the world’s first mind-controlled car.

Created by researchers at the AutoNOMOS  labs of Freie Universität Berlin, the technology uses commercially available electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors to detect four different patterns of brain activity, which a computer translates to “turn left,” “turn right,” “accelerate,” and “brake.” The road to this achievement was long, as AutoNOMOS says on its website:

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