“Chasmology is the scientific study of yawning. Though its official history started only recently, its unofficial history stretches back to antiquity. This chapter outlines the history and current state of chasmology, through textual research and analysis, and offers a vision of its future. Particular emphasis is placed upon the author’s favorite theory: the hidden sexuality of the human yawn. Read More
“The use of dietary supplements and the health status of individuals have an asymmetrical relationship: The growing market for dietary supplements appears not to be associated with an improvement in public health. Building on the notion of licensing, or the tendency for positive choices to license subsequent self-indulgent choices, we argue that because dietary supplements are perceived as conferring health advantages, use of such supplements may create an illusory sense of invulnerability that disinhibits unhealthy behaviors. Read More
“The enjoyment of fiction through books, television, and movies may depend, in part, on the psychological experience of suspense. Spoilers give away endings before stories begin, and may thereby diminish suspense and impair enjoyment; indeed, as the term suggests, readers go to considerable lengths to avoid prematurely discovering endings … However, people’s ability to reread stories with undiminished pleasure, and to read stories in which the genre strongly implies the ending, suggests that suspense regarding the outcome may not be critical to enjoyment and may even impair pleasure by distracting attention from a story’s relevant details and aesthetic qualities … We conducted three experiments, each with stories from a different, distinct genre, to test the effects of spoilers on enjoyment. Read More
Let’s face it: boarding an airplane with luggage is just downright frustrating. Not only do you have to puzzle out how you are going to wrestle your carry-on bag into the aircraft’s tiny overhead compartment, but you have to do it while trying not to get swept away by the tugging current of other passengers.
“OK, everybody count off!”
Courtesy of Steffen, arXiv
But surely not all boarding procedures are created equal—simply boarding the plane back to front would be the easiest and most efficient method, right? Wrong. In fact, boarding by sequential rows is the worst possible approach (pdf), according to a new study by physicist Jason Steffen of the Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics.
When a male’s bits don’t fit with a female’s bits, you wind up with reproductive malfunction. But shape isn’t everything, as a team of researchers recently discovered while watching hundreds of skink lizards court and spark.
Most studies looking at how genitalia mismatch contributes to new species take the concept literally: if the bits don’t fit together like lock and key, matings will be unsuccessful. And if the mismatch between the gear of two groups is bad enough, they will form separate reproductive populations, and, eventually, species. But the idea, which was first tossed around more than 150 years ago, has been discounted as a possible source of new species. Differently sized or shaped genitalia is such a big change that it’s likely to come after many other speciation triggers, like mutations or long separations between populations divided by mountain ranges.
“This study measured the frequency of pubic hair transfer between a limited number of consenting heterosexual partners. The results derive from controlled experiments with a number of human subjects rather than forensic casework. Read More
If you haven’t heard about the corkscrew kookiness that is duck genitalia by now, you need to check that stuff out ASAP.
Ducks’ twisting vaginas and telescoping penises are well-known part of an evolutionary arms race between the sexes that’s been going on for millennia, with each side trying to exert control over which males’ sperm fertilize the female’s eggs—a battle that, especially in birds, is fierce, occasionally violent, and weird as all-get-out. The most recently discovered example of what biologists deem “sexual conflict,” a little behavior hens have developed called sperm ejection, upholds that fine tradition.
“We report the first measured values of conductivities for neonatal mammalian skull samples. We measured the average radial (normal to the skull surface) conductivity of fresh neonatal piglet skull samples at 1 kHz and found it to be around 30 mS m(-1) at ambient room temperatures of about 23 °C. Read More
Twelve- to 14-month-old infants can predict single-event probability with large set sizes.
“Previous research has revealed that infants can reason correctly about single-event probabilities with small but not large set sizes. The current study asks whether infants can make predictions regarding single-event probability with large set sizes using a novel procedure. Read More
By now you’ve probably heard the recent news that male bisexuality is in fact real, in stark contrast with a 2005 study by some of the same scientists that claimed just the opposite. Bloggers and news outlets have unleashed a torrent of witty headlines and snarky remarks about the research, such as CBSNews’ “Study says bisexuality real, but bisexuals say ‘duh.’” Even the Gray Lady herself, The New York Times, got in on the fun with its quip, “No Surprise for Bisexual Men: Report Indicates They Exist.”
Presumably the studies aren’t picking up on a real increase in bisexuality over the past six years, so what’s the deal here—why the sudden change of heart for the Northwestern University researchers?