Archive for October, 2011

NCBI ROFL: Are skinny people more afraid of ghosts?

By ncbi rofl | October 31, 2011 7:00 pm

Paranormal belief, schizotypy, and Body Mass Index.

“There are indications that subjects with schizotypal personality have a lower Body Mass Index. Also schizotypal personality is linked to a higher incidence of paranormal belief. In this study we examined whether low Body Mass Index is also linked to paranormal belief. Read More

NCBI ROFL: Halloween special feature flashback: top 6 spooky articles!

By ncbi rofl | October 31, 2011 12:42 pm

haunted scrotumNCBI ROFL: The case of the haunted scrotum. “On CT scanning of the abdomen and pelvis, the right testis was not identified but the left side of the scrotum seemed to be occupied by a screaming ghost-like apparition (Figure 1).”

NCBI ROFL: Does garlic protect against vampires? An experimental study. “Garlic has been regarded as an effective prophylactic against vampires. We wanted to explore this alleged effect experimentally. Owing to the lack of vampires, we used leeches instead.”

NCBI ROFL: Exorcism-resistant ghost possession treated with clopenthixol. “An Indian man now in Britain explained his criminal behaviour as episodic ghost possession. Traditional exorcisms failed to help. ”
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NCBI ROFL: On bushcrickets, genital titillators, and copulation time.

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

Increased copulation duration before ejaculate transfer is associated with larger spermatophores, and male genital titillators, across bushcricket taxa.

“Copulation duration varies considerably across species, but few comparative studies have examined factors that might underlie such variation. We examined the relationship between copulation duration (prior to spermatophore transfer), the complexity of titillators (sclerotized male genital contact structures), spermatophore mass and male body mass across 54 species of bushcricket. Read More

From "Freedom!" to "Brains!": Shift In Zombie Narrative Reflects Zombie-fication of Society

By Douglas Main | October 28, 2011 3:01 pm

Life is pretty simple for a zombie. You just wander around and try to eat people’s brains. But it wasn’t always so. In the uncorrupted early years of zombie narratives, zombies were typically the undead slaves of voodoo priests, and their primary motivation was to cast off the yoke of dark magic and rebel against their leaders. For example, the first feature-length zombie film, White Zombie (1932), features a heroine who’s bewitched by a voodoo master (ominously named Murder). When she finally triumphs over him and he is pushed off a cliff, she reverts to her normal, non-zombie self.

No longer. Nowadays zombies have no real motivation. (When polled as to their life purpose, nine out of 10 zombies replied, “Braaaaaiiiiinnnns!!!”)

At least one researcher thinks the shift in the zombie story, beginning in the late 1960s, reflects a greater change in society. “With no voodoo master, today’s zombies have no clear controller to turn against and free themselves from,” says researcher Nick Pearce. “That means there are no effective plans for resistance and no hope for the future. Zombies may well be popular today because they speak to a similar feeling of powerlessness shared by many members of our society.” Whoa. Maybe we’re all zombies!

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To Golf Like the Pros, Pretend You're Using Their Clubs

By Veronique Greenwood | October 28, 2011 2:02 pm

All that golfin’ mojo is just oozing into that club…

Houses where Shakespeare stayed. Shirts saints wore. Shoes worn by famous athletes. It’s not very hard to convince people that something—beauty, saintliness, prowess—leaks from a famous person to the objects they used. But while magic is still not scientifically valid, you can apparently get something from such relics—if you believe.

A new study reports that people who are told that the golf club they’re using belonged to a pro athlete actually putt quite a bit better than people who are just told that the club is a nice one. The researchers split forty-one college students who had golf experience and had followed the PGA tour into two groups, and told one group that their putter had been used by pro golfer Ben Curtis. Out of 10 putts, those subjects sank 1.5 more putts than the control group, on average.

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NCBI ROFL: Gross gods and icky atheism: Disgust responses to rejected religious beliefs.

By ncbi rofl | October 27, 2011 8:15 pm

“Disgust is an emotional response that helps to maintain and protect physical and spiritual purity by signaling contamination and motivating the restoration of personal cleanliness. In the present research we predicted that disgust may be elicited by contact with outgroup religious beliefs, as these beliefs pose a threat to spiritual purity. Two experiments tested this prediction using a repeated taste-test paradigm in which participants tasted and rated a drink before and after copying a passage from an outgroup religion. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, holy correlation, NCBI ROFL

Study: Killer Whales Migrate Thousands of Miles to…Exfoliate?

By Veronique Greenwood | October 27, 2011 5:50 pm

Before: scuzzy yellow (top); and after: pearly white! (bottom)

Killer whales are best known for their picturesque profiles and predilection for seal flesh, but they also like to travel, a recent study confirms. And these aren’t your basic joyrides through ice flows. These are 6,200-mile excursions to the tropics, where scientists speculate they engage in a pursuit familiar to anyone who’s headed to a Bermuda spa in February: getting rid of that wintry dead skin.

To get detailed information about whales’ movements, a group of scientists equipped whales with tags that would record swim velocity and current location. At first they just noodled around the Antarctic hunting, a behavior the scientists could identify from the bursts of speed they put on as they went after prey. But then, each in their own time, they started to rocket northwards, moving nonstop until they reached the balmy waters hear Uruguay and southern Brazil, nearly 6,000 miles away. Then, just as suddenly, they whipped around and came back. One whale made the trip in just 42 days.

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NCBI ROFL: How to make pooping babies more appealing.

By ncbi rofl | October 26, 2011 6:14 pm

 When Pooping Babies Become More Appealing: The Effects of Nonconscious Goal Pursuit on Experienced Emotions.

“In this report, we argue that the intensity of the emotions people experience is partly determined by the goals they nonconsciously pursue, and that this effect is functional in nature: Emotions are modulated in ways that may increase the probability of goal achievement. To test this hypothesis, we primed female participants with a motherhood goal and then measured their level of disgust in response to mildly disgusting pictures. Read More

Smartphone Apps Tell Your Friends You've Been Arrested, Help You Stay Calm in the Clink

By Douglas Main | October 26, 2011 2:40 pm

Hopefully this guy has the “I’m Getting Arrested” app.

Plan on going to #OccupyWallStreet and getting arrested? There’s an app for that! A Brooklyn programmer (abhorred by getting so much coverage in the “lame-stream” press, no doubt) has made a free android app that allows would-be arrestees to alert their friends. Beforehand, you can program in a message and recipients, who you can alert upon pushing a single button. The app is appropriately called “I’m Getting Arrested.”

Once you’re in jail, you may need help calming down (if you manage to smuggle in your phone). Look no farther than MyCalmBeat, a smartphone app that measures your heart rate and helps you establish an optimal breathing rate, or “resonant frequency.” It works by calculating the breathing rate at which your heart rate has the highest variability, which is correlated with how relaxed you feel. Stressed people, the app’s programmers say, have relatively constant rates of heart rate, which makes stress worse.

Now all we’re missing is an app that redistributes wealth and does our job for us.

Image: WarmSleepy / Flickr

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Crime & Punishment

Computer Scientists Crack "Unbreakable" Code, Find Minutes of 250-Year-Old Secret Society

By Veronique Greenwood | October 26, 2011 1:56 pm

“Curiosity is inherited with mankind. Frequently we want to know something only because it needs to be kept secret.” Astute psychology on the part of this secret society scribe.

With the most powerful computers ever known <insert maniacal laugh>, you’d think that modern codebreakers would have utterly smashed our forefathers’ puny ciphers. Well…no. There are quite a number of antique documents that remain mysterious, despite cryptologists’ best efforts. Code breaking still relies on good guesses and flashes of insight more than brute force.

But brute force and clever statistical analyses can help you unravel whether that guess was right in the blink of an eye, and that’s what let University of Southern California computer scientists and their collaborators unravel the text of a slender brocade-bound manuscript that had kept its secrets since the 18th century. The first words they deciphered? “Ceremonies of Initiation.” Read More


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