Archive for November, 2011

The Latest on the Great Magnetic Cow Smackdown

By Veronique Greenwood | November 14, 2011 1:09 pm


Magnetic Cows Are Visible From Space” is a memorable headline, and writers had occasion to use it several years ago, when, after poring over satellite pictures from Google Earth, a German research team reported that cows in the images reliably lined up along the magnetic field lines that run across the Earth. The magnetic field may be invisible to us without a compass (although we have sensors in our eyes that are theoretically capable of detecting it), but various animals, including sharks and turtles, are able to sense it, and one explanation for how birds manage to navigate on cross-continent migrations is that they are steering by the magnetic field. Are cows, too, endowed with magnetic field-sensing equipment?

That first paper, in 2008, and a follow-up in 2009, which showed that cows didn’t line up when they were near high-voltage powerlines (known to distort magnetic fields), seemed to indicate that they are. But an analysis of Google Earth images by another team finds no such lining up. Read More

NCBI ROFL: A scientific analysis of 400 YouTube videos of dogs chasing their tails.

By ncbi rofl | November 11, 2011 7:14 pm

A Vicious Cycle: A Cross-Sectional Study of Canine Tail-Chasing and Human Responses to It, Using a Free Video-Sharing Website
Figure 1. Screenshot of a video of a Golden Retriever chasing its tail on YouTube™.

“Tail-chasing is widely celebrated as normal canine behaviour in cultural references. However, all previous scientific studies of tail-chasing or ‘spinning’ have comprised small clinical populations of dogs with neurological, compulsive or other pathological conditions; most were ultimately euthanased. Thus, there is great disparity between scientific and public information on tail-chasing. I gathered data on the first large (n = 400), non-clinical tail-chasing population, made possible through a vast, free, online video repository, YouTube™. Read More

NCBI ROFL: Time crawls when you're not having fun: feeling entitled makes dull tasks drag on.

By ncbi rofl | November 10, 2011 8:32 pm

“All people have to complete dull tasks, but individuals who feel entitled may be more inclined to perceive them as a waste of their “precious” time, resulting in the perception that time drags. This hypothesis was confirmed in three studies. Read More

Angry Birds TMI FTW: Better Gameplay Through Physics

By Veronique Greenwood | November 10, 2011 11:41 am

angry birds
Why just do this, when you can do…

angry birds
…this, too?

Cranky flightless birds and their green porcine enemies are on every screen these days. But despite the game’s apparent simplicity, it pays to have an expert unpack the fundamental physics of the Angry Birds universe (better gameplay through physics, and all that). That expert is physics prof and graph maker extraordinaire Rhett Allain, whose rationale is summed up thusly in his first Angry Birds post:

But what about the physics? Do the birds have a constant vertical acceleration? Do they have constant horizontal velocity? Let’s find out, shall we? Oh, why would I do this? Why can’t I just play the dumb game and move on. That is not how I roll. I will analyze this, and you can’t stop me.

His latest offering over at Wired delves into what, exactly, is up with those yellow birds, which you can use to smash the piggies’ wooden structures. Turns out they have some iiiinteresting acceleration properties it would behoove you to grok…dig out your high school calculus and check it out.

Images courtesy of Rhett Allain and Wired

NCBI ROFL: Women's negotiation of cunnilingus in college hookups and relationships.

By ncbi rofl | November 9, 2011 8:52 pm

“Using in-depth interviews with 43 college women who were, on average, 21 years old (SD = 0.79), the authors explored women’s attitudes toward and experiences of cunnilingus. The authors found that cunnilingus posed interactional challenges for women, but that these varied by relationship context. Drawing on scripting theory, the authors argue that the sexual scripts available to contemporary American college students assume cunnilingus in relationships, but not in hookups, where the incorporation of the practice is more contested. Read More

WWF Takes Drugged, Blindfolded Rhinos for an Aerial Joy Ride

By Valerie Ross | November 9, 2011 2:31 pm

Black rhinos are bulky, earthbound animals—but lately, the lumbering pachyderms have taken part in some pretty impressive aerial acrobatics. Nineteen of the endangered rhinos have taken thousand-mile trips across South Africa while dangling upside down from helicopters.

The WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project was moving the animals away from poachers and into larger, safer habitats. The safest, shortest mode of transport, in a region with bumpy roads and no jet-ready runways, turns out to be suspending tranquilized, blindfolded rhinos by the ankles from a chopper—Mafia-style. You can watch the rhinos flying through the air (and hear more about the project) in this video:

Next up: skydiving elephants?

[via New Scientist]

Image & video courtesy of Michael Raimondo / Green Renaissance & WWF

Buns of Prehistoric Steel May Have Graced the Backside of T. Rex, Sez Paleontologist

By Veronique Greenwood | November 9, 2011 11:26 am

Like this, but with teensy arms and bigger teeth.

Instead of a loping, lunging Tyrannosaurus rex, imagine the thunder lizard doing more of a power-walk: the clenched bum, the stiff legs, the whole shebang.

Pretty evocative mental image, right? For that, you have a recent presentation at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting to thank. Dinosaur gaits are right up there with “how did flight evolve?” and “what makes us human?” on the list of fascinating, but intangible, things scientists wish we understood, and this particular scientist, Heinrich Mallison, a palaeontologist at the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, was leveling a criticism at traditional efforts to figure out how dinosaurs perambulated. Basically, he says that dinosaurs had such big butts that our usual method of comparing dinosaurs to small-cheeked modern animals is doomed to failure.

Read More

NCBI ROFL: "Laughing at yourself": you're doing it wrong.

By ncbi rofl | November 8, 2011 7:25 pm

Can people really “laugh at themselves?”–experimental and correlational evidence.

“Laughing at oneself is considered a core component of the sense of humor in the theories of several authors. In McGhee’s (1996) eight-step-training program of the sense of humor, laughing at oneself constitutes one of the most difficult levels. However, until now, only little empirical evidence on laughing at oneself exists. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings, NCBI ROFL

Say No to Chicken Pops—Buying Infected Lollipops Online Is Most Likely a Bad Idea

By Douglas Main | November 8, 2011 9:42 am

Don’t lie. Don’t steal. And don’t buy lollipops allegedly mouthed by infected children peddled over the internets. Apparently the third piece of advice doesn’t go without saying; parents who don’t want to give their kids vaccines in several states have turned to Facebook to find lollipops, spit, or rags from chickenpox-ridden youngsters, according to the Associated Press. Federal prosecutor Jerry Martin warns that the practice is dangerous and illegal—it’s a federal crime to ship known pathogens across state lines. It’s also likely to fail at spreading the virus since chicken pox needs to be inhaled to infect children, according to doctors, and is dangerous, since it could spread other diseases that more readily persist in saliva like hepatitis.

Read More

NCBI ROFL: What's superior to sex, sweets, and seeing your best friend?

By ncbi rofl | November 7, 2011 7:22 pm

Sweets, Sex, or Self-Esteem? Comparing the Value of Self-Esteem Boosts with Other Pleasant Rewards.

“Many people ascribe great value to self-esteem, but how much value? Do people value self-esteem more than other pleasant activities, such as eating sweets and having sex? Two studies of college students (Study 1: N=130; Study 2: N=152) showed that people valued boosts to their self-esteem more than they valued eating a favorite food and engaging in a favorite sexual activity. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, feelings shmeelings, NCBI ROFL

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