Archive for April, 2012

Whales May Use Globs of "Ear Fats" to Hear Underwater

By Sarah Zhang | April 23, 2012 3:35 pm

spacing is important
CT scan of whale head; fat in yellow, ear bones in magenta.

For us landlubbers, jiggling fat may just be an unsightly presence. For whales, jiggling clumps of fat in their jaws may pick up sound waves underwater, helping them communicate over long distances in the sea. We knew that dolphins and porpoises have “ear fats,” but baleen whales have not been as well-studied for one simple reason: their heads are just too big to fit into a scanner.

A new study looks at minke whales, a genus of balleen whales that top out at only seven meters long. (Tiny compared to 30-meter blue whales.) Scientists put six frozen whale heads, salvaged from beached animals, in CT and MRI scanners to analyze the soft tissues. Some of the heads were still too big, so the lower jaw had to be removed or excess flesh trimmed away. The scans and subsequent dissections showed a glob of fat sitting right next to the ear bones. While the anatomical evidence is compelling, the researchers admit they still have to show how exactly the fat works to help in hearing.

[via ScienceNow]

NCBI ROFL: If you want to sell more alcohol, touch your customers.

By ncbi rofl | April 20, 2012 7:00 pm

The effect of waitresses’ touch on alcohol consumption in dyads.

“A total of 96 men and 48 women participated in a study on the effect of touch in the natural setting of public taverns in the United States. Participants in the same-gender (men-men) or mixed-gender dyads were either touched or not touched by waitress confederates. Read More

"Obliterating Animal Carcasses With Explosives": USDA's Step-by-Step Guide

By Sarah Zhang | April 20, 2012 10:01 am

During a snow storm last year, several cows managed to wander into a ranger cabin where they have stayed ever since. Alas, the cows have not been playing house—they died in the cabin, and there they remain, dead and frozen. Rangers at Conundrum Hot Springs are now faced with removing several tons of dead, frozen cow from the remote mountain spot. If not, the slowly decomposing bodies could attract predators and cause contamination.

So here’s the dynamite idea they’ve proposed: blow ’em up to smithereens and radically speed up the decomposition process. Lucky for the rangers, the USDA happens to have a protocol detailing every step of this process—including diagrams of where to place the explosives.

spacing is important

Because this diagram is optimized for a horse, it includes species-specific pro tips like, “Horseshoes should be removed to minimize dangerous flying debris.” The full protocol also includes a second, more complicated diagram of where to pack explosives on a frozen animal such as these cows. It ends with this note: “Carcasses that have been partially obliterated will generally not show any trace of existence the next day.” Good to know.

[via Improbable Research]

NCBI ROFL: Wobbling appearance of a face induced by doubled parts.

By ncbi rofl | April 19, 2012 7:00 pm

“An illusion produced by duplicating facial parts, which can cause an unstable feeling for many observers, was investigated. We examined factors that contribute to the unstable feeling. The results suggest that this illusion is specific to face perception, and the unstable feeling may be generated by difficulty in keeping attention directed to either of the duplicated facial parts.” Read More


Bald Men, This Nude Mouse With 1 Sad Tuft of Hair Could Be the Key to Your Follicular Future

By Sarah Zhang | April 19, 2012 11:06 am

spacing is important
My, what, uh, nice hair you have…

Among the mutant lab mice that scientists have dreamed up, there’s a particularly funny-looking nude mouse. Now scientists have managed to make it look even more ridiculous by adding just one small tuft of black hair on its back.

Getting the hair follicles to sprout was no small feat of bioengineering. As reported in a new paper in Nature Communications, researchers took stem cells from bald mice as well as men and implanted them in the skin of the nude mice. A plastic sheath guided the growing hair through layers of the skin, and voila. The individual hairs could also stand up on their ends—just like how your body hair stands up when you’re cold–which means the bioengineered follicles even connected to the small muscle that control piloerection.

And if you ever wanted to a naked, red-eyed mouse with one tuft of black hair to stare straight into your soul, do not miss the video below.

Read More

NCBI ROFL: Murder: an evolutionary adaptation?

By ncbi rofl | April 18, 2012 7:00 pm

The homicidol effect: investigating murder as a fitness signal.

“This article extends homicide adaptation theory by investigating signal effects of a murder. In two experiments (N = 299 and N = 161) participants reported their perceptions of a described person. The first study manipulated the information about the person (including or excluding a single sentence stating that the person has committed a murder) and stimulus person/observer sex match (same vs. opposite sex). Read More

The Laws of Physics, Officer, Outrank the Laws of California

By Veronique Greenwood | April 18, 2012 9:38 am

I think this picture says it all, officer. Clear as day!

To all those police officers out there on traffic duty: Be real careful about ticketing physicists. You might be proven wrong in elaborate mathematical detail.

Dmitri Krioukov, a physicist at UC San Diego, was pulled over for running a stop sign. However, he had not in fact run it, and his sense of injustice was apparently so inflamed that he undertook a rigorous mathematical explanation of what had happened, eventually posting a paper on the ArXiv showing that the police officer had fallen prey to a perceptual illusion (although the paper was posted on April 1, if it’s a joke, Krioukov is sticking to his guns; he’s spoken to PhysicsCentral about the work). At the stop sign, he had seen Krioukov’s car, a Toyota Yaris, disappear on the far side of a station wagon in the lane closest to the officer and subsequently accelerate away, but he mistakenly concluded that Krioukov had not stopped during that moment, because—this is the clincher—he had been visually measuring not the linear but the angular speed of the car! To put it in Krioukov’s own words:

“Police officer O made a mistake, confusing the real spacetime trajectory of car C1—which moved at approximately constant linear deceleration, came to a complete stop at the stop sign, and then started moving again with the same acceleration, the blue solid line in Fig. 5—for a trajectory of a hypothetical object moving at approximately constant linear speed without stopping at the stop sign.”

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Crime & Punishment

Canada's New Quarters Will Have Glow-in-the-Dark Dinosaurs on Them

By Veronique Greenwood | April 18, 2012 8:09 am


And unicorns, too.

Well, no. Just the dinosaurs. But isn’t that enough?

Each of the quarters, which will retail for $29.99, will feature an image of a Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai, a dinosaur discovered in Alberta. But take it into the closet under the stairs or wherever your favored glow-in-the-dark viewing site is, and the creature’s skeleton glows.

This is, according to TIME’s Moneyland, the Canadian government’s latest scheme to help shrink the deficit. We’re not hopeful, though—how many dino-loving 6-year-olds have $29.99 to spare?

[via Moneyland]

Image courtesy of Canadian Mint

NCBI ROFL: You don't need a face to be a good magician.

By ncbi rofl | April 17, 2012 7:00 pm

Social misdirection fails to enhance a magic illusion.

“Visual, multisensory and cognitive illusions in magic performances provide new windows into the psychological and neural principles of perception, attention, and cognition. We investigated a magic effect consisting of a coin “vanish” (i.e., the perceptual disappearance of a coin after a simulated toss from hand to hand). Previous research has shown that magicians can use joint attention cues such as their own gaze direction to strengthen the observers’ perception of magic. Read More


NCBI ROFL: The effect of social support derived from World of Warcraft on negative psychological symptoms.

By ncbi rofl | April 16, 2012 7:00 pm

“Previous research examining players of massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) suggests that players form meaningful relationships with each other. Other research indicates that people may derive social support from online sources, and this social support has been associated with greater well-being. This study used an online survey of players (N = 206) of the MMOG World of Warcraft (WoW) to examine if social support can be derived from MMOGs and to examine its relationship with negative psychological symptoms. Read More


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