For some reason the “don’t chew your food” diet never really took off…

By Seriously Science | September 1, 2014 6:00 am
Image: flickr/Helga Weber

Image: flickr/Helga Weber

There have been loads of strange diet fads over the years, some with more scientific support than others. But in terms of crazy, the “diet” suggested by this study from 1986 takes the cake! Basically, the researchers had volunteers eat the same meal twice, once with chewing and once without. They then tested their blood sugar. Turns out that the blood sugar levels were more stable when the subjects swallowed the food without chewing, effectively turning high glycemic foods into lower glycemic foods. Like magic. Disgusting magic. With choking hazards.

Swallowing food without chewing; a simple way to reduce postprandial glycaemia.

“The degree to which disruption by mastication affects the glycaemic response to four different carbohydrate foods was investigated in healthy human volunteers; each food was eaten by six subjects. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: analysis taken too far, eat me

Flashback Friday: Science proves right-handers are jocks, left-handers are nerds, and ambidextrous people love making pot holders.

By Seriously Science | August 29, 2014 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/

What does your handedness say about you? Well, according to this study, it can predict what you like to do in your free time. Although the scientists didn’t determine whether one’s handedness was a cause or a result of one’s hobby preferences, it’s pretty clear that common stereotypes seem to hold out… at least when it comes to lefties and righties, and their free-time activities!

Handedness and hobby preference.
“The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between handedness and hobby preference in healthy individuals. For this reason, the Annett handedness questionnaire and a standard questionnaire on preference for hobbies were administered to 879 healthy young men (age, M = 22.3, SD = 4.8 yr.). Read More

Chemists propose using ground-up earthworms (literally) as catalysts for chemical reactions.

By Seriously Science | August 28, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/allanhenderson

Photo: flickr/allanhenderson

Organic chemists are always looking for the next great catalyst — basically, ingredients that speed up the rate of chemical reactions. Here, a group of Chinese chemists make an unusual suggestion: using ground-up earthworms as a catalyst for a range of important reactions. Presumably, proteins and/or molecules in the earthworm extracts were responsible for the catalysis, and they actually work pretty well  (perhaps too well, according to our chemist sources…). Why earthworms? Because they’re “eco-friendly, environmentally benign, safe, cheap, easily accessible and stable.” The fact that they’re easy to purée probably doesn’t hurt…

Earthworm Is a Versatile and Sustainable Biocatalyst for Organic Synthesis

“A crude extract of earthworms was used as an eco-friendly, environmentally benign, and easily accessible biocatalyst for various organic synthesis including the asymmetric direct aldol and Mannich reactions, Henry and Biginelli reactions, direct three-component aza-Diels-Alder reactions for the synthesis of isoquinuclidines, and domino reactions for the synthesis of coumarins. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, WTF?

Do farts carry germs? Well, it depends on whether you are wearing pants.

By Seriously Science | August 27, 2014 6:00 am

Here is yet another jewel from one of the holiday issues of the British Medical Journal, sent to us by a reader (thanks, Ben!). It’s pretty straightforward, so instead of an introductory blurb, we’ll warm you up with this video of a fart caught on an infrared airport camera:

Hot air?

“It all started with an enquiry from a nurse,” Dr Karl Kruszelnicki told listeners to his science phone-in show on the Triple J radio station in Brisbane. “She wanted to know whether she was contaminating the operating theatre she worked in by quietly farting in the sterile environment during operations, and I realised that I didn’t know. But I was determined to find out.”

Dr Kruszelnicki then described the method by which he had established whether human flatus was germ-laden, or merely malodorous. “I contacted Luke Tennent, a microbiologist in Canberra, and together we devised an experiment. He asked a colleague to break wind directly onto two Petri dishes from a distance of 5 centimetres, first fully clothed, then with his trousers down. Then he observed what happened. Overnight, the second Petri dish sprouted visible lumps of two types of bacteria that are usually found only in the gut and on the skin. But the flatus which had passed through clothing caused no bacteria to sprout, which suggests that clothing acts as a filter.

Our deduction is that the enteric zone in the second Petri dish was caused by the flatus itself, and the splatter ring around that was caused by the sheer velocity of the fart, which blew skin bacteria from the cheeks and blasted it onto the dish. It seems, therefore, that flatus can cause infection if the emitter is naked, but not if he or she is clothed. But the results of the experiment should not be considered alarming, because neither type of bacterium is harmful. In fact, they’re similar to the ‘friendly’ bacteria found in yoghurt.

Our final conclusion? Don’t fart naked near food. All right, it’s not rocket science. But then again, maybe it is?

Related content:
It is easier to fart while standing up or lying down?
Sexually aroused by farts? You’re not alone.
NCBI ROFL: Flatufonia–or the musical anus.


Which makes you happier: anticipating an experience or a purchase?

By Seriously Science | August 26, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/monkeymashbutton

Photo: flickr/monkeymashbutton

Psychologists have known for some time now that so-called “experiential purchases” (when you spend money to experience something, like a Broadway show or a vacation) make people happier than material purchases (like a couch or car). This may seem somewhat counter-intuitive because experiences always end at some point, whereas material purchases last longer. However, it’s well known that people get used to things that are around them every day, and they soon lose their appreciation for even the most expensive couches and cars. But all that’s after the fact; these scientists wondered whether the anticipation of the different types of purchases would also differ. To test this, they used a combination of lab experiments, surveys (, and analysis of news archives about people waiting to buy things. They found that the mere anticipation of experiential purchases was also more pleasurable, likely also because of their fleeting nature. The authors summarize their results on a (somewhat ridiculous) poetic note: “People are less inclined to wait for a Volvo, Polo, or Lenovo than to sip Pernod, take a furlough, or open a Merlot because waiting for the latter is simply more pleasurable.”

Waiting for Merlot: Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases

“Experiential purchases (money spent on doing) tend to provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having). Although most research comparing these two types of purchases has focused on their downstream hedonic consequences, the present research investigated hedonic differences that occur before consumption. We argue that waiting for experiences tends to be more positive than waiting for possessions. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings

What’s the best cheese for pizza? Science weighs in!

By Seriously Science | August 25, 2014 6:00 am
Image: flickr/Ryan Hyde

Image: flickr/Ryan Hyde

Mmm… Pizza! Although it’s a crowd pleaser, when it comes to gourmet pizza, there seem to be as many different preferences as there are people. But no matter how you like your pizza, this study will help you choose the best cheese. To compare different cheeses, this international group of scientists carefully made pizzas that were as uniform as possible except for the type of cheese used: they tested Mozzarella, Cheddar, Colby, Edam, Emmental, Gruyere and Provolone. They then investigated the browning properties of the cheeses (see figure below), as well as their elasticity, oil and water content, and melting properties (be sure to check out their awesome model for how cheese blisters form when baking pizza!). And yes, they made all their pizzas in triplicate! The result? Well, it depends on what you are looking for in your pizza, but there’s a reason that Mozzarella is so popular.

Quantification of pizza baking properties of different cheeses, and their correlation with cheese functionality.

“The aim of this study is to quantify the pizza baking properties and performance of different cheeses, including the browning and blistering, and to investigate the correlation to cheese properties (rheology, free oil, transition temperature, and water activity). Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, rated G

Flashback Friday: Why watching cooking shows could sabotage your diet.

By Seriously Science | August 22, 2014 9:23 am
Photo: flickr/alex.lines

Photo: flickr/alex.lines

With their close-ups of food and attractive hosts, shows on the Food Network and other cooking channels have been likened to pornography – and some even have the music and camerawork to go along with it. But do these shows also resemble porn by making viewers want to participate in the action? Here, researchers tested whether watching “food-related content” on TV (in this case, an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants in which food was featured) made people eat more candy than watching “non-food-related content”. They found that restrained eaters (i.e., those on a diet) did eat more while watching food-related TV than those who were not on a diet. But maybe the opposite is also true and we can undo it all by watching sports while on the treadmill…. PhD thesis, anyone?

Watching food-related television increases caloric intake in restrained eaters.

“While watching 30-min television (TV) programs that contained either food-related content or non-food-related content, participants were asked to eat two types of candy by explicitly being told that we were interested in how the TV program influenced their taste and therefore they needed to consume some of those candies. Read More


Study shows lesbians have more orgasms.

By Seriously Science | August 21, 2014 6:50 am
Photo: flickr/neogabox

Photo: flickr/neogabox

Who has better sex: heterosexuals or homosexuals? You might have your own guesses, but these scientists surveyed over 6,000 people on the internet to generate some hard data on how often people experienced orgasm with a familiar partner. Turns out that homosexual and heterosexual men have similar orgasm frequencies (~85%), while women on average have lower (~63%) rates of orgasm. However, if you separate heterosexual and homosexual women, there’s a big difference: heterosexual women reported having orgasms 61.6% of the time, while lesbians have orgasms 74.7% of the time. Interestingly, bisexual men and women both had lower orgasm frequencies compared to either their straight or gay counterparts (the authors speculate this might be due to subgroups of people with various sexual behaviors who all chose to identify as bisexual). So why do these groups differ the way they do? That remains for future studies… so we’ll just leave it to your imagination for now. 

Variation in Orgasm Occurrence by Sexual Orientation in a Sample of U.S. Singles.

Despite recent advances in understanding orgasm variation, little is known about ways in which sexual orientation is associated with men’s and women’s orgasm occurrence.
To assess orgasm occurrence during sexual activity across sexual orientation categories.
Data were collected by Internet questionnaire from 6,151 men and women (ages 21-65+ years) as part of a nationally representative sample of single individuals in the United States. Analyses were restricted to a subsample of 2,850 singles (1,497 men, 1,353 women) who had experienced sexual activity in the past 12 months.
Participants reported their sex/gender, self-identified sexual orientation (heterosexual, gay/lesbian, bisexual), and what percentage of the time they experience orgasm when having sex with a familiar partner. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: reinforcing stereotypes

Horses use their ears to communicate with each other.

By Seriously Science | August 20, 2014 6:00 am

If you’ve ever spent time with a horse, you’ve probably noticed how mobile their ears are; not only can they point up or lie flat, but they can swivel nearly 180 degrees! Horse handlers harness this mobility to tell a lot about how a horse is feeling by ear-watching. But it is less clear whether horses use their ears to communicate to each other. To test this, British scientists let horses choose to feed from one of two buckets. Behind the buckets was a life-sized photo of a horse’s head, facing either to the right or left. If the real horse could see both the ears and eyes of the horse in the picture, it would pick whichever bucket the picture-horse was pointing towards. But if either the ears or eyes were covered, the horse ignored the picture and chose a random bucket, showing that horses watch the eyes and ears of other horses to gather information, and may purposely use their own to convey useful tidbits. Although this may not be as fun as Mr. Ed, it is a bit more believable.

The eyes and ears are visual indicators of attention in domestic horses.

“Sensitivity to the attentional states of others has adaptive advantages, and in social animals, attending to others is important for predator detection, as well as a pre-requisite for normal social functioning and more complex socio-cognitive abilities. Despite widespread interest in how social species perceive attention in others, studies of non-human animals have been inconclusive about the detailed cues involved. Read More

How to make people think random Disney characters are creepy.

By Seriously Science | August 19, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/lorenjavier

Photo: flickr/lorenjavier

As you might already know, it’s pretty easy to give people false memories. It’s why “past life regression” sometimes seems to work, and why even eyewitness testimony can be called into question in court. Here, a group of scientists attempted to introduce false beliefs to make college students wary of the Disney character Pluto. To do so, they used survey results to make some of the subjects think they were likely to have had a creepy encounter with someone dressed up as Pluto: “For Bad Pluto subjects, the profile first described a number of likely childhood fears (loud noises, receiving public displays of affection, and getting into trouble) and then informed subjects that on the basis of their profile, the following excerpt might be relevant to them. The excerpt was in the form of a newspaper article that told of a Pluto character who abused hallucinogenic drugs and ‘developed a habit of inappropriately licking the ears of many young visitors with his large fabric tongue’ in the 1980s and 1990s.” They found that the people who thought that Pluto had ‘violated’ them were less willing to pay for a Pluto souvenir, while those who were made to think that the ear-licking incident was positive were willing to pay more. That’s okay, Pluto — just like Mickey, I can’t be mad at ya!

Pluto behaving badly: false beliefs and their consequences.

“We exposed college students to suggestive materials in order to lead them to believe that, as children, they had a negative experience at Disneyland involving the Pluto character. A sizable minority of subjects developed a false belief or memory that Pluto had uncomfortably licked their ear. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings, WTF?

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Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
Send us paper suggestions: srslyscience[at]

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