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?

Forensic scientists can use an Xbox Kinect to collect crime scene data.

By Seriously Science | August 18, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: Flickr/Alan Cleaver

Photo: Flickr/Alan Cleaver

Analysis of crime scenes involves a lot more tedium than shows like CSI would have you believe. That’s because it’s vital that the relative positions of all potential evidence are accurately measured and recorded. Traditionally, such distances are measured using expensive scanners, lasers, or even plain old tape measures. But with single stroke of brilliance, these forensic scientists are proposing a new method that might just make all that painstaking data collection a thing of the past. They propose taking advantage of the detailed object mapping used by the Xbox Kinect interactive gaming system. They compare its measuring capabilities to that of proven scanning systems, and as long as you keep the Kinect within three meters of the target, it works pretty well. How long do you think it will be before we see this on CSI?

Application of Kinect Gaming Sensor in Forensic Science.

“Kinect sensor appears as a low-cost option for 3D modeling. This manuscript describes a methodology to test the applicability of Kinect to crime scenes. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Crime & Punishment

Flashback Friday: Superglue in the ear double feature: pros and cons.

By Seriously Science | August 15, 2014 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/darkpatator

Pop quiz: When is putting superglue in someone’s ear a good idea? If you answered “Never!” then you are…wrong! That’s because superglue is one of the only ways that doctors can remove smooth, round objects that get wedged in people’s ears (see the first article below). But other than that, yes, putting superglue in your ear is a terrible idea. It’s particularly bad because it sticks so well to skin–which you already know if you’ve ever accidentally superglued your index finger to your thumb. So how do doctors get the sticky stuff out? Well, according to the second article below, they can use warm 3% hydrogen peroxide to safely remove superglue without injuring delicate ear tissue. While I would never attempt that with my own ears, perhaps it might help the next time I superglue something to my finger?

A new technique for removing foreign bodies of the external auditory canal.

“Foreign bodies of the external auditory canal are a common and challenging problem. Several techniques have been described and utilized to remove the many objects placed in ears. The tightly wedged smooth round foreign body remains one of the most difficult to remove. A new method, using a cyanoacrylate adhesive (Super Glue) was used successfully to remove a soy bean in a 16-year-old male. The glue was placed on the blunt end of a cotton swab, which was then introduced into the canal to make contact with the bean. Removal was easy, safe, and effective. This procedure avoided the morbidity associated with many well known techniques, eg, the use of forceps, and may have prevented removal under general anesthesia.”

A novel approach to the removal of superglue from the ear.

“The ability of superglue (a cyanoacrylate adhesive) to bond strongly and quickly to skin presents considerable problems when it is inserted into the ear. A case of a patient who inadvertently self-administered Bostik superglue into her left external auditory meatus is reported. The superglue was removed successfully, in the form of a cast, with warm three per cent hydrogen peroxide without damaging the meatus or the typanic membrane. The use of hydrogen peroxide to remove superglue from the ear has not been described previously.”

Related content:
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Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: “Here’s egg in your eye”: a prospective study of blunt ocular trauma resulting from thrown eggs.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Top 5 insensitive titles!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: diy medicine, rated G

The case of the girl who sneezed 2,000 times a day.

By Seriously Science | August 14, 2014 6:00 am

We’ve heard of intractable hiccups (which can be cured, FYI, by digital rectal massage), but here’s a new one: intractable sneezing. This article reports the case of a young girl who sneezed up to 2,000 times a day for 3 months. She did not get better despite being seen by numerous doctors and being treated with everything from antihistamines to corticosteroids, leading the doctors to believe it was probably psychological. Or maybe she was just allergic to sneezing?

Factitious sneezing.

“We report a case of hysterical, intractable paroxysmal sneezing in an adolescent girl. The patient had been observed by two pediatricians, an allergist, an emergency room physician, and a chiropractor. She had been treated with antihistamines, epinephrine, corticosteroid nasal spray, and a 1-week course of an oral corticosteroid without improvement. She was referred for evaluation of an allergic etiology before continuing her workup with a computed tomographic head scan. The patient had been sneezing almost daily for 3 mo up to 2000 times a day. Read More

Giant earwax plugs tell the life stories of blue whales.

By Seriously Science | August 13, 2014 6:00 am

You know what they say about huge animals, don’t you? They have huge balls… of earwax! Take blue whales, for example: according to this study, they carry around 10-inch long plugs of earwax. The earwax accumulates in concentric layers over the entire lifetime of the whale, with the oldest layers towards the center and the newest closest to the skin (see figure below). And because earwax is hydrophobic, it can absorb fat-soluble compounds, including some hormones and pollutants. These two properties allow scientists to “read” these earwax plugs and trace the life histories of the whales, including times of stress (via cortisol levels) and exposure to contaminants such as mercury. Although the earwax can only be retrieved from dead whales (the sample used in this study came from a whale who died after being hit by a ship), studying these plugs will allow scientists to learn about the pollutants that whales are exposed to. Come on–that’s probably the coolest thing about earwax you’ve learned today!

Blue whale earplug reveals lifetime contaminant exposure and hormone profiles.

“Lifetime contaminant and hormonal profiles have been reconstructed for an individual male blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus, Linnaeus 1758) using the earplug as a natural aging matrix that is also capable of archiving and preserving lipophilic compounds. Read More

Some doctors believe Twitter can drive you crazy…literally!

By Seriously Science | August 12, 2014 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Pete Simon

Image: Flickr/Pete Simon

I don’t know about you, but I find Twitter to be the most frustrating form of social media. (Perhaps it’s simply because I’m just not pithy enough to limit myself 140 characters.) And on top of that, now we learn that Twitter might actually be bad for your mental health. If you are worried you might be in danger of “Twitter psychosis,” you might want to compare your Twitter activity to that of this patient: “Approximately 1 year before admission, she had started to “twitter” excessively. Sometimes, she would spend several hours a day reading and writing messages, neglecting her social relationships and, sometimes, even meals and regular sleeping hours.” The doctors treating this patient suspect that reading and trying to interpret hundreds of extremely short messages, many from spammers, induced the psychosis she experienced (see below for more details). #tweetatyourownrisk

Twitter psychosis: a rare variation or a distinct syndrome?

“The authors believe that the amount of symbolic language (caused by the limitation of 140 characters per Twitter message), the automated spam responses with seemingly related content, and the general interactive features of Twitter might combine several aspects that could induce or further aggravate psychosis.”

“The authors report the development of psychosis in a young woman coinciding with excessive use of the online communication system Twitter and the results of an experimental account to argue that Twitter may have a high potential to induce psychosis in predisposed users.” Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: the interwebs

The Kardashian index: what happens when scientists Tweet more than they publish.

By Seriously Science | August 11, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/evarinaldiphotography

Photo: flickr/evarinaldiphotography

Does the science world have its own version of the Kardashians? According to this article (written by a British geneticist Neil Hall, who himself has >1500 Twitter followers), certain scientists have way more Twitter followers than should be warranted by their publication records. To measure this effect, he invented the “Kardashian index”, which is a metric similar to the h-index; however, instead of productivity, it measures the “discrepancy between a scientist’s social media profile and publication record.”  Certain scientists have very high “K-index” scores–that is, they’re “renowned for being renowned.”  For those people, Hall says,”[the K-index] can also be an incentive – if your K-index gets above 5, then it’s time to get off Twitter and write those papers.”

The Kardashian index: a measure of discrepant social media profile for scientists.

“In the era of social media there are now many different ways that a scientist can build their public profile; the publication of high-quality scientific papers being just one. While social media is a valuable tool for outreach and the sharing of ideas, there is a danger that this form of communication is gaining too high a value and that we are losing sight of key metrics of scientific value, such as citation indices. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: the interwebs

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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]gmail.com.

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