Flashback Friday: The science behind why we put milk on cereal (and not water).

By Seriously Science | October 24, 2014 10:07 am
Photo: flickr/musicfanatic29

Photo: flickr/musicfanatic29

Have you ever wondered why we put milk on cereal? Why not juice, water, or any of the other assorted liquids we consume daily? Well, these food scientists finally did the experiments to find out. Turns out that milk, due to its fat content, coats the cereal and keeps it from getting soggy as quickly as it does in pure water. Be sure to read on to the abstract below for some of our favorite examples of (U)nnecessary (A)cronyms (UA)!

Physical properties and microstructural changes during soaking of individual corn and quinoa breakfast flakes.

“The importance of breakfast cereal flakes (BCF) in Western diets deserves an understanding of changes in their mechanical properties and microstructure that occur during soaking in a liquid (that is, milk or water) prior to consumption. The maximum rupture force (RF) of 2 types of breakfast flaked products (BFP)–corn flakes (CF) and quinoa flakes (QF)–were measured directly while immersed in milk with 2% of fat content (milk 2%) or distilled water for different periods of time between 5 and 300 s. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, told you so

Study finds that women who are ovulating are more into kissing.

By Seriously Science | October 23, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidchief/1006785809

Photo: flickr/davidchief

Over the years we’ve featured a number of studies that attempt to associate ovulation with  specific (and often complicated) behaviors in women, ranging from the accuracy of their gaydar to their likeliness to vote Republican or Democrat. In this study, the researchers used an “international online questionnaire” to determine whether women’s opinions of romantic kissing changes through their menstrual cycle. And sure enough, ovulating women felt that kissing was more important in the initial stages of the relationship than women who were not ovulating, and this association was related to hormone levels. Not only that, but ovulating women also placed more weight on the “pleasantness of a man’s breath”, which the authors suggest could be related to detecting pheremones.  Although this study did not determine if ovulating women like kissing as a result of  an overall increase in sexual appetite  or whether it somehow helps a woman assess potential mates, we’re pretty sure that study is being done; scientists sure do like ovulating women!

Menstrual cycle effects on attitudes toward romantic kissing.

“Hormonal changes associated with the human menstrual cycle have been previously found to affect female mate preference, whereby women in the late follicular phase of their cycle (i.e., at higher risk of conception) prefer males displaying putative signals of underlying genetic fitness. Past research also suggests that romantic kissing is utilized in human mating contexts to assess potential mating partners. The current study examined whether women in their late follicular cycle phase place greater value on kissing at times when it might help serve mate assessment functions. Read More

Is there such a thing as a “schadenfreude face”?

By Seriously Science | October 22, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: Flickr/Moyan Brenn

Photo: Flickr/Moyan Brenn

And who better to answer this burning question than… a group of German scientists?! To determine if a person’s facial expression is different when one is feeling plain ol’ happy vs. happy because of others’ misfortunes, the scientists had a group of subjects watch soccer and then measured the activation of their facial muscles. Unfortunately, the researchers were not able to detect any differences in how the subjects’ faces moved when their team scored or when the other team missed a shot; consequently, they concluded that there is no such thing as a “schadenfreude face.” Maybe they should have tested toddlers instead…

The face of schadenfreude: Differentiation of joy and schadenfreude by electromyography.

“The present study investigated whether the facial expression of the social emotion schadenfreude, the pleasant emotion which arises in response to another’s misfortune, can be differentiated from the facial expression of joy. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings, rated G

Why are humans the only animals that flirt?

By Seriously Science | October 21, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/alyssafilmmaker

Photo: flickr/alyssafilmmaker

As far as scientists can tell, humans are the only animals with “covert sexual signaling” (aka flirting). In many other species, males are very overt about their courtship signals, even to the extent of expensive, colorful displays. The authors of this study hypothesize that flirting is unique to humans because there are socially imposed costs to being too overt with courtship displays. Basically, in certain situations (work, for example, or in front of your crush’s spouse), it could be socially costly to be too obvious with attempts to attract a mate. Therefore, humans have developed subtle signals that can potentially go unnoticed by all but the intended recipient. Our question is this: if other animals were to flirt, would we even be able to detect it?

Covert sexual signaling: Human flirtation and implications for other social species.

“According to signaling theory and a large body of supporting evidence, males across many taxa produce courtship signals that honestly advertise their quality. The cost of producing or performing these signals maintains signal honesty, such that females are typically able to choose the best males by selecting those that produce the loudest, brightest, longest, or otherwise highest-intensity signals, using signal strength as a measure of quality. Set against this background, human flirting behavior, characterized by its frequent subtlety or covertness, is mysterious. Read More


This swallowing detector tracks everything that goes down your throat.

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

“The AID-HMS determines the levels of ingestion activity from sounds captured by an external throat microphone.”

Even though the obesity epidemic is getting out of control, dietary research still heavily relies on self-reported survey data, which is often incorrect. One option to get around this is to have people eat in a lab, but that would likely interfere with their natural eating habits and produce worthless data. So, as another option, these researchers have developed the “Automated Ingestion Detection” (AID) technology to track what patients are eating. It works by wearing a microphone around your neck that records swallowing sounds, which doctors then use to record how much is going down your gullet. Although the authors only discuss how this would be used for dietary research, there are other, uh… “more adult” questions that could be readily answered by this handy device.

Automated ingestion detection for a health monitoring system.

“Obesity is a global epidemic that imposes a financial burden and increased risk for a myriad of chronic diseases. Presented here is an overview of a prototype automated ingestion detection (AID) process implemented in a health monitoring system (HMS). Read More


Flashback Friday: Sorry, no matter how long you soak your feet in vodka, you will never get drunk.

By Seriously Science | October 17, 2014 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/ hildgrim

Apparently, it’s “common knowledge” in Denmark that you can get drunk by soaking your feet in vodka. But is this true, or is this just another stupid urban legend? Well, for the good of humanity, these three doctors did the experiment to find out — on themselves. While soaking their feet in two liters of vodka, they measured their blood alcohol levels and checked for drunken behaviors every 30 minutes. Unfortunately, to the despair of everyone everywhere, the doctors were not able to detect any absorption of alcohol through their feet. However, no doubt they went home with some pretty awesome foot-infused vodka. Yum!

Testing the validity of the Danish urban myth that alcohol can be absorbed through feet: open labelled self experimental study.

“Objective: To determine the validity of the Danish urban myth that it is possible to get drunk by submerging feet in alcohol… The primary end point was the concentration of plasma ethanol (detection limit 2.2 mmol/L (10 mg/100 mL)), measured every 30 minutes for three hours while feet were submerged in a washing-up bowl containing the contents of three 700 mL bottles of vodka. The secondary outcome was self assessment of intoxication related symptoms (self confidence, urge to speak, and number of spontaneous hugs), scored on a scale of 0 to 10. Plasma ethanol concentrations were below the detection limit of 2.2 mmol/L (10 mg/100 mL) throughout the experiment. No significant changes were observed in the intoxication related symptoms, although self confidence and urge to speak increased slightly at the start of the study, probably due to the setup. Our results suggest that feet are impenetrable to the alcohol component of vodka. We therefore conclude that the Danish urban myth of being able to get drunk by submerging feet in alcoholic beverages is just that; a myth. The implications of the study are many though.”

Related content:
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Spring break: Prairie vole edition!
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: I swear I haven’t been drinking, Officer. It was my gut flora!
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Binge drinking: also a problem for our teenage rats.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ethanol, told you so

Why do wet things feel wet?

By Seriously Science | October 16, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: Flickr/martinak15

Photo: Flickr/martinak15

At first glance, this may seem like a completely moronic question. I mean, wet stuff feels wet because… well, it’s wet. Duh! But when you stop to think more deeply about it it, it quickly becomes a very profound question. That’s because, unlike heat or touch, we don’t have any sensors in our skin capable of directly detecting wetness. Therefore, scientists believe that we rely on other senses, like temperature or touch, to indirectly sense when something is wet. To test this idea, scientists wet subjects’ forearms while interfering with their senses of touch and temperature. Without being able to see their arms, the participants rated how wet they thought they were. In the end, interfering with their senses of touch and temperature did reduce the participants’ ability to sense wetness, providing support for the hypothesis. Taking a bath will never feel quite the same again…

Why wet feels wet? A neurophysiological model of human cutaneous wetness sensitivity.

“Although the ability to sense skin wetness and humidity is critical for behavioral and autonomic adaptations, humans are not provided with specific skin receptors for sensing wetness. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings, rated G

Study finds men are more likely to think a woman’s a floozy if she’s just sitting next to a beer.

By Seriously Science | October 15, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: Flickr/Ninha Morandini

Photo: Flickr/Ninha Morandini

Previous studies (not to mention our own experiences) have shown that men think drunk women want to get laid. But how much of that is drunk behavior, and how much is simply the presence of alcohol? To answer this question, scientists had participants watch one of two silent sixty-second movies of a man and woman interacting. In one version, the woman had a bottle of beer next to her, and in the other version, a bottle of water, neither of which she drank. The 69 male and 78 female participants were then asked to rate the couple on a number of different criteria. The results showed that men rated the actress as more flirtatious, promiscuous, and seductive when she was sitting next to the beer. This bias was much more pronounced in men than women, implying that it isn’t simply due to broad social stereotypes — although those probably don’t help either.

The effect of gender and alcohol placement in the processing of sexual intent.

“INTRODUCTION AND AIMS: Alcohol consumption in women is known to be perceived by men as signalling sexual intent. However, it is unclear whether such assumptions extend to the simple presence of alcohol. The present study investigated the association between gender and alcohol placement on processing of sexual intent. Read More


According to science, there’s no such thing as comfort food.

By Seriously Science | October 14, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/dixiebellecupcakecafe

Photo: flickr/dixiebellecupcakecafe

Heartbroken women in rom-coms, put down your pints of Ben and Jerry’s — turns out that, according to this study, comfort food is an illusion. To test this, the researchers had subjects watch sad movies and let them eat either a comfort food, an “equally liked noncomfort food,” a neutral food, or no food and then measured how their moods changed. They found that comfort foods did improve the subjects’ mood, but no more than other foods or no food. The scientists suggest that comfort foods are being credited for changes in mood that would have happened even without the food. So the next time you have a bad day, try waiting it out instead of reaching for a giant bowl of mac and cheese; you might feel just as good, without all those extra calories. And be sure to let us know how (and if) it works out!

The Myth of Comfort Food

“Objective: People seek out their own idiosyncratic comfort foods when in negative moods, and they believe that these foods rapidly improve their mood. The purpose of these studies is to investigate whether comfort foods actually provide psychological benefits, and if so, whether they improve mood better than comparison foods or no food. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, feelings shmeelings

The rival wears Prada: luxury consumption as a female competition strategy.

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

Photo: flickr/mell242

Have you been coveting the latest Manolo Blahnik heels or Prada bag? If so, have you ever stopped to think about why? Well, according to this study, it might be related to competition with other women. Here, the researchers had women read different scenarios related or not related to mate competition (see below) and then later asked how interested they were in buying different luxury products (a designer dress or a smartphone). The women who read the scenarios related to competition with other women for a man were more likely to be interested in the designer dress. Not only that, but in a second experiment, the scientists found that women who wear designer clothes/shoes/etc. were perceived as “more attractive, flirty, young, ambitious, sexy, and less loyal, mature and smart” by other women. Pretty much sums up Sex and the City… amirite?

The rival wears Prada: Luxury consumption as a female competition strategy.

“Previous studies on luxury consumption demonstrated that men spend large sums of money on luxury brands to signal their mate value to women and, thus, increase their reproductive success. Although women also spend copious amounts of money on luxuries, research focusing on women’s motives for luxury consumption is rather scarce.

Relying on costly signaling and intrasexual competition theory, the goal of the current study was to test whether female intrasexual competition in a mate attraction context triggers women’s spending on luxuries. Read More


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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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