Older people have a reputation for having less energy than younger people. But do they also feel more tired? This study summarizes the results of a survey that, among other things, asked 10,000 Americans to rate how weary they felt on the previous day. Turns out that older people were nearly a whole point less tired on a scale from 0-6 compared to younger people. Given how exhausted everyone around me seems these days, having this to look forward to is actually pretty awesome news. Coffee, anyone?
“Objectives.It is commonplace for people to complain about being tired. There have been actually few studies of tiredness in large general population samples, and where studies do exist, the measures often rely on external assessments. We use a diary-based method to overcome these limitations in a representative sample of U.S. residents.
Data come from the 2010 American Time Use Survey. Around 13,000 respondents provided a diary about the prior day and rated how tired they felt during selected activities. Regression analysis is used to explain variance in tiredness by age. Read More
With obesity reaching epidemic proportions, it seems like everyone and their brother is trying to figure out the cause. These scientists actually propose a fairly reasonable hypothesis: overweight people are more sensitive to the bitter flavors that are largely absent from highly processed (and hugely fattening) fast foods. To test the hypothesis, they had both overweight and normal subjects rate the the bitterness of foods. As a less subjective measure, they also recorded and rated the faces the subjects made in response to the bitter foods. It turns out that their hypothesis was right: overweight people do react more strongly to bitter foods. Is this making anyone else hungry for brussels sprouts?
“Differences in food consumption among body-weight statuses (e.g., higher fruit intake linked with lower body mass index (BMI) and energy-dense products with higher BMI) has raised the question of why people who are overweight or are at risk of becoming overweight eat differently from thinner people. One explanation, in terms of sensitivity to affective properties of food, suggests that palatability-driven consumption is likely to be an important contributor to food intake, and therefore body weight. Read More
There are those of us who believe that our cats love us, and then there are these scientists, who questioned whether cats can even recognize the sounds of their owners’ voices. In this study, they wanted to determine whether a cat was responding specifically to its owner’s voice (rather than just any old voice). To do this, they “habituated” the cats to people calling their name by having three strangers say the cat’s name. By the third time, the cat’s ears barely twitched. Then the owner said the cat’s name, and the cat responded, indicating that it could tell the owner’s voice was “special”. This still doesn’t prove that the cats like us more than they would a food-dispensing robot, but hey, it’s progress.
Vocal recognition of owners by domestic cats (Felis catus).
“Domestic cats have had a 10,000-year history of cohabitation with humans and seem to have the ability to communicate with humans. However, this has not been widely examined. We studied 20 domestic cats to investigate whether they could recognize their owners by using voices that called out the subjects’ names, with a habituation-dishabituation method. Read More
“Dinosaurs undoubtedly produced huge quantities of excrements. But who cleaned up after them? Dung beetles and flies with rapid development were rare during most of the Mesozoic. Candidates for these duties are extinct cockroaches (Blattulidae), whose temporal range is associated with herbivorous dinosaurs. An opportunity to test this hypothesis arises from coprolites to some extent extruded from an immature cockroach preserved in the amber of Lebanon, studied using synchrotron X-ray microtomography. Read More
According to this medical report published in 1961, a 24-year-old woman was admitted to a hospital in London with a lump in her vagina. After a medical examination, she was informed that it wasn’t a tumor–it was an onion. In her vagina. Apparently, her lover had left it there. And no, this was not published in “The Onion” (link to full text is below).
An unusual case of vaginal tumour.
“A young unmarried woman aged 24 years, suffering from cancerophobia, came to the clinic in an acute anxiety state, convinced that she had a malignant growth, having, she stated, only that morning felt a hard lump in the vagina. Read More
We’ve all been there: waiting at the bar, dying for a drink, but unable to catch the bartender’s attention. It’s easy to assume that we are being served (or rather, ignored) by a crappy bartender. But maybe it’s us. Maybe we’re the ones not giving the right signals that say “Beer me! Now!”. This is actually the best-case scenario, because it’s fixable, and these German scientists are here to help (and, eventually, to build a bartending robot). To determine the best way to signal to a bartender that you want a drink, they recorded real customer-bartender interactions and determined which signals caused patrons to be served: “The results revealed that bar staff responded to a set of two non-verbal signals: first, customers position themselves directly at the bar counter and, secondly, they look at a member of staff. Both signals were necessary and, when occurring together, sufficient.” And there you have it, folks. In terms of proving cause and effect, it doesn’t get better than “necessary and sufficient”. So, the next time you fail to get served at a bar, remember that it might not be the bartender–it might be you.
Automatic detection of service initiation signals used in bars.
“Recognizing the intention of others is important in all social interactions, especially in the service domain. Enabling a bartending robot to serve customers is particularly challenging as the system has to recognize the social signals produced by customers and respond appropriately. Detecting whether a customer would like to order is essential for the service encounter to succeed. This detection is particularly challenging in a noisy environment with multiple customers. Thus, a bartending robot has to be able to distinguish between customers intending to order, chatting with friends or just passing by. In order to study which signals customers use to initiate a service interaction in a bar, we recorded real-life customer-staff interactions in several German bars. Read More
The so-called “Thatcher Illusion” is named after its most famous, and original, example (left). Peter Thomson was the first to notice that if upside down, one hardly notices an inversion of individual facial features, but if that face is turned right-side-up, blammo: it’s terrifyingly awful. There are a number of studies that try to explain the cause of this illusion, but these authors take a different tack. They wondered if other primates can see it too, which would imply a shared facial imaging processing network. It turns out that, yes, chimps also seem to be able to see this illusion, although rhesus monkeys could not. Lucky monkeys!
“Face recognition in humans is a complex cognitive skill that requires sensitivity to unique configurations of eyes, mouth, and other facial features. The Thatcher illusion has been used to demonstrate the importance of orientation when processing configural information within faces. Transforming an upright face so that the eyes and mouth are inverted renders the face grotesque; however, when this “Thatcherized” face is inverted, the effect disappears. Read More
There is a lot of discussion about online pornography and its effect on society. In particular, the way women are portrayed in pornography is thought to play a role in how we treat women every day. But not all porn is the same, and there have been very few studies that compare different styles of pornography and how they portray women. These scientists stepped up to fill our knowledge gap by watching “teen” porn that focuses on younger characters, and “MILF” porn that focuses on women with, supposedly, more sexual experience (“mother” figures). They then used several metrics to compare the behaviors and treatment of these female characters. It turns out that in both porn types, women and men were both equally likely to initiate sexual activity. However, the women playing older characters were more likely to be in control of the scene, and bent on achieving their own satisfaction (a comprehensive table is included after the jump). So, whether or not you think pornography is good or bad for society, the effects you are talking about might just depend on the type of porn.
“Viewing free online pornographic videos has increasingly become a common behavior among young people, although little is known about the content of these videos. The current study analyzed the content of two popular female-age-based types of free, online pornography (teen and MILF) and examined nuances in the portrayal of gender and access to power in relation to the age of the female actor. Read More
Breaking a tooth, whether due to a punch in the face, a fall, or biting into a frozen chocolate bar (yes, that happened to me… it was horrifying to realize there was neither toffee nor almonds in the chocolate, but I digress), is a stressful event. In fact, tooth loss is a common theme in many people’s anxiety dreams. So, if you do break a tooth and happen to find the wayward piece, what should you do with it? More specifically, how should you store it? Well, to determine the best way to store a broken tooth to ensure a strong bond when it is glued back in, these scientists started by collecting a bunch of teeth: “In this experimental laboratory study, 60 human mandibular incisors, which were extracted because of periodontal diseases, without any defects such as fractures, decalcification, or caries were collected.” These teeth were then broken, stored in various liquids or in air, and then glued back together. The scientists then determined how much force it took to re-break the teeth. It turns out that the old wives’ tale is right–you should pop that bad boy in a glass of milk!
“AIM: The aim of this study was to examine various storage environments for storing fragments before being bonded to the remaining teeth and also estimate the required force to fracture the restored teeth.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Sixty mandibular incisor teeth were fractured on the incisal one-third and were divided into five groups of 12 each to be stored in normal saline, water, milk, saliva and dry environments for 24 hours. Read More
To celebrate Thanksgiving, we’ve compiled a list of scientific articles related to turkey, eating, and even pilgrims. Some of the links are to previous posts, but others go right to the primary literature. Enjoy!
1. Investigation of the best suture pattern to close a stuffed turkey. “A randomised trial involving 15 turkeys was performed in order to evaluate skin disruption scores and cosmetic outcomes following the use of different suture patterns. ”
2. Are you really happy, or is it just the nutmeg in your pumpkin pie? “The typical spices used in winter include nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and anise. These spices contain two groups of chemicals, the allylbenzenes and their isomers, the propenylbenzenes. It was suggested 40 years ago by Alexander Shulgin that these substances act as metabolic precursors of amphetamines.”
3. The effect of the Thanksgiving holiday on weight gain. “Overall, a significant (P < 0.05) increase in BW was found between pre (72.1 kg) and post (72.6 kg) Thanksgiving holiday”
4. Pilgrims sailing the Titanic: Plausibility effects on memory for misinformation. “In Experiment 1, we presented stories containing inaccurate plausible statements (e.g., “The Pilgrims’ ship was the Godspeed”), inaccurate implausible statements (e.g., . . . the Titanic), or accurate statements (e.g., . . . the Mayflower). ”
5. New diagnostic test to determine whether you overdid it at Thanksgiving? Or hilarious typo?