Going bald? According to these scientists, you can blame your beard.

By Seriously Science | August 31, 2018 6:00 am
Photo: Flickr/Mark Berry

Photo: Flickr/Mark Berry

[Note from the authors of “Seriously, Science?”: After nine years with Discover, we’ve been informed that this will be our last month blogging on this platform. Despite being (usually) objective scientists, we have a sentimental streak, and we have spent the last few days reminiscing about the crazy, and often funny, science we have highlighted. Therefore, we have assembled a month-long feast of our favorite science papers. Enjoy!]

Let’s face it, the vast majority of people who both go bald and have beards are men. Is this a coincidence?

These scientists think not! In fact, they believe that the reason men go bald is to compensate for the heat they retain by growing a beard. In support of this idea, their study from 1988 found that the area of skin covered by men’s beard hair correlates with the area of skin with sweat glands on the forehead and calvaria (the top of the head).

Furthermore, for men, the rate of sweat evaporation was higher on the forehead than the beard area, while the evaporation rate for women and boys was about the same for the two areas. They took another measurement of the men’s beard area and sweat areas 10 years later (after the balding had proceeded apace, see second abstract below), and found that the same correlation between beard and sweat areas held.

Overall, the more of a beard a man grows, the more sweaty area he has on the top of his head. Which is pretty cool… at least for his head temperature!

Beards, baldness, and sweat secretion.

“The hypothesis according to which male common baldness has developed in the human species as a compensation for the growth of a beard in order to achieve heat loss has been tested. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: reinforcing stereotypes

Gay men’s preferences for “top” vs. “bottom” can be judged by their face.

By Seriously Science | August 29, 2018 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Elvert Barnes

Photo: flickr/Elvert Barnes

[Note from the authors of “Seriously, Science?”: After nine years with Discover, we’ve been informed that this will be our last month blogging on this platform. Despite being (usually) objective scientists, we have a sentimental streak, and we have spent the last few days reminiscing about the crazy, and often funny, science we have highlighted. Therefore, we have assembled a month-long feast of our favorite science papers. Enjoy!]

It’s been known for a while that it takes less than a second for people to use their internal “gaydar” to decide if they think a man is homosexual or heterosexual, and such snap judgements tend to be right. But can facial differences be used to distinguish between different types of gay men — specifically, those who define themselves as “tops” versus “bottoms”? To find out, the authors of this study recruited 23 participants from Amazon’s mTurk (including 7 females). The participants were asked to look at 200 photographs of gay men found on an online dating site (100 tops, 100 bottoms) and categorize them as tops or bottoms. Interestingly, they chose the correct roles at a rate better than chance, although they were biased towards choosing the male-stereotypical “top” role. As you might have guessed, the participants were using cues related to masculinity (e.g., thick eyebrows, large noses) to make their choices. The authors conclude with this tantalizing suggestion: “it is possible that similar effects may be found in opposite-sex relationships: women may be able to identify submissive versus dominant men from brief observations of appearance or behavior.”

Accurate Identification of a Preference for Insertive Versus Receptive Intercourse from Static Facial Cues of Gay Men

“In intercourse between men, one of the partners typically assumes the role of an insertive partner (top) while the other assumes a receptive role (bottom). Although some research suggests that the perceptions of potential partners’ sexual roles in gay men’s relationships can affect whether a man will adopt the role of top or bottom during sexual intercourse, it remains unclear whether sexual roles could be perceived accurately by naïve observers. Read More

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

By Seriously Science | August 27, 2018 6:00 am

[Note from the authors of “Seriously, Science?”: After nine years with Discover, we’ve been informed that this will be our last month blogging on this platform. Despite being (usually) objective scientists, we have a sentimental streak, and we have spent the last few days reminiscing about the crazy, and often funny, science we have highlighted. Therefore, we have assembled a month-long feast of our favorite science papers. Enjoy!]

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.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ha ha poop, smell you later

Nipple, penis, or nostril — what’s the most painful place to be stung by a bee? (The answer might surprise you.)

By Seriously Science | August 24, 2018 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/forevertrusting

Photo: flickr/forevertrusting

[Note from the authors of “Seriously, Science?”: After nine years with Discover, we’ve been informed that this will be our last month blogging on this platform. Despite being (usually) objective scientists, we have a sentimental streak, and we have spent the last few days reminiscing about the crazy, and often funny, science we have highlighted. Therefore, we have assembled a month-long feast of our favorite science papers. Enjoy!]

In the 1980s, a man named Justin Schmidt invented the Schmidt pain index, which measured the painfulness of stings from 78 species of insects on a scale of 0 to 4 (the only stings that rated 4 were the bullet ant and the tarantula hawk). Of course, pain is subjective, so Schmidt rated all of the stings himself. In that tradition, the author of this study hypothesized that the pain level of a sting also depends on its location on the body. He tested this hypothesis by — you guessed it — getting stung. A lot. Turns out that the most painful location for being stung by a bee is on the nostril, followed by the lip and the penis. Yup, the penis.

Honey bee sting pain index by body location

“The Schmidt Sting Pain Index rates the painfulness of 78 Hymenoptera species, using the honey bee as a reference point. However, the question of how sting painfulness varies depending on body location remains unanswered. This study rated the painfulness of honey bee stings over 25 body locations in one subject (the author). Pain was rated on a 1–10 scale, relative to an internal standard, the forearm. In the single subject, pain ratings were consistent over three repetitions. Sting location was a significant predictor of the pain rating in a linear model (p < 0.0001, DF = 25, 94, F = 27.4). The three least painful locations were the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm (all scoring a 2.3). The three most painful locations were the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft (9.0, 8.7, and 7.3, respectively). This study provides an index of how the painfulness of a honey bee sting varies depending on body location.”

Figure 1: Sting Locations. Drawing of the human form with Xs and labels at the sting locations.

Figure 1: Sting Locations.
Drawing of the human form with Xs and labels at the sting locations.

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: Is that bee on crack? Oh, wait…it is.
Honeybees do the “Mexican wave”!
How much cocaine can a honey bee take?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, WTF?

Farts: an underappreciated threat to astronauts.

By Seriously Science | August 23, 2018 6:00 am

[Note from the authors of “Seriously, Science?”: After nine years with Discover, we’ve been informed that this will be our last month blogging on this platform. Despite being (usually) objective scientists, we have a sentimental streak, and we have spent the last few days reminiscing about the crazy, and often funny, science we have highlighted. Therefore, we have assembled a month-long feast of our favorite science papers. Enjoy!]

On Earth, farts are typically no big deal — smelly, harmless, and they quickly dissipate. But if you’re an astronaut, every fart is a ticking time bomb. The gases in farts are flammable, which can quickly become a problem in a tiny pressurized capsule in the middle of space where your fart gases have no where to go. In this “oldie but goodie” study from the late 1960s, scientists fed subjects a then-state-of-the-art space diet compared with a “bland formula.” They discovered that the space diet actually produced more gas than the control diet, and noted that “volumes would be larger at reduced spacecraft and suit pressures.” This explains why astronaut food doesn’t include freeze-dried beans…

Intestinal hydrogen and methane of men fed space diet.

“Intestinal bacteria form two gases, hydrogen (H2) and methane (CH4), that could constitute a fire hazard in a closed chamber. So H2 and CH4 pass from the anus but these gases are also transported by the blood to the lungs and removed to the atmosphere. Several factors affect gas formation: Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ha ha poop

Proof that female ejaculation is just pee.

By Seriously Science | August 22, 2018 8:49 pm
Image:Flickr/moocatmoocat

Image:Flickr/moocatmoocat

[Note from the authors of “Seriously, Science?”: After nine years with Discover, we’ve been informed that this will be our last month blogging on this platform. Despite being (usually) objective scientists, we have a sentimental streak, and we have spent the last few days reminiscing about the crazy, and often funny, science we have highlighted. Therefore, we have assembled a month-long feast of our favorite science papers. Enjoy!]

Up until now, the scientific literature was pretty much as divided as the internet on whether the large amount of fluid emitted from women upon orgasm represents “real” female ejaculate, or whether it is simply urine (there is a remarkably large body of literature on this topic, both scientific and trashy, and everywhere in between). Previous experiments have focused on determining the liquid’s chemical makeup, finding it to be chemically identical to urine, but these studies ignored the physical source of the copious fluid. Here, the researchers take it one step further by performing ultrasounds before and after ejaculation, as well as testing the biochemical properties of the liquid. It turns out that not only is it chemically identical to urine, but the bladder empties during the period of ejaculation coinciding with orgasm. So there you have it: it’s probably just pee after all!

Nature and Origin of “Squirting” in Female Sexuality.

“INTRODUCTION: During sexual stimulation, some women report the discharge of a noticeable amount of fluid from the urethra, a phenomenon also called “squirting.”

To date, both the nature and the origin of squirting remain controversial. In this investigation, we not only analyzed the biochemical nature of the emitted fluid, but also explored the presence of any pelvic liquid collection that could result from sexual arousal and explain a massive fluid emission. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: scientist..or perv?, Sex & Mating

Sexually aroused by farts? You’re not alone.

By Seriously Science | August 16, 2018 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/wackyvorion

[Note from the authors of “Seriously, Science?”: After nine years with Discover, we’ve been informed that this will be our last month blogging on this platform. Despite being (usually) objective scientists, we have a sentimental streak, and we have spent the last few days reminiscing about the crazy, and often funny, science we have highlighted. Therefore, we have assembled a month-long feast of our favorite science papers. Enjoy!]

The saying goes “to each his own,” and that definitely holds true for fetishes. This paper describes a person with “eproctophilia”, which is the term for when someone is sexually aroused by flatulence. The first half of the article is included below. Warning–it’s a bit of a wild ride!

Eproctophilia in a Young Adult Male

“Olfactophilia (also known as osmolagnia, osphresiolagnia, and ozolagnia) is a paraphilia where an individual derives sexual pleasure from smells and odors (Aggrawal, 2009). Given the large body of research on olfaction, it is not surprising that, in some cases, there should be an association with sexual behavior. As Bieber (1959) noted, smell is a powerful sexual stimulus. Furthermore, the erotic focus is most likely to relate to body odors of a sexual partner, including genital odors.
One subtype of olfactophilia is eproctophilia. This is a paraphilia in which people are sexually aroused by flatulence (Aggrawal, 2009). Therefore, eproctophiles are said to spend an abnormal amount of time thinking about farting and flatulence and have recurring intense sexual urges and fantasies involving farting and flatulence (Griffiths, 2012a). To date, there has been no academic or clinical research into eproctophilia. Therefore, the following account presents a brief case study of an eproctophile and given a pseudonym (Brad). Brad gave full consent for his case to be written up on the understanding that he could not be identified and that he was guaranteed full anonymity and confidentiality. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: blog business

Physicists finally explain why your earphones are always tangled.

By Seriously Science | August 14, 2018 6:00 am
Photo: Flickr/Steven Guzzardi

Photo: Flickr/Steven Guzzardi

[Note from the authors of “Seriously, Science?”: After nine years with Discover, we’ve been informed that this will be our last month blogging on this platform. Despite being (usually) objective scientists, we have a sentimental streak, and we have spent the last few days reminiscing about the crazy, and often funny, science we have highlighted. Therefore, we have assembled a month-long feast of our favorite science papers. Enjoy!]

There are few day-to-day events that send me into a rage as quickly as a pair of tangled earphones. As soon as I put them down, they somehow thread themselves into an unholy mess. And don’t even think about putting them into your pocket or bag. So how do headphones (and other stringy objects) get so knotted in such a short time? To find out, these physicists started by tumbling strings of different stiffness in a box. They found that “complex knots often form within seconds” (so it’s not just my imagination!), and that stiffer strings are less likely to get knotted up. They then used these data and computer simulations to explain how the knots are likely formed (see figure below); basically, when jostled, the strings tend to form coils, and then the loose end weaves through the other strands, much like braiding or weaving. And voila! Tangled headphones to make your day just that much angrier.

Spontaneous knotting of an agitated string.

“It is well known that a jostled string tends to become knotted; yet the factors governing the “spontaneous” formation of various knots are unclear. We performed experiments in which a string was tumbled inside a box and found that complex knots often form within seconds. We used mathematical knot theory to analyze the knots. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: blog business

Study proves “old person smell” is real.

By Seriously Science | August 9, 2018 7:24 pm
Photo: flickr/artisrams

Photo: flickr/artisrams

[Note from the authors of “Seriously, Science?”: After nine years with Discover, we’ve been informed that this will be our last month blogging on this platform. Despite being (usually) objective scientists, we have a sentimental streak, and we have spent the last few days reminiscing about the crazy, and often funny, science we have highlighted. Therefore, we have assembled a month-long feast of our favorite science papers. Enjoy!]

It’s a common stereotype that old people have a … unique … smell. According to this study, it’s a stereotype for a reason. The researchers first had young participants smell the body odors (collected as described below) of young, middle-aged, and old people.  They then asked the participants to rate the odors and tested how well they were able to distinguish between them. Somewhat surprisingly, the participants rated the old-age odors as “less intense and less unpleasant” than the young- and middle-age body odors; however, the participants also had an easier time specifically identifying the old-person odors compared to the other two categories. The authors provide a potential explanation for these results: “In everyday life, the old age odor is experienced in the context of an old individual being present. Odor valence ratings are highly dependent in which on the context they are experienced. A recent study demonstrated that the label assigned to an odor is a very important predictor of the rated pleasantness in that a label can turn an unlabeled neutral odor into an odor perceived as very negative. Thus, it is likely that the body odors originating from the old individuals would have been rated as more negative if participants were aware of their true origin.” 

The smell of age: perception and discrimination of body odors of different ages.

“Our natural body odor goes through several stages of age-dependent changes in chemical composition as we grow older. Similar changes have been reported for several animal species and are thought to facilitate age discrimination of an individual based on body odors, alone. We sought to determine whether humans are able to discriminate between body odor of humans of different ages. Body odors were sampled from three distinct age groups: Young (20-30 years old), Middle-age (45-55), and Old-age (75-95) individuals. Perceptual ratings and age discrimination performance were assessed in 41 young participants. There were significant differences in ratings of both intensity and pleasantness, where body odors from the Old-age group were rated as less intense and less unpleasant than body odors originating from Young and Middle-age donors. Participants were able to discriminate between age categories, with body odor from Old-age donors mediating the effect also after removing variance explained by intensity differences. Similarly, participants were able to correctly assign age labels to body odors originating from Old-age donors but not to body odors originating from other age groups. This experiment suggests that, akin to other animals, humans are able to discriminate age based on body odor alone and that this effect is mediated mainly by body odors emitted by individuals of old age.”

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: Children smelling man-sweat… for science!
NCBI ROFL: I’m a lumberjack, and I’m OK, I smell like pine and get chicks all day!
NCBI ROFL: Women can identify men with gonorrhea by their smell.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: blog business

The end is nigh! Let’s relive our most viral moments: That’s one miraculous conception.

By Seriously Science | August 6, 2018 6:00 am

[Note from the authors of “Seriously, Science?”: After nine years with Discover, we’ve been informed that this will be our last month blogging on this platform. Despite being (usually) objective scientists, we have a sentimental streak, and we have spent the last few days reminiscing about the crazy, and often funny, science we have highlighted. Therefore, we hereby begin a month-long feast of our favorite science papers, starting with the first paper we ever blogged about here at Discover (with a title that was loved and hated by our readers): “That’s one miraculous conception.”]

How can a woman without a vagina become pregnant? By getting stabbed in the abdomen after performing oral sex, setting free the sperm from her stomach, of course. This incredible case report was published more than 20 years ago (and similar stories have been circulating since well before then), but we think it’s worth revisiting. Read to the end to hear how cattle were involved!

Oral conception. Impregnation via the proximal gastrointestinal tract in a patient with an aplastic distal vagina. Case report.

“Case report:
The patient was a 15-year-old girl employed in a local bar. She was admitted to hospital after a knife fight involving her, a former lover and a new boyfriend. Who stabbed whom was not quite clear but all three participants in the small war were admitted with knife injuries.

The girl had some minor lacerations of the left hand and a single stab-wound in the upper abdomen. Under general anaesthesia, laparotomy was performed through an upper midline abdominal incision to reveal two holes in the stomach. These two wounds had resulted from the single stab-wound through the abdominal wall. The two defects were repaired in two layers. The stomach was noted empty at the time of surgery and no gastric contents were seen in the abdomen. Nevertheless, the abdominal cavity was lavaged with normal saline before closure. The condition of the patient improved rapidly following routine postoperative care and she was discharged home after 10 days.

Precisely 278 days later the patient was admitted again to hospital with acute, intermittent abdominal pain. Abdominal examination revealed a term pregnancy with a cephalic fetal presentation. The uterus was contracting regularly and the fetal heart was heard. Inspection of the vulva showed no vagina, only a shallow skin dimple was present below the external urethral meatus and between the labia minora. An emergency lower segment caesarean section was performed under spinal anaesthesia and a live male infant weighing 2800 g was born…

…While closing the abdominal wall, curiosity could not be contained any longer and the patient was interviewed with the help of a sympathetic nursing sister. The whole story did not become completely clear during that day but, with some subsequent inquiries, the whole saga emerged.

The patient was well aware of the fact that she had no vagina and she had started oral experiments after disappointing attempts at conventional intercourse. Just before she was stabbed in the abdomen she had practised fellatio with her new boyfriend and was caught in the act by her former lover. The fight with knives ensued. She had never had a period and there was no trace of lochia after the caesarean section. She had been worried about the increase in her abdominal size but could not believe she was pregnant although it had crossed her mind more often as her girth increased and as people around her suggested that she was pregnant. She did recall several episodes of lower abdominal pain during the previous year. The young mother, her family, and the likely father adapted themselves rapidly to the new situation and some cattle changed hands to prove that there were no hard feelings.

Comments
A plausible explanation for this pregnancy is that spermatozoa gained access to the reproductive organs via the injured gastrointestinal tract. It is known that spermatozoa do not survive long in an environment with a low pH (Jeffcoate1975), but it is also known that saliva has a high pH and that a starved person does not produce acid under normal circumstances (Bernards & Bouman 1976). It is likely that the patient became pregnant with her first or nearly first ovulation otherwise one would expect that inspissated blood in the uterus and salpinges would have made fertilization difficult. The fact that the son resembled the father excludes an even more miraculous conception.”

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: [Insert oral sex joke here].
NCBI ROFL: Does semen have antidepressant properties?
NCBI ROFL: Cunnilingus increases duration of copulation in the Indian flying fox.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: blog business
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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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