FlashBlack Friday: Getting bad customer service? Try changing your clothes.

By Seriously Science | November 28, 2014 9:33 am

It’s Black Friday! If you’re not already in line at the store (and even if you are), here’s a tip: to get better and faster service from salespeople, try dressing up. According to this study, fake shoppers wearing formal work clothes (skirt and blouse) got store employees’ attention significantly faster than shoppers wearing “informal gym clothes.” Even if it isn’t terribly surprising, it’s scientific proof that a little spiffing up can go a long way. Happy shopping!

Customer service as a function of shopper’s attire.

“A field experiment explored whether a female shopper’s appearance would influence the customer service she received. Read More

What makes turkey taste like…pork?

By Seriously Science | November 26, 2014 10:13 am
Photo: Flickr/Dawn Endico

Photo: Flickr/Dawn Endico

“Tastes like chicken!” It’s a saying we use a lot when referring to exotic meats, and you might think, being a bird, that it might apply to turkey as well. But according to this study, that’s dead wrong. In fact, the meat that most closely resembles turkey in flavor is actually pork! To determine this, researchers concocted ground meat patties composed of beef, chicken, pork, lamb or turkey, and had a panel of tasters rate how strongly each meat tasted using 18 different attributes. They then performed principle component analysis (a statistical method that can tell you in which ways two things differ the most) to determine which flavors differentiated the meats from each other. The result of this meaty analysis? “Beef and lamb were most closely related to flavor attributes such as roast beef, grassy, gamey, barny, livery, metallic, and bitter. Pork and turkey were inversely related to these, and were more closely related to juicy, fatty, salty, brothy, sweet, and umami notes. Chicken was not strongly related to any meats or attributes when all the meats were considered together.” So if you don’t feel up to roasting turkey this Thanksgiving, you might consider serving up pork, rather than chicken, as it’s closer to the traditional fare. Science!

Identification and quantification of flavor attributes present in chicken, lamb, pork, beef, and turkey.

The objectives of this study were to use a meat flavor lexicon to identify and quantify flavor differences among different types of meats such as beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and turkey Read More


Do men really overestimate women’s sexual interest?

By Seriously Science | November 25, 2014 9:28 am
Photo: flickr/nostri-imago

Photo: flickr/nostri-imago

If you’ve ever been to a bar, you’ve probably witnessed this scenario: a man flirts with a woman, maybe even buys her a drink, but she is clearly not interested. So why is this guy wasting his time? Is he just fooling himself? Or maybe he’s knows something we don’t, and the woman’s indifference is just an act. Well, according to this study, he might be right after all. These researchers surveyed men and women using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to test whether “women understate their sexual intentions and that men’s assessments of women’s intentions are generally accurate.” In a series of surveys, they found that men don’t seem to consciously overestimate women’s sexual intentions; however, women believe that other women are understating their sexual intentions. The researchers suggest that this means that men might not be foolishly chasing uninterested women, but rather are compensating for women’s downplaying, leading to what only looks like overconfidence in romantic encounters. As if dating weren’t complicated enough!

Do Men Overperceive Women’s Sexual Interest?

“Substantial evidence comparing men’s perceptions of women’s sexual intentions with women’s own reports of their sexual intentions has shown a systematic pattern of results that has been interpreted as support for the idea that men overestimate women’s true sexual intentions. However, because women’s true sexual intentions cannot be directly measured, an alternative interpretation of the existing data is that women understate their sexual intentions and that men’s assessments of women’s intentions are generally accurate. Read More

If you are afraid of spiders, don’t read this…and PLEASE don’t look at the pictures.

By Seriously Science | November 24, 2014 8:04 am

UntitledAlthough published by American Entomologist in 2010, this paper has been making the rounds lately, and we had to blog about it too because it’s SO AWESOME. Well, awesome and creepy… very creepy. This entomological equivalent of a medical case study chronicles the findings of a group of infestation experts who answered a cry for help from a wastewater treatment plant in Maryland. The plant, which had always been home to spiders, was under seige by over a million orb-weavers that had blanketed everything inside the four-acre open-walled building. Even Spiderman would be impressed with the architectural wonder built by these prolific arachnids!

An Immense Concentration of Orb-Weaving Spiders With Communal Webbing in a Man-Made Structural Habitat (Arachnida: Araneae: Tetragnathidae, Araneidae).

“In late October, 2009, the managers of the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Baltimore, MD sought assistance in mitigating what they described as an “extreme spider situation” in their sand filtration facility. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

Flashback Friday: Does garlic protect against vampires? An experimental study.

By Seriously Science | November 21, 2014 9:13 am
Image: Flickr/Ross Harmes

Image: Flickr/Ross Harmes

We all know that garlic will supposedly keep vampires at bay. But where does this legend come from, you ask? Who cares!? It’s here to stay.

What we really want–no, NEED– to know is whether or not it actually works! But since actual vampires are in such short supply, how can anyone test this hypothesis? Well, we can do what many scientists do on a daily basis: come up with as realistic a model as is plausibly testable, and run experiments using that.

It’s true that this is not the same as testing the hypothesis directly, but by iteratively approximating the real thing using models, scientists can learn a lot that will help get us to the “real” answer. In this case, the model for vampires that these Norwegian doctors settle on is … the leech. Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch, but hey, it still makes for a pretty fun tongue-in-cheek study (or should I say tooth-in-neck?)!

Does garlic protect against vampires? An experimental study.

Vampires are feared everywhere, but the Balkan region has been especially haunted. Garlic has been regarded as an effective prophylactic against vampires. We wanted to explore this alleged effect experimentally. Read More


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

By Seriously Science | November 20, 2014 10:15 am
Photo: Flickr/Mark Berry

Photo: Flickr/Mark Berry

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: holy correlation batman!, rated G

A scientifically proven method to quit smoking that works in your sleep!

By Seriously Science | November 19, 2014 10:01 am
Photo: Flickr/Julie

Photo: Flickr/Julie

What if quitting smoking were so easy you could do it in your sleep? Well, the scientists behind this study claim to have found a way! But be warned, there’s a drawback… and it involves “profoundly unpleasant odors.” Aversion conditioning works by associating an unwanted behavior with something disagreeable, and in this case scientists tested whether associating the smell of smoke with disgusting smells would help patients quit smoking. To do this, they had participants wear a special mask that released smells when they were sleeping. Amazingly, pairing the smell of cigarette smoke with that of rotting fish during sleep reduced smokers’ cigarettes by about 40% for several days! This might be the best use of rotting fish smell we’ve heard of yet.

Olfactory Aversive Conditioning during Sleep Reduces Cigarette-Smoking Behavior.

“Recent findings suggest that novel associations can be learned during sleep. However, whether associative learning during sleep can alter later waking behavior and whether such behavioral changes last for minutes, hours, or days remain unknown. We tested the hypothesis that olfactory aversive conditioning during sleep will alter cigarette-smoking behavior during ensuing wakefulness. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: smell you later, told you so

Snakes are ‘righties’–with their penis, that is.

By Seriously Science | November 18, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: Flickr/Fyn Kynd

Photo: Flickr/Fyn Kynd

Here’s a fun fact to break out at your next cocktail party: male snakes have two complete sets of reproductive organs, one on the right side of their body, and another on the left. This includes two separate hemipenes, which are the snake equivalent to a penis that pop out of the body during sex. Here, scientists determined that although the right-side reproductive system of gartersnakes is significantly larger than the left, each is used about half the time in the wild, often alternating from one to the other. However, when things get hot (literally, as in hotter temperatures), the males tend use their right hemipenes. The authors propose this is because they are better able to get in the right position to use their “big boy”. Which, although interesting, leaves us itching to know which side, if any, the Canadian gartersnake pit orgy males choose!

Are snakes right-handed? Asymmetry in hemipenis size and usage in gartersnakes (Thamnophis sirtalis)

“Male snakes possess paired reproductive systems (testes, efferent ducts, hemipenes and associated components of the kidneys), with an independent set on either side of the body. Read More

During every 10-second French kiss, 80 million bacteria are transferred.

By Seriously Science | November 17, 2014 12:30 pm
Photo: flickr/micheycast

Photo: flickr/micheycast

The next time you’re swapping saliva with your significant other, think about this: you’re probably swapping more than just saliva. According to this study, the microbes in your mouth can get transferred between you and your partner when you kiss. Specifically, these researchers found that an average of 80 million bacteria are transferred in a 10-second kiss (in this case, measured from a probiotic drink that one person drank prior to the kiss). In general, partners have a more similar oral microbiota composition compared to unrelated individuals, with a particularly high similarity between partners who have “relatively high intimate kiss frequencies.” Yum!

Shaping the oral microbiota through intimate kissing

The variation of microbial communities associated with the human body can be the cause of many factors, including the human genetic makeup, diet, age, surroundings, and sexual behavior. In this study, we investigated the effects of intimate kissing on the oral microbiota of 21 couples by self-administered questionnaires about their past kissing behavior and by the evaluation of tongue and salivary microbiota samples in a controlled kissing experiment. Read More

Flashback Friday: The science of the “booty call.”

By Seriously Science | November 14, 2014 9:19 am
Photo: flickr/neccorp

Photo: flickr/neccorp

If you’ve seen a bad comedy anytime in the last decade (and even if you haven’t), you’re probably familiar with the term “booty call,” wherein two people who aren’t dating, end up getting together to have sex on a regular basis. This arrangement might seem unusual at first glance: previous studies have found that men and women tend to have different mating strategies, with men preferring multiple short-term sexual relationships, while women prefer fewer monogamous relationships. (This obviously is not a hard and fast rule, but these differences do appear in multiple cultures.) So, where does a booty call fit in? According to this study, the booty call lies somewhere between a one-night stand and monogamy on the relationship spectrum, and serves a purpose for both men and women. With the booty call, men get what they want (“low-investment, attractive sexual partners”) and women get what they want (“an ongoing opportunity to evaluate potential long-term mates”). Fortunately, this group followed up on this paper with another study of booty calls.  Because is one study on booty calls ever really enough?

The “booty call”: a compromise between men’s and women’s ideal mating strategies.

“Traditionally, research on romantic and sexual relationships has focused on one-night stands and monogamous pairs. However, as the result of men and women pursuing their ideal relationship types, various compromise relationships may emerge. One such compromise is explored here: the “booty call.” 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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