Flashback Friday: Horrifying study shows how far bed bugs can spread in apartment buildings.

By Seriously Science | September 15, 2017 6:00 am

If bed bugs are living in your home, they are probably hiding out and waiting to sense the carbon dioxide from your breath to home in on their next blood meal. But how did they get there in the first place? If you haven’t recently picked up a mattress off the street (always a good plan), it’s often assumed that they could have migrated from your neighbor’s place. But how frequent these wanderings are, or if they actually happen, hasn’t been demonstrated… until now! Here, scientists captured bed bugs from infested apartments in New Jersey, painted their backs, released them, and then watched over the next several months to see where the little monsters ended up. It turns out that, yes, bed bugs make the rounds of neighboring apartments, and they can live inside empty apartments for months without a blood meal. And perhaps the worst part? “The estimated number of bed bugs per apartment in the six apartments was 2,433–14,291.” Sleep tight!

Mark-Release-Recapture Reveals Extensive Movement of Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius L.) within and between Apartments

“Understanding movement and dispersal of the common bed bug (Cimex lectularius L.) under field conditions is important in the control of infestations and for managing the spread of bed bugs to new locations. We investigated bed bug movement within and between apartments using mark-release-recapture (m-r-r) technique combined with apartment-wide monitoring using pitfall-style interceptors. Bed bugs were collected, marked, and released in six apartments. Read More

German scientist tracks Trump’s tweets to estimate he sleeps 6.5 hours a night.

By Seriously Science | September 12, 2017 9:37 am
Image: Flickr/Per-Olof Forsberg

Image: Flickr/Per-Olof Forsberg

There’s a lot more in Trump’s Twitter feed than just a load of covfefe. In fact, the POTUS tweets often enough to be a source of information about his daily habits. This paper describes what Professor Till Roenneberg gleaned from a careful analysis of Trump’s Twitter activities over several years. Because Trump shares his Twitter accounts with others on his team, Professor Roenneberg first had to separate Tweets originating from different devices. Tracking the times of day when the most consistently-used device tweeted revealed an interesting trend: the owner of the account Tweets most in the morning and evening. From this data, Professor Roenneberg estimates that Trump sleeps only 6.5 hours a day. No wonder he’s so hard to get along with!

Twitter as a means to study temporal behavior.

“Biomedical research has exploited vital and other statistics (e.g., birth or death rates) for almost 200 years. The Internet has become a rich source of digital databases, which are being used for many lines of research (e.g., circadian and seasonal or metabolism). Internet-based studies generally investigate large populations while individual social media accounts are rarely used to analyse, for example, individual sleep–wake behaviour (e.g., youtu.be/wBNcP-LkpfA). I therefore applied time series analyses, commonly used in circadian and sleep research, to approximately 12,000 tweets sent from a single Twitter account (@realdonaldtrump; December, 2014 to March, 2017). The account was clearly used by different individuals/groups launching tweets from various devices. Among these, the Android phone was the most consistent over the years. Its tweet activity peaked twice a day (early morning and late night), and both peaks showed a strong seasonality by tracking dawn.”

From the full text:

“Assuming that the account’s owner predominantly used the Android it can be used to characterise the user’s sleep–wake behaviour, (e.g., ‘chronotype’; for definition). We routinely assess chronotype with questionnaires or activity recordings. According to our actimetry database, an individual’s chronotype (represented by the mid-sleep point) correlates with the time of his/her average minimal activity. Although tweet activity only poorly predicts total activity, these results suggest that the tweet minimum around 1:30 AM (arrow in average profile) lies close to the Android user’s mid-sleep point (i.e., chronotype). 3.7% of US participants of the MCTQ have the same chronotype, 3.1% are earlier, and the most frequent chronotype is 3:30 (12.6%). In 2014, the major peak occurred predominantly in the evening but has since moved to the morning. Although this change echoes our finding that ageing is associated with advancing one’s chronotype (especially in men), the examination period may be too short to infer an age-related advance.”

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Flashback Friday: When a dare to eat an insect goes horribly wrong.

By Seriously Science | September 8, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Siga

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Siga

Question: how do you know when your seemingly simple dare has gone a little too far? Answer: when you become the star of a medical case study. From inhaling too much helium  to shooting pressurized air up someone’s butt, we’ve seen our share of stunts gone wrong here at Seriously, Science? And this one, although lacking pressurized gas, is another doozy. Here doctors report a soldier who ate a beetle on a bet. Sound pretty harmless? Not when the beetle turns out to be Berberomeloe majalis, an insect that produces the chemical cantharidin–aka “Spanish fly.” Despite its well-known aphrodisiac effects, this chemical also has the unfortunate side effect of causing kidney damage. Fortunately, the soldier recovered. Sadly, however, the beetle did not.

Acute kidney injury by cantharidin poisoning following a silly bet on an ugly beetle

“Cantharidin is a poisonous substance secreted by blister beetles, including the ‘Spanish fly’. Historically, cantharidin was used as an aphrodisiac, vesicant and abortifacient. Symptoms of poisoning include gastrointestinal and genitourinary mucosal irritation along with renal dysfunction. We present the case of a reckless 23-year-old soldier who accepted the challenge of eating a beetle (Berberomeloe majalis). Read More

Some blind people use bat-like echolocation.

By Seriously Science | September 6, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Kevin Dooley

Photo: flickr/Kevin Dooley

There are many ways to cope with being blind, from using a cane to adopting a seeing-eye dog. But some blind people have gone a step further and developed the skill of using mouth clicks to echolocate, in the same way that bats navigate in the dark. Here, a group of engineers studied exactly how these ‘human bats’ — or ‘bat men’, if you will — echolocate. They found that the clicks are very short (~3 milliseconds) and the frequencies varied (though unlike bats, they were still in the audible range). If you’re curious about how these clicks sound in real life, be sure to check out the video below!
Mouth-clicks used by blind expert human echolocators – signal description and model based signal synthesis

“Echolocation is the ability to use sound-echoes to infer spatial information about the environment. Some blind people have developed extraordinary proficiency in echolocation using mouth-clicks. The first step of human biosonar is the transmission (mouth click) and subsequent reception of the resultant sound through the ear. Existing head-related transfer function (HRTF) data bases provide descriptions of reception of the resultant sound. For the current report, we collected a large database of click emissions with three blind people expertly trained in echolocation, which allowed us to perform unprecedented analyses. Specifically, the current report provides the first ever description of the spatial distribution (i.e. beam pattern) of human expert echolocation transmissions, as well as spectro-temporal descriptions at a level of detail not available before. Read More


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

By Seriously Science | September 1, 2017 6:00 am

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 (it’s likely a prank, but still pretty fun):


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?

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Overachievers are more likely to cheat on tests.

By Seriously Science | August 30, 2017 4:00 pm
Alberto G.

Image: Flickr/Alberto G.

How common is cheating on exams, and who are the cheaters? These academics suspected it was pretty common in their classes, so they decided to find out. The cheating style they investigated was the old “alter your answer and then ask for a regrade” trick. Turns out it’s pretty common (about 2% of all exams, and 17% of exams returned for a regrade), but here is the shocker: more than 60% of cheaters were getting over 80% on the exam already. So there you have it–regrade cheaters are often high achievers, and the authors conclude that “vigilance should be employed by all faculty who accept tests for regrading.”

Cheating after the test: who does it and how often?

“Self-reports suggest >50% of university students cheat at some point in their academic career, although objective values of academic misconduct (AM) are difficult to obtain. In a physiology-based department, we had a concern that students were altering written tests and resubmitting them for higher grades; thereby compromising the integrity of our primary assessment style. Therefore, we directly quantified the prevalence of AM on written tests in 11 courses across the department. Read More

Flashback Friday: Duct tape can do everything — including cure your warts.

By Seriously Science | August 25, 2017 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Joe Loong

Image: Flickr/Joe Loong

Mmm… warts! Those fun, fleshy skin growths caused by papillomavirus. They are harmless, and yet… ugh. One of the most common methods of removal is to freeze them off using liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy). But apparently there’s a DIY method that, according to this study, works even better: covering them with duct tape. It takes up to a couple months of diligent tape-wearing to work, but hey, it might help you avoid yet another medical bill. And for those of you wanting to try this at home, be aware that you should stick to the old-fashioned silver duct tape (according to other research, clear duct tape doesn’t have the same effects). And before you ask — no, McGuyver wasn’t one of the authors!

The efficacy of duct tape vs cryotherapy in the treatment of verruca vulgaris (the common wart).

OBJECTIVE: To determine if application of duct tape is as effective as cryotherapy in the treatment of common warts.

DESIGN: A prospective, randomized controlled trial with 2 treatment arms for warts in children.

SETTING: The general pediatric and adolescent clinics at a military medical center.

PATIENTS: A total of 61 patients (age range, 3-22 years) were enrolled in the study from October 31, 2000, to July 25, 2001; 51 patients completed the study and were available for analysis.

INTERVENTION: Patients were randomized using computer-generated codes to receive either cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen applied to each wart for 10 seconds every 2-3 weeks) for a maximum of 6 treatments or duct tape occlusion (applied directly to the wart) for a maximum of 2 months. Patients had their warts measured at baseline and with return visits.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Complete resolution of the wart being studied.

RESULTS: Of the 51 patients completing the study, 26 (51%) were treated with duct tape, and 25 (49%) were treated with cryotherapy. Twenty-two patients (85%) in the duct tape arm vs 15 patients (60%) enrolled in the cryotherapy arm had complete resolution of their warts (P =.05 by chi(2) analysis). The majority of warts that responded to either therapy did so within the first month of treatment.

CONCLUSION: Duct tape occlusion therapy was significantly more effective than cryotherapy for treatment of the common wart.

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Adding smiley emoticons to email makes you seem less competent.

By Seriously Science | August 22, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/John Earl

Photo: flickr/John Earl

We already know that sarcasm is hard to communicate via email. Well, according to this study, it turns out that warmth is as well. People often use smiley face emoticons in their emails as a way to convey humor and lightheartedness, but these researchers found that it doesn’t quite work the way we’d like: “Contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence.” Perhaps because emoticons in general are seen as childish or unprofessional? Clearly the answer is more gifs! 😉

The Dark Side of a Smiley: Effects of Smiling Emoticons on Virtual First Impressions

“First impressions are heavily influenced by emotional expressions such as smiles. In face-to-face contact, smiling individuals are perceived as warmer and as more competent than nonsmiling individuals. In computer-mediated communication, which is primarily text-based, the “smiley” (☺) constitutes the digital representation of a smile. But is a smiley a suitable replacement for a smile? We conducted three experiments to examine the impact of smiley use on virtual first impressions in work-related contexts. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: the interwebs, told you so

Flashback Friday: Tooth-brushing-induced orgasms. Look ma, no cavities!

By Seriously Science | August 18, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Marcela G

Photo: flickr/Marcela G

Sometimes the human brain does weird things. Take the woman described in this case study, for example; when she brushed her teeth, it would induce a seizure that resulted in an orgasm before she passed out. It seems that there was reduced blood flow (hypoperfusion) and some damage (atrophy) in part of her brain that likely caused her tooth-brushing-induced orgasms. No other activity seemed to produce this effect, including brushing without toothpaste. Why this particular combination of stimuli worked remains a mystery (to the disappointment of dentists everywhere).

Tooth-brushing epilepsy with ictal orgasms.

“We report a 41-year-old woman with complex reflex epilepsy in which seizures were induced exclusively by the act of tooth brushing. All the attacks occurred with a specific sensation of sexual arousal and orgasm-like euphoria that were followed by a period of impairment of consciousness. Ictal EEG demonstrated two events of epileptic seizure that were provoked after tooth brushing for 38 and 14 seconds, respectively. The interictal EEG showed epileptiform discharges over the right anterior temporal region and interictal single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan showed relative hypoperfusion in the uncus of right temporal lobe. Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed right hippocampal atrophy. We suggest that tooth-brushing epilepsy, especially with sexual ictal manifestations, may provide insight into the cerebral pathophysiology at the right temporolimbic structure.”

Bonus quote from the full text:

“A 41-year-old right-handed woman was diagnosed with intractable epilepsy and referred to our epilepsy clinic. At the age of 22, she had received an abdominal total hysterectomy due to uterine leiomyomas with bleeding. She had not had any children. After the surgery, she ceased having orgasms during sexual intercourse or masturbation. Two years after surgery, while brushing her teeth, she suddenly felt sexually aroused and experienced orgasm-like euphoria very similar to orgasms during coitus. The erotic feeling was followed by a period of impairment of consciousness lasting for about 2 minutes. There were no jerky movements or convulsions. For the next 5 years, she experienced recurrent episodes of these ‘unknown’ orgasms approximately twice every week and occurring exclusively during tooth brushing. She believed that she was possessed by a demon and felt shame and fear. Nevertheless, after three injuries due to the episodes of impairment of consciousness she started to seek medical advice at the age of 29. She was diagnosed with complex partial seizures and carbamazepine therapy was started. However, her seizures could not be controlled by carbamazepine (600 mg/day) alone and valproate (1500 mg/day) was added.

Tracing back her seizure history, all seizures occurred during the complete act of tooth brushing (using toothbrush and toothpaste together). Apart from the act of tooth brushing, no other trigger factor could be identified. Prolonged stimuli to the teeth and gums by chopsticks or fingers did not provoke the seizures. The seizures could not be induced by either the smell of toothpaste or the shaking movement of right hand. She did not think that brushing a specific side or area of her mouth or a specific brand of toothpaste or toothbrush was particularly associated with the occurrence of the seizures. She has never had spontaneous seizures.”

Related content:
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: What your lips reveal about your orgasms.
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Having a beer might help get your creative juices flowing.

By Seriously Science | August 15, 2017 6:00 am
Image:Flickr/Robbie Sproule

Image:Flickr/Robbie Sproule

Feeling stuck on a problem? This study suggests that having a drink might help! Here,
scientists gave one group of volunteers beer, and another group non-alcoholic beer. They then tested the creative thinking ability of each group. Turns out that very light drinking (about one beer) improved creative thinking, but made other cognitive abilities worse or unchanged. So the next time you find yourself really stuck, consider having a small drink — just don’t plan on doing your taxes or driving afterward. Cheers!

Creativity on tap? Effects of alcohol intoxication on creative cognition.

“Anecdotal reports link alcohol intoxication to creativity, while cognitive research highlights the crucial role of cognitive control for creative thought. This study examined the effects of mild alcohol intoxication on creative cognition in a placebo-controlled design. Read More


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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