Women are better doctors than men.

By Seriously Science | December 22, 2016 12:14 pm
Photo: flickr/James Palinsad

Photo: flickr/James Palinsad

Want to have a hospital stay that does not end in your own death? If so, you might want to request a female doctor when you check in. According to this study, female physicians had (slightly) lower mortality rates and readmission rates compared with male doctors in the same hospital. The reason? “Literature has shown that female physicians may be more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines, provide preventive care more often, use more patient-centered communication, perform as well or better on standardized examinations, and provide more psychosocial counseling to their patients than do their male peers.” Nice work, ladies!

Comparison of Hospital Mortality and Readmission Rates for Medicare Patients Treated by Male vs Female Physicians

“Question Do patient outcomes differ between those treated by male and female physicians?

Findings In this cross-sectional study, we examined nationally representative data of hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries and found that patients treated by female physicians had significantly lower mortality rates (adjusted mortality rate, 11.07% vs 11.49%) and readmission rates (adjusted readmission rate, 15.02% vs 15.57%) compared with those cared for by male physicians within the same hospital.
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Scientists determine the workplace fall risk for Santa Claus, and the outlook is not so good.

By Seriously Science | December 20, 2016 6:00 am
Fig. 1. Appearance of Santa Claus (SC) during static tandem stance bearing the Christmas sack. The SC pictures of all subjects were super imposed. The blurred silhouette is due to difference in size and refers to SC's mystic illusion.

Fig. 1.
Appearance of Santa Claus (SC) during static tandem stance bearing the Christmas sack. The SC pictures of all subjects were super imposed. The blurred silhouette is due to difference in size and refers to SC’s mystic illusion.

In lieu of our regular introductory blurb, we’ll just let the scientists who wrote this (we assume) tongue-in-cheek study explain it for themselves:

“Overall, falls are considered the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations in older adults. Taking these factors into account, it seems as if SC could be likely to jeopardize Christmas Eve by slipping, tripping and falling.

Consequentially, the present study aimed at examining whether the traditional “SC garb” (coat, beard, sag, cap) what with his applied loads (Christmas sack with presents) as well as his cognitive interference tasks (checking his Christmas list while steering the sleigh) would negatively affect his balance and gait performance, and in turn, would lead to an elevated fall risk profile. These findings could contribute to a better understanding of SC’s neuromuscular performance with and without additional loads. On the basis of our results, relevant neuromuscular training prescriptions for the pre-Christmas season could be derived. Finally, the risk of severe falls of SC could be minimized for the sake of keeping our kids happy.”

And when it came to the experiments, they weren’t joking around. They had volunteers who still believe in Santa Claus dress up in red suits and carry a giant bag while working out on a treadmill. (OK, maybe they were joking.) The results? Let’s just say we hope that Santa has insurance, because he’s going to need it.

Jeopardizing Christmas: Why spoiled kids and a tight schedule could make Santa Claus fall?

“Santa Claus’ spatio-temporal gait characteristics, ground reaction forces during treadmill walking as well as postural sway during loaded, unloaded and cognitive interference tasks were examined in order to estimate his fall risk. Read More

Flashback Friday: Santa Claus and doctors found equally reliable, despite one being imaginary.

By Seriously Science | December 16, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/LadyDragonflyCC

Photo: flickr/LadyDragonflyCC

One would hope that the general public feels like they can trust and like their doctor. But feelings are subjective, and it can be difficult to interpret what people mean when they talk about how they feel. So it’s helpful to have a scale or comparison. And who do people like and trust as much as Santa Claus? Well, according to this Danish study…doctors! We’re not sure if this says more about how the public views doctors or how much the Danish believe in Santa, but either way, Happy Holidays!

Santa Claus is perceived as reliable and friendly: results of the Danish Christmas 2013 survey.

“INTRODUCTION: Several studies have indicated that the population in general perceives doctors as reliable. In the present study perceptions of reliability and kindness attributed to another socially significant archetype, Santa Claus, have been comparatively examined in relation to the doctor. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings

Scientists catch male spiders giving oral sex.

By Seriously Science | December 15, 2016 6:00 am

Darwin’s bark spiders are hands down the best spiders: they make giant webs that can span 25-meter-wide rivers, their silk is one of the strongest materials known to man, and, according to this study, male Darwin’s bark spiders give their mates oral sex. That is, if you define oral sex as “salivat[ing] onto female genitalia pre-, during, and post-copulation.” I know I do.

Spider behaviors include oral sexual encounters.

“Several clades of spiders whose females evolved giant sizes are known for extreme sexual behaviors such as sexual cannibalism, opportunistic mating, mate-binding, genital mutilation, plugging, and emasculation. However, these behaviors have only been tested in a handful of size dimorphic spiders. Here, we bring another lineage into the picture by reporting on sexual behavior of Darwin’s bark spider, Caerostris darwini. Read More

How can you tell if a rat is smiling?

By Seriously Science | December 12, 2016 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Anvisuals

Image: Flickr/Anvisuals

What does a rat “smile” look like, you ask? Well, these scientists asked the same question, and answered it by taking pictures of rats being tickled, and comparing the images of happy rats to those taken while blasting them with white noise. It turns out that the rat equivalent of a happy grin is slightly pinker, and more relaxed ears. How cute is that?

Facial Indicators of Positive Emotions in Rats.

“Until recently, research in animal welfare science has mainly focused on negative experiences like pain and suffering, often neglecting the importance of assessing and promoting positive experiences. In rodents, specific facial expressions have been found to occur in situations thought to induce negatively valenced emotional states (e.g., pain, aggression and fear), but none have yet been identified for positive states. Thus, this study aimed to investigate if facial expressions indicative of positive emotional state are exhibited in rats. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

Flashback Friday: The scientifically-proven method for getting your bartender’s attention.

By Seriously Science | December 9, 2016 6:00 am

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. These recordings were used to generate initial hypotheses about the signals customers produce when bidding for the attention of bar staff. Read More


Hardcore bee species builds its nest in ash by an active volcano(!)

By Seriously Science | December 1, 2016 1:14 pm
Photo: flickr/Walter Lim

Photo: flickr/Walter Lim

Bees can fly anywhere, so you’d think they’d have their choice of places to live. Well, these ground-nesting bees are so hardcore that they chose to live in the ash next to an active volcano. But why? In this paper, the authors attempt to explain why the bees might pick such a hazardous location, which is exposed to “continuous, strongly acidic gas emissions.” Their conclusion? “Notwithstanding the extreme nature of the site, and the co-occurrence of specialist natural enemies and predators, the possibility exists that the site is selected for its beneficial attributes, such as the loose, well-drained substrate and the absence of vegetation. The converse is that the site is sub-optimal with the population constrained by habitat patchiness and limited dispersal options.” We may never know for sure, but one thing is certain — “Bee Volcano” would be a great horror movie.

Persistent nesting by Anthophora Latreille, 1803 (Hymenoptera: Apidae) bees in ash adjacent to an active volcano

“Ground-nesting bees use a variety of substrates in which to establish cells and complete their reproductive cycles. Here we document the highly aberrant occurrence of a solitary bee species, Anthophora squammulosa Dours, 1870 (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Anthophorini), nesting within meters of an active volcanic crater in Nicaragua, Central America. The nest location is exposed to continuous, strongly acidic gas emissions (>2.7 ppm of SO2), and sporadic vent clearing episodes that blanket the surrounding area with ash and tephra. An assessment of floral resources available within the expected homing distance of the species was cross-referenced with pollen carried by females returning to their nests. At this site, A. squammulosa appears to forage almost exclusively on a single plant, Melanthera nivea (L.) Small, 1903 (Asteraceae), that is adapted to volcanic acidic rain, despite being widely accepted as a generalist bee in the remainder of its range. Notwithstanding the extreme nature of the site, and the co-occurrence of specialist natural enemies and predators, the possibility exists that the site is selected for its beneficial attributes, such as the loose, well-drained substrate and the absence of vegetation. The converse is that the site is sub-optimal with the population constrained by habitat patchiness and limited dispersal options.”

Related content:
Bumblebees detect electric fields with their body hair.
Flashback Friday: Nipple, penis, or nostril — what’s the most painful place to be stung by a bee? (The answer might surprise you.)
Scientists explain the amazing process by which bees make hexagonal honeycombs.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, WTF?

Flashback Friday: Which sexual fantasies are the most (and least) popular? Science finally weighs in!

By Seriously Science | December 1, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/grovesa16

Photo: flickr/grovesa16

Sexual fantasies: we all have them, yet many people think they’re in the minority when it comes to their own fantasy of choice. Enter these scientists, who took it upon themselves to catalog the most common sexual fantasies in a population of 1,516 people from Quebec, Canada. Turns out that very few fantasies are truly rare; the rest are primarily ranked as “common”, while a few are so common as to be “typical” (e.g., “receiving oral sex”).  Curious where you rank on the list? See below for the full fantasy tally. 

What Exactly Is an Unusual Sexual Fantasy?

Although several theories and treatment plans use unusual sexual fantasies (SF) as a way to identify deviancy, they seldom describe how the fantasies referred to were determined to be unusual.

The main goal of this study was to determine which SF are rare, unusual, common, or typical from a statistical point of view among a relatively large sample of adults recruited from the general population. A secondary goal was to provide a statistical comparison of the nature and intensity of sexual fantasies for men and women. This study also aims at demonstrating with both quantitative and qualitative analyses that certain fantasies often considered to be unusual are common.
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Scientists finally figure out why whales like to jump out of the water.

By Seriously Science | November 29, 2016 6:00 am

Even if you’ve never gone whale-watching or made it all the way through Moby Dick, you probably know that humpback whales are known for jumping out of the water and slapping the surface with their fins. But why whales engage in these “surface-active behaviors” has long remained a mystery… until now! These scientists watched 94 different groups of whales to discover that loud noises made by jumping and slapping the water may actually play a role in communication between nearby groups of whales. Yet another whale-related mystery solved!

Evidence for the functions of surface-active behaviors in humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae)

“As part of their social sound repertoire, migrating humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) perform a large variety of surface-active behaviors, such as breaching and repetitive slapping of the pectoral fins and tail flukes; however, little is known about what factors influence these behaviors and what their functions might be. We investigated the potential functions of surface-active behaviors in humpback whale groups by examining the social and environmental contexts in which they occurred. Read More

Sorry parents, study shows you don’t know when your kids are lying.

By Seriously Science | November 22, 2016 3:20 pm
Image: Flickr/tiffany terry

Image: Flickr/tiffany terry

Like all parents, I like to believe I know my daughter better than anyone on earth. But, at least according to this study, that doesn’t mean I know her well enough to tell when she’s lying. Here, researchers filmed groups of children lying or telling the truth, and had various groups of adults judge whether they were fibbing. It turns out that no group of adults, even the children’s parents, were able to do better than they would by random guessing. Kids poker tournament, anyone?

Can parents detect 8- to 16-year-olds’ lies? Parental biases, confidence, and accuracy.

“Honesty is a crucial aspect of a trusting parent-child relationship. Given that close relationships often impair our ability to detect lies and are related to a truth bias, parents may have difficulty with detecting their own children’s lies. The current investigation examined the lie detection abilities (accuracy, biases, and confidence) of three groups of participants: non-parent group (undergraduates), parent-other group (parents who evaluated other peoples’ children’s statements), and parent-own group (parents who evaluated their own children’s statements). 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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