Flashback Friday: Does wearing tighty whities kill your sperm count?

By Seriously Science | June 8, 2018 11:00 am

Boxers versus briefs: it’s a personal question that might have big consequences for your future. That’s because warming up your testicles can seriously screw up sperm development–so seriously, in fact, that polyester ball cozies have been shown to be an effective form of birth control. So if briefs are (literally) hotter than boxers, they may reduce your fertility. But before you go burn your briefs, check out the study below. These scientists actually tested the testicular temperatures of men wearing both styles of nut huts, and they found that there was no significant difference. Don’t just rely on our brief (!) summary, though–go read the paper for yourself!

Are boxer shorts really better? A critical analysis of the role of underwear type in male subfertility.

“PURPOSE: Elevation of testicular temperature may result in arrest of spermatogenesis, abnormal semen parameters and sterility. It has been proposed that brief style underwear may produce scrotal hyperthermia and lead to clinical subfertility. Although this idea is regarded as dogma by many in the lay community and the changing of underwear type is a therapy frequently recommended by medical practitioners, there is a paucity of data measuring scrotal temperature as a function of underwear type.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Scrotal, core and skin temperatures were measured in 97 consecutive men presenting for evaluation of primary clinical subfertility. These cases were categorized by underwear type to boxer or brief group. Read More

Think your political views are the best? You’re probably misinformed

By Seriously Science | June 7, 2018 11:20 pm

We all know them: those people with strong political convictions who, when you disagree, tell you it’s because you don’t know what you are talking about. But do they really know more than you do? Here, scientists tested the relationship between feeling that one’s own political beliefs are superior and how much one actually knows about the topic. It turns out that the two are inversely related–meaning the more strongly people think their belief is superior, the more likely it is that they actually lack information. But all hope is not lost! When convinced that their beliefs may not be as great as they thought, participants tended to lower their confidence in their knowledge. Let’s all just keep that in mind come midterm elections.

Is belief superiority justified by superior knowledge?

“Individuals expressing belief superiority—the belief that one’s views are superior to other viewpoints—perceive themselves as better informed about that topic, but no research has verified whether this perception is justified. The present research examined whether people expressing belief superiority on four political issues demonstrated superior knowledge or superior knowledge-seeking behavior. Read More


Flashback Friday: Why Do Some Birds Lay Blue Eggs?

By Seriously Science | June 1, 2018 6:00 am
(Credit: Brandon Blinkenberg/Shutterstock)

(Credit: Brandon Blinkenberg/Shutterstock)

While you might be most familiar with “robin’s egg blue”, many species of birds lay blue-colored eggs. Why might this have evolved? Although scientists can’t go back in time to observe the emergence of blue eggs, they can think carefully about which properties might be most different between blue and non-blue eggs–which is what these researchers did! They found that blue eggs absorb just the right amount of light to warm the egg, but not allow it to get too hot. Egg-cellent!

Shedding Light on Bird Egg Color: Pigment as Parasol and the Dark Car Effect.

“The vibrant colors of many birds’ eggs, particularly those that are blue to blue-green, are extraordinary in that they are striking traits present in hundreds of species that have nevertheless eluded evolutionary functional explanation. We propose that egg pigmentation mediates a trade-off between two routes by which solar radiation can harm bird embryos: transmittance through the eggshell and overheating through absorbance. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

Your eyebrows could reveal how narcissistic you are

By Seriously Science | May 31, 2018 4:51 am
Photo: Wikimedia/Eva Rinaldi

Photo: Wikimedia/Eva Rinaldi

Identifying a narcissist is a handy skill, and these scientists have made it a bit easier by finding that the key to pinpointing a narcissist is… their eyebrows? That’s right, apparently the “distinctiveness” of someone’s eyebrows (for example, how thick or dense they are) is the main cue that they are suffering from “grandiose narcissism”. And speaking of distinctive eyebrows…

Eyebrows Cue Grandiose Narcissism.

Though initially charming and inviting, narcissists often engage in negative interpersonal behaviors. Identifying and avoiding narcissists therefore carries adaptive value. Whereas past research has found that people can judge others’ grandiose narcissism from their appearance (including their faces), the cues supporting these judgments require further elucidation. Here, we investigated which facial features underlie perceptions of grandiose narcissism and how they convey that information.

In Study 1, we explored the face’s features using a variety of manipulations, ultimately finding that accurate judgments of grandiose narcissism particularly depend on a person’s eyebrows. In Studies 2A-2C, we identified eyebrow distinctiveness (e.g., thickness, density) as the primary characteristic supporting these judgments. Finally, we confirmed the eyebrows’ importance in Studies 3A and 3B by measuring how much perceptions of narcissism changed when swapping narcissists’ and non-narcissists’ eyebrows between faces.

Together, these data show that distinctive eyebrows reveal narcissists’ personality to others, providing a basic understanding of the mechanism through which people can identify narcissistic personality traits with potential application to daily life.”

Related content:
Powerful narcissists (ahem) tend towards overconfidence.
Being angry makes a woman look more like a man.
People prefer mates with a 22% resemblance to themselves.

Flashback Friday: Which state Googles “porn” the most? The answer might surprise you

By Seriously Science | May 25, 2018 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Caden Crawford

Photo: flickr/Caden Crawford

Google Trends has become a productive source of data for social scientists, particularly those interested in when and where people search for the word “porn”. First, they discovered that porn searches peaked in winter and early summer, a result that lead them to believe that there actually is a human mating season. Now, they’ve looked at the results by state, and found some more interesting patterns.

Perhaps not surprisingly, “higher percentages of Evangelical Protestants, theists, and biblical literalists in a state predict higher frequencies of searching for porn, as do higher church attendance rates.” The state with the highest search rate? You guessed it: Mississippi, followed closely by Texas. The authors conclude that “more salient, traditional religious influences in a state may influence residents–whether religious or not–toward more covert sexual experiences.”

 Unbuckling the Bible Belt: A State-Level Analysis of Religious Factors and Google Searches for Porn.

“While the link between individual religious characteristics and pornography consumption is well established, relatively little research has considered how the wider religious context may influence pornography use. Exceptions in the literature to date have relied on relatively broad, subjective measures of religious commitment, largely ignoring issues of religious belonging, belief, or practice. This study moves the conversation forward by examining how a variety of state-level religious factors predict Google searches for the term porn, net of relevant sociodemographic and ideological controls. Our multivariate findings indicate that higher percentages of Evangelical Protestants, theists, and biblical literalists in a state predict higher frequencies of searching for porn, as do higher church attendance rates. Conversely, higher percentages of religiously unaffiliated persons in a state predict lower frequencies of searching for porn.

Higher percentages of total religious adherents, Catholics, or mainline Protestants in a state are unrelated to searching for porn with controls in place. Contrary to recent research, our analyses also show that higher percentages of political conservatives in a state predicted lower frequencies of porn searches. Our findings support theories that more salient, traditional religious influences in a state may influence residents-whether religious or not-toward more covert sexual experiences.”

Related content:
Does watching porn make people less religious?
Do different kinds of porn portray women differently?
Flashback Friday: Google search patterns reveal human mating season.


True or False: Sex Makes Your Muscles Weaker

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

According to this study, the answer is False (despite that fact that “Sex has been deemed taboo for athletic performance going back to ancient Rome and Greece, as the act of sex was thought to promote ease and a sense of relaxation.”) Read more below!

Effect of Sexual Intercourse on Lower Extremity Muscle Force in Strength-Trained Men.

BACKGROUND: Sex has been deemed taboo for athletic performance going back to ancient Rome and Greece, as the act of sex was thought to promote ease and a sense of relaxation.

AIM: This study examined the effect of sexual intercourse completed 12 hours before a bout of isokinetic dynamometry on muscle force production in strength-trained men.

METHODS: 12 Healthy physically active men (age = 25.6 ± 3.8 years) who were sexually active participated in this study. After men completed a familiarization session on day 1, muscle force was measured during 5 sets of maximal unilateral knee extension (KE) and knee flexion exercise at 30 deg/s after men engaged in or abstained from sexual intercourse within the previous 12 hours. The order of this treatment was randomized across participants, and time of day was maintained across all sessions.

OUTCOMES: Lower extremity muscle strength and endurance were measured. Read More


Flashback Friday: Why Do So Many People Hate the Word “Moist”?

By Seriously Science | May 11, 2018 6:00 am
Moisture. (Credit: PRO Stock Professional/Shutterstock)

Moisture. (Credit: PRO Stock Professional/Shutterstock)

Are there certain words that really get under your skin? If those words are “moist,” “crevice,” “slacks,” or “luggage” then you’re not alone. In fact, People magazine voted “moist” as the “most cringeworthy word” in English and actually made a video of their “sexiest men alive” saying the word. But why is “moist” so objectionable to 10-20% of the population? Is it the sound of the word, or is it the meaning? This author set out to answer that question, and he found that the meaning is the key. People associate “moist” with sexual connotations, which explains the recent rise in aversion to the word. Be sure to check out the table below: it’s not every day we see a scientific paper that includes such salty language.

A Moist Crevice for Word Aversion: In Semantics Not Sounds

“Why do people self-report an aversion to words like “moist”? The present studies represent an initial scientific exploration into the phenomenon of word aversion by investigating its prevalence and cause. Results of five experiments indicate that about 10–20% of the population is averse to the word “moist.” This population often speculates that phonological properties of the word are the cause of their displeasure. Read More


The Girl Who Puked Up Live Slugs

By Seriously Science | May 9, 2018 12:13 pm
Wikimedia commons

Wikimedia commons

This oldie but goodie from 1883 (probably the oldest article we’ve featured to date!) comes from the annals of the distinguished medical journal The Lancet. Here, the author, one Dr. David Dickman, Esq, describes a 12-year-old girl who came to him complaining of vomiting up live slugs. Yup, you read that right: “[she] complained of feeling sick at times, particularly after meals. On the 5th of August last, she vomited up a large garden slug, which was alive and very active. On the 6th, she brought up two, both alive; and on the night of the 7th she was seized with violent vomiting and relaxation of the bowels, and threw up five more, of various sizes, the smallest two inches long [(!)], and all alive.” Apparently, Sarah had a penchant for eating lettuce straight from the garden, without much chewing. The doctor speculates that she swallowed several young slugs in the process, which somehow were not destroyed by her stomach acid and so fed and grew bigger on her love of vegetables. When she started feeling a slug in her throat halfway between her mouth and stomach, the doctor decided to intervene: “As expulsion by vomiting seemed hopeless, it occurred to me that ammonia and camphor might destroy the creature, and that the digestive powers of the stomach would do the rest when the animal was dead.” This approach worked, and “she now appears as well as she ever was.” The doctor also was able to obtain 5 of the live slugs in question, and he found they preferred cooked vegetables over raw–perhaps due to what they were used to eating in the stomach? Finally, in true 1883 fashion, the last paragraph is a gem:“Another circumstance connected with my interesting patient is, that she was born without the left hand. During pregnancy the mother was frightened by a porcupine that an organ boy had in the street; and an impression ever remained on her mind that something would not be right with the child’s hand.”

Can the garden slug live in the human stomach?

Click here to read the full text

All Mammals Take About 12 Seconds to Poop

By Seriously Science | May 5, 2018 6:00 am
(Credit: Bernhard Richter/Shutterstock)

(Credit: Bernhard Richter/Shutterstock)

If the above image disturbs you, move along; this post is not for you! In this study, published this week in the journal Soft Matter (yes, seriously), scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology report their detailed studies of the pooping habits of a wide variety of mammals. Using video recordings of the fecal extrusions and measuring the resulting turds, they deduce that “Despite the length of rectum ranging from 4 to 40 cm, mammals from cats to elephants defecate within a nearly constant duration of 12 ± 7 seconds (N=23). We rationalize this surprising trend by the model, which shows that feces slide along the large intestine by a layer of mucus, similar to a sled sliding through a chute. Larger animals have not only more feces but also thicker mucus layers, which facilitate their ejection.” If you are interested in pooping, be sure to check out the Supplementary Movies — we had no idea that Panda poop is green!

Hydrodynamics of defecation.

“Animals discharge feces within a range of sizes and shapes. Such variation has long been used to track animals as well as to diagnose illnesses in both humans and animals. However, the physics by which feces are discharged remain poorly understood. In this combined experimental and theoretical study, we investigate the defecation of mammals from cats to elephants using the dimensions of large intestines and feces, videography at Zoo Atlanta, cone-on-plate rheological measurements of feces and mucus, and a mathematical model of defecation. The diameter of feces is comparable to that of the rectum, but the length is double that of the rectum, indicating that not only the rectum but also the colon is a storage facility for feces. Despite the length of rectum ranging from 4 to 40 cm, mammals from cats to elephants defecate within a nearly constant duration of 12 ± 7 seconds (N=23). We rationalize this surprising trend by the model, which shows that feces slide along the large intestine by a layer of mucus, similar to a sled sliding through a chute. Larger animals have not only more feces but also thicker mucus layers, which facilitate their ejection. Our model accounts for the shorter and longer defecation times associated with diarrhea and constipation, respectively. This study may support clinicians’ use of non-invasive procedures such as defecation time in the diagnoses of ailments of the digestive system.”

Related content:
Rectal salami.
Accidental condom inhalation.
Scientists use dog sh*t to protect crops from hungry sheep.

Where In the Body Have Leeches Been Found? Far Too Many Places

By Seriously Science | May 3, 2018 6:00 am
Image: Wikimedia Commons/GlebK

Image: Wikimedia Commons/GlebK

Pop quiz: where in the human body have leeches been found?

A) Inside the nose
B) Inside the ear
C) Inside the urethra
D) All of the above

If you answered “D”, then congratulations, you are correct! Blood sucking leeches may be used for valid medical reasons, but that doesn’t mean we have to feel good about case reports that vividly describe finding wild leeches in our orifices… especially our urethras and bladders. Here, doctors pulled a 9-cm leech out of a man’s urethra, an ordeal that took 10 days. And before you go ahead and say this is a single case, here is another article describing 43 additional leeches taken out of bladders. And how do you get a leech out of your bladder? The same way it got in: through the urethra. Ouch!

Reach the Leech: An Unusual Cause of Hematuria.

“Leeches are found in fresh water as well as moist marshy tropical areas. Orifical Hirudiniasis is the presence of leech in natural human orifices. Leech have been reported in nose, oropharynx, vagina, rectum and bladder but leech per urethra is very rare. 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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