Do the holidays make you happy? Do you enjoy eating items spiced with nutmeg, such as gingerbread and eggnog? Well, according to this author, there might be a connection between your Christmas cheer and nutmeg consumption. More specifically, he theorizes that amphetamine-like compounds formed during the baking and cooking of nutmeg-containing compounds “may be responsible, in part, for uplifting our mood in winter.” The author goes on to speculate that these spices are specifically eaten in the winter because the dark, cold days require extra doses of “cheer.” While he concedes that the effect of these compounds on mood could also just be due to nostalgia for holidays past, we’re going to play it safe this holiday season… and eat extra gingerbread!
“Whether or not the pharmacology and toxicology of spices such as nutmeg can be explained on the basis of their allylbenzene or propenylbenzene content is speculative. Read More
Despite the stereotypical association between the artistic and the feminine, these scientists believe the opposite is true: that artists are actually more masculine. They note an association between the peak years of productivity of male artists and their fertility. They also show that artists tend to have a shorter 2nd to 4th digit ratio than non-artists, a trait associated with higher testosterone levels during development. This correlation was true for both male and female artists, suggesting a general association of testosterone and artistry. The authors conclude that “art may represent a sexually selected, typically masculine behavior that advertises the carrier’s good genes within a courtship context.” We’ll leave it to you to comment on the general suitability of artists as mates…
“In his groundbreaking research, Geoffrey Miller (1999) suggests that artistic and creative displays are male-predominant behaviors and can be considered to be the result of an evolutionary advantage. Read More
Even though I still really want a jetpack, I’m pretty stoked about this new technology developed by scientists at Stanford University. Inspired by the incredible climbing ability of geckos, they developed a synthetic material that allows full-grown adults to scale glass skyscrapers, just like Spiderman! Be sure to check out the awesome video below!
“Since the discovery of the mechanism of adhesion in geckos, many synthetic dry adhesives have been developed with desirable gecko-like properties such as reusability, directionality, self-cleaning ability, rough surface adhesion and high adhesive stress. Read More
Well… not exactly. But according to this study, people who dream of killing someone tend to be more aggressive during their waking life. The scientists polled student samples on their dream contents and then tested their personality traits. They found that 20-35% of participants reported having dreamed of murdering someone at least once (perhaps not surprisingly, more of these were men), and these people were more likely to have more aggressive personalities in their waking life. Paging Dr. Jung…
“Aggressive interactions are common in dreams, even aggression resulting in the death of a dream character. In different student samples, approximately 20% to 35% of the participants reported having dreamed of killing someone at least once in their lives. In nightmare sufferers, this type of dream was related to elevated waking-life aggression. Read More
Here’s a novel gift idea for that nerdy friend: an earring shaped like the inner ear. (It’s an ear-ring! Get it? As in, from ears. Ha!) This paper describes the metal casts of inner ears made by the anatomist M. Wharton Young in the 1930s, using the temporal bone as a mold. It is hard to see the inside of this bone without using X-ray and contrast agents (which Young also did later on), so he used metal to make casts of the bone. (For details of the process, check out the full description below.) Later, he had these casts made into jewelry and presented them as gifts – with recipients including Nobel Prize winner Georg von Bekesy and even the Governor of Hawaii. Want to get a cochlear earring of your own? Thanks to the internet, now you can.
“This article describes a straightforward method for making metal casts of the human inner ear developed in 1937 by M. Wharton Young of Howard University College of Medicine. Read More
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!
“A field experiment explored whether a female shopper’s appearance would influence the customer service she received. Read More
“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!
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
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!
“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
Although 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!
“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
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?)!
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