Want to feel happier? Just smell a happy person’s BO!

By Seriously Science | April 21, 2015 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/littlelovemonster

Photo: flickr/littlelovemonster

Smelling someone’s stinky body odor can really bum you out, at least temporarily. But did you know that BO can communicate emotions directly? According to this study, human body odor may contain chemicals, also known as “chemosignals”, that can carry information about emotional states. To test this hypothesis, the researchers evoked emotions in 12 men by showing them movie clips to make them either happy (e.g., “Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book), afraid (e.g., clips from Schindler’s List and Scream 2), or neutral (e.g., American weather forecasts). During each condition, the researchers collected sweat from the shaved armpits of the subjects. Later, they asked female subjects to smell the sweat samples, and they measured electrical impulses produced by facial muscles to track the womens’ facial expressions. Turns out that women smelling the “happy sweat” had happier expressions (including smiles) compared with those smelling neutral or fearful sweat (the latter of which elicited a fearful expression). So there you have it — to get a boost of happiness, just find the happiest person in the room and take a whiff!

A Sniff of Happiness

“It is well known that feelings of happiness transfer between individuals through mimicry induced by vision and hearing. The evidence is inconclusive, however, as to whether happiness can be communicated through the sense of smell via chemosignals. Read More

Study examines why dog owners don’t always clean up their pooch’s poop.

By Seriously Science | April 16, 2015 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/David Swayze.

Image: Flickr/David Swayze.

“Sh*t happens.” And, if you’re a regular walker, your shoes (and nose!) are probably very aware that much of it is due to dogs. But how do dog owners normally handle the doodoo? We will let Professor Gross, the author of this poop-tastic study, introduce the topic in his own (very well chosen) words:

“To be sure, at first glance, dog walking seems straightforward. Walk the dog, let it poop, then walk the dog home. But this simple description raises a fundamental question: why it is that the poop falling out of the dog is not taken care of, and if it is, how exactly is this done?”

To undertake this worthwhile endeavor, the author used his daily to commute to carefully study the habits of dog owners: while walking to the train station, he watched what they did (or didn’t do!) with their dog’s poops, and he recorded his observations during the following train ride. Over six months he collected data from hundreds of dog defecations. The results? Well, it turns out that people have three main strategies for coping with canine crap. First, the (terrible, no good, and just plain horrible… not that we judge) dog owner may decide to pretend to not have seen the dog poop, and just leave it there. Secondly, the owner may bag the poop, but randomly drop it on the ground, or tie it to a fence (see the figure from the paper below… WTF?). And thirdly, the (awesome, love-worthy and honorable) owner might bag the poop and properly dispose of it in a trash can. And not everyone consistently does the same thing; dog owners are apparently much more likely to choose option number 3 if someone else is watching. If you find poop funny (and who doesn’t!?!), we highly recommend checking out the witty and well-written full text!

Natural waste: canine companions and the lure of inattentively pooping in public.

“The most organized and regulated societies in Europe have a comparatively high density of pet dogs per inhabitant. Contrary to the general trend in Western societies towards raising standards of hygiene in everyday life, pedestrian areas and urban parks tend to be dog fouling hotspots. Unlike other nonhuman animals, pet dogs are often walked to public places for the sole reason to defecate. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, ha ha poop

This professor measured his fingernail growth for 35 years. The results will amaze you!

By Seriously Science | April 13, 2015 6:00 am

Image:Flickr/Shannon Kringen

Image:Flickr/Shannon Kringen

Have you ever wondered how fast your fingernails grow? And whether they all grow at the same rate? Or perhaps you’ve noticed that your fingernails grow more slowly than they used to? If so, you and William B. Bean have something in common! Professor Bean painstakingly measured the growth of his fingernails for decades, and he published the minutia of these measurements after 20, 25, 30 and 35 years. The full texts of these papers are a delight to read. And the findings? Well, we’ll let Professor Bean speak for himself! (Be sure to check out the fantastically detailed chart of his fingernail growth rates below…)
“When I first began to measure the rate of nail growth, I scored marks on all my nails. Within a few months I found that each nail had its own pace. This was clearly distinguishable even by the rather crude method that I used. Some nails grew rapidly; some, in an intermediate phase, less rapidly; and some, slowly. The differences were small but regular. There was consistency in the variation, so if I applied a ratio I could tell by measuring one nail what the others were doing, and this I did on several occasions. In simple terms, toenails grow more slowly than nails of the hand, and the nail of the middle finger grows more rapidly than the nails of either the thumb or the little finger or the other two middle fingers.”

Nail growth. Thirty-five years of observation.

“A 35-year observation of the growth of my nails indicates the slowing of growth with increasing age. The average daily growth of the left thumbnail, for instance, has varied from 0.123 mm a day during the first part of the study when 1 was 32 years of age to 0.095 mm a day at the age of 67.” Read More

Flashback Friday: Google search patterns reveal human mating season.

By Seriously Science | April 10, 2015 10:59 am
Photo: flickr/sarahrosenau

Photo: flickr/sarahrosenau

Humans like to think that we’re different from other animals, even down to our sexual behaviors. But as we’ve previously shown on this blog, we still have a lot in common with our furry (and sometimes non-furry) pals, from fellatio to ménage à trois. Well, here’s something else you can add to the list: mating seasons. Previous work has shown that signs of human sex and mating behaviors–for example, births, STDs, and condom sales–follow a seasonal pattern that peaks every six months. Here, two researchers show that even Google searches follow this pattern. More specifically, searches for topics related to pornography, prostitution, and mate-seeking (e.g., “xxx”, “boobs”, “brothel”, “eHarmony”) peak in the winter and early summer, consistent with the patterns of other human mating behaviors. So there you have it: you’re nothing but a mammal, so do it like they do on the Discover… Magazine :)

Seasonal variation in internet keyword searches: a proxy assessment of sex mating behaviors.

“The current study investigated seasonal variation in internet searches regarding sex and mating behaviors. Harmonic analyses were used to examine the seasonal trends of Google keyword searches during the past 5 years for topics related to pornography, prostitution, and mate-seeking. Read More

What type of music is best for relaxing cats during surgery? (Hint: it’s not heavy metal.)

By Seriously Science | April 8, 2015 10:42 am
9679222174_bee9a5f236_z

Photo: flickr/superformosa

Music helps people relax in stressful situations, but what about  non-human animals? This study investigated whether playing different kinds of music relaxes cats undergoing surgery (spaying, to be exact). Our favorite part of this research is the choice of music: “For each of these surgical time points, patients were first assessed in a silent scenario as a self-control (CT) and then exposed to three different genres of music: classical music (CM), ‘Adagio For Strings (Opus 11)’ by Samuel Barber; pop music (PM), ‘Thorn’ [sic] by Natalie Imbruglia; and heavy metal (HM), ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC. Musical stimulation was performed for 2 mins for each genre.” The result? Perhaps not surprisingly, the cats were most relaxed when listening to classical music, and least relaxed while listening to AC/DC. Maybe they should try “species-appropriate” music (music made especially for cats) next?

Influence of music and its genres on respiratory rate and pupil diameter variations in cats under general anaesthesia: contribution to promoting patient safety

Objectives The aims of the study were to recognise if there is any auditory sensory stimuli processing in cats under general anaesthesia, and to evaluate changes in respiratory rate (RR) and pupillary diameter (PD) in anaesthetised patients exposed to different music genres, while relating this to the depth of anaesthesia.
Methods A sample of 12 cats submitted for elective ovariohysterectomy were exposed to 2 min excerpts of three different music genres (classical [CM], pop [PM] and heavy metal [HM]) at three points during surgery (T1 = coeliotomy; T2 = ligature placement and transection of the ovarian pedicle; T3 = ligature placement and transection of the uterine body). A multiparametric medical monitor was used to measure the RR, and a digital calliper was used for PD measurement. Music was delivered through headphones, which fully covered the patient’s ears. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

Scientists unveil the new must-have hybrid pet: behold the koalabbit!

By Seriously Science | April 1, 2015 9:57 am
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Photo: amatheny192/worth1000.com

Australian scientists have been fighting to keep ahead of the overpopulation of non-native rabbits pretty much since they were first introduced by English colonists. Finally, these researchers believe they have found the solution — a genetically engineered koala-rabbit hybrid called a koalabbit! And we’re not the only ones who think these GMOs are super cute: other rabbits find these new animals more sexually attractive than normal rabbits. And there’s the rub: like mules, koalabbits are sterile. Not only does this keep the engineered genes out of the wild gene pool, it reduces the breeding success of the wild rabbits because they are spending their time chasing the cute koalabbits instead of breeding with each other. But who can blame them!?! Move over labradoodles — koalabbits are here to stay!

Using sterile animal hybrids to manage invasive species’ populations: development of a new hybrid of Phascolarctos cinereus and Lepus curpaeums.

A number of physical, chemical, and biological methods have historically been employed to reduce the overwhelming numbers of non-native rabbits (Lepus curpaeums) occupying fragile wilderness areas of the Australian continent. Here, we present a novel method of breeding control using modern genetics to produce new mammalian hybrids.  Read More >>

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

Engineers discover a new use for tampons: as pollution detectors!

By Seriously Science | March 31, 2015 5:22 pm

tamponAlthough we all know that pollution from sewers is generally bad for ecosystems, actually figuring out if there is a wastewater leak can be challenging. Because of their ubiquitous use in household products, finding optical brighteners (“OBs”: chemicals found in shampoo and other soaps, and even toilet paper) in streams and rivers can be used as a sign of wastewater pollution. However, because these compounds are so commonly used, finding absorbent materials that don’t have them makes using optical brighteners as markers of pollution difficult. Enter the tampon: tampons are generally made from untreated cotton and are therefore free of OBs. According to this study, tampons readily absorb OBs, making them glow when exposed to UV light (see image above). This simple test is not only cheap, but very effective — even small amounts of optical brighteners can be detected in streams and rivers by using “tampon samplers” (tampons tied to a string and literally hanging into the sewer pipe). Who knew scientists were so good at finding new uses for tampons?

A low cost method to detect polluted surface water outfalls and misconnected drainage.

“Sewer misconnections lead to discharge of wastewater direct to rivers and streams. They are difficult to detect due to their intermittent discharges and the wide range of compounds which can be discharged. Read More

Study shows that women who sleep longer have higher libidos.

By Seriously Science | March 26, 2015 10:13 am
Photo: flickr/Richard foster

Photo: flickr/Richard foster

Everyone knows that getting a good night’s sleep is important for things like mood and overall health. Now studies show that sleep might also affect your sex drive. Here, researchers surveyed 171 women daily over the course of two weeks, asking questions about how long they slept the night before and whether they had engaged in sexual activity (self or partnered) the day before. The scientists found that in general, women who slept longer had higher levels of sexual desire, with each 1-hour increase in sleep correlating with a 14% higher likelihood of having sex with a partner the next day. Just one more (excellent) reason to hit that snooze button!

The Impact of Sleep on Female Sexual Response and Behavior: A Pilot Study

“Introduction
The etiological role of sleep disturbance in sexual difficulties has been largely overlooked. Research suggests that short sleep duration and poor sleep quality lead to poor female sexual response. However, prior research consists of cross-sectional studies, and the influence of sleep on sexual functioning and behavior has not been prospectively examined.

Aim
We sought to examine the influence of nightly sleep duration, sleep quality, and sleep onset latency on daily female sexual response and activity.

Methods
This study used a longitudinal design to study 171 women free of antidepressants and with reliable Internet access who were recruited from a university setting in the United States. Participants first completed baseline measures in a laboratory, and then completed web-delivered surveys at their habitual wake time for 14 consecutive days.

Main Outcome Measures
All outcome measures were modified for daily recall. Participants completed the Profile of Female Sexual Function’s desire, subjective arousal, and orgasmic functioning scales and the Female Sexual Function Index’s genital arousal scale, and indicated whether they engaged in partnered sexual activity or self-stimulation in response to dichotomous items.

Results
Analyses revealed that longer sleep duration was related to greater next-day sexual desire (b = 0.32, P = 0.02), and that a 1-hour increase in sleep length corresponded to a 14% increase in odds of engaging in partnered sexual activity (odds ratio = 1.14, P < 0.05). In contrast, sleeping longer predicted poorer next-day genital arousal (b = −0.19, P < 0.01). However, results showed that women with longer average sleep duration reported better genital arousal than women with shorter average sleep length (b = 0.54, P = 0.03).

Conclusions
Obtaining sufficient sleep is important to the promotion of healthy sexual desire and genital response, as well as the likelihood of engaging in partnered sexual activity. These relationships were independent of daytime affect and fatigue. Future directions may investigate sleep disorders as risk factors for sexual dysfunction. ”

Related content:
Sleep-related erections throughout the ages!
Proof that female ejaculation is just pee.
Are there really two kinds of female orgasm? Science weighs in.

The latest cat fashion trend also protects local birds.

By Seriously Science | March 24, 2015 6:00 am

Some people are surprised to find out that domestic cats are a major threat to bird populations — in the United States alone, cats kill over one BILLION birds each year. Fortunately, these Australian scientists are on the case. They tested a commercial product (made in the USA) called “Birdsbesafe®”, a collar cover that bears a strong resemblance to a hair scrunchie. The idea is that the colorful collar makes it easier for birds and other prey to see the cat coming, reducing Fluffy’s hunting success. And it works! An almost 50% reduction in the number of birds and lizards are caught by the scrunchie-wearing cats. One caveat for anyone with a fondness for mice: Birdsbesafe only protects animals with good color vision, like birds and lizards. Sorry, Mickey–you’re on your own.

fig1Assessing the effectiveness of the Birdsbesafe® anti-predation collar cover in reducing predation on wildlife by pet cats in Western Australia

“Many pet cats hunt and, irrespective of whether or not this threatens wildlife populations, distressed owners may wish to curtail hunting while allowing their pets to roam. Therefore we evaluated the effectiveness of three patterned designs (simple descriptions being rainbow, red and yellow) of the anti-predation collar cover, the Birdsbesafe® (BBS), in reducing prey captures by 114 pet cats over 2 years in a suburban Australian context. The BBS offers a colourful indicator of a cat’s presence and should therefore alert prey with good colour vision (birds and herpetofauna), but not most mammals with limited colour vision. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

Study finds that conservatives pretend they’re happy, but liberals actually are.

By Seriously Science | March 19, 2015 11:37 am
Image: Flickr/Anna

Image: Flickr/Anna

Can your political views predict your happiness? Well, according to this study, published in the top journal Science, the answer is “Yes!”. Previous survey results have suggested that conservatives rate their own happiness higher than liberals. However, such studies are difficult to interpret because people tend to be unreliable sources of information about themselves. So these scientists went beyond using such subjective measures, and instead extracted emotional content from publicly available pictures of conservative and liberal members of Congress, as well as the text of the 2013 Congressional Record. Their analysis suggests that despite conservatives’ higher self-reported happiness, liberals actually display greater happiness in real life. Happy now?

Conservatives report, but liberals display, greater happiness.

“Research suggesting that political conservatives are happier than political liberals has relied exclusively on self-report measures of subjective well-being. 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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