Flashback Friday: Want to be happier? Skip the small talk.

By Seriously Science | September 30, 2016 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/wolfB1958

We all know those people. Maybe you’re one of them. The person who manages, despite all the stress and work it takes to get through a normal day, to always be happy. How do they do it? What is their secret? Although it’s likely that genetics play a major role in determining one’s happiness, it’s also thought that behavior can help (or hinder) you on your path to bliss. These scientists asked whether the content of peoples’ conversation is related to their overall happiness. They recorded participants’ conversations during daily life, and sure enough, they found that people who had deeper conversations tended to be happier than those who spent time on small talk.

Eavesdropping on happiness: well-being is related to having less small talk and more substantive conversations.

“Is the happy life full of shallow, happy-go-lucky moments and trivial small talk or full of reflection and profound social encounters? Both notions exist – the happy ignoramus and the fulfilled deep thinker – but little is known about which everyday life is actually associated with greater happiness. We report findings from a naturalistic observation study that investigated whether happy and unhappy people differ in the amount of small talk and substantive conversations they have. Read More

Scientists (finally) figure out why birds don’t crash into each other.

By Seriously Science | September 29, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Tambako the Jaguar

Photo: flickr/Tambako the Jaguar

It’s a simple question that you’ve probably never thought about: with all those birds flying around, how come you never see two birds crash mid-air? To answer this question, researchers put parakeets (aka budgerigars) into an air tunnel and had them fly towards each other. They found that birds have evolved a simple way to avoid mid-air collisions: each bird always veers right and changes altitude. The authors suggest that these same strategies could be applied to airplane guidance systems. Now if only the same rules would apply on a crowded sidewalk!

Strategies for Pre-Emptive Mid-Air Collision Avoidance in Budgerigars

“We have investigated how birds avoid mid-air collisions during head-on encounters. Trajectories of birds flying towards each other in a tunnel were recorded using high speed video cameras. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

Study finds that 60% of college students have had sex in a parked car.

By Seriously Science | September 27, 2016 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Richard Riley

Image: Flickr/Richard Riley

Making out in a parked car is a cliché that has been around for generations. And, at least according to this study, it’s still relevant. In fact, these researchers found that 60% of both men and women at “a small Midwestern university” (psst! It’s the University of South Dakota) have done “it” in a car. Not only that, but most of them liked it: “These data, including personal stories of memorable incidents, revealed that despite discomfort, body bumps, and risk of being caught, sex while parked was primarily a positive sexual and romantic experience for both men and women.” Vroom vroom!

Sexual Behavior in Parked Cars Reported by Midwestern College Men and Women.

“In an anonymous survey of 195 men and 511 women (Mage = 19.8) at a small Midwestern university, 119 men (61%) and 303 women (59.5%) reported that they had engaged in sex while parked. Of these 422, 14% lost their virginity in a parked car. Read More

Flashback Friday: Retention of memory through metamorphosis: can a moth remember what it learned as a caterpillar?

By Seriously Science | September 23, 2016 12:57 pm
Photo: Flickr/Sam Fraser-Smith

Photo: Flickr/Sam Fraser-Smith

The metamorphosis of caterpillars into moths or butterflies is a crazy thing. Not only do these animals acquire new body parts (Why, hello wings!), but other body parts undergo radical changes or disassemble altogether. In this study, scientists tested whether memories made by caterpillars are retained in adult moths despite all of these massive changes. To do this, they trained caterpillars of various “ages” (developmental stages called instars) to avoid specific odors, and then tested whether they remembered their lessons after turning into moths. Turns out that when trained late in caterpillar-hood, the adult moths retained the memories, but individuals trained while younger did not. This implies that there is some mental development that happens late in caterpillar development that is retained through metamorphosis. However, the structure or organization that is responsible for these retained memories remains a mystery.

Retention of memory through metamorphosis: can a moth remember what it learned as a caterpillar?

“Insects that undergo complete metamorphosis experience enormous changes in both morphology and lifestyle. The current study examines whether larval experience can persist through pupation into adulthood in Lepidoptera, and assesses two possible mechanisms that could underlie such behavior: exposure of emerging adults to chemicals from the larval environment, or associative learning transferred to adulthood via maintenance of intact synaptic connections. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

The ancient Romans were onto something: cold showers might be good for you.

By Seriously Science | September 22, 2016 12:03 pm
Photo: flickr/sethdickens

Photo: flickr/sethdickens

If you’ve ever visited Roman ruins, you’ll know that the ancient Romans were really into bathing. Every town had at least one bathhouse, which had a combination of steam rooms, hot tubs, and cold baths. But did these rituals actually do anything for the Romans’ health? In this study, the researchers had subjects add a cold shower at the end of their regular hot shower routine to measure its effects on heath and other lifestyle factors. They found that cold showering significantly reduced the number of sick days that the subjects took during the study (though not the number of illness days). The authors hypothesize that this was caused by the invigorating effect of the cold shower, which some subjects compared to a jolt of caffeine. In fact, the subjects enjoyed the cold showering so much that the majority of them continued to do it even after that phase of the study ended. So there you have it: if you want to save money on coffee, just douse yourself in cold water instead!

The Effect of Cold Showering on Health and Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial


The aim of this study was to determine the cumulative effect of a routine (hot-to-) cold shower on sickness, quality of life and work productivity.


Between January and March 2015, 3018 participants between 18 and 65 years without severe comorbidity and no routine experience of cold showering were randomized (1:1:1:1) to a (hot-to-) cold shower for 30, 60, 90 seconds or a control group during 30 consecutive days followed by 60 days of showering cold at their own discretion for the intervention groups. The primary outcome was illness days and related sickness absence from work. Secondary outcomes were quality of life, work productivity, anxiety, thermal sensation and adverse reactions. Read More


Finally, a good use for disco music: helping people perform CPR!

By Seriously Science | September 20, 2016 6:00 am
CPR training music how to

Image: Flickr/Greg Clarke

This cleverly (or perhaps horribly?) titled study, “Achy breaky makey wakey heart? A randomised crossover trial of musical prompts”, describes how researchers tested whether listening to ‘Achy breaky heart’ or ‘Disco science’ helps improve people’s ability to perform CPR. The authors had professionals at an Australian ambulance conference perform CPR on a dummy while either not listening to music, or while listening to songs with beats that match the correct speed of CPR compressions. It turns out that ‘Disco science’ helped keep the rescuers on time. Just don’t tell my achy breaky heart that means we should listen to it, too!

Achy breaky makey wakey heart? A randomised crossover trial of musical prompts.

“Compared with no music (NM), does listening to ‘Achy breaky heart’ (ABH) or ‘Disco science’ (DS) increase the proportion of prehospital professionals delivering chest compressions at 2010 guideline-compliant rates of 100-120 bpm and 50-60 mm depths?

METHODS: A randomised crossover trial recruiting at an Australian ambulance conference. Volunteers performed three 1-min sequences of continuous chest compressions on a manikin accompanied by NM, repeated choruses of ABH and DS, prerandomised for order.

RESULTS: 37 of 74 participants were men; median age 37 years; 61% were paramedics, 20% students and 19% other health professionals. 54% had taken cardiopulmonary resuscitation training within 1 year. Differences in compression rate (mode, IQR) were significant for NM (105, 99-116) versus ABH (120, 107-120) and DS (104, 103-107) versus ABH (p0.5).

CONCLUSIONS: Listening to DS significantly increased the proportion of prehospital professionals compressing at 2010 guideline-compliant rates. Regardless of intervention more than half gave compressions that were too shallow. Alternative audible feedback mechanisms may be more effective.”

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Flashback Friday: Do you look at your poo? If not, here’s why you should.

By Seriously Science | September 16, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Corrie Barklimore

Photo: flickr/Corrie Barklimore

As a scientist, I freely admit that I inspect my poop every day. And after reading this paper, I’m glad I do. That’s because one of the most obvious signs of colon cancer is a bloody stool, and you can only detect it if you’re looking at your doo-doo regularly. But do most people inspect their poops? Well, these gastroenterologists decided to find out. It turns out that I’m in the minority; only 27% of participants looked at every poop and wipe, and a whopping 6% never looked at either their turds or their used toilet paper. And the scary part? There was a clear association between the frequency of scatological viewings and whether they successfully reported bloody stools. So the next time you take a poop, remember to take a peep!

Factors associated with the frequency of stool examination: effect on incidence of reported rectal bleeding.

“BACKGROUND: Rectal bleeding is an important presenting symptom of colorectal cancer. The presentation and investigation of patients with rectal bleeding may be delayed if people do not regularly inspect their stool or toilet paper.

AIM: To determine how frequently stool or toilet paper is inspected, factors associated with the frequency of inspection, and whether this affects the reported prevalence of rectal bleeding. Read More


Science confirms that it’s hard to know you’re drunk when you’re surrounded by drunk people.

By Seriously Science | September 15, 2016 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Johnny Silvercloud

Image: Flickr/Johnny Silvercloud

I bet you’re one of those people who believes they can tell how drunk they are. That’s because most people think that. But according to this study, you might be wrong. These scientists tested every 7th person that passed by in “busy night time environments characterised by a high density of premises licensed for the on-site sale and consumption of alcohol.” The researchers tested the subjects’ intoxication levels, and asked them questions about how drunk they thought they were. It turned out that the participants were able to tell they were drunk if the people around them were relatively sober. But when surrounded by drunk people… not so much. (And, if you are interested in the process of scientific peer review, you can read the reviewers’ comments and authors’ responses for each round of revision of the paper here).

A rank based social norms model of how people judge their levels of drunkenness whilst intoxicated.

“BACKGROUND: A rank based social norms model predicts that drinkers’ judgements about their drinking will be based on the rank of their breath alcohol level amongst that of others in the immediate environment, rather than their actual breath alcohol level, with lower relative rank associated with greater feelings of safety. This study tested this hypothesis and examined how people judge their levels of drunkenness and the health consequences of their drinking whilst they are intoxicated in social drinking environments. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ethanol, feelings shmeelings

Houses in rich neighborhoods harbor more species of bugs.

By Seriously Science | September 12, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Richo.Fan

Photo: flickr/Richo.Fan

You probably think you don’t have that many bugs in your house. Maybe a couple of spiders and a moth here and there, but that’s all, right? Not so! At this moment, you’re likely hosting more than 100 SPECIES of arthropods in your home, ranging from flies and spiders to mites and lice. Not only that, but according to this study, homes in richer neighborhoods have even a higher diversity of bugs. The authors suggest that this correlation may be related to an increased diversity of vegetation in the landscaping in these neighborhoods, which attracts a wider variety of creepy-crawlies. So there you have it: when you fall sleep tonight, just remember that you’re probably not the only animal in your bed. And I don’t mean your partner.

Exoskeletons and economics: indoor arthropod diversity increases in affluent neighbourhoods

In urban ecosystems, socioeconomics contribute to patterns of biodiversity. The ‘luxury effect’, in which wealthier neighbourhoods are more biologically diverse, has been observed for plants, birds, bats and lizards. Here, we used data from a survey of indoor arthropod diversity (defined throughout as family-level richness) from 50 urban houses and found that house size, surrounding vegetation, as well as mean neighbourhood income best predict the number of kinds of arthropods found indoors. Read More

Flashback Friday: Dining with an overweight person makes you eat more.

By Seriously Science | September 9, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Ian Sane

Photo: flickr/Ian Sane

It’s well known that you eat more in general when with other people. But how can the weight of your eating companions affect how much you eat? In this study, the researchers hired a professional actress to put on an overweight prosthesis (AKA a “fatsuit”) and then serve herself some food in front of a group of study participants. They then had the participants serve themselves some food (pasta or salad). It turns out that when the actress took food while wearing the fatsuit , the participants served and ate more unhealthy food (pasta) than when she was “slimmer” (without the suit). Not only that, but when the “fat” actress served herself a large portion of salad, the participants ate less salad. The authors hypothesize that this effect is due to the subjects being less reminded of their health goals when they are around overweight people. Once again, going out to eat just got a little more complicated.

In good company. The effect of an eating companion’s appearance on food intake

“The purpose of this study was to examine whether or not the presence of an overweight eating companion influences healthy and unhealthy eating behavior, and to determine if the effect is moderated by how the companion serves himself or herself. A professional actress either wore an overweight prosthesis (i.e., “fatsuit”) or did not wear one, and served herself either healthily (i.e., a small amount of pasta and a large amount of salad) or unhealthily (i.e., a large amount of pasta and a small amount of salad) for lunch. 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.
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