Flashback Friday: Nipple, penis, or nostril — what’s the most painful place to be stung by a bee? (The answer might surprise you.)

By Seriously Science | April 8, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/forevertrusting

Photo: flickr/forevertrusting

In the 1980s, a man named Justin Schmidt invented the Schmidt pain index, which measured the painfulness of stings from 78 species of insects on a scale of 0 to 4 (the only stings that rated 4 were the bullet ant and the tarantula hawk). Of course, pain is subjective, so Schmidt rated all of the stings himself. In that tradition, the author of this study hypothesized that the pain level of a sting also depends on its location on the body. He tested this hypothesis by — you guessed it — getting stung. A lot. Turns out that the most painful location for being stung by a bee is on the nostril, followed by the lip and the penis. Yup, the penis.

Honey bee sting pain index by body location

“The Schmidt Sting Pain Index rates the painfulness of 78 Hymenoptera species, using the honey bee as a reference point. However, the question of how sting painfulness varies depending on body location remains unanswered. This study rated the painfulness of honey bee stings over 25 body locations in one subject (the author). Read More

Speed dating not working out? Maybe it’s your posture.

By Seriously Science | April 7, 2016 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/MattysFlicks

Image: Flickr/MattysFlicks

Remember when your mom would yell at you to “sit up straight!”? While annoying, she was trying to look out for you. And according to this article, her advice might lead to more than just a healthy back. Here, scientists studied whether our body language affects how attractive we are. It turns out that the more “space” we take up–for example by sitting straight versus hunching over, or extending arms rather than keeping them folded–the more attractive we seem. Thanks mom!

Dominant, open nonverbal displays are attractive at zero-acquaintance.

“Across two field studies of romantic attraction, we demonstrate that postural expansiveness makes humans more romantically appealing. In a field study (n = 144 speed-dates), we coded nonverbal behaviors associated with liking, love, and dominance. Postural expansiveness—expanding the body in physical space—was most predictive of attraction, with each one-unit increase in coded behavior from the video recordings nearly doubling a person’s odds of getting a “yes” response from one’s speed-dating partner. In a subsequent field experiment Read More

Will gray wolves adopt strange pups or give them the cold shoulder?

By Seriously Science | April 4, 2016 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Hilary Cooley

Image: Flickr/Hilary Cooley

Animal babies are pretty cute, and there are many stories of animals rearing babies that aren’t their own–sometimes even from different species. Scientists hope to one day harness this instinct and trick gray wolves from dwindling populations into rearing pups born in captivity. Not only will this help the zoo-born young learn to live in the wild, but it can also increase the size of shrinking gene pools. But the authors of this study wanted to test this plan in a way that doesn’t leave newborn pups out in the cold. To do so, they investigated whether captive wolves would foster babies from other other litters. In the end, four separate females each adopted and fostered two pups who went on to be as healthy as any of their own. How cute is that!?

Cross-fostering in gray wolves (Canis lupus lupus).

“Cross-fostering in canids, with captive-bred pups introduced into endangered wild populations, might aid conservation efforts by increasing genetic diversity and lowering the risk of inbreeding depression. The gray wolf (Canis lupus lupus) population in Scandinavia suffers from severe inbreeding due to a narrow genetic base and geographical isolation. This study aimed at evaluating the method to cross-foster wolf pups from zoo-born to zoo-born litters. Read More

Scientists finally find a (delicious) cure for the common cold: french fries!

By Seriously Science | April 1, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Uri Tours

Photo: flickr/Uri Tours

We’re big fans of french fries here at SS, so we were very excited to discover this recent study that found a link between french fry consumption and rhinoviruses (aka the common cold). Be sure to check out Figure 1 (below) for an especially yummy result!

Consumption of acrylamide from french fries is protective against rhinovirus infection

French fries and other fried foods contain acrylamide, a chemical byproduct produced by cooking foods at high temperatures and for long periods of time. Studies in rodent models have found that acrylamide exposure is associated with a risk for several types of cancer. However, studies in humans are incomplete, and other physiological effects of acrylamide exposure have not been investigated. Here, we demonstrate that individuals who consume large quantities of french fries (>20 servings per week) are less likely to be infected with rhinoviruses over the course of a year. Furthermore, mice fed acrylamide derived from french fries are protected from experimental infection. Read more »

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, holy correlation batman!

Finally, science answers the question “Are blondes really dumb?”

By Seriously Science | March 31, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/lil'_wiz

Photo: flickr/lil’_wiz

We’ve featured so many studies that reinforce stereotypes on this blog that we have a whole category full of them. So it was refreshing to find this study, which set out to test whether blondes are actually dumber than people with brown, red, or black hair. More specifically, the author crunched data from a large survey of young baby boomers, which conveniently included both hair color and IQ information for most respondents. He found that not only are blonde women not dumb–they’re actually MORE likely to be geniuses than women with other hair colors. Perhaps “Legally Blonde” is actually a work of nonfiction?

Are Blondes Really Dumb?

“Discrimination based on appearance has serious economic consequences. Women with blonde hair are often considered beautiful, but dumb, which is a potentially harmful stereotype since many employers seek intelligent workers. Using the NLSY79, a large nationally representative survey tracking young baby boomers, this research analyzes the IQ of white women and men according to hair color. Read More

Study finds that Pphubbing (snubbing your partner in favor of your phone) actually makes you unhappy.

By Seriously Science | March 29, 2016 11:55 am
Photo: flickr/L'oeil étranger

Photo: flickr/L’oeil étranger

“Phubbing”, a term coined in 2012 by an advertising agency, refers to being distracted by your cell phone while in the company of another person. “Pphubbing” is an even more made up term for when that person is a romantic partner. In this study, the researchers set out to determine exactly how Pphubbing affects relationship satisfaction and well-being amongst couples. By conducting several surveys via Amazon’s MTurk, they found that Pphubbing decreases relationship satisfaction overall, especially in people with anxious attachment styles (e.g., those who are insecure in their relationships), and indirectly impacts depression. The authors astutely point out that “it is ironic that cell phones, originally designed as a communication tool, may actually hinder rather than foster satisfying relationships among romantic partners.” Are you even listening to me?

My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners

“Partner phubbing (Pphubbing) can be best understood as the extent to which an individual uses or is distracted by his/her cell phone while in the company of his/her relationship partner. The present study is the first to investigate the oft-occurring behavior of Pphubbing and its impact on relationship satisfaction and personal well-being. In Study 1, a nine-item scale was developed to measure Pphubbing. The scale was found to be highly reliable and valid. Study 2 assessed the study’s proposed relationships among a sample of 145 adults. Results suggest that Pphubbing’s impact on relationship satisfaction is mediated by conflict over cell phone use. Read More

Flashback Friday: Scientists make “species-appropriate” music just for cats. Listen here!

By Seriously Science | March 25, 2016 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/jorbasa

Photo: flickr/jorbasa

We know that babies like to dance to music from a very early age. But do other species appreciate our music as much as humans do? These researchers hypothesized that “in order for music to be effective with other species, it must be in the frequency range and with similar tempos to those used in natural communication by each species.” In other words, for maximum effect, music should be tailored to what each species likes to listen to. Here, the scientists made (pretty trippy) music specifically for cats, determining that the cats liked their “species-appropriate” music more than human music. Curious what “cat music” sounds like? Check out a clip below!

Cats Prefer Species-Appropriate Music

“Many studies have attempted to use music to influence the behavior of nonhuman animals; however, these studies have often led to conflicting outcomes. We have developed a theoretical framework that hypothesizes that in order for music to be effective with other species, it must be in the frequency range and with similar tempos to those used in natural communication by each species. We have used this framework to compose music that is species-appropriate for a few animal species. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

Woodpeckers use wood-eating fungus to make their pecking easier.

By Seriously Science | March 24, 2016 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Lip Kee

Image: Flickr/Lip Kee

It has been proposed that woodpeckers and fungi might work together in a symbiotic relationship, with birds spreading fungi to new environments, and the fungi helping to soften the wood to make hole-boring easier. Although attractive, there has never been direct evidence supporting this hypothesis… until now! In this study, scientists show that woodpeckers cary specific species of fungi that are also found in holes made by woodpeckers. They went on to track the fungi growing in man-made holes, and found that only holes visited by woodpeckers become colonized by those same species. So there you have it: woodpeckers spread fungus from hole to hole, presumably making the wood softer for the peckers. Ahem.

Experimental evidence of a symbiosis between red-cockaded woodpeckers and fungi.

“Primary cavity excavators, such as woodpeckers, are ecosystem engineers in many systems. Associations between cavity excavators and fungi have long been hypothesized to facilitate cavity excavation, but these relationships have not been experimentally verified. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, rated G

We were wrong: there IS something worse than a leech in your ear.

By Seriously Science | March 22, 2016 6:00 am
Image:Flickr/Mick Talbot

Image:Flickr/Mick Talbot

There was a time when we thought that there was nothing more nauseatingly horrifying than a leech infestation in one’s ear. But we were wrong. Very wrong. That’s because it turns out that one can have a leech living in one’s esophagus for months. That’s right. MONTHS. And this case report isn’t an isolated incident; it can happen to children and the elderly too. Pretty terrifying, although this time we won’t make any claims as to it being the worst thing in the world. We’ll just wait to see where else those lovely little suckers pop up next!

A rare case report of tracheal leech infestation in a 40-year-old woman.

“Leeches are the very rare types of airway foreign body. Here we report a rare case of a 40-year-old woman with tracheal leech infestation. A 40-year-old woman presented 2-month history of dyspnea, occasional haemoptysis. Read More

St. Patrick’s Day Flashback: The science of pinching!

By Seriously Science | March 17, 2016 6:00 am

Image: flickr/Kelly Teague

If you are anything like me, you are completely over being pinched on Saint Patrick’s Day. So the next time you’re “punished” for not wearing green on Saint Patrick’s day, instead of launching into a rant about how your lack of Irish ancestry should make you immune to groping fingers, whip out this scientific analysis of pinching. I’m betting the details of the forces involved (and the digits from which they originate) will provide ample revenge. You’re welcome.

Directional coordination of thumb and finger forces during precision pinch.

“The human opposable thumb enables the hand to perform dexterous manipulation of objects, which requires well-coordinated digit force vectors. This study investigated the directional coordination of force vectors generated by the thumb and index finger during precision pinch. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: analysis taken too far

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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