The name of this historical analysis says it all. Everyone is curious about night-time boners, and apparently it’s not a new thing. You’re welcome.
“INTRODUCTION: The occurrence of sleep-related erections (SREs) has been known since antiquity.
AIM: To highlight historical, theological, and sexual medicine-related aspects of SREs throughout the ages. Read More
Despite logging my fair share of miles, I have never witnessed a real-life “air rage” incident. But honestly, who doesn’t feel enraged after flying these days? Tiny seats, your knees shoved into your armpits, and paying $8 for a soggy sandwich would make almost anyone crack. Knowing that the lucky few who can afford a first-class ticket are sitting in (relative) luxury just feet away makes it even more unbearable. And, sure enough, these researchers claim that airline reported air rage incidents are nearly four times as likely on flights with first class seating. Not only that, but making passengers walk through first class to get to their crappy economy seats makes it even worse:
“Finally, our hypothesis that situational inequality—boarding from the front of the plane—would predict greater incidence of air rage in first class was supported: front boarding of planes predicted 11.86 greater odds of a first class air rage incident than boarding from the middle…”
The authors go on to claim that this is an example of how everyday inequality is leading to anti-social behavior. Whether or not that’s true, this study has actually made me dread boarding a plane even more than I already was.
“We suggest that physical and situational inequality are built into people’s everyday environments—such as the modern airplane—and that exposure to these forms of inequality can trigger antisocial behavior. Read More
Admit it, you’ve been there: the swell of pride as you deliver the punchline of your best joke EVER, and it’s followed by… nothing. The gaping silence rings louder than any peal of laughter. So, what went wrong? You know the joke is good, yet no one laughed. Well, these scientists have your back! They tested different methods of “priming” one’s audience by exposing them to elements of the joke, and/or the actual punchline, and guess what… it works! Apparently, dropping words from the punchline 1-15 minutes before telling the joke led to funnier ratings. And if you’re at a loss for a joke to get started with, you might try the one they quoted in the paper:
“Consider, for instance, the “World’s funniest joke” as empirically found by Wiseman (2002): Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator says “Calm down. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead”. There is a silence, then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says “OK, now what?”
And if you don’t get it, they can help with that too:
“Initially, the second shot comes as a surprise and the reader does not comprehend why the surviving hunter is obviously firing again at the wounded one. But then, it becomes clear that the phrase “make sure he’s dead” has two meanings, and the surviving hunter apparently misunderstood the operator’s suggestion. This insight allows a re-establishment of the joke’s narrative consistency, resulting in a feeling of funniness.”
Yeah, we were pretty surprised that joke won, too! I guess that means that there’s hope for all of us!
“Earlier theories on humour assume that funniness stems from the incongruity resolution of the surprising punchline and thus an insight into the joke’s meaning. Applying recent psychological theorising that insight itself draws on processing fluency being the ease and speed with which mental content is processed, it is predicted that increasing the fluency of processing the punchline of a joke increases funniness. Read More
Wondering what’s been going on lately in the field of chasmology (the scientific study of yawning)? Well, we still don’t really understand why people yawn, but we can add another contender to the list of theories: brain cooling. In this study, the authors showed subjects photos of people yawning to determine their susceptibility to “yawn contagion.” They found that the subjects were more likely to “catch” yawns in the summer compared with the winter. Although there are a number of things that change with the season, the only variable found to correlate with yawning was higher temperature, suggesting that yawns might have a function in cooling the brain (via the release of heat into air in the lungs). So the next time someone gets mad at you for yawning when you should be paying attention, just tell them your brain is hot and you’re cooling it off.
A thermal window for yawning in humans: Yawning as a brain cooling mechanism.
“The thermoregulatory theory of yawning posits that yawns function to cool the brain in part due to counter-current heat exchange with the deep inhalation of ambient air. Consequently, yawning should be constrained to an optimal thermal zone or range of temperature, i.e., a thermal window, in which we should expect a lower frequency at extreme temperatures. Read More
Plagued by bedbugs? Just want to avoid them in the first place? Well, listen up: apparently, bedbugs have very specific color preferences when it comes time to choosing their hiding places. In this study, the authors put bedbugs in dishes containing tent-like “harborages” of different colors (see figure below — the tents are actually kind of cute). They then allowed individual bedbugs to choose a tent and recorded which color each one chose. Turns out that the bugs are big fans of red and black, and seem to be least interested in yellow and green. Just something to keep in mind the next time you head out to buy new sheets…
“Behavioral bioassays were conducted to determine whether bed bug adults and nymphs prefer specific colored harborages. Two-choice and seven-choice behavioral color assays indicate that red (28.5%) and black (23.4%) harborages are optimal harborage choices for bed bugs. Yellow and green harborages appear to repel bed bugs. Harborage color preferences change according to gender, nutritional status, aggregation, and life stage. Read More
Binge-watching TV is a relatively new phenomenon — 10 years ago, the only way you could do it was via box sets of DVDs or the occasional marathon on TV. Now, Netflix, Hulu, and many other providers let you watch as many episodes of “Battlestar Galactica” as you can handle in one sitting. In this study, scientists used an online survey to measure how much TV qualifies as a “binge” and how binge-watching makes people feel. They found that watching more than two episodes of the same show in a sitting puts you in binge territory, and binge-watching is correlated with “anticipated regret” (I’m gonna regret this in the morning) and “goal conflict” (binge-watching is keeping me from doing other activities I’d like to do). To address the problem of binge-watching, and associated sedentary behavior, the authors suggest that “online streaming services include in-built interruptions after a number of consecutive episodes have been viewed.” We throw this to you, dear readers — good idea, or just a party pooper?
“Binge watching is a relatively new behavioural phenomenon that may have health implications. The aim of this study was to estimate the frequency of, and identify modifiable factors associated with, TV binge watching. A total of 86 people completed an online questionnaire assessing self-efficacy, proximal goals, outcome expectations, anticipated regret, automaticity, goal conflict and goal facilitation, and self-reported binge watching over the last week. Read More
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.”
“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
During times of flood, certain species of ants work together to build rafts out of… themselves! Not only that, previous work has also shown that some ants use highly buoyant eggs and larvae at the base of the raft to help keep the entire contraption afloat. Here, scientists from UC Riverside tracked individual ants during multiple rounds of raft building and discovered that individual ants return to their same position on Anty McAntface during sequential floods, much like members of a ship’s crew manning their stations. As the short clip below produced by UC Riverside says: “All Ants on Deck!”
Ant workers exhibit specialization and memory during raft formation.
“By working together, social insects achieve tasks that are beyond the reach of single individuals. A striking example of collective behaviour is self-assembly, a process in which individuals link their bodies together to form structures such as chains, ladders, walls or rafts. To get insight into how individual behavioural variation affects the formation of self-assemblages, we investigated the presence of task specialization and the role of past experience in the construction of ant rafts. Read More
A while back we wrote an article for Slate about the funny (and sometimes inappropriate) titles scientists give their papers. Since then, our readers have flooded our email with more examples, many of which were from their own papers. Here are a few of our favorite fun, clever, and just plain odd paper titles… enjoy!
We know that methane from cow farts is a greenhouse gas and a contributor to global warming. But how about farts from camelids (camels, llamas, and alpacas), which have a similar type of digestive system? In this study, the researchers set out to measure methane emission by camelids. To do so, they built “respiration chambers” for the animals (5 alpacas, 6 llamas, and 5 camels) — basically, sealed rooms that allowed the scientists to control and measure the air coming in and out. Then they waited for the camels/llamas/alpacas to fart. Turns out that camelids produce less methane overall than cows, probably due to their lower food intake. Still, the next time you’re feeling bad about your job, just be glad it doesn’t involve setting up camel fart chambers.
“Methane emissions from ruminant livestock have been intensively studied in order to reduce contribution to the greenhouse effect. Ruminants were found to produce more enteric methane than other mammalian herbivores. As camelids share some features of their digestive anatomy and physiology with ruminants, it has been proposed that they produce similar amounts of methane per unit of body mass. This is of special relevance for countrywide greenhouse gas budgets of countries that harbor large populations of camelids like Australia. However, hardly any quantitative methane emission measurements have been performed in camelids. In order to fill this gap, we carried out respiration chamber measurements with three camelid species (Vicugna pacos, Lama glama, Camelus bactrianus; n = 16 in total), all kept on a diet consisting of food produced from alfalfa only. Read More