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

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.

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

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.

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).

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

Who is more comfortable pooping in public: men or women? (The answer may surprise you.)

By Seriously Science | March 17, 2015 2:20 pm
Image: Flickr/Matti Mattila

Image: Flickr/Matti Mattila

Everyone farts…but some of us are more comfortable blatantly cutting the cheese in public. Here, researchers studying fecal habitus–the part of our culture that involves farting and pooping–calculated the differences between men’s and women’s feelings about letting it rip in front of others. It probably comes as no surprise that men are more comfortable farting in public than women. However, these craptastic scientists went a step further, asking how men and women feel about being overheard while pooping. It turns out this depends on who the eavesdropper is (see Table 3, below, for a fantastic breakdown based on sex, sexual orientation, and relationships); people are generally OK with having their spouses listen to them poop, but a crush is another matter.  But not everyone is as bothered–non-heterosexual women are apparently the most at ease with this, even more so than straight men.  And boy, are people willing to go the extra mile to avoid being overheard on the throne: “Some persons controlled their sphincter muscles to let out gas or excrement slowly, thus decreasing the sound of their bowel movement. One heterosexual man stated: ‘If it is going to be loud, I would stop and go, meaning let it out in intervals so it would not be a big kerplunk sound’. Other techniques to prevent people from hearing included having a bowel movement early in the morning or late at night, going upstairs if people are downstairs (or vice versa), doing it as fast as you can, pulling out the toilet paper roll to make a cover-up noise, turning the fan on, and not using public restrooms at all.'”

Fecal Matters: Habitus, Embodiments, and Deviance.

“This article examines fecal matters—namely, the social concerns that can accompany defecation and flatulence. Researching 172 university students, we show how aspects of the socio-cultural context as “embodied” in four groups of participants (heterosexual women and men and non-heterosexual women and men) mediate the operation of the “fecal habitus”—that part of culture that interprets and organizes fecal events. Read More


Flashback Friday: Three words to haunt your dreams: nasal leech infestation.

By Seriously Science | March 13, 2015 10:37 am
Photo: flickr/therealbrute

Photo: flickr/therealbrute

Would you rather have a leech in your nose or your ear? Well, thanks to the medical literature, we have plenty of gory details about each to help you choose! Previously we featured a story about ear leeches, and this study reviews several cases of nasal leech infestation. The most detailed description involves a Taiwanese man who had an occasional nosebleed for three months before the leech was discovered. We’ll let the doctors finish painting the picture: “We performed nasal endoscopy… and found a gray-brown, twisting leech hidden laterally to the left inferior turbinate. Under local anesthesia, we successfully removed the nasal leech with forceps despite the leech trying to escape into the oropharynx during the procedure. The leech was about 12 cm in length. Tracing back his history, he had gone to a mountain area and washed his face with spring water 1 month before his first visit to our hospital.” Still curious? We included a photo of the leech in question below. You’re welcome!

Nasal leech infestation: report of seven leeches and literature review.

“Nasal leech infestation rarely occurs in society today and it is usually reported as an anecdote. In this study, we present seven nasal leeches in six patients from 1984 to 2008. Read More

Drinking alcohol actually makes your face more attractive.

By Seriously Science | March 10, 2015 11:36 am
Photo: flickr/azrainman

Photo: flickr/azrainman

As we’ve previously reported, beer goggles are a real phenomenon. Well, according to this study, drinking doesn’t just make other people more attractive–it also makes you more attractive. Here, researchers asked (sober) participants to look at photos of people who had been drinking and rank their attractiveness. Turns out that drinking a moderate amount (equivalent to two small glasses of wine) made people more attractive, whereas doubling that amount made them less attractive. The authors hypothesize that the increase in attractiveness after drinking could be related to “an increase in red colouration, which in turn is known to be perceived as healthy and attractive.”  Hot! (perhaps literally?)

Increased Facial Attractiveness Following Moderate, but not High, Alcohol Consumption

Aims Alcohol consumption is known to be associated with risky sexual behaviours, but this relationship may be complex and bidirectional. We explored whether alcohol consumption leads to the consumer being rated as more attractive than sober individuals.
Methods Heterosexual social alcohol consumers completed an attractiveness-rating task, in which they were presented with pairs of photographs depicting the same individual, photographed while sober and after having consumed alcohol (either 0.4 or 0.8 g/kg), and required to decide which image was more attractive. Read More


How does your penis size measure up?

By Seriously Science | March 4, 2015 12:44 pm
Image: Flickr/mararie

Image: Flickr/mararie

If you’ve ever wondered if your junk is objectively large, boy is it your lucky day! Here, London-based researchers answer the oft-asked question “Am I normal?”. And the answer? Based on over 10,000 penises, the average flaccid penis is 9.16 cm (3.6 inches) long, and the average erect penis 13.12 cm (5.16 inches). Be sure to see below (ahem) for additional stats.

Am I normal? A systematic review and construction of nomograms for flaccid and erect penis length and circumference in up to 15 521 men.

“Objective: To systematically review and create nomograms of flaccid and erect penile size measurements.

Methods: Study key eligibility criteria: measurement of penis size by a health professional using a standard procedure; a minimum of 50 participants per sample. Exclusion criteria: samples with a congenital or acquired penile abnormality, previous surgery, complaint of small penis size or erectile dysfunction. Synthesis methods: calculation of a weighted mean and pooled standard deviation (sd) and simulation of 20 000 observations from the normal distribution to generate nomograms of penis size.
Read More

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

By Seriously Science | March 3, 2015 11:53 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

Flashback Friday: Penguins on treadmills. Need we say more?

By Seriously Science | February 20, 2015 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/liamq

Photo: flickr/liamq

We all know penguins are cute, especially when they waddle around on land. So the idea of putting penguins on a treadmill, like they do in this study, sounds like an easy way to rack up YouTube hits (e.g., see video below). Well, apparently this cute activity also has a scientific purpose. In the study, the authors measured the metabolic rates of penguins on treadmills, comparing males, breeding females, and moulting females. Because metabolic rates are related to food consumption, the results of these measurements can be incorporated into models of the food chain in Antarctica. Hey, as long as it means more penguins on treadmills, I’m on board!

Heart rate and rate of oxygen consumption of exercising macaroni penguins.

“Twenty-four macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) from three groups, breeding males (N=9), breeding females (N=9) and moulting females (N=6), were exercised on a variable-speed treadmill. Heart rate (fH) and mass-specific rate of oxygen consumption (sVO2) were recorded from the animals, and both fh and sVO2 were found to increase linearly with increasing treadmill speed. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

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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.
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