Babies manipulate their moms for maximum smiles.

By Seriously Science | October 7, 2015 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Diamond Farah

Photo: flickr/Diamond Farah

If you’re like most people, when a baby smiles at you, you smile back. If you’re these scientists, though, you carefully record the baby’s smiles in order to build a creepy baby-simulating robot (complete with a face that only a scientist could love — see figure below). In the process of building the robot, the authors of this study found that by 4 months, babies and their mothers fall into a predictable smiling routine: “mothers consistently attempted to maximize the time spent in mutual smiling, while infants tried to maximize mother-only smile time.” When the “sophisticated child-like robot” copied the smile timings of real babies, it also maximized the smiling of the adults it interacted with. A disembodied robot baby head that manipulates you — in stores just in time for Christmas! (We dearly hope!)

Infants Time Their Smiles to Make Their Moms Smile

“One of the earliest forms of interaction between mothers and infants is smiling games. While the temporal dynamics of these games have been extensively studied, they are still not well understood. Why do mothers and infants time their smiles the way they do? To answer this question we applied methods from control theory, an approach frequently used in robotics, to analyze and synthesize goal-oriented behavior. The results of our analysis show that by the time infants reach 4 months of age both mothers and infants time their smiles in a purposeful, goal-oriented manner. Read More

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

By Seriously Science | October 2, 2015 6:00 am

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

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings

Sorry, science says cats simply can’t love you the way dogs can.

By Seriously Science | October 1, 2015 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Alan Huett

Image: Flickr/Alan Huett

We’re pretty sure this post is going to be hated by all the feline fanciers out there, but this study is just too good not to share. Here, researchers applied a test developed for use with children to investigate the relationships between cats and their humans. The SST can determine whether children, and apparently animals, view their caregivers as a source of safety in a threatening environment. It turns out that using this metric, dogs are “securely attached” to their owners, but cats are “not necessarily dependent on others to provide a sense of security and safety.” But that doesn’t mean their owners aren’t dependent on their cats for warm fuzzies in a crazy world!

Domestic Cats (Felis silvestris catus) Do Not Show Signs of Secure Attachment to Their Owners.

“The Ainsworth Strange Situation Test (SST) has been widely used to demonstrate that the bond between both children and dogs to their primary carer typically meets the requirements of a secure attachment (i.e. the carer being perceived as a focus of safety and security in otherwise threatening environments), Read More

Duct tape can do everything — including cure your warts.

By Seriously Science | September 29, 2015 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Joe Loong

Image: Flickr/Joe Loong

Mmm… warts! Those fun, fleshy skin growths caused by papillomavirus. They are harmless, and yet… ugh. One of the most common methods of removal is to freeze them off using liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy). But apparently there’s a DIY method that, according to this study, works even better: covering them with duct tape. It takes up to a couple months of diligent tape-wearing to work, but hey, it might help you avoid yet another medical bill. And for those of you wanting to try this at home, be aware that you should stick to the old-fashioned silver duct tape (according to other research, clear duct tape doesn’t have the same effects). And before you ask — no, McGuyver wasn’t one of the authors!

The efficacy of duct tape vs cryotherapy in the treatment of verruca vulgaris (the common wart).

OBJECTIVE: To determine if application of duct tape is as effective as cryotherapy in the treatment of common warts.

DESIGN: A prospective, randomized controlled trial with 2 treatment arms for warts in children.

SETTING: The general pediatric and adolescent clinics at a military medical center.

PATIENTS: A total of 61 patients (age range, 3-22 years) were enrolled in the study from October 31, 2000, to July 25, 2001; 51 patients completed the study and were available for analysis.

INTERVENTION: Patients were randomized using computer-generated codes to receive either cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen applied to each wart for 10 seconds every 2-3 weeks) for a maximum of 6 treatments or duct tape occlusion (applied directly to the wart) for a maximum of 2 months. Patients had their warts measured at baseline and with return visits.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Complete resolution of the wart being studied.

RESULTS: Of the 51 patients completing the study, 26 (51%) were treated with duct tape, and 25 (49%) were treated with cryotherapy. Twenty-two patients (85%) in the duct tape arm vs 15 patients (60%) enrolled in the cryotherapy arm had complete resolution of their warts (P =.05 by chi(2) analysis). The majority of warts that responded to either therapy did so within the first month of treatment.

CONCLUSION: Duct tape occlusion therapy was significantly more effective than cryotherapy for treatment of the common wart.

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Flashback Friday: Does Guinness really taste better in Ireland? Science weighs in.

By Seriously Science | September 25, 2015 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/Matthias

It’s a common “fact” often bandied about: the Guinness that you are served in Ireland tastes better than the stuff you can get elsewhere. But is that actually true, or is it just another factoid? Well, a selfless team of four international primary care researchers (who called themselves the “Brisbane Initiative”) took it upon themselves to travel the world to drink Guinness and find the Truth! This team of Guinness “experts” (see below for their self-proclaimed qualifications) took their task very seriously, consuming 103 beers in 14 different countries in a single year. Brisbane Initiative, we salute you!

Does Guinness travel well?

“This study aimed to test the much-pronounced but poorly supported theory that “Guinness does not travel well.” A total of 4 researchers from 4 different countries of origin traveled around the world for 12 mo to collect data on the enjoyment of Guinness and related factors. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: analysis taken too far, ethanol

People with full bladders are better liars.

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

RestroomSignEveryone knows that when you really have to pee, it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Instead, all your self control is spent on not wetting your pants. Well, it turns out that focussing your self control on your bladder has an interesting side effect: it also makes you better able to lie. In this study, the researchers had subjects drink either small or large amounts of water, and then asked them to lie or tell the truth to an interviewer. At the same time, the researchers had other people watching to judge which subjects were better liars. They found that the people who had to pee “displayed significantly fewer behavioral cues to deception, more behavioral cues signaling truth, and provided longer and more complex accounts than truth-tellers.” Something to remember the next time you play poker (just don’t forget to wear your Depends!)

The inhibitory spillover effect: Controlling the bladder makes better liars

“The Inhibitory-Spillover-Effect (ISE) on a deception task was investigated. The ISE occurs when performance in one self-control task facilitates performance in another (simultaneously conducted) self-control task. Deceiving requires increased access to inhibitory control. We hypothesized that inducing liars to control urination urgency (physical inhibition) would facilitate control during deceptive interviews (cognitive inhibition). Participants drank small (low-control) or large (high-control) amounts of water. Next, they lied or told the truth to an interviewer. Read More


When a dare to eat an insect goes horribly wrong.

By Seriously Science | September 22, 2015 6:00 am
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Siga

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Siga

Question: how do you know when your seemingly simple dare has gone a little too far? Answer: when you become the star of a medical case study. From inhaling too much helium  to shooting pressurized air up someone’s butt, we’ve seen our share of stunts gone wrong here at Seriously, Science? And this one, although lacking pressurized gas, is another doozy. Here doctors report a soldier who ate a beetle on a bet. Sound pretty harmless? Not when the beetle turns out to be Berberomeloe majalis, an insect that produces the chemical cantharidin–aka “Spanish fly.” Despite its well-known aphrodisiac effects, this chemical also has the unfortunate side effect of causing kidney damage. Fortunately, the soldier recovered. Sadly, however, the beetle did not.

Acute kidney injury by cantharidin poisoning following a silly bet on an ugly beetle

“Cantharidin is a poisonous substance secreted by blister beetles, including the ‘Spanish fly’. Historically, cantharidin was used as an aphrodisiac, vesicant and abortifacient. Symptoms of poisoning include gastrointestinal and genitourinary mucosal irritation along with renal dysfunction. We present the case of a reckless 23-year-old soldier who accepted the challenge of eating a beetle (Berberomeloe majalis). Read More

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

By Seriously Science | September 18, 2015 6:00 am

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. Read More


What happens when you swallow your cell phone, case and all?

By Seriously Science | September 16, 2015 6:00 am

Apparently, it gets stuck in your throat. At least it did for the 35-year-old man featured in this medical case study. Doctors had to remove it under general anasthesia. The report says he was intoxicated, but since it doesn’t say with what, we will just have to assume he consumed more than just his phone.

Accidental cell phone ingestion with pharyngeal impaction.

“BACKGROUND: 35 year old intoxicated male ingested an unusual, large foreign object (cell phone). Read More

Horrifying study shows how far bed bugs can spread in apartment buildings.

By Seriously Science | September 14, 2015 6:00 am

If bed bugs are living in your home, they are probably hiding out and waiting to sense the carbon dioxide from your breath to home in on their next blood meal. But how did they get there in the first place? If you haven’t recently picked up a mattress off the street (always a good plan), it’s often assumed that they could have migrated from your neighbor’s place. But how frequent these wanderings are, or if they actually happen, hasn’t been demonstrated… until now! Here, scientists captured bed bugs from infested apartments in New Jersey, painted their backs, released them, and then watched over the next several months to see where the little monsters ended up. It turns out that, yes, bed bugs make the rounds of neighboring apartments, and they can live inside empty apartments for months without a blood meal. And perhaps the worst part? “The estimated number of bed bugs per apartment in the six apartments was 2,433–14,291.” Sleep tight!

Mark-Release-Recapture Reveals Extensive Movement of Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius L.) within and between Apartments

“Understanding movement and dispersal of the common bed bug (Cimex lectularius L.) under field conditions is important in the control of infestations and for managing the spread of bed bugs to new locations. We investigated bed bug movement within and between apartments using mark-release-recapture (m-r-r) technique combined with apartment-wide monitoring using pitfall-style interceptors. 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.
Send us paper suggestions: srslyscience[at]

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