US-born women are more likely to crave chocolate during their period.

By Seriously Science | July 26, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Julita BC

Photo: flickr/Julita BC

To many women, craving chocolate every month is a way of life. But what if we told you that this craving might not be biological, but social? Indeed, according to this study, hankering for chocolate during menstruation is much more common in second and third generation American women than foreign-born immigrants. The authors hypothesize that American women are taught by society that it’s OK to indulge during their period “perhaps in an effort to justify consumption of an otherwise ‘forbidden’ food.” They even go on to suggest that the whole concept of cravings in relation to diet might be unique to English-speaking cultures, as “most languages outside of English lack a fully equivalent translation of the term ‘craving.'” Now, how can I use that to justify the pint of ice cream I just ate? 

Does culture create craving? Evidence from the case of menstrual chocolate craving

“Craving is considered a key characteristic of diverse pathologies, but evidence suggests it may be a culture-bound construct. Almost 50% of American women crave chocolate specifically around the onset of menstruation. Research does not support popular accounts implicating physiological factors in menstrual chocolate craving etiology. We tested the novel hypothesis that greater menstrual craving prevalence in the U.S. is the product of internalized cultural norms. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, feelings shmeelings

Flashback Friday: Are racehorses still evolving to get faster?

By Seriously Science | July 21, 2017 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Tsutomu Takasu

Image: Flickr/Tsutomu Takasu

You might think that after centuries of breeding, racehorses have reached their peak speeds. And previous studies supported that. But not this one! According to this study, which used “a much larger dataset covering the full range of race distances and accounting for variation in factors such as ground softness,” racehorses have gotten faster over the past 150 years or so, an improvement evident even in the past 15 years. Holy Secretariat!

Racehorses are getting faster.

“Previous studies have concluded that thoroughbred racehorse speed is improving very slowly, if at all, despite heritable variation for performance and putatively intensive selective breeding. Read More

Can breast implants stop a speeding bullet?

By Seriously Science | July 20, 2017 5:21 am
Photo: flickr/Mark Tighe

Photo: flickr/Mark Tighe

Breast implants might be controversial, but they could also save your life. In this study, forensic scientists shot bullets through saline breast implants into ballistics gel, which is a material that mimics human flesh. They found that the implants significantly slowed down the bullets, reducing their penetration into the tissue below. Of course, the implants don’t survive the shooting, but they might give the person they’re inside of a better chance!

A Ballistics Examination of Firearm Injuries Involving Breast Implants

“This ballistics study examines whether saline breast implants can decrease tissue penetration in firearm injuries. We hypothesize that the fluid column within a saline breast implant can alter bullet velocity and/or bullet pattern of mushrooming. The two experimental groups included saline implants with 7.4 cm projection and a no implant group. The experimental design allowed the bullet to pass-through an implant and into ballistics gel (n = 10) or into ballistics gel without passage through an implant (n = 11). Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Crime & Punishment, told you so

The top cock crows first.

By Seriously Science | July 17, 2017 7:37 am
Image: Flickr/Staffan Andersson

Image: Flickr/Staffan Andersson

The hierarchical nature of chicken society is well known (cue “pecking order” joke). But did you know it even controls behaviors as deeply rooted as crowing at dawn? Well, this study suggests just that: these scientists got up very early over many days to watch groups of chickens and recorded who crowed when. The researchers found that even when other roosters are awake and raring to crow, they will wait until the highest-ranked rooster crows first. But if the top-ranking cock disappears, the next in line will assume the first position and crow first.

The highest-ranking rooster has priority to announce the break of dawn.

“The “cock-a-doodle-doo” crowing of roosters, which symbolizes the break of dawn in many cultures, is controlled by the circadian clock. When one rooster announces the break of dawn, others in the vicinity immediately follow. Chickens are highly social animals, and they develop a linear and fixed hierarchy in small groups. We found that when chickens were housed in small groups, the top-ranking rooster determined the timing of predawn crowing. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, rated G

Flashback Friday: The look of a convict’s face could determine whether he gets the death penalty.

By Seriously Science | July 14, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Thomas Hawk

Photo: flickr/Thomas Hawk

Despite evidence to the contrary, many like to think that the U.S. justice system works pretty well. This is especially true when it comes to the ultimate punishment — the death penalty. But as we know, not everyone on death row is guilty. So where does the process go wrong? Here, researchers tested whether snap judgements of peoples’ faces affected whether they were given the death penalty. To do so, the researchers had volunteers judge the “trustworthiness” of the faces of people who had been convicted of murder and gotten either a life sentence or the death penalty, or people who had been on death row and subsequently exonerated. In both cases, a lack of facial “trustworthiness” was correlated with being more likely to have been sentenced to the death penalty, even in the case of people who were actually innocent. (By the way, similar results were previously seen for people who were seen as more “stereotypically Black.”) As the authors put it, “These results highlight the power of facial appearance to prejudice perceivers and affect life outcomes even to the point of execution, which suggests an alarming bias in the criminal-justice system.”

Facial Trustworthiness Predicts Extreme Criminal-Sentencing Outcomes

“Untrustworthy faces incur negative judgments across numerous domains. Existing work in this area has focused on situations in which the target’s trustworthiness is relevant to the judgment (e.g., criminal verdicts and economic games). Yet in the present studies, we found that people also overgeneralized trustworthiness in criminal-sentencing decisions when trustworthiness should not be judicially relevant, and they did so even for the most extreme sentencing decision: condemning someone to death. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: reinforcing stereotypes

Tennis players’ grunts predict whether they will win or lose.

By Seriously Science | July 13, 2017 8:08 am
Photo: flickr/Tatiana

Photo: flickr/Tatiana

Tennis is one of the few sports where loud grunting is common. So common, in fact, that these researchers did a whole study on the information communicated by tennis grunts. Turns out that the pitch of these grunts conveys information about the player’s sex (obviously), but also whether the player is losing or winning. Intriguingly, “this difference in [pitch] between losses and wins emerged early in matches, and did not change in magnitude as the match progressed, suggesting a possible role of physiological and/or psychological factors manifesting early or even before matches.” In other words,  the outcome of the game may be determined very early on in the match, leading the players to grunt accordingly. Uunnh!

Tennis grunts communicate acoustic cues to sex and contest outcome

“Despite their ubiquity in human behaviour, the communicative functions of nonverbal vocalizations remain poorly understood. Here, we analysed the acoustic structure of tennis grunts, nonverbal vocalizations produced in a competitive context. We predicted that tennis grunts convey information about the vocalizer and context, similar to nonhuman vocal displays. Specifically, we tested whether the fundamental frequency (F0) of tennis grunts conveys static cues to a player’s sex, height, weight, and age, and covaries dynamically with tennis shot type (a proxy of body posture) and the progress and outcome of male and female professional tennis contests. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: duh, playing with balls

Lice, crabs, and humans: a tale as old as time… or at least mummies.

By Seriously Science | July 10, 2017 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Gilles San Martin

Image: Flickr/Gilles San Martin

Edit: the original post included a photo that was not of head lice. This has been corrected. Thank you!

Although the best-known mummies are the cloth-wrapped Egyptian variety so often seen in horror movies, many kinds of mummies have been found all over the world. And it’s not only the human bodies that have been preserved during the process of mummification–often human parasites are, too! Scientists can use the presence of parasites on and in mummies to track the history of their association. Here, scientists report finding head and pubic lice on mummies from Chile; they think that humans brought the parasites with them when they migrated across the Bering Strait thousands of years ago.

Crab louse infestation in pre-Columbian America.

“Until now, Pthirus pubis infestation in ancient human populations had only been recorded in the Old World. We found crab lice on South American mummified bodies from the Atacama Desert region. Read More

The American flag further polarizes Democrats and Republicans.

By Seriously Science | July 3, 2017 11:48 am
Image: Flickr/Karsun Designs

Image: Flickr/Karsun Designs

Happy Fourth of July! If your town is anything like mine, you’re seeing American flags all over the place. And guess what? Those American flags aren’t just pretty decorations. Like many other symbolic icons, seeing an American flag can change how you feel. For example, it might make you feel patriotic. And, at least according to this study, seeing an American flag tends to make Republicans more Republican and Democrats more Democratic. The authors speculate that this is because that’s what being an American means to each of these political parties. Just what we need – more political polarization!

Exposure to the American flag polarizes democratic-republican ideologies.

“Some prior research has suggested that exposure to the American flag tilts Americans towards Republicanism, while others have proffered that it brings outs a common ‘together’ perspective instead. We explore a third possibility – that it may actually polarize Americans’ political ideology. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: politics schmolitics

A convict’s face could determine whether he gets the death penalty

By Seriously Science | June 30, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Thomas Hawk

Photo: flickr/Thomas Hawk

Despite evidence to the contrary, many like to think that the U.S. justice system works pretty well. This is especially true when it comes to the ultimate punishment — the death penalty. But as we know, not everyone on death row is guilty. So where does the process go wrong? Here, researchers tested whether snap judgements of peoples’ faces affected whether they were given the death penalty. To do so, the researchers had volunteers judge the “trustworthiness” of the faces of people who had been convicted of murder and gotten either a life sentence or the death penalty, or people who had been on death row and subsequently exonerated. In both cases, a lack of facial “trustworthiness” was correlated with being more likely to have been sentenced to the death penalty, even in the case of people who were actually innocent. (By the way, similar results were previously seen for people who were seen as more “stereotypically Black.”) As the authors put it, “These results highlight the power of facial appearance to prejudice perceivers and affect life outcomes even to the point of execution, which suggests an alarming bias in the criminal-justice system.”

Facial Trustworthiness Predicts Extreme Criminal-Sentencing Outcomes

“Untrustworthy faces incur negative judgments across numerous domains. Existing work in this area has focused on situations in which the target’s trustworthiness is relevant to the judgment (e.g., criminal verdicts and economic games). Yet in the present studies, we found that people also overgeneralized trustworthiness in criminal-sentencing decisions when trustworthiness should not be judicially relevant, and they did so even for the most extreme sentencing decision: condemning someone to death. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: reinforcing stereotypes

Scientists analyzed orgasms in the 50 most-viewed videos on PornHub. Here’s what they found.

By Seriously Science | June 29, 2017 9:43 am
Photo: flickr/Colby Stopa

Photo: flickr/Colby Stopa

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that watching pornography can give unrealistic expectations of what sex is really like. But how skewed is this representation? These heroic scientists took it upon themselves to find out. To do so, they watched the top 50 most-viewed videos on PornHub, and recorded “the frequency of male and female orgasm, orgasm-inducing sex acts (and whether activity inducing female orgasms included some form of clitoral stimulation), and auditory (verbal, vocal) and visual (bodily) indicators of orgasm.” They found that 78% of men but only 18.3% of women were shown reaching orgasm in popular porn videos, and thus concluded that “representations of male and female orgasm in mainstream pornography may serve to perpetuate unrealistic beliefs and expectations in relation to female orgasm and male sexual performance.” Ya think?

Consuming Ecstasy: Representations of Male and Female Orgasm in Mainstream Pornography.

“Social representations, which appear in a variety of media, can influence the way sexual experiences are perceived and understood. While pornography is not the only medium in which orgasm is portrayed, it is the most explicit, and it is widespread and easily accessible. As such, pornography is an ideal medium for examining representations of male and female orgasm. PornHub’s 50 most viewed videos of all time were viewed and coded for the frequency of male and female orgasm, orgasm-inducing sex acts (and whether activity inducing female orgasms included some form of clitoral stimulation), and auditory (verbal, vocal) and visual (bodily) indicators of orgasm. Read More

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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!
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