Like most sports, the more darts you throw, the better you get at hitting the target. But do you *have* to be physically throwing the dart, or is just mentally throwing the dart sufficient? As confusing as that question might be, it’s what these scientists studied by having participants throw darts while lucid dreaming, and testing whether these “practice sessions” made them better at darts in real life. And it worked! But (obviously) only if the dreamers weren’t distracted while “practicing”. Finally, a cheap way to practice for my next speed eating contest!
“In a lucid dream, the dreamer is aware of the dream state and can deliberately practice motor skills. Two field studies indicated that lucid dream practice can improve waking performance in simple motor tasks. The present pilot study investigated the effect of lucid dream practice in a controlled sleep laboratory setting, using a pre-post design with dart throwing in the evening and morning. Read More
It’s been known for some time that captive dolphins can invent new vocalizations. Although such whistles may be harder for us to pronounce than names like “Flipper” or “Willy”, they nonetheless serve many of the same purposes among porpoises. That’s because dolphins make up new whistles that other dolphins then use to signal each whistle’s inventor. But what happens when dolphins meet for the first time? And what about wild dolphins–do they use “names”? Well, according to this study, the answer to both of those questions is a resounding “yes”! It turns out that when wild dolphins meet at sea, one of the first things they do is introduce themselves using their unique whistles! And so it begins…
“The bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, is one of very few animals that, through vocal learning, can invent novel acoustic signals and copy whistles of conspecifics. Furthermore, receivers can extract identity information from the invented part of whistles. In captivity, dolphins use such signature whistles while separated from the rest of their group. However, little is known about how they use them at sea. Read More
Cats and dogs don’t have many things in common, but according to this study, their ability to remember events might be one of them. Here, the researchers tested whether cats could remember information from a single past event. To do so, the scientists first let the cats explore several containers, some of which contained food. Fifteen minutes later, when the cats returned to the containers, they spent more time at the food containers where they had not yet eaten, suggesting they remembered the ones they had already eaten from. A previous study performed with dogs had similar results. So move over, Rover – you’re not the only one with a good memory.
“We examined whether cats could retrieve and utilize incidentally encoded information from a single past event in a simple food-exploration task previously used for dogs (Fujita et al., 2012). Read More
In this study (that couldn’t possibly have been inspired by recent political events*), scientists from the University of Georgia report that that power and narcissism lead to overconfidence. To test this idea, they conducted a series of four experiments in which participants were evaluated for narcissism, quizzed with trivia questions, and then assessed by how many they thought they got right. In one experiment, the researchers had participants write about a life event in which they either had or did not have power over other people. In this way, the scientists could test how positions of power and levels of narcissism affected how accurately the participants self-assessed their trivia scores. The result? Both narcissism and power seemed to make participants more overconfident. Great. Really great. The greatest result ever. Period.
*This study was originally submitted for peer review on August 6, 2015, and accepted for publication on November 26, 2015.
“Prior research has separately examined the influence that narcissism and power have on the general concept of overconfidence. In this article we examine the influence of narcissism on overconfidence Read More
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a materials and methods section that included a bloody tampon. And we trust that it won’t be the last. Here, the researchers tested the commonly-held belief that bears are attracted to menstruating women. But the best part was their experimental setup: “15 used tampons, all from different women, were presented in groups of 5 to adult male black bears that were feeding in a garbage dump. We tied each group of tampons to a monofilament line and spin-cast them to foraging bears. The tampons were cast past the bears and dragged back under their noses.” Turns out that the bears were not at all attracted to the tampons, under this or any of the other conditions they tested. So there you have it, ladies: camping is once again safe, no matter what time of month it is!
“Due to widespread concern that menstruating women might be attacked by black bears (Ursus americanus), we recorded responses of 26 free-ranging black bears to tampons from 26 women and recorded responses of 20 free-ranging bears to 4 menstruating women in northeastern Minnesota. Read More
We know from previous research that testosterone levels are correlated with spicy food consumption. But how does all that spicy food actually affect your health (if at all)? These researchers used a large population-based survey that took place from 1988 to 1994 to examine the relationship between chili pepper consumption and mortality. They found that chili pepper consumption is correlated with a statistically significant 13% reduction in “instantaneous hazard of death.” While this remains a correlation (and not causation), we think it couldn’t hurt to (judiciously) dump more hot sauce onto your next meal. At the very least, you’ll be more manly.
“The evidence base for the health effects of spice consumption is insufficient, with only one large population-based study and no reports from Europe or North America. Our objective was to analyze the association between consumption of hot red chili peppers and mortality, using a population-based prospective cohort from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III, a representative sample of US noninstitutionalized adults, in which participants were surveyed from 1988 to 1994. The frequency of hot red chili pepper consumption was measured in 16,179 participants at least 18 years of age. Total and cause-specific mortality were the main outcome measures. Read More
I don’t know about you, but after accidentally farting in a stranger’s face during a math lecture (don’t ask), I dream of a future where fart-neutralizing pants are readily available. But before we can design these desperately needed products, we must first develop realistic artificial farts with which to test them. That’s where these Danish scientists come in. They used common lab strains of different species of bacteria to develop a “recipe” that yields a realistic fart odor when grown anaerobically. Artificial fart scientists, we salute you!
“INTRODUCTION: Excessive flatulence can be a huge social problem. The purpose of this study was to design artificial flatus from bacterial volatile compounds to stimulate research into neutralizing measures. Read More
In their free time, some scientists and doctors like to try to figure out causes of medically-related historical events. For example, the authors of this study investigate what may have caused the crazy dancing “epidemic” of 1518 in Strasbourg: “Some time in mid-July 1518 a lone woman stepped into one of its narrow streets and began a dancing vigil that was to last four or even 6 days in succession. Within a week another 34 had joined the dance. And by the end of August, one chronicler asserts, 400 people had experienced the madness, dancing wildly, uncontrollably around the city.” And this wasn’t a sedate affair; the dancers’ feet often ended up bruised and bloody. The authors were not able assign a biological cause to the epidemic (it seems unlikely that hallucinogenic compounds from the rye fungus ergot were involved), but they suggest that hunger and psychological stress were the likely culprit, with a healthy dose of religious belief thrown in: “In times of acute hardship, with physical and mental distress leaving people more than usually suggestible, a fear of St Vitus could rapidly take hold. All it then took was for one or a few emotionally frail people, believing themselves to have been cursed by St.Vitus, to slip into a trance. Then they would unconsciously act out the part of those who had incurred his wrath: dancing wildly, uncontrollably for days on end.” The description of the events, and the government’s (likely unhelpful) response, is fascinating. We have included our favorite bits from the full text below. Enjoy!
“In 1518, one of the strangest epidemics in recorded history struck the city of Strasbourg. Hundreds of people were seized by an irresistible urge to dance, hop and leap into the air. In houses, halls and public spaces, as fear paralyzed the city and the members of the elite despaired, the dancing continued with mindless intensity. Seldom pausing to eat, drink or rest, many of them danced for days or even weeks. And before long, the chronicles agree, dozens were dying from exhaustion. What was it that could have impelled as many as 400 people to dance, in some cases to death?” Read More
It’s been known for a while that people (or at least men) tend to vote for more attractive political candidates. Not only that, but a previous study found that Republicans and Democrats can be differentiated from their faces. Well, this study brings those results together, reporting that conservative politicians tend to be more attractive, and that voters presented with an unfamiliar candidate use attractiveness level to gauge conservatism. Why are beautiful people more conservative (or vice versa)? According to the researchers, “Our explanation is that beautiful people earn more, which makes them less inclined to support redistribution.” We’re not sure how this explains Trump, but we assume there are plenty of ongoing studies aiming to do just that.
“Since good-looking politicians win more votes, a beauty advantage for politicians on the left or on the right is bound to have political consequences. We show that politicians on the right look more beautiful in Europe, the United States and Australia. Our explanation is that beautiful people earn more, which makes them less inclined to support redistribution. Read More
We thought we hit rock bottom with intranasal leeches and intranasal teeth. But this is (amazingly) even more nauseating: paranasal sinus fungus balls. Apparently, it’s not terribly uncommon to have balls of fungus, often species of Aspergillus, grow in your sinuses. The fungus balls sometimes migrate around in there, and they can become a cause of sinus headaches. Luckily, they can be removed surgically with few side effects. Click through to the photo below… if you can stomach it. (You’ve been warned!)
“To analyze the surgical results after Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS) in patients with paranasal sinus fungus ball.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Retrospective analysis of the results of FESS performed in 175 patients suffering from paranasal sinus fungus balls. Read More