Previous studies have hinted that our political views may stem from unconscious responses we have to intense stimuli, like disgusting pictures. To directly test this hypothesis, these scientists scanned people’s brains while showing them regular or disgusting images (be sure to check out the horrifying list below…if you dare). It turns out that the brain’s response to disgusting images could accurately predict whether a person is liberal or conservative. But, even more surprisingly, the subjects’ voiced opinions about the images did *not* correlate with their ideologies, suggesting that this response is hard-wired and not under our conscious control. Perhaps we are all robots after all…
“Political ideologies summarize dimensions of life that define how a person organizes their public and private behavior, including their attitudes associated with sex, family, education, and personal autonomy. Despite the abstract nature of such sensibilities, fundamental features of political ideology have been found to be deeply connected to basic biological mechanisms that may serve to defend against environmental challenges like contamination and physical threat. Read More
The Cleveland Indians’ performance in last night’s World Series game might have been improved by the findings of this study. Here, a group of psychology researchers found that reminders of death (e.g., an observer wearing a t-shirt with a skull and the words “death” on it) improved players’ performance in basketball. Apparently, this reminder of your own mortality actually serves a purpose in improving self esteem, because “part of the basic human motivation to participate in culture and pursue self-esteem is to quell concerns about mortality and gain a sense of protection from and transcendence of death.” So the next time you’re at your favorite team’s game, just yell “You’re going to die!” to help them win. What could possibly go wrong?
“This research applied insights from terror management theory (TMT; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986) to the world of sport. According to TMT, self-esteem buffers against the potential for death anxiety. Because sport allows people to attain self-esteem, reminders of death may improve performance in sport. Read More
Kittens! Who doesn’t love kittens? (Um, nobody!) But who do kittens love? Well, if they are anything like human babies, they love their mommies. And this study indicates that they recognize their mother’s calls and can even distinguish them from the calls of other mommy cats. The researchers conclude that kittens learn their mother’s meows and chirps in the nest, and that these vocalizations represent a specialized form of communication. Forget baby talk–give me kitten talk any day!
“Acoustic communication can play an important part in mother-young recognition in many mammals. This, however, has still only been investigated in a small range mainly of herd- or colony-living species. Here we report on the behavioral response of kittens of the domestic cat, a typically solitary carnivore, to playbacks of “greeting chirps” and “meows” from their own versus alien mothers. Read More
In 2006 in Venice, Italy, archaeologists excavating a plague cemetery found something quite unusual: a skeleton with a brick in its mouth. They determined that the brick was likely placed there after death, and they later developed a hypothesis about how the brick got there (spoiler alert: it involves vampires). Be sure to read the excerpt from the full text below for all the gory details.
“During the years 2006–2007, the Archeological Superintendent of Veneto (Italy) promoted a research project on mass graves located on Nuovo Lazzaretto in Venice, where the corpses of plague deaths were buried during the 16th and 17th centuries. The burials were of different stages and are believed to be the remains of plague victims from the numerous outbreaks of pestilence, which occurred between the 15th and 17th centuries. Among the fragmented and commingled human bones, an unusual burial was found. Read More
Last year, the internet went wild over the “bagel head” body modification that was apparently popular in Tokyo. As it takes a while for science to catch up (thanks, in part, to peer review!), the first research article about the “bagel head” was just recently published. Along with using some of the original pictures that went viral (the photographer collaborated with the authors), this paper discusses possible complications that may arise. Apparently, it’s not really likely to cause any health problems at all — except for queasy feeling you might get from watching the YouTube video after the jump!
“On September 23, 2012, the television program Taboo on the National Geographic Channel featured individuals in Tokyo undergoing the “bagel head” cosmetic modification. Read More
This study definitely falls squarely into our “WTF” category. These researchers set out to determine whether a ball of electroconductive dough (basically flour, water, table salt, vegetable oil, and lemon juice) can be “conditioned” to respond to a stimulus. They hooked up the doughball to jumper cables and exposed it to flashes of LED light paired closely in time with a current. After this training, they then exposed the dough to light with no current, and found that its spectral density resembled that of doughballs that had been shocked. They also saw differences in the dough’s microscopic structure after this training process. The researchers interpret these results to mean that the dough had been conditioned to respond to light by expecting a shock, in the same way that Pavlov’s dogs were conditioned to drool in anticipation of food after hearing a bell. Critics question whether this can really be defined as “learning”, but we do know one thing: this ball of dough is smarter than Donald Trump.
“Synthetic experimental substrates are indispensable tools which can allow researchers to model biological processes non-invasively in three-dimensional space. In this study, we investigated the capacities of an electroconductive material whose properties converge upon those of the brain. An electrically conductive material composed of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, ions, water, and trace amounts of other organic compounds and minerals was classically conditioned as inferred by electrophysiological measurements. Read More
How much sex a person has is the result of many factors… but are there any that seem more important? To find out, these researchers collected data from 254 women in their thirties, asking them about their personal and physical lives. It turns out that over 40% of the women sampled had sex at least twice a week, and that obese women were more likely to have sex at least three times a week. I guess they really don’t call it the “dirty thirties” for nothing!
“This cross-sectional study aimed to identify factors related to coital frequency (CF) among 254 women in their 30s using a semistructured interview to collect sociodemographic, anthropometric, reproductive, clinical, and relationship data. CF was characterized as (a) never, (b) rarely (≤1 times/month), (c) occasionally (≤1 times /week), (d) regularly (2-3 times/week), or (e) frequently (>3 times/week). Read More
At first glance, this may seem like a completely moronic question. I mean, wet stuff feels wet because… well, it’s wet. Duh! But when you stop to think more deeply about it it, it quickly becomes a very profound question. That’s because, unlike heat or touch, we don’t have any sensors in our skin capable of directly detecting wetness. Therefore, scientists believe that we rely on other senses, like temperature or touch, to indirectly sense when something is wet. To test this idea, scientists wet subjects’ forearms while interfering with their senses of touch and temperature. Without being able to see their arms, the participants rated how wet they thought they were. In the end, interfering with their senses of touch and temperature did reduce the participants’ ability to sense wetness, providing support for the hypothesis. Taking a bath will never feel quite the same again…
Why wet feels wet? A neurophysiological model of human cutaneous wetness sensitivity.
“Although the ability to sense skin wetness and humidity is critical for behavioral and autonomic adaptations, humans are not provided with specific skin receptors for sensing wetness. Read More
“Tasmanian devil joeys, like other marsupials, are born at a very early stage of development, prior to the development of their adaptive immune system, yet survive in a pathogen-laden pouch and burrow. Antimicrobial peptides, called cathelicidins, which provide innate immune protection during early life, are expressed in the pouch lining, skin and milk of devil dams. These peptides are active against pathogens identified in the pouch microbiome. Of the six characterised cathelicidins, Saha-CATH5 and 6 have broad-spectrum antibacterial activity and are capable of killing problematic human pathogens including methicillin-resistant S. aureus and vancomycin-resistant E. faecalis, while Saha-CATH3 is active against fungi. Read More
Ever want to make a whirpool-like vortex out of your semen? Well, according to this published study, it’s not too difficult:
Step 1: Concentrate the sperm in your semen.
Step 2: Put it into a annular-shaped container (a ring formed by two concentric circles).
Step 3: Stand back to admire the beauty that is your very own semen vortex.
Apparently, concentrating the sperm induces them to align and swim in the same direction around the ring, creating a vortex… a vortex of semen!
Note: anyone attempting to make their own sperm vortex at home should definitely read the materials and methods of the full text for tips.
“New experimental evidence of self-motion of a confined active suspension is presented. Depositing fresh semen sample in an annular shaped microfluidic chip leads to a spontaneous vortex state of the fluid at sufficiently large sperm concentration. Read More