Flashback Friday: Shut up and pet me! Dogs prefer petting to vocal praise.

By Seriously Science | September 2, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/ejchang

Photo: flickr/ejchang

 It’s probably no surprise that dogs like to be petted. But do they prefer petting over other types of attention? Here, two scientists from the University of Florida tested whether dogs would prefer to be petted or given vocal praise, and whether it mattered if the petting/praise came from an owner or a stranger. Turns out that dogs love pets, regardless of who is doing the petting, and they never seem to get tired of being petted. Interestingly, a previous study by the same authors found that dogs do like one thing even more than petting: food. Perhaps a future study will determine where chasing their tails ranks on the list?

Shut up and pet me! Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) prefer petting to vocal praise in concurrent and single-alternative choice procedures.

“The nature of the interactions that maintain the social behavior of dogs towards humans and which interactions dogs prefer have not been thoroughly investigated. We focused here on dogs’ preference for petting and vocal praise, and the influence that familiarity (owner vs. stranger) has on that preference. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

Superman’s Clark Kent disguise might be more effective than you think.

By Seriously Science | September 1, 2016 10:28 am
Photo: flickr/tom_bullock

Photo: flickr/tom_bullock

People often make fun of the fact that no one can recognize Superman when he puts on his glasses and becomes Clark Kent. It’s just a pair of glasses, right? Not according to this study, which actually tested whether glasses interfere with people’s ability to match two identical faces. The result? Glasses are actually a pretty good disguise, causing subjects to think the same face with and without glasses was two different people. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… science!

Disguising Superman: How Glasses Affect Unfamiliar Face Matching

“Could a simple pair of glasses really fool us into thinking Superman and Clark Kent are two different people? Here, we investigated the perception of identity from face images with a task that relies on visual comparison rather than memory. Participants were presented with two images simultaneously and were asked whether the images depicted the same person or two different people. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: super powers, told you so

Hey guys, if you want the ladies to dig your B.O., eat more veggies!

By Seriously Science | August 30, 2016 9:33 am
Image: Flickr/David Shankbone

Image: Flickr/David Shankbone

Your sense of smell probably has a bigger impact on your life than you think. In fact, there are scientists who study how smells affect the choices we make every day, including choosing partners. So, when it comes your own B.O., you have a couple of options: you can try to mask the stink with deodorant, or you can make the best of what you’ve got. According to this study, if you go with the latter, you’d might think about joining a CSA, because the more produce you eat, the better your B.O. smells. And there’s a bonus: your skin gets a sexy “glow” from the carotenoids. But be careful not to overdo it–you don’t want to end up stuck on the toilet looking like Trump!

Diet quality and the attractiveness of male body odor

“Human axillary sweat may provide information pertaining to genetic relatedness and health status. A significant contributor to good health, both in the short and longer term, is a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. In this study we tested whether dietary fruit and vegetable intake, assessed indirectly by skin spectrophotometry (assessing dietary carotenoid intakes) and subjectively by food frequency questionnaire, were associated with more pleasant smelling sweat. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, smell you later

Flashback Friday: Why do some people like rare hamburgers while others prefer well-done?

By Seriously Science | August 26, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Marshall Astor

Photo: flickr/Marshall Astor

Do you like your steak black and blue or just blackened? According to this study, your preference may depend on the emotions you feel when looking at raw meat. Here, researchers first showed 1046 Norwegian subjects pictures of either a rare or a well-done hamburger and asked them to indicate whether the image elicited “fear, disgust, surprise, interest, pleasure, or none of these.” The subjects were then told to rate their likelihood of eating burgers done to different levels (see figure below). Although it’s hard to untangle cause and effect in this case, those subjects who experienced interest or pleasure while looking at the rare burger were more likely to want to eat rare meat than those who experienced fear or disgust. My question is this: who are these people who are afraid of hamburgers?

Hamburger hazards and emotions.
“Previous studies indicate that many consumers eat rare hamburgers and that information about microbiological hazards related to undercooked meat not necessarily leads to more responsible behavior. With this study we aim to investigate whether consumers’ willingness to eat hamburgers depends on the emotions they experience when confronted with the food. Read More


In beetles, it’s the female genitalia that need to be hard.

By Seriously Science | August 22, 2016 6:00 am
The spermathecal duct, the left end corresponds to the beginning of the spermatheca and the right end corresponds to the beginning of the vagina.

The spermathecal duct; the left end corresponds to the beginning of the spermatheca and the right end corresponds to the beginning of the vagina.

It’s well known that human sperm have a long way to travel in the female body if they are going to fertilize an egg. But that’s nothing compared to the tortuous path taken by the sperm of leaf beetles. Female leaf beetles have a spiral-shaped tube through which the sperm must travel, including turn reversals to make this maze even trickier (the “spermathecal duct”). So, how do these beetles ever get lucky? Well, according to this research, it’s all about hardness… of the female! The female tubes are uniformly stiff, whereas the sperm are soft at the tip and gradually stiffen along their length, a combination that maximizes the sperm’s speed through the tube. Sorry, ducks – looks like the corkscrew penis doesn’t make you that unique after all!

Stiffness gradient of the beetle penis facilitates propulsion in the spiraled female spermathecal duct.

“It is well known that sexual selection is the main driving force of substantial diversity of genitalia found in animals. However, how it facilitates the diversity is still largely unknown, because genital morpho/physical features and motions/functional morphology of the structures in sexual intercourse are not linked for the vast majority of organisms. Here we showed the presence of material gradient and numerically studied an effect of stiffness gradient of the beetle penis during its propulsion through the female duct. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, Sex & Mating

Flashback Friday: The case of the girl who sneezed 2,000 times a day.

By Seriously Science | August 19, 2016 6:00 am

We’ve heard of intractable hiccups (which can be cured, FYI, by digital rectal massage), but here’s a new one: intractable sneezing. This article reports the case of a young girl who sneezed up to 2,000 times a day for 3 months. She did not get better despite being seen by numerous doctors and being treated with everything from antihistamines to corticosteroids, leading the doctors to believe it was probably psychological. Or maybe she was just allergic to sneezing?

Factitious sneezing.

“We report a case of hysterical, intractable paroxysmal sneezing in an adolescent girl. The patient had been observed by two pediatricians, an allergist, an emergency room physician, and a chiropractor. She had been treated with antihistamines, epinephrine, corticosteroid nasal spray, and a 1-week course of an oral corticosteroid without improvement. She was referred for evaluation of an allergic etiology before continuing her workup with a computed tomographic head scan. The patient had been sneezing almost daily for 3 mo up to 2000 times a day. Read More

Cutest MRI ever shows that most dogs prefer praise over food.

By Seriously Science | August 16, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Allen Skyy

Photo: flickr/Allen Skyy

We previously reported that dogs prefer petting to vocal praise. Well, according to this study– which involved putting dogs in an fMRI machine–it turns out that most dogs prefer praise to food, and will even choose their owner over food when given the choice. Talk about man’s best friend! (PS: For a cute dose of doggie fMRI, check out the figure below.)

Awake Canine fMRI Predicts Dogs’ Preference for Praise Versus Food

“Dogs are hypersocial with humans, and their integration into human social ecology makes dogs a unique model for studying cross-species social bonding. However, the proximal neural mechanisms driving dog-human social interaction are unknown. We used fMRI in 15 awake dogs to probe the neural basis for their preferences for social interaction and food reward. In a first experiment, we used the ventral caudate as a measure of intrinsic reward value and compared activation to conditioned stimuli that predicted food, praise, or nothing. Relative to the control stimulus, the caudate was significantly more active to the reward-predicting stimuli and showed roughly equal or greater activation to praise versus food in 13 of 15 dogs. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, rated G

Flashback Friday: Why doesn’t the driver get carsick?

By Seriously Science | August 12, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/barefootboy

Photo: flickr/barefootboy

If you are one of the unlucky who get carsick, you probably know quite well that being the driver is much less nauseating than being a passenger. But why is this the case? Prior to this study, some scientists thought it had to do with mismatching information from different senses (your eyes may say you are not moving, but your body says differently), and some thought it was due to overstimulation of the inner ear. In this study, researchers from the Israeli Naval Hyperbaric Institute separated different aspects of the experience by having pairs of participants sit in a specially built “nauseogenic” rotating car. In some cases, the subjects’ heads were even yoked together using customized helmets (see Figure 1 below), allowing one person to control the head movements and rotations of the other. The scientists found that being in control of movement seemed to be important in reducing motion sickness — with all other stimuli being equal, the passengers still felt sicker. Teacups, anyone?

Why is the driver rarely motion sick? The role of controllability in motion sickness.

“The central hypothesis of the work is that the dimension of control-no control plays an important role in motion sickness. Although it is generally agreed that having control over a moving vehicle greatly reduces the likelihood of motion sickness, few studies have addressed this issue directly Read More


What makes swordfish the fastest swimmers on Earth? It’s all about the lube!

By Seriously Science | August 10, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/garycycles8

Photo: flickr/garycycles8

Swordfish are among the fastest swimmers on Earth, reportedly reaching speeds of up to 60 mph. Their “sword” appendage helps them slice through the water, but they still have to deal with friction and drag from their less-pointy head. According to this study, the fish counter this friction through a clever mechanism: lube! These scientists discovered an oil-producing gland on the swordfish head that helps to lubricate the skin and reduce drag, increasing swimming efficiency. How slick is that?!

Lubricating the swordfish head.

“The swordfish is reputedly the fastest swimmer on Earth. The concave head and iconic sword are unique characteristics, but how they contribute to its speed is still unknown. Recent computed tomography scans revealed a poorly mineralised area near the base of the rostrum. Here we report, using magnetic resonance imaging and electron microscopy scanning, the discovery of a complex organ consisting of an oil-producing gland connected to capillaries that communicate with oil-excreting pores in the skin of the head. Read More

Ba-dum… Ba-dum… Ba-dum… Turns out shark music is bad for sharks.

By Seriously Science | August 8, 2016 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Leszek Leszczynski

Image: Flickr/Leszek Leszczynski

Like many amazing ocean animals, sharks are in trouble. And unlike whales and otters, their bad rap can make it difficult for sharks to get the protection they need to stave off extinction. But why do people fear sharks so much? According to this study, it’s not just their big teeth, but also the type of music played during video documentaries that might be to blame. In fact, volunteers who watched shark-infested clips of “Blue Planet Seas of Life” with the associated (ominous) music were more likely to rate sharks as scary compared to people who watched the same clip while listening to uplifting music from other segments of the documentary. Not only that, but listening to scary music made viewers less likely to be willing to donate money to shark conservation efforts. Shark Week, are you listening?

The Effect of Background Music in Shark Documentaries on Viewers’ Perceptions of Sharks.

“Despite the ongoing need for shark conservation and management, prevailing negative sentiments marginalize these animals and legitimize permissive exploitation. These negative attitudes arise from an instinctive, yet exaggerated fear, which is validated and reinforced by disproportionate and sensationalistic news coverage of shark ‘attacks’ and by highlighting shark-on-human violence in popular movies and documentaries. 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]gmail.com.

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