Over at SciAm Blogs, Sci is talking about a recent paper looking at the phenomenon of mimietic desire, the idea that an object grows in value when you see that other people want it, and probably explains the popularity of almost every single pointless trend. How does it work? Head over and check it out!
Archive for: July, 2012
Today's Friday Weird Science comes to you courtesy of Bug Girl, who never fails to send me all the completely crazy entomology stuff she comes across. And she sees...a lot. And insects have some truly amazing mating systems. Including this one.
Yup, that's a walking stick. And boy can those sticks go at it! Very...very...slowly...
Sivinski, John. "INTRASEXUAL AGGRESSION IN THE STICK INSECTS DIAPHEROMERA VELIEI AND D. COVILLEAE AND SEXUAL DIMORPHISM IN THE PHASMATODEA*" Psyche, 1979
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Sci is at Sci Am Blogs today, talking about a recent fMRI study looking at caffeine and responses to socially threatening stimuli. Is your boss threatening you? Or can you blame it on your cup of coffee? Head over and find out!
...but they mean much more than most people think they mean.
But there's one big aspect of academic life that is talked about less frequently, and is definitely an issue of balance. It's one that makes me both angry and sad every time I see it come up. And I see it come up at least 3-4 times per year, as someone moves from their current position to a new one.
I call this issue the classic "but you will ruin your career if you don't move to Kansas".
(Welcome to Kansas where you are starting your new career in engineering/microbiology/something not directly related to Kansas! Source)
Sci has blogged before on why asparagus makes your pee smell. It turns out there are sulfurous compounds in asparagus that come out during digestion, making your pee smell significantly musty and weird for many hours after.
Unless, of course, you can't smell it at all.
I have to admit, I thought EVERYONE could smell asparagus pee. It was only when I first posted about it that I found out that other people can't! And of course, I immediately have to wonder why? Am I special or something? Maybe other people spent too much time in Bed, Bath, and Beyond?
But it is none of these things, of course. It's genetics.
But if you're going to prove it's genetics, well you have to test it. Everyone ready to sniff someone's else's pee?! Wait, where are you going?! It's for SCIENCE!!
Lison et al. "A polymorphism of the ability to smell urinary metabolites of asparagus" British Medical Journal, 1980.
(Oh sure, it looks so innocent. Source)
I think it was Andrea Kuszewski who alerted me to this paper. And it definitely pricked up my ears. Is sleepin' around good for big brains? Does promiscuity make for additional smarts? Does getting more tail make your brain extra hale?
Well...sort of. But "promiscuity" is probably the wrong word. Take out promiscuity...and put in the word "social".
Kingsbury et al. " Monogamous and Promiscuous Rodent Species Exhibit Discrete Variation in the Size of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex" Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 2012.
Well, not FASTER, per se, but your gamma oscillations in the hippocampus appear to become more powerful! Want to know what that means? And what it might have to do with moving quickly? Sci is at SciAm Blogs today talking about a paper showing increase power of gamma oscillations in the hippocampus which go along with increased speed. Head over and check it out.
When I first heard about giant sperm, I thought those MUST be the greatest. I mean, why have a giant copulatory organ when you can let the sperm speak for itself? Some species of ostracods (a type of crustacean) can have long sperm that are TEN TIMES the body length of the ENTIRE ANIMAL. I mean, it's sooooo big.
So why would it be hard to have big sperm? Well...you have to get them out there SOMEHOW. And when your sperm is bigger than you are, that's got to be a difficult proposition.
And in the super tiny ostracod Pseudocandona marchica, it means having a special organ, a strong, filamentous, muscular tube, that resembles nothing so much to me as...a sperm cannon.
Yamada and Matzke-Karasz. "How is a giant sperm ejaculated? Anatomy and function of the sperm pump, or “Zenker organ,” in Pseudocandona marchica (Crustacea, Ostracoda, Candonidae)"
(That's not the sperm, it's not the cannon. It's the whole animal. Source)
I think we've all had that kind of pain. A headache, maybe, or an injury. The kind of pain...that THROBS. You know what I mean. When I get one of those throbbing headaches, it's like every beat of my heart is pushing the blood up through my brain, and with the blood comes another throb of pain. I feel like my head throbs in time with my heartbeat, and will even try to relax and slow my heart beat down to at least slow the throbbing a little. It never works.
And it turns out there's a reason that it doesn't work. Because it turns out that pulsatile pain has nothing to do with heartrate. And for this study, all the authors needed was a heart rate monitor...and some very long-suffering dental patients.
Mirza et al. "Is There a Relationship between Throbbing Pain and Arterial Pulsations?" J Neuroscience, 2012.