Archive for 'Arts and science'

Napoleon’s Sex Life (a look back)

Monday, September 19th, 2016

NapoleonIt was back in 1962 that Major-General F M Richardson CB DSO OBE Md (Retired) penned his (now classic) article for the Journal of The Royal Army Medical Corps – entitled : Napoleon’s Sex Life. According to the Major-General, Napoleon exhibited some ‘symptoms’ and had ‘leanings’ which considerably fuzzied his placement on the Kinsey Scale. He observed, for example, that the Empress Josephine, his wife, wasn’t always entirely happy with their marriage :

“She spread the mot that ‘Bon-a-parte est bon-a-rien’ and described his incapacity in crude and indecent terms.”

On top of that, said the Major-General :

“It is very well known that he liked to have physical contact with his soldiers. He used to embrace them, to grasp the buttons on their tunics, pull their ears and hold on to their noses. The latter gesture may be significant.”

And, probing further :

“He himself saw in his body a resemblance to a young female beauty, and made an often-quoted remark to Antommarchi, differently translated in different books, but on these lines “See Doctor, what lovely arms, what smooth white skin without a single hair! What rounded breasts – any beauty would be proud of a bosom like mine.” A great military leader could hardly have liked looking like that, and there is something pathetic in his drawing attention to it, and even boasting about it.”

The Major-Gen. did note though, in more broad terms, possible mitigating circumstances for what he called the “pathetic” condition of the Emperor  :

“It has been said that if all males were exclusively heterosexual (Kinsey rating 0) normal social life in clubs and messes would be impossible, since we would all behave like stags, rounding up as big a share as our strength allowed of the available hinds.”

Unfortunately (as you will have noticed if you clicked on the link) the paper isn’t available for download via its citation above, but fortunately it can be perused in its entirety as an accompaniment to a later comment article by Major JP Garner (RAMC) entitled : Froelich, Fertility And A French Emperor (J R Army Med Corps 2003; 149: 344-358)

Major Garner leant more towards the possible medical aspects of Napoleon’s predicament. Noting that he may (though we cannot be sure) have been suffering from Froelich’s Syndrome, Bardet-Biedl Syndrome, Borjeson Syndrome, Klinefelter’s syndrome, or even Prader-Willi Syndrome.

Bonus: According to the Liverpool Herald, 06 Apr, 1901, [that’s Liverpool Australia, not Liverpool UK] Napoleon was once ‘attacked’ by a phalanx of rabbits.

Guess the narrator’s favorite excretory system

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Can you guess the narrator’s favorite excretory system in this film, “Excretory Systems in Animals“, produced in 1971 at Indiana University?

It’s not easy. The narrator maintains an even, deadpan tone at *almost* all times.

Playtime for Thick-toed Geckos in Space

Saturday, September 17th, 2016

An unplanned uncollaring led to an unexpected play session in space. This study tells what happened:

Object play in thick-toed geckos during a space experiment,” Valerij Barabanov, Victoria Gulimova, Rustam Berdiev, and Sergey Saveliev, Journal of Ethology, vol. 33, no. 2, May 2015, pp 109–115. The authors, at the Research Institute of Human Morphology, Moscow, Russia, and at Moscow State University, report:

Play behavior was observed in thick-toed geckos (Chondrodactylus turneri GRAY 1864) during a 30-day orbital experiment on the unmanned spacecraft “BION-M” No. 1. The geckos wore ornamented colored collars which made it possible to track the behavior of individual animals on video recordings. The object of the play behavior was a collar that one of the geckos had managed to remove in the pre-launch period and which floated weightless in the animal holding unit under microgravity. Four of the five geckos participated in play episodes, which were defined as one-time interactions with the collar, as well in a fuller form of play that included approaching the unmoving collar or observing its approach, manipulations with the collar and further tracking the collar. Manipulations with the collar could take the form of complicated play, such as pressing the snout against the edge of the collar rim, multiple episodes of pushing the collar with the snout, inserting the head into the collar, holding the collar by pressing the head to the container floor and tilting the head with the collar on the snout.

ethology-gecko

The experience was recorded on video. Here’s a little chunk of that, with music added by New Scientist magazine:

(Thanks to Ig Nobel Prize winner Richard Wassersug for bringing this to our attention.)

Quick appreciations of Ig Nobel Prize winners, en français (#2)

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Balade Mental produced another in its series of quick appreciations of Ig Nobel Prize winners, en français:

balade2

Here’s the first in that series:

One week from today: The 2016 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

The Dutch blog De Kat van Freud reminds everyone of what’s happening next week, and points to a video that’s very much in the spirit of the Ig. Here’s an auto-translation from the original Dutch:

In a week it is again: the Ig Nobel Prize will be awarded on September 22 (note: not to be confused with the regular stuff!). What would they have this year in store for us?

The Ig Nobel Prize is a parody of the Nobel Prize and annually at Harvard awarded to 10 studies that you “first laugh and then set them thinking.” Humorous investigation so. Think of the investigation Kees Moeliker (also called the “duck-guy” named) connected to the Natural History Museum Rotterdam. He is the first biologist homosexual necrophilia is described and documented in the wild duck….

And in 2013 the prize went to Laurent Bègue (and others) for their research that showed that people who (think they) are drunk themselves more attractive, smarter, finding original and funnier ( ‘beauty is in the eye of the beer holder : people who think They are drunk ook think They are attractive).

This reminded me of the fantastic, interactive campaign of the Danish bus company Movia a few years ago. It shows nicely how people overestimate themselves when they have the necessary drinks.

Unfortunately, it is not to be found online interactive version, but following videos show a pretty picture:

psych-and-reality