Archive for 'Improbable investigators'

The further adventures of…. Dr. Chance

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

Dr. Chance and his research team discovered the details...” That thrilling, almost poetic passage is from a press release issued by Case Western Reserve University.

Boxer vs wrestler

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

An old theoretical question — can a professional wrestler defeat a professional boxer? — got an early test of sorts in 1976, when Antonio Inoki fought Muhammad Ali:

That same evening, wrestler Andre the Giant (who in his youth often rode with the playwright Samuel Beckett, but may never have wrestled with or boxed Beckett) fought boxer Chuck (“the Bayonne bleeder”) Wepner:

BONUS: The Guardian‘s look back at the bout.

BONUS: The other Andre the Giant — the chess player

Trébuchet and de Grouchy

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Trébuchet and de Grouchy collaborated on this study, many years ago:

Fetomaternal transfusion of blood lymphocytes and identification of the sex of the fetus” [article in French], J. de Grouchy and C. Trébuchet, Annales de Genetique, vol. 14, no. 2, June 1971, pp. 133-7.

BONUS (unrelated): A different sort of trebuchet:

Science: Controlling Our Bladders Makes Us Better Liars

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

According to a recent scientific study, we’re better at lying when we are also controlling our bladders.

Investigators Elise Fenn, Iris Blandón-Gitlin, Jennifer Coons, Catherine Pineda, and Reinalyn Echon from Claremont Graduate University were studying the Inhibitory Spillover Effect (ISE), which “occurs when performance in one self-control task facilitates performance in another (simultaneously conducted) self-control task.” Deception requires inhibitory control, and of course so does holding one’s bladder.

The following expert from the paper’s abstract provides a good summary of the authors’ findings:

Deceiving requires increased access to inhibitory control. We hypothesized that inducing liars to control urination urgency (physical inhibition) would facilitate control during deceptive interviews (cognitive inhibition). Participants drank small (low-control) or large (high-control) amounts of water. Next, they lied or told the truth to an interviewer. Third-party observers assessed the presence of behavioral cues and made true/lie judgments. In the high-control, but not the low-control condition, liars displayed significantly fewer behavioral cues to deception, more behavioral cues signaling truth, and provided longer and more complex accounts than truth-tellers.


This new article cites — and takes part of its name from — the Ig Nobel-winning paper by M. A. Tuk et al.: Inhibitory spillover: Increased urination urgency facilitates impulse control in unrelated domains.

(Thanks to investigator Karen Kustedjo for alerting us to this article.)

Podcast #30: Head on Brain in Brain

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Dr. Head and Dr. Brain, and the medical journal they edited (which is called Brain); kids with televisions; the peculiar faces of corporate leaders; and the medical maladies called “cello scrotum” and “guitar nipple” — all these all turn up in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

Click on the “Venetian blinds” icon — at the lower right corner here — to select whichever week’s episode you want to hear:

SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free.

This week, Marc Abrahams tells about:

The mysterious John Schedler or the shadowy Bruce Petschek perhaps did the sound engineering this week.

The Improbable Research podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that may be good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, both on the new CBS web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).