Archive for 'News about research'

Removal of a 9-Ring Personal Testicle Device, Medically, in Detail

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

This newly published medical report, which tells how doctors removed a nine-ring personal testicle device from the testicles of the person who had too-successfully used that device, demonstrates how to almost gracefully write (1) a clear headline and also (2) a clear summary:

Scrotum Incarceration with Nine Galvanized Iron Rings: An Unusual Case Report,” Ying-Chen Chou, Chi-Wen Juan, Tsung-Hsing Lin, Chih-Wei Tsai, and Choon-Hoon Hii, Journal of Acute Medicine, epub September 19, 2016. The authors, at Kuang Tien General Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan, report:

“In this case report we describe the case of a 36-year-old male who presented to the emergency department with a grossly swollen scrotum. Nine galvanized iron rings were placed around his scrotum for the enhancement of his sexual performance. Attempts to remove them with lubricants, ring cutters, pliers, and orthopedic bone cutters were unsuccessful. Finally, they were removed with a hydraulic bolt cutter borrowed from the fire department. Genital incarceration or strangulation represents a true urological emergency. Removal of such devices can be challenging for emergency physicians and often requires resourcefulness and a multidisciplinary approach.”

The paper goes on to give full details. Here are before-removal and after-removal views of the nine rings:

Microsoft Word - jacme_150_JACME_150_author_V2

Microsoft Word - jacme_150_JACME_150_author_V2

(Thanks to Frank Swain for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS (possibly unrelated): Here’s video of Barry Biggs performing the song “Three Ring Circus”:

Dung beetles aloft, heisted by animal-seeking detectives

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Detectives who want to detect whether and which exotic animals are in the neighborhood can use flying dung beetles as tools. That’s the story Elizabeth Pennisi tells in an article in Science magazine called “Can’t find that rare leopard anywhere? Ask a dung beetle“. Here’s part of that true tale:

“the researchers rationalized that mammal poop should contain blood and other cells with DNA inside, and that some of this genetic material should survive intact when eaten. So they trapped airborne dung beetles in a Swaziland savanna by hanging up a transparent sheet and selected one individual from each of 10 species to dissect. Then they removed the insects’ pooped-filled guts and sequenced all the DNA they could find there. Finally, they matched those sequences to those in existing DNA databases to learn where the DNA came from. With just 10 beetles, they showed there were blue wildebeest, zebras, mice, cattle, goats, and even humans living nearby, they report this week on bioRxiv, a preprint archive.”


(Thanks to Dorge Lerma for bringing this to our attention.)

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.


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.)

The Visual Aesthetics of Snowflakes (new study)

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Given a selection of snowflakes – some with simple structures and others more complex – which do people prefer? To find out, Olivia C. Adkins, who is a Graduate Research Assistant at Western Kentucky University, US, and J. Farley Norman, University Distinguished Professor, also at Western Kentucky University, devised at set of experiments. They showed silhouettes created from photographs of natural snowflakes (and a selection of computer-generated solid objects) to over 200 participants – who were asked to choose the most aesthetically pleasing examples.Snowflake_Beauty

For the solid objects, the results were mixed – some preferring the simpler shapes and others the complex ones, but with the flakes the results were striking:

“91% of participants perceived only the complex snowflakes as being most beautiful.”

The Visual Aesthetics of Snowflakes is scheduled for publication in a future print issue of the journal Perception.

Note: The experimental work was carried out in accordance with the Code of Ethics of the World Medical Association (Declaration of Helsinki).

Also see: Falling Snowflakes: vertical or horizontal?

The physics of The Peter Principle; the trumping power of the Dunning-Kruger Effect

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Italian physicist Andrea Rapisarda presents his Ig Nobel Prize-winning research about The Peter Principle, at the Ig Nobel show at the University of Oslo. The show was the first stop of the 2016 Ig Nobel EuroTour. Behold the video:

The 2010 Ig Nobel Prize for management was awarded to Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Italy, for demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random. That research is documented in the study “The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study,” Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo, Physica A, vol. 389, no. 3, February 2010, pp. 467-72.


The Peter Principle is related — in ways physicists have not yet explored — to the Dunning-Kruger Effect. David Dunning and Justin Kruger were awarded the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize for psychology, for their modest report, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.” That research is documented in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 77, no. 6, December 1999, pp. 1121-34.

David Dunning recently wrote a popular article called “The Psychological Quirk That Explains Why You Love Donald Trump — The popularity of the GOP front-runner can be explained by the Dunning-Kruger Effect.” Dunning begins by saying:

Many commentators have argued that Donald Trump’s dominance in the GOP presidential race can be largely explained by ignorance; his candidacy, after all, is most popular among Republican voters without college degrees. Their expertise about current affairs is too fractured and full of holes to spot that only 9 percent of Trump’s statements are “true” or “mostly” true, according to PolitiFact, whereas 57 percent are “false” or “mostly false”—the remainder being “pants on fire” untruths. Trump himself has memorably declared: “I love the poorly educated.”

But as a psychologist who has studied human behavior—including voter behavior—for decades, I think there is something deeper going on. The problem isn’t that voters are too uninformed. It is that they don’t know just how uninformed they are.