Archive for 'News about research'

Magnetic alignment in warthogs (not just dogs, fish, and deer)

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

The team that documented magnetic alignment in dogs (a feat for which the researchers won an Ig Nobel Prize), fish in a barrel, and deer, have now done it for warthogs. Their new study is

Magnetic alignment in warthogs Phacochoerus africanus and wild boars Sus scrofa,” Jaroslav Červený, Hynek Burda, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Václav Husinec, Petra Nováková, Vlastimil Hart, Veronika Hartová, Sabine Begall, and E. Pascal Malkemper, Mammal Review, epub June 19, 2016.

“Magnetic alignment (MA) results from the preference of animals to align themselves along the field lines of the geomagnetic field, a behavioural expression of a magnetic sense. MA is well documented for ruminants and might demonstrate a general magnetic sensory ability among artiodactyls. We measured body-axis alignment in 1614 foraging or resting wild boars Sus scrofa, 1849 wild boar beds, and 1347 warthogs Phacochoerus africanus, and found a highly significant north–south preference.”

Conor Gearin, writing in New Scientist magazine, interviews a team member, The interview carries the headline “Electric fields could help us wage war on destructive feral pigs“:


Which way does a pig point? The answer, it turns out, is north – or south.

Many organisms ranging from birds and bees to bacteria are known to have a magnetic sense that helps them navigate. But now it seems swine sense Earth’s magnetic field too – a finding that could help us win the fight against out-of-control feral pigs.

Pascal Malkemper at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, and his colleagues made this discovery by observing more than 1600 wild boar in the Czech Republic, and more than 1300 warthogs in six African nations. Estimating the direction each animal was pointing in, the biologists found that, on average, they lined up closely with the north-south axis.

And it’s not just how they stand – they also found that wild boar beds face north or south, with a ridge at one end for it to rest its head. Altogether, the team suggests this shows these swine species have a strong sense of Earth’s magnetic fields….

“The fact that the animals align with the field lines suggests that they have a magnetic compass which they might use to navigate,” says Malkemper. Wild pigs can migrate over 50 kilometres between grazing areas. Perhaps a magnetic map of the landscape helps them find their way, he says.

Eat Powdered Mummies for Good Health [podcast 69]

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Nowadays, powdered mummy may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for many years it was just what the doctor ordered, as you will hear in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

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

This week, Marc Abrahams  — with dramatic readings by Daniel Rosenberg — 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, on the CBS web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).

The Journal of Interrupted [something]

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

The Journal of Interrupted Studies, which also seems to call itself the Journal of Interrupted Science, is a proposed publication for scholars who have suffered interruptions in their lives and careers.


An article in the Oxford Student explains:

Coffee seems to be Paul Ostwald’s preferred editorial tool when it comes to The Journal of Interrupted Studies, an Oxford-based academic journal that will publish the complete and incomplete scholarly works of academics whose work has been interrupted by forced migration. The idea for this new scholarly review was born over a cup (or more) with Paul’s flatmate and co-editor Mark Barclay. Subsequent team members, including Geri della Rocca de Candal, the Journal’s academic editor, have also undergone induction in the Missing Bean, where Paul and I first meet to discuss the project….

The Journal’s immediate aim is to give refugee academics a platform that is usually prohibited by the conditions of their immigrant status, but also by the Anglophone and Eurocentric bias of the academic publishing industry.

Renee Montagne interviewed editor Ostwald, on NPR’s Morning Edition program:

MONTAGNE: You know, the human stories behind these, too, though, are that these people, in many cases – what? – don’t have access to what they need to complete their work or to have it published?

OSTWALD: Exactly. So what we get a lot are articles where you can just see the lines of interruption running through the pages, really, where you can see someone couldn’t complete his research, someone couldn’t read further into the subject. And what we try to do in those cases is provide them with literature and PDF articles that can be viewed on a smart phone and try and really, you know, enable them to continue their studies as much as we can, really. But we’re also very open to publish non-completed articles, which is quite uncommon. But basically, what we do is we say, well, listen, you know, this article can’t be completed right now, but we hope it will be in the future.

(Thanks to Scott Langill for bringing this to our attention.)

Short Paper Titles Tend to Have a Longer Reach

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

A study with a six-word-long title tells about the effects of study title lengths:

The Advantage of Short Paper Titles,” Adrian Letchford, Helen Susannah Moat, Tobias Preis, Royal Society Open Science, epub August 26, 2015. The authors, at the University of Warwick, UK, report:

“Vast numbers of scientific articles are published each year, some of which attract considerable attention, and some of which go almost unnoticed. Here, we investigate whether any of this variance can be explained by a simple metric of one aspect of the paper’s presentation: the length of its title. Our analysis provides evidence that journals which publish papers with shorter titles receive more citations per paper. These results are consistent with the intriguing hypothesis that papers with shorter titles may be easier to understand, and hence attract more citations.”

Karen Hopkin talks about this, tersely, in this video for Scientific American:

BONUS: The Ig Nobel Prize-winning (literature prize, 2006) paper “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.”

Incomplete info: The case of the donkey-bitten member

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Some published medical reports give incomplete information, inducing frustration in intellectually curious readers. This newly published study exemplifies the problem:

Total Phallic Reconstruction Using the Radial Artery Based Forearm Free Flap After Traumatic Penile Amputation,” Marco Falcone, MD, Giulio Garaffa, MD, PhD, FRCS(Eng), Amr Raheem, MD, Nim A. Christopher, MPhil, FRCS(Urol), and David J. Ralph, FRCS(Urol), Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 13,  2016, pp. 1119-1124. The authors, at University College London Hospitals, UK, the University of Turin, Italy, and the University of Cairo, Egypt, report:

“The causes of penile loss were self-amputation owing to an acute schizophrenic episode (n = 2), road traffic accident (n = 3), blast injury (n = 3), donkey bite (n = 1), and Fournier gangrene (n = 1).”

Here is further detail from the study:

donkey table

The study includes no further information about the donkey.