Archive for 'Boys Will Be Boys'

Sixteen-legged Oral Sex

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

Sixteen legs, all told, are involved in the kind of one-on-one sexual activity celebrated in this new study:


Matja_GregoricSpider behaviors include oral sexual encounters,” Matjaž Gregorič [pictured here, right], Klavdija Šuen, Ren-Chung Cheng, Simona Kralj-Fišer & Matjaž Kuntner, Scientific Reports, vol. 6, no. 25128, epub 2016. The authors, at Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, write:

“Here, we bring [report] on sexual behavior of Darwin’s bark spider, Caerostris darwini. This sexually size dimorphic Madagascan species is known for extreme web gigantism and for producing the world’s toughest biomaterial. Our field and laboratory study uncovers a rich sexual repertoire that predictably involves cannibalism, genital mutilation, male preference for teneral females, and emasculation. Surprisingly, C. darwini males engage in oral sexual encounters, rarely reported outside mammals. Irrespective of female’s age or mating status males salivate onto female genitalia pre-, during, and post-copulation.”

Daniel Oberhaus wrote an appreciative essay about this in Motherboard.

This adds to the list of species eagerly observed, by humans, to engage in oral sex. Among the very most celebrated: The 2010 Ig Nobel Prize for biology was awarded to Libiao Zhang, Min Tan, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, and Shuyi Zhang of China, and Gareth Jones of the University of Bristol, UK, for scientifically documenting fellatio in fruit bats. Their report about that is; “Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time,” Min Tan, Gareth Jones, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, Shuyi Zhang and Libiao Zhang, PLoS ONE, vol. 4, no. 10, e7595. Here is video of that:

Ed Yong, a specialist in this line of research, published an appreciative essay in 2013 on that fruit bat paper and on a subsequent, related discovery: “You’ve Seen Fruit Bat Fellatio. Now: Fruit Bat Cunnilingus.”


High Altitude Flatus Expulsion (a.k.a. Rocky Mountain Barking Spiders)

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

One of the side effects of venturing to high altitudes (or any environment where the air pressure is lower than normal, say, for example inside a passenger airplane at cruising height) is an increase in the expellation of intestinal gases. As a number of our readers will no doubt be aware, the syndrome was first [?] pinpointed in the book : Beschreibung zweyer Reisen auf den Montblanc, unternommen im August 1820 mit einer Ansicht des Montblanc und einer Karte des Chamounythals und seiner Umgebung by Iosif Gamel [or poss. Joseph Hamel] c. 1820.


The book, in examining possible medical effects of climbing Mont Blanc, describes various unpleasant experiments featuring animals under evacuated bell-jars – and the various gases which were expelled. But perhaps less well known is that in 1981 the issue was brought up to date by Paul S. Auerbach, MD, MS, FACEP, FAWM, (now Redlich Family Professor of Surgery in the Division of Emergency Medicine at Stanford University) and York E. Miller, MD (now Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado, Denver). The condition was given the modern acronym – HAFE – in their letter to the editor of the Western Journal of Medicine, 1981 February; 134(2): 173–174 ‘High Altitude Flatus Expulsion.’

“The syndrome is strictly associated with ascent, and is characterized by an increase in both the volume and the frequency of the passage of flatus, which spontaneously occurs while climbing to altitudes of 11,000 feet or greater.”

They note that it’s also known (presumably by those outside the medical establishment, e.g. mountaineering enthusiasts) as ‘Rocky Mountain Barking Spiders’.

A peer-reviewed journal of one’s own (Žižek Studies)

Monday, March 21st, 2016

“For some, the notion of a journal devoted to the work of a theorist very much alive and intellectually kicking is discombobulating.”

– explain the editors of the International Journal of Žižek Studies 

“As its title unambiguously proclaims, it is devoted to the work of Slavoj Žižek, a Slovenian philosopher/cultural theorist.”

And yes, Improbable is indeed discombobulated – trying to unravel the peer-review implications. In the sense that if professor Žižek writes articles for the journal which is devoted to his works, how might that affect the reviewers’ objectivity?
Example, see: Is God Dead, Unconscious, Evil, Impotent, Stupid … Or Just Counterfactual? IJŽS, Vol 10, No 1 (2016)

If you’re aware of any other peer-reviewed journal devoted to the work of an individual, and where that individual writes for the journal, and is on the Board of the journal, please share it with our readers by commenting below.

Many thanks to Ivan Oransky for his assistance.


A note on genital de-flipflopping

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Make of this what you will, this fine study:

A note on genital de-flipflopping. with an apology to Tsou boki,” PauI K. Benedict, Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, vol. 17, no.. 2,  Fall 1994. The author begins:

“The commission of errors or booboos I can be counted an occupational hazard for comparativists and I have made at least my share of them. I’d like to ascribe them all to my juvenilia but for those after age 50 or 60 this becomes disingenuous. My very worst, in fact. dates only from 1975 (Austro-Thai: Language and Culture (ATLC)): it was adoptecl by Matisoff in 1978 (Variational Semantics in Tibeto-Burman) and further promoted in my 1979 “A note on Karen genital flipflop” (LTBA 5.1 :21-35). For me as, I suspect, for most linguists, words and roots tend to have lives of their own and one must cringe to see tbem amputated, eviscerated or otherwise mutilated or mistreated. I owe an apology to Tsou boki, as will be evident from the following….”

BONUS: A Memorium for Paul K. Benedict

The special HUMAN HEADS issue of the magazine is out!

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

The special HUMAN HEADS And GARLIC issue (vol. 22, no. 1) of the magazine (the Annals of Improbable Research) is now out! It’s bursting (as are all our issues) with carefully culled, improbable research snippets about everything, from anywhere, more or less.

This is the very first issue of our all-PDF era. We hope you enjoy it, and that you will spread the word to friends and colleagues! There are lots of new columns, and a new design (by the one and only Geri Sullivan) that’s easy to read on smartphones, as well as on larger screens.

If you are a subscriber, you should have received an email letting you know the new issue is available, with directions for downloading your copy.

If you are not yet a subscriber, you can purchase that issue from our Gumroad page.

Back issues of the magazine, and tables of contents, are available on the Improbable website.



Special thanks to Lauren Maurer Trew, our bookmaster, for working much of the tech magic that brought the magazine into this new era.