Archive for 'Boys Will Be Boys'

The place of fish farting in fish flirting and in international relations

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

The two independent research studies about herring farts gave different insights: one that fish probably use farting to communicate, the other that farting herrings in Stockholm harbor were mistakenly identified as Soviet submarines. Brian Owens appreciates these studies — their two sets of scientists shared the 2004 Ig Nobel Biology Prize — in an article in Hakai Magazine.

Owens’ article carries the headline “Quiet Please, the Fish Are Flirting — Fish that fart together stay together.”


The Theory That Lesbians Evolved to Please Men [research study]

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Researchers in Cyprus gathered info about men’s sexual desire for lesbians. Then, having satisfied their desire to collect that info, the researchers explained what it means to them. The study is:

The evolution of female same-sex attraction: The male choice hypothesis,” Menelaos Apostolou [pictured here], Marios Shialos, Michalis Khalil, and Vana Paschali, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 116, 2017, pp. 372–378.

The authors, at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus, explain: “this paper proposed a theoretical framework where, during the period of human evolution, same-sex attractions in women were under positive selection. The source of positive selection has been male preferences for opposite-sex sex partners who experienced same-sex attractions.”

Apostolou, Shialos, Khalil, and Paschali gathered data: “This theoretical framework was used to generate four predictions that were tested in two online studies which employed a total of 1509 heterosexual participants. ”

Apostolou, Shialos, Khalil, and Paschali explain that the data confirms their expectations about what some men find sexually attractive about some women sometimes:

“It was found that… a considerable proportion of heterosexual men desired partners who experienced same-sex attractions. In addition, it was found that men were more sexually excited than women by the same-sex infidelity of their partners, and they desired more than women, their opposite-sex partners to have sex with same-sex individuals. Finally, participants’ preferences were contingent on the seriousness of the relationships, with same-sex attraction to be preferred more in short-term than in a long-term partner.”

Apostolou, Shialos, Khalil, and Paschali arrive at a new understanding about evolution:

“These findings were employed in understanding the evolutionary origins of same-sex attraction in women…. Men’s desire for women who are attracted to other women selects for women who are attracted to other women. In turn, male desires, along with factors such as arranged marriage, which weakened the negative fitness costs of same-sex attraction, can explain the relatively high frequency of this trait in the population.”

BONUS: The newspaper El País supplies its own interpretation of this study, pointing out that “no homosexual woman has been interviewed in this study.”

How Many Kids Can One Man Father in his Lifetime? [podcast]

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

The Improbable Research podcast begins life anew, with our new collaborator, Scientific American. Here’s the first new episode:

How Many Kids Can One Man Father in his Lifetime?

Every day was Father’s Day for Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the emperor of Morocco, who reportedly fathered 888 children. Ig Nobel Prize-winning biologist Lisa Oberzaucher tells why Moulay quite possibly had lots more than that. Recorded at Imperial College London.


  • Elizabeth Oberzaucher, Ig Nobel Prize winner (mathematics, 2015), biologist based at the University of Vienna, Austria and at Ulm University, Germany.
  • Marc Abrahams, founder of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, and editor of the magazine Annals of Improbable Research


PREVIOUS EPISODES: Dip into the pile of previous Improbable Research podcast episodes! Beginning with today’s episode we’ll be tossing some new formats into the mix.

WE WILL HAVE INFO SOON  about HOW TO SUBSCRIBE  to the podcast. (The gears for that are being put in place, filed to perfection, and lubricated to a nicety.)

Does a herdsman-jilted llama shed tears? [research study]

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

Sexual relations between shepherds and the members of their flocks have existed for millennia, leading to the development of a certain type of love between them. The female llama, a ruminant related to the camel, is said by the local people in the Andean high plateau to weep with tears of jealousy when the herdsman replaces her with another female llama. The abandoned llama circles around the new couple, shedding tears of jealousy and sadness. I have had the opportunity to ask several shepherds about this. They told me that a replaced llama may gaze sadly at the new couple, but they had never seen one weep.“

An extract from : Tear Apparatus of Animals: Do They Weep? (in: The Ocular Surface, Volume 7, Issue 3, July 2009, Pages 121-127) by Juan Murube del Castillo MD PhD, professor emeritus of ophthalmology, at the University of Acalà, Madrid, Spain.

No Baby Boom Following Fifty Shades of Grey

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Anticipation caused by the book Fifty Shades of Grey (and its sequels) may have led to disappointment, suggests this new medical report:

No baby booms or birth sex ratio changes following Fifty Shades of Grey in the United States,” Victor Grech, Early Human Development, vol. 110, July 2017, pp. 16-20. The author, at Mater Dei Hospital, Malta, reports:

“The Fifty Shades of Grey (FSOG) trilogy were publicised by the media as inflaming increased coital activity, and that this would result a baby boom. Furthermore, increased coital activity skews the sex ratio at birth (M/T) toward male births. This study was carried out in order to ascertain whether there were any spikes in total births or in M/T in the United States (US) circa nine months following the FSOG books.”

Grech obtained and interpreted a large amount of childbirth data:

“Monthly male and female births for the US were obtained directly from the website of the Centre for Disease Control (01/2007–12/2015). This study analysed 36,499,163 live births (M/T 0.5117, 95% CI 0.5116–0.5119). There are no discernible spikes in total births or M/T at annual level, or circa nine months after FSOG book releases i.e. 04/2012 and 01/2013….”

Grech draws a conclusion:

“This study highlights the importance of measurement of cause and effect since anticipated results may not always ensue from events.”

(Thanks to Gwinyai Masukume for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: Victor Grech is also known for his study “Infertility in Star Trek.”