Archive for 'Boys Will Be Boys'

The medical dilemma posed by a Mobile Phone in the Stomach

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

When a mobile telephone lodges in a person’s stomach, it can cease to be quite so mobile. A new medical paper offers proof of that:

An Ingested Mobile Phone in the Stomach May Not Be Amenable to Safe Endoscopic Removal Using Current Therapeutic Devices: A Case Report,” Obinna Obinwa, David Cooper, and James M. O’Riordan, International Journal of Surgery Case Reports, vol. 22, 2016, pp. 86–89. (Thanks to Tim Radford for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the Adelaide and Meath Hospital, Dublin, Ireland, report:

A 29-year old male prisoner was brought in by ambulance to the Emergency Department with a four-hour history of vomiting, having claimed to have swallowed a foreign object six hours earlier that day….

The failure of endoscopy to remove the mobile phone, in this case, highlights the limitations of this approach. The traditional sequence of conservative approach, endoscopy and surgery when endoscopy fails is challenged. This observation has raised a new question: should clinicians proceed directly to surgery when clinical observation fails in these cases or should endoscopy still be attempted?

Here’s further detail from the study:


BONUS: The video below, prepared by persons not connected with the medical case described above, tells “How to track your mobile phone anywhere in the world”:

New book by the often-stung King of Stings

Friday, May 6th, 2016

Ig Nobel Prize winner Justin Schmidt‘s new book, The Sting of the Wild, has just been released into the wild. It’s a firsthand account of being stung by many insects, told with deep love and understanding of most of those insects, and with wild appreciation of the power and variety of those stings.


Douglas Main interviewed Justin Schmidt, for Newsweek magazine.

The 2015 Ig Nobel Prize for physiology and entomology (the prize was awarded in a joint category) was awarded jointly to two individuals: to Justin Schmidt, for painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects; and to Michael L. Smith, for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn which locations are the least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm). and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft).

Their research is documented in these two studies:

BONUS: Watch video of Justin Schmidt and Michael Smith being awarded their prize at the 2015 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.

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.