Stripes painted on the body protect against blood-sucking insects

January 16th, 2019

The Swedish and Hungarian researchers who won an Ig Nobel Prize (in 2016) for discovering why white-haired horses are the most horsefly-proof horses, and for discovering why dragonflies are fatally attracted to black tombstones have published a new study, extending their work—to use painted stripes to protect human life.

A report in Forskning, in Swedish, explains [here is a machine translation of that]:

Stripes on the body protect against blood sucking insects

Painted stripes on the body protect the naked skin from insect bites. It is the first time scientists have managed to prove that body painting has this effect. Painting the body thus provides protection against insect-borne diseases….

A Swedish-Hungarian research team now shows that body painting provides protection against the insects. A brown plastic model of a human attracts ten times as many brakes compared to a dark model painted with light stripes. The researchers also find that a beige plastic doll that they used as a control model attracts twice as many blood sugars as the striped model.

According to Susanne Åkesson, professor at the Department of Biology at Lund University, it is the first time that researchers find experimental support that body painting reduces the risk of insect attacks….

The experiment was done in Hungary. Part of the research team is based at Eötvös Loránd University.

The study is: “Striped bodypainting protects against horseflies,” Gábor HorváthÁdám Pereszlényi, Susanne Åkesson,  and György Kriska, Royal Society Open Science, epub 2019.

Here are other news accounts, in Hällekis, and in Helsingbords Dagblad.

A Look in the Brains of Publication-Hungry Brain Scientists

January 16th, 2019

The idea that one can study scholar journal publishing behavior by looking at their brain’s fMRI response to the ‘journal impact factor‘ of the journal is, to an academic serials librarian at least, incredibly funny. I suppose this is the serious-professor version of hooking up a child to an fMRI and offering them their favorite candy.” That’s the word from Melissa Belvadi, Collections Librarian at the University of Prince Edward Island, who alerted us to this study:

Journal impact factor shapes scientists’ reward signal in the prospect of publication,” Frieder Michel Paulus, Lena Rademacher, Theo Alexander Jose Schäfer, Laura Müller-Pinzler, and Sören Krach, PloS One, vol. 10, no. 11, 2015, e0142537. The authors, at the the University of University of Lübeck, Germany, explain:

The incentive structure of a scientist’s life is increasingly mimicking economic principles. While intensely criticized, the journal impact factor (JIF) has taken a role as the new currency for scientists. Successful goal-directed behavior in academia thus requires knowledge about the JIF. Using functional neuroimaging we examined how the JIF, as a powerful incentive in academia, has shaped the behavior of scientists and the reward signal in the striatum. We demonstrate that the reward signal in the nucleus accumbens increases with higher JIF during the anticipation of a publication and found a positive correlation with the personal publication record (pJIF) supporting the notion that scientists have incorporated the predominant reward principle of the scientific community in their reward system….

Thus, the JIF as a novel and powerful paradigm in academia has already shaped the neural architecture of reward processing in science.

Here’s visual detail from the study:

NOTE: Some people might suggest that this study was intended to be a joke.



Correcting Some Physiology in Gulliver’s Travels, After 300 Years

January 15th, 2019

Editing can be a slow process. A new study suggests that a famous novel published three centuries ago could and should be edited to correct a calculation error. The study is:

Physiological Essay on Gulliver’s Travels: A Correction After Three Centuries,” Toshio Kuroki, The Journal of Physiological Sciences, epub 2019. (Thanks to Mark Dionne for bringing this to our attention.) The author, at the Research Center of Science Systems, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), Tokyo, Japan, explains:

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, published in 1726, was analyzed from the viewpoint of scaling in comparative physiology. According to the original text, the foods of 1724 Lilliputians, tiny human creatures, are needed for Gulliver, but the author found that those of 42 Lilliputians and of 1/42 Brobdingnagians (gigantic human creatures) are enough to support the energy of Gulliver. The author further estimated their heartbeats, respiration rates, life spans and blood pressure…. Their blood pressures were estimated with reference to that of the girafe and barosaurus, a long-neck dinosaur. Based on the above findings, the food requirement of Gulliver in the original text should be corrected after almost three centuries.”

This, Kuroki further explains, was an almost-complete surprise:

“It is indeed surprising for me that nobody noticed this simple error for three centuries since publication in 1726. To the best of my knowledge, the only two exceptions are Max Kleiber, University of California at Davis, who published in 1967 a book chapter on this issue, but used misestimated values of Lilliputian height and did not take BMI into account . More recently, in 2014, A. J. Hulbert, University of Wollongong, Australia, published an article on Kleiber’s law, in which Gulliver’s Travels were briefly mentioned.”

Toshio Kuroki has expertise in identifying errors. In an interview last year with Retraction Watch, he talked about his discoveries about the question “How often do scientists who commit misconduct do it again?” He and colleague Akira Ukawa lavish more details about that in a paper of theirs called “Repeating probability of authors with retracted scientific publications.”

Brittany Fair joins Hair Club for Science Journalists (LFFFHCfSJ)

January 15th, 2019

Brittany Fair has joined the Luxuriant Flowing, Former, or Facial Hair Club for Science Journalists™ (LFFFHCfSJ). She says:

You can call me Chewy. When not in Chewbacca form, my hair also enjoys styles such as Kelp Forest Mermaid, Princess Anna, and Legolas. Its utter independence is bewildering. Although, I do enjoy the surprise hairdo that accompanies each morning.

Brittany Fair, M.S., LFFFHCfSJ
Science Writer
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
La Jolla, California, USA



The Physics of the Boston Molasses Flood [video]

January 15th, 2019

Building on her earlier fluid-dynamics research about the Boston Molasses Flood, Nicole Sharp made this new video:

For more of the history of that flood see Cara Giamo’s “The Boston Molasses Flood Is Worth Taking Seriously” in Atlas Obscura, and Jennifer Ouelette’s “Incredible physics behind the deadly 1919 Boston Molasses Flood” in New Scientist.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!