Archive for July, 2010

Monkey flossing

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Monkey flossing became a formal practice, at least experimentally, in the late 1970s, thanks to a dentist named Jack Caton. Twenty years later, a physician, David C Sokal, inspired by the monkey flossing, patented a top/bottom flossing-reminder and floss-dispensing device for humans. Monkeys themselves apparently began unassistedly flossing not long afterwards. But in all probability those animals were not influenced by either Caton’s experiment or Sokal’s invention….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.


Video: The Best of Miss Sweetie Poo

Monday, July 26th, 2010


The organizers of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony solved an ancient problem: How to keep speeches from droning on and on… The solution, called “Miss Sweetie Poo”, is an 8-year-old girl who tells long-winded speakers to “Please stop. I’m bored. Please stop. I’m bored…” Here are Miss Sweetie Poo highlights from several Ig ceremonies. Read the rest of this entry »

DNA Faking for Criminals and Murder Novelists

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Master criminals and murder novelists, many of whom felt hemmed in by technical limitations, can feel relieved by the news of new DNA technology:

Authentication of forensic DNA samples,” Dan Frumkin, Adam Wasserstrom, Ariane Davidson and Arnon Grafit, Forensic Science International Genetics, Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 95-103 (February 2010). (Thanks to Ed Yong for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Nucleix Ltd., Tel Aviv, Israel, and at the Division of Identification & Forensic Science, Israel Police, explain:

“the disturbing possibility that DNA evidence can be faked has been overlooked. It turns out that standard molecular biology techniques such as PCR, molecular cloning, and recently developed whole genome amplification (WGA), enable anyone with basic equipment and know-how to produce practically unlimited amounts of in vitro synthesized (artificial) DNA with any desired genetic profile. Read the rest of this entry »

Whynot: 191 Pelvic Inflammations

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Some people ask why. Some ask Whynot. Today we celebrate the work of medical researcher E. Whynot:

A Retrospective Study of 191 Cases of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease,” P. Kendall, E. Whynot and E. Gomber, Canadian Journal of Public Health, 1977 Jul-Aug;68(4):318-22.

The pumpkin phloem that is secret

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Read if you dare (and if you have a subscription to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) the report “The secret phloem of pumpkins,” by the possibly mysterious Robert Turgeon and Karl Oparka.

(Thanks to investigator Tom Gill for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: Phloem, for the uninitiated
BONUS: “Up the cleppie, doon the Blackie

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