Archive for 'Research News'

Maggots, and the aftermath of your meals

Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

“Can maggots devour all our food waste?” and convert the food bits we wasted into something again useful to us humans? Ig Nobel Prize winner David Hu and colleagues—led by master maggot-mystery solver Olga Shishkov— explore that question, in their lab, and in this Science Friday video:

Brian Soash writes about the question, for Science Friday, in a special report called “Hungry, Hungry Hermetia.” Hermetia illucens is the name of the fly that’s involved, hungrily, in these convert-the-food-waste experiments. Hermetia illucens gets called other names, one of which is “black soldier fly.”

Last weekend, Olga Shiskov explained and demonstrated her work, assisted on stage by several rabidly donut-eating audience members, in the Improbable Research session at the AAAS Annual Meeting, in Washington, DC.

“Journal to retract article from 2000 that plagiarized one from 1984”

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

In digging up material for a book, I ran across a pair of quasi-identical articles on an unusual topic. The articles were so similar that I sent word to our friends at the Retraction Watch web site, who dug into the history of those articles. Today, Retraction Watch published their report about those two reports:

Journal to retract article from 2000 that plagiarized one from 1984

When it comes to plagiarism, there is apparently no statute of limitations.

That’s one lesson one might take from this tale of two papers, one published in 1984 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (AJOG), and the other published in 2000 in the Medical Journal of The Islamic Republic of Iran (MJIRI). Both are titled “The use of breast stimulation to prevent postdate pregnancy.” …

In a note to us late last year, Marc Abrahams, the editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, flagged the apparent plagiarism. In January, we asked Hamid Baradaran, the editor of the MJIRI, if the journal was aware of the overlap. Baradaran, of the Iran University of Medical Sciences, said he’d follow up, and earlier this month he said that the journal had decided to retract the paper….


Continuing investigations into the origin(s) of the word “Cat”

Thursday, February 21st, 2019

Scholarly investigations into the origins of the word “Cat” are not yet complete. A new set of possibilities are presented by Dr Ivana Bašić (a Senior Research Associate at the Serbian Institute of Ethnography, SASA) who points out that there may be previously overlooked connections with the Serbian words for cat / litter :

“This paper points out to a possibility that the lexema cat [mačka in Serbian language] originated from the basis of mat- (in Serbian language: mati, majka, in English language: mom, mother): the motivation basis for the both expression/word for cat/litter (in Serbian language: mačka/kot) could be connected with a representation of female genitals (womb, in Sebian language: materica), birthing, understood here as “expulsion”, and “unfold” of the large number of offspring.”

See: Why Do First Kittens End Up Down the Drain? An Iconic Meaning of the Lexema Cat and Litter (II) , Bulletitin of the Institute of Ethnography SASA, Glasnik Etnografskog instituta SANU, 2010 Volume 58, Issue 2, Pages: 131-145.

The full text : may be found here (Note: mainly in Serbian)

The photo : shows Dorty silikonski posip (3,8) cat latter, available from, Subotica, Serbia.

Stripes and tails against flies

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

The Surprising Reason Zebras Have Stripes,” Ed Yong’s essay in The Atlantic, celebrates the most recently published research about how some large mammals manage to protect themselves against flies. Tim Caro and colleagues experimented with striped blankets, publishing their story in the research journal PLoS ONE.

Ig Nobel Prize winners Gábor Horváth, Susanne Äkesson, and colleagues published a paper about the attractiveness or repulsiveness of zebra stripes to flies, in 2012 in The Journal of Experimental Biology. This year they published a paper in Royal Society Open Science about the effect, on flies, of stripes painted on humans.

Last year, Ig Nobel Prize winner David Hu and colleagues published a paper, in the Journal of Experimental Biology, about how zebras and other animals use their tails to repel flies. Co-author Marguerite Matherne presented this research a few days ago, in the Improbable Research session at the AAAS Annual Meeting, in Washington, DC.

Humans, who generally have neither stripes nor tails, do sometimes make up for it by painting stripes on themselves, wearing striped clothing, or using fly swatters.



Retract! Retract! Retract!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

Retraction Watch reports:

Ladies and gentlemen, we appear to have a new record. The Journal of Fundamental and Applied Sciences (JFAS) recently retracted 434 articles from three issues of their journal. Yes, 434, giving it more retractions than any other journal ever, according to our records….

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