Archive for 'Boys Will Be Boys'

Prize-winning underwear that traps bad smells

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

A quick video visit with the winner of the 2001 Ig Nobel Prize for biology:



Improbable Research—special ANIMALS issue

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

The special ANIMALS issue (volume 25, number 3) of the Annals of Improbable Research is now out and about. It’s packed with improbable research about animals, and parts of animals, and things that animals, some of them, do.

The special section on animals research brings to you:

  • Flies in the Face of Death
  • Animal Odors
  • Animals or Parts in Motion
  • Insights About People and Other Animals
  • Raccoon Cleverness/Orneriness
  • The Orpington Duck Dilemma
  • Head/Neck/Testicles
  • Icky Cutesy: Croc Tears, Zoo in a Corpse
  • Ig and Beyond: A Jackass and a Fish
  • Nominative Determinism: McHorse on Horse Digits
  • Cat Tricks: Delayed Action
  • Dog Habits: Snog and Poo
  • Habit Research: Skunks and Slugs
  • Cats: Cats, Human Emotions and Speech
  • Dogs: Eye Resemblance and the ‘Guilty Look
  • Ig® Nobel Limericks: Chimp Butts, Gorilla Suits

The complete Table of Contents is online, as are several of the articles. And you can (for your edification and joy) buy the entire issue. Or even better, subscribe to the magazine.

Odorous preoccupations of James Joyce – the low down [study]

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

James Joyce may not have had particularly good eyesight, but (some say) he at least partially made up for it with a heightened awareness of smells. Especially bodily ones. Which he often wrote about. In great detail.

But do academic works about Joyce’s evident preoccupations with flatulence – which have led some scholars to suggest that he might have been an eproctophiliac, or even a renifleur – sometimes have a whiff of overegging about them?

Dr Crispian Neill (University of Leeds, UK) points out that :

“Joyce’s taxonomy of flatus does not provide a differentiation based upon odorous characteristics. Rather, the characteristic intangibility of the fart as a gaseous emanation is offset by the narrative’s ascription of spatial and auditory properties, which enables the encoding of flatulence within the text.”

And further :

“The unstable linkage between an odor and its presumed source or odor object recalls the linguistic unit’s arbitrary pairing of sign and object, an interconnection signaled in representations of odor throughout Joyce’s writing, as smells—flatulent or floral—become aromatic signs that float free from their original referents.”

See: The Afflatus of Flatus: James Joyce and the Writing of Odor in the journal James Joyce Quarterly, Volume 53, Number 3-4, Spring-Summer 2016 pp. 307-326, and which can be savoured in its entirety here.

[Research research by Martin Gardiner]

He loves beaver

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

BBC News reports, abut Poland’s Minister of Agriculture:

“I will decide to recognise [the endangered species] beaver and bison as edible animals,” he said, adding that beaver tail was an aphrodisiac.

(Thanks to Dariusz Jemielniak for bringing this to our attention.)


“National Income Inequality Predicts Cultural Variation in Mouth to Mouth Kissing”

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

A new study marries, so to speak, economics and kissing. The study is:

National Income Inequality Predicts Cultural Variation in Mouth to Mouth Kissing,” Christopher D. Watkins, Juan David Leongómez, Jeanne Bovet, Agnieszka Żelaźniewicz, Max Korbmacher, Marco Antônio Corrêa Varella, Ana Maria Fernandez, Danielle Wagstaff, and Samuela Bolgan, Scientific Reports, vol. 9, article no. 6698 2019. (Thanks to Tony Tweedale for bringing this to our attention.) The authors explain:

Romantic mouth-to-mouth kissing is culturally widespread, although not a human universal…

Here, we test for cultural variation (13 countries from six continents) in these behaviours/attitudes according to national health (historical pathogen prevalence) and both absolute (GDP) and relative wealth (GINI)…. When aggregated, the predicted relationship between income inequality and kissing frequency was over five times the size of the null correlations between income inequality and frequency of hugging/cuddling and sex.

Here is some numerical detail:

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