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Archive for 'Boys Will Be Boys'

The Need for Justifiable Busyness [study]

Monday, April 19th, 2021

If someone had told Sisyphus that he was no longer required to push a large boulder up a mountainside for all eternity . . . would he have carried on anyway? According to a 2010 paper in the journal Psychological Science, he might well have.

“Our research suggests that Sisyphus was better off with his punishment than he would have been with a punishment of an eternity of doing nothing, and that he might have chosen rolling a rock over idleness if he had been given a slight reason for doing it.”

The research team speculate(d) that :

“[…] most people today no longer expend much energy on basic survival needs, so they have excessive energy, which they like to release through action.”

And so, due to idleness aversion, prefer fighting each other, making money, or writing scientific papers. The authors offer some practical advice regarding their discoveries :

“For example, homeowners may increase the happiness of their idle housekeepers by letting in some mice and prompting the housekeepers to clean up. Governments may increase the happiness of idle citizens by having them build bridges that are actually useless.”

See: Idleness Aversion and the Need for Justifiable Busyness Psychological Science. 21(7):926-30. A free copy of which may be found here

Illustration source Wikipedia. Research research by Martin Gardiner 

Baseball / Medical Skills: The Hidden Ball Trick

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

This decades-old medical report has received surprisingly little attention from the baseball community. Baseball season is about to begin again, in the USA. Please alert anyone to whom this study could be useful:

An Unusual Foreign Body in the Rectum—A Baseball: Report of a Case,” M.P. McDonald and D. Rosenthal, Diseases of the Colon and Rectum, vol. 20, 1977, pp. 56-7. The authors report:

The following case illustrates the problem of an incarcerated object in the rectum. We describe the unique technique used to remove the baseball….

A 49-year-old man complained of his inability to void when he came to the Letterman Army Medical Center Emergency Room….The patient then reluctantly described his recent activity. He and his sexual partner had celebrated a World Series victory of the Oakland Athletics by placing a baseball (hardball) in his rectum because, as he put it, “I’m oversexed.” The presence of the baseball was confirmed by radiography (Fig. 1) and proctologic examination.

Under spinal anesthesia, the rectum was dilated and manipulations, including hooking the ball and pulling downward (enough to rip the cover of the ball), injecting air above the ball and giving downward traction, and obstetrical forceps delivery, failed….

[Eventually, an] assistant exerted digital upward pressure through the rectum and, combined with a force enough to raise the patient off the table, the ball was delivered through [a] colotomy.

This procedure differs, in most ways, from the traditional form of baseball’s hidden ball trick.

Two Historic Brassiere-to-Face-Mask Innovations

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

Dr. Elena Bodnar‘s 2009 Ig Nobel Prize-winning Emergency Bra may be the most spectacular and fashionable instance of brassiere design and protective-face-mask design intersecting. But it is not the first.

The 3M company’s N95 mask grew from an-early-1960s bra-cup design by Sara Little Turnbull, according to reports (“How One Woman Inspired The Design For The N95 Mask” and “N95“) by National Public Radio. (Thanks to Dominick Dunlop for bringing this to our attention.)

Here’s video of Dr. Bodnar giving the first public demonstration (assisted by Nobel laureates Wolfgang Ketterle, Orhan Pamuk, and Paul Krugman) of her invention, at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard University:

Here is some technical detail from Dr. Bodnar’s patent:

Evangelical Subculture and Phallically Insecure Masculinity [new study]

Friday, March 12th, 2021

What little things do some men get excited about? That’s one of the questions addressed in this new study:

Linking Evangelical Subculture and Phallically Insecure Masculinity Using Google Searches for Male Enhancement,” Samuel L. Perry [pictured here] and Andrew L. Whitehead, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, epub 2021. The authors, at the University of Oklahoma and Indiana University, explain:

we analyze Google Trends data and focus on the prevalence of explicit searches for “male enhancement” terms and phrases, simultaneously indicating (1) the internalization of a subculture that prioritizes essentialist, phallocentric standards of masculinity and (2) a privately felt failure to meet those standards. Even after accounting for a host of state‐level confounds, the preponderance of evangelicals in a state consistently predicts more Google searches for terms and phrases like “male enhancement,” “ExtenZe,” “penis pump,” “penis enlargement,” and others. We theorize that the largely patriarchal―and increasingly embattled and radicalized―evangelical subculture explicitly or implicitly promotes equating masculinity with physical strength and size, leaving men influenced by that subculture (whether evangelical or not) to seek solutions for their privately felt failure to measure up.

The authors note that: “All data for replication are freely available from Google and can be found on

BONUS: Professor Perry discusses some of his other, related research, in this video:

UPDATE (March 12, 2021): Our friends at the Museum of Bad Art reminded us that one of their exhibition paintings may relate to this study. Here is a reproduction of that painting, accompanied by the museum’s official description:

Daily Defecation Outputs of Mountain Gorillas

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

Output takes center stage in this new study of what some gorillas left behind:

Daily Defecation Outputs of Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda,” Elie Sinayitutse, David Modry, Jan Slapeta, Aisha Nyiramana, Antoine Mudakikwa, Richard Muvunyi, and Winnie Eckardt, Primates, epub 2020. (Thanks to Damien Caillaud for bringing this to our attention.)

The authors, at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International; the University of Rwanda, Butare; the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Czech Republic; the Czech Academy of Sciences; the University of Sydney, Australia; the University of Rwanda; and the Rwanda Development Board, report:.

“We weighed 399 wet fecal samples deposited at nest sites and on trails between nest sites by gorillas of varying age and sex, determined by lobe diameter, from five social groups (n = 58 gorillas) that range in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. We found increasing daily average defecation outputs with increasing age-sex class (infants, 435 g; juveniles, 1346 g; medium-sized gorillas, 2446 g; silverbacks, 3609 g). Gorillas deposited two– to threefold the amount of feces at nest sites compared to on trails, suggesting that nest sites may function as hotspots for enteric pathogen infections through direct contact or when gorillas ingest foods contaminated with infectious larvae during site revisits in intervals matching the maturation period of environmentally transmitted gastrointestinal parasites.”

PERSONAL (by Marc) NOTE: In my 9th grade biology class the teacher gave me an F on a book report, because she insisted I was concocting the details. The details were about observing gorilla droppings. The book, I’m pretty sure, was either by or about Dian Fossey. The teacher was so angry at me that, even after I retrieved the book from the library and showed her the things I had described she still insisted on giving me an F for that report. It’s the only F I ever got, and I am still proud of it.

Improbable Research