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Archive for 'Boys Will Be Boys'

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.

The Consortium for Research About Profanity

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020

“Welcome to the Consortium for Research About Profanity,” says the Consortium for Research About Profanity, then pausing ever so slightly before explaining:

“The Consortium for Research About Profanity is a collection of researchers working on understanding how profanity functions in minds, between people, and across societies.”

Who are they? They are a lively bunch:

Why Wild Giant Pandas Frequently Roll in Horse Manure

Monday, December 7th, 2020

The question of the wild giant pandas frequently roll in horse manure is explored in a new study called “Why Wild Giant Pandas Frequently Roll in Horse Manure.”

Why Wild Giant Pandas Frequently Roll in Horse Manure,” Wenliang Zhou, Shilong Yang, Bowen Li, Yonggang Nie, Anna Luo, Guangping Huang, Xuefeng Liu, Ren Lai, and Fuwen Wei, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, December 7, 2020. The study includes videos of the activity.

The authors, at the Chinese Academy of Science, report:

“In nature, it is extremely rare to observe attraction to fecal matter between wild mammalian species. Horse manure rolling (HMR) behavior described in this study is frequently observed in QIN pandas at low habitat temperature. Based on integrated analysis from climatic data, animal behaviors, and molecular assays, HMR is found as a temperature-, chemical-, and TRPM8-related behavior that may contribute to pandas’ cold tolerance. This study sheds light on how wild animals actively seek and utilize potential chemical resources from their habitat for survival adaptation.”

Word is spreading. Katherine Wu interviewed some scientists about this, for the New York Times, and other reports are proliferating.

Improbable Research