Archive for 'Boys Will Be Boys'

Did Bigger Penises Evolve to Protect Hermit Crabs’ Private Property?

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Sex, economics, evolution, and stuckness all play roles in this new study about the evolution of larger penises in hermit crabs:

Private parts for private property: evolution of penis size with more valuable, easily stolen shells,” Mark E. Laidre, Royal Society Open Science, epub 2019. (Thanks to Thomas Michel for bringing this to our attention.) The author, at Dartmouth College, explains:

the importance of private property in driving penis size evolution has rarely been explored. Here, I introduce a novel hypothesis, the ‘private parts for private property’ hypothesis, which posits that enlarged penises evolved to prevent the theft of property during sex. I tested this hypothesis in hermit crabs, which carry valuable portable property (a shell) and which must emerge from this shell during sex, risking social theft of their property by eavesdroppers. I measured relative penis size (penis-to-body ratio) for N= 328 specimens spanning nine closely related species. Species carrying more valuable, more easily stolen property had significantly larger penis size than species carrying less valuable, less easily stolen property, which, in turn, had larger penis size than species carrying no property at all.

You can perhaps see how this plays out, by watching a short video by Sara Lewis and Randi Rotjan, called “Social Networking by Hermit Crabs”:

Abby Olena has an essay about the new study, in The Scientist: “Larger Hermit Crab Penises May Prevent Shell Theft.”

“A Jackass and a Fish”—Doctors save the life of a Fish-Called-Wanda imitator

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

This young man who swallowed a fish
As part of a party tradish-
ion he followed with friends:
Unhappy? Depends.
The young man has gotten his wish.

That limerick is a hasty summary of the medical case described in this newly published study:

A Jackass and a Fish: A Case of Life-Threatening Intentional Ingestion of a Live Pet Catfish (Corydoras aeneus),” Linda B.L. Benoist, Ben van der Hoven, Annemarie C. de Vries, Bas Pullens, Erwin J.O. Kompanje, and Cornelis W. Moeliker, Acta Oto-Laryngologica Case Reports, vol. 4, no. 1, 2019. The authors explain:

Inspired by Jackass (a tv-show about self-injuring stunts), some friends topped off a drinking party with live fishes from their aquarium. After the goldfishes had gone down smoothly, a bronze catfish was ingested. Unaware of the morphology and anti-predator behaviour of this species, a healthy but intoxicated 28-year-old man got a surprise. The catfish erected and locked the spines of its pectoral fins and got lodged in the hypopharynx. After several hours, he presented himself at the emergency department with dysphonia and dysphagia. The fish had to be removed endoscopically. Intubation and admittance to the intensive care unit was necessary due to laryngeal oedema. Two weeks postoperatively, the patient made a full recovery and donated the fish to the Natural History Museum Rotterdam. The publicity generated by public exhibition of the ‘do-not-swallow-fish’ emphasised the official Jackass warning: ‘.. do not attempt any of the stunts you’re about to see’.

The study included hospital-taken photos and video. (The published report does not, alas, include something that it does explicitly mention: a “two-minute home video” of the patient swallowing the fish, with accompanying encouragement from buddies).

Every doctor who was called in to help with the case ended up as a co-author of this study. Another co-author, C.W. (Kees) Moeliker, is the Ig Nobel Prize-winning discoverer of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck, and is also director of the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam. A few years ago the museum hosted the first public medical discussion of this case, a discussion that has now matured to become this study.

Among the knowledge sources cited in this paper, one stands out: “Cleese J, Crichton C. A fish called Wanda. Beverly Hills (CA): Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Production; 1988.” The young man who swallowed the fish was inspired by this scene from the movie:

Philosophical disagreements on possible reason(s) ‘Why Flatulence is Funny’ – Professor Sellmaier v. Professor Spiegel

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

If you want a reliable method of raising a laugh, you can always resort to references of flatulence – a comedic ploy that goes back (at least) 2000 years. But the question as to why it’s considered funny, remains, to this day, a hotly debated subject.

In 2013, Professor James Spiegel of the Philosophy Department at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, US, took a stab at explaining the phenomenon in issue 35 of the journal ‘Think’ (a journal of The Royal Institute of Philosophy, UK)

“[…] flatulence is a phenomenon that prompts a sudden sense of superiority, is incongruous with many aspects of human social life, and creates a constant exertion of mental energy from which we all need relief from time to time.”


4 years later, however, in the same journal, Prof. Dr. Stephan Sellmaier of the Graduate School of Systemic Neurosciences at Ludwig Maximilian-Universität, München., Germany, gave a blow by blow account of no less than five ‘problematic issues’ with Prof. Spiegel’s essay,

• (1) His claim that laughter always results from a pleasant psychological shift is false.
• (2) His argumentative move from what makes paradigm cases funny to what makes flatulence funny is unwarranted.
• (3) His notion of a psychological shift is not specific enough and lacks explanatory power.
• (4) The claim that funniness of flatulence involves superiority is doubtful.
• (5) His talk about ‘nervous energy’ is questionable and has implausible implications


The illustration is a detail from the He-Gassen scroll (c. 1603–1868)

[ Research research by Martin Gardiner ]

Virtual Reality ‘Teabagging’ – an ‘unlaughing’ matter for hardcore gamers (study)

Monday, December 31st, 2018

First popularized within Halo 2 multiplayer competitive matches, teabagging is a controversial practice where the player’s avatar repeatedly crouches over a defeated player’s ‘body’ in order to simulate rubbing his or her genitals over the avatar’s body” [our hyperlink]

By way of a recent essay for the academic journal Games and Culture, the first (and quite probably as yet the only) critical scholarship study of Virtual Reality Teabagging is provided by Brian Hunt Myers, who a doctoral student at the Department of Communication, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, US.

He informs that some ‘hardcore’ First Person Shooter (FPS) enthusiasts are often not amused by such practices – quoting a comment from a player :

“I think teabagging represents a lower level of FPS play. Time spent teabagging a player could otherwise be used to reach the next objective, defend the area, or go on the offense once more. Many times a second or two counts, so the player engaged in teabagging isn’t thinking of the big picture.”

Thus, when confronted with VR teabagging, it’s not uncommon, says the author, for ‘serious’ players to resort to ‘unlaughter’.

“Unlaughter is more than just the absence of laughter but is instead the conscious withholding of laughter in response to an invitation or demand to laugh.”

In conclusion, he adds, however :

“Alongside the derisive sneer or the silence of unlaughter, then, I optimistically assert that perhaps another kind of laughter exists, one that is gentler and more receptive. If nothing else, the example of teabagging demonstrates that those moments of laughter are not beyond the realm of possibility and that allowing for those moments can offer critical inquiry resources for new alliances and reparative practices.”

See: ‘Friends With Benefits : Plausible Optimism and the Practice of Teabagging in Video Games’ which is awaiting publication in a future issue of the journal Games and Culture. (A full copy may be found here courtesy of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.)

Note: For an overview of real-world (as opposed to virtual-world) ‘teabagging’ see John Waters’ 1998 film Pecker.

Also See: Teabagging in the Name of Science

[ Research research by Martin Gardiner ]

Playboy (the German edition) interviews Ig Nobel Prize winner Kees Moeliker, discoverer of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck

Friday, December 21st, 2018

Playboy (the German edition) interviews Ig Nobel Prize winner Kees Moeliker, discoverer of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck:

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