As defined by biologist Lincoln Brower, a "blue jay emetic unit" is the amount of cardiac glycosides
(a type of poison found in plants such as milkweeds) that will make one blue jay vomit. Brower determined the exact amount by putting cardiac glycosides into gelatin capsules which he force-fed to blue jays.
The point of this was that various butterflies ate milkweeds and then became poisonous to the blue jays which, in turn, ate them. Knowing the exact amount of poison needed to make a blue jay vomit allowed Brower to rank each butterfly by its number of blue jay emetic units:
The experiments showed that a monarch that has eaten Asclepias humistrata contains enough poison to make approximately eight blue jays vomit; a butterfly reared on Calotropis procera contains 4.8 blue jay emetic units; one that has eaten A. Curassavica, 3.8 units, and one that has eaten Gomphocarpus, .8 unit. In other words, there is a palatibility spectrum, and the most unpalatable butterfly is at least 10 times as emetic as the most palatable one.
Source: Brower LP (Feb 1969). "Ecological Chemistry." Scientific American 220(2): 22-29.
"barfing blue jay" (picture by Lincoln Brower. Source: ScienceFriday.com)
In 1980, Canfield's natural seltzer launched a campaign to promote its product as being great for watering house plants. It printed on its labels: "We recommend our natural seltzer for house plants."
Could there have been any truth to this claim? Is seltzer water actually good for plants? Well, the only vaguely scientific study I can find addressing this claim (after, admittedly, only a brief search) was a student project conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2002
. The student researchers concluded, "Plants given carbonated water not only grew faster but also developed a healthier shade of green in comparison to plants given tap water."
So, maybe Canfield's was onto something. However, if you're thinking of treating your plants to some seltzer water, I imagine you'd want to use water at room temperature, not refrigerated. Cold water might shock their systems.
Marysville Journal-Tribune - June 9, 1980
Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer - May 19, 1980
Recent research reveals that dentists can not only smell fear, but that when they do their job performance significantly declines. From New Scientist:
The researchers asked 24 student volunteers to each donate a T-shirt they had worn during a stressful exam, and another worn at a calm lecture. The team doused the T-shirts with a chemical that masks body odour, so that no one could consciously smell it. A separate group of 24 dental students said they couldn’t detect any difference between the two sets of shirts.
Next, examiners graded the dental students as they carried out treatments on mannequins dressed in the donated T-shirts. The students scored significantly worse when the mannequins were wearing T-shirts from stressful contexts. Mistakes included being more likely to damage teeth next to the ones they were working on.
So, if your fear causes your dentist to start making more mistakes, I assume that will only increase your fear, causing your dentist to make even more mistakes, leading to a downward-spiraling cycle of terror.
The academic study is here.
This article comes from my weird science site, which I haven't updated in years. My project for the new year is to import all the content from there into WU, so I can shut that site down and stop paying the hosting fees.
While he was a grad student at the University of Chicago in the early 1920s, William Blatz was sitting in class one day, leaning back in his chair, when suddenly the chair collapsed beneath him, sending him sprawling backwards, crying out in fright. The experience was unsettling, but it gave him an idea for an unusual psychology experiment.
He designed a trick chair that would collapse backwards without warning when he flipped an electric switch. The chair was padded, so its occupant wouldn't get hurt. But Blatz figured that the sensation of abruptly, unexpectedly falling backwards would provoke a strong, measurable reaction in subjects. This would allow him to study the physiology of fear under controlled, repeatable conditions. He performed his experiment on a series of unsuspecting victims.
Diagram of Blatz's trick chair.
More in extended >>
When the hook (A) at the top was released, the chair plunged backwards.
As the population increases, we will all have to learn to accept strangers on the street standing very close to us.
One of the students would speak to a stranger on the street and begin asking him questions pertaining to the local police department. While talking the interviewer slowly moved closer and violated the stranger's personal body space. The person's reaction was then filmed.
According to recently collected facts, there were three basic reactions: (1) He-she slowly backed away as the interviewer got closer, (2) He-she struck a defensive pose such as folding arms, looking down, or even turning to one side, and (3) No reaction, though most people do have some kind of reaction...
According to Mark, most people have this "wall" about 18 inches around them that excludes all people from entering. What the interviewers were doing when they moved closer to the person was violating personal body space, causing them to react.
Steve says, "It's a shame this happens because as our world gets more and more crowded, we'll have to get closer together. Let's all start getting closer together and break down that wall."
Terre Haute Tribune - Mar 31, 1974
So why was Simone Harris standing on a Sydney street in a bikini? Was this a publicity stunt? Was she a psychologist conducting research? A performance artist being weird? I haven't been able to find answers anywhere.
Racine Journal Times - June 17, 1970
These pictures in the Google Arts picture archive
don't come with any explanatory text, except that they're from an "Air Raid Noise Experiment" conducted in Nuneaton in 1941. But I suspect that the experiment was part of a series of psychological experiments conducted in the UK in 1941 that attempted to "harden Britons to bomb shock." The idea was to expose people to the sounds of air raid sirens and battle sounds so that they would lose their fear of them. As described in the news clipping below:
The suggestion was advanced that whole populations be put through the experiment to make them 'immune, through familiarity, to fear caused by air raid noises.'
The Greenfield Daily Reporter - Nov 28 1941
I've been aware of these experiments for a while. I previously posted something about them back in 2009
. But I just came across these photos and realized they must be from one of these experiments.
Paul Zindel's play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1971. It inspired Paul Newman to make a film of the same name the next year.
And in 1974 it inspired 13-year-old Danny Kleiner of Philadelphia to wonder what the effect of gamma rays on marigolds would be. So he made that his school science project. He used cobalt radiation to produce the gamma rays. Unfortunately, I don't know what the results of his experiment were.
I haven't read or seen Zindel's play so I don't know if a similar experiment is featured in the book. I'm guessing it must be. I wonder how many high school students were inspired by Zindel's play to do similar experiments?
Danny Kleiner examining his gamma-ray-exposed marigolds
via Temple University Library
Three students at Northeast High School in Philadelphia participated in a medical experiment in which for five days they experienced what it was like to be blind.
I'm guessing this kind of experiment would never be allowed nowadays in a high school.
Temple University digital collections (image one
, image two
An experiment conducted by animal behavior expert Marc Bekoff of the University of Colorado, Boulder with his dog, Jethro:
While talking Jethro on his daily walk I conducted a study of his sniffing and urination patterns. To learn about the role of urine in eliciting sniffing and urinating, I moved urine-saturated snow ("yellow snow") from place-to-place during five winters to compare Jethro's responses to his own and other dog's urine. Immediately after Jethro or other known males or females urinated on snow, I scooped up a small clump of the yellow snow in gloves and moved it to different locations. For some reasons passers-by thought I was strange and generally left me alone. Moving yellow snow was a useful and novel method for discovering that Jethro spent less time sniffing his own urine than that of other males or females.
More info: Psychology Today - June 29, 2009