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
As a young doctor-in-training at the University of Illinois Medical School in the early 1950s, Lloyd Thomas Koritz volunteered to be a guinea pig in a variety of experiments. In one, he ate a pound of raw liver daily (washed down by a quart of milk) to help study liver metabolism. In a fatigue study he was kept unconscious for 11 hours.
But the most dangerous experiment involved being hung in a harness from a specially-constructed mast and knocked out with anesthesia and curare, so that his breathing stopped. Researchers then tested methods of resuscitating him. They were searching for more efficient ways of resuscitating electrocuted power line workers, so that they could revive the workers while they were still hanging from the poles instead of having to lower them while unconscious to the ground, which takes a lot of time.
I think it would be hard nowadays to get approval to do these kinds of tests on human subjects. Koritz said he disliked the liver-eating experiment the most. In 1953 he was given the Walter Reed Society Award for being willing to repeatedly risk his life for the sake of science.
"Drugged into unconsciousness and paralysis, [Koritz] willingly risked insanity
and death in a significant experiment. This test helped determine the best way
to revive electrically-shocked linemen."
Saturday Evening Post - July 25, 1953
San Bernardino County Sun - Apr 9, 1953
San Bernardino County Sun - Apr 9, 1953
Researchers in Korea are developing a technology that will allow humans to control turtles through thought alone. This is achieved without having to implant any device inside the turtle's brain. Nor does it involve telekinetic powers.
It takes advantage of the fact that a turtle will reliably walk towards a white light, because of their instinctive escape behavior. So the turtle wears a "stimulation device" that blocks its view except in a specific direction that can be remotedly adjusted by a human wearing a "brain-computer interface." The interface can pick up simple thought commands: left, right, or idle. It then transmits the command to the turtle stimulation device, which adjusts its position, and the turtle walks in the desired direction.
The researchers note that their system "could have military applications such as reconnaissance and surveillance," and also "this system could be used in unconventional applications such as immersive virtual reality systems that give the user a sense of oneness with the controlled animal, as if it were their surrogate agent."
More info: Science Daily
Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore recently made an unusual discovery, which is that "the magnetic properties of living cockroaches are strikingly different from those of dead cockroaches."
Place a living cockroach in a magnetic field and it'll become magnetized, and then stay magnetized for about 50 minutes.
Place a dead cockroach in a magnetic field and it'll also become magnetized, but then remain magnetized for almost 50 hours.
The reason for the difference:
Cockroaches become magnetized because they contain magnetic particles that become aligned with an external magnetic field. These particles are trapped in a runny medium that has low viscosity in living cockroaches. But as soon as the creatures die, the medium begins to harden and its viscosity increases.
So I'm curious how strongly magnetized dead cockroaches become. Would it be possible to use them as refrigerator magnets?
More info: MIT Technology Review
If a pregnant rodent is exposed to the scent of an unfamiliar male, she will often spontaneously abort. This is known as the Bruce Effect
, after researcher Hilda Bruce who discovered the phenomenon while working at London's National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in the 1950s.
It's thought that the female rodent does this in order to make herself ready for mating with the new male — because the new male would probably kill the children of the other father once they were born, so why bother carrying them to term. The trick doesn't work with the scent of a castrated male.
The history of the NIMR (pdf - page 208
) offers some interesting details about Bruce's research. The Parkes mentioned was Alan Parkes, her boss:
The Bruce Effect implied that every male mouse smells different to every other male mouse, at least to female mice, and that he produces a spectrum of odours that vary slightly between individuals of the same strain and differ markedly between individuals of different strains. With lateral thinking on how to prove their theory, Bruce and Parkes turned to Boake, a world famous perfumery.
Knowing how skilful perfumers must be in distinguishing between thousands of different odours, they persuaded some Boake representatives to visit NIMR for the purpose of smelling the mice. They invited them to sniff at pieces of cloth that had each been exposed to different cages of various mouse strains. The perfumers had no difficulty in distinguishing the different strains as all had a unique aroma; they even commented that four of the strains were quite similar – all of which had been bred from one original colony at Hampstead. They also noted that the CBA mouse strain, which was fairly new to NIMR, had a wonderful and pleasantly musky smell that could be of commercial interest in perfume manufacture!
Before 2014, science had information about which insect species delivered the most painful sting, but it didn't have info about how the painfulness of stings varied by body location. So Cornell University graduate student Michael Smith set about to correct this omission. He used honey bees to sting himself in 25 body locations and then rated the painfulness of the stings on a 1-10 scale. He published his results in the online journal Peer J
(Apr 3, 2014, "Honey bee sting pain index by body location"
From the article:
Guard bees were collected in a cage, and used immediately. Bees were taken from the cage haphazardly with forceps. To apply the sting, the bee was grabbed by the wings and pressed against the desired sting location. The bee was held against the sting location until the sting was first felt, and kept at the location for 5 s to ensure that the stinger would penetrate the skin. The bee was pulled away after 5 s, leaving the stinger in the skin. The stinger was left in the skin for 1 min, and then removed with forceps.
And the results:
The three least painful locations were the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm (all scoring a 2.3). The three most painful locations were the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft (9.0, 8.7, and 7.3, respectively).
In 2015, Smith received an Ig Noble Prize
for his efforts.
If you're in the billboard business you'd probably want to know exactly when a billboard becomes visible to drivers. So in 1953 research was conducted at the Iowa State College Experiment Station to get an answer to this question. The study involved having subjects watch miniature billboards slowly approach on a conveyor belt.
Source: Duke University Libraries - Archives of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.
The Duke University blog
also notes that in 1958 "The OAAA commissioned Jack Prince, a professor of ophthalmology at Ohio State University, to study the visual dynamics of outdoor advertising, resulting in the first legibility studies of ad copy." I'm not sure how these two studies related to each other. They sound suspiciously similar. And the 1958 studies obviously weren't the first given that the pictures below show research labeled as happening in 1953.
The researcher in the photos is probably Dr. A.R. Lauer of Iowa State's Department of Psychology, and he may have been studying the phenomenon of "Highway Hypnosis."
In the early 1950s there was increasing criticism of the proliferation of billboards along the side of roads. People complained that they were ugly and possibly distracted drivers. So the OAAA sponsored Dr. Lauer to research the safety benefits of billboards, and specifically whether billboards distracted drivers.
Lauer came up with the result that the billboards did distract drivers, but that this was a good thing because it saved them from Highway Hypnosis —entering a trance-like state as they stared at endless, monotonous roads.
The OAAA then took out ads in newspapers promoting Lauer's research and the safety benefits of billboards.
The Des Moines Register - Mar 23, 1958
As an experiment in survival, Portland radio announcer Bill Davis spent a week confined in a windowless fallout shelter with his family... and his mother-in-law.
They survived, although Davis's wife admitted, "There were problems."
One of the problems was that four days into the test an earthquake struck Portland, and the Davis family, cut off from communication, thought it was a nuclear attack.
Medford Mail Tribune - Nov 1, 1961
Medford Mail Tribune - Nov 10, 1961
Medford Mail Tribune - Nov 9, 1961
Dr. Hugh Cott
After World War II, Dr. Hugh Cott
of Cambridge University conducted a series of egg-tasting experiments in order to determine the palatability of eggs from various species of birds. I think part of the idea was to determine which eggs might possibly be used as a food source by Englanders, in case of another war. But part of the idea was also just scientific curiosity.
He assembled a panel of three egg tasters, who were served the eggs scrambled. They then rated them on a 10-point scale. Over a six-year period (1946-1951) they tasted eggs from 212 bird species.
Some of their results: The domestic hen was rated tastiest (8.8 out of 10). The coot, moorhen, and lesser black-backed gull came in second place (8.3 out of 10).
Penguin eggs were "particularly fine and delicate in flavor." Domestic duck eggs were of only "intermediate palatability."
Coming in at the bottom were the eggs of the great tit ("salty, fishy, and bitter"), wren ("sour, oily"), and the oyster-catcher ("strong onion-like flavor"). The eggs of the bar-headed goose made the tasters gag. However, "The freshness of the material available may have been in question."
Cott concluded that brightly colored eggs were, overall, less palatable than camouflaged eggs, but this result has subsequently been challenged. Zoologist Tim Birkhead has also suggested
that Cott's experiment would have been more scientifically valuable if the tasters had eaten the eggs raw, because "What predators ever experienced cooked eggs?"
Cott published the full results of his experiment in 1954, in the Journal of Zoology
The Bend Bulletin - Feb 2, 1948