How long does a severed head remain conscious? In 1905, Dr Gabriel Beaurieux used the opportunity of the execution of the criminal Henri Languille by guillotine to attempt to find out. From a contemporary newspaper account of the scene:
When the head had rolled away from the scaffold and was lying in a pail, Dr. Beaurieux, head physician at the city hospital, caught it with both hands, raised it up in the air, and exclaimed in commanding voice:
Terrible stillness for a moment. And, look! The dead head actually obeys! The eyelids open, and two eyes, abundant with life, glare questioning at Dr. Beaurieux—and then the lids close.
But the doctor has no mercy—he is experimenting. And once more he commands:
Again the eyelids open, and two soulless eyes attempt to see, to find a point in the space. A conscious struggle really is proceeding, until the lids again close. But for the third time Dr. Beaurieux raises the head up in the air:
This time in vain. The experiment had lasted thirty seconds, and now the question is:
Has the reflecting movement released other functions of the brain? Did Languille know that they called him, and that he had better awaken and answer? Gruesome it were, if he really had answered, for instance repeated his "Goodbye, you beautiful life!"
The execution of Henri Languille - source: wikipedia
The Racine Journal Times - Aug 23, 1905
In 1973, Professor Robert Gunn advanced this theory.
Twenty years later, he was still pursuing the idea, as you can see in the scientific paper at the link.
To reappraise a prior study of hangover signs and psychosocial factors among a sample of current drinkers, we excluded a subgroup termed Sobers, who report "never" being "tipsy, high or drunk." The non-sober current drinkers then formed the sample for this report (N = 1104). About 23% of this group reported no hangover signs regardless of their intake level or gender, and the rest showed no sex differences for any of 8 hangover signs reported. Using multiple regression, including ethanol, age and weight, it was found that psychosocial variables contributed independently in predicting to hangover for both men and women in this order: (1) guilt about drinking; (2) neuroticism; (3) angry or (4) depressed when high/drunk and (5) negative life events. For men only, ethanol intake was also significant; for women only, being younger and reporting first being high/drunk at a relatively earlier age were also predictors of the Hangover Sign Index (HSI). These multiple predictors accounted for 5-10 times more of the hangover variance than alcohol use alone: for men, R = 0.43, R2 = 19%; and for women, R = 0.46, R2 = 21%. The findings suggest that hangover signs are a function of age, sex, ethanol level and psychosocial factors.
Perhaps it's hard to tell whether it's the pigs or the humans screaming...
Add this item to your Xmas list and you won't be disappointed!
From the intro:
Spanish researchers have determined that rabbits can differentiate between the poop of predators that have eaten rabbits and those that haven't. From New Scientist:
The researchers ran an experiment on three plots of land spread out across the Spanish countryside. One plot was sprayed daily with the smelly essence extracted from the scat of ferrets on a beef-based diet. Another plot was sprayed with the scat odour from ferrets on a rabbit-based diet. The third was sprayed with water as a control. Every few days, the team counted the rabbit pellets left behind on the plots and used the number as an indicator of how often rabbits were visiting the plots to feed.
There were fewer pellets in the plots sprayed with rabbit-based scat odour than in those sprayed with the beef-based scat odour, suggesting the rabbits were avoiding places where it appeared other rabbits were being eaten.
I assume this means that some researcher had to search around in a field every day to count rabbit pellets.
The journal article: Acta Ethologica
, a professor of nutrition at the University of Newcastle in Australia, has recently been making headlines for an article she wrote in The Conversation
in which she claimed that if you hold in a fart too long some of it will eventually come out your mouth:
Trying to hold it in leads to a build up of pressure and major discomfort. A build up of intestinal gas can trigger abdominal distension, with some gas reabsorbed into the circulation and exhaled in your breath. Holding on too long means the build up of intestinal gas will eventually escape via an uncontrollable fart.
To back up this claim she cites a 2010 article in the journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences
, and this article does indeed say this:
Both H2 and CH4 are thought to be produced exclusively by anaerobic fermentation in the gut. These gases can then traverse the intestinal mucosa and be absorbed into the systemic circulation. Once in the circulation, the only known source of clearance of these two gases is via the lungs. One study found that the volume of H2 present in the bowel of ten normal subjects averaged 0.24 ml/min in the fasting state. This rate sharply increased upon instillation of lactulose, to a mean peak rate of 1.6 ml/min. It was found that 14% of total H2 produced was excreted via the lungs and that breath H2 excretion correlated well with total H2 production. Another much more physiological study of hydrogen production and excretion found that overall 58% of H2 is excreted in the breath.
However, it's hydrogen sulfide, H2
S, that makes farts smell, and according to the article, this isn't excreted in your breath: "Once in circulation, H2
S is excreted primarily by the kidneys as free or conjugated sulfate."
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)
Found by psychologist Nicholas Christenfeld. The effect is that if the initials of your name spell out something positive (such as J.O.Y. or G.O.D.) you'll likely live longer than someone whose initials spell out something negative (B.A.D. or A.S.S.).
From his article in the Journal of Psychomatic Research (Sep 1999):
One's attitude about oneself, and the treatment one receives from others, might be affected, in some small but measurable way, by stigmatic or salutary labeling due to one's name. If names affect attitudes and attitudes affect longevity, then individuals with “positive” initials (e.g., A.C.E., V.I.P.) might live longer than those with “negative” initials (e.g., P.I.G., D.I.E.). Using California death certificates, 1969–1995, we isolated 2287 male decedents with “negative” initials and 1200 with “positive” initials. Males with positive initials live 4.48 years longer (p<0.0001), whereas males with negative initials die 2.80 years younger (p<0.0001) than matched controls. The longevity effects are smaller for females, with an increase of 3.36 years for the positive group (p<0.0001) and no decrease for the negative. Positive initials are associated with shifts away from causes of death with obvious psychological components (such as suicides and accidents), whereas negative initials are associated with shifts toward these causes. However, nearly all disease categories display an increase in longevity for the positive group and a decrease for the negative group. These findings cannot be explained by the effects of death cohort artifacts, gender, race, year of death, socioeconomic status, or parental neglect.
San Francisco Examiner - Mar 28, 1998