Weird science: 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.
Clare Collins, 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.
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, H2S, that makes farts smell, and according to the article, this isn't excreted in your breath: "Once in circulation, H2S 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.
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.).
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.
Back in 1921, the chemist Arthur D. Little took it upon himself to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Or rather, he figured out a way to produce a silk-like thread out of sows' ears and wove a purse from this.
Actually, he made two purses. The Smithsonian has one of them. MIT now has the other. (Little was an MIT grad).
The picture of the purse (below) looks nothing like the illustration of it. I wonder what happened. Did the dye fade, or something?
As reported by Israeli scientists Dr. Menahem Ram and Aladar Schwartz at a 1971 joint meeting of the Society for Cryobiology and the International Conference of Refrigeration:
Sudden temporary chilling of the big toes almost immediately brings about a lowering of the normal body temperature within the nose because, they said, the big toes and the nose are nervous system "reflectors" of one another in their response to external stress. And this nasal temperature-lowering—along with humidity-lowering—"dries up the nostrils," thereby "curing" the cold, they said.
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.
Fashion student Alice Potts has hit on the idea of adding some bling to clothes by embellishing them with crystals formed from bodily excretions such as sweat and urine. She says, "Instead of using plastic accessories to maybe embellish garments ... we can start like growing onto our garments these new materials and more natural materials."
Books Selected and endorsed for Pure Weirdness by Your WU Team
Who We Are
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.