Category:
Science

Knives made from frozen human feces

The non-fiction book Shadows in the Sun by Wade Davis contains the following passage:

There is a well known account of an old Inuit man who refused to move into a settlement. Over the objections of his family, he made plans to stay on the ice. To stop him, they took away all of his tools. So in the midst of a winter gale, he stepped out of their igloo, defecated, and honed the feces into a frozen blade, which he sharpened with a spray of saliva. With the knife he killed a dog. Using its rib cage as a sled and its hide to harness another dog, he disappeared into the darkness.

This caught the attention of some archaeologists who decided to test if a knife made from human feces would actually be strong enough to cut through muscle and tendons. They published their results in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The researchers paid close attention to detail. For instance:

In order to procure the necessary raw materials for knife production, one of us went on a diet with high protein and fatty acids, which is consistent with an arctic diet, for eight days.

However, the results were disappointing: "the knife-edge simply melted upon contact, leaving streaks of fecal matter."

Conclusion: the story of the fecal knife was an urban legend.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Mar 25, 2022 - Comments (4)
Category: Science, Experiments, Excrement

Mystery Gadget 100

What's happening with these poor doggos?

The answer is here.

Or after the jump.



More in extended >>

Posted By: Paul - Fri Feb 11, 2022 - Comments ()
Category: Science, Dogs, 1930s

The Mentality of the Criminal Woman

Read it here.



The majority of the book consists of dry statistical tables and charts of the tests given to the subjects.



But in the latter third of the study, conclusions begin to be drawn.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Jan 13, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Science, Studies, Reports, White Papers, Investigations, 1910s, Women

Formaldehyde Hunger

According to medical student lore, the smell of formaldehyde while dissecting bodies stimulates the appetite. This phenomenon is known as 'formaldehyde hunger'.

It was mentioned in a 2020 article by Amalia Namath in the Georgetown Medical Review, and that's the earliest reference to it I've been able to find:

A few years had passed since I had last been in the anatomy lab, but the smell immediately brought me back. With the smell came a flood of memories—meeting my 4 lab mates and bonding as we spent hours hunched over our cadaver. Often, we would share our favorite recipes as the lab would wind down, in part because of the aptly named "formaldehyde hunger" and to find common ground.

An article on mashed.com disputes the reality of the phenomenon, noting, "there is some self-reported evidence of formaldehyde actually having the opposite effect — constricting hunger, rather than inducing it."

My guess is that med students just naturally build up an appetite during the long hours they're dissecting a cadaver. After all, they're presumably not snacking while they're doing this. The formaldehyde has nothing to do with their hunger. But it makes a better story to attribute their food cravings to the formaldehyde.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Jan 09, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Food, Science, Fables, Myths, Urban Legends, Rumors, Water-Cooler Lore

Urohidrosis

Back in the 1960s, while observing wood storks in Florida, biologist M. Philip Kahl, Jr. noted that on hot days the storks "have the unusual habit of frequently excreting on their legs."

He eventually concluded that, since storks don't sweat, they were doing this to cool themselves down "by means of evaporative cooling of the blood supply to the legs and feet." He named this phenomenon 'urohidrosis'.

His hypothesis is now accepted as true, and it's not only storks that cool themselves by pooping on their legs. Turkey vultures do it too.

Reference: Kahl, P.M., Jr. 1963. Thermoregulation in the Wood Stork, with special reference to the role of the legs. Physiol. Zool., 36: 141-151.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Dec 14, 2021 - Comments ()
Category: Animals, Science, Excrement

Hand-Sniffing After Handshakes

Research by biologists Noam Sobel and Idan Frumin reveals that after a handshake people frequently lift their hand to their nose and sniff it. The researchers hypothesize that this is to smell the body odor of the other person.

As described by Sarah Everts in her recent book The Joy of Sweat:

Sobel also conducted a fascinating experiment with his graduate student Idan Frumin to see what people did with their hands after a handshake. Their team secretly videotaped people after they shook the hand of someone new, someone they had just met for the first time. Here's their delicious discovery: A few seconds after the handshake, the experimental subjects would inevitably sniff their own hands, to gain some odorous information about the new person.

"When we showed them the videos, many of the subjects were completely shocked and disbelieving," Frumin told me. "Some thought we had doctored the videos - not that we had the computing power or the expertise to do so."

. . . When Frumin now goes to conferences, he sometimes stands back and watches people unconsciously sniffing. "Sometimes I catch myself doing it too. People tell me I've ruined handshakes for them, that they've become very self-conscious about shaking hands, especially with me."




The Weizmann Institute has more info. Sobel and Frumin's article about their research is in the journal eLife Sciences.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Dec 08, 2021 - Comments (6)
Category: Science, Experiments, Smells and Odors

American Tentative Society

The officers of the American Tentative Society insisted that, despite the odd name, the society wasn't a joke. Its purpose, they explained, was to promote the idea that scientific knowledge should always be regarded as tentative — subject to growth, revision, and change.

The three founders of the society were science journalists Alton Blakeslee, Rennie Taylor, and Pat McGrady. They came up with the concept in the mid-1960s, but it remained nothing more than a crazy idea until 1974, when Taylor died. In his will he bequeathed $300,000 to making the society a reality. This left the other two stuck with the problem of how to spend the money. So they solicited ideas from the public.

As far as I can tell, they ended up using some of the money to give awards to scientists (such as Stephen Jay Gould) whom they viewed as embracing the tentative nature of scientific knowledge. The rest of it was eventually given to the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing to endow a fellowship awarded annually to students accepted for enrollment in graduate-level programs in science writing.

Science - May 24, 1974

Posted By: Alex - Tue Oct 19, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Clubs, Fraternities and Other Self-selecting Organizations, Science, 1970s

Crook, the Unkissed

Algie R. Crook (or "Alja" Crook, as his name was sometimes spelled) was a professor of mineralogy at Chicago's Northwestern University. His great claim to fame, however, had nothing to do with science. Instead, it was that in April, 1901 he allegedly told his undergraduate class that he had never kissed a woman. More specifically, he reportedly said, "I have never uttered a profane word, never have smoked or chewed tobacco, drank intoxicants, nor hugged or kissed a woman."

Given that he was thirty-seven years old at the time, this was considered a remarkable admission. So remarkable that when word of it leaked to the press it became international news.

Great Falls Tribune - May 15, 1901


The media started referring to him as "Crook, The Unkissed." Acquaintances of Crook (or people who claimed to be his acquaintances) readily confirmed the tale, attributing his lack of kisses to his embrace of "austere science." One said, "the scientific atmosphere is inimical to the love germ."

Offers of marriage flooded in, from women hoping to be the one to thaw the professor's icy reserve.

Philadelphia Times - Apr 28, 1901


The French were particularly taken with the story. As reported in the Leavenworth Times (May 8, 1901):

Leading [French] novelists and scientists have been interviewed. Some pronounce the Chicago instructor an "idiot" and a "monster," but a powerful clan uphold his theory that love for woman, even love of the ideal type, seriously impedes a man who would be great and learned.

Supposedly the news even reached as far as China where the dowager empress expressed a desire to see him.

Philadelphia Inquirer - Apr 27, 1901


Crook, for his part, was said to be "abashed and humiliated over the gossip the affair has provoked," and also furious at the "tattling undergraduates."

He issued a denial of the allegation, stating, "I have never told any one that I have refrained from hugging or kissing women, for the reason that I consider it nobody's business but my own."

He recalled having advised a student to do as he did — never to kiss, hug, swear, and so forth. And he figured that's how the story must have started. But he insisted that he hadn't said that he had never done these things at all.

However, it was too late. The story was out there and couldn't be taken back. His denial got buried in the back pages of newspapers, if it was printed at all.

In other interviews, Crook asserted that he had kissed female family members, which didn't help his case much since it implied that he had indeed never romantically kissed a woman. Also, a former student recalled that Crook had made similar claims before, noting, "He is a consistent Methodist, and his convictions sometimes cause him some trouble." So I kind of suspect that Crook really did make the no-kissing claim to his class, but denied it later out of embarrassment.

Whatever the case may have been, the tale continued to haunt him. The following year (1902) a group of students at Northwestern formed an "Anti-osculation Society," claiming that they were "following the teachings of Professor Algie R. Crook, the man who never was kissed." They elected him an honorary member.

In 1904 Crook got married, and inevitably this triggered a renewal of the no-kissing story. "Unkissed Man To Wed," reported the papers.

The Hutchinson News - Dec 28, 1904


Crook and his wife eventually had five children together. He died in 1930, at the age of sixty-six, and the kissing story resurfaced in his Chicago Tribune obituary (June 1, 1930). It was, after all, the achievement he was most famous for:

In 1901 he won fame by being credited with having declared he was never kissed. He denied he had made the assertion after it roused world wide comment.

However, the memorial of him in the Journal of the Mineralogical Society of America omitted the kissing story. Nor is it mentioned on the wikipedia page about him.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Oct 08, 2021 - Comments (6)
Category: Eccentrics, Science, 1900s, Love & Romance

Fanta Pomelo Ad and Sequel



Posted By: Paul - Tue Sep 21, 2021 - Comments ()
Category: Aliens, Humor, Science, Advertising, Twenty-first Century

Aluminum Al

In 1952, scientists at the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady created the aluminum version of a Chia Pet. They called him "Aluminum Al".

Source: Google Arts and Culture



Science has not yet discovered how to grow hair on a billiard ball, but chemists in the General Electric Research Laboratory here can grow a handsome head of "hair" of a beard on "Aluminum Al," who is nothing more than a sheet of pure aluminum cut out in the shape of a mans head. As shown above, "Al" in a few minutes time can go from complete baldness through the tomahawk-type haircut to the tonsorially-respendent "Mr. Esquire hairdo. Amusing though he is, "Al's" purpose is a serious one of helping provide a better understanding of the most effective ways of using aluminum, which is replacing copper in many critical applications. According to GE scientist, aluminum could be not be used were it not obliging enough to furnish its own protective coating, a thin film of aluminum oxide, when cut. The film keeps air away and prevents further oxidation. "Al" demonstrates a condition under which this does not occur. When his surface is scratch under mercury, the film does not form. Instead the oxide sprouts out along the scratches is an uncontrolled, hair-like growth. Prof. J. H. Hildenbrand, University of California, is credited with the idea of first trying the oxidation principle on a cut-out head.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Sep 13, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Science, 1950s, Hair and Hairstyling

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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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