1965: Two eye doctors published an article in the journal Science detailing what appeared to be a form of telepathy found in two sets of twins. The brainwaves of the twins seemed to be linked. When the brainwaves of one changed (by having him close his eyes), the brainwaves of the other twin would change also, even though the two were in separate rooms.
The doctors examined 16 sets of twins, but only found the linked brainwave phenomenon in two of them. Why these two? The doctors speculated that they were "serene" whereas the other twins demonstrated "impatient anxiety and apprehension about the testing procedure."
It's surprising the doctors got their article published in Science, since that journal doesn't usually consider anything that smacks too much of parapsychology.
We posted recently about "misdirected amplexus," which is the phenomenon of male frogs attempting to mate with inappropriate objects (different species, fish, inanimate objects, etc.).
Turns out that the weird frog sex behaviors don't end there. Male frogs, in their excitement, will occasionally form "mating balls" — "several male frogs cling to a single female – often killing her in the process."
Some German researchers have now found that female frogs, in turn, have developed defense strategies to protect themselves from over-excited males. They rotate to try to escape the male's grasp; they emit "release calls"; and if those strategies fail to work, they play dead:
to protect themselves against swarms of sexually aroused male frogs, the female frogs stiffly extend their arms and legs away from the body, keeping incredibly still until the male releases them from its grasp.
In one of our recent posts, there was a reference to the Chimpomat, a token-operated vending machine for chimpanzees created at the Yerkes Laboratories in the 1930s. Here's more info about it.
"Subject Kambi is shown about to drop a token into the slot of the chimpomat to 'purchase' food."
Info from The Ape People (1971) by Geoffrey H. Bourne:
The Yerkes Laboratories eventually developed a device known as a Chimpomat. This Chimpomat would receive either metal or plastic disks and would dispense some form of food reward in return for the insertion of a disk. Animals were eventually taught to pull the box of weights up to the cage in return for plastic or metal disks which they could then take and put in the Chimpomat to get their reward.
By the process of lengthening the time between which they could earn the reward and when they could actually receive it by using the Chimpomat (by making the Chimpomat available only certain times of the day), the animals could be trained to collect plastic disks, in other words, to work for money. They would store up this money until the time came for them to spend it. Eventually they were trained to earn the money one day and spend it in the Chimpomat the following day.
On these occasions the animals used to walk around clutching their earnings to their breasts, sleeping on them at night so they would not be stolen, and getting very hysterical if any other animal came near their earnings or tried to take any of them away—a very human side of their actuvity and the dawn of ownership of private property and capitalism, a thought that has intriguing implications.
The "A. Heim" referred to below was the Swiss geographer Albert Heim. (Perhaps the E. Heim was his brother?) His studies of the musical tones of waterfalls led him to formulate the hypothesis that Beethoven wrote the sound of a waterfall into his "Pastoral" symphony. Details from wqxr.org:
Heim concluded that if you listened closely enough to the running water, you could hear a C-major chord with an added F — the very harmony used in the opening bars of the symphony’s final movement. "It seems," Heim wrote, "that Beethoven had got this chord from listening — consciously or unconsciously — to the sound of water, which flowed away in large swaths after his storm [in the third movement]."
"Misdirected amplexus" is the scientific term for the curious phenomenon of male frogs attempting to mate with inappropriate objects. Details from the New Scientist
Mating frogs may have been occasionally getting it wrong for hundreds of millions of years. We know that males today will sometimes select an inappropriate partner during the breeding season – a frog from a different species, a turtle, a fish or even an inanimate object. Now there is evidence that these mistaken attachments could be an ancient feature of frog reproduction, arising early in the amphibians’ evolution.
Frog mating is often hard to miss. In most species it involves a process called amplexus, in which males grip onto a female tightly for hours or days at a time until the eggs are fertilised. But there are plenty of records of male frogs grappling an unpromising target such as a frog from a different species or a dead individual. One explanation is that such mistakes are more likely to happen in species that breed in large numbers with a low ratio of females to males, and where multiple species occupy the same breeding pond.
I briefly discussed the subject of misdirected mating in the animal kingdom in my book Elephants on Acid. Here's the relevant text:
Konrad Lorenz once observed a Shell Parakeet who grew amorous with a small celluloid ball. And many other animals exhibit mating behavior toward what researchers refer to as "biologically inappropriate objects." Bulls will treat almost any restrained animal as a receptive cow. Their general rule in life seems to be, "if it doesn't move away and can be mounted, mount it!"
During the early 1950s, researchers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center surgically damaged the amygdala (a region of the brain) in a number of male cats. These cats became "hypersexual," attempting to mate with a dog, a female rhesus monkey, and an old hen. Four of these hypersexual cats, placed together, promptly mounted one another.
There are two species of insects named after Hitler. The mystery, however, might be why more creatures weren't named after Hitler by German scientists during the 1930s, as a way to curry favor with him. The answer, surprisingly, seems to be that requests were made, but Hitler would always ask for his name not to be used. (The insect researchers never asked for his permission). Text from The Art of Naming by Michael Ohl (2018 translation):
In 1933, German coleopterist and civil engineer Oscar Scheibel, residing in Ljubjana, Slovenia, then part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, purchased from a Slovenian biologist several specimens of an unknown beetle that had been found in the caves near the city of Celje. In 1937, Scheibel published in Entomologische Blätter a description of a light-brown ground beetle a mere five millimeters long under the name Anophthalmus hitleri. After the war, Scheibel is supposed to have claimed that naming the beetle in honor of Hitler had been a subversive act: after all, this was an unlovely species of brown, blind cave beetle that lived hidden from view. This defense must be squared with the original description, the final sentence of which reads, "Dedicated to Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler, as an expression of my reverence." No official response from the Reich Chancellery was documented in this case.
To date, Anophthalmus hitleri has been found in but a handful of caves in Slovenia. Particularly after the media discovered and circulated the Hitler beetle story in 2000, interest in this species has been rekindled. A well-preserved specimen of Anophthalmus hitleri can fetch upward of 2,000 euros on the collectors' market; among the bidders, certainly some wish to add the Hitler beetle to their collection of Nazi memorabilia. . .
At least one other species has been named after Adolf Hitler: the fossil Roechlingia hitleri, which belongs to the Palaeodictyoptera, a group of primitive fossil insects. Roechlingia hitleri was described in 1934 by German geologist and paleontologist Paul Guthörl. . .
Extensive research has failed to turn up any other species named in honor of Hitler. This seems surprising, as this form of salute could have proven quite expedient to aspiring German scientists from about 1933 until 1945, at the latest...
The likeliest explanation is that when Hitler patronyms were planned, approval was sought in advance from the Führer (by way of the Reich Chancellery), whether out of respect or perhaps fear of potential consequences. In 1933, for instance, a rose breeder submitted a written request to the Reich Chancellery for permission to introduce to the international market one of his best rose varieties, bearing Hitler's name. Similarly, a nursery owner from Schleswig-Holstein hoped to name a "prized strawberry variety" the "Hitler strawberry," in honor of the Reich Chancellor. They already had a "Hindenburg" strawberry variety in their catalog, he added. In reply to both cases, Hans Heinrich Lammers, Chief of the Reich Chancellery, sent almost identical letters, in which the inquiring parties were informed that, "upon careful consideration, [the reich Chancellor] requests that a name in his honor most kindly not be used." . . .
Perhaps this fundamental rejection of honorary names is the reason that so few hitleris exist.
Elephants rarely get cancer. This seems odd because one would think that, elephants being larger than us and thus having more cells, they should be more prone to cancer than we are, not less.
Oxford professor Fritz Vollrath has proposed the "Hot Testicle Hypothesis" to explain this mystery.
The gist of the hypothesis is that elephants have unusually hot testicles for a mammal. Their hot testicles result in more mutations in their sperm. So the elephants have evolved more mutation-suppressing mechanisms in their cells. In particular, they have more copies of "p53 encoding genes" than we do, and these genes play a role in repairing damaged DNA.
All things considered, it appears that the elephant's testes may experience temperatures dangerously high for mammalian sperm production, even under normal body temperatures. High temperature metabolism tends to be coupled with cellular oxidative stress, which increases the probability of mutations. Such mutations could be gene duplications, including multiplications of the TP53 gene.
"Corn rocks" are pieces of lava rock that have impressions of pieces of corn imbedded in them. Geologists have found many samples of corn rocks around the Sunset Crater Volcano in northern Arizona. When the volcano erupted, about 1000 years ago, the people that lived around it were evidently putting pieces of corn in the lava to create these rocks. Why they did this is anyone's guess. Perhaps for religious reasons, or perhaps just for fun.
Geologists tried to create corn rocks of their own at Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, but they found it wasn't as straightforward as they had assumed. Putting the corn in the path of a lava flow didn't work. Nor did dropping corn on top of a flow. Geologist Wendell Duffield tells the rest of the story:
We concluded that a corn rock most likely forms when small blobs of molten lava splash down over an ear. A falling blob of basalt lava would have a low enough viscosity to envelope an ear before the molten hardens to solid rock...
Obviously, it would not be safe for humans to carry ears of corn into the fallout zone of a towering lava fountain. A safe setting, however, would be at what geologists call an hornito (means "little oven" in Spanish). An hornito is essentially a miniature volcano that spews molten blobs of melt that fall back to Earth and accumulate into a welded-together chimney-like stack as they solidify and cool...
So, early Native Americans living near the present site of Sunset Crater Volcano witnessed an eruption that at some stage could be safely approached to place ears of corn at the base of an active hornito.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham disguised drivers as car seats ("ghost drivers") to study how pedestrians interacted with driverless cars. In particular, they wanted to know what visual cues people would look for when deciding if it was safe to cross the road in front of a driverless car.
I haven't yet seen a driverless car on the road, but when I do I'll now be wondering if it actually has a ghost driver behind the wheel.
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.