It is true that scientists inhabit a different galaxy to the rest of us mere mortals. These distinguished brains devote much of their time to producing alchemies of varying complexities designed to push the frontiers of human knowledge so our race can move forward and continue to dominate all others. Some are concerned chiefly with discovering ways of transmuting what could be into what is, others with finding the elixir of life, while a small minority are concerned with such cerebrally engaging subjects as whether chickens prefer beautiful humans or the physics of sheep dragging. Read on for the best of the worst; further proof that scientists can be just as bonkers as the rest of us.
1. Psychopaths Are Stylish
Why do people with dark personalities have a “physically attractive veneer”? That’s what one study sought to discover. We often talk about people being attracted to ‘bad boys’ but is there anything underpinning this, scientifically?
Well, the scientific explanation is that it’s all in the clothes they wear, according to Nicholas Holtzman and his team of researchers. They tested 100 people for the ‘Dark Triad’ (I’m shaking as I type this) and found that those with the three components of the dark triad were more likely to wear attire that made them stand out – giving them a seductive appeal.
Takeaway: If he looks dreamy, he’s probably a psychopath.
2. Mosquitos Don’t Like Any Cheese – They Like Limburger cheese
Some research studies are deeply impenetrable to the unscientific mind while others, well, do as they say on the tin. And this one, published in the Lancet (summarised in Improbable Science) no less, tells us that mosquitos like cheese – specifically, Limburger cheese. (“On Human Odour, Malaria Mosquitoes, and Limburger Cheese.")
3. Safe and Painless Manipulation of Penile Zipper Entrapment
Doctors from the Charak Palika Hospital in New Delhi studied this excruciating topic and found that common approaches to undoing zippers were over-complicated. According to their research, the safest approach is to use pliers. Try it.
4. Rich People Aren’t Very Nice
According to one research paper, rich people are greedy, self-interested so- and- so’s. The study, conducted by psychologists from the University of California and the University of Toronto, explored unethical behaviours in different social classes and found that the upper classes were more likely to behave unethically than those of the lower classes.
5. Do Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans?
That’s the answer Stefano Ghirlanda et.al were looking for. For the purposes of the research, chickens were trained to react to male and female faces. In one experiment, they were shown both male and female faces with their ‘normal’ faces. In another, the chickens were shown male and female faces but with exaggerated features. A number of human students were given the same test, i.e., exaggerated faces. It was found that the human participants reacted in the same way as the chickens. The researchers concluded that human preferences are a result of the general properties of the nervous system. And I’m still confused.
6. The Rectal Route to Curing Hiccups
When beset by a fit of the hiccups, most of us will put up with it for a few minutes, perhaps aided by a few glasses of water or some other old wives’ solution. But sometimes, just sometimes, the problem can be too serious to be cured by glasses of water or stoic forbearance. In these situations, try the rectal route. In a paper by the Bnai Zion Medical Centre, Israel, entitled “Termination of intractable hiccups with digital rectal massage”, the effect of a massaging finger in the rectum was found to be an immediate hiccup cure. The paper was inspired by a certain Dr Francis Fesmire who, it seems, had his finger firmly “in the pulse of his times” as one online article mused.
7. Monkeys Can’t Type Very Well
According to an article in the Guardian, a group of British academics led by Plymouth University’s Geoff Cox took it upon themselves to test the law of probability by asking of themselves the same question pub philosophers all around the country have cogitated on:
You and I know the answer to the question.
The British academics did not. But they did have a bunch of Sulawesi crested macaque monkeys, a computer and a month’s time to try and find out.
The result? Lots of poop and wee and smashed-up typewriters.
Conclusion: Monkeys have no interest in Shakespeare or in typing his works.
Never again write a dull research paper. Thanks to the brilliance of scientists such as those above, we now know that psychopaths are stylish, that mosquitos like cheese and, although not covered here, that men like breasts. Onwards and upwards!
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