Wacky Science! Nov 2014

by Don Noble

Thanks to the tightly knit nature of our program, and the wonders of Facebook, G-Chat and Twitter, we share interesting and/or bizarre scientific articles with each other on a daily basis (e.g. see: Meyer-Rochow VB, Gal J. Pressures produced when penguins pooh: calculations on avian defaecation. Polar Biology 2003; 27(1): 56-58). But here are a few you may not have read. Two of the choices below are excerpts from real research articles while a third one was fabricated by yours truly. Can you tell which one is the fake?

No cheating! The answer will be posted shortly

Which one is fabricated?

a) Pouch-sharing as a mediator of interindividual coordination in the lowlands tree kangaroo

Highlights: “The lowlands tree kangaroo is a species of marsupial endemic to Papua New Guinea. Conservation efforts have resulted in the development of an operational field station housing 78 of these animals for scientific research. Pilot data from our lab suggest that sharing a pouch decreases susceptibility to disease in non-pouched animals. Here, we set out to determine the behavioral correlates of pouch sharing. 20 tree kangaroos arranged into 10 pairs were studied in a counterbalanced pouch/no-pouch design… We observed that non-pouched animals engaged in strategic mimicry and motor synchronization. These behaviors extended to non-linguistic communicative mirroring, ranging from subtle similarities in mouth motion during heightened emotional arousal, to the exchange of phonetically and syntactically identical grunting motifs. Furthermore, animals adopted shared interests; ethogram-based analysis revealed a positive cross correlation for instances of fishing, tree-swinging, and branch obtension over separate epochs of time. This supports the development of a broad rapport between pouched and non-pouched animals that evolved from basic mimicry in its initial stages to a complex matching of interests in later ones.”

b) President Kennedy’s death: a poison arrow-assisted homicide

Highlights: “’President John F. Kennedy’s death was a neurotoxin-assisted homicide’ is the hypothesis of this study. A review of medical evidence demonstrates evidence of a neurotoxin-assisted homicide. The convergence of three independent actions, or the signature traits of a neurotoxin-assisted homicide – the emergence of neurological signs consistent with a neurotoxin-induced paralysis, the induction of a small neck wound consistent with a flechette-transported neurotoxin entry wound, and the execution of a coverup to eliminate neurotoxin evidence, supports this hypothesis.”

c) A preliminary study of sexual activity as a distraction for young drivers

Highlights: “In what may be the first in-depth study of sexual activity as a driving distraction in the US, a sample of 195 male and 511 female college students at a Midwestern university participated in an on-line study of sex while driving (SWD). Of these, 64 (32.8%) men and 47 (9.3%) women had engaged in sex while driving (SWD)… In most recent SWD incidents, respondents reported that the two most common acts were oral sex (70.3%) and genital touching (60.4%). About 11% engaged in vaginal intercourse. Sexual activity lasted from 1 to 10 min for 42.7% of the respondents. Nearly half (49.1%) were traveling 61-80 mph during sex. Considering respondents’ lifetime incidents of SWD, the most common driving errors reported were speeding (37.8%), drifting into another lane (36%), and letting go of the steering wheel (10.8%). Only 1.8% nearly had a crash, and none actually had a crash… The authors consider SWD to be an under-reported in-vehicle distraction and encourage more research and prevention efforts.”

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