The sometimes-bizarre stuff that scientists choose to study never ceases to amaze me. Here’s some research that may having you shaking your head in awe—or disbelief:
Fish fart to communicate
Letting ‘er rip generally is frowned upon in polite company. But in the fish world, flatulence appears to play an important social—even lifesaving—role.
Scientists discovered that Atlantic and Pacific herring produce a high-frequency underwater noise by expelling air from their anuses at night—a faux fart, really, since it’s not digestive gas related. The researchers suggest that this nocturnal emission enables herring to maintain contact with their pals after dark and form protective schools without giving their location away to predatory fish. Instead, they create a stream of bubbles that says, “Hey, I’m over here” in a language only their fellow herring understand.
And lest you think that marine biologists are devoid of humor, they named this breaking wind phenomenon Fast Repetitive Tick—with the catchy acronym FRT.
My take? I generally know Hubs’ whereabouts based on his tooting as well. But I’m not inclined to rush to his side when I hear it.
Drug made from Gila monster saliva reduces food cravings
If you’re trying to shed excess weight, researchers at the University of Gothenburg found that a drug made from Gila monster saliva is effective in reducing cravings for everyday food—and chocolate. The study, published in 2012, was done in rats.
The rodents were given a drug called exenatide, which is used for blood sugar control in folks with type 2 diabetes. It’s the synthetic version of exendin-4, a naturally occurring substance found in Gila monster spit (the drug is marketed under the names Byetta and Bydureon).
The research team’s co-leader noted that the drug affects the reward and motivation regions of the brain, opening the door for other potential applications in humans—such as weight loss in the obese, and reducing cravings for alcohol.
My take? Just the thought of swallowing lizard spit is enough to suppress my appetite.
A pill to wipe out bad memories
Remember the Jim Carrey-Kate Winslet movie, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?” In it, they used a fictional technique to erase memories of each other when their relationship tanked.
Well, scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University found that when mice are given fingolimod, a drug used to treat multiple sclerosis, they completely forgot about previous experiences that had brought them physical pain.
In theory, the researchers say, a pill like this could help people by eradicating memories of traumatic events that happened years ago—a real boon for folks with PTSD, phobias and other anxiety disorders. Conversely, there are ethical concerns that it could wipe out the essence of what makes us who we are, or prevent us from learning from our mistakes (for those of us who’ve made them, of course).
My take? At this age, I’m forgetting things all on my own, thank you very much.
Long-married couples look alike
A facial-likeness study done at the University of Michigan in 1987 found that couples who had no distinct resemblance to each other when first married did, after 25 years, come to look alike. A newer UK study, published in 2006, affirms that the longer we’re with someone, the more similarities in appearance occur.
The researchers suggest that the increase in facial similarity is the result of decades of shared emotions. One study author said that people often unconsciously mimic their spouse’s facial expressions in silent empathy and, over the years, this sharing shapes their faces in similar ways.
Interestingly, the more marital happiness a couple reported, the greater the increase in their facial resemblance.
My take? So should we infer that long-time married couples who don’t look alike are sociopaths, incapable of empathy? Heavily Botoxed? Unhappily married?
Sarcasm a sign of higher intelligence
Oscar Wilde may have considered sarcasm a lower form of wit, but researchers at some top U.S. universities (including Harvard and Columbia) suggest that sarcasm is the “highest form of intelligence” (and they should know, right?).
According to published reports, the findings revealed that test subjects who gave and got sarcastic comments were three times more creative than the control group because the sarcasm forced their brains to think abstractly, boosting creativity. Plus, all forms of sarcastic exchanges, not just snarky anger or criticism, seemed to exercise the brain more in those who dish it out as well as receive it.
As Richard Chin of Smithsonian writes, sarcasm requires “mental gymnastics,” forcing the brain to “think beyond the literal meaning of the words and understand that the speaker may be thinking of something entirely different.”
My take? Well, I never before fully appreciated what a compliment it is to be called a smart ass. Chances are, neither do the people who’ve called me that. But the next time it happens, I’ll simply say thank you.
Like youth’s wasted on
the young, sarcasm’s wasted
on the dumb. Get it?
So what do you think? Do any of these studies pique your interest? Or do you just wonder why in hell research dollars get spent on this stuff? Please share…