The Phoenix

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Do the Roc-a-way. Now Lean Back, Lean Back

In high school, I was constantly scolded by my teachers to stop leaning back in my chair. They said I would fall backwards and slam my head agains the floor. I never fell, but I found those molded plastic chairs so damn uncomfortable. "Sit up straight!" I was told.

Recent research has discovered that my teachers were wrong, and I was right. So there, Mrs. Cooper!

A study was detailed this week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) that showed sitting up straight in the 90 degree position was actually terrible for your back.

Utilizing a new form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists studied 22 volunteers with no history of any back problems . The subjects assumed three different positions: slouching forward; sitting up straight at 90 degrees; and sitting back with a 135-degree posture—all while their spines were scanned.

"A 135-degree body-thigh sitting posture was demonstrated to be the best biomechanical sitting position, as opposed to a 90-degree posture, which most people consider normal," said study author, Waseem Amir Bashir, a researcher at the University of Alberta Hospital in Canada.

Back pain is the most common cause of work-related disability in the United States, and a leading contributor to job-related absenteeism, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Back related problems cost Americans $50 billion annually. So it seems those with ram-rod straight sitting postures are actually putting lots of stress on their spines and related ligaments.

"We were not created to sit down for long hours, but somehow modern life requires the vast majority of the global population to work in a seated position," Dr. Bashir said. "This made our search for the optimal sitting position all the more important."

So what are employees and students who spend so much time sitting to do?

"We have to do something that is similar to the lying position," Bashir reported. Lying down in a relaxed position with your knees slightly bent is the best position that a person can be in, because it doesn't cause any stress on the ligaments, the thigh muscles as well as on the back.

Judging from the researcher's findings, Paris Hilton has the healthiest back in the world.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mythological Thunderbird Still Taking Flight?

The Great Thunderbird originates from Native American folklore of the Plains. It's said to bring fear and death when this giant bird would take flight, sometimes swooping down and killing humans when it was angry. Interestingly, the mighty Thunderbird had a taste for misbehaving little kids.

In fact, here in the St. Louis area, the Illini Indians called the Thunderbird "Piasa," or "the bird that devours men."

This Thunderbird business is just a fairy tale, right?

For many years, there have been reports of a gigantic bird flying in broad daylight. Many times, witnesses are in awe of this bird's sheer size, often times estimating wingspan of up to 20 feet. Reports have come from all over, but there have been a concentration of reports in Pennsylvania, the Ohio Valley, Missouri, up in Alaska. What are people seeing?

The largest bird in North America is the California Condor. But it's easily identifiable, and it's wingspan is only 9 feet. The South American Andean Condor is much larger, with a wingspan of 12 feet. However, the condor is not a predator since it's claw strength isn't enough to carry much weight.

Probably the most striking report came out of Lawndale, Illinois in 1977. It was 8 in the evening when two large birds came swooping down on three boys playing in a yard. One of the large birds actually grabbed 10 year old (and 56 pound) Marlon Lowe and carried him about 40 feet before releasing him. This frightning incident happened in front of Marlon's parents and two adult guests, and it gained national attention.

More recently, there was a report of a massive bird spotted in Alaska in 2002. Reports were coming in of a bird with a 14 feet wingspan. "At first I thought it was one of those old-time Otter planes," said Moses Coupchiak, 43, a heavy equipment operator from Togiak. "Instead of continuing toward me, it banked to the left, and that's when I noticed it wasn't a plane."

Moses immediately radioed the small town of Togiak, and warned residents to get their children inside.

Another local resident, a pilot who had initially dismissed the reports, said he recently saw the bird from a distance of just 1,000 feet while flying his airplane. "The people in the plane saw him," John Bouker said. "He's huge, he's huge, he's really, really big. You wouldn't want to have your children out."

The most recent reports were just last year, with sightings in Ontario, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

So what are people seeing?

It's possible it could be a turkey vulture, although the very detailed sightings don't match up very well. Or maybe people are simply misjudging how large the birds are. Other explanations include various types of eagles, vultures, and condors as well.

A fascinating possibility is that it's a Terratorn (Teratornis Merriami). This is a prehistoric bird thought to have been long extinct. It's related to modern day vultures and condors, and had a wingspan of 14 feet. It was also a predatory bird.

I have a much simpler explanation, after reading all of these Thunderbird reports...

The REAL Thunderbird

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Is The Turkey Fergielicious?

It's that time of the year again when we Americans stuff ourselves silly with turkey, mashed potatoes, baked ham, and pumpkin pies. Then we are suddenly induced into a nice fuzzy coma, where we proceed to fall asleep in front of the TV broadcasting football.

Last year, I wrote about the science behind the "turkey coma" HERE.

Recently, scientists tackled the mystery behind our sense of taste. Why do certain foods taste great to some, yet make others want to spit it out? Is it a biological thing? Or maybe it's a psychological thing. Scientists also realized your sense of taste can actually affect your health.

The sense of taste has just recently been understood. It's a complicated process, since it involves the nose and sinuses, the tongue, emotions and psychology, and of course - the brain.

Back in early human's history, McDonalds and 24 hour Super Walmarts didn't exist. Food wasn't so readily available, and our bodies were designed to survive those "lean times" when food was scarce. So, our brains crave fat. But the brain doesn't just want fat to survive. In fact, Michigan scientists recently witnessed pleasure brain cells firing off like fireworks after subjects ate something yummy.

But what about those picky eaters?

One in four people is what scientists are calling a "supertaster." A supertaster is a person born with extra taste buds. The result is that they find vegetables, for example, more bitter than a person with normal taste sensation. So they stay away from a veggies, and Connecticut reseachers found that these supertasters are more succeptible to colon cancer as a result. A supertaster's hyper-sensitive taste makes eating different foods a challenge.

I have relatives that seem to have to poop immediately after eating. It doesn't make sense since it takes hours to digest. Should I label them as "superpoopers?"

Being a supertaster isn't easy. "They live in a neon taste world,'' as Dr. Bartoshuk, a specialist in the genetics of human taste says.

Supertasters tend to be very skinny because of their pickiness. Reseachers believe supertasters can train their taste buds by combining something sweet to overcome the bitterness of veggies. Also, scientists know that the emotional connections people make with certain foods can be more powerful than biology.

But can too much of a tasty thing be a bad thing?

In the brain is a region called the ventral pallidum, and scientists noticed the cells in this area were firing off like rockets when we eat something delicious. They also notcied the brain fireworks were strongest right when people sat down to start eating their feast.

"At the moment you sit down and start to eat, that's when the firing's most intense and everything tastes delicious, more delicious than it's going to taste at any moment thereafter,'' Dr. Kent Berridge, of the University of Michigan, explains.

But as the feast continues, the cells in the ventral pallidum begin to slow down...and the activity decreases as well. In other words, people got sick of eating the same thing after a while. Maybe three-fourths of the way through the big meal, the food wasn't as "fergielicious" anymore.

And that's why we invented dessert.

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Because Pandas Can't Take Viagra...

There are maybe 180 pandas in China, and only 1600 exist in the wild today. Once believed a mythical creature and totally unknown to the Western world until the early 20th century, zoos in Asia have been working to increase the population of pandas in captivity.

In other words, get panda bears to do the nasty.

How far will a Thai zoo go to get their two sexually inactive pandas bump and grind in hopes of having little cubs? They are willing to show "panda porn" to the male in order to increase his libido.

Six-year old male Chuang-Chuang and five-year old female Lin Hui were loaned to the Thai zoo in Bangkok from China. They've borrowed the two pandas for 10 years in hopes they'd "get busy" and produce offspring for the Thai zoo to keep. But there's been a glitch in this plan:

Chuang and Lin have become platonic friends.

"We have to encourage them to mate, and the videos will show mating positions of male pandas and female pandas," said Kannika Nimtragol, a veterinarian at the Chiang Mai zoo in northern Thailand.

Chuang showed more interest in eating, farting, pooping, and sleeping. Maybe they should rename the panda Homer. Young pandas in the wild see their adult counterparts mating all the time, but in captivity, they don't a chance to get this "sex education." The sex videos of will hopefully teach Chuang what Lin wants when she touches his genitals and lays down with her legs spread-eagle. Hopefully Chuang won't simply yawn, scratch his belly, and take a dump in the corner.

"We have to make them a boyfriend and a girlfriend. So we will put them in separate rooms next week. Chuang Chuang can only see Lin Hui when she shows signs of feeling amorous," she said. Dr. Nimtragol added that the zoo will show the videos in December.

I just hope the panda porn is of high quality. After doing some digging, I found some videos that I believe will get Chuang's wang in the mood:

From the company that brought us Penguin Pleasure, the lovely Ling-Ling will "love you long time" in Pounding Pandas.

Since the videos will be shown to Chuang in December, why not go with the holiday theme with a panda porn favorite - Jingle in the Jungle.

Maybe Chuang is more into the porn classics. If that's the case, he'll enjoy Shang Shags Shanghai.

Using panda porn might prove helpful in getting these two pandas to finally mate. However, I'm thinking they need to change the venue in order to get them in the mood. I feel for Chuang. I mean, I think I too would have sexual complications trying to get it on while little kids eating corn dogs are walking around watching.

Scram, you fucking kids!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Oh...I thought you said she was allergic to PEANUTS

Many guys have heard these familiar excuses:

Not tonight, I have a headache.

I'm PMS-ing. Please don't touch me.


Not until you fix the storm door.

It seems scientists have discovered a new legitimate justification for women to reject our cassanova-like advances:

Allergy to SEX.

A recent study in Cincinatti of over one-thousand women found that 130 of them had an allergic reaction to sex. And by allergic reaction, I mean they had classic physical reactions to it like itching, burning, swelling, hives, and even trouble breathing.

"It's really a very rare condition, but it does happen," allergist and immunologist David Resnick at New York Presbyterian Hospital said. "Typically symptoms occur within 30 minutes of intercourse, but in rare cases it may be hours or even days later."

So what about sex are these women having these allergic reactions to? Are they actually allergic to the male penis? (NO, not peanuts).

No. These women are allergic to semen. (No, not seamen). Some of the women were allergic to the substances found in semen (i.e. their men ate something in particular or were taking a medication the women were allergic to). They found the semen-allergic ladies also suffered from more mainstream allergies like hay fever. Doctors believe it's a protein released from the prostrate gland that these women are mostly allergic to (human seminal plasma protein hypersensitivity, or SPH).

"In most cases, symptoms gradually worsen and occur sooner with subsequent exposures," Dr. Resnick said.

OK, so what's a woman to do if she finds she's allergic to her man's semen? There are two courses of action:

1) Doctors can apply diluted samples of semen onto her vagine every 20 minutes. With each round, they would increase the amount of semen to get her body to desensitize her immune system. And who the heck gets to apply the semen? Does this method sound appealing to ANY woman alive anyway?

2) They can receive shots of semen over a few weeks, increasing the semen amount with each appointment. This sounds less dreadful than method #1, but how appealing is it???

I think Dr. Resnick forgot the third option:

Just tell your man you have a headache.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Look Away, Baby Look Away

In high school, I had a teacher with a glass eye. You talk about freaky. He'd look at you, making eye contact. One eye would move while the glass eye would remain frozen, menacingly staring at you. None of us ever looked him straight in the face.

In general, does averting eye contact mean kids are being disrespectful or uninterested? The answer is no. In fact, scientists believe that a child looking away is simply using their noggin in order to process complex information.

Psychogists have known for years that adults will look away 85% of the time when asked a tough question. Kids under 5 do it 40% of the time. (For cool information on how adults look away relating to what kind of information they're recalling - or totally making up - read THIS).

Here's how researchers conducted their study:

Researchers took 20 five-year old kids and trained 10 of them to look away when trying to come up with an answer. The other 10 kids were the control group and got no such training. No training fo' you!!! Then they asked all 20 kids various verbal and math questions of varying difficulty.

The "look away" kids averaged 72% correct answers on the verbal quiz.

The control group only got 55% right. They also were severely beaten afterwards for failing. Just kidding.

"The difference between groups was especially evident on the difficult questions where the [averted gaze] group got on average 60.9 percent correct while the [untrained] kids got only 36.7 percent," psychologist Doherty-Sneddon said.

Why did the averted gaze kids do so much better?

Scientists believe it's because humans find it difficult to chew gum and walk at the same time. Ok, not literally, but sorta. We find the human face captivating, and so eye contact is actually quite distracting. Our brains are unable to go through complex processes while looking at someone's face.

A study published in Neuroscience last summer showed how the human brain has a tough time simultaneously looking and listening. Is that really surprising, though? Just look at all the morons driving around while talking on their cell phones.

So instead of accosting a kid for looking away when asked a question, maybe teachers should give the child enough time to think of the right answer and actually avoid eye contact. Especially if the teacher has a creepy glass eye.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Poo in the Zoo

Every living thing does it. It follows one of the rules of this universe: what goes in, must come out.

I'm talking about poop.

I hope you're not eating.

The Miami Zoo has a brand new 5,000 square foot exhibit giving us the lowdown on poop called, "The Scoop on Poop." Everything we've always wanted to know about the animal kingdom and turd is there on display for your eduacational pleasure. There's a video about this great exhibit HERE.

The shit exhibit is also quite interactive. There are great poop games like "Who Dung It" and you can even eat chocolate covered candy that looks a whole lot like poop. Kids can examine slides of bacteria found in poop, smell the terrible dung smell exotic flowers release in order to attract flies, or they can race model dung beetles.

Doesn't it sound like fun?

The crown jewels (or turds) of the exhibit are the real samples of poop from across the animal kingdom. From an elephant's football-sized shit bombs, to various marsupials like the porcupine's pellets can be found. Does a bear shit in the woods? You bet. And you can see a bear's coal-like clumps of poopness there too.

Here's just a quick sampling of all the neat facts on feces:

* In World War II, the British disguised landmines to look like camel poop. At the time German tank drivers believed it was good luck to drive over a camel's poop pile

* A baby koala will eat a little nugget of mom's poop before eating eucalyptus. Mom's poop has helpful bacteria and will help the baby digest his food and fight infection

* A Nepalese male crane will impress the ladies by flinging poop chips in the air

Finally, at the "Scoop on Poop" exhibit, zoo keepers were on hand to monitor and report the amount of poop one of their male Asian elephants produced in a 24 hour period. How much poop did Dahlip, the elephant, let slip?

540 pounds of poo poo platters.

Now that's a spicy meatball.

Established 2005...

Welcome to the blog that aims to examine the lighter side of science. From the paranormal to wacky inventions, to strange mysteries and goofy experiments, I cover it all. Thanks for stoping by science is always stranger than fiction


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