Bicycling (side-swapped, or upside-down) on the brain

May 3rd, 2015

This experimental attempt to ride a left-right-swapped bicycle raises a big fat question about how the human brain works. Destin, he of the Smarter Every Day video series, tells and shows what he did, and why he did it, and wonders about what it means:

Is it the same big, fat question raised by the Erismann-Koehler flip-the-world-upside-down bicycle (and other things) experiment more than half a century ago? The question is a good one — no scientist has much of an answer for it, beyond remarking (sagely, while stroking the chin), “Oh, yes. It’s well known that the brain does that.”

Here’s video of the Erismann-Koehler experiment:

(Thanks to investigator Elias Friedman for bringing this to our attention.)

Medicine: The curious case of the metallic Cuban cigar sheath

May 2nd, 2015

Medical doctors sometimes have to play detective, as happened in this, the curious case of the metallic Cuban cigar sheath:

shamir-cawichColonic Foreign Body Retrieval Using a Modified TAMIS Technique with Standard Instruments and Trocars,” Shamir O. Cawich [pictured here], Fawwaz Mohammed, Richard Spence, Matthew Albert, and Vijay Naraynsingh, Case Reports in Emergency Medicine, Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 815616. The authors, at University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, and The Center for Colon and Rectal Surgery, Altamonte Springs, Florida, USA, report:

“[In the case we describe here] a plain radiograph of the pelvis… revealed an unexpected finding… With this unexpected finding, the history was revisited. Only then did the patient confess to his habit of inserting an object into the rectum for self-eroticism. The object used on this occasion was described as a metallic Cuban cigar sheath that had a tapered tip….

“it has been established that many patients with CFB are deceptive historians [2, 3]. As many as 20% of patients will not divulge their history of CFB insertion at presentation [4] because the practice is still considered taboo. To overcome this barrier, clinicians should approach these patients in a candid manner in order to earn their trust during history taking. An accurate history is important to ascertain the diagnosis because any delay increases the risk of complications.”

Here’s further detail from the study:


Comedy movies and risky stock trading – linked?

May 1st, 2015

picture1Attention stock-market followers – have you considered whether weekend comedy-movie attendance, and investment in risky stock-market assets on the following Monday might be linked? This question has been the subject of an in-depth investigation by Gabriele M. Lepori, (formerly) Assistant Professor of Finance at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark (now at Keele Management School, UK). His paper in the May 2015 edition of the journal ‘Research in International Business and Finance’ is entitled : Positive mood and investment decisions: Evidence from comedy movie attendance in the U.S.

“[…] the main hypothesis that I propose in this study is that the wave of positive mood that stems from a wider exposure to comedy movies causes a decrease in risk-taking propensity across the population and a short-term drop in the demand for risky assets, thus adversely affecting equilibrium prices in the stock market.”

A draft copy, of the full paper, may be found here :

Also see : The Moon and the Markets


The adventures of Uterus Man

May 1st, 2015

Uterus Man” is an animated manga, created by LuYang. Reviewer Rowan Hooper (of New Scientist magazine) says: “Uterus Man rides a pelvic chariot, flies using blood powers, eats placenta.”

Here is the video:

BONUS (related): A more traditional — some might say unmanly or nonmanly — look at the uterus:



BONUS (possibly related, possibly not): Helen Reddy sings her song “I am woman, hear me roar”:

How much energy is there in all the excess human fat in the USA?

April 30th, 2015

This paper, about the amount of energy contained in fat people in the USA, can fuel a new level of contentiousness in the nation’s ongoing, highly opinionated debates about energy policy, and perhaps about other things:


How much energy is locked in the USA? Alternative metrics for characterising the magnitude of overweight and obesity derived from BRFSS 2010 datadaniel reidpath,” Daniel D. Reidpath [pictured here], Mohd Masood, and Pascale Allotey, International Journal of Public Health, vol. 59, no. 3, 2014, pp. 503-507. (Thanks to Frédéric Darboux for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Monash University in, Selangor, Malaysia and the Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam, Malaysia, report:

“Methods: Behavioural Risk Factors Surveillance System data were used to estimate the weight the US population needed to lose to achieve a BMI\25. The metrics for population level overweight were total weight, total volume, total energy, and energy value.

“Results: About 144 million people in the US need to lose 2.4 million metric tonnes. The volume of fat is 2.6 billion litres—1,038 Olympic size swimming pools. The energy in the fat would power 90,000 households for a year and is worth around 162 million dollars….

2.4 million metric tonnes of human lard, 1,038 olympic sized swimming pools of human tallow, enough human cellulite to power 90,000 homes for a year, or USD$162 million of human dripping seems to have all the makings for some very confronting ways of talking about a nation with a serious overweight and obesity problem. Whether they are useful for motivating policy changes with real impact is an empirical question that remains to be tested.”