Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938


Quirky experiments and conclusions

Nomadic Gnome Solving Weighty Problem

By Magdeline Lum

A gnome is travelling the world to test for subtle differences in gravity.

Kern is a gnome that is travelling the world to highlight a quirk of planet Earth. Gravity changes depending on your location on Earth due to the shape of the planet – it is not a perfect sphere. Earth is more like a potato with a middle bulge than a tennis ball.

This bulge means that the north and south poles are closer to the core than places along the Equator. Throw in additional gravity counterbalancing inertia from the spin of the Earth to the situation and it means that you or Kern would weight more at the poles than in Hawaii.

Looking at a Photo of Pizza Could Make Food Taste Better...

By Magdeline Lum

... and eating cake at breakfast can help you keep weight off.

It is not much of a surprise that looking at images of high calorie foods like pizza and hamburgers may make you crave these foods. A small study led by Johannes le Coutre of the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland has found that if you eat one type of food while looking at photos of high calorie foods you will think that the food you are eating tastes better.

How a Woman’s Fertility Affects Men’s Speech

By Magdeline Lum

Men become more creative in their conversations when they detect subtle signals that a woman is fertile.

Romantic candlelit dinners for two and couples embracing in parks seem ideal from afar, but what we can’t hear is the stumbling of phrases during declarations of love. What can be more frustrating than to sound like a bumbling fool instead of appearing suave and debonair? It may be wiser to keep things simple but this is easier said than done.

Nuns Would Benefit from the Pill

By Magdeline Lum

Interesting experiments and quirky research findings.

A paper published in The Lancet declares that if “the Catholic church could make the oral contraceptive pill freely available to all its nuns, it would reduce the risk of those accursed pests, cancer of the breast, ovary, and uterus, and give nuns’ plight the recognition it deserves”.

Beer Can Be Good For Burns

By Magdeline Lum

A case study documents the use of beer as a rehydration fluid for a burns patient.

A case report in Emergency Medicine Australasia last year has described how a 65-year-old-man with 40% burns recovered after a self-prescribed rehydration regime. As Dr Dexter Chan of the University of Melbourne reported with colleagues in Hong Kong:

“We present the case of an unusual fluid resuscitation regime in a 65-year-old man with 40% burns. He fell into a garden fire, but believing the hospital to be closed, waited at home drinking six cans (2L) of ‘San Miguel’ beer, with no other fluid intake, before attending the ED the next morning, 17h after injury.”

Strange experiments and research findings

By Magdeline Lum

Facebook Boosting Grey Matter

The many hours pored over Facebook may not be in vain after all – they could be adding grey matter to the part of the brain linked with social skills. Prof Geraint Rees of University College, London found a correlation between the number of Facebook friends and a higher density of grey matter in a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Zombie

By Magdeline Lum

Quirky experiments and research findings

As dawn rises over a dew-covered European forest, an army of gypsy moth caterpillars head downwards searching for cover in crevices or in the soil. The Sun’s rays fall on the leaves of the trees, revealing a splinter group of caterpillars heading upwards. The urge to climb to the highest leaf is great.

When the summit is reached, a grisly spectacle is revealed as the caterpillars liquefy. Their bodies melt and, as the Sun travels higher into the sky, pink rain falls, coating the leaves and branches.

Fooling Fingerprint Scanners Foiled

By Magdeline Lum

Magdeline Lum reports on quirky experiments and research findings.

Secret agents around the world have been dealt a blow in defeating fingerprint scanners. The days of cutting the finger off from their adversaries or fresh corpses to get into buildings, drive away in fancy cars or logging into a computer are over.

Public Shaming for the Greater Good

By Magdeline Lum

Social media may be leading to more altruistic behaviour among its users.

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are resurrecting the medieval concept of public shaming. The negative effects of this, like bullying, are widely reported but researchers at the University of British Columbia have found that the possibility of public shaming can have a positive effect on a group of people.

Why We Love Trashy Gossip

By Madeleine Lum

Our visual system is hard-wired to pay attention to people we’ve heard bad things about.

Thousands of magazines devote acreages of paper to gossip. No matter how hard we try to ignore the racks of magazines next to the checkout aisle, our eyes are drawn to the headlines. It turns out that our visual system is wired to focus on people that we have heard negative gossip about, presumably to avoid harmful individuals.