PR statement of the week: Trust! (by Twist)

December 17th, 2014

This week’s PR Statement of the Week appears in a press release issued by Mary-Ann Twist of the Journal of Consumer Research:

The statement is:

The authors found that trust in feelings influences the degree to which people believe that their feelings provide trustworthy information.

BONUS (from a year ago): The ever-intriguing Twist of Consumer Research

What’s Eating You, and/or Vice Versa: Microbes

December 17th, 2014

If you enjoyed the new opera “What’s Eating You“, which was about two people and all the microbes in and on them, you will (probably) enjoy this newly published study. It’s about people, their microbes, and who eats whom:

The microbes we eat: abundance and taxonomy of microbes consumed in a day’s worth of meals for three diet types,” Jenna M. Lang [pictured here], Jonathan A. Eisen, Angela M. Zivkovic, PeerJ, epub December 9, 2014. The authors, at the University of California, Davis, report:

lang“Far more attention has been paid to the microbes in our feces than the microbes in our food…. Little is known about the effects of ingested microbial communities that are present in typical American diets, and even the basic questions of which microbes, how many of them, and how much they vary from diet to diet and meal to meal, have not been answered.

“We characterized the microbiota of three different dietary patterns in order to estimate: the average total amount of daily microbes ingested via food and beverages, and their composition in three daily meal plans representing three different dietary patterns.”

Maddie Stone gives further details about the study, in Motherboard.

The opera premiered as part of the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. You may have heard a snippet, at the tail end of the recent Science Friday radio broadcast. You can see and hear the complete opera (all three acts) in this video of the Ig Nobel ceremony:

BONUS: Retraction Watch reports the case of a scientific paper, about gut microbes, apparently having eaten pieces of lots of other scientific papers about gut microbes.

BONUS: The same kind of “what microbes does it eat?” analysis could be performed on other animals. This video shows a cat eating some of the contents of a seafood shop in Vladivostok, reports the Death and Taxes blog. (Thanks to Betsy Devine for bringing it to our attention):


Brain transplants : the implications [4 of n]

December 17th, 2014

Prof_SvenaeusAmongst the formidable complexities that would be involved in transplanting someone’s brain, lurks an enigmatic question – if it were yours, would ‘you’ go with your brain? Such questions have been examined by professor Fredrik Svenaeus, of Södertörn University, Huddinge, Sweden. The professor has a chapter in ‘The Body as Gift, Resource, and Commodity’, ( Södertörn Studies in Practical Knowledge 6, 2012) entitled ‘The Phenomenology of Organ Transplantation: How does the Malfunction and Change of Organs have Effects on Personal Identity’

“If I get a new brain I (at least possibly) become another person. In this sense, the brain is the only organ that cannot be donated; if you offer your brain to be transplanted into another body, you become a receiver, not a donor, of organs.”

But ultimately the professor reminds us that, at least until 2070 or so (when he predicts the first brain transplant might take place) we will just have to be patient for firm answers :

“To get one’s brain transplanted into a new body will probably be a different kind of personality change than going through an existential crisis. Maybe puberty, or pregnancy, could be helpful as comparisons when we consider what getting a brain transplant (getting your brain a new body) would be like, but these real-life examples will not get us very far. We simply have to wait for the event to take place to be able to answer the change-of-identity question.”

Also see: Previous related Improbable content

Brain transplants:the implications [1 of 3]
Brain transplants:the implications [2 of 3]
Brain transplants:the implications [3 of 3]

Coming soon: Brain transplants [5 of n]

Bonus: Related, in the sense of malfunctioning brain xplants …

Winningly cute animals of science

December 17th, 2014

Nature magazine assembled this video of the alleged Year’s Ten Cutest Animals in Science.

Number 9 was awarded the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize for biology:

When you watch and listen to the video, pay special attention to the narrator’s very first sentence. It’s a not-so-subtle, friendly dig at Nature‘s rival journal, Science.

(Thanks to Connie Villalba for bringing this to our attention.)

Bird-feather counters exhibited pluck, tediously

December 17th, 2014
hat with feathers 1910

Feathers, on a hat on a person, circa 1910. Photo: Library of Congress.

Many humans have spent days, months or years counting feathers. Here are exciting highlights from some of their reports.

In 1936 Alexander Wetmore, of the US National Museum in Washington, gathered all the published reports he could find about someone or other counting how many feathers were on particular birds. “The work of feather counting is tedious and exacting,” he explained, “and yields small result relative to the labour involved.”

Among Wetmore’s gatherings from his peers: “Dr Jonathan Dwight found 3,235 feathers on a male Bobolink taken in spring. RC McGregor has recorded 1,899 feathers on a Savannah sparrow … and 6,544 on a glaucous winged Gull … Miss Phoebe Knappen has reported 11,903 feathers on an adult female mallard … the bird being one that had died from phosphorus poisoning.”

Wetmore proceeded to have someone he could count on do some do some new counting on his behalf: “The actual labour of counting was done under my direct supervision by Marie Siebrecht (now Mrs James Montroy) who, employed as an assistant, worked carefully and conscientiously at a long and somewhat tedious task”….

—So begins another Improbable Research column in The Guardian.