A Biological Switching Valve Discovered in the Famous Sex-Role Reversed Cave Insect

October 17th, 2018

The team that won the 2017 Ig Nobel Biology Prize for discovering a female penis, and a male vagina, in a cave insect has published a new paper, reporting a further discovery about the body parts of that insect.

Their new paper is “A Biological Switching Valve Evolved in the Female of a Sex-Role Reversed Cave Insect to Receive Multiple Seminal Packages,” Kazunori Yoshizawa, Yoshitaka Kamimura, Charles Lienhard, Rodrigo L Ferreira, Alexander Blanke, eLife, 2018;7:e39563. The team explains:

“In dry caves of southeastern Brazil, live a group of insects named Neotrogla that are perhaps best known because the egg-producing females have penises while the sperm-producing males have vaginas. The sex roles of these Brazilian cave insects are also reversed: females compete over the males, who in turn are selective of their female partners….

“The valve complex has two slots for insemination so that Neotrogla can continue mating while the first slot is occupied. In conjunction with the female penis, this switching valve is a morphological novelty enabling females to compete for seminal gifts in their nutrient-poor cave habitats through long copulation times and multiple seminal injections.”

Does this count as cannibalism?

October 17th, 2018

The headline in the Los Angeles Times reads “Teen baked her grandfather’s ashes into sugar cookies and brought them to school, police say.” Does this count as cannibalism?

The question arises because one month ago the 2018 Ig Nobel Prize for nutrition was awarded to James Cole of the University of Brighton, for calculating that the caloric intake from a human-cannibalism diet is significantly lower than the caloric intake from most other traditional meat diets.

That research is described in the study “Assessing the Calorific Significance of Episodes of Human Cannibalism in the Paleolithic,” James Cole, Scientific Reports, vol. 7, no. 44707, April 7, 2017.

Questions of cannibalism and nutrition are, one might say, grandfathered into the Los Angeles news report.

BONUS: A television news report on KFDM.

How to order a beer [research study, about numbers]

October 16th, 2018

How to Order a Beer—Cultural Differences in the Use of Conventional Gestures for Numbers,” is one of several studies featured in the article “Numbers Research — research some people think they can count on,” which is one of the articles in the special Numbers issue of the Annals of Improbable Research, which is one of the 142 issues published so far!

The beer ordering study is by Simone Pika, Elena Nicoladis, and Paula Marentette, published in The Journal of CrossCultural Psychology, vol. 40, no. 1, 2009, pp. 70-80.


October 15th, 2018

This short film, “Happiness,” by Steve Cutts, appears to sum up generations of psychology research on the topic. Its full of rats, and except fleetingly, devoid of happiness.

(Thanks to Fariba Houman for bringing this to our attention.)

Correlations: Left-Handers and Right-Wingers (new study)

October 15th, 2018

“It seems axiomatic to assume that handedness is unrelated to actual placement on the political spectrum. Nevertheless, primed by my longstanding research interest in personality and political preference (e.g., McCann, 1997, 2014a, 2014b), I was struck by the rough similarity of a map of the percentage of left-handers in each state in 1986 (McManus, 2009, p. 48) to a map of the Republican and Democratic states in the U.S. presidential election of 2012.”

The author of a new paper for the journal Laterality, Professor Stewart J. H. McCann  of the Department of Psychology, Cape Breton University, Sydney, Canada, has found that, in the US, state levels of left-handedness correlate to an extremely high degree with Conservative-Republican preference.

An explanation, though, is currently lacking :

“Faced with the results of the present research, we should strive to arrive at the best explanation, regardless of the theoretical and procedural difficulties or the existing boundaries of disciplinary and sub-disciplinary persuasions. To understand the links between personality, political orientation, handedness, and genetics has profound implications for the dynamics of democracy.”

See: Handedness predicts Conservative-Republican preference and eliminates relations of Big Five personality to political orientation using the 48 contiguous American states as analytical units

[ Research research by Martin Gardiner ]

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