Romance, food, dieting, and fMRI, all in one study

September 3rd, 2015

Here’s a scientific study that combines the era’s most irresistible topics — romance, food, and dieting  — with the era’s favorite cogno-intellectual expensive electromechanical procedure, fMRI. The study is:

The way to her heart? Response to romantic cues is dependent on hunger state and dieting history: An fMRI pilot study,” Alice V. Ely, Anna Rose Childress, Kanchana Jagannathan, Michael R. Lowe [pictured here], Appetite, Volume 95, 1 December 2015, Pages 126–131. (Thanks to David Benoit for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, explain:

Michael_LoweParticipants were instructed not to eat or drink anything apart from water for 8 h prior to their scanning study visit…. After the first block participants consumed chocolate-flavored Ensure® (500 kcal, 12 g of fat, 80 g carbohydrate, 18 g protein)… all participants were scanned first in the fasted state and second in the full state….

Stimuli were shown for 500 ms, in a jittered fashion with an average inter-stimulus interval of 1.5 s…. Romantic cues were… the four most positively rated ‘sexual’ stimuli from female normative data. Though the most highly rated sexual cues for men are typically graphically erotic, these stimuli depicted fully-clothed couples heterosexual couples embracing, holding hands and in other states of romantic intimacy. Neutral cues were a car, stapler, tree and bowling ball.

Here’s further detail — a prettily arranged set of brain images — from the study. The caption on this image says, “Brain regions showing Nondieters’ (NDs) and Historical Dieters’ (HDs) BOLD response to Romantic-Neutral cues, Fed-Fasted”:


More industry meetings choose Ig Nobel Prize winners as keynotes speakers

September 3rd, 2015

More and more industry, as well as science, meetings and conventions are inviting Ig Nobel Prize winners to be their keynote speakers. Here’s one of the latest, as reported by Big Rigs, the transport industry newspaper:

bigrigs_1Share the stage with industry leaders

From IG Nobel prize for his ground-breaking work on the ‘Sonic crisp’ to multisensory warning signals for drivers; don’t miss the chance to share the stage, and world-leading scientific program of ICTTP2016, with global leaders in the field like gastronomic transport great Professor Charles Spence.

CARRS-Q Senior Research Fellow and ICTTP2016 Co-Chair Dr Kerry Armstrong said abstracts are now invited for the Sixth International Conference on Traffic and Transport Psychology (ICTTP2016), which will profile the latest global research, programs and policy developments when it heads Down Under for the first time next year.

spence“Professor Spence is the Head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford, and I suspect as a lad he mightn’t have foreseen the path the career has taken.

“He’s well-known for his unusual work designing foods that maximally stimulate the senses, and his investigation into computer interaction issues on the European Space Shuttle.

“However, at ICTTP2016, you’ll hear the latest on his active line of research investigating how our brains process information from our different senses to design better multi-sensory warning interfaces and environments to save lives on our roads of the future.

“We are privileged to present keynote speakers of the scientific standing of Professor Spence…”

Ig Nobellian Miller’s new use for 3D printing: Women’s penis size recall

September 2nd, 2015

Geoffrey Miller, who shared a 2008 Ig Nobel Prize, for research on lap dancers’ fertility and earning power, continues his relentless pursuit of knowledge. Professor Miller and several colleagues have come up with a new use for 3D printing. They tell all in the new study:

DSC_1346Women’s Preferences for Penis Size: A New Research Method Using Selection among 3D Models,” Nicole Prause [pictured here, right], Jaymie Park, Shannon Leung, Geoffrey Miller, PLoS ONE, 10(9), September 2, 2015: e0133079. The authors, at UCLA and the University of New Mexico, explain:

Studies of women’s penis size preferences typically have relied on their abstract ratings or selecting amongst 2D, flaccid images. This study used haptic stimuli to allow assessment of women’s size recall accuracy for the first time, as well as examine their preferences for erect penis sizes in different relationship contexts. Women (N = 75) selected amongst 33, 3D models. Women recalled model size accurately using this method, although they made more errors with respect to penis length than circumference. Women preferred a penis of slightly larger circumference and length for one-time (length = 6.4 inches/16.3 cm, circumference = 5.0 inches/12.7 cm) versus long-term (length = 6.3 inches/16.0 cm, circumference = 4.8 inches/12.2 cm) sexual partners. These first estimates of erect penis size preferences using 3D models suggest women accurately recall size and prefer penises only slightly larger than average.

Here’s graphical detail from the study:

Millers 3d offerings


Here’s graphic detail from the study:

During the inspection, she was asked not to measure the model using any objects in the room, but no instruction was provided regarding how she used her own hands. Then, the experimenter left for 30 seconds (without observing the participant’s inspection process), returned, took the test model from the participant and out of the testing room, and asked the participant to select which penis model (from the 33 described above) was most similar in size to the test model she just handled. The participant recorded the letter code from the bottom of that model into the computer.

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prize for economics was awarded to Geoffrey Miller [pictured below, holding an object in one hand], Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico, for discovering that professional lap dancers earn higher tips when they are ovulating. Their prize-winning study is: “Ovulatory Cycle Effects on Tip Earnings by Lap Dancers: Economic Evidence for Human Estrus?” Geoffrey Miller, Joshua M. Tybur, Brent D. Jordan, Evolution and Human Behavior, vol. 28, 2007, pp. 375-81.

geoffrey miller summer2013

How a bicycle balances

September 2nd, 2015

There’s still some physics mystery, for many people, about how a bicycle balances.

Bill Steele wrote about the physics of bicycles balancing themselves, for Cornell University’s Ezra magazine.

Nicole Frýbortová demonstrates, in this video, something about how a human rider balances on a bicycle:

Springtime for Hitler : Lessons for Leadership

September 2nd, 2015

Even though Hitler may have been a megalomaniac drug-addled psychopathic narcissist, the question can still be asked: “What lessons can we learn from his approach to leadership?” Answers are provided by Professor Hershey H. Friedman (Department of Finance and Business Management, School of Business, Brooklyn College, The City University of New York) and Professor Linda Weiser Friedman (Baruch College Zicklin School of Business and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York) in a 2013 SSRN paper which shares its title with the song in the clip above (from Mel Brooks’ 1968 movie The Producers). The paper can be read in its entirety by clicking this link: ‘Springtime for Hitler: Lessons in Leadership’.


Which of the following quotes cited in the paper are from (former) high-ranking blue-chip-corporation execs – and which are Adolf’s?

“Depopulate. Get rid of people. They gum up the works.”

“I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty.”

“I’m doing God’s work.”

“The victor will never be asked if he told the truth.”

[answers: in the paper]