Welcome to STEMology – Show Notes

Season 1, Episode 28

Ig Nobel Prize Special Episode

In today’s SPECIAL 2021 Ig Nobel Prize episode of STEMology…

Sophie & Dave will discuss how the chemical we breathe out in cinema can determine movies classification, sexual climax as an alternative decongestant for a blocked nose, how human evolve to grow beard as a defense mechanism to punching and hanging a rhino by its feet as a mean of transporting the animal

Chemistry – Smelling Cinema Emotions

There’s a more fundamental question here, isn’t there? So there’s the  (movies) classification stuff, but there’s also this thing of, if we are under a particular emotional stress or in a particular emotional state and we’re exhaling different compounds. The question is, are we signaling to other people, our physiological state?

Medicine – Orgasmic Decongestants

So it was the participants who had nasal obstruction that showed nasal function improvement after sex. And in fact, if you, like, if you weren’t congested at all, There was no effect

Peace – Punching Beard

They measured the force and energy absorbed by our bone composite underneath the hair and skin that you’ve described. And they found that the fully furred samples could absorb more energy than those plucked and sheared samples, suggests that the hair is doing something.

Transportation – Recumbent Rhinos

Because these animals aren’t going to be breathing properly and because they’re going to be hyperventilating and not have enough oxygen and have too much carbon dioxide, The question is can we maximize those things by maneuvering animal into a position that is the best position for those things?

This is a “kind of, sort of, vaguely close” copy of the words that David & Sophie speak in this episode.

IT IS NOT 100% accurate.  We are very sorry if we have spelt something completely incorrectly.  If it means a lot to you to have it corrected, email us at stemology@ramaley.media

STEMology s1e28

[00:00:00] Sophie: Welcome to episode 28 of STEMology.

[00:00:03] David: a podcast sharing some of the interesting fun, and sometimes just patently bizarre news in science, technology, engineering, or maths.

[00:00:10] Sophie: your hosts are Dr. David Farmer and Dr. Sophie Calabretto

[00:00:14] David: In today’s Ig nobel prize special episode of STEMology, we’ll be chatting about

[00:00:20] Sophie: smelling cinema emotions, orgasmic decongestants.

[00:00:25] David: punching beards and rhino transport.

Smelling cinema emotions

[00:00:29] Sophie: All right, Dave, I’m really excited about today’s episode because, you know that I have a bit of a penchant for a funny science story.

[00:00:37] David: Penchant

[00:00:37] Sophie: A A penchant, apparently in English, it’s a penchant .

[00:00:41] David: I like penchant..

[00:00:43] Sophie: think I learned that word in front of her Berlin in English. And I had someone say in English, I went, ugh anyway. And, um, penchant, we have a look through all of the Ig nobel prizes for 2021 and they were all magnificent, but in our STEMology format, we could only focus on four.

[00:00:59] So we picked [00:01:00] our top four. So for everyone playing at home today, we’re going to do our chemistry, medicine, peace, and transportation, but let’s

[00:01:06] David: And for anyone who doesn’t know the Ig nobel prizes are prizes for science, which first makes you laugh and then makes you think. This will hopefully be enjoyable, funny bits of science, but they’re all quite well done bits of science as well, which is crucial to the prize

[00:01:21] Sophie: Exactly. Okay. So starting off, we’re going to talk about chemistry, Dave. So this is a prize that was jointly awarded to researchers in Germany, UK, New Zealand, Greece, Cyprus, and Australia for chemically analyzing the air inside movie theaters to test whether the odors produced by an audience reliably indicate the levels of violence, sex, antisocial behavior, drug use, and bad language in the movie the audience is watching. So the paper is proof of concept study testing, human volatile organic compounds as tools for age classification of films. Uh, and that was a building on a previous study called Cinema Data Mining, The [00:02:00] Smell of Fear.

[00:02:00] David: The smell of fear.

[00:02:03] Sophie: Oh, sorry. That was a mouthful. But I feel like we’ve got to, you know, where this is a very official episode, so we’ve got to officially treat all of these stories as they should be.

[00:02:10] So, Dave yeah, smelling fear.

[00:02:13] David: So Yeah. this is all about, I love this because this is all fundamentally about breathing.

[00:02:18] This is all about breathing and what we breathe out. And when. So when you go into the movie theater, They shut the doors and there’s a certain amount of carbon dioxide in there. And all these things called volatile organic compounds,

[00:02:32] and volatile organic compounds are small organic molecules, which for the audience means that they’re maybe 10 times the size of something like carbon dioxide, 10 times as heavy, roughly thereabouts. And these are things like chemicals, like things called, uh one of them is called isopreen is a very common one that human beings breathe out. And these compounds seem to have something to do with dealing with something called abiotic stress, which is things like heat and things that aren’t living the impact [00:03:00] living beings.

[00:03:00] So things like heat that you need a molecules to deal with. you need these organic compounds to deal with, since it’s non-living matter, abioticstressors, presumably in the cinema environment that things like choc tops, popcorn, things of this nature

[00:03:12] Sophie: for me, it’s wine. Cause, uh, there’s a certain cinema chain that you can go to here that if you buy a bottle of wine, you get a free, large popcorn. Uh, so that’s what I often do at the cinema with, with someone else. I don’t just drink the whole bottle of wine by myself in the cinema. I make sure

[00:03:28] David: Also

[00:03:29] Sophie: I say like, no, I was going to say at least one other person, but only one other person. I’m not splitting a bottle of

[00:03:35] David: wine

[00:03:35] I go by myself with two people, me and drunk me and the funny thing, I mean, I need a me to make the second me.

[00:03:42] So, so, you breathe that these things, you breathe, that things like carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds. And the question is the fundamental question is do people breathe these things out differently when they’re under different emotional states?

[00:03:56] Sophie: Yes, exactly. And so, and the whole idea [00:04:00] behind this is to develop a chemically based and objective film classification methods. So essentially what these researchers did, and they did this in Germany because all of the ratings for these movies are in Germany. and so what they wanted to do is find the relationship between the emission of these volatile organic compounds and CO2.

[00:04:20] So the relationship between that and also the age classifier of the movie. So we’re working in the German system here. So we have, F S K, which I actually did not look up, but I presume that K, because it’s German, that’s Kino, which is film. so FSK zero, you’ve got FSK 6, 12 , 16 and 18. So it’s like you have to be above the age to watch these things.

[00:04:43] Apparently though, this particular study only is looking at age classifies of 0 6, 12 and 16, because at the cinema that they did this research during the period of time they did it. They’d just happened to be no 18 plus movies showing. So that’s the reason the 18 plus was emitted omitted. Sorry.

[00:04:59] [00:05:00] And, yeah. So what they did, Dave, is they measured the exhaust air of the cinema with a PTRTOFMS800, which, and they looked at all of

[00:05:10] David: Is that a spec? Is that a mass spectometre?

[00:05:12] Sophie: I think it’s like, uh, portable spectrometre.. Um, can I just tell you about all the things that we breathe out by the way

[00:05:19] David: Yeah. Please, please

[00:05:20] Sophie: I, I loved, I just, I feel like I’ve not read papers in such great detail, these like, except for this, they’re just very good, everyone. So formaldehyde Dave, we breathe out formaldehyde. Did you know that? Okay.

[00:05:31] David: I do. Yeah. A little bit. Yeah.

[00:05:33] Because we turn things like ethanol into aldehydes and acetones and aldehydes. And what’s the other one? Ketones.

[00:05:39] Sophie: Ketone. So formaldehyde methanol acetaldehyde or acetone acidic acid methyl mercaptan and methyl sulfide isoprene, as you said, some of monoterpenes and then, this is my favorite new word, fragment of [00:06:00] decamethylcyclopentasiloxane anyway. So what they did is they measured essentially.

[00:06:05] and what I really liked is they did a, sort of a real time analysis in the sense they looked at a time series.

[00:06:09] So basically like you go into the cinema, the door shuts, and then we are measuring with time, the change in the concentrations of these volatile organic compounds in the cinema.

[00:06:19] David: Yes. And so I’ve actually, I went down a bit of a rabbit hole with this, so I actually read about three papers.

[00:06:25] So I’m not sure which of the papers, but they’re all papers by the same, group. and then there was a paper that I read where they looked at. They could actually identify by eye, the trace. So if you look at the trace of CO2 or acetone, with time over the course of a single movie, it got to the stage where the researchers could actually identify the movie by the fluctuations and the trace.

[00:06:46] So.

[00:06:47] One of the examples they gave was that, the overlaid four independent screenings of the hunger games 2, and they showed the accumulation of carbon dioxide and of acetone.

[00:06:57] And there are these two peaks that happened about an hour and a half [00:07:00] into the film. And if you look, I looked and minor spoilers for the hunger games 2 wi ll follow these correspond, to the moments when you think that Pita is dead briefly and also. And when the scary mist happens, there are two quite tense moments in the film and there’s these two really identifiable peaks is very convincing. And these little peaks in the volatile organic compounds, the CO2, the acetone, these things.

[00:07:22] Sophie: Yeah, that’s crazy. So what they did is they applied a random forest model, which I Googled, and it just says random forest builds multiple decision trees and merges them together to get a more accurate and stable prediction.

[00:07:33] Suddenly they did that. Great, uh, built with a time independent features extracted from time series from every measured compound, as we were talking about to test predictive capability on subsets of all the data and what they found Dave was that most compounds are a bit useless in terms of predicting anything, but this isoprene that you talked about before, uh, the results were very good for predicting these 0, 6 and 12 [00:08:00] age classifiers. and so then said, hence, isoprene emission per person might be valuable to aid the national classification boards and even offer an alternative objective metric for rating films, based on the reactions of large groups of people.

[00:08:14] David: Yes. and there’s a more fundamental question here, isn’t there? So there’s the classification stuff, but there’s also this thing of, if we are under a particular emotional stress or in a particular emotional state and we’re exhaling different compounds. The question is, are we signaling to other people, our physiological state?

[00:08:32] Cause you know, if you’re anxious or stressed, it might be advantageous to people next to you, if they’re sensitive to the compounds that you’re exhaling and that’s a big if, if they happen to be sensitive to the things that you’re exhaling, then they become somehow aware of your emotional state and become influenced by it.

[00:08:48] Sophie: that is really interesting. And also I liked, so I’m always interested in ethical approval with these things, and maybe I would say maybe my favorite thing in a paper ever. I’m going to say that for every single paper today, [00:09:00] so they did this at Sinister, which is company.

[00:09:03] David: Oh no, It’s a company.

[00:09:04] Sophie: It’s like as in a, like cinema chain.

[00:09:07] And they said, we’re very grateful to the Sinister company for permission to use their facilities. No specific permission was required, doesn’t make sense to me. And then individual audience members were neither harmed or identifiable in the gas mixture. And therefore the measurements were not subject to ethical approval.

[00:09:22] So that was in the section ethics approval. So that means that there could have been these people who are part of science. They didn’t even know Dave someone was measuring their breath.

[00:09:31] David: and particularly like, you’d want to be careful about ethics. If the name of your company sounds like the word Sinister.

[00:09:36] Sophie: Oh, yeah.

[00:09:38] David: I mean, it’s, I’ve been watching a lot of James Bond films and lately, and I feel like the name sinister, like even if spelled differently would be a good front company for some kind of villain with a laser that wants to collect cinema gases in order to take over the world.

[00:09:53] Sophie: I wonder if I’m just saying that maybe if I just was saying that with a German accent who’d like sinister or something, and

[00:09:58] then that was actually like a weird [00:10:00] French anyway, but Dave, so you did mention the hunger games catching fire. That is an F S K-12 movie, I

[00:10:05] David: Okay. That’s good to know

[00:10:06] Sophie: which, which, means that this is, that would be part of the, Identifiable movies. But, um, I looked at some of the other things playing, cause this was done in like the early two thousands. We had hunger games, catching fire

[00:10:15] Star wars, the force awakens, Uh, machete kills was an FSK 16 movie. I’ve not heard of

[00:10:20] David: sounds like it.

[00:10:21] Sophie: and then also like paranormal activity, ghost dimension.

[00:10:25] Well, so I’m walking with dinosaurs and an FSK, obviously I wrote down all the movies and now I’m getting excited about what movies to Um, but anyway, I thought this was a really fun idea. Someone who likes the cinema, I love the idea that I’m breathing out my feelings about the movie.

[00:10:38] Um, yeah,

[00:10:40] David: I loved it too. and all of the papers I read, like I say, I read about three papers and they were all very thoughtful

[00:10:46] and in depth, and I didn’t really understand the methodology, um, which I take is a good. sign in this instance,

[00:10:52] because it seems very intense.

[00:10:54] Sophie: So that’s how first Ig noble prize winner. And I don’t know, I think give them a Nobel prize.

[00:10:59] David: [00:11:00] Yeah, why not? I think they should deserve it. for being entertaining,

[00:11:03] Sophie: That’s true.

[00:11:04] David: entertaining about entertainment,

Orgasmic decongestants

[00:11:05] Sophie: So, Dave, we don’t need segues today

[00:11:17] David: we don’t

[00:11:18] Sophie: next up is medicine. So this was a prize that was joined awarded to researchers from Germany, Turkey, and the UK for demonstrating that sexual orgasms can be as effective as decongestant medicines at improving nasal breathing.

[00:11:34] So the paper, which is great.

[00:11:36] David: Straight to the point, this paper.

[00:11:37] Sophie: Can sex improve nasal function and exploration of the link between sex and nasal function. Yeah. That’s the title of the favor?

[00:11:46] David: With no hint of, Uh, no, hint of irony about the redundant stage, just yeah, sex and nasal function, a paper about sex and nasal function.

[00:11:54] Sophie: yeah, the whole idea is, can an orgasm be as, or more effective than taking a [00:12:00] nasal decongestant? Okay. This I think is

[00:12:02] David: The short answer is yes.

[00:12:06] Sophie: I feel like this isn’t very worthy of an ig noble prize. Cause you go, who, why, why is this the thing that you’ve thought of?

[00:12:14] David: well, that’s a great question, Sophie, and I’ve written this down as a quote from the paper as the first line of the paper. I’m sure you’ve written it down too, but as to why this paper starts with the sentence, a physiological connection between the nose and the genitals has long been proposed. I was not aware of that.

[00:12:30] Sophie: Well, actually at the very end of the paper, they’ve got something great, which is although Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Fliess already described a physiological connection between the nose and the genital area along time ago, this is the first exploratory study investigating sexual activity with climax and its impact on nasal breathing and patency.

[00:12:48] So apparently it was Freud and Fliess, who were the people who reckon that, but, you know, are we surprised, Freud?

[00:12:53] David: I, well, no, I mean anything to do with Freud. What do you know? Freud closely followed by the word genitals, what a shock.

[00:12:59] Sophie: [00:13:00] What a shock. So there you go. Yeah, apparently we’ve known this for a long time and I had never known this either, Dave.

[00:13:05] David: I did not know this. So what they did was they recruited, um, a bunch of health workers and, they familiarize them with a questionnaire, which was a means of subjectively determining their nasal function, like how difficult it was to breathe through their nose.

[00:13:18] Sophie: did you look into the questionnaire in any great detail

[00:13:20] David: I have it written down. So the questionnaire is called the Nasal Obstruction Symptom Evaluation or NOSE.

[00:13:26] Sophie: I love it. I know, like, so this is apparent. It’s like a real thing. It’s not just for this study. If you have a score of 30 or more, like, that’s not great. So 30 to 50 is moderate 55 to 75, a severe 80 to a hundred extreme. and the idea is, yeah, you fill out this questionnaire that asks you questions about nasal congestion and stuffiness or trouble breathing through the nose or sleeping. And then you assign a score from zero to four. So zero being, not a problem and four being severe problem. So you got five questions, maximum four marks that gives you 20. You multiply the whole thing by five to give you a mark out of a hundred.

[00:13:58] And I’m like, what is this? [00:14:00] And also they, it NOSE, mainly they called it NOSE and I loved it.

[00:14:03] David: Yes. they called it NOSE and it was tremendous. So that was the subjective assessment. And there was also crucially an objective assessment, which was, they were familiarized with a portable rhinometer, which

[00:14:12] is a brilliant word because presumably in Latin or Greek, it means nose measurer. And this determines the amount of air flowing through the nose, which allows you to work out the resistance of the nose as well.

[00:14:24] Sophie: yes. And so they go out, so we have 18 couples, so there’s a heterosexual couples, and I quote all participants claim to have achieved sexual climax, which is good for this study.

[00:14:36] David: I suppose there’s anyone wondering about the definition of climax, female and male climax and female and male is the sudden discharge of accumulated sexual assignment during the sexual response cycle resulting in rhythmic, muscular contractions in the pelvic region characterized by sexual pleasure, just in case. You didn’t know that’s what climax is.

[00:14:56] Sophie: I reckon I would like to say thank Kinsey for that, Eric and that was Kinsey taught

[00:14:59] David: You [00:15:00] reckon that.

[00:15:00] was Kinsey talking

[00:15:01] Sophie: I just felt like Kinsey taught us everything we needed to know, but yeah, so they got our 18 couples. Sorry, Dave go on.

[00:15:06] David: and Okay. so, we’re going to measure sexual climax. There was another caveat to this. So there’s two things that I am having trouble reconciling, because this is kind of amazing, right? So we look at five points. Maybe you were about to say this we looked at five points before sexual activity. So no sexual activity immediately after orgasm, which is defined as within one

[00:15:26] Sophie: One minute. Yeah.

[00:15:28] David: 30 minutes, one and three hours after sexual climax.

[00:15:31] Sophie: Yeah. So we’ve got is the baseline and then we’re measuring. Yeah. apre- sex.

[00:15:37] David: So immediately, it was defined as one minute after sexual climax, but it also says that data were only obtained if both individuals experienced sexual orgasm. So like, are we talking basically simultaneously every time?

[00:15:51] Sophie: Or while someone is still reaching that peak, the other person is measuring then with rhinometer yeah. Which is a very [00:16:00] distracting and probably then made it take longer. That’s an interesting point. I did not actually think about that,

[00:16:04] David: Just the logistics of the thing

[00:16:06] Sophie: It’s maybe, you know, these, are couples that can just, you know, they actually, they probably did a survey and went, who is the best at simultaneous orgasming. We want you for our study.

[00:16:14] David: We want you, which might be is an important selection bias. We don’t know.

[00:16:18] Sophie: Yeah, so that was the first one. And then the

[00:16:20] next day, they then did a similar thing where instead of sexual activity and climax, it’s a decongestant spray. So same measurements taken on second day, following the application of nasal decongestants spray. It’s the same thing.

[00:16:32] So we have our before nasal decongestant. And then obviously I presume that then the squirting of the spray into your nose here is the climax. So up to a minute after that’s when you

[00:16:42] start your, um,

[00:16:44] your

[00:16:44] David: climax much easier to do simultaneously.

[00:16:47] Sophie: exactly. Yeah. And I guess I would have had two then t two rhinometers.because you can’t at the same time anyway, so they did that.

[00:16:53] And then yeah the idea was we are now comparing, um, and apparently they got ethical approval for this one, Dave, just very [00:17:00] quickly the University of Heidelberg review board, uh, all participants signed an informed consent. That’s good.

[00:17:06] David: and so subjectively what they found was that the ease of breathing fell immediately after orgasm, which is to say it got easier to breathe immediately after orgasm and objectively with the rhinometer. It did the same. And that’s a very important control because I’ve written down here in capital letters. Sex is likely to have a big placebo effect.

[00:17:25] Like, if someone says you immediately, let’s say one minute after climax, how you feel about your nasal function, you’re going to be like amazing same way. I feel about everything else.

[00:17:33] Sophie: It’s

[00:17:34] David: absolutely

[00:17:35] Sophie: really good. It’s great. It’s fine. Yeah. No, I think it’s very important to have. It’s good that they agree, but I think that objective measures is possibly more important here. Yeah.

[00:17:44] David: Crucial. And they find that, and this was a highest immediately after, and then still present about an hour though. It was less than, and then three hours afterwards, it was gone.

[00:17:56] Sophie: Yeah. And so apparently, and it was the same for both the [00:18:00] orgasm and the nasal spray.

[00:18:01] I just never thought that I would say this on a podcast, was the same for the orgasm and the nasal having said that the decongestant did last a little bit longer. So in fact it continued to improve.

[00:18:13] So as you said, for the climax, eventually after three hours, it drops off, but for the decongestant, like it hasn’t dropped off, like continued

[00:18:19] David: I mean, you’ve got, you’re getting one hour of benefit. So if you have a cold and you need to perform like once every hour in order to get the benefit, that’s quite a tall order. 24 times in a day.

[00:18:30] Sophie: That’s true. Yeah. I don’t know if we should

[00:18:32] David: Don’t know if that’s clinically feasible.

[00:18:34] Sophie: We shouldn’t be encouraging that I don’t think. And, um, yeah, so I thought that was really good. but getting back to our, our nose test.

[00:18:42] So it was the, uh, participants who had nasal obstruction that showed nasal function improvement after sex. And in fact, if you, like, if you weren’t congested at all, There was no effect, which would also make sense with a decongestant, but it people who had a score of 30 or more into 30 is [00:19:00] the moderate, nasal obstruction.

[00:19:02] David: So if you had a blocked nose

[00:19:03] Sophie: if you had

[00:19:03] David: your nose is unblocked.

[00:19:04] Sophie: You, yeah, basically, but if you didn’t have a blocked nose, then orgasming great, but not going to help you unblock a nose that isn’t already blocked.

[00:19:12] David: which is good, cause that’s not the only good that is.

[00:19:14] Sophie: Yeah. But, um, yeah, I thought this one was great. I thought, you know, it was well-written, it was enjoyable.

[00:19:19] David: it was enjoyable.

[00:19:20] to read. It had a great limitation section. They were very careful in interpreting their data, which I always really liked to see and their first listed limitation. I really enjoyed, cause it’s a really practical one. The study, however, has major limitations. We were not able to collect rhino metric data in our participants.

[00:19:35] This could be. Could be due to the participant’s inability to focus on the device before and immediately after intercourse.

[00:19:45] Sophie: I feel like it is a bit of a, like a mood kill. If you got into the kind of, you know, you’re getting into the foreplay a little bit and it’s just like, hold that thought. And then you just, I guess don’t know what it looks like, but something you’ve stuck in your nose. It’s just a not, it’s probably [00:20:00] not,

[00:20:00] David: On the other hand, might buy you an extra couple of minutes,

[00:20:02] Sophie: That’s true. Oh, well, thank you, medicine is all I can say at this stage. you,

[00:20:08] David: for you medicine.

Punching Beard

[00:20:09] Sophie: All right, Dave, are you ready for peace?

[00:20:21] David: I’m ready for peace

[00:20:22] Sophie: so, the peace prize was awarded to researchers in the UK, and by the UK, I mean, exactly not the UK and a hundred percent the USA, it so far. Um, and this was for testing the hypothesis that humans evolved beards to protect themselves from punches to the face.

[00:20:39] And the paper is called impact protection, potential of mammalian hair, testing the pugilism hypothesis for the evolution of human facial hair.

[00:20:49] David: So pugilism being boxing.

[00:20:52] Sophie: Yeah. Yes.

[00:20:53] David: That’s mine. That’s what I’ve heard. It’s a,

[00:20:54] pugilist a fighter. A boxer.

[00:20:57] Sophie: now I have a direct quote here, Dave, and I presume it’s because it was the [00:21:00] first sentence in the article and I just really enjoyed it.

[00:21:03] It says because facial hair is one of the most sexually dimorphic features of humans and is often perceived as an indicator of masculinity and social dominance, human facial hair has been suggested to play a role in male contest competition.

[00:21:16] David: There you have it put another way. Most of the males have most of the beards.

[00:21:20] Sophie: Yeah. Which I mean, look. Straight off the bat, not going to argue seems true.

[00:21:25] David: The paper is written in quite an assertive masculine way. I would say.

[00:21:28] Sophie: It really is. It’s quite a dominant paper. If I had to call paper anything

[00:21:31] David: Yeah, a, there’s a few more instances which have written down, which we’ll get to later, but basically, and so they’re saying that sexual dimorphism, so talking about sexual dimorphism, this is traits that are different between males and females of a species. Right. And they tell us, and I did not know this, that apparently sexual dimorphism is greatest in aspects of the body that tend to, enhance, a male’s capacity to dominate another male.

[00:21:57] And the example, that they give that’s not [00:22:00] beards is facial bones. So facial bones and the mandible and the maxilla, which are the lower and the upper jaw show, the greatest sexual dimorphism in humans, and that’s coupled with the hypothesis that this is because people fight and get hit in the jaw.

[00:22:16] not people, well, people fight, but mostly men fight mostly men perpetrate violence against other men. Mostly.

[00:22:23] Sophie: I’m a sensible lady and I don’t hit people in the face, but then Dave, I also believe you don’t hit people in the face,

[00:22:29] David: Typically not.

[00:22:30] Sophie: you were very masculine man. So I don’t want you to worry.

[00:22:33] David: I’m not, I don’t, put a lot of it’s it’s all right. We’re not defining my self esteem in this way.

[00:22:36] That’s fine.

[00:22:37] Sophie: Okay, that’s good. Let’s keep going.

[00:22:38] David: Yeah, Let’s keep going.

[00:22:39] so basically, they say similar to facial bones, facial hair is one of the most sexually dimorphic features of humans, which leads them to the hypothesis that maybe the beard has something to do with men dominating other men. And they talk about some other reasons to have beards, not just protection. this is really Interesting.

[00:22:58] So, apparently there are studies [00:23:00] showing that men with beards full beards in particular are perceived as more dominating and masculine and socially dominant, and those things have behaviorly aggressive. Apparently, apparently it improves or impacts positively mating success in highly competitive environments.

[00:23:17] Sophie: Interesting.

[00:23:19] David: Yes. and, again, some people suggest that just having a beard is just to emphasize the appearance of the sexually dymorphic piece of the face, which is to say that you also just makes your jaw look bigger, so you look more masculine, so you look more sexually desirable and dominant basically

[00:23:33] Sophie: I I like a little beard, but I’m not a big fan of a big beard. once it grows off once it’s like a length off the chin I’m out

[00:23:39] David: you’re done.

[00:23:40] Sophie: Hard pass.

[00:23:41] David: Yeah, Well, there’s a kind of, um, it can kind of define a chin quite well. I use mine to define my chin cause I’ve got quite a weak chin, so I’d

[00:23:48] Sophie: Yeah, but you’ve got like I would say what I would call is a nice amount of facial hair. Obviously this is very subjective, but I like your facial hair, but if you will then to grow that, like, so it was like big and bushy and like a bit off your chin. I be [00:24:00] like, Dave, reel that back in. Mr.

[00:24:01] David: Sort your life out..

[00:24:02] Sophie: Sorry, doctor.

[00:24:04] David: yeah. Well, if I was Dr pugilist and I might have to disagree with you because apparently it provides some benefit.

[00:24:13] Sophie: Yes. Sorry. Let’s get back to this science. So, Dave, I loved this one because it reminded me a lot of, did you ever watch the TV show deadliest warrior? Oh,

[00:24:21] David: Was it about the warrior that is the deadliest?

[00:24:23] Sophie: So, what they did was, and this was like a very, so it was like American show from, I don’t know, 20, 10 years ago, some amount of time in the past. And what they did is they looked at all like the great warriors of history, and they like put them up against each other to fight.

[00:24:36] So like you had stuff like, I don’t know. there was like samurais versus like Viking or something. So what they did is they had experts who came in with all of the weapons, like these, the Viking weapons, these are the samurai weapons. You got like a couple of cutting ones, a couple of hitting ones, a couple of defending ones.

[00:24:49] And then you’re like your X factor, weapon and they analyzed it, and the reason this reminds me of this is because what they did is they measured the impact force in energy, absorbed by fiber approxi [00:25:00] composite so that the fiber composite is meant to be like your bone analog.

[00:25:04] in this thing, and they put the hair on it to see. So what they did is they had that, but they also have ballistics gel torsos field with fake blood. And then they had someone just like going absolutely nuts on it with a sword. And it was just like grotesque and they collected their data and then they put it into a computer simulation and ran it out and they went, okay, these people be the winner, but because it’s American.

[00:25:23] The way that we learn about this is they do a reenactment. So then they’ll just be this like poorly acted, like scene with like a bunch of people dressed up as Vikings and a bunch of dressed up as samurai, like going nuts on each other. Yeah I realize that I’m not talking about science and I’m now spruiking the show.

[00:25:38] Anyway, sorry. So remind me of this or the whole ideas of made. So it’s this a poxy resin, this fiber proxy composite that’s meant to be the bone. They put this kind of like little

[00:25:46] forced

[00:25:46] David: is the paper again

[00:25:47] Sophie: I I’m back on the paper. Yes. Sorry. I realized So they, and then they had, they covered it with, skin that had the equivalent of our thick hair, which they call furred versus skin with no hair, or little hair.

[00:25:59] So we [00:26:00] had sheep

[00:26:01] David: They took sheep hair sheepskin with sheep wool on it. And the reason for that was there’s a sentence, which is because it was not practical to obtain a fully bearded skin samples from human cadavers, which I interpret to mean that they tried very hard to get, dead people beards

[00:26:16] Sophie: they tried to and they went, look, this is It’s too much. They shaved

[00:26:19] them funeral. Like, it’s just, yeah, we

[00:26:22] David: Yeah, yeah, yeah,

[00:26:23] So instead we took samples of sheepskin upturned from a local slaughter house, and they say that sheep fleece, I didn’t know this, but sheep fleece is narrower. The fibers are narrower than human facial hair, but they’re more densely packed. So they argue that even though it’s narrower and more densely packed, it has a similar volume of fibers, human hair.

[00:26:42] So it’s likely to provide the same kind of shock absorbing experience.

[00:26:45] Sophie: Yeah.

[00:26:46] David: and Yeah. as you say, they examined furred, which was unshaven at all, sheared, which was 0.5 centimeters of hair left. So

[00:26:54] that’s like, that’s like me, uh,

[00:26:56] Sophie: Yeah. okay.

[00:26:57] David: not five o’clock shadow, but a few days unshaven.[00:27:00]

[00:27:00] Sophie: okay. You’re a sheared sheep.

[00:27:02] David: I’m sheared. Yes, I am sheared. And the final group was plucked. And basically that’s your skin only control to make sure it’s not the skin doing it. It’s actually fibers doing it.

[00:27:11] Sophie: Yeah. and then they basically, they tested this thing. So they measured the force and energy absorbed by our bone composite underneath the hair and skin that you’ve described. And they found that the fully furred samples could absorb more energy than those plucked and sheared samples, suggests that the hair is doing something.

[00:27:28] David: And they did this by basically dropping a weight on it from a controlled height. . And they did it in a really sensible way. I really like how they did this. So basically they calibrated the fall of the weight onto the samples, such that when you were looking at a first sample, the epoxy would crack half of the time.

[00:27:46] So, you set the weight so that half of the time the epoxy would fail and found that 95% of sheared samples under the same circumstances would fail, which is almost all. And 45% of the furred samples [00:28:00] failed.

[00:28:00] Sophie: That’s a huge improvement.

[00:28:01] David: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:28:02] It’s a huge improvement. and really, really clear, really, really convincing. And yeah, as you say, you can see that the energy absorption was greater and you can see that the energy is delivered over a longer time, which suggests that the weight is being decelerated, before it’s hitting the epoxy.

[00:28:17] Sophie: Exactly, cause this force is equal to mass times acceleration, Dave and our mass is constant. So if it’s taken long, a longer time to decelerate, the force is going to be decreased as well.

[00:28:28] David: and this is where they get kind of quite assertive in the discussion section. because sheared was not. So first of all, sheard was not protective,at all like sheared didn’t work. So even a little bit of hair did not work. It’s gotta be a full beard and they say this decelerating factor may explain my facial hair is associated with high masculinity, social dominance and behavioral aggressiveness, as it may function as a true indicator of level of invulnerability to facial injury.

[00:28:55] Sophie: But then did you read the stuff where their results couldn’t like directly or [00:29:00] in conflict with another recent paper where they looked at hair of MMA fighters?

[00:29:04] David: Yes, I did. Yeah. so they, they say that it’s this is in conflict with a recent study showing that beards are not performance advantage in mixed martial arts as measured by number of wins by knockout or technical knockout. But they argue that that’s not a direct measure of those injuries that would be reduced by beards.

[00:29:23] Sophie: No, that’s true. And they can come out to that paper concluded that beards represent signals of formidability that may serve to curtail the escalation of intersexual conflict through intimidation, rather than providing advantages indirect combat. So basically you look scarier with the beard

[00:29:39] David: I think that’s right. And isn’t there. There’s supposed to be a thing about fighting and that it’s advantageous for us to be able to fight well, but not advantageous for us to kill each other. Really

[00:29:47] Sophie: Yeah,

[00:29:48] David: it, particularly if you’re competing over things like mates, you don’t really want to be killing each other really, since we’re a social species, but we do want to be able to fight well.

[00:29:56] Sophie: Yeah. And so you’re right. They did go on to say that our results provide no evidence that beards [00:30:00] provide protection against being knocked out rather our results are presumed to be most relevant to skin lash, lacerations and facial bone fractions.

[00:30:07] David: and so they say that apparently, so they speculate as to the mechanism as well. So they say by loading the fibers, in addition to the skin and bone, the force of impact may be distributed over a larger surface area. This is a similar mechanism to how a Kevlar fiber vest distributes the force of an incoming bullet fist pump.

[00:30:26] Sophie: Oh man.

[00:30:26] David: Doesn’t save this pump, but

[00:30:28] Sophie: w but that’s what they meant. And then also they’ve gone and say as well that although not tested in this study, it is also likely that the hair of beards helps deflect an oblique blower by reducing friction between face and the object striking, which

[00:30:40] like, I’m sure that’s true, but I feel like that would be quite hard to, well, maybe it wouldn’t be that hard to measure.

[00:30:45] That will be the next paper that comes out from this group I hope

[00:30:47] David: yeah. It should presumably you could do that cause wouldn’t you, if you placed it at an angle and then drop the weight onto it, you would just get a lesser overall force.

[00:30:55] Sophie: You could say yeah, what it does, but, um, yeah, I like this was, it was a very aggressive paper. but it [00:31:00] was, I still enjoyed reading it.

[00:31:02] David: Very well done. Very, very good work. Loved it.

[00:31:04] Sophie: Yeah, it was. Yeah, it was really good. It was good science. Thank you peace. Thank you, peace. Not science,

Recumbent rhinos

[00:31:10] Sophie: Right Dave. Hey, you ready for our last one?

[00:31:22] David: recumbent rhinos.

[00:31:24] Sophie: So this is, the transportation ig noble prize. And this is went to, researches from the, maybe a South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Brazil, the UK and USA for determining by experiment, whether it is safer to transport an airborne rhinoceros upside down and the paper’s code, the pulmonary and metabolic effects of suspension by the feet compared with a lateral recumbency in a mobilized black rhinoceroses captured by aerial data

[00:31:51] David: yes. So basically black rhinos need to be moved occasionally, apparently, to protect them from both poaching, which is where people hunt them, [00:32:00] obviously and inbreeding. So if farms farms encroach upon the rhinos territories, then they become enclosed. So they end up in breeding with one another. So their genetic diversity goes down, so they become more at risk of dying. And so sometimes they need to be moved. Sometimes it’s not feasible to do that on a truck because of terrain. So sometimes you just have to use a helicopter is what the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, have decided to do.

[00:32:26] Sophie: Yeah. So the question is, Dave, if we’re gonna move these rhinos, by helicopter and we have to suspend them, what’s the best way to suspend them

[00:32:34] David: Yes. upside down or sideways.

[00:32:36] Sophie: upside down or sideways. Yeah. And, so what they did is they got, so it got apparently, so we’ve got some previous research about white rhinos. and I really, I learned a lot of, about, veterinary narcotics

[00:32:47] David: Yeah, absolutely. So the pharmacology was quite important here.

[00:32:49] Sophie: Yeah. and so basically, yeah, they were looking at, and to be honest, I think you probably have a much better understanding than I do Dave, but so we know that white rhinos who have been immobilized by etorphine. [00:33:00] is that, how am I saying that word?

[00:33:01] David: Yeah, which is like heroin,

[00:33:03] Sophie: Yeah, it was really funny. I was like synthetic narcotic analgesics used in veterinary medicine, possesses an analgesic potency up to a thousand times greater than morphine.

[00:33:11] And then I was like, do you know what else is more effective than morphine? Heroin. But I learned that in a French Canadian film called The Barbarian Invasions, that heroin is 800 times more potent than morphine. So thank you. French Canadian cinema.

[00:33:24] Um, and so apparently yes. So once they’re immobilized with this etorphine They are hypermetabolic, which means that they have elevated resting energy expenditure and they also have a high rate of carbon dioxide production.

[00:33:37] So the expectation is that, uh, once you know, you do this to a black rhino, they would also have a high rate of carbon dioxide production. And so the question is like, Is, can we change this in the way that we’re hanging them?

[00:33:50] David: Yeah.

[00:33:50] Sophie: And they had 12 12 rhinos, 12 black rhinos. They are mobilize them with etorphine and azaparone,, which is mainly a tranquilizer in veterinary medicine.

[00:33:59] But [00:34:00] uncommonly used in humans as an anti-psychotic drug, and they basically suspended six of them by their fate and six of them on their side. And they measured things.

[00:34:09] David: Yeah. basically. so these, opioids that they’re using, like etorphine these, em, stop the animal from breathing they’re respiratory depressants, which means that you don’t breathe so much. So you become, you hyperventilate and you don’t have as much oxygen and you’ve got more carbon dioxide cause you’re not clearing it

[00:34:23] and that’s bad for you.

[00:34:24] So basically because. if you have the animal on a truck, they say they partially antagonize the drug. So basically you would give a drug that counteracts the opioid. That would mean it would breathe more comfortably so that while you’re transporting it, it’s still sedated, but it’s not going to go mental, but it’s not as sedated as it would need to be when it’s suspended from a helicopter. So So you can’t do that. You can’t partially antagonize the opioids when you’re transported by helicopter, because quote, “safe, aerial suspension under a helicopter requires complete immobility”, which seems to make sense. Minimum thrashing is the way to go.

[00:34:59] [00:35:00] So basically because these animals aren’t going to be breathing properly. And because they’re going to be hyperventilating and not have enough oxygen and have too much carbon dioxide. The question is can we maximize those things by maneuvering animal into a position that is the best position for those things.

[00:35:17] So they tried, they randomized the animals to either sideways and then upside down or

[00:35:22] Sophie: Yep. Yes, everyone, everyone got sideways and upside down, but the order in which you got it was random

[00:35:28] David: Yes. and then they just with a crane, not helicopter lifted the animals up,

[00:35:35] Sophie: And pictures of these, just these, the rhino is just like lifted, like not that far off the ground and just standing around like a rhino suspended by feet. Yeah. It’s really, it’s quite funny.

[00:35:45] David: And the measured rectal pressure and blood pressure, and they had a spirometer, which allows you to analyze blood gases. And they found that basically there wasn’t too much difference between the two. There was a small, but significant difference in that being [00:36:00] upside down was slightly better. Slightly better, but only by a few millimeters of mercury, which is a small increase in the amount of blood oxygen and a small decrease in carbon dioxide.

[00:36:11] Sophie: But then there was a thing in the paper that also suggested that the biological importance of small increments in arterial oxygen pressure and decrements in arterial carbon dioxide pressure with suspension by feet is unknown.

[00:36:23] David: Yes.

[00:36:24] Sophie: So the whole idea is like you said, they’ve changed by a little bit,

[00:36:27] but we don’t actually know, but we don’t know if this little bit is important.

[00:36:31] David: No that’s right. So what they recorded was it, it was of the order of 43 millimeters of mercury of oxygen.

[00:36:36] And usually it will be somewhere between 70 and 100.

[00:36:39] Sophie: Yeah.

[00:36:39] David: and then in the, sideways versus, so the sideways had slightly less than the upside down, but it was only a few millimeters of mercury. So the question is it’s probably, you know, fine. I mean, that’s great that it’s a little bit better, but it’s only a little bit better. But basically they thought it would be much worse to be upside down

[00:36:58] Sophie: what it showed is it’s [00:37:00] not much worse. Yeah.

[00:37:01] David: yes. And one of the great things about the paper actually is they had a hypothesis, which is the suspending by the feet is worse.

[00:37:06] And then they get to very unequivocally, say the hypothesis was disproved, which is great.

[00:37:11] They post the hypothesis and they disproved it, which means it’s time to move on and find a new hypothesis.

[00:37:15] Sophie: Yeah. and the bit that I found interesting, cause you know, that, that we’ve referred to like the white rhino at the beginning. and I was wondering why I was so concerned with the black rhino, but turns out the black rhino was critically endangered, but a white rhino is like near threatened.

[00:37:27] So it’s not even threatened yet. And I was like, why is that? Cause obviously, you know, I ended up in rabbit holes, and I couldn’t really find any information except that the white rhino is double the mass of black rhino. And I was like, harder to kill, maybe.

[00:37:39] David: Maybe. Yeah. Or do they just other horns more desirable? Because the are the horns also bigger? I’ve got No, idea. no, very little about poaching. I don’t know any poachers.

[00:37:47] Sophie: no. no, no any poachers. No, but if the white rhino is bigger and it has a bigger horn, you’d think that they would kill the white rhino more, but like the big one, they haven’t killed as many as, so the black rhinos are endangered, but the white

[00:37:56] David: I see.

[00:37:57] Sophie: So, and I just figured the little [00:38:00] rhino, i.e the black rhino was just like easier to catch and kill than the big one.

[00:38:03] It’s like, how many guns do you need to take down a 2000 kilo thing compared to a 1000

[00:38:08] David: Presumably, and presumably you need a bigger helicopter to relocate the massive rhino as well. So it’s just as

[00:38:13] Sophie: That’s true. Yeah. It’s really logistics. But, yeah, so I thought it was nice that they, you know, they had their hypothesis, they did this strange tests, uh, and they found that they could say that there, yeah, Disprove their hypothesis. but we’re not sure about the significance of those

[00:38:27] David: Well, what I think is great about this paper is not so much, like it’s fairly straightforward scientifically. They had one question and they answered it, which was, and the answer was negative, but that’s sometimes science and that’s great, but there’s also, this is really a paper that where the spectacular nature of it is in the doing of it, because let’s not forget that they hung rhinos upside down

[00:38:47] Sophie: height

[00:38:48] David: I don’t know how to do this.

[00:38:49] Sophie: the median weight of the rhinos they hung 1,137 kilograms. Like that’s a big thing to hang

[00:38:57] David: a lot,

[00:38:57] that’s two orders of magnitude, more than a [00:39:00] person, which is very, very, very big. And presumably like a car that wants to kill you.

[00:39:05] Sophie: Yeah. Heck, but yeah, so that’s, rhinos,

[00:39:07] David: Rhinos upside down just as good as sideways. Slightly better even