Miniskirts can prevent pain, how to get an instant accent and an even more annoying mosquito has evolved.

Thank You, Ma’am, May I Have Another?

In order to avoid pains of the heart, men will suffer pains of pretty much every other body part. A new study out of Scotland’s University of Stirling reports that men will withstand more pain without complaint when they are being tortured by a woman rather than a man. In the experimental setup, a 21-year-old woman dressed in a skirt and high heels put pressure on the chests of college males. The boys reported much higher pain thresholds than they did when a male researcher turned up the pressure. The researchers say the males may have been trying to appear macho in front of the woman. They also allow for the possibility that the men were just distracted from their suffering by a hot chick in skimpy clothing. The results worry the researchers, who said they are concerned male hospital patients may underreport their pain to female doctors and nurses.

(source: the Scotsman)

Jamaican Me Crazy!

She went to sleep British and woke up Jamaican. Linda Walker, a 60-year-old woman from Northeast England, recently suffered a stroke, and when she came back into consciousness, doctors were startled to find her speaking with an accent somewhere in-between Jamaican and Eastern European, depending on who was asked. Researchers say foreign accent syndrome, which can occur in stroke victims who suffer damage to areas of the brain that affect speech, is not an extremely rare condition—Nick Miller, a speech therapist from Newcastle University, said he observes four or five cases every year. The syndrome was first identified during World War II when a Norwegian woman suffered shrapnel damage to the brain and developed a German accent.

(source: the Independent)

Put Down the Duckie

Be it handheld or hands-free, a cell phone is an instrument of death when it’s on the ear of a driver. A new study out of the University of Utah suggests that drivers talking on cell phones are at least as impaired as those intoxicated at the minimum illegal level. The researchers found there was no significant difference in the impairment of those talking on handheld cell phones and those talking on hands-free sets—they say that the true cause of impairment is not the manipulation of the device but rather the attention focused on a phone conversation instead of on the road. Apparently, cell phone users are 5.36 times as likely to get in an accident as undistracted drivers.

(source: University of Utah)

Great Apes Greater With a Little A1

There is a black market for body parts in America, and it’s not run by the people who cut out your kidneys and leave you in a bathtub of ice water. This illegal network sells the meat of wild primates killed in Africa to customers looking to buy dinner. University of California, Berkeley biologist Justin Brashares discovered conclusive evidence of these underground markets when a Ghanian taxi driver offered to show him one in Brooklyn. Brashares has since uncovered similar markets in Paris, Brussels, London, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago and Los Angeles. He estimates that over 6,000 kg of bushmeat passes through these markets every month, and one third of that is from primates, including gorillas, chimpanzees, guenon monkeys and baboons. And the prices high: To eat baboon, you should be prepared to drop as much as you would for a filet mignon. You should also be prepared to be arrested.

(source: New Scientist)

Greece Lightning

Forget Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, there’s a real super-bug in our midst. Thanks to the evolutionary pressures of air pollution and insect repellents, a bionic mosquito has evolved around Athens, Greece, that is bigger, faster and better able to spot ripe human flesh than its predecessors. Whereas country bugs can only spot people 15 to 20 m away, the new mosquitoes can see a human up to 30 m in the distance. And while hick mosquitoes beat their wings at 350 beats per second, the super, urban mosquitoes fly at 500 beats a second. The new breed is also larger by about 0.3 micrograms. The rise of the super-bug has been abetted by overpopulation in Athens as well as the thousands of trays placed beneath balcony flowerpots, which provide a good location for mosquitoes to lay their eggs.

(source: AFP)

Race to Judgment

If a white person is killed by a black man, the killer faces the best prospects if he, well, doesn’t look particularly black, concludes a study in the May issue of Psychological Science. Researchers found that convicted killers with stereotypically black features are much more likely to be handed a death sentence than those with less-stereotypically black features. Stanford undergrads of various races participated in the ominously named, “Looking Deathworthy” study, in which they examined pictures of black, male defendants convicted of murdering white people. The participants rated how stereotypically black each man looked on a scale of 1 to 11. The researchers found that 58% of those rated as having stereotypically black features received capital punishment, but only 24% of those rated as having less-stereotypically black features were sentenced to death. There was no such correlation when the victims were black.

(source: Cornell University News Service)

Blind Drunk

When you watch the short video linked below, count how many times the players in the white shirts pass the basketballs to each other. Only count passes between players in white shirts, and make sure you count every pass between players in white shirts. There will be a quiz to see how well you did. Are you ready? OK, watch the video here.

All right, how many passes did the players in white make? Ah, nevermind. What you’re actually asked to do is never really relevant in a psych experiment. By the way, did you notice anything strange while you were counting? If not, watch the entire video again, but don’t bother counting this time.

Researchers recently performed a version of this classic experiment on 46 adults, half of whom had a blood alcohol level of .04 during the study; the other half were sober. Of the sober subjects, 46% saw the man in a gorilla suit—which if you didn’t see it the first time, you surely did on the second viewing. Only 18% of the drunk subjects spotted the intruder, indicating that drinking heightens inattentional blindness—when a person does not register unexpected objects when he or she is focused on something else. For instance, a drunk driver focusing on, say, speed, is less likely to notice an unexpected pedestrian crossing the road. And yes, studies have shown that inattentional blindness is created when a person talks on a cell phone, too.

(source: University of Washington)

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Originally published July 11, 2006

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