The following is an article from the Annals of Improbable Research.
by Wolter Seuntjens
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a specially abridged version of the Ph.D. dissertation which the author defended (successfully!) on October 27, 2004. Dr. Seuntjens can be reached at <email@example.com>. The web site www.baillement.com is a lavish compendium of information about yawning.]
In science, the yawn has not received its due attention. In this investigation I provide (1) a systematic-encyclopedic overview of all available knowledge about yawning. The fields from which I derive my data are linguistics (semantics, etymology), sociology, psychology, the medical sciences (anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology), and the arts (literature, film, visual arts). Then, I (2) associate a number of these data in order to (3) test the hypothesis that yawning has an erotic side, a sexual aspect.
A Taboo, an Unsolved Riddle
The mass of data that I present in the encyclopedic overview makes one thing clear: there is no good explanation for yawning.
As regards physiology: the hypoxia and hypercapnia theories -- these long-untested theories that also figure prominently in common-sense notions -- were conclusively refuted by Robert Provine and his collaborators (Provine, Tate, and Geldmacher 1987). The now popular theory that yawning leads to wakefulness (‘arousal defense reflex,’ Askenasy 1989) is not without its problems (Regehr, Ogilvie, and Simons 1992).
In the paragraphs on pathology and pharmacology I enumerate so many different illnesses and disorders that are associated with increased yawning that for the moment it is impossible to extract a common factor. The same goes for the very many chemical substances that induce yawning (Crenshaw and Goldberg 1996: 415; Argiolas and Melis 1998: 12). What this common pharmacological factor, if there is one, constitutes, remains unclear.
In the chapter on the psychology of yawning I discuss various subthemes of which the most concrete are: contagiousness, non-verbal behavior, and conditionability. Neither of these subthemes has been completely clarified. Psychologically, too, the yawn is still very much an unsolved riddle.
In the chapter on the sociology of the yawn I note that the yawn is (quasi-)universally taboo. The reason why this is so remains shrouded in mystery: the various rationales given -- superstitious, hygienic, aesthetic, psychological -- are all implausible. The ethological rationale (bared teeth) may turn out to provide the best explanation for the taboo of yawning.
Did Becky McKay ruin delicious Spam by adding yucky cookie dough to it? I haven't tried them, but her cookies sure look good. She candied the Spam by baking it with brown sugar. Next, she baked it into a standard peanut butter cookie recipe, then used the leftover Spam to make peanut butter and jelly spamwiches.
I can believe it. One of my pet rabbits once shocked me by ripping the door off her cage with her teeth when she wanted to get out. I should have tried to shoo her back in, but I was kind of afraid of her at the time.
Sometimes the most basic things remain unknown to us. For example, why do we blink?
“Many people have extensively investigated the eye movement, but most of them did not care about the eye blink,” writes Tamami Nakano, as associate professor at Osaka University in Japan, in an email. “The reason why we generate blinks so frequently has been unknown.”
Unknown, until now? Nakano and her colleagues have been examining this very simple question in recent studies. What they did is ask 20 students to watch Mr. Bean for 30 minutes while in a fMRI scanner. Most eye movement researchers have dismissed blinking simply as an involuntary way to lubricate the eyes, but that is not what Nakano believes. She believes that blinking restarts the brain network.
“The present study indicates that even while we pay attention to the external world, the shift from the external attentional brain network to the internal processing brain network (default mode network) dramatically occurs every time we blink,” Tamami says. “I think that blink is closely related to resetting of the brain network and chunking the flow of visual information for memory.”
Her study shows that blinking is like shifting gears between two different networks in the brain. A person may be watching Mr. Bean in the default mode network, but when they become visually more attentive they will blink and switch to the dorsal attention network.
So why do we blink? It seems it may be a bit more complex than just keeping our eyes clear.
It's so hot in Australia right now, they had to add two new colors to the weather forecasting chart. Deep purple and pink can now be seen on the map as Australia has broken a 50 year record of an all-time high temperature of 50.7 degrees Celsius. The range will now go up to 54 degrees, that is 129.2 degrees Fahrenheit ladies and gentleman.
It's so hot in Australia that the conditions have created a catastrophic fire threat across southeast Australia. Monday's temperature broke the record for national average temperature and the mean temperature. A total of six of the 20 hottest days in Australia have been recorded in 2013, a total that is sure to rise.
Stay safe people, hydrate, and don't choose milk. That would be a bad choice Mr. Ron Burgundy.
When Evan was only seven, he saved up his allowance for a year to donate to City Kitties, a rescue shelter in Philadelphia. He did the same thing every year since, each time saving a more money, until he was proud to donate $110 in 2012. Along the way, Evan got more joy from the donations, and the two cats his family got from the shelter, than from all the candy that money could have bought. Read his story, and the letters he wrote to the shelter, at Buzzfeed. Link
(Image credit: City Kitties)
In Edmonton, Alberta, Daniel Gray and his girlfriend Kathleen Starrie built an amazing igloo with hundreds of colored ice bricks. Ms. Starrie's parents conceived of the project as a way to distract Gray from their daughter. To prepare, they collected hundreds of milk cartons to use as molds for the bricks. Gray, an engineer, embraced the project:
Originally, Gray thought the best way to build the igloo would be to cut each of the ice blocks so they would fit together perfectly. Instead, he used what he now calls "snowcrete" to put the ice blocks together.
"(It) is just snow and water but, it sticks really well to the ice," Gray said, "The snowcrete just shaped and moulded however you wanted so it made it possible."
In total, the group spent about 150 hours carefully putting about 500 ice blocks together, one by one, to build the colourful igloo.
You can watch a video at the news story link.
Silicon Valley's startup corporate culture is noted for its downscale fashion and manners: flip-flops, office games and casual decor. If that's the norm, how do you handle casual Fridays? How do you impress others as a nonconformist? By dressing up formally, often with bowties and a tophats:
The trappings of a nonconformist workplace were on display recently at the headquarters of a startup here named Pulse: There was the foosball table, the containers of free M&Ms, the bottle of whiskey on top of the fridge.
And the guys standing around in suits and ties.
It was Friday, after all, and to truly defy conformity at some tech outfits on that day of the week, one must not wear jeans or flip-flops.
Pulse employees were practicing "Formal Friday," dressing in their Sunday best. "It is kind of flipped…because we're super casual the entire week," says Akshay Kothari, co-founder of Pulse, a startup that makes a news-organizing app. "You want to break the monotony."
Watch a video at the link, then go buy a bolo tie for next Friday. Because bolo ties are cool.
There's a tendency for people to think that sometime after the holidays, everything goes "back to normal." That may be the case as far as your workplace goes, but here at Neatorama, there is never really a "normal" to go back to, because we are constantly working on ways to make your internet experience more enjoyable. I heard Alex say something about "making his plans for the year," which may refer to his diabolical scheme to take over the world, but more likely means there are new and exciting enhancements coming to Neatorama. I have no idea yet whether these will be quantum leaps, paradigm shifts, or just more and better stuff, but I'm sure it will be great for you and everyone who stops by to read Neatorama every day! Right now I want to help you catch up on what you might have missed over the New Year holiday this past week.
Jill Harness introduced us to 11 Seriously Weird Chocolate-Coated Foods. These are the kinds of things you'll see more of in our food blog Neatolicious.
Eddie Deezen gave us two interesting articles: The Record Company That Rejected The Beatles and 10 Facts You May Not Know About James Bond.
Short Story: The Mini told us all about the famous British car, courtesy of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.
And mental_floss magazine brought us The Haka.
Congratulations to the winners of the Predict Life in the Year 2013 contest! Neatoramanauts The Professor, Craig L, and Azog all won fabulous prizes from the NeatoShop. You'll get a kick out of reading the crazy predictions everyone made for this year!
In the What Is It? game this week, we had a set of National Cash Register grocery store price stamps from the 1920s. The first with the correct answer was mowog, who wins a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! The funniest (yet wrong) answer came from moddycurl, who said, "This was the prototype for the 64 box of crayons, back when the world was all black and white." Yep, that wins a t-shirt, too! See the answers to all this week's What Is It? items at the What Is It? blog.
The most-viewed-or-shared post this week was An Apt Description, followed by Happy New Year 2013, Neatoramanauts! and coming in third was the Boba Fett Star Wars Hooded Bathrobe.
The non-contest post with the most comments was 11 Seriously Weird Chocolate-Coated Foods, with Baby's First Handshake coming in second, and then in third place was Kinder Surprise Egg Marriage Proposal.
When you get caught up on what's here at Neatorama, go see what's happening at our Pinterest board, Facebook page, and Twitter feed, where we put extra stuff for those who care to follow. And mobile users: Flipboard makes it easy to keep up with Neatorama. Oh yeah -look for Neatorama in Instagram, too!
Photographer Wendi Riggens embraced childhood imagination with her new fairy tale themed series entitled Once Upon A Time. Nine month old Maddie is the star of the show, and she doesn't seem to mind playing dress up one bit!
Sweet dreams, little Maddie, we wouldn't want you to grow up too fast!
Are you looking for a sweet and unique treat for your favorite penguin lover? You need the Penguin Measuring Cups from the NeatoShop. This beautiful set features 3 nesting penguins that double as measuring cups. Measuring sizes include: 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/4 cup, 1 tbsp, and 1/2 tbsp. They come housed in a beautiful gift box.
Be sure to check out the NeatoShop for more great Kitchen Stuff.
23-year old Xiao Feng doesn't want to get a job. He'd rather spend his time playing video games. To discourage this activity, Feng's father hired players to hunt down and slay his son's characters:
Unhappy with his son not finding a job, Feng decided to hire players in his son's favorite online games to hunt down Xiao Feng. It is unknown where or how Feng found the in-game assassins—every one of the players he hired were stronger and higher leveled than Xiao Feng. Feng's idea was that his son would get bored of playing games if he was killed every time he logged on, and that he would start putting more effort into getting a job.
Now that's creative parenting!
People have been flinging snowballs at each other longer than anyone knows. The folks in the Middle Ages seemed to enjoy it, if the paintings and illuminations of the era are any indication. Shown here is a detail from the fresco at Castello Buonconsiglio, created circa 1405-1410. The woman in the middle got it good -right in the face! See more artworks featuring snowballs at Retronaut. Link -via Buzzfeed
There are only a few hundred Rothschild giraffes alive today. Several of them live at Giraffe Manor, a resort in Kenya. There, guests can get a close look at them--and vice versa. The resident giraffes are comfortable sticking their heads through open windows to see what guests are doing. You can view more photos of them at the link.
You can see right through the whitespotted conger larva. This flat-shaped fish found in the waters around Japan is about six inches long now. But when fully grown, it will lose its transparency and be up to three feet long.
@williamshatner Yes, Standard Orbit, Captain. And we're detecting signs of life on the surface.— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) January 3, 2013
Commander Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut, is currently on the International Space Station. He got a tweet from James T. Kirk, the actor who played William Shatner on Star Trek. Hadfield showed the captain the respect due to him by rank and reputation.
Instructables member tstan1136's scratch made nutcrackers resemble Jake from Adventure Time and Lincoln from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He turned the main body parts on a lathe and laser cut the accents. Both are ready for action. A crossover episode, please!
Sadly, the holidays are over and that means it's back to working like a dog. Give yourself a break and treat those dog tired feet to the adorable Dog Fun For Feet Knitted Slipper Socks from the NeatoShop. This great pair of adult-sized slippers, with anti-slip soles, is destined to become your new best friend.
Be sure to check out the NeatoShop for more Fun Footwear.
Have you been endlessly searching for the perfect spot to store your most prized steampunk baubles? You need the Steampunk Box With Compass from the NeatoShop. This fabulous little container is decorated in steampunk-style and features beautiful hand painted details. The lid showcases a working compass.
Be sure to check out the NeatoShop for more great Home Decor items.
Babies got to eat to grow big, and a baby star is no exception. Astronomers studying a young star noticed that it is being fed a steady stream of gas from nearby planets:
Astronomers observing the still-forming sun HD 142527, located about 450 light-years away, have found that it is being fed by two hidden gas giant planets several times the mass of Jupiter. The planets, which are also still forming, each live in and are obscured by their own river of gas, which flows from a large, misshapen halo on the outer edge of the system [...] The planets' gravity draws gas from the halo, but much of that gas overshoots them and hurtles across a vast gap toward the star instead ...
Little kids sure pick up languages fast - but what you probably don't know is that even newborn are linguistic whizzes from learning the sounds of their mother tongue while in utero:
Research led by Christine Moon, a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University, shows that infants, only hours old showed marked interest for the vowels of a language that was not their mother tongue.
"We have known for over 30 years that we begin learning prenatally about voices by listening to the sound of our mother talking," Moon said. "This is the first study that shows we learn about the particular speech sounds of our mother's language before we are born."
Before the study, the general consensus was that infants learned about the small parts of speech, the vowels and the consonants, postnatally. Moon added. "This study moves the measurable result of experience with individual speech sounds from six months of age to before birth," she said. The findings will be published in Acta Paediatrica in late December.
Chris Higgins of mental_floss wrote a book called The Blogger Abides. It's about, you guessed it, blogging! In an excerpt he posted today, he gives many examples of misused words and phrases he's been called out on over the years. A couple of examples:
Tough Road to Hoe
A lot of idioms don’t seem to make sense, particularly if you (like me) never really heard them right, and just said what you thought you heard. It’s “a tough row to hoe,” not “a tough road to hoe.” Hoeing a row is something you do in a garden. With a hoe. It’s tough. You don’t hoe a road. I think maybe I thought it was “a tough road a-ho” for a while, which also seems to mean nothing (unless perhaps that’s short for “ahoy”), but maybe in some old-timey slang from my primitive brain it means something…anyway, pro tip: when using some seemingly nonsensical idiom in your writing, Google it first to figure it out what it really is and how to write it properly.
The word “plethora” traditionally has a negative connotation–so you’d say something like, “I’m pretty sure she’s crazy because she owns a plethora of cats and also never wears shoes.” In modern usage it’s often used much like “myriad,” just meaning “a lot of something”–but some readers will freak out, because of its traditional use as “a problematically large number or amount of something.” Further, the word myriad actually has a positive connotation–so you’d say something like, “Myriad stars shone from above.” (Note: debate rages over the possible uses of the word myriad. In the example just now, I used it as an adjective. It may also be used as a noun, just like plethora: “A myriad of stars shone from above.”)
In short: myriad good, plethora bad (due to quantity).
There's plenty more, from the obvious to the totally confusing. Link
New year, new laws. When the ball dropped on midnight, January 1st, we not only rang in the new year, but also a slew of oddball laws from around the country.
Good Morning America has a few examples:
Turns out 2013 will be unlucky for cat lovers in Wellington, Kan., where the city will be restricting the number of cats in a household to no more than four. [...]
Another unusual law taking effect at midnight is Public Act 97-743 in Illinois. This law imposes a fine of $1,000 on anyone who pops a wheelie on a motorcycle while speeding. [...]
Come 12:01 a.m. in Concord, Mass., plastic bottles will be considered contraband. Concord will be the first town in the nation to outlaw plastic bottles.
As of Jan. 1, it will no longer be illegal to flash your headlights in Florida to warn drivers about a speeding trap set by police.
In California, more than 800 laws are about to take effect, including one that allows driverless vehicles on the road. But a human must be present in the passenger’s seat of all computer-driven cars.
Read more over at ABC News: Link
Jeff Wysaski of Pleated-Jeans has a countdown of the ten most popular New Year resolutions as illustrated by cats. Good luck keeping yours! Resolutions, I mean. I very much hope you keep your cats. Link
Ah, Atari. You were my first gaming platform. How many hours did I waste playing Combat on you? Not enough, probably. The Pink Cake Box made this Atari 2600 cake for one man's fortieth birthday party.
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