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Jumpy Eggs and Drunk Bats

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!

compiled by Dirk Manley, Improbable Research staff

Chinese Jumpy About Eggs
“Egg Phobia in Retirement Homes: Health Risk Perceptions Among Elderly Chinese,” C.Y. Lew-Ting, Culture Medicine and Psychiatry, March 1997, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 27–51. The author, who is at National Taiwan University, reports that:

Cholesterol has become a commonly-discussed issue in the daily lives of the 203 residents interviewed, and many of them were found to be preoccupied with the risk involved in excess consumption (especially of egg yolks).

Jumpy Japanese Eggs
“Can a Spinning Egg Really Jump?”, T. Mitsui, K. Aihara, C. Terayama, H. Kobayashi, and Y. Shimomura, Proceedings—Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, October 8, 2006, vol. 462, no. 2074, pp. 2897–2905. (Thanks to Michael Friedlander for bringing this to our attention.) The authors report that:

Simultaneous three-way observation of optical, acoustic and electric properties demonstrates a theoretical prediction that a spinning prolate spheroid can spontaneously lose contact with the table in the course of its rising motion when the contact friction is weak and the spin is large enough.... The measurements show good agreements with numerical simulations. It is also visually shown that a spinning hard-boiled egg can jump.

Detail from the Mitsui/Aihara/Terayama/Kobayashi/Shimomura spinning egg study.

When Bats Guzzle and Fly
“Drinking and Flying: Does Alcohol Consumption Affect the Flight and Echolocation Performance of Phyllostomid Bats?” Dara N. Orbach, Nina Veselka, Yvonne Dzal, Louis Lazure, and M. Brock Fenton, PLoS 1, vol. 5, no. 2, February 2010, p. e8993. (Thanks to investigator Jens Hansen for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the University of Western Ontario and at the University of Regina, Canada, report:

In the wild, frugivorous and nectarivorous bats often eat fermenting fruits and nectar, and thus may consume levels of ethanol that could induce inebriation.... We predicted that bats fed ethanol would show impaired flight and echolocation behaviour compared to bats fed control sugar water, and that there would be behavioural differences among species. We fed wild caught Artibeus jamaicensis, A. lituratus, A. phaeotis, Carollia sowelli, Glossophaga soricina, and Sturnira lilium (Chiroptera, Phyllostomidae) sugar water (44 g of table sugar in 500 ml of water) or sugar water with ethanol before challenging them to fly through an obstacle course while we simultaneously recorded their echolocation calls. We used bat saliva, a non-invasive proxy, to measure blood ethanol concentrations ranging from 0 to .0.3% immediately before flight trials. Flight performance and echolocation behaviour were not significantly affected by consumption of ethanol, but species differed in their blood alcohol concentrations after consuming it.


This article is republished with permission from the May-June 2010 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift! Visit their website for more research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.

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There is quite a difference between .03% blood alcohol and 0.3%. The former would not impair most humans. The latter would put many in the hospital.
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