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A paper in the British Medical Journal reviewed the literature on harms arising from laughter and produced a wide-ranging list of laughing-related dangers, from asthma attacks to cerebral tumors. The authors concluded "Laughter is not purely beneficial. The harms it can cause are immediate and dose related, the risks being highest for Homeric (uncontrollable) laughter."
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Manatees would like to remind you that it's alright. You're a good person. You just need a hug.
A few years ago, Harriet Hall googled "The One True Cause of all disease", just to see what the Internet would come up with. She counted 67 One True Causes before she got bored (52 of them made it into the handy chart above).
Besides making for an amusing anecdote, this little exercise also helps illustrate why there's a problem with ideologically driven medical treatments — the sort that comes from people who are pushing a lifestyle or a philosophy along with ostensible healthcare. It's both intriguing and convenient to think that, if we just open the right secret door, we can find the thing that's actually causing all our problems. The truth, unfortunately, seems to be that our bodies and the world they inhabit are complicated and messy and that lots of of things can lead to disease (doctors typically learn to divide these things into nine different categories, Hall says). In fact, a disease we think of as a single entity can have its roots in more than one thing. All of this is pretty obvious but it's the kind of obvious that's worth rubbing our noses in on occasion. If somebody tells you that everything from obesity to bipolar disorder to allergies to cancer all stem from the same root and can be treated or prevented with the exact same treatment, there's probably good reason to question what they're telling you.
The correct answer is that Brian and Angela just need to break up, already.
From Thanks, Textbooks — a fantastic Tumblr of supremely weird and hilarious textbook examples and questions.
Writer Darren Naish, who blogs at Tretrapod Zoology, took this photo of a Larus gull attempting to chow down on an awkwardly shaped starfish. (And, really, are there any other kind of starfish? Especially when you're trying to fit them in your mouth whole?)
You might remember Larus gulls from a recent piece I wrote on speciation and evolution. According to Naish, they might have another place in the story of evolution, as well. Regardless of how Sisyphean this gull's dinner plans may appear, Larus gulls actually (successfully) eat a lot of starfish. So many, in fact, that, as Naish explains in a recent post, they might be prompting one species of starfish to slowly turn a different color — an adaptation that makes the species less visible to gulls.
Please enjoy this very serious, scientific Tumblr that posts exactly what it promises — pictures of the strange and fantastic creatures that live deep in the ocean ... with googly eyes photoshopped onto their bodies.
The specimen above is an animal known as the pigbutt worm. Yes, seriously. With the googly eyes in place, you can't quite get a full understanding of how weird looking this animal is, so please be sure to check out the "before" photo, as well.
The site is maintained by a deep sea ecologist (he's anonymous, but I've verified that this is true). So you can trust the information provided here. For instance, when readers ask how the heck a pigbutt worm counts as a worm:
The pigbutt worm, Chaetopterus pugaporcinus, is a very weird looking worm, for sure. All Annelid worms are segmented, and the pigbutt is no exception. If you look at an ordinary earthworm, you can see those segments, but in Chaetopterus pugaporcinus, the middle segments are super inflated compared to the rest of its body. The rear segments are visible in the area that looks like the anus on a mammal’s buttocks (although others have noted that this section of the pigbutt worm looks more like a disembodied vulva than a floating buttock).
A collection of evidence suggesting that the people who take stock photographs have absolutely no idea what the process of science looks like, beyond a vague understanding that it probably involves white coats (and also beakers full of liquid).
This gentleman has an opinion. And he can see you, you little rats.
EDIT: Just wanted to clarify that this is Alex Jones. The same gentleman from the "deport Piers Morgan" interview with Piers Morgan. This particular clip comes from 2011, but with Jones in the news, it seemed funny and relevant.
The absolute best part about this video: As far as I can tell, all of the facts in it are, in fact, true.
The seahorse: Naturally hilarious.
We've talked here before about the crazy things you can find when you read the "Methods" section of a scientific research paper. (Ostensibly, that's the boring part.)
If you want a quick laugh this morning — or if you want to get a peek at how the sausages are made — check out the Twitter hashtag #overlyhonestmethods, where scientists are talking about the backstory behind seemingly dry statements like "A population of male rats was chosen for this study".
Thanks to the research of Mr. Show, we are able to share this film with you. We hope you learn something valuable about the scientific method.
Via Andrew Maynard
An oldie but goodie single-purpose Tumblr listing things banned in Leviticus, the banny-est of all scriptures. The sex stuff you can imagine (no bonking animals, dudes if you are a dude, divorcées, your grandmother, or your own children), but here are some particularly weird non-sex items in the list:
(HT: James Ball)
• Eating any animal which walks on all four and has paws (good news for cats) (11:27)
• Picking up grapes that have fallen in your vineyard (19:10)
• Mixing fabrics in clothing (19:19)
• Cross-breeding animals (19:19)
• Eating fruit from a tree within four years of planting it (19:23)
• Trimming your beard (19:27)
• Getting tattoos (19:28)
• Not standing in the presence of the elderly (19:32)
• Mistreating foreigners – “the foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born” (19:33-34)
• Using dishonest weights and scales (19:35-36)
• Blasphemy (punishable by stoning to death) (24:14)
• Selling land permanently (25:23)
So, on The Ellen DeGeneres Show they have a thing called a "Dance Dare". The basic idea: Sneak up around somebody when they aren't looking and boogie down, just outside their peripheral vision. If you're caught, stop dancing. Play casual. Wander away.
Which brings us to this video.
Krister Shalm is a postdoc in the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, Canada. He is also a swing dancer.
A couple of weeks ago, Stephen Hawking visited the University of Waterloo and Krister took the opportunity to do a Dance Dare on the esteemed physicist. The other Ellen Dance Dares are sort of club dance-y in nature, but Krister opted for a little jazz jig more fitting his personal skill set.
"It comes complete with shout-outs to Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson," reports the Washington Post, which dug into the story behind its creation. Half a million views so far, huh? Best NASA PSA ever.
David Allan Thompson, 27, was arrested for ripping off a bag of marijuana seized as evidence from the Charleroi Regional police department, in Pennsylvania. Mr. Thompson had gone to the police station on his own volition, according to reports, to "help out" cops. "Police said that back at the station, Thompson apologized repeatedly, telling police, 'I just couldn’t help myself. That bud smelled so good.' He also reportedly told police he couldn’t believe he was in trouble for 'taking a little bit of weed,' especially since he had stopped by to give them information." (MSNBC)
New, from the makers of Maximum Strength Placebo, it's Nocebo, the product you will almost certainly regret."
Now for the first time, Nocebo is available for sale direct to the general public! Despite containing no active ingredients whatsoever, Nocebo can cause a wide range of undesirable effects, from nausea to diarrhea, that is because it's potency lies entirely inside the human brain! Nocebo merely suggests that it is bad for you, your brain and body does the rest!
Via Steve Silberman
Update: CNN's Jeanne Moos uncovered the even funnier story behind "Double Trainbow," here. And the original it lovingly parodies, by "foamer" and excitable railfan Mark McDonough, is below. His YouTube channel is a thing of beauty.
Pictured: Laocoon, who had some serious problems with his methodology.
I'll bet you didn't know that, in order to earn a Ph.D. from a major American university, you must first defeat a snake in combat. Don't feel too bad. They almost never mention this until you've already begun your graduate studies. Luckily, Luke Burns has a handy FAQ over at McSweeny's that will make sure you pass both your oral thesis defense and your mandatory snake fight with flying colors.
Q: Do I have to kill the snake?
A: University guidelines state that you have to “defeat” the snake. There are many ways to accomplish this. Lots of students choose to wrestle the snake. Some construct decoys and elaborate traps to confuse and then ensnare the snake. One student brought a flute and played a song to lull the snake to sleep. Then he threw the snake out a window.
Q: Does everyone fight the same snake?
A: No. You will fight one of the many snakes that are kept on campus by the facilities department.
Q: Are the snakes big?
A: We have lots of different snakes. The quality of your work determines which snake you will fight. The better your thesis is, the smaller the snake will be.
For god's sake, read the full FAQ. You do not want to arrive at your snake fight unprepared.
Via Andrew Thaler