2018 Had Some Super Weird Scientific Studies. Here Are The Top 8
Remember when they got octopuses high on ecstasy?
The Lego Poop Study
A study from the University of Melbourne, published in the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health in November, involved six adults (all of whom were the authors of the study) swallowing a Lego figurine head and tracking how long it took them to poop it out.
The participants' bowel habits beforehand were measured by a Stool Hardness and Transit (SHAT) score, while the dependent variable was the Found and Retrieved Time (FART) score.
The scientists found that the Lego head passed through their systems with no complications in one to three days.
The authors reassured anxious parents that the object passes through adult subjects with no complications and parents should therefore not be "expected to search through their child's faeces to prove object retrieval".
The authors noted there was an obvious methodological limitation to the study in that the participants could not be blinded to the outcomes because the authors "felt it was unfair on the authors' partners or colleagues to search through their waste products".
The MAMILs In The Wild Study
A study from the University of Sydney titled "The emergence and characteristics of the Australian Mamil" aimed to explore the Australian distribution of the Mamil (middle-aged man in Lycra).
The authors of the study, which was published in the Medical Journal of Australia, described the Mamil as an "emergent cycling-focused species".
The researchers found that the proportion of middle-aged men who could be categorised as belonging to this species at least once a week had increased from 6.2% in 2002 to 13.2% in 2016.
The authors also noted that the "habitat of the Mamil is predominantly in affluent suburbs of major cities, often near water" and that their exercise habits may not contribute significantly to overall physical activities of wider Australia.
That Time Scientists Gave Octopuses Ecstasy
Research published in the journal Current Biology in September explored the similarities in behavioural responses between humans and octopuses by dosing the latter with MDMA, otherwise known as ecstasy.
The researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found through gene analysis that octopuses share the same serotonin transporter gene that humans have, which is known to be the principle binding site for ecstasy.
The researchers stated that this commonality was surprising, given that octopuses and humans are separated by more than 500 million years of evolution.
When the octopuses were given ecstasy, the scientists noted that they spent more time with other octopuses and engaged in exploratory physical contact with one another.
Can Rollercoasters Dislodge Kidney Stones?
Winner of the 2018 Ig Nobel Medicine Prize, this study explored the use of rollercoasters to dislodge and hasten the evacuation of kidney stones.
The research, published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, used a silicone model of an adult kidney with kidney stones and the passage that joins the kidney to the bladder (ureter).
The kidney model was taken for a total of 60 rides at either the front or back of a rollercoaster at an amusement park, with the kidney stones located in one of three different locations in the silicone kidney's ducts (high, middle or low).
The authors noted that "care was taken to protect and preserve the enjoyment of the other guests at the park".
Kidney stones were not dislodged at a significant rate at the front of the rollercoaster (only four times out of 24 rides).
However, sitting at the back of the rollercoaster dislodged the kidney stone into the ureter 23 out of 36 rides.
When A Scientist Figured Out The Nutritional Value Of Human Cannibalism
Winner of the 2018 Ig Nobel Prize for Nutrition, this research led by Dr James Cole from Brighton University assessed the caloric benefits of cannibalism to assess why instances of Paleolithic cannibalism may have occurred.
Cole concluded that human meat has a comparable nutritional value to animals that match our body weight, but its consumption could not have been motivated exclusively by calorie-intake because it is less nutritious than other animals that would have been available to eat.
This suggests that there were social, cultural or opportunistic (such as a member of the group dying by natural causes) reasons for consumption of human flesh.
When Scientists Figured Out How Body Odour And Political Belief Are Connected
A study published in February and led by researchers at Stockholm University found that a disgusted reaction to body odour can successfully predict a prefence for authoritarianism.
In an experiment involving 201 participants, the scientists used Stockholm University's smell laboratory to assess reactions to strangers' body odours and measure individual differences in social attitudes on a Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) scale.
The researchers theorised that higher disgust sensitivity leads to a belief in authoritarian regimes because social disgust and pathogenic disgust are intrinsically related and authoritarian societies reduce contact between different groups.
The Ultimate Study Of Deaths In Game Of Thrones
Researchers from Macquarie University in Sydney published a study in the journal Injury Epidemiology in October analysing the deaths of key characters in HBO's Game of Thrones to find the predictors of mortality.
The researchers observed 330 characters in the series from season 1 to season 7 and found that 56.4% of them had died by the end of the study period.
The study found that there were worse survival rates for male characters, lowborn characters, those who had not switched allegiance at some point during the show, and those who featured more prominently.
It was also found that the probability of dying within the first hour after first appearing on screen was 14%.
The researchers concluded that with this information, there is "great potential for preventing violent deaths in the world of Game of Thrones".
When A Group of Italian Physicists Out-Italianed Themselves
A paper titled "The physics of baking good pizza" was published in September and involved three leading Italian physicists breaking down why pizzeria pizza from a traditional brick oven is so much tastier than pizza cooked in an electric oven.
Led by physicist Andrey Varlamov from the Institute of Superconductors, Oxides, and Other Innovative Materials and Devices in Rome, the authors broke down the the principles of heat transfer, thermal radiation and baking time to create the equations for the optimal Margherita pizza.