Birdwatching without innocence

Birdwatching is reputedly a wholesome, innocent pastime. But it can be a richer experience than that. Some years ago, an ornithologist of my acquaintance, while looking through his telescope in Van province in Eastern Turkey, saw bimaculated larks, crimson-winged finches and black-bellied sandgrouse. Then he saw an elderly male shepherd engaged in congress with a […]

Mmmm, yummy … mummies!

Nowadays, powdered mummy may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for many years it was just what the doctor ordered. That’s one of the takeaway messages of Richard Sugg‘s study Good Physic but Bad Food: Early Modern Attitudes to Medicinal Cannibalism and its Suppliers. Sugg is a research fellow in literature and medicine at […]

Guéguen’s big bust experiments

Professor Nicolas Guéguen finds significance, or at least fascination, in what might be called voyeuristic microscopy, watching how people react to mundanely noticeable sights and sounds. Many of his experiments involve young female confederates who are shaped or perfumed or who lay a hand upon strangers in particular ways. Generally, the test subjects who respond […]

When punks grow old

Can punk rockers remain orthodox when they grow old? Joanna R Davis, a sociologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, confronts this painful question in her study Growing Up Punk: Negotiating Ageing Identity in a Local Music Scene, published in the journal Symbolic Interaction. “Punk developed in both the United Kingdom and the United […]

(L)Ode Upon a Creaking Chair

Contrary to what you might think, sitting is not a static activity, unless you are dead. In the study Chair Load Analysis During Daily Sitting Activities, Carla Paoliello and Edgar Vladimiro Mantilla Carrasco adopt the perspective of a chair. They quantify the shifting risks your furniture faces when someone sits on it. Now – right […]

Thinking on your feet

When one’s feet smell unpleasant, it’s polite to wonder why. But six scientists at the Shiseido Research Centre in Yokohama, Japan, pursued this interest more thoroughly than mere politeness alone would dictate. The pioneering research study, Elucidation of Chemical Compounds Responsible for Foot Malodour, by F Kanda, E Yagi, M Fukuda, K Nakajima, T Ohta […]