10 absurd research findings that will completely leave you stunned..

Sunday, 17 August 2014 - 6:00am IST | Agency: dna

From channelising flatulence gases for medicinal purposes to determining that red is the colour for girls who want expensive dates, researchers today are studying all sorts of things– some useful, some funny and others downright pointless. And though you'd wonder why researchers bothered with them in the first place, they could also hold a grain of truth. Kavita Devgan compiles a list of ten absurd research findings in the sociological, medical and psychological arenas and leaves the ball in your court
  • Sudhir Shetty dna

Using farts as medicine
No one likes to fart in public, but the fact is that an average person produces about half a litre of this pungent intestinal gas every single day. Not all is lost though as research published in the journal Medicinal Chemistry Communication suggests that fart is actually a panacea for health. It is composed of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane and hydrogen sulphide, and it is the last chemical that has scientists excited. Hydrogen sulphide helps preserve mitochondria (the energy production component of cells) and lowers inflammation in the body. So researchers from University of Exeter's medical school have exploited this natural process by making a compound called AP39, which slowly delivers small amounts of this gas specifically to the mitochondria. The results indicate that if stressed cells are treated with AP39, mitochondria are protected and cells stay alive. These researchers are touting it as a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for diseases like diabetes, arthritis, heart failure, dementia and aging. Finally we have enough reasons to stop getting embarrassed about our farts.

Lonely on Facebook!
Social networking sites make you more lonely, say studies done by Massachusetts Institute of Technology social psychologist Sherry Turkle (all of which she has put in her super successful 2011 book Alone Together). According to her, social networking erodes our ability to live normally offline, making us lose touch with reality and real life friends. "…people who choose to devote large portions of their time to connecting online are more isolated than ever in their non-virtual lives leading to emotional disconnection, mental fatigue and anxiety," she writes. And this loneliness is experienced in spite of (or maybe because of) umpteen daily Facebook updates, retweets and Instagram posts. Apparently, the high from scoring multiple friends and followers and likes is very short-lived, and one is forced to keep angling for more.

Rich people cheat more, lie more
In February 2012, research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported the results of studies conducted by psychologists from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Toronto. It stated that "people from higher income groups are far more likely to drive aggressively, cheat at games of chance, behave underhandedly in business negotiations – and, when given the opportunity, take things that don't belong to them". Lead researcher Paul Piff wrote, "I think that, in general, as a person's station in society increases, that is, as their position in the socioeconomic hierarchy increases, their self-focused tendencies also increase." Whether it is a far-fetched notion is a matter of debate. But in a world that celebrates greed and power, these results are not surprising.

Interacting with women make men stupid
This study really takes the cake, but to the researchers' credit, they have proven it through their tests. In 2009, researchers from Radboud University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands did some tests to check if mixed-sex interactions temporarily cause a decline in cognitive functioning. Guess what they found? In both the studies they conducted, the male participants tended to perform worse on a cognitive task following the mixed-sex interaction compared to the same-sex interaction. The researchers found that the women were affected too, but to a far lesser degree. "That's probably because men try hard to make a good impression during the interaction," was the experts' rationale. So men, the next time you chat with a desired romantic partner, make sure you don't sit down to work on that all-important presentation right after.

Girls– wear red if you want a good date
If we believe this study, then men, it seems, haven't grown up from the time of chimpanzees and baboons; they still (like them) get attracted to the colour red. In a study done at the University of Rochester, New York, psychologists found that a woman wearing red was more likely to be treated to a more expensive date. Women shown framed by or wearing red were rated significantly more attractive and sexually desirable by men than women in other colours. The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2008. Hmmm… forget what the fashion magazines are forecasting as the colour of the season – stick to red, girls! No wonder this rosy hue has been tied to romantic love across cultures for centuries now.

Men who don't do chores at home get more sex
"That actually means that husbands who help out with cooking, cleaning, and shopping suffer the consequences," according to Spanish researchers from the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid. The finding that men who reinforce gender roles supposedly get laid more often was published in the journal American Sociological Review last year. It suggests that "couples where men participate more in housework typically done by women report having sex less frequently, and couples where men participate more in traditionally masculine tasks — such as yard work, paying bills, and auto maintenance — report higher sexual frequency." So, is the lesson here that men must keep their feet up while their other halves slog? Only if they are willing to continue plodding through a loveless marriage, because it is obvious that the wife will absolutely and immensely hate you for it. Your call guys!

The obesity flu
There are many reasons for obesity – food, lack of exercise, medical issues and more. A study published in New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 has a new take on obesity though. Researchers report that obesity can spread like the flu. Their findings suggest that when people become obese, the risk of their closest friends becoming obese over the next two to four years increases by 171%. The risk for their casual friends increases by 57%, that for their siblings 40%, and the spouse, 37%. The reverse is also true. When one person loses weight, it has a ripple effect and increases the chances by similar percentages for their friends, siblings and spouse. What's interesting is that proximity is not important – the flu-like effect travels hundreds of miles. So staying away from an obese friend is not really going to work! Does the study mean that the way to avoid becoming fat is to avoid having fat friends? I'd say a better way would be to help them lose weight.

Husbands and wives end up with same faces
If we believe a study done way back in 1987 by psychologist Robert Zajonc and his colleagues of the University of Michigan, people who live with each other for 25 years develop similar facial features. In the study, 110 participants were shown photographs of men and women in their first year of marriage and then after 25 years. They were then asked to judge their resemblance along with the chance that any man and woman were married to each other. The results showed that couples' features converge over time.

Catch a cold, catch a divorce
A 2010 study by US-based researchers, sociologists and psychologists from Brown University, Harvard University and University of California, San Diego suggests that when a couple within a social group divorces, very often their friends' relationships too collapse. The study examined statistics from a group of individuals over a span of 32 years. According to the researchers, a split between your immediate friends increases your own chances of getting divorced by 75%. When the divorce is between friends of a friend, the effect drops to 33% and disappears almost completely at three degrees of separation. There's more. A person with a divorced co-worker is 55% more likely to get a divorce than someone who works with all married co-workers, and a person with a divorced sibling is 22% more likely to get a divorce. Divorce is rather infectious, the study seems to suggest. So how does one stop this divorce flu? "Paying attention to the health of your friends' relationships can inadvertently strengthen your own marriage," writes Rose McDermott, professor of political science at Brown University.

Curvy hips = smarter women
Women with waists about 70% of the diameter of their hips scored slightly better on intelligence tests than women with a higher waist-to-hip ratio. That was the report from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California who looked at data from a study of more than 16,000 women and girls that had details of their body measurements as well as their education level and scores on various cognitive tests. Their children too had significantly higher cognitive test scores. Basically, what they mean to suggest is that the curvier your hips, the smarter you are. When asked why, they speculated that the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids stored in the extra fat cells on the hips and thighs of curvy women may be responsible for the findings. These essential fatty acids are very important for the health of her brain and eventually the brain of her children.

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