The Top Ten Strangest Science Stories of 2013 (Part 1)

Written by Grant Mills on . Posted in Media, Nature, Science, Top List

Courtesy of the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC)

This week the AusSMC have published their Top 10 Strangest Science stories of 2013 and if this is any guide then it’s been an interesting year in science. Here I’ll republish the first 5. Tune in later in the week for the rest of the list  🙂

The Strangest Science Stories of 2013

By Birhanb,  via Wikimedia Commons

By Birhanb, via Wikimedia Commons

10. Research revealed that dogs can tell left from right:

You might think a wagging tail is a wagging tail, but you could be underestimating man’s best friends. Italian research released in November suggested dogs recognise and respond differently when their fellow canines wag to the right than when they wag to the left. The findings show that dogs, like humans, have asymmetrically organised brains, with the left and right sides playing different roles. Video available:


Ghost fingers - Soffie Hicks-Flickr

Soffie Hicks/Flic

9. Illusory fake fingers fooled our brains

In September, Australian researchers revealed a whole new class of illusion by tricking the brain into believing a fake finger was the real thing using only sensory inputs from muscles. The illusion shows that the body does not require sight or touch to sense which parts of your body belong to you, or to determine their positions in the world.


8. Szechuan peppers were found to pack a punch.

If you think eating a Szechuan pepper feels a bit like a slap in the mouth, you’re right. In September, UK scientists showed that the signal sent to the brain in response to eating a spicy Szechuan peppercorn is the equivalent of 50 light taps on the skin every second, mimicking the sense of touch.

7. Scientists figured out how to read our dreams:

We’ve all been bored rigid by other people recounting their dreams, but in April Japanese researchers read people’s dreams directly for the first time. The scientists first built up a database of dream images by scanning peoples brains using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) while they slept, then waking them and asking them to describe the images in their dreams. By matching the images to the brain maps, they were then able to predict which images people had dreamt about just by looking at the brain scans, getting it right about two thirds of the time. Video available:


6. Detachable penises and an inevitable headache – sea slug sex astounded us all:

It might have seemed ridiculous in the mildly popular 90s song, but in February scientists were surprised to discover a sea slug with a truly detachable penis. The sea slug, Chromodoris reticulata is able to dispose of its penis after sex and grow a new one within 24 hours – a feat it can repeat at least three times. And in similarly weird sea slug sex news, in November, Australian scientists found that a Great Barrier Reef species stabs its sexual partners through the head during mating. The researchers suggest this ‘head injection’ shoots prostate gland secretions into the recipient’s central nervous system, directly affecting their physiology. Video available:

….and that’s just the first half! Tune in later in the week for Part !

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