Top 10 Strangest Science Stories of 2013 (Part 2)

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

In Part 1 of the Australian Science Media Centre’s Top 10 list of the weirdest science stories of 2013 we heard about puppy brains, slug sex and detachable penises.

Now to count down to the number one strangest science story of this year!

Courtesy of the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC)

C: Arthur Chapman

C: Arthur Chapman

5.     To the mothmobile! Insects hitched a ride on robots:

Forget dogs driving cars, in February moths got their own mode of transport – robots. Japanese researchers developed a two-wheeled robot that’s driven by a male silk-moth. The moths steer the machine towards enticing female sex pheromones, allowing researchers to monitor their neural activity. Video available:

4.     Studying applause revealed it’s infectious:

Scientists found that when it comes to applause, it’s not the quality of performance, but peer pressure that affects clapping. In June, researchers revealed that clapping spreads through a crowd like an infection, and that it’s the social pressure from people around us who start or stop clapping that has the biggest influence on how long we applaud. It seems no-one likes to be the first or the last caught clapping. 


3.     Sorry boys, scientists found size matters after all:

In April, Australian researchers showed that, when it comes to attractiveness at least, penis size does matter. Using a series of life-sized, computer-generated images of male figures, they discovered that women rated the ‘cyber’ men as more attractive as penis size increased. But there is some comfort for less well-endowed blokes out there, assuming you’re also tall – increased height had an almost equivalent positive effect. The results suggest the female tendency to choose a man with a bigger manhood could have driven the evolution of larger penises in humans.  Video available:

2.     Farts on a plane were found to be ‘better out than in’: 

Talking of pungent and decayed, in February a team of Danish and British gastroenterologists discussed that while holding back a fart on an aeroplane may cause significant discomfort and physical symptoms, releasing flatus presents social complications, leaving potential aerial farters in a quandary. Suggesting that there’s truth in the tradition of ‘better out than in’, the researchers also provide advice on how to get away with it. They recommend walking up and down the aisle if you want to let rip as “the social problems of flatulence are reduced, since the odour is distributed over a larger area”.

And the final take home message? “The future frequent flyer may develop the ability to “sneak a fart” by wearing charcoal-lined underwear thus experiencing a comfortable flight in harmony with fellow passengers.” We can only hope.


1.     Researchers found we can smell ten smells – and one of them is popcorn! 

We all know tastes can be classified into five distinct flavours, but research released in September suggested there are 10 basic categories of odour – and that one of them is popcorn. The other odours are fragrant, woody/resinous, fruity (non-citrus), chemical, minty/peppermint, sweet, lemon and two kinds of sickening odours: pungent and decayed.

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