WORLD SERIES MADNESS at the Best of PubMed!!!

This is a special edition of the Best of PubMed, in honor of the World Series, which is underway. As you’ll see, scientists have devoted an extraordinary amount of research into baseball… revealing that they aren’t immune to the obsession regarding gathering data and statistics that marks the true baseball fan!

We work our way from the pregame, to umpires, to the fellow at the plate, through the infield, and into the outfield. A lot of this is SERIOUS research, guys, really, really, really serious!

Here you’ll find answers to all those burning questions that you’ve wondered about: from the physics of the curve ball, to the life expectancy of left-handed vs. right-handed pitchers, whether being in the Hall of Fame extends your life, how to end a batting slump, whether hot days bring teams off the bench for a brawl, how to know where to run to catch a fly ball, whether there’s really an “at-home” advantage, does the team that bats last have an advantage…What can Babe Ruth teach psychologists? What can they learn from center fielders? The list goes on and on. Many of the links point to abstracts or even free full articles…

Be sure not to miss the hot topic of whether baseball players whose initials spell out “good” words (like “ACE”) live longer than those whose initials are bad (like “ASS”)!!! (See the section on epidemiology.)

So, it’s off to the ball park (and PubMed) for some World Series madness…

LET THEM PLAY BALL.
BARNES FE Jr.
N C Med J. 1964 Oct;25:439-40.
PMID: 14200489

Before the game and behind the plate:

Singing the national anthem at major league baseball stadiums raises awareness of ALS.
Herreria J.
Profiles Healthc Mark. 1998 Jul-Aug;14(4):18-20.
PMID: 10186395

Concussions experienced by Major League Baseball catchers and umpires: field data and experimental baseball impacts.
Beyer JA, Rowson S, Duma SM.
Ann Biomed Eng. 2012 Jan;40(1):150-9.
PMID: 22012084

[A study on the effect of physical load of baseball umpire, during a baseball game in the summer].
Kurakake S, Sugawara K, Kumae T, Shimaoka A, Mathida K, Okamura N.
Nihon Eiseigaku Zasshi. 1988 Feb;42(6):1013-22. Japanese.
PMID: 3398288

Life expectancy of major league baseball umpires.
Cohen RS, Kamps CA, Kokoska S, Segal EM, Tucker JB.
Phys Sportsmed. 2000 May;28(5):83-9. doi: 10.3810/psm.2000.05.904.
PMID: 20086642

Umpire needed
Pope A.
BMJ. 1999 May 8;318(7193):1280A.
PMID: 10231267

Quiet eye gaze behavior of expert, and near-expert, baseball plate umpires.
Millslagle DG, Hines BB, Smith MS.
Percept Mot Skills. 2013 Feb;116(1):69-77.
PMID: 23829135

Visual gaze behavior of near-expert and expert fast pitch softball umpires calling a pitch.
Millslagle DG, Smith MS, Hines BB.
J Strength Cond Res. 2013 May;27(5):1188-95. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318269ab15.
PMID: 22836605

Contextual influences on baseball ball-strike decisions in umpires, players, and controls.
MacMahon C, Starkes JL.
J Sports Sci. 2008 May;26(7):751-60. doi: 10.1080/02640410701813050.
PMID: 18409106

Magnitude of stress experienced by baseball and softball umpires.
Rainey DW.
Percept Mot Skills. 1994 Aug;79(1 Pt 1):255-8.
PMID: 7991318

 

AT THE PLATE:

Who is this ball player?
Fox K.
HDA Now. 2013 Summer:27-8.
PMID: 24079151

Balls, Strikes, and VIPs.
Kao A.
Virtual Mentor. 2001 May 1;3(5). doi:pii: virtualmentor.2001.3.5.dykn1-0105. 10.1001/virtualmentor.2001.3.5.dykn1-0105.
PMID: 23273008

Hitting is contagious: experience and action induction.
Gray R, Beilock SL.
J Exp Psychol Appl. 2011 Mar;17(1):49-59. doi: 10.1037/a0022846.
PMID: 21443380

Visual search strategies of baseball batters: eye movements during the preparatory phase of batting.
Kato T, Fukuda T.
Percept Mot Skills. 2002 Apr;94(2):380-6.
PMID: 12027326

Ending batting slumps in baseball: a qualitative investigation.
Prapavessis H, Grove JR.
Aust J Sci Med Sport. 1995 Mar;27(1):14-9.
PMID: 7780772

First-rib stress fractures related to hitting in two baseball teammates.
Young EJ, Curtis RJ.
Clin J Sport Med. 2008 May;18(3):300-1. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31816ffbd4.
PMID: 18469578

Thrown a curve.
Makaryus AN, Henry SA, Rutkin B, Boxt L.
Am J Med. 2007 May;120(5):420-1.
PMID: 17466652

You Can’t Think and Hit at the Same Time: Neural Correlates of Baseball Pitch Classification.
Sherwin J, Muraskin J, Sajda P.
Front Neurosci. 2012;6:177. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00177. eCollection 2012.
PMID: 23267311

The effect of fastball backspin rate on baseball hitting accuracy.
Higuchi T, Morohoshi J, Nagami T, Nakata H, Kanosue K.
J Appl Biomech. 2013 Jun;29(3):279-84. Epub 2012 Aug 22.
PMID: 22923374

Transitions between central and peripheral vision create spatial/temporal distortions: a hypothesis concerning the perceived break of the curveball.
Shapiro A, Lu ZL, Huang CB, Knight E, Ennis R.
PLoS One. 2010 Oct 13;5(10):e13296. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013296.
PMID: 20967247

Hitting what one wants to hit and missing what one wants to miss.
Regan D, Gray R.
Vision Res. 2001;41(25-26):3321-9. Review.
PMID: 11718776

Expert baseball batters have greater sensitivity in making swing decisions.
Gray R.
Res Q Exerc Sport. 2010 Sep;81(3):373-8.
PMID: 20949857

How baseball players prepare to bat: tactical knowledge as a mediator of expert performance in baseball.
McPherson S, MacMahon C.
J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2008 Dec;30(6):755-78.
PMID: 19164840

A triarchical model of batting abilities: applying psychological statistics to baseball.
Kaufman JC.
Percept Mot Skills. 1997 Aug;85(1):299-304.
PMID: 9293591

ON THE MOUND:

The effects of extended play on professional baseball pitchers.
Murray TA, Cook TD, Werner SL, Schlegel TF, Hawkins RJ.
Am J Sports Med. 2001 Mar-Apr;29(2):137-42.
PMID: 11292037

Assessing pitcher and catcher influences on base stealing in Major League Baseball.
Loughin TM, Bargen JL.
J Sports Sci. 2008 Jan 1;26(1):15-20.
PMID: 17852677

Effect of three different between-inning recovery methods on baseball pitching performance.
Warren CD, Brown LE, Landers MR, Stahura KA.
J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Mar;25(3):683-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318208adfe.
PMID: 21311344

A biomechanical comparison of the fastball and curveball in adolescent baseball pitchers.
Nissen CW, Westwell M, Ounpuu S, Patel M, Solomito M, Tate J.
Am J Sports Med. 2009 Aug;37(8):1492-8. doi: 10.1177/0363546509333264. Epub 2009 May 15.
PMID: 19448049

The impact of pitch counts and days of rest on performance among major-league baseball pitchers.
Bradbury JC, Forman SL.
J Strength Cond Res. 2012 May;26(5):1181-7. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31824e16fe.
PMID: 22344048

Lefties are still a little shorter.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Percept Mot Skills. 2007 Apr;104(2):405-6.
PMID: 17566429

Do right-handers live longer? An updated assessment of baseball player data.
Hicks RA, Johnson C, Cuevas T, Deharo D, Bautista J.
Percept Mot Skills. 1994 Jun;78(3 Pt 2):1243-7.
PMID: 7936949

Left-handed major-league baseball players and longevity re-examined.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Percept Mot Skills. 2004 Dec;99(3 Pt 1):990-2.
PMID: 15648498

Analysis of data from Reichler’s (1979) The Baseball Encyclopedia: right-handed pitchers are taller and heavier than left-handed pitchers.
Fudin R, Renninger L, Hirshon J.
Percept Mot Skills. 1994 Jun;78(3 Pt 1):1043-8.
PMID: 8084677

 

STUCK IN THE OUTFIELD:

Controlled variables: psychology as the center fielder views it.
Marken RS.
Am J Psychol. 2001 Summer;114(2):259-81.
PMID: 11430151

How baseball outfielders determine where to run to catch fly balls.
McBeath MK, Shaffer DM, Kaiser MK.
Science. 1995 Apr 28;268(5210):569-73.
PMID: 7725104

People favour imperfect catching by assuming a stable world.
López-Moliner J, Keil MS.
PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35705. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035705. Epub 2012 Apr 25.
PMID: 22558205

Catching balls: how to get the hand to the right place at the right time.
Peper L, Bootsma RJ, Mestre DR, Bakker FC.
J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1994 Jun;20(3):591-612.
PMID: 8027714

Catching of balls unexpectedly thrown or fired by cannon.
Kenward B, Nilsson D.
Percept Mot Skills. 2011 Aug;113(1):171-87.
PMID: 21987918

Catching fly balls: a new model steps up to the plate.
Cipra B.
Science. 1995 Apr 28;268(5210):502.
PMID: 7725094

On catching fly balls.
Jacobs TM, Lawrence MD, Hong K, Giordano N Jr, Giordano N Sr.
Science. 1996 Jul 12;273(5272):257-8; author reply 258-60.
PMID: 8668999

I Lost It in the Lights: The Effects of Predictable and Variable Intermittent Vision on Unimanual Catching.
Lyons J, Fontaine R, Elliot D.
J Mot Behav. 1997 Jun;29(2):113-118.
PMID: 12453788

Catch this!
Gauldin D.
J Perinat Educ. 2002 Winter;11(1):49.
PMID: 17273288

WATCH YOUR TEMPER!

Temper, temperature, and temptation: heat-related retaliation in baseball.
Larrick RP, Timmerman TA, Carton AM, Abrevaya J.
Psychol Sci. 2011 Apr;22(4):423-8. doi: 10.1177/0956797611399292. Epub 2011 Feb 24.
PMID: 21350182

Impact of Yankee Stadium Bat Day on blunt trauma in northern New York City.
Bernstein SL, Rennie WP, Alagappan K.
Ann Emerg Med. 1994 Mar;23(3):555-9.
PMID: 8135433

THE EPIDEMIOLOGY OF BASEBALL:

Longevity of major league baseball players.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Res Sports Med. 2005 Jan-Mar;13(1):1-5.
PMID: 16389882

Major League Baseball Players’ Life Expectancies.
Saint Onge JM, Rogers RG, Krueger PM.
Soc Sci Q. 2008 Jul 17;89(3):817-830.
PMID: 19756205 [PubMed] Free PMC Article
Soc Sci Q. 2008 Jul 17;89(3):817-830.
RESULTS:
Compared to 20-year-old U.S. males, MLB players can expect almost five additional years of life. Height, weight, handedness, and player ratings are unassociated with the risk of death in this population of highly active and successful adults. Career length is inversely associated with the risk of death, likely because those who play longer gain additional incomes, physical fitness, and training.
CONCLUSIONS:
Our results indicate improvements in life expectancies with time for all age groups and indicate possible improvements in longevity in the general U.S. population.

The longevity of Baseball Hall of Famers compared to other players.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Death Stud. 2005 Dec;29(10):959-63.
PMID: 16265814
Abstract
The authors compared the longevity of all baseball players alive at the time of their induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame with age-matched controls who were likewise alive at the time of the Hall of Famer’s induction, and also matched them for career length, player position, and body-mass index, to assess if fame in sports is associated with increased longevity. Median post-induction survival for Hall of Famers was 5 years shorter than for noninducted players (18 vs. 23 years, respectively). In a second analysis, significantly more Hall of Famers died of cardiovascular or stroke causes than other players for whom cause of death was known. Baseball fame may have a hitherto unrecognized price.

Symbolic significance of initials on longevity.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Percept Mot Skills. 2007 Feb;104(1):179-82.
PMID: 17450979
Abstract
The longevities of deceased major league baseball players who died prior to 1950 (N=3835) and whose initials formed acronyms, words, or names with “positive” or “negative” affect, as rated a priori by two judges, were compared with those for a group of neutral controls matched for birth year and career length, using the Berkeley standardized mortality tables. Players (n=11) with positive initials, e.g., A.C.E., lived a mean of 13 years longer than players (n=30) with negative initials, e.g., D.E.D., or players with neutral initials (n=864). These results corroborated a previous study and suggest positive name symbols are associated with increased longevity in this sample.

Another look at baseball player initials and longevity.
Smith G.
Percept Mot Skills. 2011 Feb;112(1):211-6.
PMID: 21466094
Abstract
Abel and Kruger (2007) reported that Major League Baseball players whose names have positive initials (such as ACE or GOD) live an average of 13 years longer than do players with negative initials (such as ASS or BAD) or players with neutral initials (such as GHR or TSW). However, this conclusion is based on a very small sample, selective initials, and a flawed statistical test. There is no statistically significant relationship between initials and longevity for Major League Baseball players when a correct test is applied to independently selected initials.

The “birthday blues” in a sample of major league baseball players’ suicides.
Lester D.
Percept Mot Skills. 2005 Oct;101(2):382.
PMID: 16383067

Seasonality of birth in the majors, 1880-1999.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Soc Biol. 2005 Spring-Summer;52(1-2):47-55.
PMID: 17619630
Abstract
We examined two alternative explanations, one demographic, the other sociological, for the uneven distribution of birth months of Major League baseball (MLB) players active between 1880 and 1999. Beginning in 1900, players born between August and October were significantly overrepresented, and this uneven distribution was almost identical for the next five 20-year periods. During the last 20-year period (1980-1999), the disparity in birth months became even more pronounced. Ethnicity, handedness, player position, accomplishment (winning an award), and career length were not significantly related to birth month. Prior to 1980, the distribution of births for MLB players did not differ significantly from the distribution for the general population, but after 1980, it did. We concluded that up until 1980, the uneven distribution of birth months in MLB originated in the demographic seasonality-related excess number of births in August and September in the United States. Beginning in the 1980s, this seasonality pattern was institutionally reinforced by the growing influence of Little League and related junior baseball leagues and their reliance on the August 1 birth date for age grouping.

Mortality salience of birthdays on day of death in the Major Leagues.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Death Stud. 2009 Feb;33(2):175-84. doi: 10.1080/07481180802138936.
PMID: 19143110
Abstract
The authors assessed the relationship of mortality salience, as represented by birthdays, on the day of death. Preliminary studies considered the role of possible artifacts such as seasonality of birth and death, and time units for evaluation. On the basis of terror management theory’s concept of “mortality salience,” the authors hypothesized that famous people, in this case Major League Baseball (MLB) players, would be more likely to die on or after their birthdays than would be expected by chance (the “birthday blues”), and that the greater their fame, as represented by induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the greater the concentration of deaths shortly after birthdays. The results supported the hypothesis. Theoretical underpinnings of these results and practical implications were discussed.

Birth month and suicide among major league baseball players.
Abel EL, Kruger ML.
Percept Mot Skills. 2005 Aug;101(1):21-4.
PMID: 16350605

Do right-handers live longer? An updated assessment of baseball player data.
Hicks RA, Johnson C, Cuevas T, Deharo D, Bautista J.
Percept Mot Skills. 1994 Jun;78(3 Pt 2):1243-7.
PMID: 7936949

Body type and performance of elite cuban baseball players.
Carvajal W, Ríos A, Echevarría I, Martínez M, Miñoso J, Rodríguez D.
MEDICC Rev. 2009 Apr;11(2):15-20.
PMID: 21483313 [PubMed] Free Article

Major league baseball performances of players who were later suicides or homicide victims.
Lester D, Topp R.
Percept Mot Skills. 1989 Aug;69(1):272.
PMID: 2780186

IMPROVING YOUR ODDS:

Batting last as a home advantage factor in men’s NCAA tournament baseball.
Bray SR, Obara J, Kwan M.
J Sports Sci. 2005 Jul;23(7):681-6.
PMID: 16195017

Human face structure correlates with professional baseball performance: insights from professional Japanese baseball players.
Tsujimura H, Banissy MJ.
Biol Lett. 2013 Apr 10;9(3):20130140. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0140. Print 2013.
PMID: 23576779

Home advantage in retractable-roof baseball stadia.
Romanowich P.
Percept Mot Skills. 2012 Oct;115(2):559-66.
PMID: 23265018

Measuring circadian advantage in Major League Baseball: a 10-year retrospective study.
Winter WC, Hammond WR, Green NH, Zhang Z, Bliwise DL.
Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2009 Sep;4(3):394-401.
PMID: 19953826

A major league loss.
Cloud J.
Time. 2003 Mar 3;161(9):60.
PMID: 12632674

Batting last as a home advantage factor in men’s NCAA tournament baseball.
Bray SR, Obara J, Kwan M.
J Sports Sci. 2005 Jul;23(7):681-6.
PMID: 16195017

Evidence of a reduced home advantage when a team moves to a new stadium.
Pollard R.
J Sports Sci. 2002 Dec;20(12):969-73.
PMID: 12477006

 

JUST SAY NO!

Use of smokeless tobacco in the 1986 World Series.
Jones RB.
N Engl J Med. 1987 Apr 9;316(15):952.
PMID: 3821849

Prevalence of spit tobacco use across studies of professional baseball players.
Greene JC, Walsh MM, Letendre MA.
J Calif Dent Assoc. 1998 May;26(5):358-64. Review.
PMID: 10528568

A program to help major league baseball players quit using spit tobacco.
Greene JC, Walsh MM, Masouredis C.
J Am Dent Assoc. 1994 May;125(5):559-68.
PMID: 8195497

Toxicological deaths of major league baseball players.
Boren S, Erickson TB.
J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1998;36(7):737-42.
PMID: 9865245

GENERAL ISSUES:

Psychology and “the Babe”.
Fuchs AH.
J Hist Behav Sci. 1998 Spring;34(2):153-65.
PMID: 9580977

High-speed video analysis of head-first and feet-first sliding techniques in collegiate baseball players.
Hosey RG, Mattacola CG, Shapiro R.
Clin J Sport Med. 2003 Jul;13(4):242-4.

Major league baseball players get dental coverage.
[No authors listed]
J Am Dent Assoc. 1969 Apr;78(4):737.
PMID: 5251266

Major league dreams.
Hallberg J.
Minn Med. 2000 Jun;83(6):12-6.
PMID: 10881568

A replay of the baseball data.
Coren S, Halpern DF.
Percept Mot Skills. 1993 Apr;76(2):403-6.
PMID: 8483647

What can major league baseball teach us about healthcare?
[No authors listed]
J Neurosci Nurs. 2012 Feb;44(1):1. doi: 10.1097/JNN.0b013e31823fdcec.
PMID: 22210298

Announcing our new Science Communication Teacher Training Program at the MDC (SCOTT) 

Aims

SCOTT is a new program aimed primarily at advanced career stage scientists with excellent (near native) English and solid writing and presentation skills. The goals are to:

  • help participants develop additional professional qualifications as science communication trainers, teachers, writers, etc.;
  • produce a group of highly trained, excellent teachers to act as multipliers at the MDC and beyond;
  • serve as a unique model program to promote the institutionalization of excellent science communication training.

Who are we looking for?

Initially we will establish a group of 10-12 trainees who will work together as a team for one year. Priority will be given to postdocs and advanced career stage scientists at the MDC, although we will consider exceptional candidates with other qualifications and from other institutes. We also invite applicants from other fields of natural science, data science, informatics, etc.

What does the program entail?

Participants will need to make a long-term commitment and be prepared to devote about 3 days per month to the project (not as a block). Papers, presentations, grants or other projects they are working on with their own groups will count as part of this time. Activities will include seminars, observations of courses, outside assignments, and teaching. The program is divided into 3 phases:

  • Seminars, observation, and discussions to provide a solid theoretical introduction to practices and problems in scientific communication, didactics and learning styles. The group will hone their own science communication skills, observe ongoing courses in a range of skill areas, discuss and deconstruct the teaching, and creatively brainstorm to improve the theory and methodology. We will work on lesson plans together and feed new ideas into the next cycle of courses.
  • In the second phase, participants will take over the teaching of some modules of ongoing courses themselves, with supervision by the instructor, observation by colleagues and sessions for constructive feedback afterwards.
  • In the third phase participants will begin teaching independently with support from the instructor and the group. We will present the program through lectures, demonstrations and group workshops, at the MDC and other organizations, to engage the community. “Graduates” will help recruit and work with the next class of trainers, export the model to their future institutes, and become the basis of a network that will continue to work together over the long term.

The first 4 months will mainly involve meetings of whole or half-days, spread at intervals through the month, and outside assignments. Later the schedule will be more flexible; participants will be able to choose from a range of modules to attend and teach. We will work together on lesson plans and develop a range of innovative teaching materials. We will also invite external experts to enhance the program with talks and workshops.

During the later phases, participants will teach in ongoing courses, take part in other projects, and be encouraged to develop workshops and courses around their own scientific topics, communication activities and needs. The project will offer special types of support to the participants’ home labs, such as customized workshops and help with projects such as papers, theses, and presentations.

Table of initial dates and activities

MeetingDateTopic
Meeting 1 (full day)April 4   Theory and aims
Meeting 2 (half day)April 26Observation and analysis
Meeting 3 (full day)May 12  Observation & didactic workshop (student orientation)

What do we hope to achieve?

This work is based on an established theoretical background and teaching model which needs to be refined, improved, and expanded. As a group we will collect experience, improve the program, develop original teaching methods and materials and produce a handbook for future trainers.  We will enhance current training structures at the MDC and on campus by offering more support to students and scientists, developing content for the Long Night of Sciences and other events, and producing games, teaching materials for schools, etc.

The program will be extremely transparent, open to group leaders, scientists and other staff at the MDC as observers or participants at any time. We will support your work by offering customized workshops and helping develop communication and education modules for grants or institutional projects. Contact the program if you are interested.

Over the long term we will offer lectures and demonstration courses to other institutes and organizations within the Helmholtz Association and beyond, to promote the wider institutionalization of this model of training.

If you are interested or have questions, please contact Russ Hodge directly, at hodge@mdc-berlin.de.

As a part of registration, we will set up an individual appointment to discuss details of the program and your individual interests and needs.

Scientific communication training, Theoretical introduction

This is the latest version of the theoretical introduction to my communications courses, recorded in January 2022.

The last few minutes provide a transition to the first practical session on presentation skills.

Update to the Devil’s dictionary! Today’s words: neogenesis, crumb, and autophagy

See the complete Devil’s Dictionary of Scientific Words and Phrases here.

Neogenesis   Any process whose aim is to reduce the Earth and the rest of the universe to a Formless Void and then recreate them, usually in an attempt to correct flaws in the original versions.

Crumb   the semi-petrified remains of a small, complex biosphere containing plant and animal matter originating from distant parts of the globe – wheat from Europe, cocoa from South America, and animal fats from God knows where and the rest of us don’t want to. These basic organic constituents are smothered in mounds of complex carbohydrates (sugars) and then forced into cohabitation in a structure called a cookie. This is achieved by kneading them into an amorphous mass, using a glue made of life-threatening quantities of cholesterol, bovine milk, and the blended embryos of birds, stirred but not shaken. The resulting colonies are exposed to extremes of temperature which exterminate all the inhabitants except the thermophiles. After they have thoroughly congealed, hardened and cooled, they are placed on flat surfaces and left out in the open, serving as traps for large mammals. If this fails to induce coronary events in the prey, the cookie aggregates are packed into boxes and distributed to neighbors using the mechanism of Girl Scouts. At some point they will be eaten, leaving only microscopic remnants – the crumbs. Cookie crumbs make up about 50% of the diet of ants and thus play a crucial role in global ecosystems and human life.

Autophagy This term, like 48.93 % of the modern scientific vocabulary, is derived from ancient Greek. Of the rest, 49.7 % was blatantly stolen outright from Latin, leaving a paltry 1.37 % whose origin remains a mystery. The most likely explanation is that these expressions spontaneously appeared out of nowhere, in a paper somewhere, and spread through the literature like viral infections or perhaps transposons. Anyway. The suffix –phage means either to digest or to devour, depending on whether silverware or just the fingers are used. The first component of the word, auto, can refer either an automobile or the person who owns it. Thus their combination into a single word (autophagy) denotes the process of eating a car. Theoretically, autophagy could also mean “to eat oneself” – self-cannibalization – although those who attempt it rarely finish the job, because at some point the mechanisms needed to eat yourself start to digest themselves, and I’ll leave it to the reader to imagine what comes next. Eating one’s own car ought to be termed autoautophagy, but this term does not appear in the literature, implying that most cases of autophagy involve the ingestion of someone else’s car. If you’re going to do it, you should probably do it at night.

At least one reliable case of autophagy has been documented in the scientific record. A car was eaten by Leon Samson, a Greek immigrant to Australia, probably to make up for nutritional deficits in his usual diet of razor blades and light bulbs. A Frenchman named Michel Lotito never ate a car, as far as I can determine, but he did guzzle down 18 bicycles, 15 shopping carts, seven television sets, and a three-wheeled Cessna 150 airplane, although not necessarily in that order and not in one sitting. For his efforts, the Guiness Book of World Records gave Lotito an award, but he ate that as well.

If you liked the Devil’s dictionary, you might also like the series:

Molecular biology cartoons

The best of PubMed

A very special Best of PubMed (#27)

Often it’s mainly the titles of these pieces that are funny, or strange, but in a lot of cases it pays to read the whole article. Today’s entry in the Best of PubMed series dips a bit deeper into two of the articles. The first concerns the effects of laughing gas. In the second, scientists produce a sound from a mummy – apparently in an attempt to bring an ancient Egyptian back to life! I’ve included quotes from the articles and some commentary…

A Strange Freak
Am J Dent Sci. 1876 Jan; 9(9): 427. 
PMCID: PMC6106456

“The New York Herald states that Miss Sarah Ward, aged 28, daughter of Judge Ward, who resides at Tompkinsville, Staten Island, visited a New York dentist on Monday to have some teeth extracted, and took laughing gas. She remained under the influence of the gas for a considerable time, and when she finally recovered the idea seemed to have struck her that it would be a good joke to frighten her folks at home by telegraphing to the Rev. A. N. Stanley, rector of St. Paul’s, that she was dead. She accordingly sent a dispatch to the rector, who was preaching at the time in observance of St. Andrew’s day, that she died from the effects of inhaling laughing gas. The startling announcement caused great consternation among the congregation, the young lady being well known to them all. The services were at once concluded, and word was sent to her father, who hastened to the dentist’s place of business, where he was surprised as well as overjoyed to learn that his daughter had but a short time previously left for home in excellent health. When asked by her parents what induced her to send such a dispatch, she said that she did it for fun.”

Synthesis of a Vocal Sound from the 3,000 year old Mummy, Nesyamun ‘True of Voice’
D. M. Howard, J. Schofield, J. Fletcher, K. Baxter, G. R. Iball, S. A. Buckley
Sci Rep. 2020; 10: 45000.  Published online 2020 Jan 23. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-56316
PMCID: PMC6978302

Abstract
“The sound of a 3,000 year old mummified individual has been accurately reproduced as a vowel-like sound based on measurements of the precise dimensions of his extant vocal tract following Computed Tomography (CT) scanning, enabling the creation of a 3-D printed vocal tract. By using the Vocal Tract Organ, which provides a user-controllable artificial larynx sound source, a vowel sound is synthesised which compares favourably with vowels of modern individuals.

In other words, they performed CT scans to establish the positions of the vocal chords, larynx, throat and mouth of a mummy. After that, the article states:

“Following the scans, a 3-D printed tract was created for Nesyamun and designed to be used with the Vocal Tract Organ17 which provides an appropriate acoustic larynx source as a time domain waveform synthesis of the Liljencrants-Fant (LF) larynx source which is commonly employed in speech synthesis18. The fundamental frequency, loudness and vibrato rate and depth can be individually controlled. The tract incorporates a coupler at its larynx end that is designed to fit snugly over the output end of an Adastra model 952-210 (16 ohm, 60 Watt) loudspeaker drive unit.”

I don’t understand all this, but somehow they got the thing to make a sound. The result: a vowel that lies somewhere between what you hear in the words “bed” and “bad.”

Why would someone do all this? Apparently they were trying to bring the mummy back to life. (I am only partly kidding.) Here’s what the authors write:

“…Within ancient Egyptian culture… the name was regarded as essential to an individual as their physical (mummified) body and their soul (ka) and spirit (ba). It was also a fundamental belief that ‘to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again’ (alternatively translated: ‘a man is revived when his name is pronounced’), both by living relatives and by the deceased themselves when appearing before the gods of judgement. Only those able to verbally confirm that they had led a virtuous life were granted entry into eternity and awarded the epithet ‘maat kheru’, ‘true of voice’, as applied to Nesyamun himself throughout his coffin inscriptions. In these texts, Nesyamun asks that his soul receives eternal sustenance, is able to move around freely and to see and address the gods as he had in his working life. Therefore his documented wish to be able to speak after his death, combined with the excellent state of his mummified body, made Nesyamun the ideal subject for the ‘Voices from the Past’ project.

In conclusion, the authors write,

This innovative interdisciplinary collaboration has produced the unique opportunity to hear the vocal tract output of someone long dead by virtue of their soft tissue preservation and new developments in technology, digital scanning and 3-D printing.”

Effect of a tight necktie on intraocular pressure
C Teng, R Gurses-Ozden, J M Liebmann, C Tello, R Ritch
Br J Ophthalmol. 2003 Aug; 87(8): 946–948.  doi: 10.1136/bjo.87.8.946
PMCID: PMC1771792

Personality and socks
C H Shaw
Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983 Mar 26; 286(6370): 1056. 
PMCID: PMC1547565

Choosing socks
Colin Douglas
BMJ. 2000 Jun 3; 320(7248): 1549. 
PMCID: PMC1118134

Effects of feet warming using bed socks on sleep quality and thermoregulatory responses in a cool environment
Yelin Ko, Joo-Young Lee
J Physiol Anthropol. 2018; 37: 13.  Published online 2018 Apr 24. doi: 10.1186/s40101-018-0172
PMCID: PMC5921564

Psychosis following stab brain injury by a billiard stick
I Turkalj, S Stojanovic, K Petrovic, V Njagulj, I Mikov, M Spanovic
Hippokratia. 2012 Jul-Sep; 16(3): 275–277. 
PMCID: PMC3738738

Is it better to be smart or stupid?
Kamran Abbasi
BMJ. 2004 Sep 25; 329(7468): 0. 
PMCID: PMC518879

Snappy answers to stupid questions: an evidence-based framework for responding to peer-review feedback
Daniel Rosenfield, Steven J. Hoffman
CMAJ. 2009 Dec 8; 181(12): E301–E305.  doi: 10.1503/cmaj.091164
PMCID: PMC2789163

Artificial Intelligence Is Stupid and Causal Reasoning Will Not Fix It
J. Mark Bishop
Front Psychol. 2020; 11: 513474.  Published online 2021 Jan 5. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.513474
PMCID: PMC7874145

A giant cutaneous horn on the eyebrow
Pan Xu, Lixiong Gu, Xiaodong Yao, Xiaoyan Wu, Xiaodong Chen
JAAD Case Rep. 2015 Sep; 1(5): 295–297.  Published online 2015 Jul 31. doi: 10.1016/j.jdcr.2015.05.011
PMCID: PMC4809224

Characterizing the lateral slope of the aging female eyebrow
Tanya L DeLyzer, Arjang Yazdani
Can J Plast Surg. 2013 Autumn; 21(3): 173–177.  doi: 10.1177/229255031302100302
PMCID: PMC3805639

Techniques of Eyebrow Lifting: A Narrative Review
Nasser Karimi, Mohsen Bahmani Kashkouli, Hamed Sianati, Behzad Khademi
J Ophthalmic Vis Res. 2020 Apr-Jun; 15(2): 218–235.  Published online 2020 Apr
6. doi: 10.18502/jovr.v15i2.6740
PMCID: PMC7151508

Genome-wide association studies and CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing identify regulatory variants influencing eyebrow thickness in humans
Sijie Wu et al.
PLoS Genet. 2018 Sep; 14(9): e1007640.  Published online 2018 Sep 24. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007640
PMCID: PMC6171961

Eyebrow Height Changes with Aging: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
Malke Asaad, Ahmad Beshr Kelarji, Cham Shaban Jawhar, Joseph Banuelos, Editt Taslakian, Waseem Wahood, Krishna S. Vyas, Basel Sharaf
Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2019 Sep; 7(9): e2433.  Published online 2019 Sep 30. doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000002433
PMCID: PMC6908395

The case of the haunted scrotum.
J R Harding
J R Soc Med. 1996 Oct; 89(10): 600. 
PMCID: PMC1295986

Plastic Bag With Holes as an Alternative to Face Shield: Our Experiences
Subramanian Senthilkumaran, S.V. Arathisenthil, Ramachandran Meenakshisundaram, Ponniah Thirumalaikolundusubramanian, V.P. Chandrasekaran
J Emerg Med. 2020 Sep; 59(3): 444–445.  Published online 2020 Aug 16. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2020.06.046
PMCID: PMC7429074

Injuries caused by handcuffs.
P. W. Richmond, L. J. Fligelstone, E. Lewis
BMJ. 1988 Jul 9; 297(6641): 111–112.  doi: 10.1136/bmj.297.6641.111
PMCID: PMC1833797

Is a tattoo the answer?
Clare Polack
BMJ. 2001 Nov 3; 323(7320): 1063. 
PMCID: PMC1121553

(If it is, you have to wonder: what’s the Question?)

Counting angels
Andrew M Mason
Emerg Med J. 2007 Apr; 24(4): 311.  doi: 10.1136/emj.2007.046540
PMCID: PMC2658254

How Many Angels Can Dance on the Head of a Patch Pipette?
Carl E. Stafstrom
Epilepsy Curr. 2020 Sep-Oct; 20(5): 309–311.  Published online 2020 Sep 10. doi: 10.1177/1535759720948440
PMCID: PMC7653648

Searching for Strangely Shaped Cookies – Is Taking a Bite Out of a Cookie Similar to Occluding Part of It?

Eli Brenner, Sergio Sánchez Hurtado, Elena Alvarez Arias, Jeroen B. J. Smeets, Roland W. Fleming
Perception. 2021 Feb; 50(2): 140–153.  Published online 2020 Dec 30. doi: 10.1177/0301006620983729
PMCID: PMC7879225

The Best of PubMed #26

Karaoke can damage singers’ voices and hearing
Roger Dobson
BMJ. 2003 Jul 5; 327(7405): 12. 
PMCID: PMC1150966

Hell is a karaoke cruise
Gregory A Petsko
Genome Biol. 2001; 2(9): comment1011.1.  Published online 2001 Aug 31. 
PMCID: PMC138958

(Those two fall into the category, “Stating the obvious…”)

Dentures and deep time
Kevin Barraclough
BMJ. 2005 Dec 10; 331(7529): 1415. 
PMCID: PMC1309703

Peer review or barbecue? The choice is clear
Paul C. Hébert
CMAJ. 2007 May 8; 176(10): 1389.  doi: 10.1503/cmaj.070506
Cet article est disponible en français: CMAJ. 2007 May 8; 176(10): 1391. 
PMCID: PMC1863532

Cadmium poisoning from a refrigerator shelf used as an improvised barbecue grill
Timothy D. Baker, William G. Hafner
Public Health Rep. 1961 Jun; 76(6): 543–544. 
PMCID: PMC1929634

(Now who hasn’t tried that?)

Scent-sniffing dogs can discriminate between native Eurasian and invasive North American beavers
Frank Rosell, Hannah B. Cross, Christin B. Johnsen, Janne Sundell, Andreas Zedrosser
Sci Rep. 2019; 9: 15952.  Published online 2019 Nov 4. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-52385-1
PMCID: PMC6828808

This one falls into the category: “Problems we didn’t know existed…”:

A procedure for the withdrawal of an infant oral pacifier
W. T. McReynolds
J Appl Behav Anal. 1972 Spring; 5(1): 65–66.  doi: 10.1901/jaba.1972.5-65
PMCID: PMC1310726

The Impacts of the Presence of an Unfamiliar Dog on Emerging Adults’ Physiological and Behavioral Responses Following Social Exclusion
Ilona Papousek, Katharina Reiter-Scheidl, Helmut K. Lackner, Elisabeth M. Weiss, Corinna M. Perchtold-Stefan, Nilüfer Aydin   Behav Sci (Basel) 2020 Dec; 10(12): 191.  Published online 2020 Dec 14. doi: 10.3390/bs10120191
PMCID: PMC7764974

Validation of a Seven-Factor Structure for the Motives for Playing Drinking Games Measure
Byron L. Zamboanga, Shannon Audley, Janine V. Olthuis, Heidemarie Blumenthal, Cara C. Tomaso, Ngoc Bui, Brian Borsari
Assessment. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2020 Jun 1.
Published in final edited form as: Assessment. 2019 Jun; 26(4): 582–603. Published online 2017 Apr 16. doi: 10.1177/1073191117701191

COVID-19 research updates: does wearing tinfoil hats pose neurodegenerative threats to conspiracists and the general public?
I. M. Portant, R. E. Sults
Arch Toxicol. 2021 Apr 22 : 1–4.  doi: 10.1007/s00204-021-03051-x [Epub ahead of print]

Correction in: Arch Toxicol. 2021 May 11 : 1. PMCID: PMC8060683

The squeaky wheel doesn’t get the grease
Douglas Waugh
CMAJ. 1992 Feb 1; 146(3): 392. PMCID: PMC1488257

The squeaky wheel gets the grease
Vicki Brower
EMBO Rep. 2005 Nov; 6(11): 1014–1017.  doi: 10.1038/sj.embor.7400564
PMCID: PMC1371042

(You’d think they ought to retract the first piece, but I couldn’t find one… )

Imitating Mickey Mouse can be dangerous
Deborah Josefson
BMJ. 2000 Mar 18; 320(7237): 732. 
PMCID: PMC1117755

Strategy to diminish nonresponse
Don Eby
Can Fam Physician. 2017 Oct; 63(10): 753–754. 
PMCID: PMC5638469

(Makes you wonder whether “nonresponse” isn’t already diminished enough…?)

Contemplating annihilation
Theodore Dalrymple
BMJ. 2007 Jan 27; 334(7586): 211.  doi: 10.1136/bmj.39101.510023.B7
PMCID: PMC1782003

Changing attitudes on salivary secretion – a short history on spit.
J. R. Garrett
Proc R Soc Med. 1975 Sep; 68(9): 553–560. 
PMCID: PMC1863991

How to Gargle
Hospital (Lond 1886) 1900 Feb 3; 27(697): 291. 
PMCID: PMC5270052

VOMIT—victim of medical investigative technology
U Shaikh, Huw Lewis-Jones
BMJ. 2008 Jan 5; 336(7634): 8.  doi: 10.1136/bmj.39435.572731.3A
PMCID: PMC2174745

It’s difficult being green (as in vomit)
Carl A Kuschel, Barbara Cormack, Phil Morreau
BMJ. 2006 Jun 24; 332(7556): 1510–1511.  doi: 10.1136/bmj.332.7556.1510-b
PMCID: PMC1482381

THE NEW NIGHT TERROR
L. Vernon-Jones
Br Med J. 1911 Aug 26; 2(2643): 464. 
PMCID: PMC2331455

This last one is a letter written in 1911 (by a Londoner, naturally) about the need for authorities to insist that all of those new-fangled motorized vehicles drive on the left side of the road, rather than honking when they get to intersections. The whole piece is worth reading, and you’ll find it below:

The triumphant return of the “Best of PubMed,” issue #25

If you’ve never noticed this category on the blog before, you’ve missed something! Buried within the biomedical literature are some real doozies – papers which really make you wonder, “Who on Earth would publish this stuff, let alone FUND it??”

All of these entries are real papers that can be found on the PubMed Central website for scientific literature – at least until they get taken down or retracted.

Click the “Best of pubmed” link on the menu on the left for all the past entries in this category…

Today’s theme is “Dubious behavior: maybe I should think twice about doing that…”

Mud wrestling
Mike Fitzpatrick
Br J Gen Pract. 2008 Aug 1; 58(553): 590.  doi: 10.3399/bjgp08X319864
PMCID: PMC2486393

Investigating the welfare and conservation implications of alligator wrestling for American Alligators (Alligator mississippiensis)
Casey Riordan, Jennifer Jacquet, Becca Franks
PLoS One. 2020; 15(11): e0242106.  Published online 2020 Nov 13. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0242106
PMCID: PMC7665580

Joy of Ping-Pong: Genome-Wide and Phenome-Wide Association Studies
Heung-Woo Park
Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2020 Sep; 12(5): 748–749.  Published online 2020 Jun 4. doi: 10.4168/aair.2020.12.5.748
PMCID: PMC7346994

Pimp my slang
Paul W Keeley
BMJ. 2007 Dec 22; 335(7633): 1295.  doi: 10.1136/bmj.39414.699005.94
PMCID: PMC2151309

Saturday
Erlick A C Pereira
J R Soc Med. 2005 Apr; 98(4): 183–184. 
PMCID: PMC1079451

Sitcoms’ scintillating skin surveyors
Marjon Vatanchi, Daniel E. Zelac
Int J Womens Dermatol. 2019 Sep; 5(4): 271.  Published online 2019 Apr 29. doi: 10.1016/j.ijwd.2019.04.028
PMCID: PMC6831748

Punishing the patient.
D Waugh
CMAJ. 1988 Jul 1; 139(1): 58. 
PMCID: PMC1267990

“To Bluff like a Man or Fold like a Girl?” – Gender Biased Deceptive Behavior in Online Poker
Jussi Palomäki, Jeff Yan, David Modic, Michael Laakasuo
PLoS One. 2016; 11(7): e0157838.  Published online 2016 Jul 6. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157838
PMCID: PMC4934693

Human Wagering Behavior Depends on Opponents’ Faces
Erik J. Schlicht, Shinsuke Shimojo, Colin F. Camerer, Peter Battaglia, Ken Nakayama
PLoS One. 2010; 5(7): e11663.  Published online 2010 Jul 21. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011663
PMCID: PMC2908123

Christmas party games
James Owen Drife
BMJ. 2007 Dec 8; 335(7631): 1214.  doi: 10.1136/bmj.39415.448646.59
PMCID: PMC2128650

The Napoleon Complex: When Shorter Men Take More
Jill E. P. Knapen, Nancy M. Blaker, Mark Van Vugt
Psychol Sci. 2018 Jul; 29(7): 1134–1144.  Published online 2018 May 10. doi: 10.1177/0956797618772822
PMCID: PMC6247438

Confessions of a Superhero Junkie
Anne Dohrenwend
J Grad Med Educ. 2011 Mar; 3(1): 109–110.  doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-10-00197.1
PMCID: PMC3186262

The Ghoul Type of Nurse
Hospital (Lond 1886) 1919 Feb 22; 65(1707): 455. 
PMCID: PMC5243629

Impact of Acute Sleep Deprivation on Sarcasm Detection
Gaétane Deliens, Fanny Stercq, Alison Mary, Hichem Slama, Axel Cleeremans, Philippe Peigneux, Mikhail Kissine
PLoS One. 2015; 10(11): e0140527.  Published online 2015 Nov 4. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0140527
PMCID: PMC4633173

“Spidey Can”: Preliminary Evidence Showing Arachnophobia Symptom Reduction Due to Superhero Movie Exposure
Yaakov S.G. Hoffman, Shani Pitcho-Prelorentzos, Lia Ring, Menachem Ben-Ezra
Front Psychiatry. 2019; 10: 354.  Published online 2019 Jun 7. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00354
PMCID: PMC6565891