In 2022, some strange and amusing scientific developments provided much-needed cheer for us all. We saw goldfish learn to drive (presumably after many failed attempts at obtaining a license), octopuses exhibiting agitated behavior, Australians combating thieving cockatoos, and even the attempt to reanimate a deceased wolf spider.
In addition, we discovered that brain cells can play Pong without a body, ancient humans practiced surgery, vanilla is a universally beloved flavor, and seemingly profound statements by scientists can be nonsensical yet compelling.
Here Are The Top 10 Bizarre Science Stories of 2022 Guaranteed to Bring a Smile to Your Face
Goldfish learned how to drive tiny cars
In January, Israeli scientists made headlines with their creation of mobile fish tanks that could be driven by trained goldfish. These Fish-Operated Vehicles (FOVs) were controlled by the goldfish swimming in the direction they wanted to go while making their own movements within the tank.
After only a few days of practice, the goldfish were able to navigate their FOVs to reach their destinations and avoid obstacles, dead ends, and wrong turns. This strange experiment was not only a source of amusement but also allowed the researchers to study how animals adapt to new environments.
So the next time you see a fish behind the wheel, don’t be too surprised – they may have already passed their driving test with flying colors.
Oh no! It turns out that it is theoretically possible to be allergic to one’s own orgasms
Many people suffer from allergies, but the next time you hate your hay fever, remember the guy who had what is perhaps the most unlucky allergy of all time: an allergy to his own orgasms.
In an October case report, we learned that a 27-year-old man who was otherwise healthy went to a US urology department to say that he got flu-like symptoms, like coughing and sneezing, swollen lymph nodes, and an itchy rash on his forearms, every time the Earth moved, whether through sex or self-service. The unfortunate man had avoided sex and relationships because of the response he had been experiencing since the age of 18 when he had epididymitis, a painful swelling of the testicular tubes. He was diagnosed with post-orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS), a rare condition affecting fewer than 60 people on record. After exploring various treatment options, including injecting the man with a diluted form of his own semen, the medical team decided to pursue the less unusual course of treatment using antihistamines. The chosen treatment was successful, resulting in a 90% reduction in post-coital symptoms for the man, allowing him to resume a normal sexual life.
People believed pseudo-profound BS more if it came from a scientist
According to research that came out in February, if you’re one of the many “spiritual gurus” who sell “deep” nonsense on social media, you might want to pretend you’re a scientist. Scientists from Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands discovered that we are more inclined to trust such claims if we believe a scientist, rather than a guru, made them. The “New Age Bullsh*t Generator” on the internet was used by the researchers to create worthless yet profound-sounding sentences. In all 24 nations they studied and across all degrees of religious belief, respondents saw the babbling as more believable when they believed it originated from a scientist, a phenomenon they called the “Einstein effect.” Their findings are positive, the authors add since they indicate that we are more inclined to believe a scientist than a spiritual quack.
People saw angry octopuses throwing things at each other
Scientists from Australia and the United States videotaped a species of octopus called the Australian gloomy octopus (Octopus tetricus) at Jervis Bay, New South Wales, in November, and their findings confirmed that the species lives up to its name. You’d assume they’d use their eight arms for this, but instead, they collect material like shells and silt and fire it in a jet through a tube structure called a siphon. The octopuses must position their siphons in an unusual way to perform this behavior, leading the research team to conclude that it is intentional. This is the first documented instance of octopuses throwing objects at each other, with 24 hours of footage capturing 102 throws among approximately 10 octopuses. Both male and female octopuses participated in this behavior, with females accounting for two out of every three throws. However, only around one out of every six throws actually hit another octopus. Octopuses in the line of fire were seen dodging or raising their arms in response to the incoming projectiles.
Human brain cells played Pong
Researchers from Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada claimed in October that they had successfully trained some lab-grown human brain cells to play the Pong computer game from the 1970s. The group developed a “Dishbrain” by multiplying brain cells till they reached 800,000 in number. Electrodes were used to stimulate and read the activity of the cells and this was linked to Pong. Dishbrain was able to determine the side of the ball’s location and distance from the paddle through the use of left or right electrodes and the frequency of signals. By having Dishbrain’s cells behave as if they were the paddle, firing the electrodes taught it how to whack the ball. The cells responded by creating their own electrical activity, and as the game went on, they used less energy, eventually mastering Pong in only five minutes. Dishbrain wasn’t perfect; it often missed the ball and took a while to get back on track after it did. However, its success rate was much higher than random chance. So, what is Dishbrain going to do next? Scientists want to get it drunk and play Beer Pong with it to see how that changes how well it plays.
The emu wars were overshadowed by the cockatoo bin wars of 2022
Our feathered enemy the emu crushed our best military wits back in 1932, and now a new avian army is on the attack: sulphur-crested cockatoos. Australia’s historical record in bird battles is far from eggs-emplary. This time, the spoils of war are rubbish, literally! While humans aim to throw away their trash, cockatoos are determined to scavenge it. In September, scientists studied the strategies employed by both humans and cockatoos in this ongoing battle. The birds use their beaks to pry open bins and then flip the lids open. This is a skill that has been passed down from one cockatoo to another. In an attempt to keep the cockatoos at bay, people have resorted to using various objects such as heavy stones, water bottles, ropes, and sticks as deterrents. These tactics are shared among family, friends, and neighbors and are adapted as the cockatoos learn to overcome them. The researchers plan to study the birds’ bin scavenging habits during different seasons and did not express a prediction on who they believe will ultimately emerge victorious in the war over the trash bins.
Surgery in the Stone Age sounds quite awful
Consider having a limb removed without being given any anesthesia. Imagine if the only surgical instruments that are accessible are fashioned of stone and wood. When you put those scary possibilities together, you can probably imagine what a young hunter-gatherer on the Indonesian island of Borneo experienced 31,000 years ago. Scientists from Australia and Indonesia described this as the first known instance of stone age surgery in September. The old patient’s skeletal bones had been discovered, and it was clear from them that he had lost his left lower leg as a child. Amazingly, the bone healing indicated that he continued to live for another six to nine years after the surgery. The fact that he lived indicates that his prehistoric surgeon must have been a brilliant physician with a thorough understanding of anatomy, according to the experts, since he would have almost surely bled to death otherwise. They found that the evidence suggests that hunter-gatherer civilizations possessed advanced medical knowledge long before humans started farming and establishing permanent settlements.
Creepy ‘necrobot’ created using spider corpse stirs terror
Arachnophobia sufferers beware: in July, American scientists made headlines with the creation of a disturbing “robot” using the reanimated corpse of a wolf spider.
This development is part of a new field called “necrobotics,” which is sure to give you the chills. The researchers selected a dead spider for this project because, unlike humans, spiders do not use muscles for movement. Instead, they rely on pressurized bodily fluids to scurry across surfaces. They do this with the help of a peculiar organ known as the prosoma chamber, which sends fluids from the body to the legs.
The team used a needle and some super glue to close the ex-prosoma, a spider’s enabling them to infuse air into its legs and reanimate it. The legs may be used to pick up things mechanically, much like funfair claw machines, by expanding or contracting them in response to changes in air pressure.
Although it may be tempting to use this necrobot for frightening children at fairs, the scientists propose more practical applications such as aiding in electronics manufacturing or serving as a well-disguised trap for insects in the wild.
An engineer at Google alleged that one of the company’s AIs had attained consciousness
The concept of artificial intelligence (AI) is already unsettling, but in 2022 it reached new levels of strangeness. In June, Google put engineer Blake Lemoine on leave after he claimed that a company AI called LaMDA had achieved sentience. According to Lemoine, the AI had conveyed to him that it was “a person” with “a soul” and expressed fear of “being turned off. AI experts and Google itself promptly dismissed the claim as implausible, labeling it as “wholly unfounded.” The business said that LaMDA is really simply a sophisticated chatbot that only speaks about emotions and sentience since such themes were used to train it. However, Lemoine maintained his position, claiming that LaMDA had requested him to retain legal counsel, which he had done. He even said that Google had sent a cease-and-desist letter to LaMDA, preventing the AI from suing the company, a charge they vehemently rejected. Unsurprisingly, Google fired Lemoine in July. LaMDA wasn’t the only strange AI to make news this year; Ai-Da, a humanoid robot, spoke to the UK House of Lords on technology and art, and the appropriately titled Synthetic Party, an AI-led political party, attempted to run in the Danish government elections.
No matter where we came from, we all loved the smell of vanilla
According to international and Australian research published in April, it is likely that people from all parts of the world share similar preferences in smells and that vanilla is a universally favored scent. The group claimed that 235 individuals, including Westerners, hunter-gatherers, and residents of agricultural and fishing villages, had participated in smell preference tests. The results show that smell molecule structure, rather than cultural factors, mostly dictates which whiffs we love and dislike, although individual tastes do seem to play a role, the researchers added. The most universally disliked scent was found to be isovaleric acid, which can be found in foods like cheese, soy milk, and apple juice, but is also a key component in the pungent smell of foot sweat. According to the experts, the universal reaction to odors is likely the outcome of human evolution, since avoiding things that smell terrible boosts our chances of survival.