Science Sunday: Men Make Boobs Grow! and Other Amazing Science-y Maybe-Facts

Here at The Last Half, we consider it our responsibility to educate the American public, which has demonstrated a remarkable absence of mind when it comes to knowledge of Science-y stuff.
And we have an addiction to reading Science blurbs.
And we email the best ones to ourselves and want to share.

So every Sunday, give or take 51 or so Sundays a year, we will post the best Science blurbs of the week, or of whenever we got around to reading them, put into layperson’s terms–words a person could understand while laying in bed half-asleep. Get ready for…

…Amazing Science!

Amazing Science

Men Make Boobs Grow

It’s a fact, Jack. Once, this totally cool dude I was dating, a programmer-analyst type just like I was, smarter than smart ( 🙄 ), said the dumbest-#ss thing to me whilst we were between the sheets:

” —

Oh, wait–You need a little context first:

He wouldn’t stop playing with my boobs.

I mean, he wouldn’t stop. Now, I’m pretty darn fond of having my boobs played with, but there comes a point where anything gets old, and he was seventeen minutes and thirty-five seconds past that point. So I had just said:

“What the frig? What’s with all the boob-playing?!”

NOW you have the context. And then HE said:

“It’s so they’ll grow.”

Have you ever heard anything so d#mned dumb in all your life?! And this from one of the otherwise-smartest guys you’d hope to meet!

I just about laughed my boobs off! I ragged on him so bad! He actually told me he’d always figured

“…the only reason some chicks are flat-chested is because they haven’t had their boobs played with enough.”

Oh, my aching chest.

Well now I may have to eat my words. At least when it comes to pregnant boobs, single mom rats wind up with smaller boobs than married mom rats. Their boobs grow less during pregnancy, getting less milk in them.
Rat Bra

We don’t know that the same man magic happens to human boobs, but it might. In which case, I owe that long-ago dude an apology:

Sorry, dude. If man-magic can grow pregnant boobs, maybe it can grow unpregnant ones too.

Ladies with big boobs, let this be your warning:



The paper this stuff came from will tell you the theory about why the boobs grow is that men stink. The ratty-men’s smelly pheromones make the ratty-women’s breasts go all a titter (I’m tittering typing that).

The paper also tells you that the single (i.e. unscented) ratty-moms nurse their babies less, and their babies are a bit less smart. THAT is interesting.


No, you idiot. Her boobs are not tiny because no one ever liked them and no one ever played with them. Playing with them more will not make them grow. Does your dick reach the ceiling yet? Idiot.

Please Save Us From Idiots


I’m sorry. That’s all we have time for this week. If the world is still here next Sunday–if the world’s boobs haven’t yet destroyed it–maybe next week! Here’s a video instead:

CYMATICS: Science Vs. Music – Nigel Stanford from Nigel Stanford on Vimeo.


Crow Faces

Freakish Fact:

The pioneering animal behaviorist Konrad Lorenz wore a devil costume when he performed experiments with crows* so that they wouldn’t recognize him at other times.

By Überseemuseum_Bremen_2009_002.JPG: Sterilgutassistentin derivative work: Satanás va de retro (Überseemuseum_Bremen_2009_002.JPG) [GPL (], via Wikimedia Commons

“NOW I’m Ready for Some Serious Science!”

Who’s the madman dressed in red,
Blackbirds dancing round his head;
Cloven toes point dartfully,
Mincing oh so artfully;
While he swishes pointy tail,
Drawing birdseed from a pail;
Happy birds and happy man,
Can devil care? Indeed he can!
Colonial Devil With Goodwife-Or Konrad Lorenz

Surprised By His Wife

It is well established that crows are highly intelligent.  The Clark’s nutcracker crow, for example, caches up to 100,000 nuts in dozens of different locations at the end of spring, and can find them all again up to nine months later, even if they are covered with snow.

By Jmturner (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Typical Crow Headstone

Researchers investigating the possibility that crows can recognize human faces devised an experiment using rubber masks. Students went out on a campus and in surrounding areas wearing either “caveman” or Dick Cheney masks. Those who wore one mask caught and banded crows and then let them go, but those who wore the uglier mask (Cheney 😈 ) didn’t bother crows–they just walked around scaring people.
In the following months, students went out again wearing the same masks. This time, nobody bothered the crows.
The result?
The crows consistently harassed anyone they saw wearing the caveman mask, scolding them with loud squawks and even mobbing them.  This happened regardless of the size, sex or walking style of the person wearing the mask; even when the mask was partly hidden under a hat or worn upside down. The crows ignored the Cheney mask.
Nearly three years later, crows continued to attack students masked as cavemen, and even some unmasked freshmen: Average teen males, some of whom shamble about glowering from under lowered brows. (I may have made up that last part.)
(The lead investigator) claims that he has been scolded by far more birds than had been originally trapped, suggesting that crows not only recognized the mask, but had successfully somehow transmitted its description and perceived threat status to their offspring and other birds in the flock.
And the people say:
This facts in this post (other than the dancing devil doggerel, written by yours truly) are lifted shamelessly from the below two NYT pieces about honest-to-gosh plans, later abandoned, to find Osama bin Laden with the help of spy-crows:

Hey, Konrad! Misdirection Cuts Both Ways!: Clever Crow Sheik Disguise

Special Link To Crow Happiness


Yawns: The Social Glue of Me and You?

Yawns are weird.

They’re more contagious among family and friends than strangers. Why?

They’re NOT contagious with babies. Why not?

We yawn more when we’re stressed. Since you have to close your eyes when you yawn, wouldn’t that make cave-dudes and -dudettes MORE vulnerable to attack?

Hah. Not If You Do It Like THIS.

Contagious Yawning

Yawns are only HALF-catching: Only about half the people in a group will start to yawn when one person yawns, BUT:

They catch more easily among family, people who feel close, or with people who are more empathetic or compassionate.

Either Contagious Yawning, or Xeroxes of Foxes.

So, what I want to know is: WHY did we evolve this way? Is there some advantage to a family to be able to catch each other’s yawns?
(“The family that sleeps together keeps together?”
“The family that snores together does more together?”)

Most babies and toddlers won’t catch yawns at all. They start catching at around age 2, and by age 5 about half of kids catch ’em (like with grown-ups).

Why did we evolve THIS way? If there is some advantage to yawns catching in a family, why aren’t they contagious right from birth? Is it that, until toddlers start to be independent, their moms give them whatever advantage catching a yawn might provide?

(Or does something magical about a new baby’s biology try to protect it from catching EVERYTHING from the outside world: Nasty viruses and bacteria, and prions, and who knows what-all? “If babies caught yawns, they’d get germs and pri-ons (get it? pri-yawns?”) [Hey, it rhymes as good as rap does. It “crap-rhymes”.]

When the baby gets older, its body defenses loosen up, and those sneaky contagious yawns are able to get to work? Silly, but what if it were TRUE!

Even after toddler age, Asperger’s and autistic kids don’t catch yawns much, but if they’re told to focus more on people’s eyes, they do better because eyes are important in yawn-catching.

(In one study, two groups were shown a photo of the same yawning guy–one with his mouth blurred out, the other with his eyes blurred out. It’s interesting that the group that saw his yawning mouth did NOT start yawning. The group that saw no yawn at all–no mouth– but only the guy’s eyes DID start yawning.) Why is THAT?!

IF part of the function of yawning is to strengthen bonds between us, it makes sense that eye contact would be involved–doesn’t it?

(BTW, schizophrenics also catch yawns less than other people–and they catch less laughter, too, the poor things.)

Sexual Yawning

Among most mammals, males yawn more, because yawning has links to testosterone production. In rats, most of the hormones that produce yawning and stretching also produce erections. (So THAT’s why you guys always fall asleep afterward!)

And He Looks So Young and Innocent While He’s Getting It On…

(Let’s pause a moment in sympathy for the lowly researcher who got stuck with documenting ratty boners.)

“…humans may be unique in that both sexes yawn equally…” WHY?
(Ladies, are we just more BORED with our males?)
“Men–You boys are just so HOT you just wear us ladies out and make us TIRED!”

Stress Yawning

  1. “I have also noticed that under slight fear there is a strong tendency to yawn” (Darwin 1872:291).
  2. In primates, yawning appears in stress or conflict situations (Altmann 1967).
  3. Yawning is seen in uneasy or aggressive chimpanzees, gorillas, gibbons, baboons, rhesus monkeys, patas monkeys, and (rarely) vervet monkeys (Lawick-Goodall 1968).

Okay, so we get it, already. We yawn when we’re nervous. WHY??? Peeing (and worse) makes sense–let’s get ready for action–but yawning?

Yawn Rhymes With Bond…Sorta Kinda…

We now know yawning cools the brain. If an ice-pack is put on the forehead, yawns are suppressed. One theory is that this cooling effect reduces stress.

I Don’t Know About That. Personally, An Ice Pack On My Head Would WAKE ME THE F#CK UP.

This still does not explain why we yawn–why we were evolved to yawn, or to have contagious yawning.

Most of the info in this post is courtesy of the book “curious behavior” (sic) by Robert R. Provine. Dr. Provine theorizes, partly because our yawns happen with many “states” (sexual arousal, waking up, and going to sleep) that yawning happens when we’re about to change from one “behavioral or physiological state” to another–that yawning helps us do this.

I’m going to modify the doctor’s theory:

“Yawning functions as a de-stressor and social bond-strengthener.
It cools the brain to a receptive or readiness state to prepare it for a change in focus by the mind or body, AND, through its contagious nature (the driving force of which is not yet known) it helps enlist the same state from nearby individuals.”

AFTER I wrote that, I found on the blog “Mind Hacks” a pertinent comment within a post. A dog owner and her spouse were advised to yawn in front of their nervous dogs to calm them. The strategy was successful:
The Dog Owner’s Comment on Mindhacks

Puppies jumpy?
Dancing ’round?
Fake a yawn–
They’ll calm right down!

NEVER Give Doggies Coffee (But Isn’t She So Cute?)

Trivia: The Yawning Cure
Around 80% of people paralyzed on one side of their body because of a stroke have that side move when they yawn. (Trippy, huh?)

Trivia: The Yawning Curse
Chroniclers of the late Middle Ages reported yawning and ejaculation as symptoms of the terminal stages of rabies.

Vsauce Vid

2014-02-17–As usual, the first version of this post was one big yawn (tee-hee). Revised opening to make slightly less boring and changed “I” to correct “Me” in title ’cause never made the pun I intended with it.

Ekhart Tolle: A New Science For a New Earth?

I WANTED to have an open mind, REALLY.  But right away, on page 2 of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, Tolle claims flowers played “an essential part in the evolution of (human) consciousness”. 


Tight Lips, Tight Waist, Show Elevated Consciousness


(From whence does he draw this remarkable conclusion?  He doesn’t say.)

Then, on page 3, he follows this with, “Any life-form in any realm–mineral, vegetable, animal, or human–can be said to undergo ‘enlightenment’.”

(Minerals are a life-form?  Show me mineral poop, mister.)

Continuing on to page 4, he adds:  “Since time immemorial, flowers, crystals, precious stones, and birds have held special significance for the human spirit.  Like all life forms…

((Crystals and stones are living?),

…they are, of course, temporary manifestations of the underlying one Life, one Consciousness.

(“Of course”.  Goes without saying).  

Their special significance and the reason why humans feel such affinity for them can be attributed to their ethereal quality.”

(Of course.)
(See what I did there? Anything may be attributed to anything you want.)

Rocks, Alive? Stones, Ethereal? Even I Think That's Stupid.

On page 7, we see a classic example of Cult-speak:  “This book is about you.  It will change your state of consciousness or it will be meaningless.  It can only awaken those who are ready.  Not everyone is ready yet…”

(Translation: Accept this book’s principles, or you are an immature outcast of the chosen elite.)

On page 20, in a description of the evolution of a land-dwelling creature rising from the sea, Tolle states the following:

“It would perhaps crawl a few inches at first, then, exhausted by the enormous gravitational pull of the planet, it would return to the water, where gravity is almost nonexistent…”

(Bizarro-me wonder:  “Why gravity-lite rivers and oceans no fly out into space?”)

But the real capper is found on page 22:
“If evil has any reality–and it has a relative, not an absolute, reality…”

Tolle's Portrayal of Evil: It's Solely a Matter of Contrasts

Okay, Tolle.  You keep telling yourself that.  Meanwhile, although you may have many vital data to impart, this reader has left the building.



Candles, Blood, Trolls, and Death

This post began at flowers and wound up at a man with a hole in his head. Ick. And yet, I couldn’t help myself: I looked again.

We are not the boss of our own curiosity, are we? Or of our own writing.

Here is a flower that used to be called the Easter Candle:

Bloodroot Easter Candle Buds

Guess Why

Here they are later in the day:

Bloodroot Easter Candle Flowers

Now They’ve Got Their Easter White On

You have to be quick to catch them like this, because it happens fast, in early Spring, only one day a year.

They remind me of the Hattifatteners from the Moomintroll books: Those odd, thin, white creatures which also poked up quickly and mysteriously from the ground:

Hattifatteners (Okay, They're a Little Creepy)

Cute, But a Little Creepy.

When the flowers open fully, they don’t look anything like candles, piccolos, OR Hattifatteners:

Bloodroot Easter Candle Flowers Open

What a Happy Spring!

Blood Easter Candle Blooms

Enjoy Them–They’ll Be Gone Tomorrow (But the Foliage Will Stay Green a Long While : )

When you cut the leaves or stem of an Easter Candle, instead of wax, you get blood.

Bloodroot Easter Candle Bloody Sap From Leaf

Talk About Creepy.

It’s dark and permanent enough that you can use it for ink, or for dye. The Indians did.

Here are the roots:

Bloodroot Easter Candle Bloody Root

Are Red Rhubarb Roots Like This?

That’s why a more common name for Easter Candles is bloodroot.

The scientific name starts with “Sanguinaria”: “bloody”.

Coincidence I Think Not Gif

Sorry…Couldn’t Resist…

An older name for bloodroot is bloodwort. “Wort” in a plant name tells you the plant name is very old, and the plant was used long ago in herbal medicine.

“Black salves” [savs–healing creams]–with sanguinarine [san-GUIN-uh-reen–bloodwort] and other ingredients were used to burn skin on purpose:
To remove warts and moles, and to try to cure skin cancers. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes, people still use ’em. BUT: Sometimes, they scar you really badly, or make holes in you, or kill you.

Bloodwort is an escharotic [ess-kar-OT-ick]: Something that makes skin DIE.

It turns to a special dark scab called an “eschar” [ESS-kar–Greek for scab]. This scab and skin sloughs off [sluff–fall away; especially in layers].

Escharotic Lesion From Brown Recluse Bite

A Small Eschar–They Come In Super-Size, Too

Peeling Away Face Layers

A Tragic and Extreme Case of Sloughing

Escharotics include sulfuric acid, gangrene, and necrotizing [NECK-ruh-tie-zing–rotting and dying) spider bites–like the ones from the brown recluse.

Brown Recluse Spider Man Crevice Broadsheet

It’s True: They’re More Afraid of You Than You Are of Them

Here are your mnemonics [neh-MAH-nicks–memory tricks] for today:

“An escharotic is necrotic”. “A black salve cream can cause gangrene.” “A thick black scab is something BAD.”

Okay. This is getting dorky, AND gross. Time for a Moomin break. It will still be dorky, but SWEET:

Moomintroll Coffee Foam on Pinterest

Oh, Moomintroll. Who Could DRINK That Coffee and Make Your Cuteness Go Away?

Moomintroll Cupcake

Probably the Same Person Who Could Eat This Cupcake

In most western countries, you need a prescription to get an escharotic salve. People who make or sell unauthorized ones like Cansema have been charged with crimes.

There are TWO reasons why non-prescribed black salves are dangerous:


Remember that word “slough” [sluff]? The dead tissue is cast off (thrown) from the SURFACE of the skin. Other stuff might be happening underneath: There can be an infection growing, or skin cancer still spreading.

A doctor can decide whether to let an eschar slough off naturally, or to debride it [deh-BREED–carefully separate and remove; e.g. with a scalpel] to prevent infection or to treat the cancer underneath. Do YOU feel qualified to decide whether you need debridement?

Dead and Rotting

Now, THIS Guy is Qualified for Debridement.


You can’t know how much of the sanguinaria–the stuff that will burn your skin away like ACID–is in that salve you bought from your friend’s curandero (healer). You could burn a lot more than you want.


Here’s a man who decided to treat his own skin cancer with bloodroot salve. If you’re thinking, “He must have had a hole in his head.”, you are right. After he used the salve, that’s what he had.

(I would have included that pic here, but it is copyrighted–I try not to include those without permission. What the linked blogger did or didn’t do is his own concern.)

This whole post started when I was reading the 1956 Newberry Award winner “Miracles on Maple Hill” by Virginia Sorensen (a lovely book), and was introduced to Easter Candles and other flowers of which I’d never heard. Sparked my curiosity, it did.

Nerd With Book

Babeous Nerdous Supremeous

I have lots and lots of more important things to do–vital things–but had to stop and write this instead. Silly, really.


Bloodwort (Sanguinaria) is approved by the FDA for use as an additive in herbal toothpastes and mouthwashes–for its supposed anti-bacterial and anti-plaque properties. Yet Wikipedia claims that:

“…products containing bloodroot are strongly associated with the development of …a premalignant lesion that may develop into oral cancer.” Wikipedia Entry on Sanguinaria.

Toothpaste Full of Crap

My Nomination For Our Next PSA!


Most of the information in this post is quoted or paraphrased from the Wikipedia items cited in the post.


Usually, bees pollinate the Easter Candles and ants spread their pollinated seeds. But if these cute little candles pop out too early when it’s still too cold for bees, they borrow a page from an old Star Trek and SHOOT their own pollen out.

Star Trek Flower Shooting Pollen High

Be Especially Wary, Visiting Vulcans!



Too late, I found a bloodroot post FAR superior to mine (and a brilliant nature site). Sigh.
Correction to meaning of “puccoon” (Really sorry for the bad scholarship, you-all): An Algonquin word that meant “red”.

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