The Most Painful Places to Get Stung, According to the Researcher Who Made Bees Sting Him for Science

iStock/Prompilove
iStock/Prompilove

After getting stung by a bee, you might make a note to be more careful of your surroundings in the future. Michael Smith had a much different reaction when a bee stung him in the testicles one day. As an entomologist who studies honeybees, he was inspired by the encounter to create a map of the most painful places to get stung on the human body. Knowing he would have trouble finding willing volunteers, Smith elected to be his own test subject.

According to National Geographic, Smith tested 25 different body parts, exposing each spot to three stings over the course of 38 days for his study, which was published in PeerJ in 2014. To induce the stings, he picked up honeybee specimens by the wings and held their stingers up to his skin for a full minute. He rated the pain of each sting on a scale of 1 to 10, and started and ended all tests with a "test sting" on his forearm for comparison.

The most painful places to get stung by a bee, in Smith's experience, aren't the parts you may expect. A sting in the scrotum, the incident that inspired the study, received a 7 out of 10 on the pain scale. It was rated just as painful as stingers in the palm, cheek, and armpit. More excruciating is a sting to the penis shaft (7.3), upper lip (8.7), and nostril (9). Smith reported that being stung in the nose triggered "sneezing, tears, and a copious flow of mucus." He theorized that the flood of mucus may be the body's defense mechanism against a bee attack in the wild.

Other body parts ranked at the opposite end of the pain spectrum. Stings to the upper arm, tip of the middle toe, and top of the skull all averaged a rating of 2.3 out of 10. Smith compared getting stung on the scalp to having an egg smashed on his head.

Though some may question the value of getting stung on purpose nearly 200 times in the name of science, Smith's hard work was recognized. In 2015, he received an Ig Nobel prize: an award that honors scientific achievements "that first make people laugh, then make them think."

[h/t National Geographic]

New Cross-Bred Cosmic Crisp Apples Can Stay Fresh for Up to a Year

Cosmic Crisp
Cosmic Crisp

Healthy snackers know only too well the disappointment that comes with biting into what looks like a deliciously crisp apple and getting a mouthful of mealy mush instead. It’s just one of the pome fruit’s many potential issues—they also brown quickly, bruise easily, and don’t last as long as whatever bag of chips you might be tempted to reach for instead.

Enter the Cosmic Crisp, a Washington-grown patented hybrid apple that could be the answer to all your apple-related complaints. According to New Atlas, researchers at Washington State University began breeding the new variety as a cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp apples in 1997, and it’s officially hitting stores now.

cosmic crisp apple on tree
Cosmic Crisp

Not only does a Cosmic Crisp apple resist bruising and browning better than other kinds of apples, it also boasts an exceptionally long storage life. In a controlled atmosphere, it should stay fresh for a full year—meaning you’ll soon be able to enjoy a crisp, satisfying snack in the middle of March, when out-of-season apples usually leave much to be desired. In your own refrigerator, Cosmic Crisp apples are good for about six months, and they’ll even last for several weeks if you leave them out at room temperature. The long shelf life might cut down on the number of apples that you end up tossing in the trash because they went bad before you got around to eating them.

In a 2012 report published in the American Society for Horticultural Science journal HortScience, the Washington State University researchers found that a group of 114 consumers rated the Cosmic Crisp apple, or WA 38, higher than Fuji apples in sweetness, sourness, flavor intensity, crispness, firmness, juiciness, and overall acceptance. The apple's website even suggests that bakers can reduce the amount of added sugar in recipes that contain Cosmic Crisps.

The Cosmic part of its name comes from the whitish specks on the apple’s skin, which reminded taste testers of a starry sky. In reality, those specks are lenticels—porous openings that allow the apple to exchange gases with its environment.

If you don’t see Cosmic Crisp apples in your grocery store yet, here’s a simple trick for keeping any apples fresh for longer.

[h/t New Atlas]

The Reason So Many Babies Are Conceived in Winter

yurizhuravov/iStock via Getty Images
yurizhuravov/iStock via Getty Images

Does it feel like many friends and family members announce the pending arrival of a baby during the fall and winter months? That’s not exactly a coincidence. It turns out the cold season is associated with more reproductive activity than any other time of the year. The month of December alone accounts for 9 percent of conceptions in the United States. Science is gaining a better understanding of why.

All living creatures heed an evolutionary instinct to target seasonal births. If conception happens during colder months, babies will be born during warmer months, when resources will be bountiful. Northern states have births peaking in June and July, while southern states come a bit later in October and November. The farther south, the later the birth peak, since people in these warm climates are less influenced by frigid temperatures.

What are frisky humans responding to in colder months? Research suggests that the cooler temperatures and shortened days signal that it's time to get busy. Other theories suggest that men may be more fertile in colder months, or that a woman’s ovum receptivity might change with decreased daylight. Not only are couples potentially more sexually active, but that activity might wind up being more (re)productive.

Are there benefits to conceiving at other times? Possibly. One 2013 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences gathered data from nearly 1.5 million births and found that average birth weight in the first five months of the year decreased by 10 grams. Babies born during the summer months were 20 grams heavier. Mothers who conceived in summer tended to gain more weight than those who conceived at other times.

If you have a disproportionate amount of friends with a September birthday, it’s likely that their parents consciously or unconsciously followed their evolutionary instinct nine months earlier.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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