Weird Science: Americans Are Fine with Lab-Grown Meat & Untied Laces Solved

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Weird Science: Americans Are Fine with Lab-Grown Meat & Untied Laces Solved

This Week in Weird Science: Researchers out of Australia find that a third of Americans are pretty okay with a diet of lab-grown meat, with most being concerned about its “aesthetic appeal” —because bloodless meat is so barbaric. Next, scientists in England conclude that humans are actually a terrible, nutrient-deficient food source, meaning cannibals are probably only crazy due to the lack of vitamins. And, finally, a team at the University of Berkley spent hard-earned research dollars learning why our shoelaces come untied. Hint: It’s probably because of the reason you already think.


One-third of Americans are totally cool with a diet of lab-grown meat.

Already, Americans enjoy cheese that’s actually not cheese and juice that’s not technically juice. So it should come as no surprise that roughly one-third of Americans are totally cool with animal-less meat.

According to a survey out of the University of Queensland, two-thirds of Americans would be willing to dine on In Vitro Meat (IVM), with many willing to embrace the faux-food as part of their regular diet. The two leaders of the study, psychologist Matti Wilks and veterinary scientist Clive Phillips, surveyed 673 people via the crowdsourcing marketplace Mechanical Turk, asking them an assortment of questions like: Have you ever tried IVM? Would you be willing to eat IVM regularly? Would you be willing to eat IVM as a replacement to farmed meat?

Turns out: Americans are willing to try the meatless meat, albeit hesitantly. Of those surveyed, none had ever tried IVM before, and 79 percent of participants were worried that the substance would lack the flavor and aesthetic appeal of normal meat—because nothing’s more aesthetically appealing than a puddle of blood. Another concern was obviously the price of said meat. Currently, for $1,000, you can enjoy some delicious fake chicken from Memphis Meats—or just go to Subway for a $5 footlong.

“Overall, these findings demonstrate the complex relationship between people’s own perceptions and behaviours and how this relates to their attitudes towards and willingness to engage with IVM,” said the authors.

Those willing to engage with IVM were more likely to be men and politically liberal. Also, those who have never tasted dog, cat, or horse said they’d be willing to try the IVM versions. Based on this prognosis, we’re certainly on our way to IVM human hot dogs … and a third of Americans seem a-okay with that.


Research on cannibalism suggests humans aren’t the greatest food source.

Research on cannibalism suggests humans aren’t the greatest food source—and it’s not because of the diet of Fritos and Easy Cheese.

A study published in the journal Scientific Reports concludes that our cannibalistic ancestors probably weren’t dieting on bicep for the nutrients. The research team out of the University of Brighton in England developed a tool for evaluating the caloric value of human compared to other “food sources” that lived at the time. Based on a chemical analysis, a 145-pound man only contains about 144,000 calories. That ain’t much meat on our bones.

Still today, the arise of cannibalism vexes many scientists. Some suggest it’s an ancient medicinal effect; others suggest famine; and still others link it to warfare and a defense mechanism.

“My thinking is that it might make more sense to go after one horse rather than six people to make up the same number of calories,” Cole told CBC News. “Obviously they weren’t sitting there counting calories … but these ancient humans do have an idea about the amount of effort expended for reward in amount of food.”

And what if these cannibals lived today? Ten minutes of “My 600-lb Life” could probably make any recovering cannibal relapse.


BREAKING DISCOVERY: Scientists now know how shoes come untied.

Previously a question of stoner lore—much like Why are people left-handed?, Why is yawning contagious?, and Magnets, how do they work? —researchers out of UC-Berkeley have found a solution to another unsolved mystery: How do our shoes come untied? And it’s not “Because they do.” The answer: It’s all in inertia.

The study, “The roles of impact and inertia in the failure of a shoelace knot,” concludes that the invisible forces of physics—kind of like “the force” and gravity and fuckin’ magnets—act upon your laces in the same way as your hands. Literally, every step you take, every move you make … is a bond you break between the lace ends and the knot.

“First, the repeated impact of the shoe on the floor during walking serves to loosen the knot,” said the authors of the study. “Then, the whipping motions of the free ends of the laces caused by the leg swing produce slipping of the laces.”

To uncover this, the researchers, using a zoomed-in slow-motion camera, observed the behavior of a runner’s shoelaces while she ran on a treadmill, and they then simulated the collision of a shoe with the ground with the tied lace acting as a pendulum.

What they found: The impact of your shoe hitting the ground is seven-times stronger than gravity. This causes the knot to stretch with each impact and relax immediately after the step. While this occurs, the swinging of your legs, like a pendulum, creates an inertial force that tugs at the loops of your laces almost like a swatting hand.

“The interesting thing about this mechanism is that your laces can be fine for a really long time, and it’s not until you get one little bit of motion to cause loosening that starts this avalanche effect leading to knot failure,” which makes it all even more frustrating. Time has virtually no effect. It’s all in the number of steps taken.

It may seem, well, stupid for researchers to analyze the behavior of shoelaces. But the researchers have bigger plans for the study’s conclusions.

“When you talk about knotted structures, if you can start to understand the shoelace, then you can apply it to other things, like DNA or microstructures, that fail under dynamic forces,” said Christopher Daily-Diamond, study co-author and a graduate student at Berkeley told Berkeley News. “This is the first step toward understanding why certain knots are better than others, which no one has really done.”

Top photo by pointnshoot CC BY 2.0

Tommy Burson is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen San Diego but with more sunscreen and jorts.