SCIENCE

Duh! 11 Obvious Science Findings of 2011

01/04/2012 02:08 pm ET

In science, it's not enough to think something is so. Researchers must show that what we believe to be true is in fact true, proven through statistically significant and reproducible results. Questioning assumptions is, after all, what science is about.

Nonetheless, some studies really take the cake in the "duh" department, discovering things that were already obvious. Here are findings from this year that should come as little surprise.

1. Unsafe sex is more likely after drinking

Drinking too much alcohol can impair decision-making. And a study out this year drove this point home: Canadian researchers, reporting results that will be published in January in the journal Addiction, said they ran 12 studies looking at the link between blood alcohol and the likelihood of agreeing to use a condom during sexual intercourse. The more alcohol in a person's system (yes, the drunker they were), the more likely they were to throw caution to the wind and ditch safe sex. Specifically, for every 0.1-milligram-per-milliliter increase in study participants' blood alcohol levels, there was a 5 percent increased likelihood of having unprotected sex.

2. Men appear confident by suppressing fear, pain and empathy

When mixed martial arts fighters need to show off masculine strength and confidence, they suppress fear, empathy, pain and shame.

Yeah, not too shocking: that tamping down those emotions might make someone seem more formidable. But the research, published in December in the journal Social Psychology Quarterly, was aimed at understanding how men manage their emotions and expectations of manhood.

"Managing emotional manhood, whether it occurs in a locker room or board room, at home or the Oval Office, likely plays a key role in maintaining unequal social arrangements," study author Christian Vaccaro of Indiana University of Pennsylvania said in a statement.

3. Smoking pot and driving isn't safe

Who knew, getting behind the wheel while high could be trouble? According to a study published in October in the journal Epidemiologic Reviews, marijuana use increases the risk of car crashes. People who took to the road within three hours of smoking pot, as well as those who tested positive for the drug, were more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in a car crash. And that risk increased for those who smoked more frequently and those showing a higher level of the drug in their urine.

4. Pigs love mud

Turns out pigs aren't just putting on a show when they haul butt around their muddy quarters, diving into the muck. They actually like it. While mud baths keep pigs cool, a review of research reported in 2011 found wallowing may also be a swine sign of well-being. While the review found the strongest reason noted in the past studies for wallowing was to keep cool, the pigs kept it up through winter months.

5. Fashion magazines glorify youth

Surprise, surprise: Fashion mags portray women over 40 sparingly, if at all. Young celebrities and models dominate the pages of these publications, even ones targeted at older age groups. For example, researchers reported in April in the Journal of Aging Studies, that 22 percent of the reader base of Essence is older than 50, but only 9 percent of the women in its pages were even older than 40. Vogue featured only one woman over 40 on its covers in 2010: Halle Berry (then 43).

Read more on Scientific American

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