Episode 003: Hungry Like the Civet

Topics discussed: Giant insects; Twinkies; the general fickleness of taste perception; food-ish things that may or may not be either good or bad for you; Japanese centenarians; the voices of physics; why naked mole rats don’t get cancer; clouds of bacteria; whiskey stones; oblique references to songs of the 1980s.

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Note: sorry about some of the noise in the audio. We’re still figuring out how to make the best of our limited recording equipment. If you’d like to help out with that, feel free to contribute to the “buy Matt and Matt some better microphones” fund via the Donate button we just added in the sidebar. And donations or not, we promise the next episode will be less noisy!


All about Twinkies, including ingredients and shelf life: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twinkie
– erratum: Twinkies aren’t back yet, but they will return on the 15th of July: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/dailydish/la-dd-twinkies-comeback-july-15-20130624,0,4313715.story
– a perfect example of the naturalistic fallacy: http://www.divinecaroline.com/life-etc/twinkie-ingredients-revealed
– speaking of which: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_fallacy
A not-incredibly-difficult crème brûlée recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/creme-brulee/
Basic tastes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taste#Basic_tastes
People enjoy wine more when it is given a higher price tag: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2008/january16/wine-011608.html
– link to actual academic article for the above: http://www.pnas.org/content/105/3/1050.short
Placebo pills are deemed more effective for pain when given a higher price tag: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-03-04-placebo-effect_N.htm
Some wine-tasting studies: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/23/wine-tasting-junk-science-analysis
– a similar article: http://lifehacker.com/5990737/why-we-cant-tell-good-wine-from-bad
Apparently the ‘o’ is silent. One of those Latin ligature things. Oops. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oenology
Not sure about blue orange juice, but here’s an oblique reference to a blue steak study from the 1970s where participants felt ill: http://itotd.com/articles/629/the-influence-of-color-on-taste-perception/
– and a link to an academic article that reviews this and some other similar studies in its introduction: http://www.aseanfood.info/articles/11020269.pdf
MSG: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monosodium_glutamate
– see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glutamic_acid_(flavor)
– and for glutamate in general: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glutamic_acid
Questioning the relationship between sodium intake and poor cardiovascular health: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=its-time-to-end-the-war-on-salt
– another similar article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/15/health/panel-finds-no-benefit-in-sharply-restricting-sodium.html
– one of the academic reviews cited by the above: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21735439
Living on potatoes and milk: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2828/could-i-survive-on-nothing-but-potatoes-and-milk
The original Swift diet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Modest_Proposal
More on the death of Dr. Robert Atkins: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/11/nyregion/just-what-killed-the-diet-doctor-and-what-keeps-the-issue-alive.html
– and on Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/medical/doctor/atkins.asp
Academic publication discussing candidate receptors for salt (and other basic tastes): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2721271/
The old oldest person (RIP) and the new oldest person on Earth (as of podcast release date): http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/worlds-oldest-person-dies-long-1947175
Centenarians by country: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centenarian#Centenarian_populations_by_country
TRP channels: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transient_receptor_potential_channel
– capsaicin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsaicin
– menthol: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menthol
Pit vipers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pit_viper
– more on the pit organ and snake infrared sensing in general: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrared_sensing_in_snakes
– pit viper image (with arrow to pit organ): http://nwtactical.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/pit.jpg
Vampire bats: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampire_bat
– close-up of face with weird nose: http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2012/08/01/vampire_bat_wide-c3b907462f9a75005cc6d0ad399b87ec71974dcd.jpg
– spider-bat, spider-bat, walks however a spider-bat does: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a7/Vampire_Bat_003.jpg
The fearless David Julius lab: http://physio.ucsf.edu/julius/
The “snake fight” portion of your thesis defense: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/faq-the-snake-fight-portion-of-your-thesis-defense
Serious Eats’ post on sugar Coke versus corn syrup Coke — actually, (American) tasters preferred corn syrup in the blind tests: http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2011/09/the-food-lab-drinks-edition-is-mexican-coke-better-than-regular-coke-coke-taste-test-coke-vs-mexican-coke.html
History of Mountain Dew: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Dew
– and a direct link to the image of the ad we discussed: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/5d/Mountain_Dew_sign_Tonto_Arizona.jpg
Beverly the beverage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverly_(drink)
Durians: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durian
– the Durian-Durian shop: http://eatdrinkkl.blogspot.com/2011/10/durian-durian-tong-pak-fu.html
– a “no durian” sign in a hotel, pic taken by MJ during his first trip to Malaysia: https://sshhmm.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/no_durians.jpg
– Duran Duran discography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duran_Duran_discography
The Asian Palm Civet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_Palm_Civet
– and the coffee it excretes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kopi_Luwak
Just in case anyone didn’t get MJ’s “Spatula City” reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XbCWmY0eqY
More on prevalence of spicy foods in hot climates: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/11/1111_051111_spicy_medicine.html
Mannitol: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mannitol#Medical_applications
The latest “14-year-old McDonald’s burger” story (sigh): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2313276/Man-keeps-McDonalds-burger-14-years-looks-exactly-the-day-flipped-Utah.html
– Serious Eats comes to the rescue again: http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/11/the-burger-lab-revisiting-the-myth-of-the-12-year-old-burger-testing-results.html
“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” (link to Amazon): http://amzn.to/186ZT8y
– Wikipedia article on Feynman: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman
– the Feynman video played in the podcast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qQQXTMih1A
“Qu’est-ce que c’est?”: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/qu’est-ce_que_c’est
Far Side cartoon on how dogs hear humans: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_jWNhyMUpjSE/S4cLodq1yaI/AAAAAAAAFr0/TvG0fYpoIOA/s1600-h/gl.jpg
O.Noir, the pitch-black restaurant in Montreal: http://www.onoir.com/
– a list of similar restaurants around the world (apparently the first was in Switzerland): http://travel.spotcoolstuff.com/unusual-restaurants-eating-in-the-dark
– and apparently there’s one in Malaysia after all: http://www.dininginthedarkkl.com/
Why naked mole rats don’t get cancer: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2013/06/why-naked-mole-rats-dont-get-can.html
Bacteria in the clouds: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-06/bacteria-33000-feet
Modeling spread of disease with dollar bill tracking: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn8636-banknote-tracking-helps-model-spread-of-disease.html?
– academic article (on nature.com): http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v439/n7075/full/nature04292.html
– link to PDF the above article: http://www.nld.ds.mpg.de/downloads/publications/Brockmann2006.pdf
Whisk(e)y stones debunked: http://www.scotchblog.ca/scotch_blog/2013/03/whiskey-stones.html
All the “illions” from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZmafy_v8g8
Symphony of Science: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZGINaRUEkU
MC Hawking (NSFW language warning): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCDXeJGCiWg
Stephen Hawking’s synthesizer setup, in his own words: http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-computer.html
80s songs referenced in the episode, in one way or another:
– “Hungry Like the Wolf”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOg5VxrRTi0
– “Psycho Killer” (via qu’est-ce que c’est?): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX6FsTIq6ls
– “Turning Japanese”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEmJ-VWPDM4


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