Weird Science Weekly: Penis museum on hard target search for human donation

Scott Sutherland
February 22, 2014

In this week's installment of Weird Science Weekly, we're looking at some of the strangest science, including the search to complete the largest (and probably only) collection of penises, a fake pub that uses fake alcohol to perform real science, and the late, great Frank Zappa gets a bacteria named after him...

Penis museum searches for human donation

This may seem like the trailer for a comedy, and undoubtedly there's some chuckle-worthy parts even in this two-minute long video. However, the documentary The Final Member, follows a very real quest by the curator of the Icelandic Phallological Museum — the only museum in the world dedicated to collecting and preserving penises.

There's one important specimen missing from their collection though, a human penis, and the founder and curator — a historian named Sigurdur Hjartarson — is very interested in anyone willing to donate theirs. While most would cringe at the idea, two men are up to the task, and the movie (in theatres on April 18th) follows the undoubtedly strange story about which one will be 'the one.'

If you're interested in visiting the Icelandic Phallological Museum, to gaze around in wonder (or horror) at the incredible example of phallology you can find there, plan your trip to Reykjavik and it's just a short drive from the airport.

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Fake pub with fake drinks performs very real science

Most college and university students wouldn't turn down a free drink, and this is exactly what the psychology department at London South Bank University are counting on. They converted one of their classrooms into a fairly realistic looking pub.

"Much of our research isn't so much interested in the effects of alcohol once people are intoxicated, but trying to understand factors that motivate people to drink in certain ways," Dr Tony Moss, head of psychology at LSBU, said in a news release.

The science conducted in the pub is one of the only real things going on there, though. The pub certainly isn't real, as it has no alcohol license since they don't charge for the drinks. The beer taps aren't real, since they don't serve beer every day, so it would go off if they left it sit for too long. Sometimes even the drinks aren't real, as they give out plenty of placebo drinks to test how people's expectations about what they're drinking effect their behaviour.

By the way, the 'fruit machine' they have for testing risk-taking behaviour is what most other places in the world call a slot machine.

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Bacteria named after Frank Zappa

Researchers have discovered a new type of Propionibacterium acnes bacteria (the one that's responsible for producing acne). This one doesn't live on our bodies, though. It evolved about 7,000 years ago to live on grapevines!

Genetic testing of the bacteria shows that it's closely related to the bacteria that lives on our skin, and the timing of when it split off closely matches when people first started cultivating grapes. Still, this strange human-to-plant transfer of bacteria had them looking for a very appropriate name to distinguish it.

"This bacteria is so unconventional in its behavior, and its new habitat is so unexpected that we thought of Frank Zappa. Indeed, at the time we were discovering it, we were both playing a Zappa album in our cars," authors Andrea Campisano and Omar Rota-Stabelli said in a press release.

Just as strange, and maybe a little prophetic of this discovery, is how Frank Zappa once answered a question of what message he would send to humans living in the year 3000.

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Keep your eyes on the wonders of science, and if you spot anything particularly strange you'd like me to check out for next week, comment below or drop me a line on Twitter!

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