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Gory Details

The bizarre side of science

Erika Engelhaupt

Gory Details

Gory Details

For Halloween, Gory Details favorites and farewell

feet with toe tag

A post on a study of the microbes that live inside human cadavers kicks off Erika Engelhaupt's list of favorite Gory Details posts.

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Halloween is a Gory Details goldmine. Each October, science writers find their e-mail inboxes stuffed with tips on the science of spiders, “zombies” and other creepy-crawlies. This year's holiday even brings the first-ever National Bat Week. (A fine move by chiropterologists — bat scientists — to involve the public in saving animals endangered by white-nose disease.)

So it's hard to leave much of the creepy fun to my fellow bloggers this Halloween. In July, just as I wrote my last Gory Details post at Science News, I accepted a job at National Geographic as their first online science editor. So this is my final post for Science News. While I plan to keep writing about the dark side of science, the details are still in the works. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I've found that spider stories rocket to the top of the web-traffic charts at National Geographic, too. Creepy thrills, it seems, are universal. For this Halloween, here's a roundup of a few of my favorite, and scariest, Gory Details posts.

Best zombie reference: Getting to know the real living dead

In this case, the living dead is the necrobiome, the waves of microbial life that take over a body after death. A great example of how much we still have to learn about the biology of death.

Kept me up at night: In a nuclear attack, there's no avoiding the brutal math

Here's a genuinely scary thought: What would you do in a nuclear attack? My look at how scientists calculate the odds of survival had me checking the Science News basement's viability as a nuclear shelter.

Gory reality checkThis is what happens when you pee in the pool

Even after I had begged colleagues to stop e-mailing me pee stories, I couldn't pass up the chance to debunk fears about the deadly mix of urine and chlorine.

Scary movies: The most (and least) realistic movie psychopaths ever

Apparently people can't get enough of psychopaths. This was the most popular Gory Details post ever, and even months after it was picked up by other blogs and websites, people kept commenting with their own opinions about real psychopath behavior. 

That's just a sampling, but all the Gory Details posts have been a blast to write. Thank you to Science News for letting me turn a few stomachs, and I hope to keep shining light on those topics we too often leave unexplored.


Schadenfreude starts young

By Erika Engelhaupt 1:58pm, July 23, 2014
Children as young as 2 years old feel joy at another’s misfortune, new research suggests, showing jealousy’s deep roots.
Microbes,, Microbiology

Front doors carry ‘thin patina’ of poop bacteria

By Erika Engelhaupt 12:38pm, July 17, 2014
A new map shows that Americans’ front door frames are coated in gut-dwelling microbes.
Ecosystems,, Sustainability,, Ecology

If you really hate a species, try eating it

By Erika Engelhaupt 11:29am, July 8, 2014
Dining on invasive fish such as snakehead and lionfish can reduce their numbers, but we can’t entirely eat our way out this problem.
Genetics,, Science & Society

Finally, some solid science on Bigfoot

By Erika Engelhaupt 7:05pm, July 1, 2014
DNA analysis finds no Bigfoot, no yeti, two weird bears and one scientist on a quest for the truth.
Anthropology,, Archaeology

Neanderthals reveal their diet with oldest excrement

By Erika Engelhaupt 6:27pm, June 25, 2014
50,000-year-old fossil poop hints at Neanderthals’ omnivorous, but meat-heavy, diet.
Microbiology,, Genetics

Here’s the poop on getting your gut microbiome analyzed

By Science News Staff 4:38pm, June 17, 2014
One Science News writer donated her used toilet paper for science and learned that microbiome research is as uncharted as the Wild West.

Why stabbing a voodoo doll is so satisfying

By Erika Engelhaupt 2:30pm, June 5, 2014
To measure how aggressive a person is, psychologists turn to voodoo dolls and hot sauce.
Biomedicine,, Microbes

Urine is not sterile, and neither is the rest of you

By Erika Engelhaupt 4:00pm, May 22, 2014
Despite what the Internet says, urine does contain bacteria, a new study finds. And so does your brain, the womb, and pretty much everywhere else.

Anemone eats bird, and other surprising animal meals

By Erika Engelhaupt 4:17pm, May 15, 2014
A fuzzy green anemone eating a bird many times its size shows that you can’t take anything for granted when it comes to which animals can eat each other.
Psychology,, Neuroscience

Why every face you draw looks a little Neandertal

By Erika Engelhaupt 10:15am, May 7, 2014
Just about everyone draws faces with the eyes too high and a low Neandertal forehead, maybe because of the way we perceive the shape of the head.
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