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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.

Psychology,, Neuroscience

Leonardo da Vinci may have invented 3-D image with ‘Mona Lisa’

By Erika Engelhaupt 5:39pm, April 30, 2014
A mysterious copy of the ‘Mona Lisa’ combines with the Louvre painting to make a stereoscopic image of the woman with the enigmatic smile.
Human Evolution,, Psychology

Could the menstrual cycle have shaped the evolution of music?

By Erika Engelhaupt 5:35pm, April 23, 2014
A new study suggesting that women select better musicians shows how women’s role in evolution is being redefined.

How urine will get us to Mars

By Erika Engelhaupt 4:38pm, April 11, 2014
A new recycling system turns pee into drinking water and energy, a small step toward really long-term space travel.

This is what happens when you pee in the pool

By Erika Engelhaupt 1:12pm, April 8, 2014
Swimming pools are basically chemical toilets, but here’s why I’ll keep swimming.
Biomedicine,, Genetics

This rare skull-thickening disease led to a 3-D-printed replacement

By Erika Engelhaupt 12:36pm, March 31, 2014
A skull implant made with a 3-D printer replaced the 2-inch-thick skull of a Dutch woman with the rare van Buchem disease.

Your fear is written all over your face, in heat

By Erika Engelhaupt 6:09pm, March 26, 2014
Thermal images of bank clerks who’ve been robbed reveal a cold nose can be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Science & Society,, Chemistry

Stone throwers might toss fingerprints into police hands

By Erika Engelhaupt 6:03pm, March 18, 2014
An Israeli police lab is studying methods to develop fingerprints on rock to identify stone throwers.
Psychology,, Health

Attractiveness studies are hot, or not

By Erika Engelhaupt 3:30pm, March 13, 2014
Studies that link attractiveness to other traits are often misinterpreted, including recent studies of nose bacteria and of cycling ability.

What your earwax says about your ancestry

By Erika Engelhaupt 6:26pm, February 24, 2014
Both armpit and ear wax secretions are smellier in Caucasians than in Asians, thanks to a tiny genetic change that differs across ethnic groups.
Science & Society,, Biomedicine

Alternatives needed to do-it-yourself feces swaps

By Erika Engelhaupt 4:30pm, February 20, 2014
Three researchers are calling for the FDA to regulate feces as a human tissue rather than a drug to make it easier for doctors to perform fecal transplants.
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