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Dublin: 11 °C Friday 24 October, 2014

The non-essential but interesting scientific discoveries of 2013

Penis size matters, women want to eat babies and hangovers get better later in life.

Image: scientists image via Shutterstock

SCIENCE IS MOVING forward all the time and we’re discovering incredible things about humans, animals, the world and the universe at large every day.

Some of these discoveries are more significant than others but there is something to be said for the research that, while not ground-breaking, makes you sit up and take notice.

Here are some of the non-essential but interesting nonetheless discoveries of the last year:

Penis size matters to women

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(Image: Shutterstock)

Pardon the pun, but let’s kick things off with a bang. In April, researchers at the University of Owwawa found that women do in fact find a larger penis more attractive. What’s more, prehistoric women who could see the sex organs of their scantily clad male counterparts may have helped influence the evolution of larger genitals in men by choosing to mate with partners who were bigger. You’re welcome boys.

There is no link between tiredness and now much sleep you get

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(Image: Rev Daniel A Hinton/Flickr)

Swedish scientists found that the number of hours slept at night is not that important in determining how a person functions throughout the day. It is actually genetically conditioned and dependant on age and health.

Your dog yawns with you because they love you

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Staying with the fatigue-related research, a study in Japan revealed that man’s best friend can sense tiredness and, in a possible show of empathy, will join you in a big yawn. Canines taking part in the research yawned more often when it was their owner who was involved. Aw.

Men are taller today than they were 100 years ago

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(Image: Shutterstock)

It was confirmed in September that the average height of European men increased by 11 centimenters between the mid 1800s and 1980. Surprisingly, the average height of men accelerated during the period spanning the two World Wars and the Great Depression.

Beer does not actually give you a beer belly

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(Image: Mike Lewis/Flickr)

A report at the start of this year claimed that there is no conclusive evidence to support the belief that beer causes weight gain. The research claims that as beer has fewer calories per 100ml than many other drinks (including wine and orange juice), it can’t be blamed entirely for bellies of any kind. In fact, the lead author of the scientific review pointed out that the beverage containts fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are associated with health benefits.

Hangovers get better later in life

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(Image: John Haydon/Flickr)

Beer might not make you fat but if you drink enough of it you’ll wake up to a hell of a hangover. Though the general perception is that your drinking stamina will decrease as you get older, science said otherwise this year. A study that analysed the hangovers of about 52,000 people found that, even when they engaged in binge drinking, older people experienced fewer hangover symptoms.

Women actually want to gobble up babies

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Perhaps one of the stranger pieces of research this year, scientists in Canada found that the odour of newborns activates a reward circuit in the mother’s brain, similar to a hungry person getting to eat or a drug addict receiving their fix. The most bizarre thing about this study was that they collected the odours of newborns from their pyjamas two days after birth.

Heartbreak may cause actual pain

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(Image: Shutterstock)

The folks at AsapSCIENCE explained this year that the same region of your brain that registers physical pain is also activated when you feel excluded or the loss of a social relationship. Therefore loss of a loved one or isolation can trigger a similar reaction creating the perception of physical pain.

Cheating makes you feel good – once you don’t get caught

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(Image: Mr_Stein/Flickr)

Researchers in Washington have found that people who cheat are more likely to feel upbeat afterwards than remorseful. However there are a couple of provisos – that the cheater is not caught and that they believe nobody was hurt by their dishonesty.

The cold weather does not depress us as much as we think

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(Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland)

It might be easy to blame your bad mood on the weather but new research this year revealed that the time of year and weather conditions do not influence depressive symptoms. Authors said that while we may not have as much fun and be less active in winter, that is not the same as long-lasting sadness or hopelessness that is associated with depression.

We know what caused the Irish potato famine

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(Image: Marco Thines/Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung)

Scientists in Germany identified the fatal pathogen that caused the disastrous potato blight during the Great Famine. The discovery was made using dried potato plants from 120 years ago and the culprit is called ‘Phytophthora infestans’.

Read: Irish scientists encouraged to chase €80 billion EU fund>

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