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November 30, 2010

Mercury poisoning makes male birds homosexual

Mercury poisoning makes male birds homosexual - environment - 01 December 2010 - New Scientist
Low levels of mercury in the diet of male white ibises cause the birds to mate with each other rather than with females. As a result many of the females can't breed, and fewer chicks are produced. It's the first time a pollutant has been found to change an animal's sexual preference. Many chemicals can "feminise" males or reduce fertility, but males affected in these ways still prefer females. Mercury is extremely toxic, particularly in the form of methylmercury, which reduces breeding in wild birds by disrupting their parenting behaviours. To find out if it also affected mating, Peter Frederick of the University of Florida in Gainesville and Nilmini Jayasena of the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, captured 160 young white ibises from south Florida. They gave them food laced with methylmercury and monitored them closely. The birds were split into four groups. One group ate food with 0.3 parts per million methylmercury, which most US states would regard as too high for human consumption. A second group got 0.1 ppm, and the third 0.05 ppm, a low dose that wild birds would be exposed to frequently. The fourth group received none.

November 26, 2010

Study finds that wealthy people lack empathy

Money can't buy you love – or social skills - CSMonitor.com
Money can't buy you happiness — or social skills, apparently. A new study finds those who are poor are better at empathy than the wealthy. In multiple experiments, people of high socioeconomic status (or people who perceived themselves to be well-off) were worse at judging other people's emotions than those of low socioeconomic status, both when looking at photographs and interacting with real people. The reason may be that people with low income or low education have to be more responsive to others to get by, said study author Michael Kraus, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at the University of California, San Francisco. "You can see how being empathic provides a better ability to respond to social threats," Kraus told LiveScience. "It also gives you an opportunity to respond to social opportunities." Kraus' earlier research has found that wealthier people are ruder than poorer people in conversations with strangers. They've also found that the poor are more generous with their wealth than the rich. Their greater empathy could be the root of that charity, Kraus said. "They're vigilant of other people's need, and they respond when they see it," he said.

November 13, 2010

Rickets epidemic hits UK

BBC News - Increase in rickets in Southampton astonishes doctors
More than 20% of children tested for bone problems in Southampton showed signs of the crippling disease rickets, a health trust has revealed. Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Prof Nicholas Clarke checked more than 200 of the city's children for bone problems caused by a lack of vitamin D. He was astonished by the results, which, he said, were "very reminiscent of 17th Century England". The disease can lead to deformities like bowed legs as well stunted growth.

November 06, 2010

Feynman explains how fucking magnets work

Feynman on Fucking Magnets (And how they work)

November 02, 2010

Daniel Dennett: The Design Fallacy

onegoodmove: Daniel Dennett: The Design Fallacy

October 27, 2010

Is there anythings sadder than Koala A.I.D.S.?

Okay, human AIDS is sadder, because I have more empathy for humans than boozy little bears. But jeez. God hates koalas : Lawyers, Guns & Money
Koala Immune Deficiency Syndrome, as the disease is otherwise known, is now documented in the Wildlife Disease Database, maintained by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is worrying veterinary scientists who are seeing more and more koala victims of the disease. “Extinction is inevitable in some areas,” Jon Hanger, a veterinary scientist at Australia Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital, told CNN. “I certainly hope we don’t see it across Australia. But if we don’t take the decline seriously and pick up on the warning signs now it’s certainly a risk.” Like human AIDS, the disease is not fully understood, but a virus weakens the victim’s immune system, leaving the koala vulnerable to cancer, infections and other health problems. The CNN report mentions that KIDS “is spread by koalas coming into contact with each other,” suggesting that mating isn’t the only possible form of transmission.