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June 06, 2014

New "gay gene" evidence is fascinating

Think of it not as a gene that makes people gay, but rather a gene that makes you really attracted to men. When the gene is present in a woman, she marries earlier and has more kids than women who don't have the gene. But when the gene is present in a man, it makes him gay or bi or closeted. How our genes could make us gay or straight - The Washington Post
The claim that homosexual men share a “gay gene” created a furor in the 1990s. But new research two decades on supports this claim – and adds another candidate gene. To an evolutionary geneticist, the idea that a person’s genetic makeup affects their mating preference is unsurprising. We see it in the animal world all the time. There are probably many genes that affect human sexual orientation. But rather than thinking of them as “gay genes,” perhaps we should consider them “male-loving genes.” They may be common because these variant genes, in a female, predispose her to mate earlier and more often and to have more children. Likewise, it would be surprising if there were not “female-loving genes” in lesbian women that, in a male, predispose him to mate earlier and have more children. . . . Perhaps “male-loving” alleles in a female predispose her to mate earlier and have more children. If their sisters, mother and aunts have more kids who share some of their genes, it would make up for the fewer children of gay males. And they do. Lots more children. An Italian group showed that the female relatives of gay men have 1.3 times as many children as the female relatives of straight men. This is a huge selective advantage that a male-loving allele confers on women, and offsets the selective disadvantage that it confers on men. . . .

June 05, 2014

Star-within-a-star Thorne-Żytkow object discovered

There's nothing like a NEW KIND OF STAR to really spark my sense of wonder. Astronomers Discover A Weird "Stellar Hybrid" — A Star Within A Star
An exotic type of 'hybrid' star has been discovered nearly 40 years since it was first theorized, but until now has been curiously difficult to find. In 1975, renowned astrophysicists Kip Thorne, of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Calif., and Anna Żytkow, of the University of Cambridge, UK, assembled a theory on how a large dying star could swallow its neutron star binary partner, thus becoming a very rare type of stellar hybrid, nicknamed a Thorne-Żytkow object (or TŻO). The neutron star — a dense husk of degenerate matter that was once a massive star long since gone supernova — would spiral into the red supergiant's core, interrupting normal fusion processes. According to the Thorne-Żytkow theory, after the two objects have merged, an excess of the elements rubidium, lithium and molybdenum will be generated by the hybrid. So astronomers have been on the lookout for stars in our galaxy, which is thought to contain only a few dozen of these objects at any one time, with this specific chemical signature in their atmospheres.

June 04, 2014

42% of Americans say they believe the world was created whole 10,000 years ago

And 73% of Americans either don't believe in evolution or have no idea what it is. 42% Of Americans Believe God Created Humans 10,000 Years Ago
A new Gallup poll shows that 73% of Americans subscribe to creationism in one form or another, including 42% who take a literal interpretation of Genesis. This is a result that's changed very little over the past three decades. The poll, conducted between May 8 to 11, asked respondents to identify which of the following three statements came closest to their own views on the origin and development of human beings: Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so The results: 42% said God created humans in their present form, 31% said humans evolved with God guiding, and a paltry 19% said God had no part in the process. That means 73% of Americans don't understand Darwinian natural selection — a stand-alone process that does not require supernatural intervention. By contrast, 22% of people in Canada and the UK believe in literal creationism. By contrast, in Norway, only 8% still believe in creationism. The number of Americans who believe God had no part in the process has doubled since 1999.