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Naomi Wolf, porn and the misuse of dopamine

A thoughtful and scientific response to Naomi Wolf's shrill anti-porn and anti-sex screed for CNN. Naomi Wolf, porn and the misuse of dopamine -- Mind Hacks
‘Is pornography driving men crazy?’ asks campaigner Naomi Wolf in a CNN article that contains a spectacular misunderstanding of neuroscience applied to a shaky moral conclusion. Wolf asks suggests that the widespread availability and consumption of pornography is “rewiring the male brain” and “causing them to have more difficulty controlling their impulses”. According to her article, pornography causes “rapid densensitization” to sexual stimulation which is “desensitizing healthy young men to the erotic appeal of their own partners” and means “ordinary sexual images eventually lose their power, leading consumers to need images that break other taboos in other kinds of ways, in order to feel as good.” Moreover, she says “some men (and women) have a “dopamine hole” – their brains’ reward systems are less efficient – making them more likely to become addicted to more extreme porn more easily.” Wolf cites the function of dopamine to back up her argument and says this provides “an increasing body of scientific evidence” to support her ideas. It does not, and unfortunately, Wolf clearly does not understand either the function or the relevance of the dopamine system to this process, but we’ll get onto that in the moment. . . .

Neptune completes first full orbit since we discovered it

Lazy, lazy Neptune. Short Sharp Science: Cheers, Neptune, on your first 'anniversary'
Dog years are nothing next to Neptune years. The distant planet has finally completed the first entire orbit of the sun since its discovery in 1846. The planet is actually about as old as the solar system, which is 4.6 billion Earth-years old. But it makes sense to celebrate the "anniversary" of its discovery, since it was a veritable feat of astronomical deduction. Astronomers predicted Neptune's existence and location based on the observed motion of Uranus, which was discovered in 1781. Astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle spotted Neptune from the Royal Observatory in Berlin right at the predicted location on 23 or 24 September 1846 (it was close to midnight and there is some uncertainty over the exact time). Galle is credited with its discovery, although Galileo appears to have seen it way back in 1612 and mistaken it for a star. One full Neptune-year, which lasts 164.79 Earth-years, has now passed since its discovery. Figuring out the exact timing of this milestone is surprisingly complicated – it depends on the uncertain time of the discovery, and on exactly how you define "one Neptune orbit", since there are slightly different ways to do that.

July 11, 2011

New Study Shows People With Panic Disorders Respond Poorly To Being Locked In Underwater Elevators

New Study Shows People With Panic Disorders Respond Poorly To Being Locked In Underwater Elevators | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
According to Dr. Samuel Lepore, who led the Yale University study, test subjects suffering from the disorder experienced full-on panic attacks as soon as the elevators shuddered to a halt, and they exhibited symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and numbness in the extremities when it became apparent the car was stuck and the emergency call button didn't work. "Given the results, we can now say conclusively that people who suffer from severe anxiety dislike being trapped in small boxes hundreds of feet under water," said Lepore, who logged more than a thousand hours of clinical study on the subject. "In fact, our research suggests that it makes said individuals experience extreme discomfort with almost no degree of relief." "Furthermore, statistics showed their displeasure increased exponentially every hour we kept them locked in there," Lepore continued. . . .

July 09, 2011

New research shows fracking destroying forests in only a few days

What? How could pumping lots of odd chemicals into the groundwater possibly kill off local plants? Fracking Fatally Destroys Forests In As Little As Two Days | ThinkProgress
A new study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service concluded that fracking causes alarming damage to the enviornment in as little as two days. The findings, which looked at the effects of land application of fracking fluids on a quarter-acre section of the Monongahela National Forest, found that within two days, all ground plants were dead. After two years, half of the trees were dead and the soil composition was radically altered.

July 08, 2011

Polar bears are from Ireland

Polar bears can claim Irish ancestry - life - 07 July 2011 - New Scientist
A team led by Ceiridwen Edwards – now at the University of Oxford but at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland during the study – has found that modern polar bears are descended from extinct brown bears that loped over the present-day islands of Britain and Ireland between 43000 and 3000 years ago. At times during this period the two islands were connected by an ice sheet. Edwards's team analysed short chunks of mitochondrial DNA – each 100 to 176 base pairs in length – from the teeth and bones of 17 ancient bears from caves across Ireland, and then compared them with a global dataset of DNA sequences from polar bears and brown bears, extinct and modern.