Findings — From the November 2008 issue
- Current Issue
SIGN IN to access the Harper’s archive
ALERT: Usernames and passwords from the old Harpers.org will no longer work. To create a new password and add or verify your email address, please sign in to customer care and select Email/Password Information. (To learn about the change, please read our FAQ.)
Researchers found that 70 percent of voters who claim to be undecided have already made up their minds, estimated that genes are responsible for 53 percent of an eligible voter’s likelihood of voting and for 46 percent of a voter’s “partisan intensity,” and determined that conservatives startle more easily than liberals. A government model projected that all U.S. adults will be overweight by 2048; doctors warned of a coming plague of superlice; and endocrine scientists hoped to establish whether New Jersey causes cancer. The statistical value of an American’s life has dropped by $1 million in the past five years. Studies revealed that medieval monks may have been poisoned by red ink, and that European populations have lower HIV resistance the longer they were ruled by the Roman Empire. In Lake Elsinore, California, a family of bobcats moved into a foreclosed house.
Non-native eagle owls (Bubo bubo) in Britain were attacking pedestrians, and in New Zealand the invasive Australian oyster blenny (Omobranchus anolius) was found to be feasting on local barnacles’ penises. Australian aboriginal children who are ignorant of numbers and have no use for counting can nevertheless count. A Japanese biologist found that elephants are good at counting, British scientists determined that an elephant’s legs are as flexible as a horse’s, and a Disney behavioral ecologist announced that elephants’ long-range low-frequency vocal rumblings draw elephant friends together and drive elephant enemies apart. Elephant matriarchs never forget droughts; some crows understand what holes are; dogs have an aversion to unfairness and are more likely than humans to yawn when people around them yawn. Researchers observed that sleeping deer and grazing cows generally align their bodies along the earth’s north–south magnetic axis. Vegetarianism leads to brain shrinkage.
Swiss neuroscientists collected the stink of terror from dying mice and stored it in a dish of water, then showed the dish to living mice. If a mouse has no Grüneberg ganglion, they learned, it can smell Oreos but it cannot smell fear. Researchers identified a strain of mice that are comprehensively autistic; previously, autistic mice exhibited only repetitive behavior and poor social skills, but “BTBR” mice also make inappropriate noises when left alone by their mothers. Bioengineers who removed the wings of flies found that the flies could still hop out of the way of an impending swat. Kentucky researchers reported that mice subjected to simulated sleep apnea suffer from erectile dysfunction and take as long as eleven hours to ejaculate, and Colombian geneticists determined that Bolivian river dolphins are chubbier than Amazon river dolphins. The oceans have become too noisy for whales. A Lebanese oyster was found to contain twenty-six pearls, and for the first time in a century, an entire month passed during which the sun had no spots. Astrophysicists calculated that the largest black holes could have the mass of 50 billion suns if they have been feeding since the beginning of time. Scientists warned that anthropogenic CO2 emissions may eventually replicate the conditions that 251 million years ago led to the Great Dying. An upside-down rainbow appeared over England.
More from Rafil Kroll-Zaidi: