Findings — From the February 2009 issue
SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
A gay penguin couple in China’s Polar Land zoo were ostracized by other penguins and then placed in a separate enclosure after they made repeated attempts to steal the eggs of straight penguin couples and replace them with stones. Men who have more brothers than sisters are more likely to have sons, and men who have more sisters than brothers are more likely to have daughters. Babies who ride in forward-facing buggies may be more stressed and develop more slowly than babies in parent-facing buggies, and babies who are carried in slings cry less than babies who are transported in buggies. Researchers may have identified a genetic variant that undermasculinizes the fetal brain and thereby contributes to male-to-female transgenderism. Light drinking during pregnancy, said scientists, does not harm babies and seems to produce smarter, better-behaved children, though this effect could be due to light social drinkers’ coming from more privileged backgrounds. Fat American children are twice as likely to suffer limb injuries during car crashes. British doctors warned that parents of little boys should always leave toilet seats up lest toddlers drop heavy wooden or ornamental seats and thereby experience “penis crush,” and British women with bad complexions were pleased with the effects of a new skin-rejuvenating liquid called Vavelta, which is made from American baby foreskins. Autistic children, a study revealed, are expensive.
Britain was found to be the most promiscuous industrialized nation, whereas Taiwan is the least. Frenchmen were found to have the longest, thickest penises in the E.U., whereas the thinnest and shortest were found on Greeks. Psychologists found that ovulating Frenchwomen were three times as likely as menstruating Frenchwomen to give their phone numbers to attractive men named Antoine. Researchers found no relationship between a Czech woman’s orgasms and the amount of time she spends in foreplay but did find that orgasm was likelier to occur the longer she spends having intercourse. On average intercourse lasts more than twice as long for Czechs as for Americans; the researchers posited as an explanation “a greater appreciation of intercourse and sensuality by Europeans than by Americans.” Female elephant-nose fish were observed to identify their male counterparts based on the males’ weak electrical charge rather than on their appearance. Scotland was experimenting with re-beavering.
A 2,000-year-old brain was found in the mud in York, England, and a 6,000-year-old skeleton with its middle finger in its mouth was found in the Sahara. Cannibals in Papua New Guinea, it was reported, prefer Japanese people and find Caucasians too salty. Neanderthals never learned how to throw things. Laron dwarves in southern Ecuador were discovered to be free of cancer and diabetes. In Kenya, the widespread misuse of mosquito nets as fishing nets threatened to spread malaria and to deplete fish stocks in Lake Victoria, and in South Africa AIDS patients were smoking their antiretroviral drugs to get high or selling them to teenage drug users. Brazilian criminals were using pigeons to work as drug mules, and Iranian security forces claimed to have discovered a spy pigeon attached to invisible strings near a rosewater-production plant. Mexican scientists turned tequila into diamonds. Bees can count to 4. Jellyfish were proliferating wildly all over the world, and the town of Hamelin was plagued by rats.
More from Rafil Kroll-Zaidi: