Findings — From the May 2009 issue

Findings

The National Sleep Foundation warned that too many people were losing sleep over the worsening economy, which also may be causing a decline in shark attacks worldwide and an increase in domestic violence among Texans. Escaped Burmese pythons were breeding rapidly in Florida. In Russia, which overtook China to become the world’s largest heroin consumer, African swine fever broke out at the Lenin Collective Farm in Stavropol. Rabies was spreading among Israeli dogs, foot-and-mouth disease was found in a flock of sheep in Palestine, and a Thoroughbred horse in England came down with strangles. Tristeza was threatening Morocco’s citrus crop, tomato torrado virus appeared among the tomatoes of Panama, and drug-resistant gonorrhea was on the rise in Ontario. Blights struck Nepalese and Floridian potatoes and Indian onions, bacterial leaf spot struck American capsicum, light leaf spot struck British oilseed rape, fungal berry disease wilt struck Ethiopian coffee, blast disease struck Indian rice, fungal infections struck Vietnamese black pepper, and mystery diseases struck Malaysian bananas and Indonesian seaweed. Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Autonomous Region was struck by collective hysteria, known locally as grisi sicknis (“crazy sickness”), which in 2003 caused afflicted Moskito Indians to chase one another around a village with machetes.

Chinese scientists who discovered the fossil of a new dinosaur species, Tianyulong confuciusi, said that the creature was fuzzy. Paleontologists discovered the remains of a marine reptile called Predator X, and entomologists concluded that female seed beetles return to sexually violent mates not to increase their chances of bearing young but to hydrate themselves with the males’ ejaculate. Female warbling antbirds shrill loudly to keep their mates from cheating on them. Selective-serotonin-reuptake-inhibitor antidepressants may interfere with the ability of humans to fall in love. Japanese scientists mapped the dopamine-based reward system that encourages women, when looking at themselves without makeup on, to apply makeup. British women wear heels for 51 years on average, from the ages of 12 to 63. Orthopedic scientists broke the knees of superhealing mice, and researchers experimenting with mice and zebrafish discovered why some people suffer from “heart of glass.” Dolphins at Sea World were found to have taught one another to blow and play with ring-shaped air bubbles. Americans were found able to infer, from photos, the creditworthiness of others. The Pentagon was developing a new giant spy-blimp.

A Viennese chemist concluded that bellybutton fluff is a combination of clothing fibers, sweat, dust, and fat wicked into the navel by body hairs; if one shaves one’s belly, explained the scientist at the conclusion of a three-year study, the fluff will not appear. Italian scientists studying the gas that makes rotten eggs and flatulence stink announced that the substance may work as an impotence drug after they injected it into the excised penises of sex-change patients. By impersonating red-ant queens, parasitic butterflies trick the worker ants into serving them. Placentas were appearing in the sewers of Illinois, and Tokyo sewers were found to be rich in gold. In Hawaii, a woman found a $5 bill inside a coconut. Google denied that its imaging had located Atlantis. A biochemist named David Dreamer predicted that artificial life could be created within five years. REM disturbances may be an early sign of dementia. The brain, said neurologists, begins its senescence at age 27. Americans were losing their religion.

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