Findings — From the June 2009 issue
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Baby pythons escaped aboard a 737, a farmer in Kenya bit a python who tried to eat him, and an Indonesian fisherman was killed by Komodo dragons when he attempted to collect sugar apples from a dragon–infested forest. The White House was invaded by one large and several medium-sized raccoons and colonized by a swarm of honeybees. Scientists built a handheld mosquito-killing laser that can be mounted on aerial drones, which will track the mosquitoes and shoot them out of the sky. In the Gulf of Aden, a massive pod of dolphins thwarted a band of pirates. A British acoustician invented a machine to translate dolphin, and a Russian zoologist found that stray Muscovite dogs had adjusted to post-Soviet urban life by commuting from the suburbs on trains. The dogs, who prefer the front- and rearmost cars and occasionally miss their stops when they fall asleep, have also learned to obey traffic lights in spite of their color blindness. A chimpanzee in Sweden was found to be stockpiling weapons to use against humans.
A team of paleontologists suggested that dinosaurs developed wings to attract mates. “Maybe they ran around with their arms outstretched,” said the lead researcher, “to show off how pretty their feathers were.” Flight-biomechanics researchers found, by capturing the breath of a hummingbird flying in a wind tunnel, that male hummingbirds expend negligibly more energy on flight when their tail feathers are extended to five times normal length. Chinese scientists announced that stem-cell injections had repopulated with fresh eggs the ovaries of barren mice. An Italian gynecologist claimed to have cloned three babies, and a Cypriot-American fertility doctor unveiled his attempts to impregnate four women with cloned embryos at his secret laboratory. Rich parents favor firstborn children more than poor parents do. People who live in the tropics are more likely to have baby girls. Giving birth to boys is riskier and more difficult than giving birth to girls, and sisters make people happier than do brothers. Entomologists discovered that a species of South American ant has no males. Stanford University researchers were studying how twins named Aurora and Pandora react to pain and to pain medications. The testosterone levels of women rise when they are consensually flogged, spanked, or placed in bondage. Incapacitating drugs were growing more popular among Canadian rapists, and a British experiment demonstrated that even drunk men can accurately determine whether a woman is underage. Researchers warned against rebound relationships. Crabs remember being hurt.
The FDA approved a new, less noisy female condom. Doctors found that women’s brain cells, when threatened with starvation, act conservatively and survive, whereas men’s brain cells eat themselves and die. Male chimpanzees who share their meat with females copulate with those females twice as often as when they decline to share. HIV transmission was found to be abetted by transactional intergenerational sex partners, also known as sugar daddies. American children were smoking and snorting Smarties; doctors warned that such practices, by introducing sugar into the warm, moist nasal environment, could cause bacterial infections. The children of mothers with negative emotions were found to eat more junk food. German children are less likely to become fat if they have access to water fountains at school. Summer jobs may help prevent teen suicide. Policemen with superior working memory are less likely in computer simulations to shoot virtual unarmed people. Facebook may lower the grades of college students, and Twitter dulls compassion for human suffering. Surgeons in Russia removed a fir sapling from a man’s lung.
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