Findings — From the August 2009 issue

Findings

Scientists made graduate students provoke spitting cobras into attacking them, coordinated assaults on humans by mockingbirds, induced regret in monkeys, and tickled five young bonobos, four young chimpanzees, five young gorillas, seven young orangutans, and one young siamang. They cured floppy-baby syndrome in mice, prevented honeybees from forming long-term memories, and punished with quinine bees who made bad choices. They inaugurated a $2.6 million U.S. government study to see whether Chinese prostitutes can be less drunk while working, and reported that female ducks and geese acquire “wonderfully devious” vaginas, which include forbidding spirals and culs-de-sac, only if a species’ males have penises large enough for rape. They determined that spiderwebs have just the right amount of stickiness, but they still did not know why giraffes have long necks or what fingerprints are for. After studying the fall of 64,000 individual raindrops, they found that some small raindrops fall faster than they ought to. They made plans to suppress fire-ant populations by spreading parasitic flies whose larvae take control of and eventually eat the ants’ brains. They found that 34 percent of scientists admitted to questionable research practices.

The U.S. government succeeded in ridding Alaska’s Rat Island of rats but may have poisoned forty-one bald eagles in the process. As Iraqi marshlands dried out, poisonous snakes were heading for the cities. House cats, which may have been domesticated in part because they are adorable, are originally from the Middle East. Biologists at Ludwig Maximilians University were surprised to discover that male seed shrimp have been creating sperm lengthier than their own bodies for at least 100 million years. “We would expect the development of these strange things,” said the team leader, “to stop at a certain point.” Panasonic engineers released a soft, fleshlike remote control that pulsates and becomes rigid when switched on. Italian urologists increased the size and improved the function of test subjects’ penises with a device called the Andropenis. Researchers identified the toxic herb that caused ancient Sardinians to die with sardonic grins. A small meteorite injured an adolescent German. Life could persist on Earth for a billion years longer than previously expected.

One in six Americans admits to having peed the pool. A Georgia Tech engineer created software that endows unmanned aerial drones with a sense of guilt. Scolded dogs look guiltier if they are actually innocent. Most people, were they to need a transplant, would not want to receive the heart of a murderer. A Spanish design student created a speech-recognition pillow into which the restive confide their worries, which are then printed out in the morning. In the Indian city of Thiruvananthapuram, a man discovered a color-changing frog, which some then venerated with prayers. “It is a bit unusual,” said zoologist Oommen V. Oommen. “I will collect it for study.” A vixen living on the Rhineland estate of Count Rudolf von Kesselstatt was found to have stolen more than one hundred shoes. A man in Munich beat another man with a swan, and in Dorset, England, three young men stomped a fawn to death. The Vatican said that fewer people were confessing their sins. A blue whale was heard singing near New York City.

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