Findings — From the December 2009 issue

Findings

Researchers established that schizophrenics rarely kill strangers, that the apparent fearlessness of psychopaths comes from their being distracted rather than emotionless, and that strep throat does not cause obsessive-compulsive disorder or Tourette’s syndrome. Sociologists found that life expectancy rose by 6.2 years during the Great Depression, despite an increase in suicides. Only 8.5 percent of Finns fear that those who laugh near them are laughing at them, as opposed to 80 percent of Thais. Doctors at the American Academy of Otolaryngology conference announced that Brazilians and North Americans have different aesthetic standards for facial beauty and that many children ingest small batteries. Grieving Barbary macaque (Macaca-sylvanus) mothers who have lost their infants suckle at their own breasts, and crab-eating macaques (Macaca fasicularis) prefer cartoon macaques to CGI macaques, whose almost-lifelike features place them in the Uncanny Valley of repellent simulacra. Howler monkeys were observed abandoning vegetarianism, and a Central American jumping arachnid that evades acacia trees’ guardian ants in order to eat the Beltian bodies at the leaf-tips was declared the world’s only vegetarian spider. Neuroscientists used lasers to inscribe bad memories on the brains of fruit flies.

Marine biologists concluded a study of the migratory patterns of large European eels (Anguilla anguilla) released off the coast of Ireland, finding that the eels swim in deep, cold water during the day to prevent their gonads from developing too fast and burdening them with eggs. Ornithologists noted that interspecies cohabitation among British birds was crowding nestboxes: jackdaws and kestrels were observed in barn-owl boxes, and blue tits, great tits, and pied flycatchers were also found living together. Hedgehogs were declining in England as more badgers chose to eat them. Britons were encouraged to submit for cataloguing any hazelnuts that have been sucked dry by dormice. An engineer in Hertfordshire reported success in powering rockets with toffee. Eurasian pygmy shrews in the British Isles have, like humans, a Celtic Fringe remnant population from the end of the last ice age. The International Commission on Stratigraphy ended decades of controversy by moving back the starting point of the Quaternary Period.

Two prominent physicists continued to argue that the Large Hadron Collider was being sabotaged by the future. Particle physicists described the yoctosecond-long photon pulses that will arise from quark-gluon plasmas once the LHC is running properly. Scientists discovered “magnetricity” in spin ice, and researchers measured a minuscule but persistent electric current that flows endlessly in circles through metal rings. Geomorphologists, by building miniature rivers with lush banks of alfalfa, figured out why rivers meander. India was found to be growing less massive due to the northern part of the country’s pumping 54 trillion liters of groundwater every year, which is also causing 5 percent of global sea-level increases. Astronomers recommended that intelligent life be located by searching for CFC pollution. A thermochemical-equilibrium model of the exoplanet COROT-7b revealed that its skies rain pebbles. Earth’s women were growing shorter and fatter.

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