Findings — From the November 2010 issue

Findings

It was determined that Americans will estimate a cheeseburger to have more calories if they are first exposed to a salad, that Australian children were being fed junk food from the age of one month, and that Britain’s fattest orangutan, who had been eating mostly marshmallows and jelly, needed to eat better. A baby’s first bowel movement reveals fetal cigarette-smoke exposure. Rich American girls without live-in biological fathers are precocious in developing breasts; if the rich girls are African-American, they are also precocious in pubic hair. Children as young as four were found to understand irony, and whereas ironic mothers tend to ask rhetorical questions, ironic fathers tend simply to be sarcastic. Westerners can infer the emotions of Japanese people through their voices but find their faces inscrutable. Israeli scientists found that children learning to read Arabic, unlike those learning to read Hebrew or English, do not use the brain’s right hemisphere; other Israeli scientists discovered a nanoparticle shaped like the Star of David. Researchers found that the perception of Barack Obama as a Muslim varies inversely with his approval rating.

Among U.S. pedestrians, blacks and Hispanics are at much greater risk than whites of getting hit by cars and dying as a result. “Minorities are much more likely to get injured by this mechanism and much more likely to die by this mechanism,” said Adil Haider of Johns Hopkins University. “It’s a double whammy.” Scientists observed that a drunk female college student will sometimes be tricked by her female friends, who pretend to take her for food and then put her in a cab home in order to prevent the intoxicated woman from going home with a strange man. The largest study of its kind found that married couples do not become more similar over time, unless that similarity is aggression. It was revealed that British spies formerly used human semen as invisible ink; the practice fell from favor due to the manifestation of a foul odor when fresh semen was not used and due to mockery directed at the technology’s inventor. Bright redness is a surer indicator of health in rural cardinals than in urban ones. Ugly female sparrows settle for ugly males, but ugly males make better fathers. The pigment that makes jaundice yellow and previously was thought to exist only in animals was discovered in the petals of the bird of paradise. Korean scientists who tested darkedge-wing flying fish in a wind tunnel concluded that flying fish glide as well as wood ducks. Biologists devised a method for sampling the DNA of dolphins from their blow. Cocaine addiction can be treated with Ritalin. Supernova dust was found in a meteorite.

Researchers established that declines in bee pollination may owe less to dwindling bee populations and more to climate change, which has upset the synchronization of bees’ emergence from hibernation and plants’ first flowering. In Britain, where it was estimated that the loss of bees would cost the economy $700 million a year, bumblebees were inbreeding, entomologists were studying the nectar-gathering strategies of bumblebees, city bees were gathering more diverse pollens and eating better than country bees, and Edinburgh was attempting to make itself more attractive to honeybees. A scientist discovered a new species of sweat bee in downtown Toronto, bringing the total number of perspiration-loving bee species in Canada to eighty-four. Birds unfamiliar with non-striped bumblebees avoid them instinctually, suggesting that birds fear the sound rather than the sight of bumblebees. The Libyan oasis bees of Kufra were found to have lived in isolation for the past five millennia. Biologists made progress in determining what makes a bee a queen. Honeybees are smarter in the morning and are not fooled by the midnight sun.

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