Findings — From the March 2011 issue

Findings

Luc Montagnier, corecipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering HIV, claimed to have teleported DNA. Montagnier described an experiment wherein DNA’s faint electromagnetic signature made an “imprint” in the water of one test tube and was then conveyed to the water in another test tube, where the ghost DNA was enzymatically reconstituted. Some scientists objected that water’s memory would last mere picoseconds, and others said that the “empty” tube was contaminated. Old leafcutter ants retire from leafcutting when their mandibles are no longer sharp. The rock-grinding teeth of sea urchins were found to be self-sharpening, and the softly glowing shells of sea-dwelling clusterwink snails were found to scare off predators. Among squinting brown bush butterflies who were caterpillars in warm weather, males court females, whereas among those who were cool as caterpillars, females court males. Subjects asked to decide whether androgynous faces are masculine or feminine tend to favor masculinity if they are either given a hard ball to squeeze while they select answers on-screen or told to press heavily while circling answers on carbon paper; facial interpretation tends toward femininity when subjects squeeze a soft ball or circle lightly. The sexual arousal of men is dampened by sniffing the tears of a woman. The hormone oxytocin, associated with love and bonding, encourages the prejudices of Dutch men against Muslims and Germans. Sharks are color-blind.

Corruption was correlated with earthquake deaths, haze was correlated with Shanghainese deaths, and flipper-­banding by scientists was correlated with king-­penguin deaths. Colombian officials seized a narco­pigeon, and Saudi Arabia detained a vulture affiliated with Tel Aviv University. Police in Pforzheim, Germany, detained an owl who was drunk on schnapps. Dozens of Romanian starlings drank themselves to death. One thousand Italian turtle doves fell from the sky with blue-stained beaks; 500 starlings and red-winged blackbirds were found dead on a road in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana; and 4,500 Arkansan blackbirds were thought to have been killed by fireworks. Ophthalmologists warned that bottle rockets may injure the eyes of children. In India, whose researchers completed a mission to the South Pole and exploded a space rocket, 1.8 million female children were estimated to have died between 1985 and 2005 as an indirect result of domestic violence against their mothers; the boys of abused mothers were not at increased risk of death. The earth had become twice as dusty during the past century.

Scientists were concerned about the toxicity of thirdhand smoke, and secondhand exposure to American TV was found to cause eating disorders among Fijian girls. Committed consumers tend to dislike brand redesigns. A 6,000-year-old wine press was found in an Armenian cave, Azerbaijan’s Duzdagi salt mine was found to have been active 5,500 years ago, and Chinese archaeologists discovered 2,400-year-old soup. By studying the genetic divergence between clothing lice and head lice, an assistant curator of mammals at the Florida Museum of Natural History determined that humans started wearing garments 170,000 years ago. In Israel, what may be the oldest Homo sapiens remains were unearthed and it was determined that fearless preschoolers display above-average aggressiveness and below-average empathy. Young straight American couples who agree to be monogamous often aren’t. Apologies are disappointing.

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