Findings — From the November 2011 issue

Findings

Wisconsin was expecting a full harvest of bears, giant king crabs had invaded the Antarctic Abyss, and snakes continued to bite large numbers of Africans. Hyenas can count to three, dolphins may understand death, and honeybees were found capable of pessimism; scientists who impersonated badgers by violently shaking the bees’ hives further proposed that today’s bees may be particularly pessimistic because of pesticides, and hoped in future to elicit happiness from bees. Thirty percent of U.S. honeybees were found to have died last winter. Honeybees had brought new viruses from Mississippi to California via South Dakota, and a new species of solitary bee was discovered in Florida. The Asian bee-eating hornet had invaded Western Europe. In Scotland, researchers were attempting to decipher the language of bees. “Whether this is just bee noise,” admitted the neuroscientist leading the study, “we don’t know.” Ecologists were surprised to find Scottish bumblebees ascending to hilltops in search of females. “In between drinking,” said the principal researcher, “they go looking for mates.” South London was found to be rife with stag beetles.

An amateur botanist in Brazil co-described a new species of strychnine that buries its own seeds. “This is my first botanical publication in a peer-reviewed journal,” said Alex Popovkin. “Hopefully, there will be more to follow. I had since early adolescence felt attraction to plants.” Spring break was blamed for the spike in March conceptions among Ontarian teenagers, and alcohol consumption was found to make no difference for a quarter of American rapists. Koi herpes was widespread among Michigan’s common carp, as was vulvar pain among its women. Ten percent of women dislike performing oral sex on men. Treatment by magnetotherapy may help stroke victims overcome their inability to swallow. Transcranial magnetic stimulation inhibits the ability to lie. The brains of older humans are cluttered with irrelevant information.

Men tend to gain weight after divorce, whereas women tend to gain weight following marriage. Women who shoot themselves are less likely than men to aim for their heads. Fetuses learn to differentiate touch from pain when they are between thirty-five and thirty-seven weeks old. Scottish authorities declined to launch a formal investigation into the possibility of sea eagles’ carrying off small children. Britain’s January babies are more likely to grow up to be debt collectors, and those born in the spring are prone to anorexia. Irish twins whose birth weights differ by 18 percent or more are at greater risk of bowel disorders. Ireland was the only country with substantial demand for the donor sperm of redheads. Racism among white home-plate umpires causes minority pitchers to pitch conservatively and thereby to earn lower salaries. White umpires do not, however, display racist favoritism toward catchers. Gay African-American men were being made anxious by prejudice and harassment. Delusive overconfidence may be beneficial in the long run, and the sunk-cost effect was contributing to Americans’ renewed enthusiasm for the Iraq war. “People,” explained one of the study’s authors, “are notoriously bad at making assessments on when it’s time to stop.” At a health spa in China, an eel swam up a man’s penis.

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