Findings — From the January 2012 issue
- Current Issue
SIGN IN to access the Harper’s archive
ALERT: Usernames and passwords from the old Harpers.org will no longer work. To create a new password and add or verify your email address, please sign in to customer care and select Email/Password Information. (To learn about the change, please read our FAQ.)
Power without status is the most corrupting. Those who feel powerless attempt to gain prestige by eating larger portions. Lonely consumers prefer unpopular products. Agreeable people have lower credit scores. Undeserved self-praise may induce depression. People who wear less clothing are seen as less competent and moral but more sensitive. Philadelphian teenagers who want to lose weight also tend to drink too much soda, whereas Bostonian teenagers who drink too much soda are likelier to carry guns. Autistic children tend to have broader philtra, myopic children spend less time outside, and children with blocked tear ducts are more likely to suffer from lazy eye. Babies understand the thought processes of others around ten months and begin to behave fairly around fifteen months. Finnish and Swedish researchers captured the glazed stare unique to the hypnotized. Ghost authors were detected in one tenth of articles in six major medical journals. Readers tend to attribute to female rather than male writers the authorship of unfunny New Yorker cartoon captions. Psychologists found that high blood pressure reduces the ability to perceive anger, fearfulness, happiness, and sadness in facial expressions. “It’s like living in a world of email,” explained the lead researcher, “without smiley faces.”
King penguins on South Georgia Island were observed mud-bathing amid the “rotted remains of dead penguins and tonnes of penguin poo” to keep cool in summer. Hummingbirds stay aloft in the rain by shaking their heads 180º in a tenth of a second. In New Zealand, where the world’s only known white kiwi survived surgery to break apart rocks it had eaten, 800 endangered nocturnal carnivorous giant land snails were accidentally frozen in a lab. Scientists concluded that bubble-rafting sea snails, which travel beneath the water’s surface on floats made of mucus, evolved from bottom-dwelling wentletraps. Entomologists discovered that three species of Scambus parasitoid wasp are in fact a single species as it appears in spring (large, robust head), early summer (darker body and broader abdomen), and midsummer (small, weak head). Astronomers concluded that blue stragglers look younger than they are as a result of feeding off giant neighbor stars until only a white dwarf remains. The Northern Lights were seen in the Deep South.
Chinese and British psychologists announced the creation of a Physical Appearance Perfectionism Scale; Michigan researchers determined that the weaker legs of female Olympic sprinters allow them to make false starts undetectable by starting-block sensors; and doctors found that nipple-sparing mastectomies do not present a risk from cancer hiding under the nipple. Countries with high rates of birth-control-pill use exhibit higher rates of death from prostate cancer. The Welsh would die less often if they ate only as badly as the English. Climate change had halved the life expectancy of the British mayfly. Male golden orb spiders, to avoid being eaten, placate their female partners with intercoital backrubs; scientists who deadened the female spiders’ sense of touch with superglue observed more males getting eaten. Surgeonfish were found to be calmed by fin massage. “We know that fish experience pain,” explained the ichthyologist who led the study. “Maybe fish have pleasure, too.” Sex with animals doubles a man’s risk of penile cancer.
More from Rafil Kroll-Zaidi: