Courtesy WTL photosFor many of us Valentine's Day stirs up feelings of love and romance. For others it's an opportunity to toss a wet blanket on everybody's fun by scientifically analyzing what a kiss tells us. That's right a kiss. That simple pressing of one's lips to those of another in a clear demonstration of affection and esteem. We've all experienced it. It's a very human, very sensual activity, practiced by 90 percent of humanity.
But evidently it also serves as a great mechanism to weed out the dweebs and losers from the dating pool.
Well, it wasn''t quite put it that way, but a researcher at Rutgers University in New Jersey says a kiss is a powerful tool for letting you know quite quickly if that person who is the object of your affection will be suitable for spousal or "significant other" purposes.
"I think it is a tool for mate assessment," said Helen Fisher, a Rutgers anthropologist. "When you kiss, you can touch, see, feel, taste somebody. A huge part of our brain lights up." Fisher gave her analysis at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) held this weekend in Chicago.
But it's apparently not the only use for kissing.
Primarily it has to do with the sex drive. Male saliva contains testosterone, and sloppy kisses - which generally men seem to prefer - may be an unconscious attempt to trigger the female sex drive and make her more receptive. Also, kissing - at least early in a relationship - stimulates dopamine production, which makes everyone feel good and hopefully romantic. And the occasional lip-lock also helps promote pair bonding. "At least until long enough to have children," Fisher added.
Of course if you don't pass the initial screening - that first kiss - don't even waste your time worrying about any of the other functions. You're out of the competition and might as well stop off at the 7-11 on the way to your empty apartment and buy yourself a quart of Cherry Garcia for you and your cats.
"This is a real assessment tool - and can be highly positive or highly negative," Fisher said. "In one study, 66% of women and 59% of men had experienced a first kiss which killed the relationship. It was the kiss of death."
Courtesy steev-oIt’s Friday (T.G.I.F.), Buzzketeers, and you all know what that means. That’s right, it’s time for the Science Buzz Friday Relationship Extravaganza! (S.B.F.R.E.)
I know how much y’all like relationships, and how much you like talking about them, so it’s only natural that you clicked on the S.B.F.R.E. so quickly. But that’s not all! See, here at the S.B.F.R.E., “relationship” is also a code word for… S-E-X! Oh, naughtiest of naughties! It’s a red-letter day! Relationships and S-E-X-ual science… y’all had better sit down.
Seriously, sit down. Make yourselves comfortable. Now, I want y’all to know that this is a safe space, and we should be free to say whatever we’re feeling. Good, good… I think we’re about ready to start.
So… I understand that you feel like he has some real problems in communicating his feelings?
Why do you think that is?
No, I’m sorry, let’s let him finish—we’ll all have a chance to talk, and it’s his turn right now.
OK. I think I see what you’re saying. How do you want him to communicate? What do you wish he would say to you?
And how does that make you feel? Is that something you can do? OK… Why do you think you’re not being listened to?
Well, let’s look at it this way: at least y’all aren’t anglerfish. You know anglerfish, right, Buzzketeers? Anglerfish include those awful deep sea fish, with the big eyes, and teeth all over the place, and a glowing spike sticking out of their awful, lumpy heads. You know what I’m talking about. You saw those pictures, and then learned that they were only a few inches long, but were still kind of grossed out. And maybe some holier-than-thou biologist type pointed out to you that they weren’t gross, they were just fish that had made some spectacular adaptations to their environment, and were just living their lives like every other animal.
Well, don’t worry, you were right in the first place: angler fish really are awful and gross.
See, when they first discovered these creepy anglerfish, scientists were only finding female specimens. No males at all. So where’s the relationship relationship?
Well, eventually they did find some males, and some remarkable observations were made. The male anglerfish were pretty normal in their youth, but once they reached sexual maturity, their digestive systems degenerate. So they are unable to feed themselves. Naturally, what a mature male needs to do at that point is find a sugar momma. And fast (because, again, they’re starving to death). When the male tracks down a female anglerfish, he bites her, latching on to her body with his teeth. Enzymes in the male then break down its own mouth, as well as the female’s body, so that the two fish fuse together, to the point where they even share blood vessels. A source of sustenance now secured, the male kind of “lets itself go,” if you will. But instead of gaining weight and watching too much TV, the body of the male anglerfish, still fused with the female, degenerates, eventually becoming just a pair of gonads that hang off the female. When the first female anglerfish were discovered, scientists thought that they had parasites hanging off of them. Nope. Those were the remains of male anglerfish.
When the female is ready to release eggs, the gonads sense the change in hormone levels in the blood that still flows to them, and they release sperm, so that the eggs can be fertilized, and more horrible anglerfish can be created.
I don’t know who has it worse here—the female that has to nourish a pair of parasitic testicles (or multiple pairs), or the male, who has to latch on to a female to survive, and then becomes a pair of parasitic testicles. Either way, though, I think you’ll agree that your own messed up relationship seems pretty ideal right now, doesn’t it?
So remember, until the next Science Buzz Friday Relationship Extravaganza, keep your emotions bottled up, and if you’re ever feeling bummed out about things, just think of the never-lonely anglerfish.
Courtesy FireFawkesThe journal Sexual Health has blown minds the world over with a new study’s assertion that, of all students, science students have the least sex. And male science students? They have the least sex of all, ranking neck and neck with amoeba.
Do you know who the study says has the most sex? Female art students. But I’ve never pretended to understand art kids, so we’ll leave that be and get back to our poor science nerds.
What gives? Is it the chicken or the egg? (The chicken being people who don’t often have sex, the egg being the study of science. Duh.) Does deciding to study science equate to putting on an invisible chastity belt? Is it (if we’re talking about chickens) a persistent rooster-block, if you will? Or are people for whom sex is not a huge priority, or even something to be avoided, attracted to the study of science?
The answer, according to the study, is “yes.”
The research was performed at the University of Sydney in Australia. The science department at the university has a high proportion of international students, who may have different cultural attitudes towards sex than those hedonistic, liberal arts, Australian-born students. Also, as we have discussed on Buzz, girls are often less attracted to studying math and science than boys, and boys, according to the psychotherapist quoted in the article, start having sex later than girls.
The demands of studying science, likewise, aren’t helping things. Students are kept out of environments where they would meet women, and spend most of their time “carrying on doing experiments, going to the library, and doing their assignments.”
A horde of very busy introverts—it’s the perfect storm. But don’t let this dissuade you from studying science, Buzzketeers—maybe this is just the sort of social environment you’re looking for. Or maybe you can start a brand new scientific revolution.
Courtesy Albert Kok
*The original headline here was "Immaculate conception observed. In a shark." However, it was pointed out to me that "immaculate conception" and "virgin birth" really aren't the same thing. I changed it, but I resent the implication that I don't know the difference. Just because I get things wrong all the time, it doesn't mean that I was wrong about this. Not, you know, necessarily.
It looks like lady sharks have won another battle of the sexes. The sex war had been fought to a standstill, a stalemate siege, if you will, with the male army relying on the “well, you’ll need us eventually” tactic.
Apparently this isn’t necessarily the case. Deep inside the female Fortress of Celibacy, a devious plan was being hatched: virgin birth.
(Many types of sharks, it should be noted, give live birth, like mammals, instead of laying eggs.)
There have, in fact, been two documented cases of ladies-only shark reproduction. The first was in the Omaha Zoo, where a female hammerhead shark unexpectedly gave birth to a baby shark (called a “pup”) in her tank. Unfortunately, some of the other sharks (of a different species) in her tank immediately ate the pup. Whoops. But DNA tests were done on the… leftover chunks of the pup, I guess, and they showed that the baby did not have a father.
The other case happened in May of last year, with the research results being released this last week (hey, sometimes science stays out all night and gets up late, so give it a break). A blacktip shark named Tidbit had been living at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center for the last eight years, with no contact with males sharks of her species. When Tidbit died mysteriously last May, an autopsy revealed her nearly full-term pregnancy (the stress-related complications of which were probably what did her in). The shark pup had died as well—and aquarium staff believed that it would have been eaten by the tiger sharks in the same tank anyway had it actually been born—but genetic testing revealed it to be Tidbit’s child, and Tidbit’s alone.
Scientists studying the bizarre pregnancies believe that the pups got all the required chromosomes when the mother’s egg split, and then reunited—a process called "parthogenesis.”
Single-sex reproduction, it’s believed, might be an adaptation to situations when there are too few male sharks in a wild population. It’s rare enough, however, that it would be very unlikely that sharks could survive through pathogenesis alone. The process results in a lack of genetic diversity as well, which could leave individuals vulnerable to congenital disorders.
So, ladies, I salute your ingenuity, but you’re not rid of us yet.
A voice on the phone.
A symmetrical body.
Are you free tonight?
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Sci-ku ™ -- haiku in the service of science!
Drinking makes you think other people are more attractive, a phenomenon commonly known as “beer goggles.”
Courtesy Mark RyanAs athletes around the world gear up for the upcoming Beijing Olympics, officials in China are setting a sex-determination laboratory to confirm the gender of some of the competitors.
Despite objections by some medical ethicists that the tests are too intrusive, suspected “female” athletes will be checked for external appearance, genes, and hormones. Particular scrutiny will be given to women who are able to find the laboratory at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital without having to stop to ask directions.
The lab is a holdover from previous Olympics when questions were raised about the gender of several “female” athletes from some Soviet Bloc countries. From then on, every woman wanting to compete in the Games had to submit to a sex-evaluation screening that required them to walk naked in front of a committee of doctors. This was replaced in 1968 with chromosome tests. Blanket testing was eliminated in 1999, and now only “suspect” women – like those who leave the toilet seat up - will be tested.
“We must be ready to take on such cases should they arise,” said Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of the IOC’s medical commission. “Sometimes, fingers are pointed at particular female athletes, and in order to protect them, we have to be able to investigate it and clarify.”
Throughout its existence the mandatory testing program has never led to a single confirmed case of males impersonating females to gain an edge in the Games. Several cases of gender suspicion arose in Atlanta in 1996 when eight women failed to pass a genetic test, but they were cleared after it was determined they all suffered from a birth defect that presented no advantage other than being able to parallel park.
Prior to the tests, there’s only been one confirmed case of a male impersonating a female in the Games. In 1936, Hermann Ratjen was forced by the Nazis to compete as Dora Ratjen in the women’s high jump during the Berlin Olympics. He confessed to the subterfuge in 1956 but only after being confronted with rumors that he had been overheard telling a teammate a joke without botching the punch line.
SOURCE and LINKS
Sociologists have found that Brazilians who watch soap operas, or novellas, have a significantly lower birth rate than those who do not, even after controlling for other factors. They theorize that the glamorous fictional characters in the shows have small families, and their fans, consciously or subconsciously, are following suit.
Courtesy Mark RyanYesterday, I attended a public lecture at the Evolution 2008 conference at the University of Minnesota given by Dr. Olivia Judson, an evolutionary biologist who also brings the evolutionary biology of sex to the masses via her clever book and television show "Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation". The book has been translated into over 15 languages, and the three episodes of her humorous television show completed so far (with Dr. Judson starring as her alter-ego Dr. Tatiana) have played on the Discovery Channel in Canada, Britian, Australia, and also in France to high acclaim. Evidently, the show is considered too saucy for US broadcast. (Why are we considered an "open" society?)
Courtesy Mark RyanBut really this is an excellent way of teaching the sexual aspects of evolution to the general population. I haven't read her book yet, but from what I heard at the lecture and saw in the accompanying video clip (which included those mainstays of courtship, song and dance), Dr. Tatiana keeps things on a very comprehensible level, shying away from scientific terms, and explaining things clearly and as humorously (and frankly) as possible.
Judge for yourself. After the lecture I went to YouTube and discovered a number of clips have been posted there for viewing (not by young children but if you're an American adult, you should be okay):