AlterNet.org: Liz Langley http://www.alternet.org/authors/liz-langley en What I Learned Volunteering at America’s Largest No-Kill Animal Sanctuary http://www.alternet.org/environment/best-friends-animal-society-what-i-learned-volunteering-americas-largest-no-kill-animal <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Helping care for homeless dogs—or cats or birds or rabbits or horses—is one of the best highs around. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/2905451993_9758418626_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">The puppies are <a href="http://liz-langley.blogspot.ae/2016/06/save-them-all-best-friends-animal.html">all over us</a>, wagging, kissing and peeing. They’re being exposed to things like doorbells, vacuum cleaners and cameras so they’ll learn to deal with novelty confidently. It’s healthy. Plus, an adaptable dog is an adoptable dog.</p><p dir="ltr">This is <a href="http://bestfriends.org/sanctuary/animals-special-needs/adopted/ju-ju-bee/preschool-prodigy">Puppy Preschool</a> at the nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society, America’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary, located in Angel Canyon, just outside Kanab, Utah. Their motto, “Save Them All,” springs from the ongoing evolution of how our culture views homeless pets.</p><p dir="ltr">Set in the rocky, red heart of the American West (where many movies and TV shows were filmed, including, appropriately, “<a href="http://www.littlehollywoodmuseum.org/tv-series-filmed-here.html">Lassie</a>"), Best Friends has a tranquil vibe. It’s hard to be tense in this scenery, especially when you walk in the lobby to find a cat in a stroller, ready for a walk.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" style="width: 600px; height: 450px;" width="640"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" style="width: 600px; height: 450px;" width="640" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.breitbart.comwww.alternet.org/files/img_2770.jpg" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is located in Angel Canyon, just outside Kanab, Utah. (image: <a href="http://liz-langley.blogspot.ae/2016/06/save-them-all-best-friends-animal.html">Liz Langley</a>)</em></p><p dir="ltr">It doesn’t surprise me that people want to <a href="http://bestfriends.org/sanctuary/visit-our-utah-sanctuary">volunteer</a> here, helping out among the kittens, cockatoos and canyons. America, after all, is a pet-loving country. According to the ASPCA, Americans own as many as <a href="http://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics">80 million dogs and 96 million cats</a>. The New York Times reports that, in 2010, a recession year, we spent <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/business/05pets.html?_r=1">$55 billion</a> on our pets.</p><p dir="ltr">For some 1,700 animals, Best Friends is home—either temporarily or forever. Like the little <a href="http://bestfriends.org/adopt/adopt-our-sanctuary/9390368/doody">budgie</a> who’s so overbred he’s blinded by his feathers. Or the big pig who noisily protests the fact that it’s not time for his walk yet at <a href="http://bestfriends.org/sanctuary/explore-sanctuary/marshalls-piggy-paradise">Marshall’s Piggy Paradise</a>. This sprawling place feels like a utopian vision and offers consistently disarming surprises at every turn.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The long road home</strong></p><p dir="ltr">It may seem strange to talk about the utopian vision of a place some have described as an orphanage, but Best Friends is truly an exceptional place, emblematic of the change that has been happening in the last two decades in how we view homeless animals.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="640" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="640" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.breitbart.comwww.alternet.org/files/img_2926.jpg" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Doody, left, is a little budgie who is so overbred he can't see through his feathers. (image: <a href="http://liz-langley.blogspot.ae/2016/06/save-them-all-best-friends-animal.html">Liz Langley</a>)</em></p><p dir="ltr">One clear change is the fact that we can see these animals without visiting them, from the comfort of our homes. Animal shelters now have online profiles for their residents just like dating sites do (though the pictures are cuter). Best Friends even offers <a href="http://bestfriends.org/resources/pet-profiles-how-write-animal-bios-get-your-adoptables-homes">advice</a> on how to write great profiles.</p><p dir="ltr">Anyone who has gone out for coffee and found themselves wanting a Labrador instead of a latte knows that <a href="http://la.bestfriends.org/mobile-adoption-locations">mobile adoptions</a> are also taking shelter pets out of anonymity. At one group of New York shelters, reports the New York Times’ <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/21/nyregion/animal-adoptions-rise-amid-reforms-at-new-yorks-shelters.html">Andy Newman</a>, adoptions are up and euthanizing is down, thanks to ideas like supervised dog playgroups, which make calmer, healthier dogs, and admission counselors who help owners find ways to keep the pets they adopt.</p><p>Helping animals stay in their new homes is another facet for consideration in getting shelter pets placed. Things like puppy socialization and <a href="http://bestfriends.org/stories-blog-videos/latest-news/clicker-training-cats">clicker training</a>. (Who could resist <a href="https://liz-langley.blogspot.com/2016/06/save-them-all-best-friends-animal.html?token=jvQcD1UBAAA.TBsJinaBl7BMeR4kXqlIgsRjmUtX_-l0s2pptk3HFa_jTKB2YxNYVUorlek7XBEO-Vync_zwYnjFREMuoqUABA.h_5n9p7trf6kk9f0fv4TPg&amp;postId=1895444512011880302&amp;type=POST">a bunny trained</a> to give kisses?) </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="640"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="640" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.breitbart.comwww.alternet.org/files/img_2923.jpg" /></div><p><em>Clicker-trained cockatiels in Parrot Garden at Best Friends. (image: <a href="http://liz-langley.blogspot.ae/2016/06/save-them-all-best-friends-animal.html">Liz Langley</a>)</em></p><p dir="ltr">“Mr. Big is going home. He just got adopted yesterday,” says Jacqueline Johnson, manager of Best Friends’ Parrot Garden, which houses a jungle’s worth of adoptable birds. His new owners are “bird-savvy” folks whose longtime pet passed away. “If I sent Mr. Big home with someone who never had a bird before he’d be back in a week,” Johnson says.</p><p dir="ltr">Over in the senior citizen section of Dogtown, where I’ve chosen to volunteer for the afternoon, there are two diabetic dogs, Frido and Spirit, and both are spoken for by prospective adopters. I would have thought it would be harder to find them homes, but people who have had a diabetic dog and know how to care for them will often adopt another diabetic dog. As my friend Susan likes to say when the right matches come together, “There’s a lid for every pot.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Still a long way to go</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In the 19th century, dogs faced an all-kill policy in New York, where as Jennifer 8. Lee writes in the New York Times, <a href="http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/30/where-they-used-to-drown-the-dogs/?_r=0">strays were drowned</a> in the East River. In 1894, the ASPCA started holding strays “for redemption” and by the 20th century, there were many animal protection groups, as well as ideologies regarding homeless animals, including “no-kill,” which advocates against killing any shelter animal who is not painfully or terminally ill.</p><p dir="ltr">But there’s still a long way to go. The ASPCA estimates that <a href="http://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics">7.6 million pets</a> enter shelters annually and nearly <a href="http://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics">2.73 million are euthanized</a>. That’s a lot of lids without pots. But are shelters evolving for the better?</p><p dir="ltr">“It is certainly true that the public expectation of shelters has been raised in keeping with the elevation of the status of pets in our society and some shelters have evolved for the better, notably those that have made a commitment to the no-kill philosophy,” says Best Friends co-founder Francis Battista.</p><p dir="ltr">But the nature of shelters as we know them, he says “is inherently inconsistent with what the general public regards as acceptable treatment for homeless pets." </p><p dir="ltr">“Many people don't realize that the standard protocol for most shelters is to kill animals in their care for more than a set amount of time as a method of population control,” Battista says.</p><p dir="ltr">NPR’s Greg Allen, reporting on the successes and controversies of the no-kill movement in 2014, pointed out that while the county-run Miami shelter has vastly improved its save rate since resolving to become no-kill, <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/12/31/374218425/no-kill-shelters-save-millions-of-unwanted-pets-but-not-all-of-them">animals were still euthanized</a>, with a director pointing out space issues.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="640" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="640" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.breitbart.comwww.alternet.org/files/img_3014_0.jpg" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Pima learns about cameras from Melissa Miller in puppy socialization class. (image: <a href="http://liz-langley.blogspot.ae/2016/06/save-them-all-best-friends-animal.html">Liz Langley</a>)</em></p><p dir="ltr">Allen reports that in the 20 years since the no-kill concept took hold, the number of animals killed has dropped from 20 million to 3 million.</p><p dir="ltr">Best Friends’ “Save Them All” goal may sound huge, but <a href="http://bestfriends.org/our-work/supporting-network-partners">partnering</a> with animal rescues, shelters and spay-and-neuter programs across the country helps. So do companies looking to <a href="http://bestfriends.org/about/our-partners">support nonprofits</a> like Best Friends, which runs entirely on private donations. A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/zappos-black-friday-free-pet-adoption_us_5654b635e4b0879a5b0cb5b0">partnership with Zappos</a> over the 2015 Black Friday weekend found homes for <a href="http://blogs.bestfriends.org/index.php/2015/12/04/zappos-black-friday-adoption-event-a-door-buster-for-sure/">6,200 animals</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Animal magnetism</strong></p><p dir="ltr">I’ve heard that in the West, people take things easier. Perhaps. Or maybe it was the scenery, the chilled-out cats in Cat World, the new foal named Prince who charmed everyone with his sprints and leaps, and of course, the “puppy high.”</p><p dir="ltr">About those puppies. When asked their breed, <a href="http://bestfriends.org/sanctuary/explore-sanctuary/dogtown">Dogtown</a> behavior consultant Glenn Pierce says, “What if I told you they were 75% pit bull?” It makes me feel embarrassed, especially in front of my friends who own and love these dogs, but I have reacted differently to hearing pit bull than I have other breeds. Best Friends has made huge strides in changing the negative public perception of these dogs, most of whom are goofy lovebugs. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2007, when Michael Vick’s dog fighting compound was exposed, it was common to euthanize fighting dogs, who were believed to be too traumatized or vicious to save. Advocates from many groups, including Battista at Best Friends, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arin-greenwood/how-a-pit-bull-can-change-the-world-the-incredible-legacy-of-ray-the-vicktory-dog_b_7353974.html">successfully lobbied</a> to get them a second chance, and the Vick dogs were all evaluated individually. The sanctuary took 22 of the worst cases. <a href="http://bestfriends.org/sanctuary/explore-sanctuary/dogtown/vicktory-dogs">The Vicktory dogs</a>, as they’re now known, not only overcame their horrible past, but many were adopted, some even becoming service and therapy dogs.</p><p dir="ltr">Then there’s Bubba, the personal pet pit bull of Jacqueline, the Parrot Garden expert. Bubba was found in a dumpster, with scalp lacerations. He has no ears, but can still hear, is strong and healthy, and though he seems far less interested in us than in the lizards running around, he calmly puts up with eight humans wanting to pet him—including, happily, me.</p><p dir="ltr"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="640" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="640" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.breitbart.comwww.alternet.org/files/img_2867.jpg" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>Bubba was found in a Denver dumpster in terrible shape. Today, he is a healthy, handsome guy, owned by Best Friends' Jacqueline Johnson. (image: <a href="http://liz-langley.blogspot.ae/2016/06/save-them-all-best-friends-animal.html">Liz Langley</a>)</em></p><p dir="ltr">Many, if not all of us, have at some point worried that we’re not lovable, not worth helping or won’t get a chance to show we’re still good. So while it may have been the altitude, I think what I experienced at the sanctuary was the empathy. “Save Them All” is the kind of audacious compassion that energizes Best Friends, similar to that experienced by anyone who takes the time to help homeless dogs or cats or birds or rabbits or horses. It can make you feel like anything is possible.</p><p dir="ltr">The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary's high adoption rate helps buoy their audacious compassion: Approximately 75 percent of the dogs and cats in their care find adoptive homes. For some, that’s about as good a high as there is. Well, that and puppies. And old dogs. And cats. And birds. Oh heck, just love—and save—them all.</p> Mon, 20 Jun 2016 23:00:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1058329 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Activism Environment Visions best friends animal homeless pets dogs cats birds animal welfare shelter 5 Crazy Ideas About Female Sexual Desire in History http://www.alternet.org/5-crazy-ideas-about-female-sexual-desire-history <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The presence of female desire was once considered a bigger problem than the absence of it. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-12-31_at_11.52.03_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>At 51, my sex drive is no longer the needy pest it <a href="http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/sexual-problems-at-midlife/decreased-desire" target="_blank">once was</a>, just a pleasant and regular visitor. True, it gave me some of the greatest times of my life, but it also caused a lot of problems.</p><p>Female desire is an intriguing thing. It was addressed in pill form this past summer with <a href="https://www.yahoo.com/health/pink-viagra-approved-by-fda-5-things-you-need-127007822593.html" target="_blank">Addyi</a>, the first FDA-approved drug to treat female hypoactive sexual desire disorder, which the Mayo Clinic defines as the “persistent and recurrent lack of interest in sex that causes you personal distress." The roll-out of the drug, misleadingly nicknamed “pink viagra” (it actually works on your brain, not your blood flow), drew criticisms about its effectiveness, its <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/aug/19/fda-approval-female-viagra-critics-addyi-us-licence" target="_blank">side effects</a> and its <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/aug/19/fda-approval-female-viagra-critics-addyi-us-licence" target="_blank">oversimplification</a> of the physiology of desire. (The <a href="http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/11/18/did-valeant-pharmaceuticals-make-another-bad-bet.aspx" target="_blank">Motley Fool</a> investment website describes early demand for Addyi as “tepid,” reporting that only 227 prescriptions had been written in a story posted Nov. 18, 2015.)</p><p>In the past, it often wasn’t the absence of female desire that was seen as troublesome; it was the presence of it. Female sexual desire was seen as something dangerous to be tamped down, not revved up. Here are some bits of medical history that might make you a little happier to live in the 21st century.</p><p><strong>1. The doctor is In.</strong></p><p>You might be familiar with "<a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-sex/201303/hysteria-and-the-strange-history-vibrators" target="_blank">hysteria</a>," a 19th-century term for symptoms that, to the modern ear, sound like female sexual arousal and frustration, including anxiety, sleeplessness, sexy fantasies, and vaginal lubrication. The surprising medical solution was for doctors to massage the genitals of women to “paroxysm”—aka orgasm.</p><p>In her <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/maines-technology.html" target="_blank">book,</a> <em>The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction</em>, Rachel P. Maines says female masturbation was frowned upon in that era, and out-of-bounds female sexual desire was seen as pathological, a condition requiring treatment by a male physician.</p><p>Eventually machinery was invented to help doctors with this rampant problem. The first battery-powered vibrator internationally marketed for the job was designed in the mid-1880s by Joseph Mortimer Granville, a British physician who, Maines writes, didn’t even approve of the device for this purpose: it was meant for men’s skeletal muscles.</p><p>Luckily, no one cared what he thought, and by 1900 there was a bewildering array of such devices available to “treat” women and save doctors all the time and effort of treating women by hand. </p><p><strong>2. The unkindest cut.</strong></p><p>Hugo Schwyzer, writing in <a href="http://jezebel.com/5914350/vibrators-and-clitoridectomies-how-victorian-doctors-took-control-of-womens-orgasms" target="_blank">Jezebel</a> in 2012, detailed how Dr. Isaac Baker-Brown felt that vibrators didn’t cure hysteria, they only made it worse by making patients want more “treatment.” The solution, he thought, was to excise the clitoral glans, following which, he promised, “intractable women became happy wives; rebellious teenage girls settled back into the bosom of their families; and married women formerly averse to sexual duties became pregnant.”</p><p>Baker-Brown’s barbarism didn’t last in his native Britain, but doctors in America were still recommending clitoridectomies as late as 1937. Schwyzer’s article refers to a 2000 <a href="http://www.msmagazine.com/oct00/makingthecut.html" target="_blank">Ms. Magazine story</a> by Martha Coventry, who interviewed a woman who underwent the procedure in 1944 when she was 12 years old—to stop her from masturbating.  </p><p><strong>3. In dreams.</strong></p><p>And then there was the idea that removing everything good and happy in your life and replacing it with pain and loneliness was a step in the right direction.</p><p>In <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/g/groneman-nymphomania.html" target="_blank">Nymphomania: A History</a>, Carol Groneman uses the story of “Mrs. B” to convey how difficult it must have been for a Victorian lady, circa 1856, to confide her lustful thoughts to a male doctor.</p><p>Twenty-four-year-old Mrs. B. had always had a healthy sexual appetite and had a great sex life with her husband. She dreamed night and day about having sex with other men and had started having a problem at home: her “husband complained that she had an obstruction that made intercourse difficult.” Mrs. B thought he just had erectile problems. But she visited Dr. Horatio Storer, worried about her fear that “she was not going to be able to limit her sexual desire solely to her husband in the future.” She thought her dreams were the result of the couple's failure to conceive a child.</p><p>After an exam in which Dr. Storer touched Mrs. B’s clitoris and caused her to shriek with excitement, he told her “if she continued without treatment, she would most likely end up in an asylum.”</p><p>The treatment included, among other things, having her husband move out so they wouldn’t have sex, giving up her writing of a novel, ice-cold sponge baths and enemas, and swabbing “her vagina with borax solution.”Groneman says Dr. Storer wrote no followup notes on the case except: “Mr. B. remained absent and Mrs. B.'s lewd dreams had not reappeared.” </p><p>One imagines this put an end not just to Mrs. B's sexy dreams, but to all her dreams. </p><p><strong>4. “A little ketchup for my steak.”</strong></p><p>That, reports JR Thorpe at Bustle, is one man’s description of his partner’s menstrual period. Thorpe cites <em>The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation</em>, as listing ideas in different cultures about the dangers of period sex, including that the French once believed a child conceived at that time would be “subject to horrible diseases, including leprosy, syphilis, scrofula and violent ulcers of the skin.” </p><p>In the 19th century, contact with menstruating women was thought to give men gonorrhea, and as late as the 1950s, a survey found most women’s reasons for abstaining from sex during menstruation was their fear it might lead to “hemorrhage, injury or infection.”</p><p>It’s true that pregnancy can still occur if you have sex during your period. And according to <a href="http://sexonline.com/" target="_blank">SexOnline.com</a>, the cervix expands more at this time creating a greater pathway for bacteria and STIs. Beyond that it’s not only safe, but has its benefits, which are <a href="http://www.bustle.com/articles/110031-is-period-sex-safe-7-questions-about-sex-while-menstruating-answered" target="_blank">enumerated</a> by Emma Kaywin on Bustle.</p><p><strong>5. Womb to wonder.   </strong></p><p>In classical Greece, writes the University of Waterloo’s S.L. Ager, hysteria—i.e., women’s mood swings and erratic crazy behavior—was blamed on a woman's womb, mostly its inability to stay put. It was thought that the womb "was liable to detach itself from its regular home, and wander off at will through her body,” Ager writes, causing all kind of mischief in its travels, including possibly choking a woman to death. </p><p>The Roman physician Aretaeus described the wandering womb as moving ‘hither and thither,” “obliquely to the right or to the left, either to the liver or spleen,” that it was like “an animal within an animal,” and it preferred fragrant scents to foul ones.</p><p>That meant it responded to aromatherapy. Matt Simon writes in Wired that, “To cure a wandering womb, physicians could lure it back into position with pleasant scents applied to the vagina, or drive it away from the upper body and back down where it belongs by having the afflicted sniff foul scents.”</p><p>Which “pleasant scents” are not detailed, but next time I feel ooky I’m going to sit uncomfortably close to some buffalo wings and see what happens.</p> Thu, 31 Dec 2015 11:36:00 -0800 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1048227 at http://www.alternet.org sex drive The 10 Weirdest Ways Humanity Has Tried to Cure Sexual Dysfunction http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/10-weirdest-ways-humanity-has-tried-cure-sexual-dysfunction <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Spanish fly is just the start. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-10-06_at_1.29.22_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>I've always been jealous of boys, envying what seems like the ease of male biological life: no periods, no fear of pregnancy and all your junk is on the outside so your doctor doesn’t have to go tunneling, like she’s breaking out of Shawshank, to find out what’s up with your cervix.</p><p>Lucky.</p><p>But men don't have all smooth sailing physically. Back in the day, many of the remedies they were stuck with to help with erectile dysfunction were either gruesome, ghastly or just plain goofy and seem like they’d have the opposite effect from the one desired. </p><p>Here are 10 that are bound to make many men — and their honeys — more grateful for Viagra than they already are. </p><p>1. Beetle Juice: “Spanish Fly”</p><p>When I was a kid in the '70s, people used to joke about Spanish fly. I had no idea what it was — a drug, a drink, a pill — but it was supposed to make you horny. Bill Cosby retroactively added to his troubles of late <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/cosbys-history-spanish-fly-jokes-comes-back-haunt-him" target="_blank">by making jokes about it in interviews and in standup routines many years ago</a>. </p><p>In a round-up of potential natural aphrodisiacs, <a href="http://www.livescience.com/13633-natural-aphrodisiacs-work-ginseng-viagra.html" target="_blank">Christopher Wajek at LiveScience</a> says this alleged elixir is made of crushed blister beetles. He doesn’t recommend it: It contains cantharidin, a caustic juice that burns the urinary track. </p><p>In <a href="http://www.apple.com/" target="_blank">Overcoming Impotence: A Leading Urologist Tells You Everything You Need to Know</a> by J. Stephen Jones, the author lists side effects including seizures and rectal and internal bleeding, possibly resulting in death, and notes it was a “favorite snack” of the Marquis de Sade.</p><p>2. My drag name is Violet Ray: Electricity</p><p>Magic wands do work … as long as they’re attached to an electrical outlet.</p><p>At least that’s what a lot of people thought in the early 20th century, when the Violet Ray was a cure for <a href="http://www.saukcountyhistory.org/violetray.html" target="_blank">everything from dandruff to rheumatism to impotence</a>. </p><p>The device was a Tesla coil inside a wand which glowed violet inside a glass tube, emitting a pleasant warm energy with curative powers, which doesn’t sound so bad at all. </p><p>And depending on your limits, it might not have been. The device came with tubes and attachments, and <a href="http://www.mcmillinmedia.com/eaem/master1/mastcont.html" target="_blank">one manual simply recommends</a> using certain attachments and hovering the wand over the spine. <a href="http://www.electroherbalism.com/Bioelectronics/Tesla/VioletRay.htm" target="_blank">Another manual from the 1930s</a>, though, recommends inserting the well-lubed tube into the rectum “about six inches,” with details about positioning.</p><p>For some guys just the description might worsen the problem. For others: dream date. </p><p>3. Pissing off the janitor: Magic</p><p>In <a href="http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/585" target="_blank">Magic and Impotence in the Middle Ages</a>, author Catherine Rider describes a 13th-century instance wherein a Parisian man was made impotent because his ex uttered an incantation over a lock and key, throwing the lock in one well and the key in another.</p><p>I’m going to Target to buy a couple of locks, and while I’m gone you can enjoy the fact that his problem was allegedly cured simply by the lock and key being reunited. In a later period, “one cure for magically-caused impotence was for the man to urinate through the keyhole of the church where he was married.”</p><p>The only thing I find surprising about this is how big keyholes must have been in the Middle Ages.</p><p>4. Witch Hunts: More Magic</p><p>You’d think that dumb ideas would fade over time. Actually, they’re pretty resilient. </p><p>That’s why, about 400 years later in the 16th century, people were still blaming magic for impotence — only, according to Angus McClaren’s <em><a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=nQOz-jpeg4YC&amp;pg=PA46&amp;lpg=PA46&amp;dq=impotence+history+causes+cures+witches+demons&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=c9Qin0wG67&amp;sig=_fsx3fz5VdJ4K7ZR2F6oxl8-SEE&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0CDEQ6AEwAmoVChMI5vqI9Nb1xwIVCRo-Ch1MaARg#v=onepage&amp;q=impotence%20history%20causes%20cures%20witches%20demons&amp;f=false" target="_blank">Impotence: A Cultural History</a>, </em>“the cure had to entail the death of the witch.”</p><p>5. Glow Little Glow Worm: Radium</p><p>Nestled in <a href="http://www.neatorama.com/2013/11/18/The-Strange-Fate-of-Eben-Byers/" target="_blank">Neatorama’s story</a>  about the early-20th-century craze for radium products are a few lines about the “radioendocrinator,” a small device that purportedly cured impotence using radium. Men were instructed to place the small, rectangular device under their scrotum and, presumably, become radiant with sexual powers. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/quackcures/radend.htm" target="_blank">Historical Instrumentation Collection website shows the radioendoctrinator</a> in all its gold-plated glory, about the size of a flip phone in a gold-embossed case.</p><p>The source of the radium was “seven or so radium soaked blotter-like pieces of paper about the size and shape of credit cards. These were covered with a thin piece of clear plastic and two gold-wire screens. As might be expected, it did leak and the inside of the case is mildly contaminated.”</p><p>Clearly there was a miscommunication: we want a grower, not a glower. </p><p>6. Oh, Balls! Interspecies Testicle Grafting</p><p>When we say a guy’s got balls, presumably we mean just his own, not some monkey’s.</p><p><a href="http://motherboard.vice.com/read/early-body-hacking-when-men-got-goat-testicle-grafts-to-boost-their-sex-drive" target="_blank">Roisin Kiberd writes in Motherboard</a> about two surgeons who convinced gullible and needful men that transplanting the glands of goats and monkeys was the way to reclaim their sexual vigor.</p><p>Paris surgeon Serge Vonorhoff started off by transplanting “the testicles of executed criminals into living millionaires,” Kiberd writes, but eventually turned to monkeys, inserting, for example, the segmented glands of a baboon into the scrotum of a septuagenarian man. By 1925 he claimed to have done 1,000 of these “xenotransplantations.”</p><p>His counterpart of “interspecies grafting” in America was John Brinkley, who transplanted goat glands into men and marketed his procedure with snob appeal: his operations, he claimed, were better suited to men of intellect.</p><p>The implant surgeries are detailed in <a href="http://www.apple.com/" target="_blank">Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll: The Science of Hedonism and the Hedonism of Science</a> by Zoe Cormier.</p><p>They’ll also be detailed in a few nightmares tonight, right, guys?</p><p>7. Hands on: Masturbation Cures</p><p>Thankfully in our time and culture, masturbation is widely regarded as a simple pleasure. In bygone eras, it was a source of all kinds of evils, erectile dysfunction being one of them. Weirdly, any of the recommended cures for the avid masturbator would seem to do just the opposite of inducing a hard-on.</p><p>In <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=nQOz-jpeg4YC&amp;pg=PA133&amp;lpg=PA133&amp;dq=victorian+masturbation+causes+impotence&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=c9Qhu1yI94&amp;sig=4at-HUcKAYwV9g9BfsI2J-05CCk&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0CB4Q6AEwAGoVChMI6u-m76btxwIVww0sCh2TLwml#v=onepage&amp;q=victorian%20masturbation%20causes%20impotence&amp;f=false" target="_blank"><em>I</em><em>mpotence: A Cultural History</em></a>, Angus McLaren lists some genteel methods like sitting in a cool cane-bottomed chair, eating a modest diet and getting married. More sinister methods included “painful cauterizations and blistering of the penis” and “inserting bougies (thin, flexible surgical instruments) and catheters up the urethra.”</p><p>You can see a drawing of an “anti-masturbatory device” on page seven of the <a href="http://www.tuleoffice.com/images/editor/File/pdf/book/IMPOTENCY/5%20(1).pdf" target="_blank"><em>Textbook of Erectile Dysfunction</em>, second edition</a>, alongside something called the “penis scaffold,” which is actually a support, and not the“off with his head” sort of thing it sounded like to me on first reading.</p><p>8. Zapped! More Electricity</p><p>Long before the Violet Ray, as far back as the 1870s, doctors were using electrical devices to address ED.</p><p><em><a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=MxU8Rf1pKTgC&amp;pg=PA140&amp;lpg=PA140&amp;dq=dr.+sanden's+electricity+impotence+cure&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=svfNVQcKG1&amp;sig=t9b447fVgl-5lvlmX1aVZtnIccQ&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0CC8Q6AEwA2oVChMI_bLf6439xwIVQ6GACh09tAYH#v=onepage&amp;q=dr.%20sanden's%20electricity%20impotence%20cure&amp;f=false" target="_blank">The Body Electric: How Strange Machines Built The Modern American</a> </em>by Carolyn Thomas Pena describes “galvanic baths” in which one Dr. George Schweig would have patients get into “tubs of water with electrodes submerged below the surface.” Other doctors applied electric current to the penis and scrotum or to the entire body.</p><p>By the early 20th century, men were wearing electrical belts and gathering increased vitality from having their junk constantly zapped.</p><p>Check out this promotion for <a href="http://vintage-ads.dreamwidth.org/2066884.html" target="_blank">Dr. Sanden’s Electric Belt and Suspensory for Weak Men, courtesy of Vintage Ads</a>, to get a look at what the fashionably buzzed man was wearing.</p><p>And since the vibrator had been invented by then, women were having fun with a lot of things, including their guys, that were electrically charged. </p><p>9. For Tigers Only: Tiger Penises</p><p>It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to notice that a lot of animals give their all to quack cures for human male virility. One of the saddest is the erroneous notion that eating tiger penises will make you a tiger in bed. </p><p><a href="http://www.travelandleisure.com/slideshows/worlds-strangest-aphrodisiacs/11" target="_blank"><em>Travel &amp; Leisure</em>'s Nicole Alper reports</a>  that tiger penis soup is the Asian aphrodisiac of choice.</p><p><a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=q4xSAwAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PT29&amp;lpg=PT29&amp;dq=tiger+penis+myth&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=33r9y8ma_7&amp;sig=_Gu1hoLeDBiXn3m08LfWE-9WNDk&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0CFwQ6AEwCWoVChMI4raL1bX_xwIVgzc-Ch2uTAwU#v=onepage&amp;q=tiger%20penis%20myth&amp;f=false" target="_blank">It doesn’t work</a>, but if you thought it did, how would you even know a tiger penis if you saw one?</p><p>Riveting reading — though not for the squeamish — is the U.S. Fish &amp; Wildlife Service report by Bonnie Yates, “<a href="http://www.fws.gov/lab/idnotes/TigerPenisIDN6.pdf" target="_blank">Distinguishing Real vs. Fake Tiger Penises: Identification Guides for Law Enforcement No 6</a>.”</p><p>Yates, <a href="http://www.fws.gov/news/ShowNews.cfm?ID=2144375194" target="_blank">a recently retired wildlife forensic scientist</a>, wrote in this 2005 report about how animal penises are important in many traditional medicines, how they’re prepared and how the organs of other animals, typically cattle, are often fashioned to look like tiger penises and passed off as the real thing. It gives a lot of detail, with photos, of how to tell a tiger penis from an imposter.</p><p>Genuine tiger penises are tough to identify, Yates writes, because most people have never seen the real thing. “To date,” Yates writes in the 2005 guideline, “no dried penis from an actual tiger has been seen in the Lab as evidence in a wildlife case.”</p><p>On one hand it’s kind of nice to know they got a lot of fakes. On the other, it’s truly sad that there’s a high enough demand to warrant any of them at all. </p><p>10. Buzz and Woody: Wasp Stingers</p><p>Finally, a quickie but a goodie. </p><p>In <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=1_sRgqc6RJIC&amp;pg=PA46&amp;lpg=PA46&amp;dq=kama+sutra+wasp+sting+erection&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=-0UeJJwgVo&amp;sig=e2o-ApQjx88w65OXloAOwFO1TlE&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0CDMQ6AEwA2oVChMIy7y3jNv_xwIVCXY-Ch0VYwIQ#v=onepage&amp;q=kama%20sutra%20wasp%20sting%20erection&amp;f=false" target="_blank"><em>The Viagra Alternative: The Complete Guide to Overcoming Erectile Dysfunction Naturally</em>,</a>  Marc Bonnard, M.D. talks about size anxiety causing difficulty getting erections and notes the Kama Sutra’s inflation recommendation, which includes “rub[bing] your penis with wasp stings,” then sweet oil, letting it dangle through a hole in your bed for 10 nights and then applying a cool ointment to relieve the swelling. </p><p>Honestly, it would be a lot quicker to just believe that <a href="http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015/07/22/women-dont-care-about-penis-length-or-shape" target="_blank">women still don’t care about penis size</a>. </p><p>See? Short and sweet. </p> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 09:40:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1043595 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sex sexuality 10 Craziest Ways Sex Has Changed http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/10-craziest-ways-sex-has-changed <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Sex and sexual culture have evolved since the 1990s. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_159893099-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>It’s weird to think about sex in the future. Sex and "the future" don’t seem to match. Sex is primal, messy and biological. Meanwhile, the "future" conjures sleek, sterile high-tech imagery to most people, at least people who grew up on dreams of teleportation and jet packs.</p><p>But if the past informs the future, sex in 2025 may be quite different. Back in the 1990’s, when caller ID was like magic and you millenials were just a glint in the cable guy’s eye, sex -- the way we found it, had it and saw it -- was not quite what it is today. Here are ten things that have changed about sex and sexual culture since the 1990s. </p><p>(The internet has changed things so much that it merits three spots on this list. The only thing that could have changed relationships more would be if science discovered a third sex.)</p><p><strong>1. Human catalog</strong></p><p>When match-making first went digital in 1994 with Match.com, only 5% of Americans had internet access, says <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/match-gary-kremen-2011-12" target="_blank"><em>Business Insider’s</em>Jeff Kauflin</a>.</p><p>Twenty ears later, 5 percent of Americans say they met their significant other online, according to <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/13/5-facts-about-online-dating/" target="_blank">Aaron Smith of Pew Research Center.</a></p><p>And the computer is actually so five years ago now that <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/02/tinder-hook-app-women-actually-use/317875/" target="_blank">Tinder, Grindr</a> and other apps let your phone do the hunting. There’s even <a href="http://www.mysanantonio.com/lifestyle/article/Need-a-cuddle-buddy-Well-now-there-s-an-app-6092249.php" target="_blank">Cuddlr</a> for those who don’t want sex, just a snuggle. </p><p>And if the date, hook-up or snuggle gets weird and you need a fake emergency call to get out of it? <a href="http://www.usetickle.com/" target="_blank">There’s an app for that.</a></p><p><strong>2. You are not alone</strong></p><p><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_34_%28Internet_meme%29" target="_blank">Rule 34</a> of the Internet states that if it exists there is porn about it; a hero named Felix Clay actually watched <em><a href="http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-6-most-terrifying-examples-rule-34/" target="_blank">The Six Most Terrifying Examples of Rule 34</a></em> for Cracked.com so we didn’t have to. Examples included pterodactyl, panda and spider porn - not together, though now that the idea is out there, someone will make porn of it.</p><p>The point is people who thought their sexual niche was so niche that they were the only one in it have found they’re not alone. Whether they’re into <a href="http://metro.co.uk/2007/03/21/sploshing-parties-fancy-a-dirty-weekend-210603/" target="_blank">sploshing</a>, (wet and messy sex, as in “Pie fiiiiiiiiiight!”), <a href="http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/strange-sex/videos/balloon-fetish/" target="_blank">balloons</a> (pop pop!) are a <a href="http://www.neatorama.com/2009/05/01/meet-the-woolies/" target="_blank">woolie</a> (love being wrapped in wool and are not a sheep), or <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-excess/201411/sacred-hearts" target="_blank">hierophilia</a>(sexual attraction to religious objects. Jesus.) you’ll very likely to find a kindred soul -- a weird, weird, kindred soul -- to commune with. The internet has made unusual sexual proclivities so mainstream <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/15-strangest-sex-fetishes-do-you-have-one/" target="_blank">CBS News makes weird fetish lists</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/08/mika-brzezinski-furries-awkward-morning-joe-segment_n_6288468.html" target="_blank">Mika Brzezinski’s discovery of what furries are</a> was every bit as amusing and surprising as finding out, ten years ago, that there were <a href="http://www.cracked.com/funny-1312-the-most-disturbing-sexual-perversions/" target="_blank">furries</a>.</p><p><strong>3. Free online streaming porn (and no that phrase is not click bait. Gah).</strong></p><p>This has been the biggest change to humankind’s behavior since the invention of chairs. Here are just a few of the effects of, as my erudite roommate puts it, “getting to see boobs and wieners for free.”</p><p>* Anyone can do porn. There are still professionals but now anyone can record themselves jerking off online and have a thousand views before you can say “What’s that stain on your iPad?” * <a href="http://cheezburger.com/3796336640" target="_blank">Anal sex jokes</a> - and <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/bums-the-word-how-hetero-anal-sex-is-creeping-into-mainstream-film-and-tv-9997994.html" target="_blank">anal sex</a> - have been mainstreamed * So has <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/from-fifty-shades-to-after-why-publishers-want-fan-fiction-to-go-mainstream/2014/10/24/825d6a94-5a04-11e4-b812-38518ae74c67_story.html" target="_blank">fan fiction </a> * You can watch so much porn you can get what <a href="http://www.askmen.com/dating/love_tip_500/566_too-much-internet-porn-the-sadd-effect.html" target="_blank">Dr. Ian Kerner dubbs “Sexual Attention Deficit Disorder,” or SADD</a>, which means problems with real life sex * <a href="http://www.wikihow.com/Look-Like-a-Pornstar" target="_blank">Looking like a porn star</a> was big for awhile… * …big enough to have <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2451153/Porn-body-backlash-Jordan-pornstar-look-womens-desired-shape.html" target="_blank">a backlash against looking like a porn star</a> * we got the boring meme of straight guys loving lesbian porn and/or <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5KtUB0yYe0" target="_blank">girls kissing</a>  * <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCoHlBZsGUI" target="_blank">stripper cardio workouts</a> * <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKggFbXTVOw" target="_blank">and fails</a> * your laziness and its availability could<a href="http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/5-reasons-you-need-watch-porn/" target="_blank">keep you from going out and finding some stranger to have sex with</a>, so there’s the safety valve factor * economically and environmentally helpful free, and paper-free, entertainment. What’s not to like?</p><p><strong>4. Sex Toys Came Out</strong></p><p>My first recollection of seeing a vibrator in a pop cultural context was in the 1989 movie Parenthood when a blackout causes Gil to mistake Helen’s vibrator for a flashlight and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh-r-BjOfKg" target="_blank">pulls it from a drawer for the entire extended family to gawk at.</a>. Now you can <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/sex-aids-retail-shelves-93253" target="_blank">buy vibrating rings in the drug store</a> condom aisle. </p><p><a href="http://msmagazine.com/blog/2012/06/01/how-the-vibrator-came-out-of-the-closet/" target="_blank">Ms. Magazine’s Jennifer Vineyard credits <em>Sex and the City’s</em></a>episode The Turtle and the Hare for introducing the jack rabbit to the public and thus the ability to talk about, as Helen put it in Parenthood ‘having sex with machinery.” Don’t knock it: it’s quick, safe, inexpensive and there are never any misunderstanding between you and the batteries about what it “meant.” </p><p>5. <strong>A Starr is Born </strong></p><p>In September of 1998 the findings of Independent Prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s investigation into President Bill Clinton were released onto the internet. And everyone in America had “oral sex” on their lips before lunch that day.</p><p>Yep, with oral sex mentioned “92 times,” as noted in an <a href="http://ajrarchive.org/article_printable.asp?id=3917" target="_blank">American Journalism Review book review</a> the Starr Report casualized talk about that act, and possibly the act itself, in a way no one else, not even <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhllFC0D_mk" target="_blank">Madonna fellating a water bottle</a>(Truth or Dare, 1991), had done. </p><p><strong>6. Sexting</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=694TX2lQ7Uo" target="_blank">This was a cell phone in 1990</a>. In the Before Time picture phones were <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qQFF3YQ-1k" target="_blank">a cartoonish idea</a> but what did we do as soon as such technology came our way? Sent each other naked pictures.</p><p>But there’s two sides to the “send” button. The up side is that it can be fun to know you’re turning your partner on from miles away. The down side is that, whether it’s anyone else’s business or not, showing your ass can come back to bite your ass, especially if you’re <a href="http://www.queerty.com/engaged-politician-admits-to-hooking-up-with-guys-at-center-of-sexting-scandal-20150312" target="_blank">an engaged politician</a>, a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Weiner_sexting_scandals" target="_blank">married politician</a> or a <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-05/aids-council-calls-for-changes-to-sexting-laws/5866908" target="_blank">teenager</a>.</p><p><strong>7. Gay Rights</strong></p><p>Outside of the internet, gay rights and gay culture coming into its own has probably been the biggest change in our cultural perception of sex and sexuality. Consider, as <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/timeline/stonewall/" target="_blank">this PBS Timeline</a> points out, that in 1996 Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, (seems kind of ironic after that Starr Report business, eh?) declaring marriage as being a hetero-only legal status.  </p><p>Nineteen years later 37 states have  legalized gay marriage; the issue is headed to the Supreme Court later this year. <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/why-more-americans-accept-gay-marriage-than-ever/386707/" target="_blank">Tanya Basu’s interview</a> with author<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Forcing-Spring-Inside-Marriage-Equality/dp/1594204446" target="_blank">Jo Becker</a> in The Atlantic details the many elements that came together to bring this change about. The main one, Becker says, is more people coming out, turning an issue into real, relatable people next door. </p><p><strong>8. The Rise of the Cougar</strong></p><p>When <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mz3TkxJhPc" target="_blank">Harold and Maude came out 1971</a> the older woman/younger man relationship it featured didn’t exactly become a trend. The world was not ready. Or maybe it was that the man was about 20 and the woman was about to turn 80 (though<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-langley/hugh-hefner-married-crystal-harris-age-difference_b_2402198.html" target="_blank">Hef’s 2013 marriage had a 60 year age gap</a>, too).</p><p>Fast forward a few decades we have the rise of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cougar_%28slang%29" target="_blank">the cougar</a>, the older woman who enjoys the sexual company of a younger man. Of course there were examples before this (here’s to you, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3lKbMBab18" target="_blank">Mrs. Robinson</a>) but it didn’t become a trendy concept until recent years. I’m crediting the origin with the blazing hot Angela Basset in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A1Fvc_HD5I" target="_blank">How Stella Got Her Groove Back</a>, which was followed up by the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBN_SUfW2OM" target="_blank">MILF of American Pie</a> (MILF now being a porn category) and real life matches like Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher (16 years her junior). There are a lot of reasons these relationships may have caught the collective cultural ear, many of them <a href="http://www.today.com/klgandhoda/men-confess-22-reasons-why-younger-guys-fall-older-women-I283710" target="_blank">detailed here by Felicia Briggs and Susan Winter on iVillage</a>. As the occasional beneficiary of them I can give you all the necessary reason in two words: it’s fun. </p><p><strong>9. The Female Orgasm     </strong></p><p>The female orgasm has gotten an enormous amount of attention in the last 20 years. Scientists are on it, as evidenced in <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17165-six-things-science-has-revealed-about-the-female-orgasm.html" target="_blank">Michael Marshall’s LiveScience story</a>on various orgasm studies, the pharmaceutical industry is on it, as discussed in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamara-mcclintock-greenberg/orgasm-inc-female-sexual-dysfunction_b_1225947.html" target="_blank">Tamara McClintock Greenberg’s HuffPo interview with filmmaker Liz Canner of o Orgasm, Inc</a>, culturally we’re on it, buying up books like Ian Kerner’s NYT bestseller <a href="http://www.amazon.com/She-Comes-First-Thinking-Pleasuring/dp/0060538260" target="_blank">She Comes First</a>.  Even <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0158983/quotes" target="_blank">South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut</a> found Chef giving Stanley the advice to find the clitoris if you want a girl to like you.  </p><p>And yet, for all this, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/04/AR2010100401266.html" target="_blank">from the Washington Post, 2010</a>: “85 percent of the men said their latest sexual partner had an orgasm, while only 64 percent of the women reported having an orgasm in their most recent sexual event.”</p><p>The math would suggest that there are still more Oscar-worthy performances going on in American bedrooms than in American movie theaters.</p><p><strong>10. You’re a -peein’   </strong></p><p>Squirting,  also referred to as female ejaculation, is when a woman has an orgasm that yields a lot of fluid. </p><p>The gifted science writer Jesse Bering offers numerous historic examples of people describing and trying to decipher female ejaculation <a href="http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/bering-in-mind/2011/06/17/female-ejaculation-the-long-road-to-non-discovery/" target="_blank">here in Scientific American</a> going back 2000 years. (it’s worth reading for Bering’s writing alone). </p><p>For all this, though, I had never heard of the process until the last few years and it seems likely it gained traction because of the internet (again), enabling women to discuss it and men to watch it in porn movies and want to make it happen. I’ve been having sex since God was in fourth grade and no one had ever mentioned this until recently when someone I was briefly involved with said he thought it would be the greatest thing ever.</p><p>I hope he finds someone to enjoy this activity with, because science says it’s pee.</p><p>Well, it’s mostly pee.<a href="http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/women-squirting-during-sex-may-actually-be-peeing" target="_blank">IFL Science’s Janet Fang reported on an experiment detailed here</a>. The story says the substance found in true female ejaculate, prostatic-specific antigen, was a small part of the sample but the squirting was “essentially the involuntary emission of urine during sexual activity.”</p><p>Anyway, if this theory holds water I sure hope that guy flushes out someone capable of this. Sounds like a number one priority. </p> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 09:51:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1033456 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Culture Sex & Relationships sex culture online dating porn sexting Inside the Death Cafe: A Gathering Place For People to Talk About Dying http://www.alternet.org/culture/inside-death-cafe-gathering-place-people-talk-about-dying <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">People are gathering to discuss death and dying over tea and cake.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_145972004-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>A woman at the Death Cafe, where we’ve gathered to discuss end-of-life issues, gets up to use the restroom. The group continues to  discuss matters related to shuffling off this mortal coil, like planning ahead for your family’s benefit, do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders and living meaningfully while you can. Suddenly someone realizes the woman has been gone a long time.</p><p>Uh oh. Has someone come to the Death Cafe…and died?</p><p>When the muffled “I’m okay!” comes from behind the bathroom door, a feeling of relief moves through the room. This kind of irony is fun to read about, but it’s not something you want to be present for.</p><p>This is a slice of life from a Death Cafe, a type of salon where people gather to discuss death and dying over tea and cake.</p><p>The concept was developed by British website designer Jon Underwood and psychotherapist Sue Barksy Reid. They based their model on the cafe mortels developed by Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz in 2004. The first Death Cafe took place in Hackney, East London in 2011 and since then over 1,500 have blossomed all over the world.</p><p>“Our aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives,” the Death Cafe website says. There is meant to be no business, political or religious/spiritual agenda. There is meant to be cake. What’s not to like?</p><p>For many people the whole subject is an unlikeable one, and one many people put off. Shannon Pettypiece writes in Bloomberg Business that 70% of American adults don’t have a living will and about 30% of seniors don’t have a will of any kind. Louisa Peacock writes in the Telegraph that more than half of Brits don’t know their partner’s end-of-life wishes.</p><p>Peacock cites author Satish Modi, who says an average lifespan in Victorian England was about 48: they didn’t distance themselves from death because it was more present. Since then, two world wars made people death-weary and unwilling to talk about it.</p><p>Our modern ability to distance ourselves from death makes that unwillingness easier. Physician and former hospice worker Bruce Wilson’s compelling piece in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel describes how people once died and were mourned at home. Now, “we have become so good at treating illnesses that we somehow have come to view death as an option,” and one that involves hospitals more than homes.</p><p>Death may have become less personal, but it’s become more political, as Brittany Maynard recently showed. Maynard opted for death with dignity at the age of 29 under Oregon state law after enduring treatments for terminal brain cancer and not wanting the “nightmare scenario” her family would inevitably have to face. On CNN, in print and on video, Maynard spoke eloquently and emotionally about her decision and about advocating for people who are not in a state that has death-with-dignity laws (she was able to move to Oregon from California). Five states—Oregon, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington and Montana—currently have such laws and New York has recently introduced a similar bill.</p><p>Clearly death has an audience. We’re about to become part of it.</p><p>***</p><p>Driving toward the beaches of Sarasota, Florida, it feels like life couldn’t get much prettier. Yet 20 people have chosen to spend this sunny Saturday afternoon at the Death Cafe. Venues for these salons vary; some are in real cafes, some in cemeteries or museums. This one is at Radiance of Sarasota—picture a comfortable yoga studio and you’re there. There are cupcakes, cookies and other cocoa-laden goodies. The theme this month is Death by Chocolate.</p><p>Chairs are arranged in a circle. The facilitators of the group, Lori Marshall and Mark Sanders, introduce themselves. Life coaches and spiritual educators, they have the easy presence of people who don’t want anything from you. They feel safe, a good quality for people managing potentially dicey topics. And there are some of those, including an encounter at  past group with a man Marshall calls “astounding.”</p><p>He told her, “I’m wanting to kill myself and I want the secret recipe to make it as easy as possible.”</p><p>“We can’t talk about this here,” Marshall told him “We can talk about suicide but this is not the place to come for the magic recipe!” </p><p>An older man came in saying he wanted to know how to die easily; he had lost his wife and was blind. He’s come back three times.</p><p>“He’s getting something out of it. He’s not getting the recipe but he’s getting something,” Marshall says.</p><p>Among us is a funeral director, a woman with a roommate who is dying, and a number of hospice workers. The age skews middle-aged to older, except for three young college sociology students, who want to start their own Death Cafe on campus and are here to see how it’s done. </p><p>The 90-minute session flies by, moving fluidly between practical matters, like having a death advocate to make sure your wishes are enforced, to more emotional matters like our terrible fear of losing our loved ones. People’s experiences and insights are varied and poignant, visceral and yet delicate. One woman says she thinks there should be funeral rehearsals, like wedding rehearsals, so you can hear all the great things your friends have to say about you while you’re still here. One man, who reminds me of an older Robert DeNiro, says he doesn’t believe in an afterlife and will be “happily surprised” if there is one. This intimacy with strangers is kind of awesome.</p><p>Daphne Whitman, a Death Cafe first-timer, is a new advocate for death-with-dignity and wants to be “part of the tipping point,” of that issue for this country. Her 25-year-old daughter had a malformation of blood vessels in the brain and died of a brain hemorrhage; Whitman's husband died while they were at a dinner dance together. But both of these losses happened quickly. It was her mother-in-law’s long predicament that moved her to activism.</p><p>“She committed suicide at 83, having had Parkinson’s for 12 years,” Whitman tells me on the phone after the event. She was a “private, dignified, English Bermudian lady,” and facing the inability to care for herself and a debilitating illness, she took her life after two previous tries.</p><p>“Our institutions are against something we give our animals,” Whitman says—the ability to go when the end is inevitable and quality of life will be clearly gone.</p><p>At one point there is a little tension in the group. One woman is proud of having gotten all of her affairs in order so that in the end her kids won’t have any guesswork (or bill), which funeral director Debra Fewell says families are always grateful for. But the woman also says she doesn’t want any kind of memorial event. Some people in the group feel that doesn’t give the living a chance to grieve or celebrate.</p><p>“It’s just out of not wanting to be a bother,” Fewell explains when I speak to her later. People don’t realize that honoring a person’s life can be as formal as a church funeral or as simple as going to their favorite hangout and toasting their memory, she says. I tell her my own mother did not want a funeral, but I did go with a friend to drink beer—Mom’s favorite food—in her memory.</p><p>“A service nowadays is as unique as a person’s life,” Fewell says. “There is no norm.”</p><p>Fewell says that when people find out what she does for a living they always have lots of questions about funerals, legal matters, even spiritual and religious matters. </p><p>“Nobody ever says, 'I know everything there is to know about death,'" she says. And Death Cafes certainly seem like good ways to help clear up misinformation as well as share feelings and experiences.</p><p>Lori Marshall shares with the group that she’s been nursing her greyhound through a serious illness and she’s not sure how long her dog has left. Later in the week I ask her if running a Death Cafe helps at a time like this.</p><p>“You have to remember that everything dies, everything leaves the physical and everything, in my world, carries on,” she says. After mulling over a few other things she says, “I think it does help. It still sucks.”</p><p>And there it is. Nothing can stop the actual loss, but having a community in which to air fears, humor and talk of the taboo can help. Death, after all, is one thing we all have in common.</p><p>As the group disperses, the atmosphere is upbeat, relaxed and thoughtful. I walked away considering some things I should do (make a will, travel to Asia) and feeling more appreciative of the time I have left.It’s still a beautiful day, so we head for the beach. I snag a cupcake for the road. Somehow it tastes a little sweeter.</p> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 08:02:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1032758 at http://www.alternet.org Culture Culture Personal Health death cafe death 8 Ways to Deal With Anger http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/8-ways-deal-anger <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It’s a normal emotion and can be a terrific motivator for personal betterment or social justice. But what about when it gets out of hand?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_122916118-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>“My dear, you have to take control of your feelings before they take control of you”</em>---- Violet Grantham, Dowager Countess, Downton Abbey</p><p>“I miss hating things,” says my friend Funchy, looking misty-eyed. He’s a Brooklynite, like me, raised in a house full of yelling and fighting all masking love of course….sometimes quite well. Bickering is our native language and when we’re together we speak it at each other like two old biddies from the old country. For us - and when it’s just between us - it’s a welcome pressure release.</p><p>Funchy doesn’t miss hating things. He still hates things. He misses <em>saying</em> he hates things because with some people who are averse to any expressions of anger or negativity while others - from ridiculous reality shows to the talking heads that have become screaming heads - could easily make you think everyone in America is one missed green light from turning the Tasmanian Devil. No wonder those “Keep Calm…” signs are so popular. We must really need the reminder.</p><p>Anger itself isn’t a bad thing: it’s a normal emotion and can be a terrific motivator for personal betterment or social justice. It’s how you handle it that confers benefits or damages. Whether you are a stewer or a spewer here are some things to consider when when you’re overwhelmed with anger - yours or someone else’s.</p><p><strong>1. Get it out….safely</strong> Peter Sacco, Ph.D, is the author of <em>What’s Your Anger Type?</em> which describes some of the many ways we have of being ticked off and offers a questionnaire that helps you self-evaluate yours. According to my results my three biggest problem areas were were jealousy, road rage and petrified anger, which means, essentially, that you just can’t Let It Go (no matter how many times you hear the song).</p><p>People who keep their anger to themselves, Sacco says, risk having it boil over or even suffering from depression and generalized anxiety disorder.</p><p>“Some of them become physically sick: it manifests in their body,” Sacco says.</p><p>HowStuffWorks.com describes how the parts of your brain that control both emotion and reason are activated when anger is triggered and that, while these areas tend to balance out quickly, people who are chronically ticked off, who may not have the neurological mechanisms to quiet these effects, may suffer from an overexerted nervous system leading to heart, liver, kidney damage and high cholesterol.</p><p>For those who aren’t apt to simply let off steam but keep their anger concentrated inside, Sacco recommends safe zones like a therapist’s office, a support group, simply venting to a friend or, if any of those are unaffordable or embarrassing, having a journal to privately express your feelings. It may seem simple enough, but the metaphor Sacco uses, “getting the dirt outside so it doesn’t pile up inside and it become a dark deep mud,” does a good job of illustrating how dank our emotional clutter can become and, coupled with the physical symptoms, make a compelling case for finding safe spaces to vent.</p><p><strong>2. Manage stress, manage anger</strong></p><p>Learning stress management techniques is also important, Sacco says - Santa Clara University has a good list including becoming organized (ever gotten livid because you can’t find your stupid keys?), getting adequate rest (ever snapped at someone you actually love because you’re tired?) and weeding out as many tension-causing elements from your environment as you can.</p><p>Behavior modification of this kind is what Sacco calls “an inside job,” something only you can do for yourself. And that’s as it should be. You don’t want to get to the point where someone, like a court system, has to mandate it for you; prior to writing the book, Sacco says, that’s how a number of his clients came to be in the anger management groups he ran.</p><p><strong>3. Be a blowhard</strong></p><p>While it’s good to get anger off your chest and out of your head, Dr. Robert Epstein of the Rady School of Management, UC San Diego says in Forbes magazine that it’s good to get it out of your lungs, too. We’ve all heard of taking a deep breath and counting to ten….this quick-action tip tells us to <em>ex</em>hale and blow hard at the end of that exhale, counteracting the short, sharp breathing we do when we get stressed, which Epstein says “circulates toxins in your bloodstream and makes you panicky.”</p><p><strong>4. The Joy of Letting Go</strong></p><p>We all come to a point once in awhile with a friend or companion when we wonder why we’re hanging out with this person: they seem to cause us nothing but trouble.</p><p>If anger has become that companion, if you’re constantly angry, Sacco says, you have to ask yourself “Why am I holding onto this? What do I gain from being an angry person?”</p><p>Some people gain a sense of false confidence from their anger. Others might realize they’re not gaining anything but letting go of it might cause you to have to admit your anger was misplaced or - heavens! - that you were wrong, “therefore I look foolish, therefore I don’t want to let it go,” Sacco says, and it can become some heavy and alienating armor. But does admitting you’re wrong really make you look foolish? Actually it can make you look and be better. Nadia Goodman, writing in <em>Entrepreneur</em>on <em>How To Admit Your Wrong</em> talks about how ownership of mistakes, acknowledgement of anyone hurt by them and showing a willingness to change lead to being a leader who <em>is</em> better, not just one who looks better, tips that are easily translatable to other areas of life.</p><p><strong>5. Compassion trumps combat</strong></p><p>Even a job you love can drive you crazy sometimes and maybe lead you to say or do things you regret.</p><p>Your boss would do better to try to find out why than to decide that you’re fired. A 2011 study from Temple University’s Fox School of Business showed that when managers responded with compassion, support and acknowledgement to anger in the workplace, rather than simple sanctions or doing nothing, lead to a better work environment.</p><p>The study looked at reactions to “deviant anger” is defined as “physical acts, intense verbal displays, and inappropriate communication,” A statement on the study says that authors Deanna Geddes of Temple’s Fox School and Lisa T. Stickney of the University of Baltimore “even a single act of support by a manager or co-worker and the angered employee can improve workplace tension.” Showing an interest in what prompted the anger in the first place perceptions of improvement increase.</p><p>Think of it as taking a minute to find out where a draft is coming from and blocking it instead of incurring the cost of just turning up the heat.</p><p><strong>6. R-E-S-P-E-C-T</strong></p><p>It’s not always easy to step back and consider what made a person angry but the pay off is something we all want….respect.</p><p>In 2013 I wrote about the book <em>Outsmarting Anger: 7 Strategies for Defusing Our Most Dangerous Emotion,</em>winner of the National Multiple Schlerosis Society’s Books for a Better Life Award for Psychology, by by Dr. Joseph Shrand, instructor of psychiatry at Harvard, director of the CASTLE program (Clean and Sober Teens Living Empowered) in Brockton, MA. Time and again, when I’m trying to deal with my own anger or not provoke someone else’s, I’ve circled back to his question of “When was the last time you got angry with anybody you really believed was treating you with respect?” Time and again the answer is: you don’t.</p><p>You can alter - or defuse - situations potentially filled with anger by showing an angry person calm respect instead of mirroring that anger back at them. When people feel respected, they feel valued, which brings trust, which triggers oxytocin, a bonding chemical.</p><p>In my experience, showing that respect can be as simple as acknowledging that you get why they’re mad: “I can see why you’d feel taken advantage of…” or “If I were you I’d feel the same way,” so at least the person feels understood and not alone. It may not stop the anger in its tracks - when you’re going 100 mph it takes a minute to slow down - but it can alter the direction back to a better place.</p><p><strong>7. Catharsis or trigger?</strong></p><p>It’s a dicey proposition, to admit to someone who teaches anger management that you enjoy a good hockey fight.</p><p>The subject comes up when Dr. Sacco and I talk about how anger can be glamourized in popular culture. He’s a superhero movie fan, he says, “and what is the Hulk, but someone who turns into a superhero out of rage?” Reality TV fights seem as common as commercials and then there are sports, contests people have been watching since the days of gladiators, Sacco says. In Canada, where he lives, hockey is everywhere and in his book he mentions the joke “I went to a hockey game last night and a fight broke out.” Other sports are just rough by nature, like football, which he’s a fan of. For some people these can be cathartic, and help release their own anger and stress, Sacco says…then asks me what, as a fan, I think about hockey fights.</p><p>Admittedly, I get as whipped up by a fight as anyone else. Occasionally, though, I’ve seen players get badly hit…and I feel like a bit of a jerk for having gotten so into it when I see there are real consequences, which Sacco calls the response of someone who might find such things cathartic but gets that this is not acceptable behavior in the real world (shwew!).</p><p>So for a lot of people watching confrontation is cathartic but for others it can have the opposite effect of making them even angrier and Susan Jayson writing in USA Today in 2010, describes how overreaction of TV personalities can lead people to believe that such reactions are normal in real life when, in fact, they’re over the top.</p><p><strong>8. It matters what you compare yourself to</strong></p><p>Most of us have down periods in our lives where we feel as though we do nothing but struggle, leading to all kinds of negative emotions, anger among them. I’ve talked to people who have gotten so bogged down in getting by that they forget what they like. Sometimes I’ve been that person myself.</p><p>Remembering to set aside time to take care of your health and find time for the things you enjoy, to live rather than just endure, Sacco says, is key to not being an angry person; while some people are complaining about everything from the weather to the dog chewing up their shoes, he says, someone else is in a hospital wishing they had another day.</p><p>How can I be angry when the chances are pretty good I’ll have another day to see Funchy…and yell at him?</p> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 10:28:00 -0800 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1031781 at http://www.alternet.org Personal Health Personal Health anger emotion coping 8 Surprising Things Online Searches Reveal About Our Sex Lives http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/8-surprising-things-online-searches-reveal-about-our-sex-lives <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Self-reported sexual trends are unreliable. But online searches don&#039;t lie. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-02-11_at_11.40.03_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Lying about sex is not exactly new. In Greek myths, Zeus was forever cheating on Hera and probably telling her he had a meeting that ran late.</p><p>That is why sex studies are notoriously unreliable: people may not always be 100 percent honest, even in anonymous surveys. Economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, writing in the New York Times, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/opinion/sunday/seth-stephens-davidowitz-searching-for-sex.html?_r=3">compared</a> our self-reported sex lives to the things we search for on the Internet. </p><p>Of course, there are caveats in interpreting such things (which he notes at the end of the story, but it’s always fun to peer into our neighbor's windows (or their Windows 8.1). Let's take a look at what this and other studies tell us about sex based on what we choose to reveal—and what we choose to obscure. </p><p><strong>1. Revelation: We exaggerate our condom use.</strong></p><p>Stephens-Davidowitz looked at how often survey respondents said they had sex, the percentage of times they said they used condoms and says this would amount to 1.6 billion condoms used a year for men and 1.1 for women. </p><p>And yet…annual condom sales total only 600,000 per year. </p><p>Now, some bars and clinics do give away condoms; I recently <a href="http://liz-langley.blogspot.com/2014/12/tiny-tins-repurposing-impulse-buys-into.html" target="_blank">walked out of a local health center</a> with enough free latex to make a set of snow tires. But it’s hard to say if such freebies would cover the Sagan-esque “billions and billions” of condoms we said we used but which weren’t actually purchased. (In another part of the survey data shows we may underestimate how much protected sex we have.)</p><p>What does it mean? </p><p>At a guess: embarrassment and denial. It happens to everyone, but no one wants to admit that when the clothes started coming off they dropped their brains on the floor next to their underwear. Also, memories are easily revised to make you look better...at least if you walked away disease- and pregnancy-free (not so easy if you didn’t). </p><p><strong>2. Revelation: We lie on our dating profiles. </strong></p><p>It’s no secret, but <a href="http://www.womansday.com/sex-relationships/dating-marriage/online-dating-profile-lies" target="_blank">Kristi Dosh</a> of Woman’s Day wrote about specific ways we stretch the truth when trying to find love online. Women fudged figures more when it came to their weight, losing 8.5 pounds on average between sitting down at their computer and completing their profile.</p><p>Men fibbed more frequently about their height. And income. And age. And job type and title. </p><p>What does it mean? </p><p>That people who lie on their online dating profiles think their online date will be so smitten with them they won’t notice they’re 15 years older and 8.5 pounds heavier than in their photo and are driving a Schwinn instead of a Jaguar. </p><p>On the upside, older people lie less so you can trust us. Wanna go out? I’m 8.5 pounds thinner than I sound. </p><p><strong>3. Revelation: We’re not having all that much sex.</strong></p><p>“Taken altogether, the data suggest that Americans manage to have sex about 30 times per year — or once every 12 days,” Stephens-Davidowitz says.</p><p>That doesn’t seem like much. It’s also a scant third of the rate <a href="http://www.womansday.com/sex-relationships/sex-tips/sex-by-the-numbers-103274" target="_blank">Sarah Jio</a> reported in Woman’s Day and <a href="http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/16_ways_to_get_better_sex/How_Often_Do_You_Have_Sex.php" target="_blank">Tim Spiker</a> reported in Men’s Health. </p><p>What does it mean? </p><p>It means the latter two studies surveyed hornier, less busy people.</p><p>It’s easy to feel sexually left behind when you compare yourself to media, where everyone is getting it on every 10 minutes. Even Downtown Abbey saw some nookie this season (you go, Lady Mary!) and sex for women had barely been invented back then. </p><p>In real life, opportunities vary, stress is rampant and there aren’t writers to pencil you into steamy scenarios. Every 12 days seems scant, but we all have boom and bust times: the important thing is that you’re happy with where you are sexually. If not, find ways to change it like you would anything else (you go, Lady Mary!)</p><p><strong>4. Revelation: We're insecure about our bodies.</strong></p><p>“Sex can be quite fun. Why do we have so little of it?” Stephens-Davidowitz asks and answers his own question with one word that could explain at least part of the story: anxiety. Men and women suffer from body insecurities with men’s foremost concern—surprise—their penis size. Stephens-Davidowitz’s analysis showed that while women are still the predominant searchers for beauty, fitness, plastic surgery and weight loss, men certainly contributed to the numbers; for example, 39% of cosmetic survey searches are by men.</p><p>What does it mean? </p><p>Stephens-Davidowitz finds our candor about our insecurities and lack of judgement of others endearing, and says we seem to be too busy judging ourselves to judge others too much. </p><p>Agreed, there’s a sweetness to that, but there is a gem of a video on YouTube that might mitigate our self-judging, especially for those influenced by the pornification of our culture. Take less than two minutes to watch <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIqOrrqVUwE" target="_blank">Porn Sex vs Real Sex: The Difference Explained With Food</a>. It might just save you a shrink bill. </p><p><strong>5. Revelation: Body parts go in and out of style.</strong></p><p>Stephens-Davidowitz says that in 2004, searches revealed our interest in making our butts smaller; fast-forward a decade and in 2014 “there were more searches asking how to make your butt bigger than smaller in every state.” </p><p>What does it mean?</p><p>I kind of love this one, not just because my butt is finally fashionable, but because it shows the fickleness of what we find attactive. Sometimes the world wants us hairy, sometimes sleek, sometimes lithe, sometimes buff and for those who think bigger breasts are always more desirable, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/28/keira-knightley-topless_n_5731126.html" target="_blank">Keira Knightly</a> and <a href="http://thestir.cafemom.com/beauty_style/143780/8_celebrities_whose_gorgeous_looks/103236/cameron_diazs_tiny_bust_doesnt/6" target="_blank">Cameron Diaz</a> tell a different story.</p><p>So while healthy diet and exercise are all well and good, if there’s some part of your body you really don’t like, just wait. It might be back in style before you can say “<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/03/gap-toothed-models_n_4038443.html" target="_blank">tooth gap</a>.”</p><p><strong>6. Revelation: We worry that we smell.</strong></p><p>A strikingly common concern among women, Stephens-Davidowitz said, is vaginal odor and worry that their genitalia might smell like anything from garlic to garbage. </p><p>What does it mean? </p><p>This one I find a little more distressing than other insecurities, partly because natural body scent is a glorious thing, the opposite of a source of shame. But it’s also less easily soothed than other worries. We are sometimes comforted by comparison and while you can look unabashedly at other women’s bodies you can’t go around, like Anthony Michael-Hall in <em>Sixteen Candles</em>, asking other women, “Can I borrow your underpants for ten minutes?” to see if your vaginal odor is normal. </p><p>All women have a vaginal odor, <a href="http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/blogs/vitamin-g/2009/08/one-brave-woman-raises-her-han" target="_blank">Sarah Jio</a> reported in Glamour. It’s a musky scent, distinctive to each woman, that we’re usually attuned to, though no one else might notice. And the only scented douche in your life should be that one ex who overdoes it with the Axe body spray. </p><p><strong>7. Revelation: Boys reject sex more than girls.</strong></p><p>Traditionally it’s women who have a headache, but the NYT story reveals that, worldwide, monthly searches of the phrase, “my boyfriend won’t have sex with me,” occur almost twice as often as “my girlfriend won’t have sex with me.”</p><p>What does it mean? If this result is surprising, it may simply be that old ideas die hard: even in the digital age we may still underestimate female sexual desire.</p><p>A story in the Guardian by Daniel Bergner <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jul/05/what-do-women-want-extract" target="_blank">featured</a> an experiment carried out by psychologist Meredith Chivers, who showed women various types of sexual imagery, including “sex between men and women, women and women, men and men and a pair of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo" target="_blank">bonobos</a> (a species of ape).” The women were turned on by all of it (the apes to a lesser degree), though they didn’t consciously realize it. </p><p>That said, not all women are turned on 24/7. Desire is highly individual and ebbs and flows with circumstance. Men don’t always want sex all the time, either: fatigue, stress and other factors affect their <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/erectile-dysfunction-pictures/is-it-erectile-dysfunction-or-not.aspx" target="_blank">sex drive</a>, so perhaps both sexes are stereotyped when it comes to desire.</p><p><strong>8. Revelation: People lie on sex surveys.</strong></p><p>Back in 2006, <a href="http://www.livescience.com/7038-men-report-sex-partners-women.html" target="_blank">Robert Roy Britt</a> reported in LiveScience on the smartest sex survey I’ve ever heard of. Norman R. Brown, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, asked men and women how many sex parters they had had. As expected, the men's numbers outpaced the women's numbers.</p><p>A few questions later, he asked them how truthful they’d been.</p><p>Five percent said they'd lied and more than 10% said they didn’t know if the answer they gave was correct.</p><p>What does this mean?  </p><p>That at least people are truthful about lying? That they are lying when they say they lie? </p><p>Or maybe it’s fun to be nosy about other people's sex lives, but we should worry less about whether we’re “normal” and just think about what we can do to keep ourselves and our partners healthy, happy and intrigued.</p> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 08:06:00 -0800 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1031708 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sex 8 Reasons Marriage Doesn't Matter http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/8-reasons-marriage-doesnt-matter <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">If you think people project things onto you now, why would a wedding ring stop them?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_156056810-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Women are carpet-bombed with the idea that marriage is their happy ending from their first viewing of Cinderella to the last potboiler Rom Com they saw starring Sarah Jessica Jennifer Kate Meg Julia Whatsherhair. Marriage is also ever-present in the news, whether it’s gay marriage, the divorce rate or sex scandals involving politicians and golfers. It’s on TV 24/7 in the form of “Bridezillas," “Say Yes to the Dress,” and various reality shows that have turned a sacrament into a raffle.</p><p>Now a study titled – I’m not kidding -- <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-03/uom-nwf032310.php" target="_blank">"I'm a Loser, I'm Not Married, Let's Just All Look At Me,"</a> tells us that social pressure has managed to make women between 25-35 feel both scrutinized and invisible if they’re not married.</p><p>“Heightened visibility came from feelings of exposure and invisibility came from assumptions made by others," said Larry Ganong of the University of Missouri, who conducted the study of 32 interviews with women, along with Elizabeth Sharp of Texas Tech University. A single woman’s world, it seems, consists mainly of feeling stigmatized by singlehood, worrying about the draining dating pool and listening to her biological clock thump away like the Tell-Tale Heart.</p><p>Having been single all my life I swear on my MacBook that it does not all consist solely of feeling glum at bouquet tosses. And while I’m almost as in love with love as Barbara Cartland, I believe we women are smart enough to know that a wedding ring won’t make us happy any more than a white dress will make us a virgin. The desire to get it right might be part of the reason people are <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6631910/" target="_blank">putting off marriage until later</a>. (Plus, according to <a href="http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1587273-1,00.html" target="_blank">Time magazine</a>, life expectancy is increasing…and the average marrying age is increasing at the same exact pace.)</p><p>If brides in the '70s, when I was a kid, were decked out like <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/photos/2007/12/19/2123397.htm" target="_blank">Indian brides</a> or <a href="http://www.georgeunderwood.com/resources/products/image1/000434/cancan.jpg" target="_blank">can-can dancers</a> or Dean Martin’s <a href="http://thegolddiggers.wordpress.com/striking-gold/" target="_blank">Golddiggers.</a> I might have dreamed of my wedding day like other little girls did, but the idea of dressing as a napkin and going to church did not interest me. Plus, I grew up in an intact nuclear family, and like someone who once worked at McDonalds and is made queasy by the smell of French fries ever after, I knew by the age of 5 that I wasn’t buying that particular Happy Meal. My mom, too, was a great one for ignoring the in-crowd (or any crowd) and so I’ve always easily blown off the social pressures some people feel so keenly and so unfairly. And so, to the women who so wrongly feel diminished by singlehood, I’d like to pass on the lessons I learned from my own dear mom, who might have called the following list, “You Just Tell That Sonofabitch to Mind His Own Goddamn Business," or...</p><p><strong>Eight Reasons Marriage Doesn’t Matter</strong></p><p><strong>1. It’ll cost you</strong></p><p>According to Soundvision <a href="http://www.soundvision.com/info/weddings/statistics.asp" target="_blank">$72 billion a year</a> is spent on weddings. The average wedding costs about $20,000. A lot of people are making a tidy living off female insecurities around this issue.</p><p>The idea of anyone spending that kind of money on anything they can’t get out of the rain in makes my head spin. $20K? On a party? What are you, Keith Moon? If you want to be the center of attention for 20 minutes before being locked down for life it would be cheaper to just rob a liquor store.</p><p>The more romantic options for that money would be to set it aside and every time you have one of those thin-ice days, when you’re looking at each other like the enemy, go away on a dirty weekend. Nothing recharges love like a change of scenery and lots and lots of body fluids. It’ll work whether you’re married or not and can be a form of time-released relationship life support.</p><p>PS: This dirty weekend is supposed to be with each other…just in case that wasn’t clear.</p><p><strong>2. If you plan ahead, it won’t matter when you’re sick</strong></p><p>Nicky Grist, executive director of the <a href="http://www.unmarried.org/" target="_blank">Alternatives to Marriage Project</a>, says that people should know that marital status or family-of origin relationships need not have anything to do with who sees you in the hospital or how medical decisions are made when you can’t make them.</p><p>“Every adult in America has the right to name who is allowed to make a medical decision for them and even who can visit them in the hospital,” she says, but few people assert it. “Only about 20-30 percent of Americans have written an <a href="http://www.abanet.org/publiced/practical/directive_whatis.html" target="_blank">advance directive</a> that says this is the person who can make a medical decision for me that I can’t make for myself.”</p><p><a href="http://www.unmarried.org/hospital-rights.html" target="_blank">ATMP's Hospital Rights page</a> will give you information and links for advance directive forms. If you want to feel ironclad you can get a lawyer to do it, otherwise you can use these forms, which Nicky says is, "very very easy and it’s free.”</p><p>You can find out more about advance directives and the Patient Self-Determination Act on the <a href="http://www.abanet.org/publiced/practical/directive_recognition.html" target="_blank">American Bar Association</a> Web site. One question there that caught my eye was <a href="http://www.abanet.org/publiced/practical/directive_recognition.html" target="_blank">whether doctors will recognize</a> an advance directive. David N. Hoffman, general council at the Wycoff Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, says that while a doctor can refuse treatment on moral or religious grounds it is the responsibility of the hospital to then get another doctor who will respect the patient’s wishes…whether they are given by the patient or through a proxy designated by an advance directive. So you’re covered.</p><p><strong>3. Women who never married</strong></p><p>Oprah Winfrey, Jane Austen, Joan of Arc, Coco Chanel, Condoleezza Rice and Queen Elizabeth I.</p><p>I don’t know Oprah Winfrey but I doubt she participates in bouquet tosses while thinking, “Sure, I can make or break people’s careers with the twitch of an eye but without a ring on my finger I might as well be dead.”</p><p>And before you say “I’m no Oprah,” well, Oprah wasn’t always Oprah either, but she didn’t become Oprah by feeling bad about her different life path. There was a great line in the film The Libertine, in which an actress snubs a would-be Lothario with the phrase, "Better my certain glory than your uncertain love.” Our glory might not be certain but self-determination can be a helluva consolation prize.</p><p><strong>4. Women who did get married</strong></p><p>Kate Gosselin, Britney Spears, Anne Boleyn, <a href="http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/psychology/s_k_groupies/6.html" target="_blank">Doreen Lioy</a> (to convicted serial killer Richard Ramirez in prison), thousands of couples in a simultaneous, arranged <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/14/rev-moon-performs-largest_n_320295.html" target="_blank">Unification Church wedding</a>, underage girls in <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/26/raymond-jessop-polygamy-texas-trial" target="_blank">arranged fundamentalist Mormon weddings</a>, and two <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/4290761/Seven-year-old-Indian-girls-marry-frogs.html">7-year-old Indian girls to frogs</a>.</p><p>Do these things mean that marriage is bad? Of course not. It’s just an illustration that it doesn’t solve everything. Even the frogs went back to their ponds.</p><p><strong>5. In sickness and in health</strong></p><p>There are various reports, like <a href="http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1704686,00.html" target="_blank">this one in Time magazine</a>, that marriage can be better for your health, and fair enough, but even those sometimes have caveats -- the Time story says more married people are "likely to be overweight or obese" and that "the stress of a bad marriage can undo much of the good that comes with a happy one."</p><p>An <a href="http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2010/04/09/Happily-married-men-less-fatal-stroke-risk/UPI-26671270866960/" target="_blank">Israeli study</a> of 10,000 men found that single men had a 64 percent higher risk of dying than happily married men…but unhappily married men had the same risk (the report is preliminary says UPI). And an <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Women-live-longer-if-they-throw-away-the-ring/2005/01/09/1105205981068.html" target="_blank">Australian study of 2,300 people</a> over 60 found that “divorced, widowed and single women in older age seem to be healthier than their married counterparts." Men’s health didn’t correlate to their marital status but the status of women who were separated but not divorced was worse than other groups of women.</p><p>Unmarried older ladies lead active, involved lives and that has health benefits. Belinda Hewitt, a researcher on the study, commented that "They are not a bunch of frail and lonely people who are going to be a burden,” and "Maybe being married ties you more to the house and your partner."</p><p>See? If you never marry it doesn’t mean you’ll end up like Miss Havisham. You’ll be busy and active…like the aunts in <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RgVq6hV0os&amp;feature=related" target="_blank">“Arsenic and Old Lace.”</a></p><p><strong>6. Learning from someone else’s past</strong></p><p>Hannah Seligson, writing in the Daily Beast, gives a number of reason why her generation is waiting to tie the knot, including the fact that Baby Boomer divorce culture is making younger generations want to be really really really sure they’re not going to suffer through that fiasco. True enough – it’s not like taking a sweater back to Target. And when you get right down to it, marriage is really the main cause of divorce. Single people never get divorced.</p><p><strong>7. It’s taxing</strong></p><p>“Our tax code makes huge assumptions about people when they’re married,” Nicky Grist says, “like that they share their income and expenses, and it really penalizes people who have the nerve to say 'No, we don’t and we’re filing separately.' The highest tax rate is charged to people whose filing status is 'married, filing separately.'"</p><p>The “marriage penalty” has a long history that Dennis Ventry, law professor at the UC Davis School of Law says goes back to the disparity between states with community property laws and common law states; married couples in the latter were paying higher tax rates until 1948 when income-splitting was extended to all couples. This was seen as unfair to singles, so in 1969 the system was changed again and ended up penalizing married people, specifically those with similar incomes. In 2001 the pro-marriage Bush administration tried to lessen that disparity.</p><p>The upshot of all this chaos is chaos -- whether you end up with a marriage penalty or bonus “totally depends on the income ratio between spouses,” Ventry says, with those of very disparate incomes generally coming out ahead and those of similar incomes coming out behind. The bigger tax penalty for “married, filing separately,” is, to discourage people from “gaming the system” by filing separately if it might result in a lower tax rate.</p><p>The bottom line is some couples gain and others lose by marrying (though Liz Pulliam Weston on MSN Money does say <a href="http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/CollegeAndFamily/LoveAndMoney/TheMythOfTheMarriagePenalty.aspx" target="_blank">marriage has other fiscal benefits)</a>. Plus when you factor in things like earned income tax credits, the fact that we live in a system where some couples aren't given the option of being able to enjoy potential<a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iG8Wf7opGc5oRS1kEZShjFDyDyIgD9F29ML01" target="_blank">marriage-related tax bonuses</a> and the fact that we could all be out of a job in 10 minutes and have no income to tax, it’s pretty much a crap shoot. You might as well do what you want.</p><p>Which you might as well do in regards to marriage in general. If you live your life according to other people’s assumptions, pressures and values, it’s hardly your life, is it?</p><p><strong>8. Getting married does not stop people from assuming things about you</strong></p><p>The feeling of invisibility among these women, the study says, was "likely when others assumed they were married and had children or they had to <a href="http://esciencenews.com/articles/2010/03/23/never.married.women.face.social.stigma.researchers.find" target="_blank">justify their singlehood.</a>” But getting married won’t stop people from making assumptions. They might assume you just can’t afford that house by yourself anymore. They might assume you’re settling for Mr. He’ll-Do even you’re still in love with the college sweetheart you always bring up when you’re hip-deep in the Pinot. They might think your biological clock must have gone off in such a deafening way you can’t hear what a jerk your new husband is.</p><p>Simply put, if you think people assume and project things onto you now, why would a wedding ring stop them?</p> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 17:15:00 -0800 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1031680 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Culture Sex & Relationships sex women marriage taxes single 10 Common Ideas About Sex That May Be Totally Wrong http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/10-common-ideas-about-sex-may-be-totally-wrong-0 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Is it true that women lose interest in sex as they age?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_122546353-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>We all think we know things we don’t, but when it comes to sex being fuzzy can be sticky. It’s harmless enough to think, say, that <a href="http://www.trutv.com/dumb_as_a_blog/gallery/15-dumbest-sex-myths.html?curPhoto=11" target="_blank">green M&amp;Ms make you horny,</a> but if you didn’t realize you had to take the birth control pill every day, misconceptions could lead to conceptions. So, are you ready for a sexual pop quiz? Here are 10 ideas about sex and the reasons they are true or false. Because you don’t always know what you think you know. Ya know? </p><p><strong>1. True or false: Women lose interest in sex as they age.</strong></p><p>There are myths we project onto others and myths we project onto ourselves. I assumed that my interest in sex would wane over the years whether I wanted it to or not, but during an evening of girl talk about the weird effects of perimenopause, this phrase came up: "Nobody ever told me about the horniness.”</p><p>I remember, because I was the one who said it.</p><p>I thought for a while that my hormones were ready to go off to an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale, but no: they go in and out of retirement like Michael Jordan (and they, too, want to take up new sports). Which just goes to show you that while it’s true that sex drives change periodically throughout our lives, it’s not true that interest in sex has some absolute cut-off point. </p><p><a href="http://www.sexualityandu.ca/sexual-health/sex-over-fifty/aging-women-and-sex" target="_blank">Sexuality and U</a>, the website for the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, says that after menopause arousal does take longer, lubrication is not as easy and hormonal fluctuations may alter desire, but that doesn’t mean it will vamoose altogether. Some women have an increased interest because they’re unburdened by fear of pregnancy or having young kids to take care of. <a href="http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/publications/menopause/myths.asp" target="_blank">Our Bodies, Ourselves</a> says the quality of relationships also plays a part in our later-life interest in sex as do some medications. So the bottom line is, it depends on the woman and her situation. </p><p>I know…you were looking forward to letting yourself go. Me too. Now I think I’ll still be flirting and asking “How’s my hair?” when I have more wrinkles than an Agatha Christie plot.</p><p><strong>2. True or false: If you have heart trouble you should stop having sex.</strong></p><p>Well, as luck would have it giving up sex isn’t necessary if you’ve had heart trouble. <a>From ThirdAge.com</a>: “Dr. Dawn Harper explains, "People with heart disease should be able to lead a completely normal sex life. Even people who've had a heart attack can normally resume their sex lives within two or three weeks unless there are complications. However, if you suffer from chest pain during sex, you should stop immediately and see your doctor."</p><p>The <a href="http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Sex-and-Heart-Disease_UCM_436414_Article.jsp" target="_blank">American Heart Association has a list of tips,</a> most of which involve checking with your doctor and some of which include specifics on erectile dysfunction, estrogen and recovery from heart failure. Of course, you want the green light from your own doctor, but you also don’t necessarily have to give up something that helps make life worth living.  </p><p>Also that fabulous plot device of guys having heart attacks in the arms of their mistresses turns out not to be not-so-likely in real life. From the AHA: “Cardiovascular events — such as <a href="http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/Heart-Attack_UCM_001092_SubHomePage.jsp" target="_blank">heart attacks</a> or chest pain caused by heart disease — rarely occur during sexual activity, because sexual activity is usually for a short time.”</p><p>Dang it. That’s how I was planning to go. </p><p><strong>3. True or false: You can orgasm, no direct stimulation required.</strong></p><p>You might not be able to do it while sitting at your desk at work, but who knows, you might. “A few folks can literally ‘think’ off,” sex educator and author <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/06/orgasm-facts_n_2632093.html%23slide=2071652" target="_blank">Betty Dodson told the Huffington Post’s Madeline Vann</a>. <a href="http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/tips-moves/hands-free-orgasm" target="_blank">Cosmo gives some tips</a> for how to get there including what are probably the two most important ones a) practice; and b) don’t expect it to happen overnight.</p><p>Finally, one of my favorite sex educators, Sheri Winston, author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Womens-Anatomy-Arousal-Sheri-Winston/dp/057803395X" target="_blank">A Woman’s Anatomy of Arousal</a>, gave some tips to <a href="http://www.thedoctorstv.com/videolib/init/7284" target="_blank">The Doctors,</a> including using your breath to fire up your energy and making sounds to alert your brain to the importance of the experience. All the advice seems to include getting yourself in the right head space and using less-than-obvious body parts, like your brain, to get you where you want to go.</p><p><strong>4. True or false: You can tell a man’s penis size by the size of his hands.</strong></p><p>One of the most oft-trumped pieces of sexual folklore is that you can tell the size of a man’s penis by his hands/feet/fingers/wallet -- just pick something and someone will have found a way to relate it to penis size. <a href="http://www.snopes.com/risque/penile/size.asp" target="_blank">Snopes says nope</a>: that meme is untrue, but Catherine Salmon of Redlands University calls to our attention a study in the<a href="http://www.nature.com/aja/journal/v13/n5/full/aja201175a.html" target="_blank"> Asian Journal of Andrology</a> saying that digit ratio -- the ratio between the length of a man’s index finger to his ring finger -- can be very telling.</p><blockquote><p>“Their take on it was that the 2D:4D finger digit ratio is predictive of penis size, the lower the ratio, the higher the prenatal testosterone exposure and the longer the adult penis. However, it doesn’t mean that you can tell the size of a guy’s equipment from a casual glance at his hands: 2D:4D differences are quite small. And it’s the difference in finger ratio not overall hand size. And the evidence doesn’t speak to the girth of his equipment which many women report matters more.”</p></blockquote><p>Most women probably won’t get out calipers to get a serious read on his 2nd-digit/4th-digit ratio, Salmon says. I don't know. That third glass of pinot grigio can wash away a lot of inhibitions.</p><p><strong>5. True or false: Women don’t watch porn</strong>.</p><p>Some women not only watch porn, they watch enough of it for there to be <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/apr/07/women-addicted-internet-pornography" target="_blank">news stories about some of them being addicted to it</a>. <a href="http://www.ebony.com/love-sex/talk-like-sex-women-who-watch-porn-690%23axzz2TavhL7r1" target="_blank">A story in <em>Ebony </em>by Feminista Jones</a> delves into the preferences of women, why they like what they like (via Twitter survey) and cites a study led by Gomathi Sitharthan of the University of Sydney claiming that one in three women are porn watchers. (Super-fun cocktail tidbit: <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2010/04/23/porn-downloaded-by-senior-sec-staff/" target="_blank">Forbes’ Jenna Goudreau</a> found that while the economy was crashing in 2010, 17 Securities and Exchange Commission employees were found to having been surfing porn sites on government computers; one was a woman who tried to access a porn sites 1,800 times from her work laptop in two weeks and had downloaded 600 sexually explicit images.)</p><p>Anyway, yes, some women are "inspired" by images of people doin’ it just like men are and for a fun list of reasons check out <a href="http://www.thefrisky.com/2010-04-26/the-top-10-reasons-women-watch-porn/" target="_blank">Susannah Breslin’s Top 10 Reasons Why Women Watch Porn</a>. “Learn new moves,” is one I like, though that’s usually a happy byproduct of “ogle guys.” That’s why gay porn is so good. The more naked men you can cram on a screen or in an otherwise small space the better. </p><p><strong>6.  True or false: Having sex before an athletic event will mess up your performance.</strong></p><p>When I was 12 and saw Burgess Meredith tell Sylvester Stallone in <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075148/" target="_blank">Rocky</a> </em>that <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CObJZf2YzDw" target="_blank">“women weaken legs”</a> I believed thereafter that sex before sports was a bad idea. You might not be about to step into the ring with Apollo Creed, but if you’ve participated in competitive sports, marathon running or have hobbies like rock climbing you may have wondered whether sex interferes with your energy levels. </p><p> <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/10/health/sex-athletes" target="_blank">CNN reported during last summer</a>’s Olympics that sex being bad for athletic performance is a myth and it actually might help, because it’s relaxing, distracting and decreases stress and mental fatigue. Juan Carlos Medina, general coordinator of the sports department at Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico, told CNN that sex can reduce athletes’ anxiety before a game and that, "Even Pele confessed that he never suspended sexual encounters with his wife before a game, I mean, that thing about sex helping to relax is a verified truth." Studies by Barry Komisaruk, a psychology professor at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey also found that sexual stimulation in women produces a powerful pain-blocking effect which could help with sports-related injuries or muscle pain.</p><p><strong>7. True or false: The birth control pill will make you gain weight.</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-pills-weight-gain" target="_blank">WebMD says</a> this notion got started because when the pill first came out in the 1960s it contained 1,000 times more hormones than most women actually needed for pregnancy prevention -- higher estrogen causes fluid retention and increased appetite, ergo weight gain. The pill has been refined since then. In most women it does not cause weight gain and if it does it is insignificant and temporary. “Indeed, a review of 44 studies showed no evidence that birth control pills caused weight gain in most users,” Web MD says.</p><p>Besides, if you’re worried the pill might make you gain weight, try pregnancy. </p><p><strong>8. True or false: Losing their virginity is always painful for girls.</strong></p><p>Even if you’re not a virgin, <a href="http://www.tinamariebernard.com/" target="_blank">intimacy coach Tinamarie Bernard</a>’s take on this subject doesn’t just answer the question, it challenges the ways young women in our culture learn about sex and what they can expect from it. </p><p>Bernard says the first time not only doesn’t have to be painful, it can be ecstatic, even orgasmic. “I had a strong sense as a teenager that sex was something special and I don’t mean 'Oh, I’m a virgin! It’s special!' More like the bonding that connects two bodies, two souls and two hearts,” she says.</p><p>Having already had orgasms, she was prepared for what her body would feel. She and her boyfriend talked a lot about the first time and “we had played a lot before that so we were comfortable in our bodies and comfortable giving and receiving pleasure. It wasn’t what happens today in the hookup culture,” where sex happens too quickly for the deeper pleasure of intimacy. </p><p>“Imagine if this was the 'narrative' we taught our youths regarding sex education,” Bernard says. “Imagine if young women expected the best. Imagine if they felt that their pleasure was as important as anything else. ”</p><p>But Bernard says a “collective insanity” around sex in our culture essentially treats this adult subject in a rather childish way: either dirty shameful or superficial and “hot,” a tool to sell everything from shampoo to burgers. “Those two voices have dominated the conversation,” she says, “and the middle ground of pleasure, joy, connection, intimacy orgasm,” that sex is amazing and you can experience it that way. “That gentle voice of reason,” she says, “really needs to get louder.” </p><p><strong>9. True or false: If someone is transgender it means they’re gay</strong>.</p><p>Even if you’re pretty savvy about the sex you’re having, the areas of the sexual theme park you’ve never traveled in might be pretty murky to you. It’s easy to find heteronormative sex advice everywhere -- you could pick up plenty just watching reruns of "Sex and the City." But the basic facts of being transgender aren’t something you’re likely to casually pick up a lot of information on. Even the meaning of "transgender" is sometimes confused.</p><p>Your sex is the physical sex you’re born with; your gender is which sex you identify with internally that you express externally through behavior, clothing, etc., says the <a href="http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/transgender.aspx?item=1" target="_blank">American Psychological Association</a>: think <a href="http://www.queerty.com/chaz-bono-drops-60-pounds-offers-diet-tips-20130423/" target="_blank">Chaz Bono</a>. And, the APA says, “Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual or asexual, just as nontransgender people can be.”  </p><p><strong>10. True or false: Sex makes you happy.</strong></p><p>Trick question! It can, but it depends on one very specific variable. <a href="http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2013/04/15/sex-happiness-hinges-keeping-joneses-cu-boulder-study-finds" target="_blank">Tim Wadsworth, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Colorado, Boulder,</a> found that people who report being happier also report higher sexual frequency. But he also found that happiness was contingent on how much sex they perceive their peers are having and whether they are having more or less.</p><p>The 2013 study analyzed data from the <a href="http://www3.norc.org/gss+website/" target="_blank">General Social Survey</a>. Wadsworth’s survey group of 15,386 people was queried from 1993 to 2006 and asked if they were “very happy, pretty happy or not too happy.” After controlling for numerous factors, the researchers found that people who had sex at least three times a month were 33% happier than those who hadn’t had sex in 12 months and the happiness level rises with frequency: “Those reporting having sex two to three times a week are 55 percent more likely to report a higher level of happiness.”</p><p>Not that surprising. But if you want to turn someone from Tigger to Eeyore let them know they’re not getting as much action as the next person. People infer knowledge of the private matter of sex from social interaction, peer groups, media, surveys and other ways. “As a result of this knowledge, if members of a peer group are having sex two to three times a month but believe their peers are on a once-weekly schedule, their probability of reporting a higher level of happiness falls by about 14 percent, Wadsworth found.”</p><p>This is the easiest thing I’ve been asked to believe in a long time. We can pretend to be sophisticated, but we’re all children when it comes to thinking someone else got a bigger slice of cake than we did. </p><p>Or in this case, just a better piece.</p> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 17:19:00 -0800 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1030982 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sex sexuality porn sex and heart attack sex and menopause 10 Fascinating Facts About Your Brain on Sex http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/10-fascinating-facts-about-your-brain-sex <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It might not look like the sexiest body part, but it really is. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_101000707-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Remember the <em>Seinfeld</em> episode where <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WyojQFJY1w" target="_blank">Jerry’s penis has an argument with his brain and loses</a>? It’s a classic: we’ve all been torn between love/lust and logic. (If you haven't, check for a belly button because this isn’t your home world.) This brilliant bit of comedy is totally relatable but a little misleading in one way: the brain is the one that sends signals to the penis in the first place. It’s pretty reliably running things, IMing the other body parts like crazy, regulating chemicals, making calculations and responding to stimuli, half the time without you even knowing about it. There’s a reason “the brains of the outfit” denotes someone who is really in charge. </p><p>So why does the brain sometimes signal us to do stupid things, especially in regard to sex and relationships? Isn’t that a little like one conjoined twin punching the other in the mouth? How does the brain decide who attracts us? What is it doing behind our backs, and how do we change as we mature?</p><p>Here are some of the ways the joys, quandaries and mechanics of sex are all in your head.</p><p><strong>1. Size matters</strong>.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.news-medical.net/health/Hypothalamus-Males-and-Females.aspx" target="_blank">preoptic area of the hypothalamus</a>, which regulates mating behavior, is a little more than twice as big in men as it is in women and has twice as many cells. Medical Net says difference starts to show up when we’re about four years old. </p><p><strong>2. Location. Location. Location.</strong></p><p>The male brain devotes twice as much real estate to sex as the female brain. They think about it, but do they listen about it? </p><p>Some men certainly do, and maybe more will now that there’s visible evidence of what some women have been trying to tell them for quite some time: there is a great deal of difference between vaginal and clitoral stimulation. Now you can see it. Researchers at Rutgers University used an MRI to map what locations on the sensory cortex correspond to the vagina, clitoris and nipples. All three clearly in very different locations in the brain. <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/articleimages/dn20770/1-sex-on-the-brain-what-turns-women-on-mapped-out.html" target="_blank">(Click and scroll down for the images.)</a></p><p>The fact that nipple stimulation lit up the areas corresponding to the genitals as well as the chest area seemed to come as a surprise. <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20770-sex-on-the-brain-what-turns-women-on-mapped-out.html" target="_blank">Linda Geddes of New Scientist quotes</a> researcher Barry Komisaruk as saying, "When I tell my male neuroscientist colleagues about this, they say: 'Wow, that's an exception to the classical homunculus,'" he says. "But when I tell the women they say: 'Well, yeah?' It may help explain why a lot of women claim that nipple stimulation is erotic, he adds.”</p><p>Claim? </p><p>Anyway, those images are pretty spiffy, and they're ripe for a new line of greeting cards. Valentine's Day is coming and those hearts and cherubs need a break. </p><p><strong>3. In what part of the brain do we find the “Not tonight, honey" headache?</strong></p><p>It was a comic trope of the olden days for women who didn’t want sex to opt out due to headache, but it turns out migraine sufferers seem to have a higher libido than other sufferers. <a href="http://www.livescience.com/10533-tonight-honey-migraine.html" target="_blank">LiveScience reported on a 2006</a> study from the Wake Forest School of Medicine which found that people who suffer from migraine headaches reported a sex drive about 20% higher than those prone to regular tension headaches. The key might be the neurotransmitter serotonin. High serotonin levels are associated with low libido; the researchers reported that migraine sufferers had low serotonin levels. And <a href="http://headaches.about.com/lw/Health-Medicine/Alternative-treatments/How-Sex-May-Relieve-Migraine-Pain.htm" target="_blank">About.com reports</a> that a 2001 survey of women who had sex during migraines 30% noticed a decrease in pain, 5.3% said the pain increased, and 17.5% reported the pain went away. </p><p>It’s hard to believe anyone can have sex during a migraine, but for that 17.5% it sounds like the traditional “Go to bed,” advice worked out pretty nicely (even if "and get some rest" wasn't part of it). </p><p><strong>4. Considering all the kinds of headaches it causes rather than cures, why do we even have sex in the first place? </strong></p><p><a href="http://www.drshrand.com/" target="_blank">Dr. Joseph Shrand</a> is an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. (He also happens to be<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzlmZa20MLU" target="_blank"> Joe from the TV show <em>Zoom!</em></a> -- if you’re a '70s kid that brought on some of the feel-good chemistry we’re going to talk about in a minute.) Shrand has a wonderfully concise way of explaining why we let ourselves in for the sturm und drang of sex. When we describe love and sexual passion “we use the word 'intoxicating' and that’s a very important word,” Shrand said in a phone interview. “There is <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/dopamine" target="_blank">dopamine </a>involved in that sort of lustful attraction,” a neurotransmitter associated with excitement, reward, desire, pleasure and in some case <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-wise/201209/why-were-all-addicted-texts-twitter-and-google" target="_blank">addiction</a>. </p><p>“When we are falling in love with someone all we can think about is that person…it’s a remarkable, remarkable feeling and it’s a pleasure. There’s huge biological significance to that. If we didn’t feel pleasure when we have sex we wouldn’t have babies. I mean, can you imagine is sex was really uncomfortable and horrible and not reinforcing? Why would you do it?”</p><p>Search me.</p><p>“The orgasm is pleasurable as a way of saying 'We want to do this again!' You want to do this as often as you can and if you don’t have somebody to do it with you’ll figure out how to do it anyway,” all of which he says is adaptive because it’s how we get our genes into the next generation.</p><p>The trick, Shrand says, is getting your <a href="http://biology.about.com/od/anatomy/a/aa042205a.htm" target="_blank">limbic system</a>, an ancient part of your brain which is the seat of those primal drives and emotions, to work with your “new brain,” the more evolved neocortex that helps you consider causes and consequences. “You have to be able to shift gears in your prefrontal cortex and make a plan,” a plan to get that person, to keep that person, to understand the consequences of what you’re doing, which isn’t easy when your brain is “overwhelmed by dopamine and lust,” he says. “It’s amazing we have relationships at all.” </p><p>But dopamine alone won’t bind you to someone. That’s the province of oxytocin, which has been called “<a href="http://www.divinecaroline.com/22188/96162-cuddle-hormone-lesser-known-effects-oxytocin" target="_blank">the cuddle hormone</a>." Oxytocin creates a feeling of warmth, security, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/love-drug-oxytocin-cuddle-chemical-scientists-makes-mothers/story?id=15330910%23.UOzdVpjK0UU" target="_blank">bonding</a> and trust. “It’s a much deeper, more powerful and more modern part of love,” Shrand says, “because oxytocin is a much more complicated chemical which implies it’s really relatively more recent than [a simple one like] dopamine.” So when you find yourself in the grip of lust versus logic, that may well be the primal brain and brain chemistry arguing with the more modern parts. It’s real and we all go through it. Hopefully that raised your oxytocin enough to feel a little better about the whole crazy mess. </p><p><strong>5. The downside to bonding: getting stuck.</strong></p><p>If our brains are so smart why do they let us attach to people who might not be so great for us? <a href="http://www.redlands.edu/academics/college-of-arts-sciences/undergraduate-studies/psychology/2212.aspx" target="_blank">Catherine Salmon</a>, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Redlands, says the answer might have something to do with oxytocin, that very same chemical that creates those feelings of warmth and security. It sounds great, right? So how could something so good make us stick with people who aren’t? </p><p>“Oxytocin is not only released during birth and breastfeeding but also during orgasm,” Salmon wrote via email. “As a result, you feel more attached to the guy who you shared that orgasm with, which is great if he's a good mate choice but maybe not so much if you're Rhianna and he's Chris Brown. He may be a good lover but poor dad material, and yet you'll be attached to him and perhaps stick with the relationship longer than you should.”</p><p>So if you hear <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WWjG5U8rjA" target="_blank">Dionne Warwick</a> when he walks into the room and your friends -- who didn’t share an oxytocin moment with him -- hiss like wet cats, you may be seeing the situation through oxytocin-colored glasses (I have so many if I buy another pair I get the next one free).  </p><p><strong>6. There’s a reason people shout “Oh, God!”</strong></p><p>Sexual relationships are powerful enough to feel like spiritual experiences and there may well be a good reason for that. From <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Scientific-American-Book-Love-Brain/dp/0470647787" target="_blank">The Scientific American Book of Love, Sex and the Brain</a></em> by Judith Horstman and Scientific American: </p><blockquote><p>“Jefferson University neuroscientist Andrew Newberg scanned the brains of praying Catholic nuns and meditating Buddhist monks and found some overlap between their neural activity and that of sexually aroused subjects (as seen in scans from other researchers). The correlation makes sense, according to Newberg. Just as sex involves a rhythmic activity so do religous practices such as chanting, dancing and repetition of a mantra. Religous experiences produce sensations of bliss, transcendence beyond one’s self and unity with the loved one that is very like the ecstasy of orgasm. That may be why some mystics, such as St. Teresa, describe their rapture with romantic or even sexual language.”</p></blockquote><p>The book also notes that another study found that thinking about God and religion goes on in various parts of the brain, including the same areas we use to think about mundane experiences. No single "God spot" has been pinpointed in the brain. So you'll have to settle for the other G spot a little lower down. </p><p><strong>7. Testosterone: The puppet master</strong>.</p><p>Speaking of heavenly, let’s talk about male anatomy for a moment. Wonderful though it is, it has its share of headaches and this certainly sounds like one. Oxytocin may keep us attached in ways we normally wouldn’t want to be, but testosterone has men doing things they don’t even know they’re doing, like getting erections. According to Louann Brizendine in <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Male-Brain-Louann-Brizendine/dp/0767927540/ref=la_B001H6RZB8_1_2?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1357706913&amp;sr=1-2" target="_blank"><em>The Male Brain</em>,</a> “These reflexive erections are different from true sexual arousal because they come from unconscious signals from his spinal cord and brain, not from a conscious desire to have sex. The testosterone receptors that live on the nerve cells in a man’s spinal cord, testicles, penis, and brain are what activate his entire sexual network. Women are surprised that the penis can operate on autopilot and even more surprised that men don’t always know when they’re getting an erection….We women often notice the rising tide before he does.”</p><p>We notice because we care. </p><p><strong>8. So testosterone is pretty powerful; does it ever relax its kung-fu grip on a guy?</strong></p><p>Indeed it does. Marlene Zuk, professor of ecology, dvolution and behavior at the University of Minnesota, notes in her forthcoming book <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Really-Tells-about-ebook/dp/B007Q6XM1A%C2%A0%0Ahttp://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Really-Tells-about-ebook/dp/B007Q6XM1A%C2%A0%0Ahttp://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Really-Tells-about-ebook/dp/B007Q6XM1A" target="_blank">Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet and How We Live</a></em> that “conventional wisdom holds that men are unreliable long-term mates” because they’re always questing for new partners, but “what if the urge to find a new mate is ameliorated by the experience of fatherhood itself?”</p><p>In a long-term study of 600 men in the Philippines, anthropologist Lee Gettler of Northwestern University measured the men’s testosterone and predicted those with higher testosterone levels at the start of the study would become “partnered fathers” by the follow-up, four and a half years later. And he was right.</p><p>“But then something interesting happened,” Zuk writes. “The fathers showed a dramatic decline in testosterone compared with both their own single, pre-paternal levels, as well as the levels of the men who had remained single. What is more, testosterone was lowest in those men who spent at least three hours a day caring for their son or daughter, after controlling for the effects of sleep loss and other variables.”</p><p>“This study is illuminating for several reasons,” Zuk writes. First off, the same men being re-measured, instead of fathers being compared to single men, allows for fewer variables. Second “it indicates a finely tuned back-and-forth between a person’s physiology and behavior. Cues from the environment can influence fathers’ hormone levels as well as those of mothers. The scientists suggest that while seeking a mate requires characteristics that may be antithetical to being a good father, it is, in fact, possible to have it all, and testosterone acts as the mediator.”</p><p>Finally, Zuk writes "As Peter Gray, an anthropologist at the University of Nevada, pointed out in a commentary accompanying the article, the research serves as a nice case study of the relevance of evolution to everyday human life. The trade-off between mating and parenting is one that is predicted by evolutionary theory, and it means that a longing for new sexual partners might not be part of our heritage.”</p><p><strong>9. And you thought your new iPhone was fast.</strong></p><p>In 2008, doctors Stephanie Ortigue and Francesco Bianchi-Demicheli found that it took .02 seconds for the brain to register a person in a swimsuit photo as desirable or undesirable. At that speed you’d think it would go “zip!” from the parts that process visuals to the higher parts that make decisions. It did go that way sometimes, but sometimes those higher functioning parts started responding very early, <a href="http://discovermagazine.com/2009/oct/10-where-does-sex-live-in-brain-from-top-to-bottom%23.UOyjdJjK0UU" target="_blank">writes Carl Zimmer in Discover magazine</a>. Those higher parts, that handle self-awareness and empathy, might be instructing the eyes on who is attractive and telling the emotional centers how to feel about them. </p><p>Yep: the most important decision of your life might have started as a Quick Pick.</p><p><strong>10. So my brain looks, debates and decides, like on American Idol?</strong></p><p>Right down to the three conferring panelists. </p><p><a href="http://healthland.time.com/2012/11/08/how-speed-dating-works-in-the-brain/" target="_blank">Time magazine’s Maia Salavitz reports</a> that in a study done on speed dating by <a href="http://www.jneurosci.org/content/32/45/15647.abstract" target="_blank">Trinity College in Ireland</a>, male and female subjects were hooked up to an MRI machine and asked to judge potential candidates by photograph before the 5-minute speed-date meeting. The people they thought they’d like and the people they actually asked out matched up 63% of the time to the people they wanted to ask out after the 5-minute date, writes <a href="http://www.livescience.com/24593-brain-love-dating-decisions.html" target="_blank">Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience</a> and researchers found out what part of the brains were fired up during that initial decision-making process.  </p><p>First, Salavitz reports, we have a twofer, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, which contains two sub-regions: one that judges attractiveness, the other that judges what’s attractive to you, though not necessarily to everyone else (that’s the restromedial prefrontal cortex or rmPFC). The first is what tells me “Ryan Gosling is handsome,” and the second tells me “But <a href="http://www.tressugar.com/Do-Tell-Whos-Your-Favorite-Ugly-Hot-Guy-3456603" target="_blank">I still prefer Benicio del Toro</a>.”</p><p>The people who got the most positive response aroused the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, “an area that has previously been found to react to appealing faces,” writes Salavitz, but that didn’t mean those people got asked out.</p><p>Maybe that’s the rmPFC butting in and saying “Just cuz she’s cute doesn’t mean she’s for you."</p><p>And that’s why they have three judges on "American Idol."</p><p>These are just a few of the ways your brain is trying to guide you through the awesomely complicated world of lust and romance. It might not look like the sexiest body part, but it really is. Which body part do you think came up with "<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1ArZEFwRsY" target="_blank">Love to Love You Baby</a>"?</p> Tue, 23 Dec 2014 07:00:00 -0800 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1029159 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sex orgasm men women brain science 9 Dumb Things People Say When They Hear You Don't Want Kids (And How to Counter Them) http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/9-dumb-things-people-say-when-they-hear-you-dont-want-kids-and-how-counter <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Some of us choose not to have children—and for good reason.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_152335139.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>It's been about ten years since anyone asked me, "Why don't you have kids?"</p><p>"Just lucky, I guess," was my response then (it was a kid who asked me), and my friends and colleagues just know it's a non-issue, like you wouldn't ask Woody Allen if he'd like to go camping.</p><p>The subject has been in my thoughts, though, ever since I realized that I'm about to turn 50, which means that not being a celebrity, my chances of reproducing are now Olsen-twin thin. The realization that my fertility was a closed issue made me feel a bit like I did when they retired the Concorde: It wasn't likely I'd ever use it, but it was nice to know it was there.</p><p>Now if this were a movie, this would fling me into crisis mode -- I imagine Sandra Bullock having a comical panic attack, to bouncy-but-urgent music, and hatching a crazy plan to go the turkey-baster route with her gay BFF (played by Matt Damon). Of course, there would be happy endings all around, including an infant so cute she would make a basket of kittens look like Keith Richards.</p><p>But I didn't panic. I felt relieved and actually enjoy my friends' kids more now that the threat of motherhood had passed. I had occasional baby cravings in my 20s and 30s but curbed them like you would a yen for chocolate or cigarettes.</p><p>I never wanted kids the way some women do and I decided I wouldn't have one unless I got really rich, and since I didn't, I didn't.</p><p>Money plays a part in a lot of women's decisions. The U.S. birth rate recently dropped by 2 percent, <a href="http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1925944,00.html"><em>Time</em> magazine says</a>, possibly because women are worried about having kids in this economy; it costs about $221,000 to raise one for 17 years (sadly, though, the story says, the economy is also making some of them skimp on contraception).</p><p>So, done. Curtain. And now a moment to stretch my legs before starting the last act.</p><p>Wanting kids isn't just the social norm, it's said to be a biological imperative, the only supposed "duh" of evolution, so I know my lack of sentiment isn't especially mainstream. I listen to people rhapsodize about parenthood, that it's so fulfilling and the greatest job in the world and good for them -- the more happiness in the world, the better.</p><p>Then I see parents at Target -- with one kid screaming in the cart, one screaming in their arms -- looking as blissful as a cat in a dryer. And I remember to take my pill.</p><p>Maybe because I was raised in the '70s heyday of feminism, or maybe ambivalence toward breeding is innate (Madelyn Cain's 2001 book <em>The Childless Revolution: What It Means to be Childless Today,</em> touches on the <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=pAOdGgqeploC&amp;pg=PA25&amp;lpg=PA25&amp;dq=madelyn+cain+mest+gene&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=smL1-EPOfq&amp;sig=5Yn1DrJ1UvSWjF7nZwdC0MvlcpM&amp;hl=en&amp;ei=L133SrinItWX8Aa0oajzCQ&amp;sa=X&amp;oi=book_result&amp;ct=result&amp;resnum=1&amp;ved=0CAgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&amp;q=&amp;f=false">Mest gene</a> in mice, which seemed to determine their levels of maternal behavior), but I never felt fazed by social pressure in my decision.</p><p>Now, in the interest of people who are made to feel defensive about their choice to be childless, and those who put them there, here are "Nine Things People Say When They Hear You Don't Want Kids" (and ways I've found to counter them).</p><p><strong>1. Aren't you worried about ending up old and lonely?</strong></p><p>No. When Mel Brooks, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TB2S4hzYdAk">playing the 2,000-year-old man</a>, joked that "I have over 1,500 children and not one comes to visit me on a Sunday," he had a point: There's no guarantee that kids will be there for you in your old age. Plus, the <a href="http://news.ufl.edu/2003/04/17/childlessness/">University of Florida has shown</a> that the idea of the lonely, childless senior is flat not true.</p><p>University of Florida sociology professor Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox's 2003 study concluded that there's no higher rate of depression or loneliness among childless seniors. Of the 3,800 people between the ages of 50 and 84 who were surveyed about loneliness, responses didn't vary much between those who had kids and those who didn't. According to the University of Florida report:</p><blockquote><p>"One reason is that some people without children are able to maintain social ties throughout their lives that may substitute for what children would have given them, Koropeckyj-Cox said. They may do this with friends, work relationships or the younger generation, she said."</p></blockquote><p>As for those seniors who did have kids, it was how well they got along that mattered, not just the fact that they were family.</p><p><strong>2. "But you'd have such great kids!"</strong></p><p>Thanks! But that's what everyone thinks! You know damn well they're not all right!</p><p><strong>3. "But you'd be such a great mom!"</strong></p><p>That's nice, dear ... have a cookie. While some people simply adore kids, others of us are better at providing wise <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Jc94PAGFZc&amp;feature=related">Mrs. Garrett-style comfort</a>. If you're a good listener, there are already plenty of kids and adults who could use your empathy.</p><p>"It's a completely overused sentiment, but it takes a village," says Jenn Cole, a self-employed graphic designer from San Francisco, who can't wait to give her support as the "cool auntie" but has no interest in being Mom.</p><p>"In this increasingly complex world, kids need lots of adults in their lives. This used to be covered through extended-family networks and close-knit communities," she writes in an e-mail, adding that she cherished the outside influences of teachers, neighbors and mentors. "I will never forget the ballet teacher that helped me find my own beauty in movement, or the English teacher who got me deeply into literature, or the religion teacher who subtly echoed my questioning, or the old lady up the street who taught me to bake cookies and was so different from my mean and bitter grandmother. I can't wait to be these things to my friends' kids," she says.</p><p>Indeed, what would any of our parents have done without outside support?</p><p><strong>4. Don't you want a family?</strong></p><p>I was raised in a family. That was plenty.</p><p>Seriously, some people just don't function well in traditional families, which are like albums -- there are only two tracks you like, but you have to buy the whole damn record. Some of us just work better a la carte.</p><p><strong>5. "But they're so cute!"</strong></p><p>This is a topping good reason to buy a <a href="http://www.kittyhell.com/2007/11/04/hello-kitty-vibrator-reborn/">Hello Kitty "vibrator,"</a> but to bring a whole new person into existence?</p><p>"Ten years ago, I did this children's festival," says a close friend who is a parent and a teacher, "and there were these vendors, and on this one tote bag there was a poem about the beauty and innocence of children and how wonderful the world was because of children. I said to her 'You don't have kids, do you?' And she said 'No, but I really want them.'</p><p>"One of the pluses of not having children is being able to maintain this idealism that human beings are innocent."</p><p>This woman is as good with kids as anyone you'll ever meet, but not because they're angels.</p><p>"I love kids, but not because they're nice," she says, adding that they're actually downright mean at times. "Don't have a kid thinking they're going to make you feel better about yourself.</p><p>"They're more real. They haven't built up the bullshit meter yet, so you know where you're coming from all the time."</p><p>She loves them, she says, because they're people, and she loves people.</p><p>And they're their own people. Don't have a kid if what you want is a Mini-Me.</p><p>"When we have a kid, there's the idea that somehow ... they're going to represent us in the world, and they're going to love us unconditionally ... that's the reason people have kids. If you knew the moment you had them you had to let them go, who would have kids?"</p><p><strong>6. "But it's natural."</strong></p><p>It's amazing how selective our society is about the "natural" things we promote versus the ones we scowl at. Nudity is natural -- and banned. Hunting is certainly more natural than shopping, but most people wouldn't kill a pig to get a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baconator">Baconator</a>.</p><p><strong>7. "It's a woman's greatest achievement."</strong></p><p>Producing a spin-off could well be the greatest achievement of a lot of people, but just because your contributions don't get diaper rash doesn't mean you haven't made any.</p><p>Some notable childless achievers: Jesus Christ, Julia Child, Oprah Winfrey, George Washington, Amelia Earhart, Rock Hudson, George Clooney, the Dalai Lama, Dr. Seuss, Margaret Mitchell, Katharine Hepburn, Jay Leno and Helen Mirren. Mirren was traumatized by an educational film on childbirth as a teen, saying (quoted<a href="http://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/relationship-issues/articles/child-free-celebs">here in <em>Marie Claire</em></a>): "I haven't had children, and now I can't look at anything to do with childbirth. It absolutely disgusts me."</p><p><strong>8. "You'll change your mind."</strong></p><p>Now that I'm old, no one can say this to me anymore, but if anyone says it to you, Grasshopper, just return their condescending smile and say that one day they'll change their mind about their partner, career choice, spiritual predilections or any other extraordinarily personal element of their lives. See how they like it.</p><p><strong>9. "You should have at least one of your own."</strong></p><p>This is one of my favorites, as though kids were canapés or raffle tickets that would be gone by the time the party is over instead of people who require care, feeding and lots and lots of things.</p><p>"When I see babies, not only do I see the beauty, joy and miracle of life, I also see nappies, landfill waste, vast amounts of food and money needed, and a very shaky, unpredictable future," <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7759845.stm">Joanna Benn</a> wrote for the <em>BBC Science &amp; Environment</em> blog when she was an independent on the whys and whethers of having kids. She now works for the United Nations Environmental Program, but gave permission to quote her past work, where she also noted the U.N. projections that "the world population will nearly stabilize at just above 10 billion people after 2200."</p><p>Overpopulation is the <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090418075752.htm">greatest threat</a> to our environment, according to a recent survey of professors at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. In a story in <em>Science Daily</em>, systems ecologist Charles Hall called it "the only problem."</p><p>A study by Oregon State University says that the carbon imprint of child born in the U.S. now is 20 times as important as the other eco-savvy measures a parent might take, like recycling or driving a hybrid vehicle (the carbon emissions in America, with our consumer-based lifestyle and longer life spans, is higher than in many other countries).</p><p>The choice of whether to have kids is such an intensely personal one that it seems weirdly disproportionate to literally put the weight of the world on one's shoulders when considering it; it's at least self-satisfying to know that my choice was a green one, albeit by accident.</p><p>Finally, it's less what we do to the world as what the world is capable of doing to us that also made me leery of bringing anyone into a place this tough. You have to be an optimist to have kids, and I'm more your neurotic emotional claustrophobe. At least I know it; I also know, unshakably, that I made the right choice.</p><p>And choice is what it comes down to in the end -- a simple to each his own, without either side passing judgment on the other for the most important and personal decision of all.</p> Mon, 01 Dec 2014 19:48:00 -0800 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1027968 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Environment Gender Sex & Relationships pregnancy children kids childless 9 Reasons Not Having Kids Is the Best Decision I Ever Made http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/9-reasons-not-having-kids-best-decision-i-ever-made-0 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Some people feel their kids are their greatest achievement. For a long time I thought mine was not having any.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_206369614.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>“What’s your greatest achievement?”</p><p>That’s such a good question. It lets you dwell for a moment on the things you’ve got in the plus column of your life rather than the minus, which is where the weary adult mind spends so much of its time. Everyone has achieved something and what you consider your best work, your own personal Bohemian Rhapsody, could be anything: making fortunes, making friends, and of course, making babies. </p><p>Some people feel their kids are their greatest achievement. For a long time I thought mine was not having any. </p><p>Avoiding parenthood does feel like a triumph when you have social pressure, religion and a biological clock all pushing you in the direction of <a href="http://www.buybuybaby.com/" target="_blank">Buy Buy Baby</a>, to say nothing of babies themselves. Even as I write this, the World’s Cutest 18-Month Old is wheeled through Starbucks and the cool reserve of everyone in the room, myself included, dissolves like frigid vanilla ice cream under the relentless advance of hot fudge. Who can resist that level of precious? </p><p>I can! It’s something I’ve known most of my life but now that I’m pushing 50, I’ve never felt less judged about it, possibly because people stop asking about it when you get this old or possibly because people are more accepting about it than they once were.</p><p><a href="http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2148636,00.html" target="_blank">Lauren Sandler, writing in Time</a> in 2013, says that “the birth rate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history,” that the rate of women who remain childless has doubled since the '70s, from 10% to 20%, and that “women who choose not to become mothers are finding new paths of acceptance. As their ranks rise, so do positive attitudes about leading a life in which having it all doesn’t mean having a baby.”  </p><p>There are naysayers, of course, but it’s a fact that you will find people who will argue with you if you tell them that the sky is blue.</p><p>Since I’m at peace with the idea, and the world seems no longer interested, writing a story about why I’m relieved my life path didn’t detour at the maternity ward might seem unnecessary. Whether you’re in the loft or the pulpit, preaching to the choir can get awfully tedious. </p><p>Recently, though, when some friends started talking baby talk again, it shook me up a bit. Of course, I’ll support whatever my friends do, but it made me feel odd, a little too much like <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/17/world/asia/japan-philippines-ww2-soldier-dies/" target="_blank">Hiroo Onoda</a>, the Japanese soldier who stayed in the jungle for 30 years after WWII ended while everyone else got on with their lives. If I, who have been famously steadfast on this point could feel wobbly, maybe other people who are subject to pressures I’ve been largely immune to—parents, partners, culture and religion—could use a little validation, a little assurance. Here then are the nine reasons I’m relieved I never had kids and it’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to either. </p><p><strong>1. My mask has never felt secure. </strong>When you fly, you’re given safety instructions about how to use the oxygen mask that will drop down in front of you in the event of a crash. They always tell you to secure your mask before trying to help someone else. What they’re diplomatically trying to say is that if you’re a wreck you’re not going to be much help in a wreck. </p><p>This is the most choice metaphor imaginable for why I’m relieved I stuck to my decision not to have kids. My mask has never felt secure. In fact, I’ve been holding it together with gum I found in the seat pocket for a long time now, plus I think there’s lint in my air hose and I’m worried that the bag isn’t inflating. They said that might happen, but I find it troubling. Come to think of it, why hasn’t the safety lecture on planes changed in all these years? How old <em>is</em> this equipment? Dammit, my mask just rolled under my seat. How relieved are you now that I’m not shepherding any children along? Not half as relieved as I am. </p><p><strong>2. The buck stops here. </strong>The above passage should make it clear that I’m as neurotic as three George Costanzas. Sarah Silverman once talked about not wanting <a href="http://theweek.com/article/index/228756/is-it-irresponsible-for-the-depressed-to-have-children" target="_blank">to have children due to her depression</a>, saying, “I don’t think I’m strong enough to see that in a child.” I feel similar about my anxiety, for which I’ve had therapy and taken meds. Whether it comes from my genes or experience I wouldn’t want to pass it on any more than I would the flu.</p><p><strong>3. But there is one thing you’ll never hear me complain about. </strong>You know all the discomfort and pain pregnant women experience? I can’t say I feel I missed out on all that. </p><p><strong>4. There’s no one path to fulfillment. </strong>In <a href="http://blog.sfgate.com/mmagowan/2010/03/09/best-selling-author-elizabeth-gilbert-says-childless-women-are-just-fine/" target="_blank">excerpts from <em>Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage</em></a>, author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the fact that in any given society at any given time there are about 10% of women who never have kids. This group often acts as crucial support for exhausted or absent mothers. She calls it the "Auntie Brigade,” women who contributed to raising the likes of John Lennon, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Bronte sisters. </p><p>But raising your kids or someone else’s isn’t crucial to fulfillment.</p><p>“Women without children are perfectly capable of being happy,” Gilbert writes. “ What they’re often missing isn’t kids, but a society and a culture that values and respects them.”</p><p>This is as true a thing as I’ve ever read on the subject. Fulfillment, after all, is a feeling of a job well done, a sense of peace at having met a goal. What if your goal was not to have kids? Then congratulations if you stuck to your guns.</p><p><strong>5. Maternal instinct toward other adults. </strong>Helen Mirren has famously said she has no maternal instinct, though she didn’t rule out the idea of having children. Her take and the topic of childless women in general is <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/9847642/Helen-Mirren-confronts-the-final-female-taboo.html" target="_blank">nicely covered in this Telegraph piece by Sarah Rainey</a>. </p><p>When it comes to actual kids, I don’t have any maternal instinct either. It’s like my ovaries are tone-deaf. I’ve known my whole life motherhood wasn’t for me. At the moment I don’t even have any pets. I only have plants because someone keeps bringing them over. </p><p>I do, however, excel at being a free therapist/sounding board/pep club/second mom when my adult friends need it and am glad to be useful in that way. Some of the best mentors I’ve ever had were people without kids who were exceptionally gifted at guiding their colleagues.</p><p>Work is where a lot of people find their fulfillment, myself included. Writing is something you can do well into your doddering years and possibly improve at with age and experience. I’m relieved I’ve been able to do things I’m good at and didn’t try to be something I wasn’t.</p><p><strong>6. I’m not afraid to be alone. </strong>Let’s talk about those doddering years for a minute. People often assail the childless with comments like, “Who will take care of you when you’re old?”</p><p>“You were born to change my Depends,” isn’t a testimony to maternal warmth. It’s a horror movie. There’s nothing to say this hypothetical kid of mine wouldn’t be an utter flop as a caregiver, taxpayer and human being. Having children guarantees nothing. You can write all the scripts for people that you want; it doesn’t mean they’re going to take direction. </p><p><strong>7. There are no guarantees. </strong>I don’t think anyone goes into any great endeavor, whether love, work or parenthood, thinking, “Wow, I am really going to screw this up!” We begin with high hopes, good intentions and great expectations. But things change and for many of us our financial expectations have <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/16/real_estate/foreclosure-crisis/" target="_blank">changed in ways we never imagined</a>. </p><p>The <a href="http://www.fem2pt0.com/2013/08/02/having-it-all-without-having-children/" target="_blank">Time story</a> says that a child born in 2011 will cost $234,900 to raise and that’s only for 18 years—we all know parenthood goes on longer than that. In the fleeting times I did think of having children, financial solvency was my biggest prerequisite and for a long time I did quite well with it. My credit was once more sterling than Lady Grantham’s tea service. It never ever…ever… occurred to me that I’d have money troubles and credit issues so bad that if I married Oprah today she wouldn’t qualify for a boat loan tomorrow. I admire people who can take care of kids in tough times, but I’m relieved I was the only one I had to take care of when the financial hurricanes made landfall. </p><p>Speaking of Oprah, people often point to celebrities who don’t have kids as models of how fulfilled and successful a childfree life can be. That’s not a bad thing, but I worry that it reinforces a perceived elitism on the part of childfree people that I don’t think is true. Childfree people aren’t the self-absorbed, navel-gazing, jetsetters we are often cast as. We didn’t opt out of parenthood because we thought we’d be writing the Great American Novel on camel-back while crossing the Riviera and wouldn’t have time to go to the school play. When invitations are issued, most of us delighted to attend the school plays, graduations, and god help us, Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties of our friends’ kids. Just because we don’t want our own kids doesn’t mean we’re not happy for you when you have yours.</p><p>True, Scrooge was childless. So was Santa. </p><p><strong>8. It’s okay to doubt. </strong>Wondering whether you’ve made the right decision about having kids isn’t a bad thing; it’s a human thing. In fact scientists have just discovered a new region of our brains, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jan/28/grass-greener-brain-research-lateral-frontal-pole" target="_blank">the lateral frontal pole</a>, that helps us reflect on our decisions, probably so we make better ones next time. My being rattled about the kid issue after so many years is actually a good sign. It means my mind is still open. I’m still glad I stuck to my guns, but I’m also glad to know my mind isn’t painted shut. </p><p><strong>9. We are all doing the best we can</strong>. I have a Buddhist friend who, when I get irritable at others' shortcomings, reminds me that everyone is doing the best they can (it might not be his Buddhism that prompts this, just that he’s a good guy). Joseph Shrand, the author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Outsmarting-Anger-Strategies-Defusing-Dangerous/dp/1118135482" target="_blank">Outsmarting Anger: 7 Strategies for Defusing Our Most Dangerous Emotion </a>says the same thing: <a href="http://www.drshrand.com/blog/the-imax-approach-part-2/" target="_blank">everyone is doing their best </a>at any given moment, and our best changes from second to second. </p><p>It’s a bit miraculous how much more relatable people are when you think of them this way. I can’t speak for everyone who decides not to have kids, but I know it’s the best decision I could have made for myself. Those of us who opt out of having children often do so not because we take parenthood lightly, but because we take it so seriously. </p><p> </p> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 06:12:00 -0800 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1026622 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships kids marriage 10 Most Gruesome Creatures in Nature to Spook You This Halloween http://www.alternet.org/environment/10-most-gruesome-creatures-nature-spook-you-halloween <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">You&#039;ll need a shrink or a drink to help you with your nightmares after reading about these scary animals.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_226489315-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The supernatural reigns supreme on Halloween, but don’t sell Mother Nature short when it comes to the macabre. The natural world has some delightfully ghoulish creatures who don’t reserve their gruesome habits or wild looks to a single holiday.</p><p><a href="http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/author/llangley/">I’ve written</a> about many of these animals for National Geographic online, and sharing them makes me feel like a kid again. They are resourceful animals getting by in a tough world, just like us. It’s just that some of them might give Stephen King nightmares.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/l0dScmH8c5U" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>1. Coat of arms…and legs and heads.</strong></p><p>Assassin bugs kill by spearing their victims with needle-like mouthparts, shooting then up with paralytics and digestive juices and turning them into a buggy protein shake which the assassin sucks up. But one, <em>Acanthaspis petax,</em> reserves a special postm-ortem ritual for the ants that are their favorite prey: <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Acanthaspis_petax_nymph.jpg">they wear the corpses</a> piled on their backs.</p><p>Why they do this is a question scientists from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand took on in 2007, as <a href="http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2010/10/04/assassin-bugs-deceive-spiders-with-coat-of-many-corpses/">reported by National Geographic’s Ed Yong</a>. They pitted assassin bugs against one of their predators, jumping spiders. (Here’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0dScmH8c5U">video of coated and non-coated assassins</a>). The spiders were 10 times more likely to attack the naked assassin bugs—even dead ones—suggesting that the shape of the assassin is so effectively obscured by its corpse camo the spiders don’t recognize it as their usual prey and leave it alone. Another reason to wear ants: they come en masse and have nasty chemical defenses, so many insects don’t eat them.</p><p>Maybe one day they’ll turn up in beetle boots.</p><p><strong>2. The peeing, puking, cleaning crew.</strong></p><p>If you were to invent a Halloween bird you couldn’t do better than the turkey vulture, with its odd gait, bald head and ominous <a href="http://www.arkive.org/turkey-vulture/cathartes-aura/video-00.html">black wings</a>. And yet vultures (there are <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/633487/vulture">22 species</a>) don’t kill anything; they are scavengers who eat the corpses of animals killed by other things, like disease or accident.</p><p>As the <a href="http://www.nps.gov/miss/naturescience/turkeyvulture2.htm">National Park Service</a> points out, their dining habits help us out by ridding our fields and roads of rotting corpses that might expose us and other animals to disease. For a cleaning crew, however, vultures are hilariously messy. They urinate on their own legs, which, the <a href="http://www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/cwes/natureNavigator/Pages/months/september4.aspx">University of Wisconsin’s Nature Navigator reports</a>, helps them cool off and also sterilizes their legs and feet, helpful if you’re standing on rotting cadavers all day.</p><p>They also have a gross-tacular defense strategy: they vomit when threatened. The stink drives the interloper off and allows the vulture to make a quicker getaway.</p><p>Try it when someone starts to bore you at a Halloween party tonight.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Go_LIz7kTok" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>3. Zombie snail.</strong></p><p>The way some snails pulse and glow, you’d think they wanted to party all night long. Actually they’re the victims of some guests who won’t go away until they’re dead.</p><p>Snails of the genus <a href="http://idtools.org/id/mollusc/factsheet.php?name=Succineidae"><em>Succinea</em></a> pick up the parasite <em><a href="http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Leucochloridium_paradoxum/">Leucochloridium paradoxum</a></em> from eating delicious bird droppings on the forest floor. Once inside the snail, the parasite does two things: 1) it pushes its way up into the snail's thin tentacles, turning them into thick, white, pulsing beacons that look like vibrating maggots; and 2) it bends the will of the snail, making it crawl up into high branches where it becomes visible to birds which the parasite needs as its next host.</p><p>A bird mistake the snail’s tentacles for maggots and eat it, taking in the parasite which matures in the bird's gut. The bird poops out parasite eggs which another hapless snail eats and the parasite cycle continues on.</p><p>This <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go_LIz7kTok">NatGeo video</a> of the whole grisly procedure is probably one of the best zombie flicks you’ll ever see. </p><p><strong>4. Voldemort would be proud.</strong></p><p>The Harry Potter books were the birthplace of some dark, imaginary creatures, like the dementors, who drain human beings of all hope and happiness, effectively imprisoning them in their own misery.</p><p>As professor Michael Sharkey of the University of Kentucky pointed out in the <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-dementor-wasp-new-species-of-insect-that-can-turn-cockroaches-into-zombies-named-after-harry-potter-character-9331583.html">Independent</a>, “what is considered a fantasy among humans, the dementors of Harry Potter, is a reality in the world of insects.”</p><p>IFL Science reports that in a public vote, <a href="http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0095068">described in the journal PLoS One</a>, a species of wasp in Thailand was named after J.K. Rowling’s ominous creature. The <em>Ampulex Dementor</em>wasp enslaves cockroaches by stinging the roach directly in the brain and filling it up with neurotoxins that cause the roach to submit to the wasp’s will. The docile roach allows itself to be led to the wasp’s nest where it is turned into a nursery: the wasp lays its eggs inside the roach and the wasp larvae eat its carcass until they grow up and leave.</p><p>Now <em>that</em> is a roach motel.</p><p><strong>5. The world’s biggest spider.</strong></p><p>Arachnophobes, come no further: a puppy-sized spider is running all over the Internet. It’s probably on your computer right now!</p><p>Not to worry: the massive tarantula, commonly called the goliath birdeater (though it only occasionally eats birds), inhabits the rain forests of South America, so it's unlikely to turn up in your shoe.</p><p>Still, it merits placement on the Halloween creatures list, and not just by virtue of its size, though the outsized one that made headlines recently, reported by an entomologist at Harvard, was about a foot long. In general they can get up to six ounces.</p><p>If their size wasn’t daunting enough, they’ve got some interesting weapons at their disposal. According to a <a href="http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/10/20/biggest-spiders-animals-science-tarantulas-south-america/">video piece on National Geographic</a>, they are covered with stinging bristles which they can release by rubbing their legs together. Their fangs can get up to an inch long—many locals like to roast the tarantulas and then use the fangs to clean their teeth. Says NatGeo, “It’s not often that your dinner comes with built-in toothpicks."</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/NYRr_MrjebA" width="420"></iframe></p><p><strong>6. The real sea hag.</strong></p><p>When <a href="http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/vertebrates/basalfish/myxini.html">UC Berkeley</a> describes an animal as "<a href="http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=lovecraftian">Lovecraftian</a>,” you know it’s gotta be, to quote <a href="http://Bob’s Burgers, gross-great.">Bob’s Burgers, gross-great.</a> "Enter the hagfish. </p><p>This primitive, eel-like creature has three hearts, but no eyes, jaw, or stomach. Its mouth has two tentacles around it and it feeds by attaching its “tongue-like projection,” equipment onto dead or dying fish on the sea floor, which it devours from the inside out, sometimes making the dead fish appear to be throbbing or moving. <a href="http://www.wired.com/2011/03/hagfish-skin-eating/" style="font-size: 12px;">Susan Milius of <em>Wired</em></a> reports that they may also absorb nutrients through their gills and skin.</p><p>When a hagfish is alarmed (perhaps by a mirror because, well, <a href="http://outdoorlife.blogs.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/2007/03/27/hagfish_mouth_3.jpg">look at it</a>), it oozes a thick slime which occasionally fills up its nostrils, prompting a slime sneeze. In this <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYRr_MrjebA">video</a> with a tankful of hagfish, you can see, at about 3:50 exactly how strong this excrescence is. Kind of like a paper towel commercial if the product were made of snot.</p><p><strong>7. When two…or four…or six…become one.</strong></p><p>If someone is going to compare your sex life to a movie you probably wouldn’t want the genre to be sci-fi.</p><p>Good thing you’re not an anglerfish, a bony fish that is literally light-headed: it has a luminous protrusion that comes out of the top of its head to lure the little fishies toward it. </p><p>I’ve written about <a href="http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/penis-fencing-10-weirdest-facts-about-sex-animal-kingdom?page=0%252C0">their bizarre sex lives</a>before. The female angler is quite a big larger than the male and his way of mating is to bite into her side and hang on for dear life, or dear death because that’s what happens to him…kind of. <a href="http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/anglerfish/">As described on National Geographic</a>, when the male bites into the female he begins to fuse with her, flesh melting into flesh, until he becomes nothing more than a sperm reserve for her to use when she’s ready to breed.</p><p>It’s called sexual parasitism. You can make your own “ex” joke right about here.</p><p><strong>8. Parasite got your tongue?</strong></p><p>As we’ve already seen, no undercover agent, party crasher, or human infiltrator of any kind has a thing on parasites for sneaky ways of getting themselves into the party.</p><p>The horse botfly, for example, lays its eggs on a horse’s coat, which the horse finds so annoying it will lick or bite them off. <a href="http://www.equine-world.co.uk/horses_care/bot_fly_infestations.asp">Equine Health UK</a> describes how this stimulation makes those eggs hatch and the larval botflies burrow into the horse’s mouth—gums, tongue, cheeks—for about a month (causing no evident discomfort to the horse) until they travel to the stomach where they attach themselves to the stomach lining. Eventually they pass out through the manure into mature flies...which lay their eggs on a horse’s coat. And here we go again.</p><p>Botflies are a common horse pest according to <a href="http://equimed.com/health-centers/general-care/articles/bot-fly-a-common-horse-pest">EquiMed</a> and can cause dental irritation ulcers and esophageal paralysis. And possibly cases of horses screaming, “Get it off me! Get it off me!” in their heads.</p><p><strong>9. Parasite</strong><em><strong>is</strong></em><strong>your tongue.</strong></p><p>While all these animals are undeniably Halloween winners, my personal favorite is a little isopod. <a href="http://invertebrates.si.edu/isopod/photogallery/index.html">Isopods</a> are small creatures that live on land and sea; if you played with <a href="http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/invertebrates/isopod/Pillbugprintout.shtml">pill bugs</a> when you were a kid you know what they are.</p><p>Those isopods were cute and funny. These isopods are hideous, body-snatching face hitchhikers. The <a href="http://australianmuseum.net.au/blogpost/Science/Ouch">marine isopod</a>, <em>Cymothoa exigua,</em>is also known as the tongue biter, because when it's a little larval thing it swims into the gills of a fish and latches, with its grappling-hook legs, onto the fish’s tongue. It sucks the blood out of it and eventually eats the whole tongue away, but stays latched where it is, in the fish’s mouth, in effect becoming a replacement tongue and continuing to parasitize the fish. You can see them—and their cousins, the giant isopods, easily the size of a full grown cat—<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00msplz">on this BBC video</a>.</p><p>Talk about being somebody’s mouthpiece.</p><p><strong>10. Parasites: they’re all in your head.</strong></p><p>There is another type of botfly: the human botfly. As <a href="http://listverse.com/2011/05/24/top-10-william-castle-film-gimmicks/">William Castle</a> might have said, the squeamish among you should leave <em>now!</em></p><p>Native to Central and South America, the female human botfly sticks her eggs to mosquitos (call it ovi-decoupage) which then bite humans; the warmth of our skin causes the botfly eggs to hatch and either fall into the mosquito bite, hair follicles or other cuts, <a href="http://www.google.com/url?url=http://www.wired.com/2013/10/absurd-creature-of-the-week-botfly/&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;sa=U&amp;ei=g9BOVMzYNerZsATcpYGoDg&amp;ved=0CBQQFjAA&amp;sig2=OKsTHPgTJl_FzYHkiGHz6g&amp;usg=AFQjCNGWxSezvY-HobfsZXhTnn8DLJhG7A">writes Matt Simon of</a><em><a href="http://www.google.com/url?url=http://www.wired.com/2013/10/absurd-creature-of-the-week-botfly/&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;sa=U&amp;ei=g9BOVMzYNerZsATcpYGoDg&amp;ved=0CBQQFjAA&amp;sig2=OKsTHPgTJl_FzYHkiGHz6g&amp;usg=AFQjCNGWxSezvY-HobfsZXhTnn8DLJhG7A">Wired</a>.</em></p><p>And there it lives and grows, leaving a little hole in your skin so it can breathe, feeding on your exudate (a fluid rich in protein and cell debris produced when you get an inflammation, like a botfly, so at least it kind of brings its own lunch). Simon describes a girl who heard a crunching sound when she wasn’t eating: guess who came to dinner…right behind her ear?</p><p>A botfly will stick with you, causing pain and irritation—and a life episode you should not put on your Match.com profile—for about two months, unless you remove it first, which can be a tricky business.</p><p><a href="http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/problems/medical/skin-parasite7.htm">HowStuffWorks.com</a> offers this gruesome bon mot about botfly removal: “One method involves placing raw meat over the hole. When the maggot is unable to breathe, it burrows out into the meat.”</p><p>I’m going to recommend either a shrink or a drink to help you with your nightmares. Happy Halloween!</p> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 08:18:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1025247 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment creatures parasites assassin bugs turkey vulture human bot fly hag fish snails tarantula 10 Interesting Facts About Sperm http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/10-interesting-facts-about-sperm-0 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Can you name another cell that&#039;s been played in a movie by Woody Allen? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_128623430-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Sperm may be sort of funny looking -- <a href="http://woody%20allen%20played%20one%20in%20his%20film%20everything%20you%20ever%20wanted%20to%20know%20about%20sex%20but%20were%20afraid%20to%20ask.%20zoidberg%20rode%20one%20on%20a%20fantastic%20voyage%20style%20episode%20of%20futurama.%20and%20the%20monty%20python%20boys%20did%20one%20of%20the%20most%20beloved%20and%20memorable%20songs%20about%20them%20in%20the%20history%20of%20the%20movie%20musical.%20sperm.%20/" target="_blank">like tadpoles in a panic</a> -- but it's a lot more complex and interesting than one might imagine. No other cell (to my knowledge) has been <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djQ7WZlb140" target="_blank">played by Woody Allen</a>, ridden <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmjYodDqNAk" target="_blank">by Zoidberg</a> on a Fantastic Voyage-type episode of Futurama or honored in <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUspLVStPbk" target="_blank">a memorable movie musical by Monty Python</a>. But how much do you know about these little wigglers on which the survival of your species depends? Well, you’re about to learn a little more.</p><p><strong>1. Of course he did</strong></p><p>Sperm was first discovered in 1677 by a Dutch microscope maker who used one thing of his own making to examine something else of his own making. <a href="http://http//www.livescience.com/23845-sexy-swimmers-sperm-facts.html" target="_blank">LiveScience writes</a> that Antony van Leeuwenhoek reported looking under a microscope and seeing tiny “animalcules” (an archaic term for tiny animals) in a sample of his own semen…semen, he made sure to note, which was an excess from actual sex and not just masturbation. </p><p><strong>2. How sweet it isn’t </strong></p><p>In a piece called Semen Physiology <a href="http://www.news-medical.net/health/Semen-Physiology.aspx" target="_blank">Anaya Mandal on News-Medical Ne</a>t says that due to fructose that gets in the mix, semen “tastes slightly sweet.” Far be it for me to argue with a doctor but lemme just say there is a reason a company called Sweet Release went to the trouble of creating <a href="http://www.sweetrelease.com/10.cfm?oID=1" target="_blank">a product meant to make semen taste like apple pie</a>: because it doesn’t already taste a thing like apple pie or anything else you’ll find for sale in a bakery. Dr. Mandal does say that the taste of semen can change according to a man’s diet and here you can see a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1k1Dy1mVeQ" target="_blank">BBC video of a taste test </a>the esteemed news outlet did wherein men switched their diets to see if their wives could taste a difference.</p><p>This would come in handy for the female of a species of Ulidid fly,  Euxesta bilimeki, which not only expels sperm after mating: they eat it. <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130411110100.htm" target="_blank">Science Daily reports</a> on a study from the Instituto de Ecologia in Mexico reported on in the journal Behavior Ecology and Social Biology: 100% of the female flies expelled ejaculate after mating and 25% of those had no sperm left after this expulsion. The theory is that this allows females to choose which males they actually want to father their progeny since it seems they’re able to choose how much sperm to expel, all or just some. (Interestingly, the longer courtship the more likely she is to give all his sperm the heave-ho, leading researchers to think the females in these cases just give in to his advances rather than having to keep rejecting him and then just making sure he’s not the father of her fly babies.)</p><p>After experiments in which female flies were given varying diets to see if there was some nutritional reason they were eating the ejaculate, researchers think the reason might be because it provides fluids, since this breed of flies live in very arid areas. Maybe it just tastes like apple pie.</p><p><strong>3. Little sneakers</strong></p><p id="bookmark">Another way of taste-testing sperm, as a Korean diner discovered to the world’s horror, is by eating squid that is parboiled and undercooked. The <a href="http://io9.com/5921501/how-exactly-could-a-squid-inseminate-your-mouth" target="_blank">squid sperm that tried to inseminate a woman’s mouth</a> was an Internet sensation a few years back. How such a thing could happen is explained by <a href="http://www.science20.com/squid_day" target="_blank">squid expert Danna Staaf</a> on the above link to io9, but it starts with the fact that the sperm delivery system of the squid is very different from that of humans. In several species, including squid, butterflies, scorpions, octopi and others, sperm doesn’t travel in semen but in <a href="http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spermatophore" target="_blank">spermatophores</a> or sperm packets; kind of needle-like vessels that are deposited in the female reproductive tract. Staaf calls this squiddy structure “definitely the world’s most complicated sperm,”<a href="http://vimeo.com/44687825" target="_blank">in this video</a> explaining exactly how spermatophores work.</p><p><a href="http://io9.com/5921501/how-exactly-could-a-squid-inseminate-your-mouth" target="_blank">On io9</a> Staaf described the process, starting with the spermatophore cap popping off and the ejaculatory apparatus (every spermatophore has one) popping out and everting itself -- turning itself inside out -- pulling the sperm mass with it. But the peculiarity of squid insemination doesn’t end there. In the species known as Bleeker’s squid there are two types of male squid -- sneakers and consorts, which are kind of the Goofus and Gallant of the cephalopod world. Consorts, reports <a href="http://io9.com/squid-sperm-will-cooperate-to-inseminate-472487370" target="_blank">io9’s Joseph Bennington Castro,</a> are larger, more attention-getting of the two, attracting females by “flashing bright colors across their bodies,” depositing the spermatophores in the female oviduct and then guarding her until the eggs are deposited.</p><p>Sneakers are not so, well…gallant. They sneak in between a mating pair and chuck a spermatophore in the female's external sperm storage unit so that when the eggs come forward “through her oviduct to a spot near her mouth,” the eggs that don’t get fertilized by the spermatophores of the consort -- who has put in all this courtship time -- will be fertilized by the spermatophores of the sneaker who didn’t do jack. Castro reports that Japanese researchers have found that sneaker sperm are bigger and travel in swarms; they will cluster not only with other sneaker sperm but but with consort sperm and even sperm from a breed of starfish. Figuring they might be attracted to a chemical being released by the other sperm, like CO2, the researchers did experiments in which they released C02 bubble into a tube and found that sneaker sperm “swarmed around it,” while consort sperm did not. Why C02 attracts the sneaker sperm is uncertain but one theory is that eggs may release C02.</p><p>Bottom line: squids should probably have their own soap opera, Tentacle Hospital or something. I’d watch it. </p><p><strong>4. Animal Adaptations</strong></p><p>So squid sperm is pretty fascinating but lots of other animals have intriguing sperm and insemination habits as well. </p><p>* <a href="http://www.livescience.com/13681-duck-ejaculate-sperm-antibiotic-beaks-110412.html" target="_blank">Jennifer Welsh of LiveScience </a>reports that the mallard duck has sperm that can kill bacteria and the brighter the bill the stronger the antibacterial effect, thus enabling females to avoid a <a href="http://www.livescience.com/1108-women-unaware-cervical-cancer-caused-virus.html" target="_blank">sexually transmitted pathogen</a> and identify <a href="http://www.livescience.com/9940-test-reveals-good-bad-sperm.html" target="_blank">males with better sperm</a>," says Melissah Rowe of the University of Oslo.</p><p>*  <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/content/313/5791/1255.short" target="_blank">Science Magazine</a> reports that moss shoots attract insects -- springtails and mites -- which then carry moss sperm and help fertilization like insects pollinating flowers. </p><p>* <a href="http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/01/15/barnacles-leak-sperm-into-ocean-upending-mating-theory/" target="_blank">Christine Dell’Amore of National Geographic </a>reports that some sea creatures like jellyfish, barnacles and sponges do what is known as “spermcasting,” sending their sperm out into the water for females to take, in other words, when it’s time, they just go out and pick up some fertilizer. </p><p>* The barnacle, Dell’Amore writes, is a special case: it has the biggest penis in the animal kingdom relative to its size and because it can’t move once it’s glued itself somewhere it uses its super-long wiener and “random penis movements” to seek out partners and deposit sperm in their mantle cavity (don’t we all know a guy like that?). If you think that’s nasty and wish to tell a barnacle to go fertilize itself, well, they already do. “Most barnacles are hermaphrodites though they tend to lean toward one gender,” Dell’Amore writes, but they are capable of self-fertilization.</p><p>* The grossest animal kingdom sperm transfer has to be the province of bed bugs. The male of the species has a saber-like penis which he uses to stab the female in the abdomen, releasing sperm into her bloodstream -- her reproductive system is used exclusively for egg-laying says this <a>PBS Gross Science Video</a>. It’s known as “traumatic” insemination, writes <a href="http://io9.com/5725199/traumatic-insemination-is-pretty-much-the-most-horrific-thing-imaginable" target="_blank">Alasdair Wilkins of io9</a> and all seems slightly less horrid when <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MakIB_IJnu0" target="_blank">Isabella Rossellini puts on a bed bug costume and acts it out</a> for you. </p><p><strong>5. Glow-in-the-dark sperm</strong></p><p>Back in the '80s glow-in-the-dark condoms, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNTg2Uz7-pM" target="_blank">as in this scene from Skin Deep</a>, were revolutionary. Now it’s the sperm that glow-in-the-dark and help provide researchers with a whole new way to research what the little swimmers are up to. In 2010 <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/03/100318-men-sperm-1500-stem-cells-second-male-birth-control/" target="_blank">Christine Dell’Amore of National Geographic reported</a> on a study in which <a href="http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/35884154.html" target="_blank">germline stem cells</a> of mice were “genetically engineered to be fluorescent” and tagged certain cells within those cells with color to watch their development. The quick process scientist once thought sperm development to be was just not the case: sometimes the stem cells go through several cell divisions, sometimes not, sometimes they start to become a sperm cell and then revert back to being a stem cell.</p><p>I would: too much competition to potentially just end up in a Kleenex. That’s not entirely a joke. Even if you were a sperm who got to go on the grand quest for fertilization, study co-author Robert Braun called the fertilization process “surprisingly inefficient,” and says the reason for the enormous amount of sperm is that there has to be a "large initial payload [for those] few cells to make it to the final destination." And yet the process is efficient enough to make contraception an  important factor in our lives. Studying sperm on this level could lead to advances in male birth control, like thwarting germline from becoming sperm in the first place.</p><p><strong>6. Build a better swimmer</strong></p><p>If you’re trying to facilitate pregnancy rather than prevent it, here are a few things you should know about giving your boys a boost: </p><p>* The <a href="http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2013/April2013/Sauna-Exposure-Impairs-Sperm-Count-and-Motility" target="_blank">Pharmacy Times reports</a> that a study published in the Journal of Human Reproduction says that spending time in a sauna can lower a man's sperm count and keep it down for as long as six months. It’s called “scrotal hyperthermia.” In the study 10 Finnish men had two 15-minute sauna treatments a week for three months which raised their scrotal temperature by 3 degrees Celsius and impaired both sperm count and motility. Temperature clearly affects sperm health with slightly cooler being better, <a href="http://www.wisegeek.org/what-factors-affect-the-lifespan-of-sperm.htm" target="_blank">hence the scrotum being on the outside the body</a>.  So it’s not surprising that in a study reported on by <a href="http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/03/19/sperm-works-best-in-the-winter/" target="_blank">Stefan Sirucek of NatGeo</a> on a report from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev that sperm motility and structure is strongest in the winter (though that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try in all the other months….again and again and again). </p><p>* Exercise is better for sperm than TV marathons are: <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-04/highest-sperm-count-favors-athletes-over-couch-potatoes.html" target="_blank">Drew Armstrong of Bloomberg </a>reported on a study by Harvard researchers saying that young men who exercised frequently had 73% more sperm than non-exercisers and the sperm counts of those who watched 20 or more hours of TV per week were “almost halved.”  </p><p>* Nuts are good for your nuts. <a href="http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/quick-tip-eat-walnuts-for-super-healthy-sperm" target="_blank">Shawn Radcliffe of Men’s Fitness reports </a>on a study from the University of California saying that men who ate about two and a half servings of walnuts a day saw an increase in sperm health -- motility, shape and size -- after 12 weeks. Sperm benefit from the omega-3 fatty acids (let’s call ‘em daddy acids) also found in fish oil and other foods. </p><p><strong>7. Because what a man really wants is to stick his penis into a huge machine….</strong></p><p>Never having had to produce a sperm sample for any medical or commercial purpose I have no idea what it’s like. Maybe, if I had a choice between masturbating the boring old organic way and leaving the job to a torso-high, pulsating machine I would choose the latter. </p><p><a href="http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4554470/Chinese-boffins-invent-sperm-collecting-machine.html" target="_blank">Bella Battle of the UK Sun reports</a> that a hospital in China is using just such a machine to collect sperm samples from infertile men for testing. At the time of the story (September 2012) about 10 men a day had been using the machine for about six months (presumably not the same 10 men, coming back in disguise to give it another shot because they dug it) according to Doctor Zhu Guoxin, director of the urology department at Zhengzhou Central Hospital. Users can “adjust the machine’s frequency, speed, force and temperature,” Battle writes, and they have to wear condoms. </p><p>Still…new awful job: cleaning out the Sperm Extractor. And now, because you’ve been very good, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3GiEGPm-Ws" target="_blank">here’s a video</a>. Maybe they’ll get one at your gym. </p><p><strong>8. Spermallergic?</strong></p><p>Having a bad reaction to the semen of the one you love can’t be a fun experience, but there is such a thing as being allergic to semen and to the semen of a specific person. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/allergy-sperm-game-changer-marriage/story?id=18916973%23.UXBBC5jK0UX" target="_blank">ABC News’ Susan Donaldson James </a>describes a North Carolina couple’s quandary with <a href="http://www.seminalplasmaallergy.org/" target="_blank">seminal plasma hypersensitivity</a>. Some symptoms described in the story include itching, redness, burning, swelling, hives plus a pain like “a needle-like sticking in the vagina,” according to the University of Cincinnati’s <a href="http://www.bernsteinallergyresearch.com/" target="_blank">Jonathan Bernstein,</a> who treated the couple and who believes there are as many as 40,000 such cases in the U.S. Sometime the symptoms are confused with yeast and vaginal infections, James writes.</p><p>The treatment to desensitize the wife to the allergy included her undergoing “an intravaginal graded challenge using serial dilutions of her husband's seminal fluid, which were injected via syringe every 15-20 minutes over the course of two to three hours.” It helped and continued to improve and eventually their sex life got back to normal. A lot of people would have just gotten a new spouse…but that’s love for you. </p><p><strong>9. It’s on the street</strong></p><p>We’ve talked about some interesting sperm delivery systems but the most eye-catching, bar none, is the Sperm Bullitt bicycle, a sperm-shaped bike built for Nordisk Cryobank a leading European sperm bank, used in Copenhagen, <a href="http://www.copenhagenize.com/2011/04/sperm-bike-in-copenhagen.html" target="_blank">as reported -- with pics -- on Copenhagenzine.com</a>. The company was looking for an eco-friendly way to get its cargo around and yes, just like sperm need, it has a cooling system: “Inside the head of the giant sperm cell is a cooler compartment designed so that the metal containers with sperm donations can fit snugly inside and be kept cold.”</p><p>It would be the worst getaway vehicle in the world, wouldn’t it? But then…<a href="http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&amp;rls=en&amp;q=sperm+theft&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;oe=UTF-8" target="_blank">who steals sperm</a>? </p><p><strong>10. Love roller-coaster</strong></p><p>Most of us have seen those amazing animalcules and the semen they swim in make their grand entrance out of the body, but what you don’t see is the remarkably circuitous route it takes to get to that point. No kidding: men rather fantastically have what amounts to a <a href="http://s2.hubimg.com/u/1188545_f248.jpg" target="_blank">Krazy Straw</a> in there.</p><p>It all starts in the testes which are made up of seminiferous tubules in which sperm are manufactured. HowStuffWorks.com’s <a href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/about-author.htm#freudenrich" target="_blank">Craig Freudenrich</a> and <a href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/molly-edmonds-author.htm" target="_blank">Molly Edmonds</a> put the rate of production at about 4 million per hour.</p><p>Once formed, sperm travels to the epididymus, a coiled tube outside the teste (<a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/medical/IM01065" target="_blank">here’s a picture</a>) where they mature and stay. After the penis is erect if there is “sufficient stimulation,” says <a href="http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/anatomyvideos/000121.htm" target="_blank">Medicine Plus (where you can see it all via animation</a>) the sperm travel up, up, up, through the vas defrens which propel them with muscle contractions, then down again to the ampula and the seminal vesicles where they’re mixed with the first of the fluids that make up semen. <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/534058/seminal-vesicle" target="_blank">That fluid contains numerous substances</a> including fructose, potassium, citric acid and the hormone-like substance <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/479472/prostaglandin" target="_blank">prostaglandins</a>. This mix goes downward through the ejaculatory ducts past the <a href="http://www.bewellbuzz.com/body-buzz/10-amazing-functions-prostate-gland/" target="_blank">prostate gland</a> where another milky fluid is added to the mix which helps neutralize the PH of the vagina, and the semen is finally semen. </p><p>At this point it goes back up, up, up again through the urethra and zing! Out into the world. Then, who knows? After all that mixology it could end up on the shower floor…or in a sperm bank…or in the aforementioned vagina…or other places on the body (for which you’ll have to look at another kind of website).</p> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 06:16:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1022179 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sperm egg sex Navigating the World as an Atheist: 6 Helpful Reflections http://www.alternet.org/belief/navigating-world-atheist-6-helpful-reflections <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Even non-believers sometimes need comfort in this mad world.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_213802300-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>“Always beware of a sinner turned saint,” my mother used to say. We’ve all suffered the boring verve of a blabby convert, whether to an actual religion, yoga, Apple, or whatever they’ve become smitten with. I did it when I decided to make the leap of no faith to atheism.</p><p>To be clear, I consider myself a de facto atheist, which is defined by the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probability" target="_blank">Scale of Theistic Probability</a> as someone who strongly believes there is no god, but is fine with not being 100% sure. I also consider myself to be charming and gregarious, so I was really bothered by a study that found atheists are <a href="http://www.pewforum.org/2014/07/16/how-americans-feel-about-religious-groups/" target="_blank">viewed by Americans more coldly than almost any religious group</a>.  </p><p>Far worse, <a href="http://news.ubc.ca/2011/11/30/ubc-study-explores-distrust-of-atheists-by-believers/" target="_blank">a study out of the University of British Columbia</a> found that atheists are considered to be about as trustworthy as rapists. Seriously. That means if these respondents had to ask a neighbor to feed their cat while they were away, and Daniel Radcliffe lived on one side and the convicted serial rapist Christopher Evans Hubbert lived on the other, they’d have to flip a coin to pick who to trust to go in the house and feed Mittens. </p><p>Study co-author Ara Norenzayan of UBC said in a statement that a possible reason for this marked distrust is that “Outward displays of belief in God may be viewed as a proxy for trustworthiness, particularly by religious believers who think that people behave better if they feel that God is watching them.”</p><p>In any event, atheists need some better PR.</p><p>I don’t think I helped when, excited to discuss my newfound disbelief, I nattered on about it a little too long to a friend who listened patiently and then told me that God was a very comforting thought to him when life threw its sucker punches, which I knew it had done quite a bit lately. </p><p>This surprised me a lot. My intention wasn’t to be a big, wet, godless blanket tamping out the solace of a dear friend, and certainly not to make atheists look worse. Maybe it would help for people to know that non-believers sometimes need comfort in this mad world, too; we just find it a little closer to home. Here are some examples of things which, in the absence of the supernatural, help me move along when I’m having a long, dark night of the soul.</p><p><strong>1. Watch your language.</strong></p><p>“Back to real life.” </p><p>When we come home from marvelous vacation to our tedious jobs we say “Back to reality.” We talk about the super rich as knowing nothing of “real life.” When we’re shown only a town’s tourist features we wonder about the "real" city. The way we talk you’d think everything beautiful, happy and comfortable was pretend and that shabby drudgery is all there is on earth.</p><p>Dammit, that is not fair. I’m not reality’s biggest fan but my perfect days on the beach are just as real as the time I spend doing my taxes. Language matters and our habit of referring primarily to the tiresome as "real" can make it seem like what’s real is never good. </p><p>And it is good. You were there: you probably took pictures, pictures you don’t want your mom to see! That’s real, baby. </p><p>When I need an air bag between me and an emotional crash, one of my comforts is to reflect on the very real happiness I’ve had, the glorious places I’ve gone, the breaks, friends, lovers, jobs and experiences it’s been my privilege to have known. Look at it that way and it’s not a slump-shouldered, "Back to real life,” it’s “More real life, please! And make it snappy!” </p><p><strong>2. The afterlife party.</strong></p><p>What do I find comforting when faced with “real life” endings? Also known as death?  </p><p>Truth? I never think about it. Not ever. I worked at a funeral home and never gave any more thought to my own death than what music I want at my long, sad service (<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSU0AotiDjM" target="_blank">it’s this</a>). </p><p>Pondering where, if anywhere, I will go when I die seems to me like a similar quandary as looking for one’s glasses: your own state makes you a lot less likely to find what you’re looking for. </p><p>When this problem arises I usually just put in my contacts, which I can see; the glasses will eventually present themselves. </p><p><strong>3. Someone I don’t even know is trying to help me. </strong></p><p>Humans have a wide range of suffering: huge things, tiny things and everything in between can cause us angst. I’m comforted by the knowledge that there’s someone working on it.</p><p>Someone bothered to do the math, literally, to get advanced degrees in life-saving and life-improving fields and they’ve been at work helping us for many, many years. There are people figuring out how to <a href="http://techland.time.com/2013/11/14/the-25-best-inventions-of-the-year-2013/slide/the-argus-ii/" target="_blank">help people save their eyesight</a>; how we can<a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-05/wifb-rul052714.php" target="_blank">regenerate our teeth</a>; and how to change people's lives through digital technology <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yousri-marzouki/revolutionizing-revolutio_b_1679181.html" target="_blank">in ways its creators may never have imagined</a>. </p><p>Oh, and <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20733895,00.html" target="_blank">everything comes in pumpkin now</a>.</p><p>This gives me confidence in human beings and their ability to see darkness and attempt to illuminate answers.</p><p><strong>4. Navel gazing redefined.</strong></p><p>On a lighter note, a few weeks ago I was stuck at one of those traffic lights that’s so long you might as well sign onto the web and get an online degree while you’re waiting. The temperature was in the '90s, my car is unairconditioned, and these things have a tendency to fill me with worry, frustration and general angst. </p><p>Then a vision jogged by: male, shirtless, dark-haired, about 25 years old. My mind went as blank as a shaken Etch-a-Sketch. My thoughts weren’t lascivious: I had no thoughts. I was thinking what my friend Bob once told me men are always thinking: nothing. For the rest of the day I was in the calm, thankful state one associates with people who look for inner peace, not people like me who are more likely to be looking for their phone.</p><p>A little while ago a concept called “<a href="http://theweek.com/article/index/230934/could-awe-therapy-make-us-nicer" target="_blank">awe therapy</a>” made the Internet rounds; it describes times when something deeply beautiful, from a view of the Grand Canyon to a happy memory, radically shifts the perspective of our nattering minds, making us peaceful, appreciative and possibly even nicer. I submit that natural wonders can come in human form, too. Having redefined navel gazing as gazing at a man with no shirt on, I’m content to make that the only kind I ever do again. </p><p><strong>5. Nothing personal.</strong></p><p>In the 2005 documentary <em>Grizzly Man</em>, Werner Herzog profiles Timothy Treadwell, who was killed by the grizzly bears he loved and hoped to protect. Herzog compares his own impression of the bears to Treadwell’s, saying, “in all the faces of all the bears that Treadwell ever filmed, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature.” </p><p>I find the idea of an indifferent universe incredibly freeing. Thinking it has a consciousness, like a god, makes you feel targeted when things go wrong. If nature looks at you with the same blank apathy the grocery store cashier does, the terrifying things it brings, like sickness or thunderstorms, seem more random and democratic. And it makes the grand things it brings, like <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/24/dog-water-fountain-video_n_5875672.html?cps=gravity" target="_blank">dogs</a>, <a href="http://lifehacker.com/novelty-and-the-brain-why-new-things-make-us-feel-so-g-508983802" target="_blank">dopamine</a> and <a href="http://no-baloney.com/2013/08/20/memories-of-hot-cocoa/" target="_blank">Canada</a>, that much more amazing.</p><p><strong>6. Somebody down here likes you, too.</strong></p><p>My mother went into the hospital in May 2005 for a bout of pneumonia with complications that would do her in five months later and my days were spent between work and hospital. At one point, my friend Hilary insisted I go out, just for dinner and a movie, saying, “You need to remember that there are good things, too.” She was right. I went and nobody died: a phrase that means a lot more under some circumstances than others.</p><p>After that, I decided that the pending loss of my mother sucked so much that everything else in my life had to be great, and I did everything I could to make it that way. Looking back on that five-month period, even in the shadow of death, there are good memories mixed in with the tough ones.</p><p>This is just one of the innumerable times a friend shepherded me through something that seemed unbearable. Existential crisis or a stolen car battery, friends are always the first line of comfort. This is even true of my dead friends. My memories of them are so vivid I can still draw solace from those bonds. And that's all the comfort that’s necessary. </p> Wed, 01 Oct 2014 08:45:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1021476 at http://www.alternet.org Belief Belief atheism distrust religion Forget the Stupid Bucket List and Just Say 'F#@* It!" 5 Things I Will Probably Never Do http://www.alternet.org/culture/forget-stupid-bucket-list-and-just-say-f-it-5-things-i-will-probably-never-do <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Making a bucket list can make you feel kind of lousy if you can barely afford a bucket. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_164636939-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>“You’re never gonna climb a mountain.”</p><p>When I heard that phrase on the TV show <em>Desperate Housewives</em>I was taken aback by its sting. The context was a couple cleaning out their garage, the husband wanting to keep some decades-old, unopened mountain climbing gear. “You get winded just climbing out of the tub,” she says. “You’re never gonna climb a mountain.”</p><p>My jaw dropped in a way it wouldn’t have if she’d murdered him with the grappling hook. In positive thinking, make-every-moment-count, Oprah-says-to-live-your-best-life-America you never tell anyone their dreams aren’t going to happen. You make with the false hope and expect the same when you say you’re going to reclaim your virginity or knit some kale or whatever the kids are doing these days.</p><p>But frankly all the "make-every-moment-count," and other emotional fluff just gets exhausting and depressing, especially if you’re so financially zapped you feel lucky you have a place to live, never mind climb mountains. After all, Heather Hansam of Outside Online reported last year that climbing Mt. Everest can cost a minimum of $30,000; closer to home, Alpine Ascents puts the land cost of a Denali expedition at $7300.</p><p>Making a bucket list can make you feel kind of lousy if you can barely afford a bucket.</p><p>That’s why, right here in the middle of International Enthusiasm Week, I’m proposing we turn our attention to the concept of the Fuck It list, for those mountains you just aren’t going to climb.</p><p>Google “Fuck it list,” and you’ll find various blogs and even a Fuck It List journal devoted to the things you’re never going to do. It's clear that a lot of people are sick of being bullied by optimism. </p><p>Being pummeled with happy images doesn’t make us feel happier either; in fact, a 2012 study from Utah Valley University showed that those hap-hap-happy pictures and posts everyone puts up on Facebook make us sad because we don’t feel as giddy as our friends appear to. To make matters worse, a lot of those posts and images are carefully tailored because people only show their good sides and best times. </p><p>This is probably why saying “Fuck it,” feels so good. Facades are heavy, intentions often burdensome, and dropping them can be a relief, can make us feel in control and can provide a nice, vinegary palate cleanser to the tiresome sweetness of cliched optimism.</p><p>Here, for example, are Fuck Its of mine; some big, some small, all in great need of dead-heading so that maybe some other things can grow.</p><p><strong>1. I probably won’t be in anthologies of “Best Sex Writing” and “Best American Travel Writing” in the same year.</strong>I’ve been in the first one and hope one day to be in the second. Both in one year might be something you just can’t plan for, but has to just fall into your lap, like true love or herpes.</p><p><strong>2. I’ll never fix anything I buy at a garage sale.</strong> How many unraveling wicker chairs have to grow moldy in my possession before I admit that the only thing I’ll ever fix is my hair?</p><p><strong>3. I’m not going to learn every language I hear</strong>. A peek into my iTunes reveals downloaded audio instruction for about six languages. But the only thing I've every become fluent in is indecision. </p><p><strong>4. I’m never going to have Shakira’s midriff</strong>. Even if Drs. Nassif and Dubrow, the plastic surgery partners from <em>Botched,</em> worked on me until they both grew ZZ Top beards they couldn’t give me abs that look like caramel-colored sand dunes. What chance do I have with nothing but hope and a gym membership?</p><p><strong>5. I’m also never going to stop trying.</strong> Like Andy Dufresne tunneling his way out of Shawshank, I poke along, doing my little gym workouts, eating a little better and just trying to be healthier every year. I’m never going to think I’m perfect and will forever be tweaking something. As long as self-improvement doesn’t veer into self-destruction, I have no problem with my egotistical OCD.</p><p>Actually it’s just about that mix of high and low expectations that are part of the equation of happiness…and yes, someone did the math. David DeSalvo, writing in Forbes magazine, reports that researchers from University College London came up with an actual equation that predicts happiness. One thing they found was that both low and high expectations play into that feeling. If your expectations are low and the outcome exceeds them you’re bound to be happily surprised, but just happily looking forward to something, like seeing a friend, can elevate your happiness.</p><p>Balance. Who’da thunk it?</p><p>So next time you can’t take another smiley face or you want to feel like every moment of your life <em>already</em>counts, try balancing out some of those big hopes with a few Fuck Its. After all, forever looking on the bright side could make you feel a little blind.</p> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 11:34:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1017860 at http://www.alternet.org Culture Culture bucket list expectations intentions goals 10 Exciting Things About Sex You'll Learn As You Get Older http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/10-exciting-things-about-sex-youll-learn-you-get-older <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">You’ll have sex that’s as good or even better than when you were younger. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-07-23_at_10.46.25_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>My mother was 40 when I was born, creaking with antiquity by 1964 standards, and she used her advanced decrepitude as a kind of get-out-of-everything-free card. When I would ask why she didn’t get manicures, perms and divorces like the other moms she’d say “because I’m old.”  She was  too old for popular music, for makeup (“What am I,  <a href="http://afflictor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/bette.gif" target="_blank">Baby Jane?</a>”) and too old to offer advice on a dating world that had changed radically since Moses took her to the prom. The closest thing to advice my mother ever gave me on intimacy was “If a man pinches you on the subway, scream “Get your hands off me, pervert!” Then she gave me a police whistle. </p><div><div><p>Even if she had offered advice that was less, well, practical, I’d probably have been incapable of taking it, largely because, well, what teen or 20 something believes anything older people have to say? </p><p>Here, then are ten things true things  about sex and dating that you’re incapable of believing when you’re young. Because old people don’t know anything about sex. They bought their kids on the internet. </p></div></div><div><p><strong>1. You’ll have sex that’s as good or even better than when you were younger.</strong></p><p>Last year Miley Cyrus, then 20, informed Matt Lauer it was her understanding that people stopped having sex at 40, <a href="http://news.ca.msn.com/top-stories/miley-cyrus-says-sex-ends-at-40-au-contraire-say-experts" target="_blank">reports NBC contributor Brian Alexander</a>. </p><p>You don’t have to squint to see why young people find it hard to believe that people who can’t get stand up without groaning can still have sex so mindblowing the neighbors might think someone next door is being murdered.  </p><p>Miley’s dad is 52. It’s a fact that thinking of one’s parents as sexual is so gross and mortifying that denial is necessary. <span style="font-size: 12px;">Miley should be glad to know, though, that there is no deadline, no “off” switch that halts hormone production and caulks up various ducts and orifices on one’s 40th birthday. Sexuality changes with age, but good sex is about health, state of mind and chemistry: if you’ve got that you’ll have sex that’s loud enough to scare the dog well into your twilight years. </span></p><p><strong>2. Your hot pants will cool off… and it’s a relief.</strong></p><p>So the brakes won’t slam on your sex life, but that doesn’t mean your body won’t ease up on the accelerator. This page about the <a href="http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/sexinfo/article/aging-and-sexual-response-cycle-0" target="_blank">effects of aging on sexuality</a> details numerous change that can slow down your sex drive with age. </p><p>The good news is it’s not a bad thing. <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/25/aging-female-sex-drive-looks-like" target="_blank">Gloria Steinem, on her 80th birthday, </a>talked about how a lower sex drive frees up the "mind for all kinds of things." I agree. Now that I’m nearing 50, it’s a relief to be able to write a story, sit through a movie, or wash the car without my nether regions issuing demands, like <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7SkrYF8lCU" target="_blank">that plant in Little Shop of Horrors</a>.</p><p><strong>3. Nobody really thinks you wake up looking like that.</strong></p><p>When I was younger, after nights of romantic passion, I would sneak off to the bathroom to repair hair, makeup and even jewelry before my partner would wake up. I don’t think any of them really believed I woke up looking as though I was going out to see, or perhaps perform, <em>Cabaret</em>, but I finally figured out that if he's seen your naked body you probably don’t have to worry about him seeing your naked face.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size: 12px;">4. All the romantic cliches are stupid, but you should do them while you’re limber and naive.</span></strong></p><p>When you’re young and you don’t have a place of your own or if you’re just rampantly horny you’ll do it anywhere, and you should, because there will come a day when the idea of having sex in a Honda Civic will just make your lower back hurt. </p><p>You’ll also find that satin sheets are, as Madonna said, very romantic, until you slip out of them and almost break your nose, and that if you want to experience sex on the beach you should just put a half a cup of sand in your mouth and your underwear and you’ll get the idea. </p><p>The older you get the less you’re willing to put up with discomfort or risk of arrest, so do all the daring, crazy things now, while "safe sex" still means wearing condoms instead of slipping a disc.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size: 12px;">5. There’s more to sex than sex.</span></strong></p><p>Many people in my generation learned a lot about sex and relationships from porn and Hollywood, which only show you about 10% of what it’s really like out there. Porn, especially, is like high school: you can learn some useful basics but there’s a ton of crap you’ll never use and you’ll probably walk away without any knowledge of chemistry.</p><p>There is so much more to sex than sex, chemistry included. In fact, combine sexual chemistry and intimacy and you have the strongest force in nature that doesn’t ever take up time on the Weather Channel. In my cocky youth I thought it was mostly about the physical, but when you start adding in those elements, plus self-knowledge, emotional maturity and experience, you get so much depth and breadth of feeling it's like going from a black-and-white set to 3D HD with surround-sound. Had I known the sublime joy and horrible sorrow it would cause I don’t know whether I’d have sought it out sooner or fled to a convent and never emerged. </p><p><strong>6. Sex is not a cure for loneliness.</strong></p><p>This notion was kicked in by my friend Charles Martin, and though it wasn’t something I thought applied to me, upon reflection, I can remember times when I pulled people in more as tranquilizers than human beings. It can work for a few minutes, until you realize that you’re often the loneliest when you’re with the wrong person. </p><p><strong>7. You will wrinkle like a linen suit.</strong></p><p>When you’re young you can’t fathom it, but changes —age spots, gray hair, menopause — will come, like growth spurts did, like puberty did and the more you do now in regard to diet, exercise, dental care, etc., the more these efforts will make you a happier, healthier, sexier old bag of wrinkles than if you do nothing. Maintenance is easier than repair. The excuse. “I could die tomorrow, I don’t want to waste time on a treadmill,” doesn’t wash when <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/21/us-life-expectancy-oecd_n_4317367.html" target="_blank">U.S. life expectancy is 76 for men and 81 for women.</a></p><p>Face it: you’re going to live long enough to start caring about your lawn. </p><p><strong>8. There are always new tricks.</strong></p><p>A girlfriend told me that in her younger years she never could have believed she could have hands-free orgasms, as discussed here on <a href="http://videos.huffingtonpost.com/healthy-living/hands-free-orgasm-517485067" target="_blank">The Doctors</a> by author and sex teacher <a href="http://intimateartscenter.com/about/meet-sheri" target="_blank">Sheri Winston</a>.  </p><p>I’ve asked her to teach me how. If it works, you’ll never hear from me again. </p><p>But it speaks to the fact that not only does sex not stop after 40 but learning new, exciting things about sex doesn’t stop either. After all, Olympic athletes are the best of the best, and they never stop using coaches. </p><p><strong>9. Whatever is tying you in knots right now is temporary.</strong></p><p>Whether it’s a new crush or a broken heart, a friend’s betrayal or a Miranda Priestly boss, whatever feels like the end of the world right now probably isn’t. </p><p>Trust me: I know this like I know Beginner’s Math. As you get more and more distance from those peas under your mattress, you will realize that about 95% of the things that cause you sorrow and anger are things you won’t remember two months from now. Change them or drop them, but don’t dwell on them.</p><p>If you need proof, watch any of the murder shows on TV: <em>Snapped, Swamp Murders, Secret Lives of Stepford Wives</em> — they’re all full of people who couldn’t just drop it until one was dead and the other was in jail. See what happens when you don’t listen to that damn Disney song from <em>Frozen</em>, let it go?</p><p><strong>10. Don’t be afraid to talk about money</strong></p><p>When you’re young and in love and hot for each other there’s no bigger buzz kill than a big, fat stack of bills coming in that you’re not sure how you’re going to pay, something most of us have faced in the last decade or so. That’s true when you’re older, too: cash flow issues can suck the wind right out of your romantic sails sometimes, but talking openly about your financial situation, expectations and hopes is just as important as talking about sexual, emotional or other issues. </p><p> Take it from The Guardian’s Suzanne McGee in her <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/money/us-money-blog/2014/feb/14/valentines-day-fighting-money-relationships" target="_blank">Seven Ways  to Stop Arguing With Your Spouse About Money</a>: “…research suggests that if you can find a way to sync your approach to money, that’s going to do more for the health of your relationship than a dozen roses or a diamond will do.”</p><p>It’s especially helpful to know if one of you is the type who thinks it should have been two dozen roses and a diamond in a gold bracelet and the other thinks all of that could have gone towards paying off the car. It doesn’t mean you can’t work together, it just helps to know that about who you’re working with.</p></div><p> </p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 07:27:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1012473 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sex 10 Most Important Things to Learn About Sex http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/10-most-important-things-learn-about-sex <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">These are a few bits of hard-won wisdom I wouldn’t mind shouting out to my past self. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_128781533-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>“Strange things are afoot at the Circle K…”</p><p>Points if you recognize that line from <em>Bill &amp; Ted’s Excellent Adventure,</em>which gave the world many things including a young Keanu Reeves. It also had something I find myself wishing I had more and more now that I’m older (besides Keanu Reeves): Bill &amp; Ted could take their time-traveling phone booth back to the past to give themselves advice for the future.</p><p>I’d certainly go back and teach myself about money (“You know your impeccable credit? It’s peccable,”) and work (“Take this ‘Harry Potter’ book, retype it and send it to some agents. See ya on the yacht!”). But I’d probably have a lot more advice to give my younger self about sex...and a few dozen TED talks about love.</p><p>Here are a few bits of hard-won wisdom I wouldn’t mind shouting out to my past self.</p><p><strong>1. Find out what “happy” looks like</strong>.</p><p>You know that scene in <em>Fantasia</em> where prehistoric climate change causes the dinosaurs to get horribly stuck in glue-like mud that used to be water? That’s pretty much the impression I had of marriage when I was younger. By the time I got to high school I was perfectly prepared to believe it when I read the Sartre quote “Hell is other people.”</p><p>What I didn’t know then was, so is heaven.</p><p>If I had Bill &amp; Ted’s phone booth I’d have taken myself on field trips to see happy long-haul couples and listen to what they had to say until I got it, kind of like an immersion in the language of healthy relationships. It would have at least given me another vantage point from which to see the world. It wouldn’t have guaranteed anything: not everyone moves to the country they study in. But at least they get to see there’s a world beyond their own block.</p><p><strong>2. Tell them what you want…what you really want.</strong></p><p>When sexual chemistry is great it can seem like your partner is a mind reader.</p><p>He's not.</p><p>Too often, rather than piping up about something I wanted (more or less commitment, open or closed relationship, never to see his mother again), I didn’t say anything. I didn’t trust the men I loved—even the ones who loved me—to listen with an open mind and still be there tomorrow. That had more to do with me than with them.</p><p>These days I’m quick to pipe up and if my interests go over as well as New Coke, at least I tried. It’s still mysterious to me why we find it difficult to share thoughts with the people we share our bodies with.</p><p><strong>3. Sex is awkward.</strong></p><p>What I knew about sex in my youth came from porn, Hollywood and <em>Our Bodies, Ourselves</em>, so I was wise in the ways of mechanics, safety and advanced face-making. But these outlets all offered such staged, serious, choreographed encounters I didn’t know that sex had lots of potential for comedy gold. No one in movies ever kicks their partner in the face trying to master a certain position, slips off a satin sheet, makes embarrassing sounds, scrambles to figure out how to act the next day (do you stay? go? tip?), or mistakes the back door for the front.</p><p>Had I known sex had its share of goofy moments it might have had less of a mystique and been just a regular part of life…which it is, or should be. I knew it was fun. I didn’t know it could be funny.</p><p><strong>4. Sex makes things sticky.</strong></p><p>I’m not talking about the sheets or your body, though if you’re really exuberant you can find yourself wondering how you’re going to get the champagne off the ceiling.</p><p>Nope, sex can make things sticky emotionally and you can’t always know that in advance. You might go into it casually and come out attached, which is generally not a good thing and which led to the damaging result of not trusting my own judgement.</p><p>What I wish I’d known was that the culprit is chemical. Sex releases oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” which attaches us to the person we had sex with. According to author Susan Kuchinskas, estrogen increases the effects of oxytocin and testosterone blunts it, hence women often becoming more attached to men after sex.</p><p>So you just have to be wary of that oxytocin. Also, it’s good to know that bad people can be gotten out of your system. Like tape worms.</p><p><strong>5. Two-drink maximum.</strong></p><p>Yes, alcohol is helpful with relaxing one’s inhibitions, but sometimes those inhibitions might be trying to tell you something and should be left intact. If I could go back, I’d keep myself to a two-drink maximum if I wasn’t sure of a person.</p><p><strong>6. Get a broader sexual education</strong>.</p><p>When I was a kid in the 1970s, the word “orgasm” was suddenly hot in the media. I asked my mother what it meant. She said “I don’t know.” She might have been trying to dodge an awkward question, but for all I know she was telling the truth. My mother never talked about sex with me voluntarily.</p><p>It would have been nice to have a trusted human source of information, not just about the mechanics but exactly what about it is so great it makes everyone nuts. If I could have brought someone back in my time-traveling phone booth it would have been someone like Al Vernacchio, who teaches the elective Sexuality and Society course at a private Quaker high school in Philadelphia. Vernacchio’s teaching style, profiled in the New York Times by Laurie Abraham, is a far cry from the usual focus on all potential negatives, like STDs. It covers the good things, too, like intimacy and pleasure.</p><p>Even as an adult I could use a sexual concierge like this. There should be one available at a kiosk everywhere lingerie, condoms and liquor are sold.</p><p><strong>7.</strong> <strong>Brains don’t make you immune to hormones.</strong></p><p>I was pretty smart and strong when I was young, but sometimes I acted tougher and more worldly than I was. People can sometimes mistake strength and brains for a certain type of invulnerability, and sometimes it’s easy to try to keep up that persona.</p><p>No one is so worldly they don’t need to feel loved, or so smart they don’t make bonehead moves in pursuit of that need. Smart people don’t pretend they know everything and the bravest thing you can do sometimes is admit to being vulnerable.</p><p><strong>8. Safety first.</strong></p><p>One of the most important things I’ve found out over the years is that if someone is worth having sex with, he will not mind talking about safety. If it feels uncomfortable, let me tell you what’s infinitely more uncomfortable: sitting in some dumpy clinic bargaining with whatever god is handy that you don’t have what you think you have.</p><p>You’ll never find “Just be lucky!” on any sexual safety tip sheet unless it cames from <em>The Onion</em>. Be smart instead. You’ll sleep better.</p><p><strong>9. Sex and money go together.</strong></p><p>No, this isn’t the “I shoulda been a gold digger,” chapter, but having money goes a long way to help with every aspect of life and that includes love and sex. Money buys options: if you have financial wiggle room you can have better healthcare, more ways to relax and the means to get out of bad situations more easily. I once read that “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy happier,” and I believe it. I’ll never forget being dreadfully sick (with what turned out to be stress) and having to borrow money from my BFF to go to my ob-gyn.</p><p>As Scarlett O’Hara almost said, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be itchy again.”</p><p><strong>10. What I did right.</strong></p><p>In writing this list it occurs to me that I might be making my entire love life sound like a confused, overheated, X-rated Three Stooges episode, potholed with broken hearts, bladder infections and slapstick. Not entirely true.</p><p>I did a lot of things right, and if I could go back in time I’d definitely do a “Keep up the good work!” back-slapping, positive reinforcement routine in order to help myself keep doing the right things I was doing, which might have lessened some of the dumb moves. I was often patient, open-minded, a good self-educator and a doting GF.</p><p>Most of all, no matter how far the tornado of love ever threw me, I stuck to my guns about my decision not to have children. I‘d want my younger self to know that years later I’m happy with and proud of that decision. Liz: 1. Hormones: 0. Nyah.</p> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 06:46:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1006581 at http://www.alternet.org Personal Health Personal Health widsom past present A Surprising Way to Amp Up Sexual Satisfaction http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/surprising-way-amp-sexual-satisfaction <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Holding out for the perfect time can lead to epic moments. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-06-12_at_12.06.32_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In my younger days, a lot of my sexual decisions were based on the hedonistic motto, “Life’s short,” acquired when the pleasures of adulthood were new and my appetite for them was as boundless as deep space. </p><p>After some 30-odd years of sex (and some of those years were mighty odd), let’s just put it this way: there’s a big difference in the pace of a person going up to the buffet for the first time and one going up for seconds. I’m not as hungry these days. I know what they're serving at the buffet. And with exceptions (to whom I’ll always be grateful), the truth is that the general shapes, musks and choreography of the whole shebang are similar enough that I no longer feel I’m missing out if I’m not putting out. It’s a switch for someone who used to be just a smidge compulsive to find that waiting is not only fine—it’s fun.</p><p>I had no idea. I thought I was pretty worldly but I didn’t know what every goody-goody from the Virgin Mary to the Jonas Brothers knows: that the removal of a hand and a firm “stop it,” can create enough sexual tension to power a series of small cities. It’s the difference between an artful striptease and being flashed. Both are good, but one just offers you more anticipation.</p><p>Holding out for a just-right time can lead to epic moments. What if, for example, instead of revealing his paternity to Luke Skywalker when he did, Darth Vader had texted him the information earlier in the film? A classic moment lost and another example of how much timing matters.   </p><p>I thought it would feel awkward, at my age, to start saying things like “Wait,” and “That’s enough for now,” much the same way one feels ridiculous practicing a foreign language, but in truth I feel the opposite: I feel certain, centered, even a little smug about sticking to my guns. I feel the way you feel when you don’t eat the second Twinkie.</p><p>Mostly what I like is savoring the intimacy. To put it in travel terms, you can take a plane and get where you want to go quickly, but once in a while, when you’re really lucky, you can take a long, meandering road trip and stop at every stand, local attraction or view spot and really get to know the lay of the land. And if you decide you don’t like where you’re going, it’s a lot easier to turn around than if you took an airplane.</p><p><strong>Consider the Fruit Fly</strong></p><p>The<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/23/science/even-fruit-flies-need-a-moment-to-think-it-over.html?hpw&amp;rref=science&amp;_r=0" target="_blank"> New York Times' Douglas Quenqua recently reported</a> that neuroscientist Gero Miesenböck of Oxford University found that <a href="http://www.almanac.com/blog/everything-almanac-blog/fruit-flies-dont-bother-me" target="_blank">fruit flies</a> pause for thought before making decisions. They consider things. Flies in the study were trained to avoid a particular odor. When offered a choice between two chambers, one with the odor and one without, they mostly chose the one without. When the difference decreased, making the choice less clear, most of the flies took more time to make a decision. When they had less information they took longer to make a choice.</p><p>Think about that next time your sophisticated and oh-so-busy life presses you to make a quick decision. Fruit flies live for two weeks and they take time to deliberate. </p><p>It may not be a matter of intellect; flies and humans share a gene called FOXP and in both parties, if that gene is defective, different difficulties arise. But I'd like to think I’m at least as smart as a fruit fly when it comes to stopping, deliberating and behaving less compulsively.</p><p>A caveat: There are times when chemistry demands your immediate participation, when the kingdom of Heaven is at hand and it has Serta written right on it. Having been caught in many a hormonal rip current, I just hope, as you get joyously carried away, you can hear me shout “Use condoms!” from the shuffleboard court on the shore.</p><p>So this isn’t a denouncement of quick action. It’s an acknowledgement that waiting for the right time is not the exclusive province of prudes or puritans; it’s just another prerogative and one that can have a surprising kick. It’s also thrilling to know that if you don’t fight the currents of your life you can still surprise the bejesus out of yourself at any age. It’s as fascinating to watch your sexuality change in middle age as to watch it bloom in youth.</p> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 08:59:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 1002159 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sex sexuality 12 Ways to Feel Great About Your Body http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/top-12-ways-love-your-body-no-matter-season <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We all feel self-conscious at times about what&#039;s under our clothes.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/queerssouth.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>What’s going on under your clothes?</p><p>After all those winter months of comfortably concealing sweaters, that’s a question some of us don’t want to consider. If you ever feel like your body is the fleshy equivalent of a hoarder house, with weird stuff having mysteriously accumulated in ways that make you wonder if you should call in a team of experts, or maybe an exorcist, you’re not alone.</p><p>I wrote that because sometimes I feel that way. Most of us don’t think we’re perfect. </p><p>In fact, that woman you think is perfect doesn’t think she’s perfect. Glamour magazine’s Sean Dreisbach reported on a <a href="http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/2011/02/shocking-body-image-news-97-percent-of-women-will-be-cruel-to-their-bodies-today">2011 survey</a> by Glamour and psychologist Ann Kearney-Cooke, which found that 97 percent of women had at least one “I hate my body” moment per day, and the average women reported 13 negative body thoughts on a daily basis. </p><p>But there are ways to KO the mean-girl thoughts. Below, I’ve compiled a list of how to kickstart a little something called How Not to Hate Your Body. Thes are suggestions that have helped me out and/or been gathered from various web sources on body image—just a few light notes, because sometimes all it takes is one spin, joke or absurdity to get out of a torpor of a bad body day. If you have a serious problem with body image it’s probably best to see a therapist. If you just need a little boost, these might help.</p><p><strong>1. Food is labeled so you know whether it contains anything artificial. Images aren’t. <strong>Be aware of the BS you’re taking in</strong>.</strong>We consume images all the time without knowing what went into them. Become a more savvy consumer of images by looking online at photo-shopped pics <a href="http://www.livescience.com/3445-baseball-players-catch-fly-balls.html">like the ones in this Buzzfeed video</a> or Jezebel’s <a href="http://jezebel.com/tag/photoshop-of-horrors">Photoshop of Horrors</a>. Being down on your looks because of fictional images is like being totally bummed out that <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1Uq5ZAscVg">Mr. Darcy</a> is ignoring you in favor of Lizzie Bennett.</p><p><strong>2. Look up.</strong> A <a href="http://www.today.com/health/stop-obsessing-women-waste-2-weeks-year-their-appearance-today-2D12104866">Today Show/AOL Ideal to Real Body Image survey</a> said that 80 percent of teen girls compare themselves to “glamorous celebrity images,” and that half of them are “left feeling dissatisfied with their appearance.” It’s not hard to imagine that older women are affected by these images too. But lift your eyes from the screen or the ’zine and look around you: now where are all these perfect people? Mostly they’re on the pages you were looking at. Go out into real life and look at real people. You’ll be amazed at how cute you suddenly are. In fact, go to the DMV, where there’s a crossroads of humanity. You’ll turn into Cinderella faster than Cinderella did.</p><p><strong>3. Visit a nudist resort.</strong> You will not find a bunch of perfect bodies; you will find people who, frankly my dear, don’t give a damn. When you see people with gray hair in surprising places and they’re accepting of and free in their bodies — warts and all — suddenly accepting your own body seems like something worth emulating. </p><p><strong>4. Listen to the Lama.</strong> Changing who you compare yourself to isn’t my idea: the Dalai Lama says in <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=DtlVGqeUnNcC&amp;pg=PA217&amp;lpg=PA217&amp;dq=dalai+lama+art+of+happiness+compare+yourself++less+fortunate&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=6wy4IL_pm7&amp;sig=UKc3aAkuguT2DFYvHX-5OTdpuDw&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=En5MU4WWGOPnsASM34LIAg&amp;ved=0CEYQ6AEwBQ%23v=onepage&amp;q=dalai%20lama%20art%20of%20happiness%20compare%20yourself%20%20less%20fortunate&amp;f=false">The Art of Happiness</a> that one way to broaden your perspective is by “comparing your own situation with those who are less fortunate than yourself. This can often make a difference, at least in helping one cope with one’s personal problems.” This isn’t to say that people with non-media physiques are “less fortunate,” just that who you compare yourself to can really change how you feel about your own situation. In fact, when you’re preoccupied with cosmetic concerns, compare yourself to someone with a serious illness or injury — it’s a fast way to be grateful for the working body you have.</p><p><strong>5. And it probably works pretty well.</strong> Tip number one on the <a href="http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/10-steps-positive-body-image">National Eating Disorders Association</a> list of positive body image tips is “Appreciate all that your body can do.” Consider all that it’s doing right now: breathing, regulating your temperature, carrying nutrients, growing hair, and processing words. It stores your memories and performs fast calculations to let you <a href="http://www.livescience.com/3445-baseball-players-catch-fly-balls.html">catch a ball</a>. Kind of hard to hate the thing that lets you feel kisses, play with the dog and taste ice cream.</p><p><strong>6. Listen to the mama.</strong> Like most girls, I was enamored of movie and fashion mags when I was young but also weirdly detached from the idea that I had to look like a model. My mother, who was naturally athletic, slender and appearance-conscious, put the kibosh on that by looking at the magazines with me and saying of models, “They’re supposed to show the clothes the way they look on the hanger in the store. That’s why they’re built like clothes hangers.” That’s not a line you forget quickly, or ever, and the message was clear: we don’t all look the same and we don’t need to. <a href="https://uhs.berkeley.edu/whatseatingyou/pdf/EveryBody.pdf">Take it from UC Berkeley</a>: treat your body with respect and, since you’re a team, you’ll both feel better.</p><p><strong>7. It’s their job.</strong> My mom was right about models and actors: they have a job to do and they put time, money and effort into their appearances. But while it’s one thing to look nice, we all don’t have to put a professional model level of effort into our looks any more than we all need to sing like professional divas. What if an underwear model had to do your job? Could she prep a body for burial, teach algebra or run a magazine? Okay, it depends on the model, but the point is you don’t need to be prepared to jump into their job anymore than they need to be prepared to jump into yours. </p><p><strong>8. Get up and boogie.</strong> A <a href="http://news.ufl.edu/2009/10/08/weekend-warriors/">2009 study from the University of Florida</a> found that just the act of exercising made people feel better about their bodies, whether or not they had yet seen any physical effects of the exercise. This is a tricky one because when we feel crappy about our bodies we don't feel like exercising. Heather Hausenblas, the UF exercise psychologist who did the study, says as much in the report. But it’s worth tricking yourself into getting off the couch. According <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389">to the Mayo Clinic</a> the benefits of exercise are legion, including better sleep, weight control and decreased risk of heart disease. And if you find something you like doing you’ll want to do it: author and fitness teacher <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-sarokin/best-exercise-programs_b_4158115.html">Larry Sarokin describes in the Huffington Post</a> how to find the right exercise and pace yourself.</p><p><strong>9. Forget size.</strong> Another <a href="http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy854">excellent U of F tip</a> is to focus on having a body that’s healthy and feels good instead of what size and shape that body is. I like this tip because having focused on size and shape a lot in the past, I know where it can lead: often to just wanting a little comfort, which is too easily found in the fridge, which just makes things worse. Focusing instead on what’s going to make you feel good from the inside out — like getting enough sleep, or walking instead of driving — pays off and once you get that momentum going it’s easier to want to keep it going.</p><p><strong>10. C’mon, you don’t really hate your whole body.</strong> We’re all irked by some particular oddity about our appearance. But a single change you’d like to make doesn’t mean you hate your entire body. That would be like hating your whole country because you don’t like some of its current laws or lawmakers. You don’t hate the whole thing, you just fix what you can and keep going. And even minor adjustments shouldn’t be obsessed over. Clinical psychologist Jonathan Rudiger says that being invested in appearance isn’t a bad thing, but investing in it for self-worth is a bad idea: “Appearance is only one aspect of the self. In our culture, we spend too much time focused on the external while neglecting the internal." Speaking of internal effects, the <a href="http://www.eatingforlife.org/content/body-image">Eating for Life Alliance Body Image</a>page has great information on the effects of body image preoccupation, including its potential to contribute to depression and how it leads to detachment from all the other things going on in the world.</p><p><strong>11. Behold the power of distraction.</strong> Sarah Etu, clinical psychologist, says in the <a href="http://www.today.com/health/stop-obsessing-women-waste-2-weeks-year-their-appearance-today-2D12104866">Today</a> story that distraction from obsessive thoughts can help, something even as simple as doing the dishes. I love this tip because, in a world of distractions, how easy it is... wait, someone’s sending you a text, an email, a Tweet, and just look at all those stories in the sidebar! I also love this tip because it’s really cool to see the power of an obsession dwindle when you realize, “Wow, I got so into ‘American Horror Story’ that I forgot why I was upset.” </p><p><strong>12. And the best distraction?</strong> Go hang out with people who love you, no matter what. Not only does it feel good, it’s proof all those rotten feelings are wrong. How can you be so unlovable if they love you?</p> Fri, 02 May 2014 12:06:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 988340 at http://www.alternet.org Personal Health Personal Health body image women winter weight gain self-acceptance eating disorders 9 Reasons Not Having Kids Is the Best Decision I Ever Made http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/9-reasons-not-having-kids-best-decision-i-ever-made <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Some people feel their kids are their greatest achievement. For a long time I thought mine was not having any. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-02-07_at_11.22.11_am_1.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>“What’s your greatest achievement?”</p><p>That’s such a good question. It lets you dwell for a moment on the things you’ve got in the plus column of your life rather than the minus, which is where the weary adult mind spends so much of its time. Everyone has achieved something and what you consider your best work, your own personal Bohemian Rhapsody, could be anything: making fortunes, making friends, and of course, making babies. </p><p>Some people feel their kids are their greatest achievement. For a long time I thought mine was not having any. </p><p>Avoiding parenthood does feel like a triumph when you have social pressure, religion and a biological clock all pushing you in the direction of <a href="http://www.buybuybaby.com/" target="_blank">Buy Buy Baby</a>, to say nothing of babies themselves. Even as I write this, the World’s Cutest 18-Month Old is wheeled through Starbucks and the cool reserve of everyone in the room, myself included, dissolves like frigid vanilla ice cream under the relentless advance of hot fudge. Who can resist that level of precious? </p><p>I can! It’s something I’ve known most of my life but now that I’m pushing 50, I’ve never felt less judged about it, possibly because people stop asking about it when you get this old or possibly because people are more accepting about it than they once were.</p><p><a href="http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2148636,00.html" target="_blank">Lauren Sandler, writing in Time</a> in 2013, says that “the birth rate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history,” that the rate of women who remain childless has doubled since the '70s, from 10% to 20%, and that “women who choose not to become mothers are finding new paths of acceptance. As their ranks rise, so do positive attitudes about leading a life in which having it all doesn’t mean having a baby.”  </p><p>There are naysayers, of course, but it’s a fact that you will find people who will argue with you if you tell them that the sky is blue.</p><p>Since I’m at peace with the idea, and the world seems no longer interested, writing a story about why I’m relieved my life path didn’t detour at the maternity ward might seem unnecessary. Whether you’re in the loft or the pulpit, preaching to the choir can get awfully tedious. </p><p>Recently, though, when some friends started talking baby talk again, it shook me up a bit. Of course, I’ll support whatever my friends do, but it made me feel odd, a little too much like <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/17/world/asia/japan-philippines-ww2-soldier-dies/" target="_blank">Hiroo Onoda</a>, the Japanese soldier who stayed in the jungle for 30 years after WWII ended while everyone else got on with their lives. If I, who have been famously steadfast on this point could feel wobbly, maybe other people who are subject to pressures I’ve been largely immune to—parents, partners, culture and religion—could use a little validation, a little assurance. Here then are the nine reasons I’m relieved I never had kids and it’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to either. </p><p><strong>1. My mask has never felt secure.</strong>When you fly, you’re given safety instructions about how to use the oxygen mask that will drop down in front of you in the event of a crash. They always tell you to secure your mask before trying to help someone else. What they’re diplomatically trying to say is that if you’re a wreck you’re not going to be much help in a wreck. </p><p>This is the most choice metaphor imaginable for why I’m relieved I stuck to my decision not to have kids. My mask has never felt secure. In fact, I’ve been holding it together with gum I found in the seat pocket for a long time now, plus I think there’s lint in my air hose and I’m worried that the bag isn’t inflating. They said that might happen, but I find it troubling. Come to think of it, why hasn’t the safety lecture on planes changed in all these years? How old <em>is</em> this equipment? Dammit, my mask just rolled under my seat. How relieved are you now that I’m not shepherding any children along? Not half as relieved as I am. </p><p><strong>2. The buck stops here.</strong>The above passage should make it clear that I’m as neurotic as three George Costanzas. Sarah Silverman once talked about not wanting <a href="http://theweek.com/article/index/228756/is-it-irresponsible-for-the-depressed-to-have-children" target="_blank">to have children due to her depression</a>, saying, “I don’t think I’m strong enough to see that in a child.” I feel similar about my anxiety, for which I’ve had therapy and taken meds. Whether it comes from my genes or experience I wouldn’t want to pass it on any more than I would the flu.</p><p><strong>3. But there is one thing you’ll never hear me complain about.</strong>You know all the discomfort and pain pregnant women experience? I can’t say I feel I missed out on all that. </p><p><strong>4. There’s no one path to fulfillment.</strong>In <a href="http://blog.sfgate.com/mmagowan/2010/03/09/best-selling-author-elizabeth-gilbert-says-childless-women-are-just-fine/" target="_blank">excerpts from <em>Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage</em></a>, author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the fact that in any given society at any given time there are about 10% of women who never have kids. This group often acts as crucial support for exhausted or absent mothers. She calls it the "Auntie Brigade,” women who contributed to raising the likes of John Lennon, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Bronte sisters. </p><p>But raising your kids or someone else’s isn’t crucial to fulfillment.</p><p>“Women without children are perfectly capable of being happy,” Gilbert writes. “ What they’re often missing isn’t kids, but a society and a culture that values and respects them.”</p><p>This is as true a thing as I’ve ever read on the subject. Fulfillment, after all, is a feeling of a job well done, a sense of peace at having met a goal. What if your goal was not to have kids? Then congratulations if you stuck to your guns.</p><p><strong>5. Maternal instinct toward other adults.</strong>Helen Mirren has famously said she has no maternal instinct, though she didn’t rule out the idea of having children. Her take and the topic of childless women in general is <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/9847642/Helen-Mirren-confronts-the-final-female-taboo.html" target="_blank">nicely covered in this Telegraph piece by Sarah Rainey</a>. </p><p>When it comes to actual kids, I don’t have any maternal instinct either. It’s like my ovaries are tone-deaf. I’ve known my whole life motherhood wasn’t for me. At the moment I don’t even have any pets. I only have plants because someone keeps bringing them over. </p><p>I do, however, excel at being a free therapist/sounding board/pep club/second mom when my adult friends need it and am glad to be useful in that way. Some of the best mentors I’ve ever had were people without kids who were exceptionally gifted at guiding their colleagues.</p><p>Work is where a lot of people find their fulfillment, myself included. Writing is something you can do well into your doddering years and possibly improve at with age and experience. I’m relieved I’ve been able to do things I’m good at and didn’t try to be something I wasn’t.</p><p><strong>6. I’m not afraid to be alone.</strong>Let’s talk about those doddering years for a minute. People often assail the childless with comments like, “Who will take care of you when you’re old?”</p><p>“You were born to change my Depends,” isn’t a testimony to maternal warmth. It’s a horror movie. There’s nothing to say this hypothetical kid of mine wouldn’t be an utter flop as a caregiver, taxpayer and human being. Having children guarantees nothing. You can write all the scripts for people that you want; it doesn’t mean they’re going to take direction. </p><p><strong>7. There are no guarantees.</strong>I don’t think anyone goes into any great endeavor, whether love, work or parenthood, thinking, “Wow, I am really going to screw this up!” We begin with high hopes, good intentions and great expectations. But things change and for many of us our financial expectations have <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/16/real_estate/foreclosure-crisis/" target="_blank">changed in ways we never imagined</a>. </p><p>The <a href="http://www.fem2pt0.com/2013/08/02/having-it-all-without-having-children/" target="_blank">Time story</a> says that a child born in 2011 will cost $234,900 to raise and that’s only for 18 years—we all know parenthood goes on longer than that. In the fleeting times I did think of having children, financial solvency was my biggest prerequisite and for a long time I did quite well with it. My credit was once more sterling than Lady Grantham’s tea service. It never ever…ever… occurred to me that I’d have money troubles and credit issues so bad that if I married Oprah today she wouldn’t qualify for a boat loan tomorrow. I admire people who can take care of kids in tough times, but I’m relieved I was the only one I had to take care of when the financial hurricanes made landfall. </p><p>Speaking of Oprah, people often point to celebrities who don’t have kids as models of how fulfilled and successful a childfree life can be. That’s not a bad thing, but I worry that it reinforces a perceived elitism on the part of childfree people that I don’t think is true. Childfree people aren’t the self-absorbed, navel-gazing, jetsetters we are often cast as. We didn’t opt out of parenthood because we thought we’d be writing the Great American Novel on camel-back while crossing the Riviera and wouldn’t have time to go to the school play. When invitations are issued, most of us delighted to attend the school plays, graduations, and god help us, Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties of our friends’ kids. Just because we don’t want our own kids doesn’t mean we’re not happy for you when you have yours.</p><p>True, Scrooge was childless. So was Santa. </p><p><strong>8. It’s okay to doubt.</strong>Wondering whether you’ve made the right decision about having kids isn’t a bad thing; it’s a human thing. In fact scientists have just discovered a new region of our brains, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jan/28/grass-greener-brain-research-lateral-frontal-pole" target="_blank">the lateral frontal pole</a>, that helps us reflect on our decisions, probably so we make better ones next time. My being rattled about the kid issue after so many years is actually a good sign. It means my mind is still open. I’m still glad I stuck to my guns, but I’m also glad to know my mind isn’t painted shut. </p><p><strong>9. We are all doing the best we can</strong>. I have a Buddhist friend who, when I get irritable at others' shortcomings, reminds me that everyone is doing the best they can (it might not be his Buddhism that prompts this, just that he’s a good guy). Joseph Shrand, the author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Outsmarting-Anger-Strategies-Defusing-Dangerous/dp/1118135482" target="_blank">Outsmarting Anger: 7 Strategies for Defusing Our Most Dangerous Emotion </a>says the same thing: <a href="http://www.drshrand.com/blog/the-imax-approach-part-2/" target="_blank">everyone is doing their best </a>at any given moment, and our best changes from second to second. </p><p>It’s a bit miraculous how much more relatable people are when you think of them this way. I can’t speak for everyone who decides not to have kids, but I know it’s the best decision I could have made for myself. Those of us who opt out of having children often do so not because we take parenthood lightly, but because we take it so seriously. </p> Fri, 07 Feb 2014 08:14:00 -0800 Liz Langley, AlterNet 955922 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships kids marriage 7 Strange Facts About the Fascinating Vagina http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/7-strange-facts-about-fascinating-vagina <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A woman with two vaginas? The oddities of kangaroo reproduction? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-08-09_at_1.00.49_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Vaginas can be pretty magical, both for owners and visitors, and those are just the garden-variety human ones. There are some in the world that would make <a href="http://www.ripleys.com/sanfrancisco/who-is-ripley/about-robert-ripley/" target="_blank">Mr. Ripley</a> himself faint dead away with their astonishing and unusual qualities. Behold, eight bizarre stories about vaginas, some admirable, some nightmarish, all of which you will probably throw into the conversational potluck when you’ve had one too many glasses of chardonnay.</p><p><strong>1. She’s twice the woman I am.</strong></p><p>Having one vagina is enough upkeep. Imagine having two. Meet Hazel Jones of High Wycomb, UK. Before she realized she’d gotten a double scoop of genitalia, she experienced excruciating menstrual cycles, confusion about where to put tampons and embarrassment when she tried to discuss her troubles with friends. After her first serious boyfriend alerted her that there was something unusual going on down there, she went to a doctor and she discovered she had two vaginas.</p><p><a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/01/12/born-with-two-vaginas-not-so-rare/" target="_blank">ABC’s Susan Donaldson James writes</a> that when Jones went public with her unusual trait she found it wasn’t as unusual as one would think. The condition uterus didelphys, which happens during fetal development when reproductive organs are forming, actually impacts about one in 3,000 women. As explained in <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnPjmqtx3lg" target="_blank">an interview with Hazel on British television, </a>the uterus starts developing as two tubes and then fuses and becomes one uterus and one vagina. Sometimes, though, the septum between them doesn’t break down, so in cases like Jones', two uteruses, two cervixes and two vaginas can form. She turned down surgery to have the septum removed because of the possibility of heavy scar tissue.</p><p>She also <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2089360/Hazel-Jones-Woman-2-vaginas-rejects-1m-pornography-offer.html" target="_blank">turned down an offer from porn company Vivid Entertainment </a>to star in an adult film for $1 million. That said, she’s not shy to talk about her condition, which she called a “great ice-breaker at parties.”</p><p>Dare you to try it at your next office birthday party. Who’s gonna check?     </p><p><strong>2. Fill ‘er up.</strong></p><p>In fairness to Karin Mackaliunas I can understand why <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2011/03/womans_remarkable_vagina_hid_5.html" target="_blank">she stored an impressive 54 bags of heroin in her vagina</a>. It’s tradition. <a href="http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/heroin-hidden-in-butt-561324" target="_blank">Body cavities are where people can hide illegal drugs</a>. </p><p>The real brainteaser is why did she store anything else up there?<a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2011/03/womans_remarkable_vagina_hid_5.html" target="_blank"> Julie Gerstein of New York Magazine reports</a> that Mackaliunas, of Scanton, PA had been suspected of a burglary and was taken into custody after she crashed her car. Mackaluinas “began feeling the sting" of all those tiny bags, and “After a struggle with Officer Baumann during a more thorough search at headquarters,” read the police report, “Ms. Mackaliunas asked to speak with Sergeant Michael Mayer and told him she had hidden more heroin in her vagina.” </p><p>Gerstein writes that in addition to the 54 bags of heroin, Mackaliunas also had used Vagi-Store to hold 31 empty heroin bags, eight unspecified prescription pills and “$51.22 in cash and change.” </p><p>Change? Change isn’t illegal. Why would you secret it up there <a href="http://www.hlntv.com/slideshow/2012/08/21/art-masterpieces-stolen-never-recovered" target="_blank">like a hot Picasso</a>? It seems especially mad if you’re on the run. Change jingles. Wouldn’t it let people know you were coming? In any sense of the word? </p><p><strong>3. Long Duck Dong.</strong></p><p>As I write this story I’m looking out a window at a lake where I can  see a couple of ducks cooling off on a sweltering afternoon. You’d never guess they are engaged in a genital arms race.</p><p>That analogy has been employed in the spellbinding world of duck reproductive organs which are almost as twisty and turn-y as the season of <em>Lost</em> that made me quit watching the show because it was too much work. Duck penises, <a href="http://io9.com/5433056/female-ducks-have-evolved-a-vagina-dentata" target="_blank">writes Tim Barribeau of io9</a>, are an astonishing 20 cm (almost 8 inches) long—about a third of their body length—and they  <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwjEeI2SmiU" target="_blank">boi-oi-oing </a>out in less than half a second. Msles sometimes force sex on the females. Females countered this by evolving a screwy clockwise vagina that’s full of rollercoaster twists, turns, <a href="http://www.world-science.net/othernews/070501_duck.htm" target="_blank">and dead ends,</a> reports World Science and Yale University. This way females pretty much cockblock their attackers from being the fathers of their offspring. Barribeau reports, “most forced copulations don’t result in fertilization.”</p><p>But don’t take my word for it. Let Isabella Rossellini <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBDNirNI2Iw" target="_blank">tell you all about it.</a> She is, after all, the only woman in the world who can dress up as a duck, a bed bug or an earthworm and not lose an iota of dignity.</p><p><strong>4. Vagina trifecta</strong>.</p><p>Someone always has to one-up you, don’t they? </p><p>Hazel Jones (see item one) comes out as having two vaginas. Next thing you know, kangaroos are bragging that they have three.</p><p>Well, maybe they didn’t ask for the publicity, but they got it: Describing an episode of the documentary show <a href="http://www.channel4.com/programmes/inside-natures-giants" target="_blank">Inside Nature’s Giants</a>, science writer<a href="http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/04/17/kangaroos-have-three-vaginas/" target="_blank">Ed Yong wrote on his Discover blog </a>about how sperm travels up the two vaginas on the side to the kangaroo’s two uteruses while the joey (baby roo) enters the world through the vagina in the center (there’s a nice, clear diagram on the link). The vaginas are prevented from merging by the ureter which, in humans, “<a href="http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/04/17/kangaroos-have-three-vaginas/%23.UeClFZjK0UV" target="_blank">doesn’t go through the reproductive system</a>.” </p><p>The joey is “about the size of a jellybean” when he's born and makes the tough trek to his mum’s pouch (marsupium) and continues to develop there (all marsupials have this three-vagina mechanism). <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGK1CZQfc9A" target="_blank">The show theorizes</a> that the narrowness of the vagina down which it has to travel might mean it can’t get much bigger before birth. </p><p>I’ve never given birth but I can’t help thinking some women who have might fancy this pouch business. </p><p><strong>5. Walk-in vagina.</strong></p><p>“Roomy,” isn’t a word most women would want to describe their vaginas with, but in 1966 one artist made it rather beautiful. </p><p><a href="http://nikidesaintphalle.org/press/20110210_schunck_tosca" target="_blank">"Hon: A Cathedral" by Niki Sainte de Phalle, with fellow artists Jean Tinguely and Per Olov Ultvedt</a> is an art installation of a massive earth-mother type figure which guests entered through the vagina. It was made for the the Moderna Mussett in Stockholm: here’s a closer picture of it on <a href="http://dailyartwork.tumblr.com/post/20911200675/niki-de-saint-phalle-hon-1966-stockholm" target="_blank">An Artwork A Day</a>. Visitors who walked in could access exhibition space, an aquarium, even a planetarium. </p><p>It’s a beautiful installation. And fortunately people didn’t henceforth expect to find fine art and sea turtles every time they entered one. </p><p><strong>6. Here Puss Puss!</strong></p><p>Human ovulation <a href="http://www.webmd.com/baby/ss/slideshow-understanding-fertility-ovulation" target="_blank">happens on a schedule. It has a routine. At certain intervals it’s triggered by the release of LH, lutenizing hormone in the brain</a>. </p><p>In cats ovulation doesn’t punch a clock; the muse has to strike it, or stroke it. By “muse,” of course, we mean “cat penis.” </p><p><a href="http://cats.about.com/cs/pregnancybirth/a/mating_game.htm" target="_blank">Franny Syufy from About.com</a> writes that "male cats have barbed penises (much like a fishhook), and upon withdrawal, the female cat will often scream (whether from ecstasy or pain is questionable). It is also believed that the barbed penis stimulates ovulation."</p><p>Syufy also says that the males hold the females by biting part of the back of their neck, which may also “stimulate a part of the female's brain which may induce ovulation.” </p><p>Bottom line, the cat vagina is stimulated to ovulation by a barbed penis. It is by virtue of this horrible-sounding event that we end up with <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Bmhjf0rKe8" target="_blank">cuteness against which everyone is defenseless</a>. </p><p><strong>7. Iron maiden.</strong></p><p>So, maybe it can’t bite tops off beer bottles, but how much can your vagina bench-press?</p><p>We’re sad to hear that there’s actually not a Guinness World Record for such a thing but if there were it would go to Tatyana Kozhevnikova, according to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/08/worlds-strongest-vagina_n_2837269.html" target="_blank">Ron Dicker of the Huffington Post</a>. On the UK’s Body Shocking Show Kozhevnikova flaunted her skills by inserting a wooden egg into her Popeye of a vagina and attached weights which she then lifted.</p><p>“She reportedly set the vagina weightlifting record by hoisting 31 pounds in 2009,” Dicker says. She also offers that it takes just five minutes a day of working those muscles for just a week and you’ll be able to give and receive “unforgettable pleasure in bed.”</p><p>Never mind that. Do you think she’ll help me move? </p><p> </p> Fri, 09 Aug 2013 09:44:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 880679 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships vagina Penis Fencing? The 10 Weirdest Facts About Sex In the Animal Kingdom http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/penis-fencing-10-weirdest-facts-about-sex-animal-kingdom <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Here&#039;s a glimpse at some of the world&#039;s weirdest mating rituals. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-07-11_at_11.00.24_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>If your friends ever give you a hard time because of your peculiar eating, just point them to Nicolas Cage. In 2010 the actor revealed that he choses his noms in a unique way. <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/may/19/nicolas-cage-diet" target="_blank">From the Guardian</a>:</p><blockquote><p>“I actually choose the way I eat according to the way animals have sex. I think fish are very dignified with sex. So are birds. But pigs, not so much. So I don't eat pig meat or things like that. I eat fish and fowl."</p></blockquote><p>It’s an odd criteria. At any rate, none of the animals below will ever have to worry about ending up in Mr. Cage’s crockpot because they have some seriously strange nookie. Enjoy this glimpse into some of the weirdest sex in the animal kingdom.</p><p><strong>1. I’ll  Melt With You</strong></p><p>Some anglerfish live in the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean and if you looked like this, you might want to hide out down there too. They lure prey by means of a rod that juts out of their heads and attracts other fish, like a fishing lure. In some species, <a href="http://animal.discovery.com/fish/anglerfish-info.htm" target="_blank">says Animal Planet</a>, that lure contains luminescent bacteria, a light that tempts gullible creatures to their doom. What a stunning feat of evolution. And yet the mating ritual of the deep sea angler fish makes that look like a card trick. </p><p>The male anglerfish is tiny compared to the female. He’s born with only the most elemental of body systems, but he can find a female anywhere because she emits a pheromone trail that his keen olfactory organ is able to track. He latches onto her with his teeth which fuse to her body and then he begins to melt into her—disintegrating and integrating with her body, absorbing into her until all that’s left of him are his reproductive organs, which she can use to fertilize her eggs when she’s ready. It’s a codependent’s wet dream. In fact, in this <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lsmxs0uDXMo" target="_blank">Animal Planet animation</a> of the process they say scientists used to think the little nubbins jutting out of the side of the deep sea anglerfish female were extra fins. Actually, they are male anglerfish, fused into her skin. </p><p><strong>2. Urine like Flynn</strong></p><p>You’d think the quills—<a href="http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/porcupine/" target="_blank">up to 30,000 of them</a>—would make every act of porcupine sex like an Evel Knievel stunt. The weird thing is that the quills aren’t the weird thing.</p><p>First of all, the female is only sexually receptive 8-12 hours a year. Hours. A year. Tiny window. Like the one Luke Skywalker had to blow up the Death Star. And yet female porcupines have a 90% reproductive success rate, reports<a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/11/porcupine_sex_mating_behaviors_involve_quills_musk_penis_spikes_fights_and.html" target="_blank"> Slate’s Jason Bittel</a>. Hard to believe, considering how it all begins. Both Bittel and <a href="http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/732/how-do-porcupines-mate" target="_blank">Cecil Adams of the Straight Dope</a> refer to porcupine expert Uldiz Roze, and Adams quotes directly from Roze’s book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/North-American-Porcupine-Uldis-Roze/dp/0801446465/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1332442693&amp;sr=1-1" target="_blank">North American Porcupine</a>: </p><blockquote><p>“The male approaches on his hind legs and tail, grunting in a low tone. His penis springs erect. He then becomes a urine cannon, squirting high-pressure jets of urine at the female. Everything suggests the urine is fired by ejaculation, not released by normal bladder pressure....In less than a minute, a female may be thoroughly wetted from nose to tail."</p></blockquote><p>Bittel says this jet can shoot about 6 feet. Sometimes it just pisses her off to get pissed on. Sometimes, though, she evidently finds it sexy (women!). If she’s ready to accept the male, she lifts her tail and the male rests his hands on the un-quilled underside of said tail and gets down to one to five minutes of <a href="http://www.komonews.com/living/kids-pets-family/Get-ready-to-squee-Woodland-Park-Zoo-has-a-new-porcupette-204718341.html" target="_blank">porcupette</a>-producing business.</p><p>The porcupine penis, by the way, is naturally spiny. Scientists don’t know why and no female porcupine has voiced an opinion on the matter.</p><p><strong>3. “Cuddle Puddle”</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.livescience.com/2348-fear-snakes.html" target="_blank">The fear of snakes</a> is common and if you’re ophidiophobic you don’t want to know about breeding balls. That’s a pile of writhing, squirming, orgiastic snakes having group sex that would probably break world records.</p><p><a href="http://academic.reed.edu/biology/courses/BIO342/2012_syllabus/2012_WEBSITES/DDPS_Snake_Sociality/mating_ball.html" target="_blank">Reed College in Portland, OR</a> has a course paper that explains pretty nicely how male snakes swarm when female snakes awaken from hibernation. Some males even throw the others off the scent—quite literally—by emitting a female scent and luring some of the males away from the female. Scientists have theorized that the male snakes might then rush back to take advantages of the duped dudes’ absences. Or they might do it because snakes don’t generate their own heat and the “cuddle puddle” formed by all these snakes is to the advantage of the “she-male” who is at the center of it.</p><p><strong>4. Yucking It Up</strong></p><p>Whatever other things might rattle your nerves while you’re having sex—your parents coming home, the big leather swing breaking, whether this will show up on the Internet one day—at least you don’t have a reasonable concern that you might be killed in mid-coitus by a <a href="http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/jesus-christ-its-a-lion-get-in-the-car" target="_blank">lion</a>. </p><p>Spotted hyenas try to find the safest place to get it on for this very reason. At a certain point during their romantic encounters they experience a “copulatory lock,” in which the male’s penis swells in the female's reproductive tract and he ejaculates: this lasts “some minutes,” and leaves the hyenas sitting ducks to predator, <a href="http://scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/how-spotted-hyenas-mate/" target="_blank">Kay E. Holekamp, behavioral researcher of spotted hyenas at the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya</a>, writes in the New York Times. </p><p>Holekamp says there's another thing that makes mating difficult for the hyena. Males and females are so similar that <a href="http://scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/29/male-or-female-good-question/" target="_blank">even when looking right at their genitalia it isn’t that easy to distinguish them</a>. The female’s clitoris, through which she pees, has sex and gives birth, is as big as a penis and only discernible by its shape: clitorises are blunt-tipped while penises are pointed.</p><p>"Even though the female’s organ is flaccid during copulation, its only opening points forward and downward, so the male must hop around behind the female while he squats behind her, thrusting blindly upward and backward, to achieve intromission. It’s actually very comical, although you can’t help feeling a bit bad that you are laughing when the male is clearly having such a tough time,” Holekamp writes.</p><p>Don’t feel bad, Kay. One imagines hyenas are used to <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONFi8N2FQsc" target="_blank">the sound of laughing</a>. They probably don’t take it personally. </p><p><strong>5. Dying For Sex</strong></p><p>We’ve all thought “I’ll die if I can’t have him/her.” When female ferrets say it, they mean business. </p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.ferrets.org/Caring_For_Ferrets.htm" target="_blank">Ferret Information Rescue Shelter &amp; Trust Society (FIRST) of Vancouver,</a> female ferrets (called jills) go into heat in their first spring and never go out of heat until they are “successfully mated.” If they don’t mate they can develop aplastic anemia.</p><p>According to <a href="http://www.all-about-ferrets.com/aplastic-anemia-in-ferrets.html" target="_blank">All About Ferrets.com</a> aplastic anemia comes from bone marrow suppression: elevated estrogen levels from this extended period of heat become toxic to the ferret’s bone marrow. The disease causes complete loss of red blood cells in the bone marrow with symptoms that include anemia, swollen vulva and hair loss.</p><p>Ferret owners can combat this by getting the female mated to a male who's had a vasectomy, or by getting her a “jill jab,” a hormone injection that brings her out of heat.</p><p>Jeepers, they make ice cream for dogs and clothes for cats. Can no one invent a ferret Hitachi wand? </p><p><strong>6. Penis Fencing</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wn3xluIRh1Y" target="_blank">It looks like two scrunchies having a fight.</a> Actually the flatworms in that NatGeo Wild “World’s Weirdest” video are quite pretty, but what they’re doing isn’t.</p><p>All flatworms are hermaphrodites and their mating routine is definitely more fighting than loving; in fact, it’s referred to as penis fencing. They try to jab each other using their penises as weapons. When one is successful it ejaculates the sperm, which the other absorbs, forcing it, rather miserably if the video is any indication, into motherhood.</p><p>Ever seen a scurnchie mope off into the sunset looking for groceries while the father flutters away without a care in the world? It’s damn depressing. </p><p><strong>7. Star 69</strong></p><p>Earthworms are both unassuming and icky at the same time, like those guys you see who are either really nice or they're serial killers. The same goes for an earthworm's sex life. On one hand they’re kind of cool. On the other the word “slime tube” comes up a little more often than is usually desirable. </p><p>Earthworms are simultaneous hermaphrodites, meaning they have the reproductive organs of both sexes, writes <a href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/zoology/all-about-animals/earthworm3.htm" target="_blank">Josh Clark of How Stuff Works</a>. Spiffy! Nothing like having options. To mate they get into what, for humans, would be a 69 position, then excrete enough mucous to form a “slime tube” around their bodies. Each ejaculates sperm that the other takes and then the pair goes their separate, slimy ways. </p><p>Slime tube part two happens when they get ready to lose their clitellum, a band each earthworm has around its body that excretes more slime. As it slides up, it passes over the egg sac, which sticks to it, then over the receptacle holding the paramour’s sperm which also sticks to it, and when eggs and sperm meet, <em>voila</em>!— fertilization takes place. The band comes off the top of the worm’s head like a T-shirt and it forms a little pod from which up to 20 little worms will emerge in two to three weeks. </p><p>With that kind of speed and numbers it’s not surprising, as Clark writes that <a href="http://home.howstuffworks.com/vermicomposting.htm" target="_blank">vermicomposters</a> say their worm populations can double in 60 to 90 days.</p><p><strong>8. Very Oral Sex</strong></p><p>Some crazy animal sex, like the swingers club that is the life of the <a href="http://science.discovery.com/tv-shows/through-the-wormhole/videos/will-sex-become-extinct.htm" target="_blank">bonobo</a>, has become common  knowledge. Lots of people know that bonobos have sex with the same frequency the rest of us use Google. Another weird animal sex fact most of us know is that there are some insects and arachnids who eat their mates. </p><p>But do you know why? <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/05/science/05cann.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">Carl Zimmer, writing in the New York Times</a> in 2006, says the reasons can vary among species faced with “different evolutionary pressures.” One study showed that in Chinese mantises, males were the main source of food for females to begin with.</p><p>Male redback spiders are a different and more suicidal story. A male redback spider starts mating with a female, then flips himself onto her fangs. She starts to cannibalize him and then he, kind of amazingly, starts the courting process all over again. After the second mating he will die. Researchers have found that the cannibalism gives the male time to plug the female’s sperm receptacle so no other male can mate with the female. Cannibalized males mate twice as long and have twice the reproductive success rate of non-cannibalized males. They do it for offspring!</p><p><a href="http://www.livescience.com/19907-sexually-cannibalistic-mate-choice.html" target="_blank">Jennifer Welsh of LiveScience</a> writes that hunger—for sex in males, for food in females—may drive preying mantis behavior with males more willing to take a risk with a hungry female if the males are sexually starved.</p><p>So there are just a few thoughts on why some species eat their mates. And you thought it was because their mates were filled with cheese. </p><p><strong>9. That Warm, Vampiric Glow</strong></p><p>From hot tubs to warming vibrators to fireplaces, heat is considered sexy. And <a href="http://bangordailynews.com/2011/06/24/outdoors/misunderstood-lamprey-thriving-in-sedgeunkedunk-stream/" target="_blank">the male of this species</a> makes his own. </p><p>Sea lamprey sex isn’t that bizarre—in fact it’s a fairly straightforward matter, as <a href="http://www.livescience.com/37874-sea-lampreys-hot-sex.html" target="_blank">Laura Poppick of LiveScience reports.</a> Male vampire fish meets female vampire fish (they sustain themselves by parasitically attaching to other fish and sucking their blood); male attaches hideous suction cup mouth to female’s head, vigorous thrusting ensues, gametes are shot out into the world and land in a little depression mother vampire fish makes with her tail.</p><p>What’s new and interesting about it all, Poppick reports, is the discovery that a ridge of fat cells near the anterior dorsal fin of the male heats up when females approachs. It’s the first time heat-generating (thermogenic) tissue has been identified in a cold-blooded species. </p><p>Why they do it is unclear, but as Poppick writes, generating heat burns caloric energy and the varying degrees to which they heat up suggests that males tend to spend more energy on attractive females. Since they die after mating it’s energy nature would consider well spent. </p><p><strong>10. Pigasm</strong></p><p>Coming back full circle to Nick Cage’s dismissal of the pig as having undignified sex, here’s a tidbit about pig nookie. There’s a rumor afloat that pigs have 30-minute orgasms. While I couldn’t find anything to substantiate this, it does say in the <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=Kkts3AX9QVAC&amp;pg=PA60&amp;lpg=PA60&amp;dq=pig+orgasm+five+minutes&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=3f3utPJW8j&amp;sig=Nc0zzS5gcyzDAJ7rFzt0EJrMah0&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=3sbaUd5uibrwBOzwgMAM&amp;ved=0CGMQ6AEwBw%23v=onepage&amp;q=pig%2520orgasm%2520five%2520minutes&amp;f=false" target="_blank">Orgasm Answer Guide</a> that male pigs do take five minutes to ejaculate. For comparison, rabbits take one second, and the "conscious perception of orgasm” in human males is 20 seconds or less. </p><p>Animals may not be able to rhapsodize in erotic novels and women’s magazines about orgasm, but scientists have concluded that sex is just as rewarding for animals as it is for humans. You know what that means? Male pigs are having climaxes that are 15 times better than human males.</p> Thu, 11 Jul 2013 07:53:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 867450 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sex What Happens In Your Brain When You Get Mad, And How To Control It http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/anger <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Joseph Shrand discusses his new book, &quot;Outsmarting Anger: 7 Strategies for Defusing Our Most Dangerous Emotion.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-06-20_at_4.43.21_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">I’m late for one of my jobs and after noting my empty gas tank and fighting with a broken car door, I pray to a god I don’t believe in to get me through the first traffic light, which is the longest light on the earth. Children have been conceived, born, and taught to read while waiting for it to turn green. I need to breeze through it. </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); min-height: 15px; "> </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">Of course, this means some pinhead not only cuts me off but then pokes along in front of me at 10mph, assuring that we’ll both be sitting at that light until Mars is colonized. My blood pressure escalates while he drifts lazily into the turn lane and I realize, I know that guy! Suddenly he’s not the enemy. He’s just another harried driver, like I am, and I wonder where he’s going instead of how late I might be. Everything gets calmer. The light even turns green.  </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); "> </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">In a phone interview I tell an abridged version of this story to <a href="http://www.drshrand.com/" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); " target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(18, 85, 204); ">Joseph Shrand</span></a>, instructor of psychiatry at Harvard, director of the CASTLE program (Clean and Sober Teens Living Empowered) in Brockton, MA and author of the new book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Outsmarting-Anger-Strategies-Defusing-Dangerous/dp/1118135482" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); " target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(18, 85, 204); ">Outsmarting Anger: 7 Strategies for Defusing Our Most Dangerous Emotion.</span></a> (He’s also<a href="http://www.drshrand.com/" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); " target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(18, 85, 204); ">Joe from the 1972 PBS kids’ show Zoom</span></a>, which in itself could make you feel better about whatever was bugging you a minute ago.) <span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); ">He laughs and spots instantly why my brain went from furious to friendly in a matter of seconds. </span></p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); "> </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">“They’re part of your group!” Shrand says. That being the case I don’t mind sharing what he describes as the three areas critical to our human sense of survival: residence, resources and relationships. Because the other driver and I have a relationship (we’re friends) and share a residence (our city) I don’t mind sharing my resources with him (the road). Those things are necessary to us, and our brains have evolved strategies over the years for protecting them. </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); "> </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">But as our circumstances changed, our brains evolved, so we have a much bigger bag of tricks than we once did to manage a constant influx of new stimuli, some of it truly infuriating. The limbic system, the more primitive part of our brains (though not the most primitive), generator of “fight or flight” might react one way (“Run him off the road!”), while the more developed part, the prefrontal cortex, or PFC, seat of reason, might tally the consequences and react differently (“I’m not going to jail because of <i>that</i> idiot”). These two confer all the time, and in my case, the PFC kept me calm long enough to see the other driver was a friend, which triggered a rush of oxytocin, the chemical of bonding and trust, which makes us want to build relationships, not tear them <a href="http://down.an/" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); " target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(18, 85, 204); ">down</span></a> —an important element of survival for humans.</p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">“As evolving animals just a few million years ago we weren’t the biggest, we weren’t the fastest, we weren’t the strongest. We were prey! And then we began to form these small social groups and our survival potential increased so dramatically that human beings are now pretty much everywhere on the planet,” Shrand says.</p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">“But to be part of that group you have to have value,” and if you don’t feel valued, you feel vulnerable. The respect we give to others leads us to have value, he says. “Value leads to trust and trust is oxytocin, which binds us together.”</p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">Bottom line: we have a pharmacy between our ears capable of producing a drug that aids in building alliances, if we have the power to nudge it into action in ourselves and in others. It’s a quietly revolutionary idea, especially when a lot of us are used to taking a pill for everything from our sniffles to our temperaments, but one that feels very likely to catch on, especially <a href="http://www.technologyreview.com/news/513011/why-obamas-brain-mapping-project-matters/" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); " target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(18, 85, 204); ">as our understanding of our own brains and the chemicals they produce increases</span></a>.</p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">“My background, my training is in psychopharmacology as well as psychotherapy and I use medicines where I really think they’re needed,” Shrand says, “but this is one place where I don’t think we really need a medicine. We can just do this by simply reminding people they are amazing. Treat them with respect, which leads to value, which leads to trust…trust is oxytocin…and you can really unleash your unlimited human potential, the one resource that is completely unlimited.” </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">Another thing that’s active in our brains are mirror neurons which literally cause us to mirror the feeling of things we see. If we see someone crying, our facial muscles will try to replicate their facial expression, Shrand writes, and we tear up ourselves. Mirror neurons may be why the song “When you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you," makes you smile just hearing it. Among our evolving ancestors seeing an expression of fear or anger might have indicated a predator. Mirroring emotions would help bind the group against the threat. </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">But our layered brains don’t <i>make</i> us mirror anything thrown at us. We can choose to respond differently and get the other guy to mirror our calm. Shrand writes about a team of Dutch neuroscientists who looked at “intentional versus automatic imitation,” and found “the ability, built in and evolved, of the PFC to override the limbic reaction.” </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">By using one of his strategies, “projecting peace,” you can “activate a different set of mirror neurons and begin to defuse the other’s anger.” You can get them to mirror your calm instead of you mirroring their anger. A good example is at the beginning of the book where he tells a story of averting a disastrous situation with a psychotic patient who was threatening to hit a nurse with a chair. Shrand walked in and calmly asked the patient if he might like some coffee. By projecting peace, by showing the patient calm and trust, the patient felt calm and trusted. The anger was defused. </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">“Anger is an emotion designed to change the behavior of someone else,” Shrand says, but there’s a reverse to that: respect is a behavior designed to change the emotion of someone else. Respect is the master key to outsmarting anger.</p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">“When was the last time you got angry with anybody you really believed was treating you with respect?” he asks, and the answer is…you don’t. Someone showing you respect is not threatening your resources, relationships and residence. They’re letting you know you have value and up the oxytocin goes.</p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">Further strategies in this book, like practicing clearer communication and remembering to be empathetic, are surprisingly simple but effective. Shrand’s mnemonic devices and exercises make them easy to recall.</p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">One of my favorite defusing strategies  is “Trade Thanks,” because it really puts across <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2egYYSkX9I" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); " target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(18, 85, 204); ">how valuable simply saying thank you to someone can make them feel.</span></a> Think how you feel when you go out of your way to hold a door for someone and they <i>don’t</i> say thank you? Pissed, right? Conversely, think how you feel when they express gratitude? I’ll never forget the editor who sent me a bouquet of roses after I finished a long, arduous story. I thought I had just done my job; she genuinely appreciated that I had and let me know. How can you not work harder and more happily for someone who appreciates you that much?</p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">“In our heart of hearts every human being wants to be valued by another human being,” Shrand says. Not only does remembering that in your interactions and projecting it to others help create calm and potentially avert disaster, it just feels good.</p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); "> </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">Case in point: as our interview wraps up, I realize I need one last clarification. I feel bad and apologize for keeping Shrand longer than I should. "No, it’s an important clarification,” he says. Then with a smile in his voice. “I’m not angry.”</p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); "> </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">He could have been exasperated but he responded first with respect, empathy and humor, so instead of an anxious rush of <a href="http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/cortisol.htm" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204); " target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(18, 85, 204); ">cortisol</span></a>, I got a rush of oxytocin, which made me feel better and helped me pass the feeling on.</p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); "> </p><p style="font-size: 13px; margin: 0px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">We all have that drug cabinet in our heads. We just have to take a moment sometimes to remember that we’re already holding the keys. </p> Thu, 20 Jun 2013 13:36:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 858221 at http://www.alternet.org Personal Health Personal Health anger emotion 10 Common Ideas About Sex -- That May Be Totally Wrong http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/10-common-ideas-about-sex-may-be-totally-wrong <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Do women lose interest in sex as they age? How safe is it to have sex post-heart attack? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-05-23_at_11.01.00_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>We all think we know things we don’t, but when it comes to sex being fuzzy can be sticky. It’s harmless enough to think, say, that <a href="http://www.trutv.com/dumb_as_a_blog/gallery/15-dumbest-sex-myths.html?curPhoto=11" target="_blank">green M&amp;Ms make you horny,</a> but if you didn’t realize you had to take the birth control pill every day, misconceptions could lead to conceptions. So, are you ready for a sexual pop quiz? Here are 10 ideas about sex and the reasons they are true or false. Because you don’t always know what you think you know. Ya know? </p><p><strong>1. True or false: Women lose interest in sex as they age.</strong></p><p>There are myths we project onto others and myths we project onto ourselves. I assumed that my interest in sex would wane over the years whether I wanted it to or not, but during an evening of girl talk about the weird effects of perimenopause, this phrase came up: "Nobody ever told me about the horniness.”</p><p>I remember, because I was the one who said it.</p><p>I thought for a while that my hormones were ready to go off to an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale, but no: they go in and out of retirement like Michael Jordan (and they, too, want to take up new sports). Which just goes to show you that while it’s true that sex drives change periodically throughout our lives, it’s not true that interest in sex has some absolute cut-off point. </p><p><a href="http://www.sexualityandu.ca/sexual-health/sex-over-fifty/aging-women-and-sex" target="_blank">Sexuality and U</a>, the website for the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, says that after menopause arousal does take longer, lubrication is not as easy and hormonal fluctuations may alter desire, but that doesn’t mean it will vamoose altogether. Some women have an increased interest because they’re unburdened by fear of pregnancy or having young kids to take care of. <a href="http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/publications/menopause/myths.asp" target="_blank">Our Bodies, Ourselves</a> says the quality of relationships also plays a part in our later-life interest in sex as do some medications. So the bottom line is, it depends on the woman and her situation. </p><p>I know…you were looking forward to letting yourself go. Me too. Now I think I’ll still be flirting and asking “How’s my hair?” when I have more wrinkles than an Agatha Christie plot.</p><p><strong>2. True or false: If you have heart trouble you should stop having sex.</strong></p><p>Well, as luck would have it giving up sex isn’t necessary if you’ve had heart trouble. <a>From ThirdAge.com</a>: “Dr. Dawn Harper explains, "People with heart disease should be able to lead a completely normal sex life. Even people who've had a heart attack can normally resume their sex lives within two or three weeks unless there are complications. However, if you suffer from chest pain during sex, you should stop immediately and see your doctor."</p><p>The <a href="http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Sex-and-Heart-Disease_UCM_436414_Article.jsp" target="_blank">American Heart Association has a list of tips,</a> most of which involve checking with your doctor and some of which include specifics on erectile dysfunction, estrogen and recovery from heart failure. Of course, you want the green light from your own doctor, but you also don’t necessarily have to give up something that helps make life worth living.  </p><p>Also that fabulous plot device of guys having heart attacks in the arms of their mistresses turns out not to be not-so-likely in real life. From the AHA: “Cardiovascular events — such as <a href="http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/Heart-Attack_UCM_001092_SubHomePage.jsp" target="_blank">heart attacks</a> or chest pain caused by heart disease — rarely occur during sexual activity, because sexual activity is usually for a short time.”</p><p>Dang it. That’s how I was planning to go. </p><p><strong>3. True or false: You can orgasm, no direct stimulation required.</strong></p><p>You might not be able to do it while sitting at your desk at work, but who knows, you might. “A few folks can literally ‘think’ off,” sex educator and author <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/06/orgasm-facts_n_2632093.html%23slide=2071652" target="_blank">Betty Dodson told the Huffington Post’s Madeline Vann</a>. <a href="http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/tips-moves/hands-free-orgasm" target="_blank">Cosmo gives some tips</a> for how to get there including what are probably the two most important ones a) practice; and b) don’t expect it to happen overnight.</p><p>Finally, one of my favorite sex educators, Sheri Winston, author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Womens-Anatomy-Arousal-Sheri-Winston/dp/057803395X" target="_blank">A Woman’s Anatomy of Arousal</a>, gave some tips to <a href="http://www.thedoctorstv.com/videolib/init/7284" target="_blank">The Doctors,</a> including using your breath to fire up your energy and making sounds to alert your brain to the importance of the experience. All the advice seems to include getting yourself in the right head space and using less-than-obvious body parts, like your brain, to get you where you want to go.</p><p><strong>4. True or false: You can tell a man’s penis size by the size of his hands.</strong></p><p>One of the most oft-trumped pieces of sexual folklore is that you can tell the size of a man’s penis by his hands/feet/fingers/wallet -- just pick something and someone will have found a way to relate it to penis size. <a href="http://www.snopes.com/risque/penile/size.asp" target="_blank">Snopes says nope</a>: that meme is untrue, but Catherine Salmon of Redlands University calls to our attention a study in the<a href="http://www.nature.com/aja/journal/v13/n5/full/aja201175a.html" target="_blank"> Asian Journal of Andrology</a> saying that digit ratio -- the ratio between the length of a man’s index finger to his ring finger -- can be very telling.</p><blockquote><p>“Their take on it was that the 2D:4D finger digit ratio is predictive of penis size, the lower the ratio, the higher the prenatal testosterone exposure and the longer the adult penis. However, it doesn’t mean that you can tell the size of a guy’s equipment from a casual glance at his hands: 2D:4D differences are quite small. And it’s the difference in finger ratio not overall hand size. And the evidence doesn’t speak to the girth of his equipment which many women report matters more.”</p></blockquote><p>Most women probably won’t get out calipers to get a serious bead on his 2nd-digit/4th-digit ratio, Salmon says. I don't know. That third glass of pinot grigio can wash away a lot of inhibitions.</p><p><strong>5. True or false: Women don’t watch porn</strong>.</p><p>Some women not only watch porn, they watch enough of it for there to be <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/apr/07/women-addicted-internet-pornography" target="_blank">news stories about some of them being addicted to it</a>. <a href="http://www.ebony.com/love-sex/talk-like-sex-women-who-watch-porn-690%23axzz2TavhL7r1" target="_blank">A story in Ebony by Feminista Jones</a> delves into the preferences of women, why they like what they like (via Twitter survey) and cites a study led by Gomathi Sitharthan of the University of Sydney claiming that one in three women are porn watchers. (Super-fun cocktail tidbit: <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2010/04/23/porn-downloaded-by-senior-sec-staff/" target="_blank">Forbes’ Jenna Goudreau</a> found that while the economy was crashing in 2010, 17 Securities and Exchange Commission employees were found to having been surfing porn sites on government computers; one was a woman who tried to access a porn sites 1,800 times from her work laptop in two weeks and had downloaded 600 sexually explicit images.)</p><p>Anyway, yes, some women are "inspired" by images of people doin’ it just like men are and for a fun list of reasons check out <a href="http://www.thefrisky.com/2010-04-26/the-top-10-reasons-women-watch-porn/" target="_blank">Susannah Breslin’s Top 10 Reasons Why Women Watch Porn on The Frisky</a>. “Learn new moves,” is one I like, though that’s usually a happy byproduct of “Ogle guys.” That’s why gay porn is so good. The more naked men you can cram on a screen or in an otherwise small space the better. </p><p><strong>6.  True or false: Having sex before an athletic event will mess up your performance.</strong></p><p>When I was 12 and saw Burgess Meredith tell Sylvester Stallone in <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075148/" target="_blank">Rocky</a> that <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CObJZf2YzDw" target="_blank">“women weaken legs”</a> I believed thereafter that sex before sports was a bad idea. You might not be about to step into the ring with Apollo Creed, but if you’ve participated in competitive sports, marathon running or have hobbies like rock climbing you may have wondered whether sex interferes with your energy levels. </p><p> <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/10/health/sex-athletes" target="_blank">CNN reported during last summer</a>’s Olympics that sex being bad for athletic performance is a myth and it actually might help, because it’s relaxing, distracting and decreases stress and mental fatigue. Juan Carlos Medina, general coordinator of the sports department at Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico, told CNN that sex can reduce athletes’ anxiety before a game and that, "Even Pele confessed that he never suspended sexual encounters with his wife before a game, I mean, that thing about sex helping to relax is a verified truth." Studies by Barry Komisaruk, a psychology professor at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey also found that sexual stimulation in women produces a powerful pain-blocking effect which could help with sports-related injuries or muscle pain.</p><p><strong>7. True or false: The birth control pill will make you gain weight.</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-pills-weight-gain" target="_blank">WebMD says</a> this notion got started because when the pill first came out in the 1960s it contained 1,000 times more hormones than most women actually needed for pregnancy prevention -- higher estrogen causes fluid retention and increased appetite, ergo weight gain. The pill has been refined since then. In most women it does not cause weight gain and if it does it is insignificant and temporary. “Indeed, a review of 44 studies showed no evidence that birth control pills caused weight gain in most users,” Web MD says.</p><p>Besides, if you’re worried the pill might make you gain weight, try pregnancy. </p><p><strong>8. True or false: Losing their virginity is always painful for girls.</strong></p><p>Even if you’re not a virgin, <a href="http://www.tinamariebernard.com/" target="_blank">intimacy coach Tinamarie Bernard</a>’s take on this subject doesn’t just answer the question, it challenges the ways young women in our culture learn about sex and what they can expect from it. </p><p>Bernard says the first time not only doesn’t have to be painful, it can be ecstatic, even orgasmic. “I had a strong sense as a teenager that sex was something special and I don’t mean 'Oh, I’m a virgin! It’s special!' More like the bonding that connects two bodies, two souls and two hearts,” she says.</p><p>Having already had orgasms, she was prepared for what her body would feel. She and her boyfriend talked a lot about the first time and “we had played a lot before that so we were comfortable in our bodies and comfortable giving and receiving pleasure. It wasn’t what happens today in the hookup culture,” where sex happens too quickly for the deeper pleasure of intimacy. </p><p>“Imagine if this was the 'narrative' we taught our youths regarding sex education,” Bernard says. “Imagine if young women expected the best. Imagine if they felt that their pleasure was as important as anything else. ”</p><p>But Bernard says a “collective insanity” around sex in our culture essentially treats this adult subject in a rather childish way: either dirty shameful or superficial and “hot,” a tool to sell everything from shampoo to burgers. “Those two voices have dominated the conversation,” she says, “and the middle ground of pleasure, joy, connection, intimacy orgasm,” that sex is amazing and you can experience it that way. “That gentle voice of reason,” she says, “really needs to get louder.” </p><p><strong>9. True or false: If someone is transgender it means they’re gay</strong>.</p><p>Even if you’re pretty savvy about the sex you’re having, the areas of the sexual theme park you’ve never traveled in might be pretty murky to you. It’s easy to find heteronormative sex advice everywhere -- you could pick up plenty just watching reruns of "Sex and the City." But the basic facts of being transgender aren’t something you’re likely to casually pick up a lot of information on. Even the meaning of "transgender" is sometimes confused.</p><p>Your sex is the physical sex you’re born with; your gender is which sex you identify with internally that you express externally through behavior, clothing, etc., says the <a href="http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/transgender.aspx?item=1" target="_blank">American Psychological Association</a>: think <a href="http://www.queerty.com/chaz-bono-drops-60-pounds-offers-diet-tips-20130423/" target="_blank">Chaz Bono</a>. And, the APA says, “Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual or asexual, just as nontransgender people can be.”  </p><p><strong>10. True or false: Sex makes you happy.</strong></p><p>Trick question! It can, but it depends on one very specific variable. <a href="http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2013/04/15/sex-happiness-hinges-keeping-joneses-cu-boulder-study-finds" target="_blank">Tim Wadsworth, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Colorado, Boulder,</a> found that people who report being happier also report higher sexual frequency. But he also found that happiness was contingent on how much sex they perceive their peers are having and whether they are having more or less.</p><p>The 2013 study analyzed data from the <a href="http://www3.norc.org/gss+website/" target="_blank">General Social Survey</a>. Wadsworth’s survey group of 15,386 people was queried from 1993 to 2006 and asked if they were “very happy, pretty happy or not too happy.” After controlling for numerous factors, the researchers found that people who had sex at least three times a month were 33% happier than those who hadn’t had sex in 12 months and the happiness level rises with frequency: “Those reporting having sex two to three times a week are 55 percent more likely to report a higher level of happiness.”</p><p>Not that surprising. But if you want to turn someone from Tigger to Eeyore let them know they’re not getting as much action as the next person. People infer knowledge of the private matter of sex from social interaction, peer groups, media, surveys and other ways. “As a result of this knowledge, if members of a peer group are having sex two to three times a month but believe their peers are on a once-weekly schedule, their probability of reporting a higher level of happiness falls by about 14 percent, Wadsworth found.”</p><p>This is the easiest thing I’ve been asked to believe in a long time. We can pretend to be sophisticated, but we’re all children when it comes to thinking someone else got a bigger slice of cake than we did. </p><p>Or in this case, just a better piece. </p> Wed, 22 May 2013 08:26:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 844080 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sex sexuality porn sex and heart attack sex and menopause 10 Interesting Facts About Sperm http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/10-interesting-facts-about-sperm <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Can you name another cell that&#039;s been played in a movie by Woody Allen? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-04-24_at_2.14.26_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Sperm may be sort of funny looking -- <a href="http://woody%20allen%20played%20one%20in%20his%20film%20everything%20you%20ever%20wanted%20to%20know%20about%20sex%20but%20were%20afraid%20to%20ask.%20zoidberg%20rode%20one%20on%20a%20fantastic%20voyage%20style%20episode%20of%20futurama.%20and%20the%20monty%20python%20boys%20did%20one%20of%20the%20most%20beloved%20and%20memorable%20songs%20about%20them%20in%20the%20history%20of%20the%20movie%20musical.%20sperm.%20/" target="_blank">like tadpoles in a panic</a> -- but it's a lot more complex and interesting than one might imagine. No other cell (to my knowledge) has been <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djQ7WZlb140" target="_blank">played by Woody Allen</a>, ridden <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmjYodDqNAk" target="_blank">by Zoidberg</a> on a Fantastic Voyage-type episode of Futurama or honored in <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUspLVStPbk" target="_blank">a memorable movie musical by Monty Python</a>. But how much do you know about these little wigglers on which the survival of your species depends? Well, you’re about to learn a little more.</p><p> </p><p>1. Of course he did</p><p>Sperm was first discovered in 1677 by a Dutch microscope maker who used one thing of his own making to examine something else of his own making. <a href="http://http//www.livescience.com/23845-sexy-swimmers-sperm-facts.html" target="_blank">LiveScience writes</a> that Antony van Leeuwenhoek reported looking under a microscope and seeing tiny “animalcules” (an archaic term for tiny animals) in a sample of his own semen…semen, he made sure to note, which was an excess from actual sex and not just masturbation. </p><p> </p><p>2. How sweet it isn’t </p><p>In a piece called Semen Physiology <a href="http://www.news-medical.net/health/Semen-Physiology.aspx" target="_blank">Anaya Mandal on News-Medical Ne</a>t says that due to fructose that gets in the mix, semen “tastes slightly sweet.” Far be it for me to argue with a doctor but lemme just say there is a reason a company called Sweet Release went to the trouble of creating <a href="http://www.sweetrelease.com/10.cfm?oID=1" target="_blank">a product meant to make semen taste like apple pie</a>: because it doesn’t already taste a thing like apple pie or anything else you’ll find for sale in a bakery. Dr. Mandal does say that the taste of semen can change according to a man’s diet and here you can see a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1k1Dy1mVeQ" target="_blank">BBC video of a taste test </a>the esteemed news outlet did wherein men switched their diets to see if their wives could taste a difference.</p><p> </p><p>This would come in handy for the female of a species of Ulidid fly,  Euxesta bilimeki, which not only expels sperm after mating: they eat it. <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130411110100.htm" target="_blank">Science Daily reports</a> on a study from the Instituto de Ecologia in Mexico reported on in the journal Behavior Ecology and Social Biology: 100% of the female flies expelled ejaculate after mating and 25% of those had no sperm left after this expulsion. The theory is that this allows females to choose which males they actually want to father their progeny since it seems they’re able to choose how much sperm to expel, all or just some. (Interestingly, the longer courtship the more likely she is to give all his sperm the heave-ho, leading researchers to think the females in these cases just give in to his advances rather than having to keep rejecting him and then just making sure he’s not the father of her fly babies.)</p><p> </p><p>After experiments in which female flies were given varying diets to see if there was some nutritional reason they were eating the ejaculate, researchers think the reason might be because it provides fluids, since this breed of flies live in very arid areas. Maybe it just tastes like apple pie.</p><p> </p><p>3. Little sneakers</p><p>Another way of taste-testing sperm, as a Korean diner discovered to the world’s horror, is by eating squid that is parboiled and undercooked. The<a href="http://io9.com/5921501/how-exactly-could-a-squid-inseminate-your-mouth" target="_blank">squid sperm that tried to inseminate a woman’s mouth</a> was an Internet sensation not long ago. How such a thing could happen is explained by <a href="http://www.science20.com/squid_day" target="_blank">squid expert Danna Staaf</a> on the above link to io9, but it starts with the fact that the sperm delivery system of the squid is very different from that of humans. In several species, including squid, butterflies, scorpions, octopi and others, sperm doesn’t travel in semen but in <a href="http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spermatophore" target="_blank">spermatophores</a> or sperm packets; kind of needle-like vessels that are deposited in the female reproductive tract. Staaf calls this squiddy structure “definitely the world’s most complicated sperm,”<a href="http://vimeo.com/44687825" target="_blank">in this video</a> explaining exactly how spermatophores work.</p><p> </p><p><a href="http://io9.com/5921501/how-exactly-could-a-squid-inseminate-your-mouth" target="_blank">On io9</a> Staaf described the process, starting with the spermatophore cap popping off and the ejaculatory apparatus (every spermatophore has one) popping out and everting itself -- turning itself inside out -- pulling the sperm mass with it. But the peculiarity of squid insemination doesn’t end there. In the species known as Bleeker’s squid there are two types of male squid -- sneakers and consorts, which are kind of the Goofus and Gallant of the cephalopod world. Consorts, reports <a href="http://io9.com/squid-sperm-will-cooperate-to-inseminate-472487370" target="_blank">io9’s Joseph Bennington Castro,</a> are larger, more attention-getting of the two, attracting females by “flashing bright colors across their bodies,” depositing the spermatophores in the female oviduct and then guarding her until the eggs are deposited.</p><p> </p><p>Sneakers are not so, well…gallant. They sneak in between a mating pair and chuck a spermatophore in the female's external sperm storage unit so that when the eggs come forward “through her oviduct to a spot near her mouth,” the eggs that don’t get fertilized by the spermatophores of the consort -- who has put in all this courtship time -- will be fertilized by the spermatophores of the sneaker who didn’t do jack. Castro reports that Japanese researchers have found that sneaker sperm are bigger and travel in swarms; they will cluster not only with other sneaker sperm but but with consort sperm and even sperm from a breed of starfish. Figuring they might be attracted to a chemical being released by the other sperm, like CO2, the researchers did experiments in which they released C02 bubble into a tube and found that sneaker sperm “swarmed around it,” while consort sperm did not. Why C02 attracts the sneaker sperm is uncertain but one theory is that eggs may release C02.</p><p> </p><p>Bottom line: squids should probably have their own soap opera, Tentacle Hospital or something. I’d watch it. </p><p> </p><p>4. Animal Adaptations</p><p>So squid sperm is pretty fascinating but lots of other animals have intriguing sperm and insemination habits as well. </p><p>* <a href="http://www.livescience.com/13681-duck-ejaculate-sperm-antibiotic-beaks-110412.html" target="_blank">Jennifer Welsh of LiveScience </a>reports that the mallard duck has sperm that can kill bacteria and the brighter the bill the stronger the antibacterial effect, thus enabling females to avoid a <a href="http://www.livescience.com/1108-women-unaware-cervical-cancer-caused-virus.html" target="_blank">sexually transmitted pathogen</a> and identify <a href="http://www.livescience.com/9940-test-reveals-good-bad-sperm.html" target="_blank">males with better sperm</a>,"</p><p>says Melissah Rowe of the University of Oslo.</p><p>*  <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/content/313/5791/1255.short" target="_blank">Science Magazine</a> reports that moss shoots attract insects -- springtails and mites -- which then carry moss sperm and help fertilization like insects pollinating flowers. </p><p>* <a href="http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/01/15/barnacles-leak-sperm-into-ocean-upending-mating-theory/" target="_blank">Christine Dell’Amore of National Geographic </a>reports that some sea creatures like jellyfish, barnacles and sponges do what is known as “spermcasting,” sending their sperm out into the water for females to take, in other words, when it’s time, they just go out and pick up some fertilizer. </p><p>* The barnacle, Dell’Amore writes, is a special case: it has the biggest penis in the animal kingdom relative to its size and because it can’t move once it’s glued itself somewhere it uses its super-long wiener and “random penis movements” to seek out partners and deposit sperm in their mantle cavity (don’t we all know a guy like that?). If you think that’s nasty and wish to tell a barnacle to go fertilize itself, well, they already do. “Most barnacles are hermaphrodites though they tend to lean toward one gender,” Dell’Amore writes, but they are capable of self-fertilization.</p><p>* The grossest animal kingdom sperm transfer has to be the province of bed bugs. The male of the species has a saber-like penis which he uses to stab the female in the abdomen, releasing sperm into her bloodstream -- her reproductive system is used exclusively for egg-laying says this <a>PBS Gross Science Video</a>. It’s known as “traumatic” insemination, writes <a href="http://io9.com/5725199/traumatic-insemination-is-pretty-much-the-most-horrific-thing-imaginable" target="_blank">Alasdair Wilkins of io9</a> and all seems slightly less horrid when <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MakIB_IJnu0" target="_blank">Isabella Rossellini puts on a bed bug costume and acts it out</a> for you. </p><p> </p><p>5. Glow-in-the-dark sperm</p><p>Back in the '80s glow-in-the-dark condoms, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNTg2Uz7-pM" target="_blank">as in this scene from Skin Deep</a>, were revolutionary. Now it’s the sperm that glow-in-the-dark and help provide researchers with a whole new way to research what the little swimmers are up to. In 2010 <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/03/100318-men-sperm-1500-stem-cells-second-male-birth-control/" target="_blank">Christine Dell’Amore of National Geographic reported</a> on a study in which <a href="http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/35884154.html" target="_blank">germline stem cells</a> of mice were “genetically engineered to be fluorescent” and tagged certain cells within those cells with color to watch their development. The quick process scientist once thought sperm development to be was just not the case: sometimes the stem cells go through several cell divisions, sometimes not, sometimes they start to become a sperm cell and then revert back to being a stem cell.</p><p> </p><p>I would: too much competition to potentially just end up in a Kleenex. That’s not entirely a joke. Even if you were a sperm who got to go on the grand quest for fertilization, study co-author Robert Braun called the fertilization process “surprisingly inefficient,” and says the reason for the enormous amount of sperm is that there has to be a "large initial payload [for those] few cells to make it to the final destination." And yet the process is efficient enough to make contraception an  important factor in our lives. Studying sperm on this level could lead to advances in male birth control, like thwarting germline from becoming sperm in the first place.</p><p> </p><p>6. Build a better swimmer</p><p>If you’re trying to facilitate pregnancy rather than prevent it, here are a few things you should know about giving your boys a boost: </p><p>* The <a href="http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2013/April2013/Sauna-Exposure-Impairs-Sperm-Count-and-Motility" target="_blank">Pharmacy Times reports</a> that a study published in the Journal of Human Reproduction says that spending time in a sauna can lower a man's sperm count and keep it down for as long as six months. It’s called “scrotal hyperthermia.” In the study 10 Finnish men had two 15-minute sauna treatments a week for three months which raised their scrotal temperature by 3 degrees Celsius and impaired both sperm count and motility. Temperature clearly affects sperm health with slightly cooler being better, <a href="http://www.wisegeek.org/what-factors-affect-the-lifespan-of-sperm.htm" target="_blank">hence the scrotum being on the outside the body</a>.  So it’s not surprising that in a study reported on by <a href="http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/03/19/sperm-works-best-in-the-winter/" target="_blank">Stefan Sirucek of NatGeo</a> on a report from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev that sperm motility and structure is strongest in the winter (though that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try in all the other months….again and again and again). </p><p>* Exercise is better for sperm than TV marathons are: <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-04/highest-sperm-count-favors-athletes-over-couch-potatoes.html" target="_blank">Drew Armstrong of Bloomberg </a>reported on a study by Harvard researchers saying that young men who exercised frequently had 73% more sperm than non-exercisers and the sperm counts of those who watched 20 or more hours of TV per week were “almost halved.”  </p><p>* Nuts are good for your nuts. <a href="http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/quick-tip-eat-walnuts-for-super-healthy-sperm" target="_blank">Shawn Radcliffe of Men’s Fitness reports </a>on a study from the University of California saying that men who ate about two and a half servings of walnuts a day saw an increase in sperm health -- motility, shape and size -- after 12 weeks. Sperm benefit from the omega-3 fatty acids (let’s call ‘em daddy acids) also found in fish oil and other foods. </p><p> </p><p>7. Because what a man really wants is to stick his penis into a huge machine….</p><p>Never having had to produce a sperm sample for any medical or commercial purpose I have no idea what it’s like. Maybe, if I had a choice between masturbating the boring old organic way and leaving the job to a torso-high, pulsating machine I would choose the latter. </p><p><a href="http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4554470/Chinese-boffins-invent-sperm-collecting-machine.html" target="_blank">Bella Battle of the UK Sun reports</a> that a hospital in China is using just such a machine to collect sperm samples from infertile men for testing. At the time of the story (September 2012) about 10 men a day had been using the machine for about six months (presumably not the same 10 men, coming back in disguise to give it another shot because they dug it) according to Doctor Zhu Guoxin, director of the urology department at Zhengzhou Central Hospital. Users can “adjust the machine’s frequency, speed, force and temperature,” Battle writes, and they have to wear condoms. </p><p> </p><p>Still…new awful job: cleaning out the Sperm Extractor. And now, because you’ve been very good, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3GiEGPm-Ws" target="_blank">here’s a video</a>. Maybe they’ll get one at your gym. </p><p> </p><p>8. Spermallergic?</p><p>Having a bad reaction to the semen of the one you love can’t be a fun experience, but there is such a thing as being allergic to semen and to the semen of a specific person. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/allergy-sperm-game-changer-marriage/story?id=18916973%23.UXBBC5jK0UX" target="_blank">ABC News’ Susan Donaldson James </a>describes a North Carolina couple’s quandary with <a href="http://www.seminalplasmaallergy.org/" target="_blank">seminal plasma hypersensitivity</a>. Some symptoms described in the story include itching, redness, burning, swelling, hives plus a pain like “a needle-like sticking in the vagina,” according to the University of Cincinnati’s <a href="http://www.bernsteinallergyresearch.com/" target="_blank">Jonathan Bernstein,</a> who treated the couple and who believes there are as many as 40,000 such cases in the U.S. Sometime the symptoms are confused with yeast and vaginal infections, James writes.</p><p>The treatment to desensitize the wife to the allergy included her undergoing “an intravaginal graded challenge using serial dilutions of her husband's seminal fluid, which were injected via syringe every 15-20 minutes over the course of two to three hours.” It helped and continued to improve and eventually their sex life got back to normal. A lot of people would have just gotten a new spouse…but that’s love for you. </p><p> </p><p>9. It’s on the street</p><p>We’ve talked about some interesting sperm delivery systems but the most eye-catching, bar none, is the Sperm Bullitt bicycle, a sperm-shaped bike built for Nordisk Cryobank a leading European sperm bank, used in Copenhagen, <a href="http://www.copenhagenize.com/2011/04/sperm-bike-in-copenhagen.html" target="_blank">as reported -- with pics -- on Copenhagenzine.com</a>. The company was looking for an eco-friendly way to get its cargo around and yes, just like sperm need, it has a cooling system: “Inside the head of the giant sperm cell is a cooler compartment designed so that the metal containers with sperm donations can fit snugly inside and be kept cold.”</p><p> </p><p>It would be the worst getaway vehicle in the world, wouldn’t it? But then…<a href="http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&amp;rls=en&amp;q=sperm+theft&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;oe=UTF-8" target="_blank">who steals sperm</a>? </p><p> </p><p>10. Love roller-coaster</p><p>Most of us have seen those amazing animalcules and the semen they swim in make their grand entrance out of the body, but what you don’t see is the remarkably circuitous route it takes to get to that point. No kidding: men rather fantastically have what amounts to a <a href="http://s2.hubimg.com/u/1188545_f248.jpg" target="_blank">Krazy Straw</a> in there.</p><p> </p><p>It all starts in the testes which are made up of seminiferous tubules in which sperm are manufactured. HowStuffWorks.com’s <a href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/about-author.htm#freudenrich" target="_blank">Craig Freudenrich</a>and <a href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/molly-edmonds-author.htm" target="_blank">Molly Edmonds</a> put the rate of production at about 4 million per hour.</p><p> </p><p>Once formed, sperm travels to the epididymus, a coiled tube outside the teste (<a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/medical/IM01065" target="_blank">here’s a picture</a>) where they mature and stay. After the penis is erect if there is “sufficient stimulation,” says <a href="http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/anatomyvideos/000121.htm" target="_blank">Medicine Plus (where you can see it all via animation</a>) the sperm travel up, up, up, through the vas defrens which propel them with muscle contractions, then down again to the ampula and the seminal vesicles where they’re mixed with the first of the fluids that make up semen. <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/534058/seminal-vesicle" target="_blank">That fluid contains numerous substances</a> including fructose, potassium, citric acid and the hormone-like substance <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/479472/prostaglandin" target="_blank">prostaglandins</a>. This mix goes downward through the ejaculatory ducts past the <a href="http://www.bewellbuzz.com/body-buzz/10-amazing-functions-prostate-gland/" target="_blank">prostate gland</a> where another milky fluid is added to the mix which helps neutralize the PH of the vagina, and the semen is finally semen. </p><p> </p><p>At this point it goes back up, up, up again through the urethra and zing! Out into the world. Then, who knows? After all that mixology it could end up on the shower floor…or in a sperm bank…or in the aforementioned vagina…or other places on the body (for which you’ll have to look at another kind of website).</p> Wed, 24 Apr 2013 10:59:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 830004 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sperm sex sexuality 10 Interesting Facts About Breasts http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/10-interesting-facts-about-breasts <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">For all their popularity, what do we really know about them?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/topstories_breasts.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">“</span><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwL9J4Lcwp8" style="font-size: 12px;" target="_blank">Boobies, boobies, boobies. Nothin’ but boobies. Who needs ‘em? I did great without ‘em.</a><span style="font-size: 12px;">” So Neely O’Hara famously said in V<em>alley of the Dolls</em> while eyeballing strip joints. If she could see how much more tit-smitten pop culture has become in last half-century she’d probably need to do another shot, though frankly, if the </span><a href="http://www.pbs.org/howartmadetheworld/episodes/human/venus/" style="font-size: 12px;" target="_blank">Venus de Willendorf</a><span style="font-size: 12px;"> is any indication, humans have been boob-centric for as long as 25,000 years.</span></p><p>And why not? Breasts enhance the lives of owners and visitors, and you can’t say that any other body part produces food. Still, for all the times you’ve ogled them, snuggled them or ensconced them in a bra that cost more than your Internet bill, what do you really know about breasts?</p><p><strong>1. A singular duo.</strong> Among humans, some breasts <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Sophia-Mansfield-Poster-Hollywood-Garage/dp/B001LD69F0" target="_blank">stand out more than others</a> but among animals, humans stand alone. Carole Jahme, the “Evolutionary Agony Aunt,” columnist for the Guardian says that the breasts of the human female are unique among primates in that they grow before we start menstruating, stay full whether we are lactating or not, and stay big after menopause, whereas most primates’ only enlarge when lactating.</p><p>There’s an evolutionary reason for our hourglass shape. Jahme writes: “…it has been widely theorised that the plump buttock and bosom of modern women are sexual ornaments, selected for by ancestral males. Seen from a distance the adult female form, either from behind or from the front, can be recognised as distinct from the male of the species. An hourglass figure, plus youthfulness, would have attracted male hominids looking for mating opportunity.”</p><p>So maybe that’s the evolutionary reason some women want to have <a href="http://plasticsurgerystar.com/pamela-anderson-plastic-surgery-for-breast-implants" target="_blank">breasts that signal “female” from clear across the Grand Canyon</a>.</p><p><strong>2. What are breasts made of?</strong>Food and sex, food and sex…maybe we’re so enamored of breasts because that’s what they’re all about. <a href="http://health.howstuffworks.com/sexual-health/female-reproductive-system/breasts-dictionary.htm" target="_blank">Discovery Health tells us</a> that the female breast contains 15-25 milk glands connected to milk ducts inside the nipple all held together with fatty and connective tissue (and yes, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Parenting/story?id=8456137" target="_blank">you can still breastfeed if you have implants</a>). As for the pleasure part, there are thin muscle fibers in the nipples that make them become erect, signaling arousal, and also lots of nerve endings which make them sensitive. <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20770-sex-on-the-brain-what-turns-women-on-mapped-out.html" target="_blank">New Scientist’s Linda Geddes </a>writes that a 2011 study using MRIs found a direct link between women’s nipples and genitals: when the study subject’s nipples were stimulated, the brain’s sensory cortex area corresponding to the genitals lit up (in addition to the chest area).</p><p>It’s a link women knew about long before 2011, but it’s nice to have it on paper. </p><p><strong>3. Nip nip hooray!</strong>Since breasts are so fun and fabulous, why stop at two? Some people don’t. Polymastia and polythelia are, respectively, extra breasts and nipples. <a href="http://bodyodd.nbcnews.com/_news/2008/12/22/4380023-when-it-comes-to-breasts-threes-a-crowd?lite" target="_blank">Diane Mapes of NBC’s The Body Odd writes</a> they’re more common than you might think: about 6% of people have accessory breast tissue and a number of celebs have piped up about their third nipple (which they should really just call a tripple), including Mark Wahlberg, Lily Allen and and Tilda Swinton. </p><p>Extra breasts can lactate and respond to regular hormonal fluctuations, i.e., become more sensitive during menstruation which is often the first time women notice it (women are more prone than men, although men also get it).</p><p>It’s not all fun, though. Polythelia, according to <a href="http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/410464_3" target="_blank">Medscape</a>, is associated with some health issues, <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18836948" target="_blank">primarily of the urinary tract</a>. Plus it sounds like it could get a little awkward…extra breast tissue usually runs along the “milk line” (armpit to groin) but sometimes shows up in other places. Mapes writes that in 1980, <em>Journal of American Academic Dermatology</em> reported on a 74-year-old man with a female breast on the back of his thigh, and in 1827 it was reported that Therese Ventre of Marseilles had “an extra breast on the outside of her thigh.”</p><p>If any man ever grows one in the palm of his hand, a new zillion-dollar-a-year field of plastic surgery will be born. Watch. </p><p><strong><span style="font-size: 12px;">4. The first implants.</span></strong>Women probably wouldn’t want extra breasts, but many want a little extra from the ones they have. <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jul/22/plastic-surgery-medicine" target="_blank">Simon Rogers and Sophia Vanco of the Guardian</a> report there were 307,180 cosmetic breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. in 2011, up from 212,500 10 years prior. The recipients have one woman to thank for it all...well, kind of.</p><p>Timmie Jean Lindsey had the first silicone breast implants, developed by Dr. Frank Gerow in 1962 in Houston. <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/perky-grandma-recalls-1st-woman-silcone-breast-implants-article-1.1090255" target="_blank">Nancy Dillon of the New York Daily News reports </a>that Lindsey had gone in to get some rose tattoos removed from her chest and Gerow suggested her as a candidate for the surgery. Lindsey’s granddaughter recently had a double mastectomy and full reconstruction. From NDN: "<span style="font-size: 12px;">It just looks so natural. They can build them up just like the real thing," she told the News. “I'm so proud that it's available to so many women. It's not vanity getting reconstruction. I think it's necessary. It puts them back whole again. I'm so happy if Dr. Gerow's silicone implants are what started it all."</span></p><p>Lindsey, now 80, went from a B cup to a C cup, and “never leaked or ruptured but have calcified a bit,” so she feels soreness sometimes. That doesn’t seem too bad when you consider what happened to Lauren Yardely of Coventry, UK. The <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/plastic-surgery-horror-woman-breast-implant-falls-body-article-1.1293311" target="_blank">NDN’s Tracy Miller reported on March 19</a> that when Lauren went from an A cup to a DD her body rejected the saline implants and they fell out. </p><p>Still, Lindsey says if she had it to do again she’d just “go for a breast lift. That’s all I really needed.” </p><p><strong>5. Gynecomastia.</strong>If you’re a woman you might think bigger is better when it comes to your breasts. If you’re a man you probably don’t. </p><p>Gynecomastia or enlargement of breast tissue due to an imbalance of hormones -- too many estrogens and too few androgens -- can cause discomfort for the guy going through it. According to <a href="http://www.medicinenet.com/gynecomastia/article.htm" target="_blank">Melissa Conrad Stoppler of MedicineNet.com,</a> gynecomastia is sometimes confused with the enlarged male breasts that come with obesity but that’s lipomastia -- gynecomastia is actual breast tissue. It can be caused by hormonal fluctuations during puberty “resulting in a temporary state in which estrogen concentrations are relatively high.”</p><p>Sometimes it goes away on its own, sometimes it persists. Other medical conditions that can cause gynecomastia are cirrhosis of the liver, recovery from malnutrition, disorders of the testes, chronic renal failure and hyperthyroidism. Some medications (listed on MedicineNet.com) are associated with gynecomastia as are “drugs of abuse,” including alcohol. There isn’t usually any severe pain but it’s a good idea to consult a doctor to find out the cause of the condition. There are several medications available to treat gynecomastia, though surgery is also an option.</p><p><strong>6. Two for the books.</strong>Male or female, it’s almost impossible to talk about breasts without talking about size, and if you thought those DD’s were big wait til you see 102ZZZs. No kidding. </p><p><a href="http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/3654777/Woman-with-the-worlds-largest-natural-boobs-at-102ZZZ-appears-on-This-Morning.html" target="_blank">The UK Sun’s Cara Lee reported in 2012 </a>that Norma Stitz, born Annie Hawkins-Turner of Atlanta GA, has the world’s largest natural breasts <a href="http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/size/largest-natural-breasts" target="_blank">according to Guinness</a>. Each one weighs 56 pounds. </p><p>She was teased a lot as a kid, but says her late husband of 13 years, Alan, “made me love myself,” and turned her whole life around. It was Alan’s idea for her to send her picture to an adult magazine. Being featured in adult media (hence the name <em>Norma Stitz</em> -- gotta admit, that’s pretty good) “made her embrace her size,” Lee writes. </p><p>Now she's on good terms with her body, but not everyone else is as accepting. </p><p>“Every day someone teases me that doesn’t know me. They make fun of me and there’s no reason. I’m human like everybody else. I’m just blessed in different ways than other people.”</p><p><strong>7. Getting your goat.</strong>The size of a woman’s breasts <a href="http://www.breastfeedingbasics.com/articles/nursing-tips-for-the-large-breasted-woman" target="_blank">doesn't make any difference in her ability to produce milk</a>. In the olden days, though, if a woman couldn’t or didn’t want to breastfeed she could get a substitute. Sometimes a wet nurse. Sometimes a goat. </p><p><a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/how_babies_work/2013/03/20/animals_nursing_humans_and_humans_nursing_animals.html" target="_blank">Nicholas Day of Slate </a>cites the tome <em><a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=Or4kdOUrze8C&amp;lpg=PA159&amp;dq=The%20Goat%20as%20the%20Best%20and%20Most%20Agreeable%20Wet%20Nurse&amp;pg=PA159#v=onepage&amp;q=The%20Goat%20as%20the%20Best%20and%20Most%20Agreeable%20Wet%20Nurse&amp;f=false" target="_blank">The Goat as The Best and Most Agreeable Wet Nurse</a></em>, published in 1816, by Conrad A. Zwierlein (as cited in <em>Milk: A Local and Global History</em> by Deborah Valenze) saying that infants fed by goats were slid under the beasties on trays. “They were said to do well,” Day writes “and given that many infants not being fed breast milk died from poor sanitation, it was probably safer to go straight to the source, without any germ-infested buckets and pots getting in the way.” Valenze writes that in the 16th century French women turned to goats rather than humans thanks to “the new plague of syphilis.” </p><p>Day lists many instances where “the milk flow went in the other direction” as well. Humans from various places around the world nursed animals, including piglets (New Guinea), baby deer, opossums, monkeys (South America), bear cubs (Japan), and puppies.</p><p><strong>8. The return of the wet nurse.</strong>Alright, you goats…it’s a tough economy out there, so shove over and make room for some humans in the workforce. According to <a href="http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/01/20/the-return-of-wet-nursing/" target="_blank">AOL’s Claire Gordon,</a> wet nursing is making a career comeback.</p><p>That’s not too surprising considering that the “breast is best” meme has latched on. According to the <em>LA Times</em>, <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/07/news/la-heb-breastfeeding-increase-cdc-20120207" target="_blank">the CDC reported in February 2013</a> that breastfeeding increased between 2000 and 2008 (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommneds breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months). If a new mom can’t breastfeed, she’s still got several options to get human breast milk for her baby. </p><p>“Mother-to-mother milk-sharing networks, like <a href="http://www.eatsonfeets.org/" target="_blank">Eats on Feets</a>, <a href="http://milkshare.birthingforlife.com/" target="_blank">MilkShare</a> and <a href="http://www.hm4hb.net/" target="_blank">Human Milk 4 Human Babies</a>, have exploded in the last 18 months,” Gordon wrote in January 2012, but the job is quite different than in the bad old days. Gordon reports that wet nurses were,<span style="font-size: 12px;"> “usually working class," and "morally ruined" by a baby out of wedlock. With few other options, these women would sell their nursing services to a wealthy family, and abandon their own children at an institution or worse.</span> "They were essentially condemning their baby to death," says Golden. "It was trading the life of a poor infant for a wealthy one."</p><p>Modern wet nurses live with the mother and child for at least a year, since an infant’s feeding schedule is every few hours: all that lost sleep, though, sounds like it would be worth the $1k a week Gordon writes is the average wet nurse income. </p><p><strong>9. Milk: it does a body good.</strong>So the breast has made a comeback. And it was culture, not quality, that caused it to go away. <a href="http://madeinamericathebook.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/breastfeeding-history/" target="_blank">Claude Fischer of UC Berkley</a> writes in <em>Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character</em> that while breastfeeding enjoyed a heyday in Victorian times with the “sentimentalization of motherhood” it went out of fashion in the early 20th century for the modern convenience of the bottle and formula. Breastfeeding was for the “primitive and unenlightened women,” and by the middle of the century, 80% of women bottle-fed their babies, a number which has almost reversed today to 75% of women who begin with breastfeeding. </p><p><a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/how_babies_work/2013/03/20/the_science_of_breast_milk_latest_research_on_nursing_and_milk_vs_formula.html" target="_blank">Nicholas Day of Slate</a> writes that formula certainly isn’t the worst thing in the world, but breast milk is more complicated than we once thought. It is a medication in that some of the simple sugar carbohydrates- - oligosaccharides -- are nourishment for an infant’s gut bacteria. Day quotes Katie Hinde, assistant professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard and <a href="http://foodscience.ucdavis.edu/people/faculty/jgerman" target="_blank">UC-Davis chemist</a> Bruce German as having written that “mothers are not just eating for two, they are actually eating for 2 × 1011 (their own intestinal microbiome as well as their infant’s)!”</p><p>Milk is a tough thing to study because it’s so changeable, varying from mother to mother and from moment to moment, sometimes being affected by signals from the infant. Day quotes Hinde: “If the infant is showing signs of infection, somehow that’s being signaled back to the mother and she up-regulates the immune factors that are in her milk. Now, is that her body’s responding to a need of the baby? Maybe. Is it that she also has a low-grade infection that she’s just not symptomatic for and so her body’s doing that? Maybe. Is it partially both? Maybe. We don’t know. It’s brand-new stuff.”</p><p>Who’d have ever thought milk could suddenly pose so much excitement and intrigue without chocolate syrup in it?</p><p><strong><span style="font-size: 12px;">10. The Scar Project.</span></strong>“Breast cancer is not a pink ribbon,” is the tagline of <a href="http://www.thescarproject.org/" target="_blank">The Scar Project</a>, a reminder that we see the symbol of breast cancer awareness everywhere, but seldom see the effects of breast cancer in the flesh. </p><p>Photographer <a href="http://www.edenfantasys.com/sexis/body/the-scar-project-1024115/" target="_blank">David Jay </a>changed that dramatically by showing both the reality of breast cancer and the courage and grace of the women who survive it. His nude and semi-nude photographs show both the scary reality and the inspiring resilience of these survivors.</p><p>Jay, a fashion photographer, was inspired to begin taking these pictures when a close friend in Australia was diagnosed with breast cancer: she had a double mastectomy just two weeks after being diagnosed. Eventually the Scar Project would become an art exhibit, a book, <a href="http://www.thescarproject.org/documentary/" target="_blank">a documentary</a> and a <a href="http://%E2%80%9CBreast%20cancer%20is%20not%20a%20pink%20ribbon,%E2%80%9D%20is%20the" target="_blank">blog</a>. It’s a graphic reminder to pay attention to your own breast health, and also a way to show survivors their own bravery and beauty. As Jay said to me in an interview for SeXis magazine, <a href="http://www.edenfantasys.com/sexis/body/the-scar-project-1024115/" target="_blank">“It doesn’t have to be scary. There are so many ways to live courageously, beautifully and without fear."</a></p><p>As Neely O'Hara said, some people do great without ‘em. </p> Thu, 04 Apr 2013 12:02:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 819874 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships breasts boobs women sexuality 9 Fascinating Things You May Not Know About the Penis http://www.alternet.org/9-fascinating-things-you-may-not-know-about-penis <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There’s all kinds of interesting facts and facets to the human penis. Here&#039;s your chance to learn more. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-02-25_at_12.51.40_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>“Isn’t it awfully good to have a penis,” Eric Idle mused in  <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9PiqCeLEmM" target="_blank">the greatest 35-second song ever written</a> and I believe he’s telling the truth: having a stiffy is probably spiffy. Erections are such hopeful things, like carrying a little optimist around in your pocket, one imagines.</p><p>The penis provides lots of pleasure and keeps the human race going in its capacity as a reproductive organ. There’s all kinds of interesting facts and facets to the human penis and there are some in the animal world that could easily have been designed by Dali. Now’s your chance to get to know them a little better. </p><p><strong>1. Spiny Norman no more.</strong></p><p>Evolution has discarded many parts of the human penis, including ... its spines?</p><p>Penile spines are little tiny ridges made of a hard tissue called keratin, and line the outside of the penis. They look (I think) a bit like those <a href="http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/product_view/diyfashion/5637641/100pcs_9_5mm_silver_metal_bullet_rivet_spikes_stud_punk/indie_supplies/craft_supplies/other" target="_blank">punk-inspired accessories</a> that are so popular these days. Lots of animals, including the chimpanzees, still have penis spikes. <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110309-humans-men-penises-spines-dna-genome-science/" target="_blank">Christine Dell-Amore of National Geographic News</a> writes that the human genome project gave us the information that the ancestor we share with the chimps also had the spines.</p><p>But that was so six million years ago. The code for the “penile spine enhancer” was deleted from the human androgen receptor gene, says <a href="http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v471/n7337/full/nature09774.html" target="_blank">Nature</a> (androgens are male sex hormones) and Dell-Amore reports that it happened “before our common ancestor split into modern humans and Neanderthals about 700,000 years ago." Quite a few deletions were discovered -- 510, if you please -- and gave us other spiffy changes like having bigger brains and not having whiskers.</p><p>It’s not yet certain just what the spines are for, though <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2011/03/penis-boner-spike-evolution" target="_blank">there are theories, Jen Quaraishi reports in Mother Jones</a> like a correlation between spines and greater promiscuity, also that they make for faster copulation time. If you want to see what they look like, here’s a picture of a cat penis on a blog called <a href="http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2011/03/penis-spines.html" target="_blank">Sand Walk.</a></p><p><strong>2. How the human lost his bone, er, baculum</strong>.</p><p>Another thing the human penis lost along the way -- gosh, is it forgetful or what? -- was its baculum, or penis bone. Some animals have what’s called an os penis, one containing a bone which keeps them rigid long enough to deliver sperm into the female’s reproductive tract. Most primates have one, but human males rely solely on blood pressure or hemodynamics for rigidity. <a href="http://www.sciencealert.com.au/opinions/20121504-23309.html" target="_blank">Lauren Reid of Science Alert</a> writes that the baculum is usually stored in the animal’s abdomen until needed, when abdominal muscles push it out. One of its good qualities is speed: it’s more reliable than waiting for blood flow to work and allows for quick copulation. </p><p>In <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=EJeHTt8hW7UC&amp;pg=PA307&amp;lpg=PA307&amp;dq=human+penis+bone+evolution&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=YP6c1lpycp&amp;sig=QtuhTtSGIC2IY1Y-ogZ_fM2_jTc&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=qnYkUaCRAYGe9QTb4oAo&amp;ved=0CFwQ6AEwBzgK%23v=onepage&amp;q=human%2520penis%2520bone%2520evolution&amp;f=false" target="_blank">The Selfish Gene,</a> evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins describes the os penis as clearly being an easier way to maintain an erection. He theorizes that the reason we lost such a helpful trait is that hemodynamics allow females to better gauge male sexual health when choosing a partner. From diabetes to depression, there are numerous health factors that can cause erectile trouble and “females could glean all kinds of clues about a male’s health and the robustness of his ability to cope with stress, from the tone and bearing of his penis,” clues a bone would obfuscate because “anybody can grow a bone in the penis; you don’t have to be particularly healthy or tough.”</p><p>Another charming tidbit from Reid: “There is also a female version of the baculum in some species which has a rather lovely name – the <a href="http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1382752?uid=3737536&amp;uid=2129&amp;uid=2&amp;uid=70&amp;uid=4&amp;sid=56021990673" target="_blank">“baubellum</a>," or “os clitoris."</p><p><strong>3. The adventurous penises of the argonauts.</strong></p><p>So the human penis is strong, but not strong enough to run away and mate on its own, leaving the rest of the guy to relax and watch TV. </p><p>One animal that does have that ability is the argonaut octopus. <a href="http://news.softpedia.com/news/13-Things-You-Did-Not-Know-About-Octopuses-68305.shtml" target="_blank">Stefan Anitei writes on Softpedia</a> that in octopi, the third right arm of the male is the penis, which is detachable and is called the hectocotylus. The hectocotylus deposits sperm packets called spermatophores into the gills’ cavity of the female and will regenerate a new third arm next season.  </p><p>Some human males will be jealous of the fact that the male argonaut doesn’t ever have to bother with any intimacy hooey. Some other octopi will at least get close -- they recognize their partners by smell and touch. But the argonaut’s hectocotylus wanders off on its own when the spermatophores are formed and goes into the “mantle cavity to fecundate the eggs.” </p><p>Wow, just imagine how much more the argonaut can get done in a day! He can go to the bank, the post office and the liquor store all while helping perpetuate the speceis.</p><p><strong>4. While you were sleeping.</strong></p><p>The human penis may not be that much of a multitasker, but it does get some exercise while the rest of the body is busy with something else: sleeping. </p><p>One of the <a href="http://men.webmd.com/guide/8-things-you-did-not-know-about-your-penis" target="_blank">8 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Penis</a> pointed out by Martin Downs on WebMD is that to keep it healthy you’ve got to use it, i.e., get erections. But if something is going on in your waking life that’s preventing that from happening, your penis has your back: it works out while you snooze. Doesn’t matter what they’re dreaming about; most men have 3-5 erections a night.</p><p>The technical name for these nightly weiner workouts is NPT -- nocturnal penile tumescence -- and they are one of the things <a href="http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/tests-for-erection-problems" target="_blank">a doctor might check if you’re concerned about erectile dysfunction</a>. Men who don’t get erections during waking hours will still get NPT; if they don’t, there may be a physical problem.</p><p>To add insult to difficulty, “Without regular erections, penile tissue can become less elastic and shrink, making the penis 1-2 centimeters shorter,” Downs writes. </p><p>Jeez, way to kick a guy when he’s down. It’s just like when the bank charges you a fee…because you don’t have enough money in your account. Either way you’re unfairly shortchanged.</p><p><strong>5. What a drag.</strong></p><p>If you want to help your penis help you, there’s something you might want to do: quit smoking.</p><p><a href="http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/news/20030307/smoking-can-lead-to-erectile-dysfunction" target="_blank">Web M.D. Jeanie Lerche Davis reports</a> that a study of Chinese men found, among other things, that “Men who currently -- and formerly -- smoked were about 30% more likely to suffer from impotence.” Smoking and erectile dysfunction are both connected (individually) with plaque that builds up in the arteries: it restricts blood flow and potentially causes ED, among other problems. The habit could also be making your erections smaller. </p><p>Men’s Health reports in <a href="http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/sexual_health/Avoid_Penis_Shrinkers.php" target="_blank">8 Strategies for Stronger Erections</a> that "In addition to damaging blood vessels, smoking may cause damage to penile tissue itself, making it less elastic and preventing it from stretching," says urologist Irwin Goldstein.</p><p>So where there’s smoke…there may not as much fire as you’d like. </p><p><strong>6. Those amazing animals.</strong></p><p>The variation nature has gone to the trouble of putting into the penises of the world is dizzying. And sometimes dwarfing. </p><p>Elephants are big (you learn something new every time we talk, don’t you?) and their penises are proportionately enormous to the point where if you <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2009/11/07/south-african-wildlife-wait-thats-not-a-trunk/" target="_blank">click the link to this piece by science writer Ed Yong,</a> you’ll see how you could almost mistake this elephant’s schlong for a skinny leg. Yong says the elephant also swatted flies and scratched his belly with it. Elephant penises are referred to as “prehensile,” although it doesn’t say in the piece that he picked up anything with it...except, we suspect, a lucky lady elephant. </p><p><a href="http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/02/13/the-alligator-has-a-permanently-erect-bungee-penis/" target="_blank">Here on National Geographic</a>, Yong also shares the weirdness that is the alligator penis. This member is eternally erect, “ghostly white,” doesn’t inflate at all, which makes it highly unusual, is filled with layer upon layer of collagen (even where blood would normally flow) and, as Yong notes, must have scared the bejesus out of this researcher when one appeared to rise from this dead reptile.</p><p>Then there’s the cute little echidna, a prehistoric, egg-laying hedgehog-like mammal whose penis has four heads. <a href="http://tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/2012/07/03/the-tasmanian-echidnas-four-headed-penis/" target="_blank">Click on the second picture</a> and see how happy he looks (even though his name is Grumpy).</p><p>Lucy Cooke writes in Natinoal Geographic that, “The reason why the echidna’s penis has four heads is still up for grabs. The female echidna has two love canals and Stewart [Nicol, echidna researcher] believes that the penis works like a double double-barreled shotgun, firing out of the two heads on one side, and then again quite quickly on the other. Given the fact Mr. Echidna has no idea which side his lady’s egg will be released this might increase his chances of fertilization.”</p><p>And may be one reason why a species who walked with dinosaurs is still here to charm us with his ornate love machine.</p><p><strong>7. Getting a big head.</strong></p><p>So the elephant's penis is big, but the human male’s is huge among primates. Correcting for overall body size, it’s twice as big as the chimp’s, which may be why they’re always screaming. </p><p>How do I know? The wonderful Jesse Bering said so and he studied ape social cognition. Jesse Bering also knows why the human penis evolved to be the shape it is, hence his book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Why-Penis-Shaped-Like-That/dp/0374532923" target="_blank">Why Is the Penis is Shaped Like That? And Other Reflections on Being Human</a>. <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=secrets-of-the-phallus" target="_blank">This essay in Scientific American</a> is nearly verbatim from his book, which you must buy to be both entertained and the life and soul of cocktail parties from now til the end of the world. </p><p>At any rate, the strong, straight shaft, large glans or head and coronal ridge look the way they do for a reason, and the reason is probably semen delivery and displacement -- delivery of one’s own and displacement of another male’s. </p><p>First let’s talk about length. Bering tells us that evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup and coauthor Rebecca Burch wrote a 2004 paper conjecturing that the lengths the penis can reach and the force of human ejaculate can delivery sperm into the uppermost part of the vagina and that a longer penis would be advantageous not only for reaching the vagina’s deeper recesses but to displace sperm that might have been left by another male. Interesting, especially since magnetic imaging of couples having sex is what tells us how the far the penis can go and how it expands inside the vagina.</p><p>But it gets way, way better.</p><p>The distinct arrow-like shape of the penis would be good for displacement, Gallup figured, because of the “upsuck,” (not kidding) caused by thrusting. If there was anyone else’s sperm in there, that ridge would effectively scoop it all out. To test this, Gallup and his researchers got some “prosthetic genitals from erotic novelty stores,” including a faux vagina and three faux penises, one with a coronal ridge extending .2 inches from the shaft, one extending out .12 inches and one with no glans at all, which was the control. They made a simulated semen solution of flour and water, put it inside the “vagina,” and the three dummy weiners were then inserted to see how much ersatz sperm they could displace. </p><p>Imagine going to the office that day. To anyone who thinks science is monotonous, I have two words: puh leeze.</p><p>Anyway, Gallup was right. The smoothie removed only 35.3 percent while the two with the wider coronal ridges removed 91 percent and the deeper they were inserted the more effective scoopers they were. </p><p><strong>8. Gimmie some skin.</strong></p><p>Everyone knows the human penis can be very giving, but who knew that generosity extended to the medical community? Foreskin, the retractable piece of skin that covers the penis (it’s also called the prepuce, a word that also refers to the skin covering the clitoris) has been used in a lab to grow artificial skin cells for burn victims. And if you’ve ever been impressed with a “grower” check out prepuce power: </p><p>“A piece of foreskin the size of a postage stamp can produce approximately 4 acres of skin tissue in the laboratory [source: <a href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/everyday-innovations/lab-grown-skin3.htm" target="_blank">Strange</a>],” writes <a href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/everyday-innovations/lab-grown-skin2.htm" target="_blank">Molly Edmonds of How Stuff Works</a>. The foreskins of circumcised infants are thought to work well in this way -- better than donor skin -- because the infant cells are not rejected by the adult body’s immune system. “If they did,” Edmonds writes, “mothers' bodies would reject fetuses [source: <a href="http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2001-12/immortal-skin" target="_blank">Skloot</a>].” <a href="http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/scientists-grow-new-existing-skin" target="_blank">Discovery Channel</a> says that lab-grown skin is less likely to be rejected by a patient and also less likely to cause infection.</p><p>Foreskin tissue donated with parental consent to Germany’s “Skin Factory” at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart is used to grow artificial skin used for consumer product testing that “could someday replace animal testing,” writes <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/german-scientists-growing-skin-baby-foreskins-202956126.html" target="_blank">Eric Pfieffer of Yahoo News.</a> Pfieffer quotes the German Herald as reporting that the cells are grown “on a layer of collagen and connective tissue.” Eventually they are injected “into a gel that causes them to grow into a sheet that simulates the epidermis. The layers are then fused together, creating a replica of natural human skin."</p><p>Circumcision is definitely a controversial issue, but it’s kind of hard not to be for skin.</p><p><strong>9. Something fishy</strong>.</p><p>To wrap things up, it’s fair to say that doing this story has certainly caused male genitals to be on my mind...but there’s one species of fish that wears his on his head.  </p><p>The 2cm-long Phallostethus cuulong was discovered in Vietnam in 2009 by Koichi Shibukawa, a researcher from the <a href="http://www.nagaofoundation.or.jp/index_e.php" target="_blank">Nagao Natural Environment Foundation</a> in Tokyo, writes <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22023-zoologger-the-fish-with-its-genitals-on-its-head.html" target="_blank">New Scientist’s Michael Marshall</a>. The little fella doesn’t actually have a penis as we understand them, but has a “priapium, which faces backwards and looks like a muscular nozzle. It's actually a modification of the fish's <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fish_anatomy" target="_blank">pectoral and pelvic fins</a>” and the reproductive organs hang from his chin, a characteristic of all priapiumfish, named for <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priapus" target="_blank">Priapus</a>, Greek god of many things including male reproductive power.</p><p>The priapiumfish may also be singular in this world of digital sharing in that no one has ever seen them mating. It’s thought, however, that the male keeps the female in place with two appendages, one that looks like a saw (the ctenactinium), the other like a rod, (toxactinium) which he holds on either side of her head while transferring sperm. </p><p>The priapium’s anus is on his head, too, in front of his ball chin. </p><p>He’s <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGL_paCfLUQ" target="_blank">two</a>, <a href="http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0006978/" target="_blank">two</a>, two cartoons in one.</p> Mon, 25 Feb 2013 09:31:00 -0800 Liz Langley, AlterNet 800165 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships sex sexuality penis men evolution women 10 Fascinating Facts About Men, Sex and Testosterone http://www.alternet.org/10-fascinating-facts-about-men-sex-and-testosterone <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There&#039;s far more to male sexuality than meets the eye. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-02-12_at_4.30.12_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Our culture has endowed women with some exotic qualities -- mystery, hidden depths, secret knowledge; all very alluring. But also very explainable. For a long time, women had little voice, so of course we were a mystery. Mute the TV and you won’t understand what the show is all about. </p><p>Men, by contrast, are alleged to be much more direct; even their primary sexual characteristics are obvious, hanging out there like an awning, compared to the secret gardens of women. In fact, the male stereotype was so set in my mind that the first time a straight man said to me, “It doesn’t always have to be about sex,” I looked at him like a puzzled dog. Men, I thought, were supposed to be relatively simple creatures, driven by sex, food and sleep (and sometimes <em>Star Wars</em>).</p><p>In reality, men are every bit as complicated as women and thoroughly fascinating in their sexual mechanics, hormonal fluctuations and brain functions. Here are 10 fun facts about male sexuality that make men a little easier to understand.</p><p><strong>1. "I’m not gay but my boyfriend Testosteronius is."</strong></p><p>Male sexuality was a different ballgame in ancient Roman times than it is now. One’s sexuality was defined not by preference for one sex or another, but as being  <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=RmKekTGLbZ0C&amp;pg=PA22&amp;lpg=PA22&amp;dq=roman+sexaulity+men+penetration&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=yTV01_r7ty&amp;sig=Y3avSAl1Ni2YQZXmpzcgekgZ51g&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=6_YYUeD4A4Wo9gThx4HgCw&amp;ved=0CGIQ6AEwBQ%23v=onepage&amp;q=roman%2520sexaulity%2520men%2520penetration&amp;f=false" target="_blank">“active” or “passive.”</a> Active meant you were the penetrator and passive meant you were the penetrated. Sex was more about social status than anything.</p><p>N.S. Gill on <a href="http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/sexuality/a/aa011400a.htm" target="_blank">About.com</a>, reports that men of “good standing” were active, and they “initiated acts of penetrating sex. Whether you did this with a female or a male, slave or free, wife or prostitute, made little difference -- as long as you were not on the receiving end, so to speak.” (Only freeborn youths were out of bounds.) It’s actually quite complicated, but, writes <a href="http://www.heritagedaily.com/2012/05/roman-same-sex-slaves-and-lex-scantinia/" target="_blank">Markus Milligan in Archeology News</a>, “From a societal perspective, to be 'passive' or 'submissive,' threatened the very fabric of masculinity, with feminine traits, submission and passive mannerisms being an act of the lower class and slaves.”  </p><p>So in ancient Rome if you were on top you were a top. We’ll call you Testosteronius.</p><p><strong>2. Making a man out of you.</strong></p><p>Let’s keep talking about testosterone, or T, because there’s no discussing male sexuality without it, the “quienes mas macho” of hormones, the thing that literally makes men men. All <a href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/human-reproduction1.htm" target="_blank">embryos develop the makings of both male and female sex organs: testosterone, under certain conditions, stimulates the growth of the male organs.</a> It waves its magic wand and voila! You get a magic wand.</p><p>And once it’s made you a boy it doesn’t just leave you hanging; it <a href="http://faculty.stcc.edu/AandP/AP/AP2pages/reprod/malesex.htm" target="_blank">accessorizes you as a male</a>, making your voice deeper, your body hairier and <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sex/articles/testosterone.shtml" target="_blank">muscle mass bigger.</a> You also get that most useful and attention-getting of ornaments, the testes, which in turn, produce testosterone, though it’s regulated in the brain by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, a little love triangle known as the HPG axis (hypothalamus, pituitary, gonad). </p><p>So that’s some of the technology of testosterone, which you probably think of as being at the helm of the male sex drive and manly traits. Interestingly, less than 100 years ago no one thought about it at all. Harvard Medical School associate clinical professor Abraham Morgentaler writes in <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Testosterone-Life-Recharge-Vitality-Overall/dp/0071494804" target="_blank">Testosterone for Life</a> (source of the HPF info) that, “For several thousand years, farmers have found that castrating domesticated animals made them infertile and more docile as well as greatly reducing their sexual activity. They did not know, however, that they were reducing a specific substance, because testosterone was not identified until the 1930s.”</p><p>By 1935, shortly after the T molecule was discovered, it was synthesized and in use as a medication (it still is: see #4). </p><p><strong>3. T for two.</strong></p><p>If you want to hear/read an amazing story about the power of this hormone, check out the <a href="http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/220/transcript" target="_blank">Testosterone episode of This American Life in 2002, </a>when producer Alex Blumberg interviewed Griffin Hansbury who transitioned from female to male five years before the story was produced. Hansbury’s first injection of testosterone was huge, giving him twice the amount that usually circulates in the system of high-T men. The changes were fast and included a raging libido (“It was like being in a pornographic movie house in my mind”) and…seriously…a sudden interest in science. From the transcript, Hanbury says: </p><blockquote><p>“….I cannot say it was the testosterone. All I can say is that this interest happened after T. There's BT and AT, and this was definitely After T. And I became interested in science. I found myself understanding physics in a way I never had before.”</p></blockquote><p>Blumberg’s response to Hanbury’s first admission to a new love of science?</p><p>“You’re just setting us back a hundred years, sir.” </p><p><strong>4. Man-o-pause.</strong></p><p>Sometimes testosterone goes on the decline, usually in middle-aged men. When it does, they experience something very similar to menopause, only it’s less obvious because men never stop getting their periods (well, you know what I mean). </p><p>It’s called <a href="http://www.monstersandcritics.com/lifestyle/consumerhealth/features/article_1709488.php/Health-trends-2013-Male-menopause-comes-out-of-the-closet" target="_blank">andropause,</a> and the symptoms -- lowered sex drive, fatigue, lack of interest in work and hobbies, mood swings, loss of muscle mass, hot flashes -- are often mistaken for run-of-the-mill aging. </p><p>Damon Raskin, an internist who sub-specializes in men’s health issues and is the supervising doctor for <a href="http://www.agelessmenshealth.com/" target="_blank">Ageless Men’s Health.com</a> said in a phone interview that the natural decrease in testosterone affects some men more than others. And even younger men can experience sudden drops in testosterone, sometimes for unknown reasons, or because of genetics, diabetes or opiate abuse.</p><p>“As men age it is normal for testosterone to fall and some men are more sensitive to the fall than others. Sometimes men can have low testosterone and have no symptoms,” he says. A simple blood test from their primary care doctor can let men know if they have low T and if so they can get testosterone replacement therapy, usually a gel, patch or a injection.</p><p>Some of the symptoms of low T can also be confused with depression. Raskin says, “When I see a new patient who comes in thinking they may be depressed one of the blood tests that I do is a testosterone test. I check the thyroid, see if they’re anemic and check their testosterone.”  </p><p>Bottom line: you can find your mojo. The answer to where it went might lie in a simple blood test.</p><p><strong>5. A little squeeze goes a long way.</strong></p><p>Before you get to middle age you should know something: Kegels are not just for women anymore.</p><p>Kegel is an exercise that strengthens the muscles of the pelvic floor so you can sail gracefully into your later years with fewer worries about incontinence and your internal organs slipping around like luggage on a turbulent flight. They’re done by squeezing internal pelvic muscles and can be done on the sly, anywhere. Women will often joke while they’re sitting at their desk or standing at a bar that they’re doing their Kegels “right now!”</p><p>But men should be doing Kegels too, because in addition to those health benefits they can also lead to stronger orgasms, prevent prostate trouble, problems with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. <a href="http://www.askmen.com/dating/love_tip_60/67_love_tip.html" target="_blank">Dr. Chaves at AskMen.com</a> provides some additional exercises men can do to work the Kegels, my favorite being “For more advanced muscle building, you can place a light towel over your erect penis and squeeze to 'lift' the towel.” </p><p>When you can throw it out the window give me a call. Or at least put it on YouTube. </p><p><strong>6. See ya!</strong></p><p>Sure, I’d like to see that towel trick. Who wouldn’t? But it’s one of those great bromides that men are actually the more visual sex and two studies have indeed shown marked differences in the visual processes of men and women.</p><p>A <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120903221050.htm" target="_blank">2012 study from the Center for Behavioral Science</a> by Emory University researchers found that women are better at discriminating between colors while men are better at perceiving “fine detail and rapidly moving stimuli,” than women. A <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/16/health/in-sex-brain-studies-show-la-difference-still-holds.html?src=pm" target="_blank">2004 study, also by Emory University</a> researchers, found that when men and women looked at erotic photos both sexes reported the same levels of arousal but set off “a frenzy of activity, particularly in the amygdala of the men.” (The amygdala is the part of the brain's limbic system that is associated with emotion and anticipation.)</p><p>So we already knew that men and women see things differently in the figurative sense. Now we have some evidence that it’s true in the literal sense.</p><p><strong>7. Sighs matter.</strong></p><p>If men do, indeed, have a better eye for visual detail maybe that explains why they seem to fret over penis size despite stories like the one in <a href="http://news.menshealth.com/the-truth-about-penis-size/2012/10/20/" target="_blank">Men’s Health</a> that reported in one of their own surveys that only 7% of “sexually satisfied” women said size was “critical” to their desires. </p><p>But men will worry, no matter how much women tell them they shouldn’t. Even famous men worry. The wonderfully named Jay Dixit writes about the size matter in <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200706/five-shocking-stats-about-men-and-sex" target="_blank">Psychology Today</a>, reporting that he-man Ernest Hemingway once tried to reassure F. Scott Fitzgerald, telling him, "There's nothing wrong with you. You look at yourself from above and you look foreshortened," and "It is basically not a question of the size in repose. It is the size that it becomes. It is also a question of angle." </p><p>Perhaps, <em>The Medium-Sized Gatsby</em> just wasn’t a title F. Scott was comfortable with. </p><p><strong>8. Size really doesn't matter, but it's interesting</strong>.</p><p>I hesitated to include this next item, but it’s so weird and funny I have to tell you: there are now two apps for your phone that measure penis size.</p><p>The Predicktor, an Android app developed by a Toronto physician and the team at <a href="http://www.thedoctorsays.com/" target="_blank">The Doctor Says</a>, seems the more lighthearted of the two; read the <a href="http://life.nationalpost.com/2013/02/08/app-takes-aim-at-male-fears-of-size-inadequacy-in-the-bedroom-by-providing-measurement-predictor/" target="_blank">story and video on the National Post website</a>. You enter certain numbers, like the size of his “feet, his height, ring size, whether it’s a porn star (etc, etc.)” which leads one to wonder how to ask a guy all these things without him just saying “It’s six inches, okay? Is that okay with you?” It’s got all kinds of genital fun facts and is meant to reassure men that they’re probably more normal than they think. And if it doesn’t The Doctor Says also has an app where you can test your anxiety.</p><p>Then <a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2414681,00.asp" target="_blank">PC Magazine reports on “Condom Size,”</a> an <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/condom-size/id592218822?mt=8" target="_blank">app for the iPhone</a> which is meant to accurately measure you and see <a href="http://www.condom-sizes.org/condom-size-chart/condom-size-chart" target="_blank">what size condom </a>you ought to be wearing. The app invites the user to hold “his hard member against inches or CM on sides of the screen,” where there’s a yellow tape measure. (There is also probably the chance of you accidentally taking a picture and sending it to your boss because that’s exactly the kind of thing that would happen to you.) The user is also asked to take a piece of string, wrap it around to get an accurate measurement and hold that up to the “digital ruler."</p><p>So, this is an app for people who can’t work a tape measure. If you can’t work a tape measure how can you afford an iPhone?</p><p><a href="http://www.glamour.com/sex-love-life/blogs/smitten/2013/01/best-use-of-your-iphone-yet-ne.html" target="_blank">Glamour says</a> “The app will give him his results, including a recommended condom brand but also…his world ranking according to penis girth and length!” A score of 100 percent isn’t a perfect score, it’s average. Anything over or under is, well, over or under.</p><p><strong>9. The boy can’t help it, but neither can the girl.</strong></p><p>So there are a couple of stereotypes we’ve dealt with here, like men’s visual nature being different and men worrying about penis size. A couple of items in this list from LiveScience, <a href="http://www.livescience.com/6327-10-woman-man-brain.html" target="_blank">10 Things Every Woman Should Know About a Man’s Brain</a>, break those stereotypes, including their emotionality and vulnerability to loneliness. When it comes to cheating and one-night stands, the next study has no gender bias to offer. Another <a href="http://www.livescience.com/9043-sleep-blame-genes.html" target="_blank">LiveScience story reports</a> that in a 2010 Binghamton University study 181 young adults were asked about their sexual history and then DNA tested. Those with a variation of the dopamine gene DRD4 were more likely to report one-night stands and infidelity (dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward).</p><p>Researcher Justin Garcia said this doesn’t necessarily let the horn dogs off the hook because some people without the variant screwed around too, and some with the variant didn’t, just that “a much higher proportion of those with this genetic type are likely to engage in these behaviors.</p><p>Soooo, a dolphin might bite you and a shark might not bite you, but it’s more likely that a shark will bite you. Got it. Keep an eye out for sharks. </p><p><strong>10. Come and get it and come...and get it.</strong></p><p>Finally, all that sex has got to make you a little hungry so we’ll leave you with some more advice from AskMen.com, this one a list of the <a href="http://www.askmen.com/top_10/celebrity/top-10-foods-that-boost-your-sperm-count.html" target="_blank">10 Foods That Increase Your Sperm Count</a> (just FYI: a new <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-04/highest-sperm-count-favors-athletes-over-couch-potatoes.html" target="_blank">study from Harvard</a> says a little less TV and a little more exercise will help, too). Of course, there are oysters which “contain a potent amino acid that increases testosterone in males and progesterone in females,” but the story also offers some surprises like garlic, which is full of allicin which increase blood flow to the nether regions, and bananas which are not only shaped appropriately, but full of vitamin B for stamina and bromelain which increases male libido. </p><p>But the most important one this week is dark chocolate, which “contains L-Arginine HCL, a powerful amino acid that has been clinically proven to double sperm and semen volume.” </p><p>Doesn’t everyone want to hear that chocolate is good for them on Valentine’s Day?</p> Tue, 12 Feb 2013 12:57:00 -0800 Liz Langley, AlterNet 793624 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships sex men sexuality What Turns You On? 10 Fascinating Facts About Sexual Attraction http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/what-turns-you-10-fascinating-facts-about-sexual-attraction <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Your brain is reacting to stimuli and sending out signals that you may not even be aware of.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/brain_turn-on.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>"Turn-ons: The color green and sports cars. Turn-offs: Women drivers.” </p><p>Those were the <a href="http://pmoy.playboy.com/playmate-of-the-year-flashback-the-1960s" target="_blank">stated turn-ons and turn-offs for Linda Gamble, Playboy’s Playmate of the Year, 1961</a>. Oh, how we love turn-ons and turn-offs -- as much a must-read as the centerfold was a must-see. It was fun to wonder how you would answer the question, and to wonder what constitutes a turn-on or a turn-off, anyway? People’s likes and dislikes are marvelously capricious, but when it comes to actual sexual turn-ons or attractions, your brain is reacting to stimuli and sending out signals that you might not be aware of, shaping your reactions and choices. From certain sounds to actual physical changes that could alter your sexual self in bizarre ways, here are 10 ways your brain might be controlling the on/off switch for your attractions.</p><p><strong>1. Get your motor running.</strong></p><p>“You and that car. It was like <em>Love Story</em>. You got it and you loved it and it died.”</p><p>That’s what my friend Bob said about the used Mercedes I bought for a song in the '90s, a car that spent more time with the mechanic than with me. The car’s engine had a distinctive sound, and to this day when I hear one like it my entire system perks up.</p><p>That’s why I’m not terrifically surprised by the stereotype-confirming study by Hiscox (no joke), a British insurance company reporting that the testosterone in women’s saliva rises when they hear the sound of a sports car. (<a href="http://www.ehow.com/about_5456446_role-testosterone-females.html" target="_blank">Testosterone is an important hormone for female sexual arousal</a>, although most of us associate it with men, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sex/articles/testosterone.shtml" target="_blank">who produce 20 times more of it</a>.) </p><p><a href="http://www.wired.com/autopia/2008/09/weve-got-some-b/" target="_blank">Keith Barry of Wired reported in 2008</a> that psychologist David Moxon had men and women listen to the sounds of four cars -- a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, a Maserati, and an economical compact, a Volkswagon Polo -- and then tested their saliva afterward. Testosterone went up in both men and women after listening to the sports cars, “but the amount women had was off the charts,” Barry wrote. Even women who weren’t into cars had the same reaction.</p><p>By contrast, after listening to the Polo testosterone in all groups dropped. </p><p>What? Vroom-vroom is sexier than a down-to-earth consideration of fuel economy? Make of it what you will. I’m going to take a moment to <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b_jbhrRBbQ" target="_blank">listen to this Mercedes engine</a> and dream of what might have been. </p><p><strong>2. Right on the left.</strong></p><p>We probably listen to the sound of sports cars with both ears, but when it comes to whispering sweet somethings it might be advantageous to lovers to try to get around to one ear specifically: the left one. A <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15849031" target="_blank">study from Sam Houston University </a>found that the left ear is better at picking up emotional words than the right. Sixty-two men and women listened to some emotional words (“loving”) and some neutral words (“combine”) read in a voice devoid of emotion, with the words presented to the left or right ear. In an <a href="http://cognet.mit.edu/library/conferences/paper?paper_id=53621" target="_blank">abstract on MITCogNet, study authors T.C. Sim and Carolyn Martinez write,</a> “When emotion stimuli appeared on the left ear, the accuracy of recall was higher, with a mean of 64.43% and 58.15% for the right ear. Our study shows that in the face of competing verbal information, emotional words compete more strongly when they are presented through the left ear.”</p><p>An NIH abstract on the study notes that the “findings are consistent with the role of the right hemisphere in the perception of emotional information.” </p><p>So, “I love you,” might have stronger impact whispered in the left ear. Anyone else trying to remember which side of the bed you sleep on and wondering how to sneakily switch places? </p><p><strong>3. Why the piece of pie in the glass case looks better than the one you’re eating.</strong></p><p>Whichever ear your partner whispers those words of love into, the fact is, he does it. He's attentive, attractive (play along here) and always there for you. You’re a lucky duck…and yet…there’s a particular co-worker, one you’d swear is flirting with you, whose shirt is just tight enough to present the outline of a little fantasy, who only pops into your part of the office occasionally. You know it’s not right, but your mind wanders off to that person time and time again, like someone on Silver Alert who can’t remember where home is. </p><p>Cheer up, dummy! There might be a reasonable explanation that someone barely there has your rapt attention. Richard A. Friedman wrote in the <em>New York Times</em> about a brain scan study from 2001 by psychiatrist Gregory Berns that may explain why some people respond to elusive promise rather than constancy. Subjects getting MRI brain scans were given fruit juice and water, but in one part of the study those rewards came every 10 seconds while in the other they came randomly. Berns found the rewards centers of the brain were more highly activated when the rewards came at unpredictable times than when they came on schedule. This reaction was the same for both rewards, juice or water, even if a patient said she preferred one or the other. </p><p>Friedman writes that these reward circuits, when activated, “tells the brain something like 'Pay attention and remember this experience because it’s important.' This circuit releases dopamine when stimulated, which, if it reaches a critical level, conveys a sense of pleasure.” Our reward circuits, Friedman writes, "have evolved over millions of years to aid our survival; new stimuli hold the promise of telling us things we don’t know from which we could benefit.”</p><p>From my purely observational standpoint it makes sense that the novel experience would excite the brain to pay attention because it might not come back, whereas something that is always there can always be attended to…kind of the way you listen to breaking news but when you’re watching something that’s been sitting in your DVR since July you know you can get up and wash the dishes because it's not going anywhere.</p><p><strong>4. Show us your tips!</strong></p><p>Wanting something elusive that you can’t necessarily have is the essence of many types of entertainment, and the lap dancer is right up there; there’s a reason it's called a strip <em>tease</em>. </p><p>In their book, <a href="http://www.thechemistrybetweenus.com/authors.html" target="_blank">The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex and the Science of Attraction</a>, authors Brian Alexander and Larry Young detail the work of psychologist Geoffrey Miller of the University of New Mexico who “tracked stripper income across ovulatory cycles.” The results show that our drawing power is highest when we’re fertile. The strippers who got the most tips were the ones at or near ovulation. From the book:</p><blockquote><p>The effect Miller discovered wasn't small or subtle; he calls it "shocking...." When the strippers Miller chronicled were in estrus, they made about $354 per five-hour shift. Anestrous women made about $264 -- a difference of $90. Menstruation cut dancers' earnings in half. The difference can't be attributed to one woman's attractiveness over another's, or to fashion choices, because the research took place over two months. The estrous and anestrous women are the same women, documented at different points in time….”</p></blockquote><p>But how would the men know the women were ovulating? They didn’t -- consciously.</p><blockquote><p>“When men have been exposed to odor samples taken from women at or near ovulation, they, like their monkey cousins, show a spike in testosterone, compared with men who sample odors taken from women who aren't ovulating. The close contact required for conversation in a noisy club might be giving the men olfactory hints.”</p></blockquote><p>Alexander and Young go on to say that Miller thinks other factors enter this hotter-in-heat picture, including subtle changes in women’s voices, body shape and facial attractiveness as well as her body confidence and even “higher verbal fluency and creativity."</p><p>Anyone else just think of an ad pitch for ovulation predictor kits? </p><p><strong>5. Whither boobies?</strong></p><p>Okay, that doesn’t sound terrifically attractive, but since we’re talking strippers, it’s a good question: why are many straight men breast-obsessed?</p><p>A good enough answer would seem to be, why not? Breasts are beautiful, often fairly visible (depending on the outfit) and more fun than a room full of puppies, right? But it’s that “fun” part one researcher thinks might hold a chemical key to men’s fixation on breasts in a sexual context. </p><p>Larry Young, whom we met in the previous item, spoke to Natalie Wolchover at<a href="http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/2946-why-men-love-breasts.html" target="_blank">Life’s Little Mysteries </a>about why women are forever having to say, “Hey, my eyes are up here." When women breastfeed they release the hormone oxytocin, helping them to bond with their babies. Also, nipple stimulation has been shown to be a serious source of sexual stimulation. Wolchover writes, “When a sexual partner touches, massages or nibbles a woman’s breasts, Young said, this triggers the release of oxytocin in the woman’s brain, just like what happens when a baby nurses. But in this context, the oxytocin focuses the woman’s attention on her sexual partner, strengthening her desire to bond with this person.” </p><p>Young told Wolchover, “Evolution has selected for this brain organization in men that makes them attracted to the breasts in a sexual context, because the outcome is that it activates the female bonding circuit, making women feel more bonded with him. It’s a behavior that males have evolved in order to stimulate the female’s maternal bonding circuitry.”  </p><p>It makes an intuitive kind of sense: men like breasts because breast stimulation makes women feel hot and bonded. Breasts make most men happy, because the fact that breasts make most men happy, makes most women happy. Happy?</p><p><strong>6. Sniffin’ the tears.</strong></p><p>So we know a few things that turn men on. What turns men off? Crying. It’s a weiner wilter. </p><p>Researchers at the Weizman Institute in Israel set out to study the effect of tears on people, expecting to find empathy and sadness. Nope! <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/07/science/07tears.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">The New York Times reports</a> that the scent of women’s tears -- applied to pads under men's noses to “approximate a hug with a teary woman” -- didn’t effect male empathy, but it made them decidedly less horny. The effect was observable through lowered testosterone levels, skin responses, self-reporting and brain images. It didn’t happen when men sniffed saline that had been dribbled down a woman’s face instead of real tears. </p><p>Why crying has this effect on men is uncertain, but it would seem to work out fairly well, since if you’re crying you’re probably not in the mood for sex -- unless you’re crying about the fact that you never have sex anymore. </p><p><strong>7. The things we smell for love.</strong></p><p>To further explore the area of scent, consider our grooming process, which is essentially an exercise in body odor eradication: scented soaps, deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, perfumes and colognes serve to make sure Eau de You will never come to anyone’s attention.</p><p>That’s a lot of money spent covering up something that could be the key to romance.</p><p>We may think that only animals sniff around one another, but humans sense by scent, too, sending and receive subtle chemical signals and possibly finding ourselves a good biological match in the process. Our nose for MHC -- major histocompatability complex, or the “sequence of more than 100 immune system genes” <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200712/scents-and-sensibility" target="_blank">writes Elizabeth Svoboda in Psychology Today</a> -- could lead us to, or away from, a potential mate, even more quickly than getting a look at their DVD collection.  </p><p>Svoboda writes about a study by Claus Wedekind of the University of Laussane in Switzerland in which 49 women were asked to sample sniff clean T-shirts that had been worn by men two nights in a row, thus imbuing them with the men’s distinctive odor (the men were supplied with unscented soap and aftershave). Asked to rate the scent of the T-shirts, the women far and away preferred the T-shirts of men who were “immunologically disimilar” to them, which makes sense as the combination of two different MHC profiles would produce more resistant offspring.</p><p>See? You spend all kinds of time and money on gyms, clothing and hair color and all you really needed was already seeping out of your pores. </p><p>The upside is there’s no one out there setting a standard, or, “There’s no Brad Pitt of smell,” as psychologist Rachel Herz put it, so if you can stink you’re in with a chance. And everyone can stink. </p><p><strong>8. Melodies of love.</strong></p><p>It’s not exactly news that music and love go together -- or music and any emotion, for that matter. But only recently has science pinpointed exactly what it is about music that makes it <a href="http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/252000.html" target="_blank">soothe the savage breast</a>…or at least makes you frisky.</p><p><a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/sex-music-boosts-pleasure-chemicals-brain/story?id=12566057" target="_blank">ABC News reports</a> that researchers at McGill University in Toronto did PET scans and MRIs on eight participants, age 19-24, while they were listening to self-chosen “chill-inducing” music, and found that while dopamine was present in the brain during the music it spiked up to 9% around the “chilling” passages. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter directly associated with pleasures like eating...and sex.</p><p>So while it’s long been obvious that a little well-placed music is as good as a little well-placed smooch, now we know just what chemical it is that makes it so. In fact, in <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/24/tech/science-behind-the-song/index.html" target="_blank">a study commissioned by Spotify </a>on 18- to 91-year-olds in the UK on the relationship between music and romance, 40% said the background music would be a more likely turn-on than their partner’s touch. </p><p>If any of their partners knew they responded that way you have to wonder how long it would be before the respondents were alone with their music (at last!).  </p><p><strong>9. You know how you like to masturbate in public? </strong></p><p> Well, of course you don’t, for God’s sake. Your social skills aren’t that bad. But people with the rare impairment <a href="http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/kluver_bucy/kluver_bucy.htm" target="_blank">Kluver-Bucy syndrome</a> suddenly find themselves doing things like that and much worse. Kluver-Bucy is the result of damage to both anterior temporal lobes of the brain.</p><p>Altered sexual behavior is not the only symptom, as science journalist Jesse Bering writes in <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Why-Penis-Shaped-Like-That/dp/0374532923" target="_blank">Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?</a> Kluver-Bucy sufferers experience all kinds of alterations including appetite changes, diminished fear responses, memory loss, dementia, and inability to recognize objects. But the sexual change can be pretty severe and scary; Bering describes one female sufferer as masturbating in public and soliciting family members for sex. So while we’ve talked about the normal brain’s response to stimuli -- releasing testosterone or dopamine, etc. -- this is a case of a physical change in the brain making a behavioral change in the person.</p><p>If this story doesn’t get you to wear a helmet, wear your seatbelt or otherwise protect your coconut, I don’t know what will. </p><p><strong>10. Whatcha gonna do? </strong></p><p>Finally, your brain does a lot of things in the present associated with sex, but can it actually predict anything about your sexual future?</p><p>Actually it can.</p><p><a href="http://hollyaparker.com/" target="_blank">Holly Parker,</a> a lecturer on psychology at Harvard University notes in an email that <a href="http://www.jneurosci.org/content/32/16/5549.abstract" target="_blank">a study at Dartmouth</a> "found that the extent to which a person’s brain (specifically the nucleus accumbens) perceives sexual pictures as rewarding predicts their sexual behavior six months later.”</p><p>Dartmouth Now reports that researchers in the 2012 study got a pretty novel thing going in using brain scans to predict actual behavior. Female participants viewed various images while researchers targeted the nucleus accumbens, part of the brain’s rewards center. The images included food, erotic imagery, environmental scenes, people and animals. Six months later the subjects responded to questionnaires and their responses were compared to earlier responses and brain scan data.</p><p>Sure enough, those who had responded strongly in the brain scans to food images had gained weight, and, says Kathryn Demos, “Just as cue reactivity to food images was investigated as potential predictors of weight gain, cue reactivity to sexual images was used to predict sexual desire.” The people who responded to food images gained weight, but didn’t engage in more sex and vice versa.</p><p>This research may help people trying to curb compulsive or impulsive behaviors in the future, Parker writes, because as the Dartmouth researchers explain, “when we are exposed to images, situations, people, or objects that are related to something we find rewarding (e.g., food, sex, smoking, alcohol, etc.), this activates the representation of the reward and stimulates our brain to envision how to obtain that reward. The challenge is that sometimes we encounter something that reminds us of a reward and we don’t even consciously realize it, but our brain is thinking of the reward and subconsciously figuring out how to work to get it.”</p><p>So the whole time you’re thinking about resisting that cookie, your brain is thinking about how to get the cookie. Replace “cookie” with “nookie” for our purposes in this story.</p><p>To let the doctor continue…</p><p>“This is why people sometimes feel a craving or urge that comes on suddenly, seemingly out of nowehere. The authors also noted that although the prefontal cortex does a good job of controlling behavior and helping people to resist these cravings, the prefrontal cortex does not do as good a job helping people regulate their behavior when they’re stressed.”</p><p>If the sex you’re having when you’re stressed is safe and emotionally healthy, no worries, but if not, Parker says it’s a good idea to “create a stress management plan. On second thought, create a stress management plan regardless -- it’s good for everyone.”</p> Fri, 25 Jan 2013 12:22:00 -0800 Liz Langley, AlterNet 783391 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships turn-ons turnoffs attraction psychology 10 Interesting Facts About Your Brain on Sex http://www.alternet.org/10-interesting-facts-about-your-brain-sex <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It might not look like the sexiest body part, but it really is. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-01-15_at_3.17.46_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Remember the Seinfeld episode where <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WyojQFJY1w" target="_blank">Jerry’s penis has an argument with his brain and loses</a>? It’s a classic: we’ve all been torn between love/lust and logic. (If you haven't, check for a belly button because this isn’t your home world.) This brilliant bit of comedy is totally relatable but a little misleading in one way: the brain is the one that sends signals to the penis in the first place. It’s pretty reliably running things, IMing the other body parts like crazy, regulating chemicals, making calculations and responding to stimuli, half the time without you even knowing about it. There’s a reason “the brains of the outfit” denotes someone who is really in charge. </p><p>So why does the brain sometimes signal us to do stupid things, especially in regard to sex and relationships? Isn’t that a little like one conjoined twin punching the other in the mouth? How does the brain decide who attracts us? What is it doing behind our backs, and how do we change as we mature?</p><p>Here are some of the ways the joys, quandaries and mechanics of sex are all in your head.</p><p><strong>1. Size matters</strong>.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.news-medical.net/health/Hypothalamus-Males-and-Females.aspx" target="_blank">preoptic area of the hypothalamus</a>, which regulates mating behavior, is a little more than twice as big in men as it is in women and has twice as many cells. Medical Net says difference starts to show up when we’re about four years old. </p><p><strong>2. Location. Location. Location.</strong></p><p>The male brain devotes twice as much real estate to sex as the female brain. They think about it, but do they listen about it? </p><p>Some men certainly do, and maybe more will now that there’s visible evidence of what some women have been trying to tell them for quite some time: there is a great deal of difference between vaginal and clitoral stimulation. Now you can see it. Researchers at Rutgers University used an MRI to map what locations on the sensory cortex correspond to the vagina, clitoris and nipples. All three clearly in very different locations in the brain. <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/articleimages/dn20770/1-sex-on-the-brain-what-turns-women-on-mapped-out.html" target="_blank">(Click and scroll down for the images.)</a></p><p>The fact that nipple stimulation lit up the areas corresponding to the genitals as well as the chest area seemed to come as a surprise. <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20770-sex-on-the-brain-what-turns-women-on-mapped-out.html" target="_blank">Linda Geddes of New Scientist quotes</a> researcher Barry Komisaruk as saying, "When I tell my male neuroscientist colleagues about this, they say: 'Wow, that's an exception to the classical homunculus,'" he says. "But when I tell the women they say: 'Well, yeah?' It may help explain why a lot of women claim that nipple stimulation is erotic, he adds.”</p><p>Claim? </p><p>Anyway, those images are pretty spiffy, and they're ripe for a new line of greeting cards. Valentine's Day is coming and those hearts and cherubs need a break. </p><p><strong>3. In what part of the brain do we find the “Not tonight, honey" headache?</strong></p><p>It was a comic trope of the olden days for women who didn’t want sex to opt out due to headache, but it turns out migraine sufferers seem to have a higher libido than other sufferers. <a href="http://www.livescience.com/10533-tonight-honey-migraine.html" target="_blank">LiveScience reported on a 2006</a> study from the Wake Forest School of Medicine which found that people who suffer from migraine headaches reported a sex drive about 20% higher than those prone to regular tension headaches. The key might be the neurotransmitter serotonin. High serotonin levels are associated with low libido; the researchers reported that migraine sufferers had low serotonin levels. And <a href="http://headaches.about.com/lw/Health-Medicine/Alternative-treatments/How-Sex-May-Relieve-Migraine-Pain.htm" target="_blank">About.com reports</a> that a 2001 survey of women who had sex during migraines 30% noticed a decrease in pain, 5.3% said the pain increased, and 17.5% reported the pain went away. </p><p>It’s hard to believe anyone can have sex during a migraine, but for that 17.5% it sounds like the traditional “Go to bed,” advice worked out pretty nicely (even if "and get some rest" wasn't part of it). </p><p><strong>4. Considering all the kinds of headaches it causes rather than cures, why do we even have sex in the first place? </strong></p><p><a href="http://www.drshrand.com/" target="_blank">Dr. Joseph Shrand</a> is an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. (He also happens to be<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzlmZa20MLU" target="_blank"> Joe from the TV show Zoom!</a> -- if you’re a '70s kid that brought on some of the feel-good chemistry we’re going to talk about in a minute.) Shrand has a wonderfully concise way of explaining why we let ourselves in for the sturm und drang of sex. When we describe love and sexual passion “we use the word 'intoxicating' and that’s a very important word,” Shrand said in a phone interview. “There is <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/dopamine" target="_blank">dopamine </a>involved in that sort of lustful attraction,” a neurotransmitter associated with excitement, reward, desire, pleasure and in some case <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-wise/201209/why-were-all-addicted-texts-twitter-and-google" target="_blank">addiction</a>. </p><p>“When we are falling in love with someone all we can think about is that person…it’s a remarkable, remarkable feeling and it’s a pleasure. There’s huge biological significance to that. If we didn’t feel pleasure when we have sex we wouldn’t have babies. I mean, can you imagine is sex was really uncomfortable and horrible and not reinforcing? Why would you do it?”</p><p>Search me.</p><p>“The orgasm is pleasurable as a way of saying 'We want to do this again!' You want to do this as often as you can and if you don’t have somebody to do it with you’ll figure out how to do it anyway,” all of which he says is adaptive because it’s how we get our genes into the next generation.</p><p>The trick, Shrand says, is getting your <a href="http://biology.about.com/od/anatomy/a/aa042205a.htm" target="_blank">limbic system</a>, an ancient part of your brain which is the seat of those primal drives and emotions, to work with your “new brain,” the more evolved neocortex that helps you consider causes and consequences. “You have to be able to shift gears in your prefrontal cortex and make a plan,” a plan to get that person, to keep that person, to understand the consequences of what you’re doing, which isn’t easy when your brain is “overwhelmed by dopamine and lust,” he says. “It’s amazing we have relationships at all.” </p><p>But dopamine alone won’t bind you to someone. That’s the province of oxytocin, which has been called “<a href="http://www.divinecaroline.com/22188/96162-cuddle-hormone-lesser-known-effects-oxytocin" target="_blank">the cuddle hormone</a>." Oxytocin creates a feeling of warmth, security, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/love-drug-oxytocin-cuddle-chemical-scientists-makes-mothers/story?id=15330910%23.UOzdVpjK0UU" target="_blank">bonding</a> and trust. “It’s a much deeper, more powerful and more modern part of love,” Shrand says, “because oxytocin is a much more complicated chemical which implies it’s really relatively more recent than [a simple one like] dopamine.” So when you find yourself in the grip of lust versus logic, that may well be the primal brain and brain chemistry arguing with the more modern parts. It’s real and we all go through it. Hopefully that raised your oxytocin enough to feel a little better about the whole crazy mess. </p><p><strong>5. The downside to bonding: getting stuck.</strong></p><p>If our brains are so smart why do they let us attach to people who might not be so great for us? <a href="http://www.redlands.edu/academics/college-of-arts-sciences/undergraduate-studies/psychology/2212.aspx" target="_blank">Catherine Salmon</a>, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Redlands, says the answer might have something to do with oxytocin, that very same chemical that creates those feelings of warmth and security. It sounds great, right? So how could something so good make us stick with people who aren’t? </p><p>“Oxytocin is not only released during birth and breastfeeding but also during orgasm,” Salmon wrote via email. “As a result, you feel more attached to the guy who you shared that orgasm with, which is great if he's a good mate choice but maybe not so much if you're Rhianna and he's Chris Brown. He may be a good lover but poor dad material, and yet you'll be attached to him and perhaps stick with the relationship longer than you should.”</p><p>So if you hear <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WWjG5U8rjA" target="_blank">Dionne Warwick</a> when he walks into the room and your friends -- who didn’t share an oxytocin moment with him -- hiss like wet cats, you may be seeing the situation through oxytocin-colored glasses (I have so many if I buy another pair I get the next one free).  </p><p><strong>6. There’s a reason people shout “Oh, God!”</strong></p><p>Sexual relationships are powerful enough to feel like spiritual experiences and there may well be a good reason for that. From <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Scientific-American-Book-Love-Brain/dp/0470647787" target="_blank">The Scientific American Book of Love, Sex and the Brain</a> by Judith Horstman and Scientific American: </p><blockquote><p>“Jefferson University neuroscientist Andrew Newberg scanned the brains of praying Catholic nuns and meditating Buddhist monks and found some overlap between their neural activity and that of sexually aroused subjects (as seen in scans from other researchers). The correlation makes sense, according to Newberg. Just as sex involves a rhythmic activity so do religous practices such as chanting, dancing and repetition of a mantra. Religous experiences produce sensations of bliss, transcendence beyond one’s self and unity with the loved one that is very like the ecstasy of orgasm. That may be why some mystics, such as St. Teresa, describe their rapture with romantic or even sexual language.”</p></blockquote><p>The book also notes that another study found that thinking about God and religion goes on in various parts of the brain, including the same areas we use to think about mundane experiences. No single "God spot" has been pinpointed in the brain. So you'll have to settle for the other G spot a little lower down. </p><p><strong>7. Testosterone: The puppet master</strong>.</p><p>Speaking of heavenly, let’s talk about male anatomy for a moment. Wonderful though it is, it has its share of headaches and this certainly sounds like one. Oxytocin may keep us attached in ways we normally wouldn’t want to be, but testosterone has men doing things they don’t even know they’re doing, like getting erections. According to Louann Brizendine in <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Male-Brain-Louann-Brizendine/dp/0767927540/ref=la_B001H6RZB8_1_2?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1357706913&amp;sr=1-2" target="_blank">The Male Brain,</a> “These reflexive erections are different from true sexual arousal because they come from unconscious signals from his spinal cord and brain, not from a conscious desire to have sex. The testosterone receptors that live on the nerve cells in a man’s spinal cord, testicles, penis, and brain are what activate his entire sexual network. Women are surprised that the penis can operate on autopilot and even more surprised that men don’t always know when they’re getting an erection….We women often notice the rising tide before he does.”</p><p>We notice because we care. </p><p><strong>8. So testosterone is pretty powerful; does it ever relax its kung-fu grip on a guy?</strong></p><p>Indeed it does. Marlene Zuk, professor of ecology, dvolution and behavior at the University of Minnesota, notes in her forthcoming book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Really-Tells-about-ebook/dp/B007Q6XM1A%C2%A0%0Ahttp://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Really-Tells-about-ebook/dp/B007Q6XM1A%C2%A0%0Ahttp://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Really-Tells-about-ebook/dp/B007Q6XM1A" target="_blank">Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet and How We Live</a> that “conventional wisdom holds that men are unreliable long-term mates” because they’re always questing for new partners, but “what if the urge to find a new mate is ameliorated by the experience of fatherhood itself?”</p><p>In a long-term study of 600 men in the Philippines, anthropologist Lee Gettler of Northwestern University measured the men’s testosterone and predicted those with higher testosterone levels at the start of the study would become “partnered fathers” by the follow-up, four and a half years later. And he was right.</p><p>“But then something interesting happened,” Zuk writes. “The fathers showed a dramatic decline in testosterone compared with both their own single, pre-paternal levels, as well as the levels of the men who had remained single. What is more, testosterone was lowest in those men who spent at least three hours a day caring for their son or daughter, after controlling for the effects of sleep loss and other variables.”</p><p>“This study is illuminating for several reasons,” Zuk writes. First off, the same men being re-measured, instead of fathers being compared to single men, allows for fewer variables. Second “it indicates a finely tuned back-and-forth between a person’s physiology and behavior. Cues from the environment can influence fathers’ hormone levels as well as those of mothers. The scientists suggest that while seeking a mate requires characteristics that may be antithetical to being a good father, it is, in fact, possible to have it all, and testosterone acts as the mediator.”</p><p>Finally, Zuk writes "As Peter Gray, an anthropologist at the University of Nevada, pointed out in a commentary accompanying the article, the research serves as a nice case study of the relevance of evolution to everyday human life. The trade-off between mating and parenting is one that is predicted by evolutionary theory, and it means that a longing for new sexual partners might not be part of our heritage.”</p><p><strong>9. And you thought your new iPhone was fast.</strong></p><p>In 2008, doctors Stephanie Ortigue and Francesco Bianchi-Demicheli found that it took .02 seconds for the brain to register a person in a swimsuit photo as desirable or undesirable. At that speed you’d think it would go “zip!” from the parts that process visuals to the higher parts that make decisions. It did go that way sometimes, but sometimes those higher functioning parts started responding very early, <a href="http://discovermagazine.com/2009/oct/10-where-does-sex-live-in-brain-from-top-to-bottom%23.UOyjdJjK0UU" target="_blank">writes Carl Zimmer in Discover magazine</a>. Those higher parts, that handle self-awareness and empathy, might be instructing the eyes on who is attractive and telling the emotional centers how to feel about them. </p><p>Yep: the most important decision of your life might have started as a Quick Pick.</p><p><strong>10. So my brain looks, debates and decides, like on American Idol?</strong></p><p>Right down to the three conferring panelists. </p><p><a href="http://healthland.time.com/2012/11/08/how-speed-dating-works-in-the-brain/" target="_blank">Time magazine’s Maia Salavitz reports</a> that in a study done on speed dating by <a href="http://www.jneurosci.org/content/32/45/15647.abstract" target="_blank">Trinity College in Ireland</a>, male and female subjects were hooked up to an MRI machine and asked to judge potential candidates by photograph before the 5-minute speed-date meeting. The people they thought they’d like and the people they actually asked out matched up 63% of the time to the people they wanted to ask out after the 5-minute date, writes <a href="http://www.livescience.com/24593-brain-love-dating-decisions.html" target="_blank">Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience</a> and researchers found out what part of the brains were fired up during that initial decision-making process.  </p><p>First, Salavitz reports, we have a twofer, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, which contains two sub-regions: one that judges attractiveness, the other that judges what’s attractive to you, though not necessarily to everyone else (that’s the restromedial prefrontal cortex or rmPFC). The first is what tells me “Ryan Gosling is handsome,” and the second tells me “But <a href="http://www.tressugar.com/Do-Tell-Whos-Your-Favorite-Ugly-Hot-Guy-3456603" target="_blank">I still prefer Benicio del Toro</a>.”</p><p>The people who got the most positive response aroused the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, “an area that has previously been found to react to appealing faces,” writes Salavitz, but that didn’t mean those people got asked out.</p><p>Maybe that’s the rmPFC butting in and saying “Just cuz she’s cute doesn’t mean she’s for you."</p><p>And that’s why they have three judges on "American Idol."</p><p>These are just a few of the ways your brain is trying to guide you through the awesomely complicated world of lust and romance. It might not look like the sexiest body part, but it really is. Which body part do you think came up with <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1ArZEFwRsY" target="_blank">Love to Love You Baby</a>?</p> Tue, 15 Jan 2013 11:41:00 -0800 Liz Langley, AlterNet 777495 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics sex orgasm men women brain science 10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week http://www.alternet.org/environment/10-mind-blowing-discoveries-week-4 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">When the next natural disaster strikes, squads of trained cockroaches may come to rescue you. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_106172471.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>So this week I came into one of my freelance jobs 90 minutes earlier than I should have, forgot the dates of two meetings and absent-mindedly put my key into the door of the wrong car necessitating a pricey call to a locksmith. Nobody could be happier than I to find that scientists have been able to implant memories into the brains of mice. Maybe one day they can implant some more memory in me.</p><p class="p1"><b>1. Mice memories</b></p><p class="p1">Actually, these mice memories weren’t quite like the extra memory you put in a computer, nor were they memories of happy Christmases past or who shot JR or anything like that.  <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/12018/20120910/researchers-plant-short-term-memories-mices-brains.htm">Medical Daily’s Makini Brice</a> </span>reports that Professor Ben Strowbridge and Robert Hyde of Case Western University attempted to create a declarative memory, the type you use when remembering a phone number or other simple facts as opposed to remembering a skill (implicit memory); they “isolated rodent tissue to form a memory in which one of four neural pathways was activated. The neural circuits located in the hippocampus maintained the memory of input for 10 seconds.”</p><p class="p1">Another recent study by professors at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center has found how the brain converts short-term memories into long-term memories, “which can be accessed months or years after their implantation.” By studying how memory works in the brain, researchers hope to better understand diseases such as Alzheimer’s. </p><p class="p1">Perhaps I should be horrified in some future-phobic way about the implantation of memories in the brain. But I’m looking on the bright side. Today it’s 10-second mouse-memories to identify specific neural pathways; tomorrow we’re saving time and money on travel by getting memories of fabulous European getaways implanted in our heads. To say nothing of the possibilities for the adult entertainment industry. </p><p class="p1"><b>2. Otterly adorable and totally green</b></p><p class="p1">I even forgot that instead of such weighty matters as those above I wanted to start out this week with something 100% charming: otters. They’re adorable, especially when they’re <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epUk3T2Kfno">holding hands</a>, </span>in South Park episodes, and talking about <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/155388/dawning-of-the-sea-otters">smashing clams on their tummies</a>. N</span>ow, it turns out, they’re quietly doing their bit for the environment.</p><p class="p3"><span class="s2">Kelp forests absorb a lot of greenhouse gases. <a href="http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/photos/sea-urchins/"><span class="s1">Sea urchins</span></a> eat up a lot of kelp. Sea otters eat up a lot of sea urchins. By eating up the sea urchins the otters are helping kelp forests to flourish. <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/09/120910-sea-otters-global-warming-urchins-kelp-frontiers-science/"><span class="s1">Kate Andries from National Geographic reports</span></a> on a <a href="http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/110176?journalCode=fron&amp;"><span class="s1">study</span></a> which found that, “</span>An otter-assisted kelp forest can absorb as much as 12 times the amount of C02 [carbon dioxide] from the atmosphere than if it were subject to ravenous sea urchins," and while it might not exactly be the key to climate-change reversal it’s a help to the ecology of the areas the sea otters live in. </p><p class="p3">"The general phenom in which the interactions between species are linked to the carbon cycle," said James Estes, co-author of the study, "is going to be very important."</p><p class="p3">And <a href="http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/sea-otter/"><span class="s1">cute</span></a>. Don’t forget cute. </p><p class="p1"><b>3. Just don’t say, “And step on it!”</b></p><p class="p1">The otter story is a nice example of how the natural balance works. It’s good to protect and respect all creatures -- a philosophy it’s easy to forget when it comes to cockroaches. Somehow it never seems like a bad idea to smash them. Or to outfit them with tiny backpacks and censors and send them on dangerous and important missions via remote control. </p><p class="p1">Remote-control cockroaches are not the dream of some super-bright-and-slightly-disturbed little kid. <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57509894-1/eek-remote-controlled-cyborg-cockroaches-are-real/"><span class="s1">CNet’s Amanda Kooser</span></a> reports that researchers at North Carolina State have taken a wireless receiver and a lightweight chip -- the whole unit weighs only .02 ounces, <a href="http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112691117/cockroaches-remote-control-091012/"><span class="s1">writes Lee Rannals of redOrbit</span></a> -- and been able to connect a microcontroller to a cockroach’s antennae and cerci (sensory organs like motion detectors on the roach’s tummy). When those wires move it makes the bug move thinking a predator is threatening. The wires attached to the antennae “create small electrical charges into the insect’s neural tissue, which is what helps to steer the cockroaches,” Rannals writes. The researchers hope to use the little creatures to go into disaster sites, like areas hit by earthquakes, to find survivors in hard-to-reach places.</p><p class="p1">It is, on one hand, an amazingly cool idea and one I’d never thought could exist outside a cartoon or CGI film. On the other hand, it sounds kind of awful to survive, say, a hurricane and then be swarmed by cockroaches, even if they were there to save you. The team did choose the Madagascar hissing cockroach as its vehicle, and living in Florida I can tell you those aren’t the most hideous of the roach clan so that’s a perk. Maybe one day the tiny rescue squad could be made up of something less ooky, though -- how about a guinea pig and a duckling? Art does come to life occasionally and this makes me hope that one day the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonder_Pets"><span class="s1">Wonder Pets</span></a> could become reality. <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjmYee2ZfSk"><span class="s1">Sewiously</span></a>.</p><p class="p1"><strong>4. Is there any intelligent life out there?</strong></p><p class="p1">Since as far as we know there is no life on Mars which means no cockroaches, I’m ready to go. I know it’s not habitable at the moment. Whether it was ever inhabited is uncertain. Water is considered essential for life, and Martian clay would seem to suggest that enough water was present on Mars to form that material if life might have been possible there. But a French scientist has discovered that the clay may not have required water at all, not from a new finding on Mars, but from one right here on Earth. </p><p class="p3"><span class="s2"><span class="s1"><a href="http://www.space.com/17514-mars-theory-red-planet-water-life.html">Nola Taylor Redd of Space.com writes</a> </span>that </span>Alain Meunier of the Université de Poitiers in France discovered clays in a region of French Polynesia that were “formed quickly with cooling magma rather than slowly with cold ocean water.” The composition of the clays is similar to some “Martian mineral mixes.”</p><p class="p3">The findings don’t mean that Mars was always dehydrated: there is evidence of “extensive river systems, lakes, and oceans” on its surface and different types of clays, differently formed, exist on Earth as well. So there is still a possibility that life existed on Mars…but less likely where the clay was formed from magma, a process that would be “quick and hot, and thus not good for biology," said Brian Hyneck of the University of Colorado (though it must be said that for some types of biology, quick and hot is a really good thing). </p><p class="p3">And speaking of Mars what’s Curiosity been up to? Among other things like <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2012/0912/Mars-rock-hound-Rover-Curiosity-prepares-to-head-for-unique-formation"><span class="s1">getting ready for a road trip</span></a>, it <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/gallery_directory.cfm?photo_id=F7D2D2D0-CE6C-9BA3-C62DDF9FC2661692">took some pictures of itself</a>. </span>And why not? We all do that when we’re traveling. Plus, not only does it look like <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0910970/">Wall-E</a>,</span> but the image was taken with <span class="s3">Mars Hand Lens Imager -- MAHLI.</span></p><p class="p3">Cute. Doubleplus interplanetary cute.</p><p class="p1"><b>5. Hot pink science?</b></p><p class="p1">Apparently science isn’t cute enough or girly enough for some girls to be interested in -- at least that seems to be the reasoning behind some of the ways people are trying to get them interested. <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-trouble-with-barbie-science"><span class="s1">Diana Betz of the University of Michigan writes in Scientific American</span></a> about a couple of approaches meant to show that scientists can be feminine and girly girls can also do math and insert memories into mice and whatnot. They included <a href="http://www.barbiemedia.com/admin/uploads/PDFs/ComputerEngineerBarbie3.pdf"><span class="s4">Computer Engineer Barbie</span></a><span class="s3">, and a video (eventually scrapped) by the EU Commission’s “Women in Research and Innovation” campaign that featured images of test tubes interspersed with girls giggling, blowing kisses and being noticed by a male scientist.</span></p><p class="p5">Yeah. I can see <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.janegoodall.org/">Jane Goodall</a> </span>doing that.</p><p class="p5">That latter type of attempt can backfire, Betz says (the story is worth reading in its entirety), citing <a href="http://sitemaker.umich.edu/dibetz/files/betz_sekaquaptewa_my_fair_physicist_spps_2012.pdf"><span class="s1">her own study with Denise Sekaquaptewa</span></a> showing that middle-school girls who saw pictures and read interviews with women who ranged from STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) role models who were very feminine (pastel makeup and clothing; fond of fashion mags) to not-very-STEM or very femme. The femme STEMs made the girls feel the least interested in math, and the least confident and the already disinterested were even less interested by these sweethearts of science. A follow-up study showed the “math-disinterested girls saw the feminine STEM role models’ success as furthest out of reach.”</p><p class="p5">“When a role model’s success seems impossible to achieve, people may feel less motivated to try,” Betz concludes (which makes you wonder if all the gorgeous models and actors we see are one of the reasons we so often just give up and wade into the Ben &amp; Jerrys).</p><p class="p5">In contrast, Betz reports that eighth-grade girls warmed to women in science after discovering they had lives outside the lab. “Rather than broadcasting videos of women who <i>look</i> relatable to young girls, we should highlight women who <i>are</i> relatable to girls,” she writes.</p><p class="p5">Understandably so. Isn’t looking past the surface -- no matter how hot pink it is -- what the sciences are all about? </p><p class="p1"><b>6. Oooh, shiny thing</b></p><p class="p2">Case in point: the Pollia berry. This, <a href="http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/09/10/shiny-fruit-pointillist-pixellated/"><span class="s1">Discover Magazine’s Ed Yong reports</span></a>, is the shiniest living thing on the planet, shiny enough to pass for a piece of art nouveau jewelry or something from the Christmas section of your local craft store.</p><p class="p1">But was “Oooh, pretty!” enough for <a href="http://www.complexphotonics.org/silviavignolini/SilviaVignolini/Home.html"><span class="s5">Silvia Vignolini</span></a> from the University of Cambridge and her group, lead by <a href="http://www.phy.cam.ac.uk/people/steineru.php"><span class="s5">Ullrich Steiner</span></a>? Nope. Vignolini found a sample at Kew Gardens that still looked the same despite having been collected in 1974. The fruit contains “three to four layers of of thick-walled cells,” the cells contain more layers of cellulose fibers which run parallel to each other but at a slight angle. As light hits the plants those layers upon layers are reflected.</p><p class="p1">Yong writes: “Provided the layers are exactly the right distance apart, the reflected beams of light amplify each other to produce exceptionally strong colours. The technical term is 'multilayer interference.'" Or alternatively: “Ooh, shiny!” </p><p class="p1">And this pretty thing is not something you’ll end up getting much out of besides looks (who’s surprised?). It’s nutritionally vacant and would seem to have mastered the art of looking attractive enough for birds to notice and then either eat or take with them as ornaments, thus getting to spread the seeds inside them without having to actually go to the effort of producing fruit or anything. </p><p class="p1">Alluring. Smart. Accomplishes its goals with minimal effort. Role model, anyone? </p><p class="p1"><b>7. Gender bending: It’s natural </b></p><p class="p1">Role models for gender have traditionally been a kind of big deal for human beings. Some people find it  “natural” or “unnatural” for men or women to behave a certain way when, in fact, the natural world has no idea about these rules and couldn’t care less. </p><p class="p1">In the first installment of a new series on human perceptions of sex and gender versus what goes on outside our species, <a href="http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/09/pregnant-males-and-pseudopenises-complex-sex-in-the-animal-kingdom/"><span class="s1">Ars Technica’s Kate Shaw</span></a> explains the difference between sex and gender with sex being whether we are biologically male or female and gender being a “sociological construct” or the behaviors and activities we tend to assign to the sexes. Think of it as holes versus roles: how many you have of the first dictates how the second is often assigned to you. Even researchers don’t escape this cultural conditioning; Shaw writes about a study which “<span class="s6">found that scientists tend to assign traditional human gender roles to animals—and even to plants.”</span></p><p class="p1">Some of our biology is tied to our gender, Shaw writes, i.e. the ability to lactate means you’d be a good bet to feed the baby, but other things, like whether that baby ought to be dressed in pink or blue are just cultural perceptions.</p><p class="p1">When it comes to things like size, ornamentation and even biological equipment, nature doesn’t have the preconceived ideas we do either. Female hyenas, Shaw writes, have “psuedopenises” that can be up to 7 inches long through which they urinate, copulate and give birth, while 97% of bird species have no external sex organ at all. Adornment is something humans think of more as the province of the female but other species’ males -- i.e., peacocks, lions, antlered deer -- can be the glamour pusses, too.</p><p class="p1">Bigger-is-better is something we generally think of as being in the male column of pluses but there is one hypothesis that suggests it’s a girl thing: that the bigger a female is the more eggs she can carry and the more offspring she can let loose on the world while the male’s size doesn’t matter. It’s called the <span class="s6">the “BOFFFF (<a href="http://svr4.terrapub.co.jp/onlineproceedings/fs/wfc2008/pdf/wfcbk_017.pdf"><span class="s7">Big Old Fat Fecund Female Fish</span></a>) hypothesis.” <span class="Apple-tab-span"></span>Just make sure, when you repeat this (and you will) to get the word “fecund” right. </span></p><p class="p1"><b>8. Virgin births</b></p><p class="p1">Underscoring Shaw’s piece on the variety of ways different species accomplish their reproductive goals, <a href="http://www.livescience.com/23103-virgin-births-common-wild-snakes.html"><span class="s1">Charles Choi of LiveScience</span></a> reports that another sexual peculiarity, virgin births (also known as faculative parthenogenesis or asexual reproduction in a normally sexual species), might be more common in the wild than anyone thought. Researchers collected samples from both mothers and offspring of two closely related pit vipers -- 22 litters of Connecticut copperheads and 37 litters of Georgia cottonmouths -- and found that one in each set of litters had no genetic input from a father. </p><p class="p1">"We just sat there stunned at the discovery," researcher Warren Booth, a molecular biologist at the University of Tulsa told LiveScience, adding that “Essentially, somewhere between 2.5 and 5 percent of litters produced in these populations may be resulting from parthenogenesis. That's quite remarkable for something that has been considered an evolutionary novelty, even by me up until this finding."</p><p class="p1">Because it had been observed in captive vertebrates, parthenogenesis was thought to be “a rare curiosity outside the mainstream of vertebrate evolution,” but finding it among wild reptiles changes the picture. Reptiles, Booth says, are the group of vertebrates that seems disposed to either faculiative or obligative -- where no males of the species are known -- parthenogenesis. Komodo dragons, pit vipers, chickens and turkeys have all been known to give birth via parthenogenesis.</p><p class="p1">Why they’d want to leave the fun part of out reproduction is anyone’s guess and I’m not getting close enough to a cottonmouth to ask. </p><p class="p2"><b>9. But wait! There’s more! </b></p><p class="p1">This was a big week for intriguing reproductive strategies to jump out and yell “Surprise!” at scientists, because right behind those reptile virgin births, British scientists discovered that Antarctic mollusks can change sexes when they need to for reproductive purposes in the very cold ocean. </p><p class="p3"><span class="s2">The <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/19543557"><span class="s1">BBC’s Ella Davies reports</span></a> that the mollusks, first described in 1845, have a “hermaphrodite nature” that was unknown until they were recently studied by researchers from the </span>National Oceanography Center, Southampton. Previously scientists had only studied “large eggs and broods,” lead study author Adam Reed said, but looking on a cellular level they discovered small eggs in males, more than they could ever brood in a lifetime.</p><p class="p3">“The team suggested that the bivalves reproduce as males while they are still in the "small" stages of development, switching to female organs once they are large enough to brood a significant number of eggs,” Davies writes (which feels like it goes back to the BOFFFF hypothesis).</p><p class="p8">Interestingly, since scientists are only at the Antarctic station for certain months, what the mollusks are up to the rest of the time is anyone’s guess. <span class="Apple-tab-span"></span><span class="s8">"Perhaps they may alternate their sex so they can continue to reproduce as males while brooding their young for 18 months?" Reed theorized.</span></p><p class="p3">After all that cool information on those myriad reproductive strategies, would anything be surprising? </p><p class="p1"><b>10. Turn-ons and turn-offs</b></p><p class="p1">Admittedly, it kind of surprises me (again) that any species would leave the fun part out of breeding, but that’s just me. In my house even the computer is always turned on.</p><p class="p1">And I’ve long wondered if that’s a good idea. Even having been assured by an expert that it’s fine, it always seems like a lot of work for the poor little thing, so when I fall asleep with it on (which happens routinely: such is my dedication to your scientific awareness and supply of cocktail party chat) I worry for its well-being. </p><p class="p1">Thank you, Lifehacker, for responding to this quandary with my favorite answer: It depends.</p><p class="p1">It’s neither all good or all bad to routinely shut down or leave your machine turned on, <a href="http://lifehacker.com/5940176/is-it-bad-to-shutdown-my-computer-regularly-or-leave-it-on-all-the-time"><span class="s1">Lifehacker’s Adam Dachis</span></a> reports, listing the pros and cons of each choice but summing up that whatever your choice (even accidental) -- it’s okay.</p><p class="p1">Huzzah! One less answer I have to remember. </p><p class="p1"><em>This is our last publication of 10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries, thanks for reading.</em></p> Thu, 13 Sep 2012 15:17:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 710018 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment discovery science technology 10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week http://www.alternet.org/environment/10-mind-blowing-discoveries-week-3 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Curved beer glasses may get you drunk faster than straight ones -- and other fascinating finds.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_109259153.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In Florida, the Halloween decorations are arriving in Target. Other parts of the country are treated to colorful fall leaves, which might be coming with surprising speed this year. <a href="http://www.ouramazingplanet.com/3390-fall-foliage-colors.html"><span class="s1">Douglas Main of Our Amazing Planet</span></a> says that drought conditions in the northeast might cause stressed-out trees to stop producing chlorophyll early, allowing other lovely colors to come through. </p><p class="p1">Not sure if pretty leaves are worth drought conditions, but that said, after <a href="http://http//chronicle.com/article/Record-Summer-Heat-Shifts/134060/"><span class="s1">this stupidly hot summer</span></a>, all signs of fall get the thumbs-up.</p><p class="p1"><b>1. In your face</b></p><p class="p1">That includes horror films. One that maintains its power to nauseate after 25 years is the scene in <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092632/"><span class="s2"><i>The Believers</i></span></a>, when (spoiler alert) <a href="x-msg://385/%0Ahttp://www.dailymotion.com/video/xhr40f_spiders_shortfilms%08"><span class="s1">spiders hatch out of Helen Shaver’s face</span></a>. </p><p class="p1">Whether or not you have that disgust of insects and arachnids that makes you act like <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtespeLin2c"><span class="s1">“wacky, waving, inflatable arm-flailing tube man,”</span></a> everytime one comes near you, the idea of them inside your face is horrifying. And yet we all have them. Seriously. Teeny, tiny, itty, bitty spider-like mites live in our faces, and have done so forever, apparently. Only now, reports <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22227-rosacea-may-be-caused-by-mite-faeces-in-your-pores.html"><span class="s1">Debora MacKenzie of New Scientist</span></a>, it has been discovered that the mites cause rosacea, a skin inflammation, including “ swelling, roughness and fine, visible blood vessels, usually in the central zone of the face,” which effects up to 20% of the world population. </p><p class="p1">Kevin Kavanagh of the National University of Ireland believes he has discovered why some people get rosacea while others don’t. Those little mites, called Demodex, are more numerous in people with rosacea -- 10 times more -- possibly because stress causes their facial oil, or sebum, to change and be better for the mites to eat. Demodex don’t have anuses so when they die, Kavanaugh believes, the buildup of their feces releases all at once causing an immune system reaction and inflammation. </p><p class="p1">That’s what you wanted to wake up to, right? Enjoy your breakfast, spider face! You’ll never look deeply into your own pores the same way again.</p><p class="p1"><b>2. Now if only we could meet a nauseous whale…</b></p><p class="p1">Usually in this column when I present something of the life-imitates-art variety, the art isn’t horror films but science fiction, like the time in <i>Futurama</i> when Kif found himself <a href="http://theinfosphere.org/Three_Hundred_Big_Boys"><span class="s1"><span style="display: none; "> </span>covered in precious whale vomit</span></a>. </p><p class="p1">In real life, it happened to little Charlie Naysmith, 8, who was walking on the Dorset shore with his dad when, reports <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/08/120830-ambergris-charlie-naysmith-whale-vomit-science/"><span class="s1">National Geographic’s Joanna Rizzo,</span></a> he came across a weird rock that turned out to be ambergris, a substance high-end European perfume companies value for its ability to “fix scent to human skin.” What is ambergris? It is an “intestinal slurry” sperm whales expel when something irritates their stomach -- often a squid beak. The irritant gets ejected, hardens in the ocean and turns up on beaches. Whales may not actually yak up the ambergris, as long thought: “<span class="s3">As of now, the argument seems to be weighted toward the back end of the whale.” </span></p><p class="p1">We love Joanna Rizzo for being too ladylike to say “whale heinie,” and also for giving us a Phrase of the Year candidate with “intestinal slurry.”</p><p class="p3">Ambergris is illegal to use in the US because the sperm whale is endangered, but in other markets that rock Charlie found could be worth $63,000. Golden ticket, indeed. Lots of people are going to be looking for vomit on beaches now. Sadly, they’ll find it, but mostly during spring break in Daytona.</p><p class="p1"><b>3. Their two suns</b></p><p class="p1">Another excellent example of real life awesomely imitating a sci-fi movie is the twin suns circled by multiple planets in the Kepler-47 system, very much like those on <a href="http://www.starwars.com/explore/encyclopedia/groups/tuskenraiders/"><span class="s1">the home world of Luke Skywalker.</span></a></p><p class="p1"><span class="s2"><a href="http://www.starwars.com/explore/encyclopedia/groups/tuskenraiders/"><span class="Apple-tab-span"></span></a></span>And one of the weird things is -- it isn’t weird. </p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.space.com/17336-tatooine-alien-planets-two-suns-solar-system.html"><span class="s1">Charles Q. Choi writes on Space.com</span></a> that our planet is a bit unusual in having only one measly sun -- most suns “come in pairs that orbit each other. Scientists had found planets in these binary systems, so-called circumbinary <a href="http://www.space.com/17348-tatooine-alien-planets-two-suns-kepler-74-infographic.html"><span class="s4">planets with two suns like Tatooine</span></a> in the <em>Star Wars</em> universe.” One sun is about the size of ours and the other is much smaller (a third the size of the other) and 175 times fainter.</p><p class="p1">These circumbinary planets are named Kepler 47a and Kepler 47b and are huge: 3 and 4.6 times the size of earth. The <a href="http://Space.com/"><span class="s1">Space.com</span></a> story has great charts and a nice little animation of how the orbits work. The outer planet is in a habitable zone where liquid water might be possible but life likely wouldn’t be because it “is probably a gas giant slightly larger than Uranus.” </p><p class="p1">Your fourth-grade self thought that was hilarious. </p><p class="p1"><b>4. A relaxing cocktail can cause anxiety</b></p><p class="p1">The Kepler-47 system is about 5,000 light-years away. If you’re seeing two suns from Earth you might have had one little drinky-poo too many.</p><p class="p1">That, according to some new research, could make you more vulnerable to anxiety problems. <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120902143143.htm"><span class="s1">Science Daily</span></a> reports on a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the University of North Carolina's Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies that says heavy drinking can rewire the way the brain deals with anxiety, making it harder to recover from trauma.</p><p class="p1">The researchers studied two groups of mice over a one-month period, one of which got no alcohol, another which got the equivalent of double the legal driving limit for humans (no other animals, to my knowledge, have such limits). Mild electric shocks were used to "teach" the mice to “fear the sound of a brief tone. (Let's face it, that's cruel and it's the exactly the kind of anxiety that might make many of us humans think a tension-cutting drink sounds like a good idea.)</p><p class="p1">When they heard the tone without the shock, the teetotaling mice eventually didn’t fear it but the drinking mice continued to, freezing in place when it was played “even long after the electric shocks had stopped,” SD says. Nerve cells in the pre-frontal cortex of the mice which were given alcohol were found to be differently shaped than in the other mice; also “the activity of a key receptor, NMDA, was suppressed in the mice given heavy doses of alcohol.”</p><p class="p1">The research shows where in the brain alcohol does damage in our ability to overcome fear.</p><p class="p1">“Basically our research shows that chronic exposure to alcohol can cause a deficit with regard to how our cognitive brain centers control our emotional brain centers,” says lead author Thomas Kash. An impairment like that could make it more difficult for a person to recover from trauma and make them more vulnerable to PTSD. </p><p class="p1">So it’s a sad irony that the self-medicating many of us have done with alcohol was probably doing more harm than good. It’s enough to make you want to order a cocktail…never mind. </p><p class="p1"><b>5. Curved beer glasses quicker to give you beer goggles? </b></p><p class="p1">If you do find yourself with a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl4plPGRG8o"><span class="s1">drinking problem</span></a>, maybe running through a few more beers than you intended to on a night out, there is a study confirming that it’s not your fault. You were mere putty in the hands of your glass.</p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57504579-10391704/beer-drinkers-speed-tied-to-shape-of-glass/"><span class="s1">CBS News’ Michelle Castillo</span></a> reports on HealthPop that researchers at the University of Bristol asked 159 drinkers to drink either a soft drink or a lager from a straight-up-and-down or a curved glass. There was no difference in the time it took soft drink drinkers to finish, but those drinking lager out of curved glasses finished in an average of 7 minutes while it took the straight-glass drinkers 11 minutes. The researchers reported that was a slow-down time of 60% for straight-glass drinkers. The researchers thought people might have a harder time “pacing themselves” with a curvy glass and the study also showed it’s harder to tell how much is actually in one; when asked if a glass was more or less than half full they got the answer right more frequently if the glass was straight.</p><p class="p5">“The study only looked at the time to finish only one drink, so researchers are curious to see if the effect lasts throughout a night of drinking.”</p><p class="p5">Call me? </p><p class="p1"><b>6. Reach out and disconcert someone</b></p><p class="p1">You might think drinking helps cement bonds, but it can sometimes break them just as easily. Turns out cell phones have a similar irony. Yes, they help us to stay connected, but they can also make us feel more tenuous in our connections, writes <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-your-cell-phone-hurts-your-relationships"><span class="s1">Helen Lee Lin of Scientific American</span></a>. A set of studies from the University of Essex shows that the mere presence of a cell phone in a room can make us feel less connected to others. </p><p class="p7"><span class="s5">The researchers, </span>Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein, had two strangers leave their personal belongings behind to talk in a private booth where they could see two items -- in one case, a book and a pocket notebook, in the other a book and a cell phone. In follow-up questionaires the “pairs who chatted in the presence of the cell phone reported lower relationship quality and less closeness.” In a second experiment, each pair of strangers were assigned either a casual or a more meaningful topic (plastic trees and important recent world events, respectively), again with either the cell phone or notebook present. The casual pairs reported no difference in feelings of “trust and empathy” but there were marked differences concerning the deeper topic -- those pairs reported feeling like the quality of the talk was worse, their trust of the other person and the other person’s empathy for them was less. </p><p class="p7">Lin writes, “The new research suggests that cell phones may serve as a reminder of the wider network to which we could connect, inhibiting our ability to connect with the people right next to us. Cell phone usage may even <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2012/02/20/is-your-cell-phone-making-you-a-jerk/"><span class="s6">reduce</span></a> our social consciousness.”</p><p class="p7">Not only that, but with our myriad forms of communication, in every room and in our pockets, it’s just that much easier to be PO’d when someone never calls us back. </p><p class="p10"><b>7. Atto boy!</b></p><p class="p1">I try not to do that. If you call me, I will do my best to get back to you in an attosecond.</p><p class="p3"><span class="s5">An attosecond is an </span>“incomprehensible quintillionith of a second” and I bring it up because here on my home turf, at the University of Central Florida, a research team has created the world’s shortest laser pulse -- “a 67 attosecond pulse of ultraviolet light” reports <a href="http://www.cfnews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2012/9/4/ucf_researchers_set_.html"><span class="s1">CFN-13 News</span></a>. It would take 15 million billion pulses of this light to equal one second. The effort was led by UCF Professor Zenghu Chang, who named the light pulse Double Optical Grating (DOG) and also made a super-fast camera to measure the DOG, the Phase Retrieval by Omega Oscillation Filtering (PROOF). </p><p class="p3">The ultra-fast laser will be a huge step in helping with the study of quantum mechanics -- the movement of energy and matter on the tiniest, most microscopic level. “The technique could lead scientists to understand how energy can be harnessed to transport data, deliver targeted cancer therapies or diagnose disease.”</p><p class="p10"><b>8. Eye eye</b></p><p class="p10">Talk about something happening in the blink of an eye. Actually, the blink of an eye lasts 400 milliseconds, so an attosecond is far shorter than a blink. A blink is how long it takes to change a TV channel. It’s also how you may one day be changing your TV channel.</p><p class="p10">Welcome, Eye-Control TV reviewed here by <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2012/08/30/haier-eye-control-tv-eyes-on/"><span class="s1">Brian Heater on Engadget</span></a>. It’s not yet perfect, he says, but it's still pretty cool, using a good-sized black sensor that needs to be calibrated to the user in order to interpret various blinks and eye movements to change channels and adjust volume. Regular blinks don’t mess with it; you have to use a fairly definite I-Dream-of-Jeannie blink. Heater says there’s a “learning curve” involved with things like selecting pictures with your eyes in order to choose what video to watch, but though it might take a little more development to make it market-ready, it’s inarguably cool to think that one day “Where’s the remote?” will be a phrase no one understands.</p><p class="p10">Because I still have one of those TVs that sticks out in the back (kinda like I do) and on which I have to <i>get up and adjust the volume manually,</i> I feel more than a little Amish when faced with this kind of magical technology. Very curious to know what the eye-controlled TV does if you begin to weep uncontrollably. Hopefully it puts on <i>The Muppets</i> to cheer you up. </p><p class="p1"><b>9. Alternatives to animal testing</b></p><p class="p1">I cry all the time when I watch TV, not because it’s so bad, but because I’m a sap. I cry at sad shows and commercials and god forbid one of those PSAs about animal abuse comes on -- I know I’m going to lose all my mascara. </p><p class="p1">The idea of animals suffering in lab testing is certainly no better. So it’s encouraging that <a href="http://io9.com/5940566/can-technology-help-us-put-an-end-to-animal-experimentation"><span class="s1">George Dvorsky of io0 reports</span></a> that technology is increasingly equipped to give us inanimate substitute subjects that will leave animals well out of the scientific testing equation.</p><p class="p1"><a href="http://io9.com/5937356/prominent-scientists-sign-declaration-that-animals-have-conscious-awareness-just-like-us"><span class="s1">Dvorsky also reported recently</span></a> on a declaration signed by many prominent scientists supporting the fact that animals, including “<span class="s3">all mammals, birds, and even the octopus”</span> have consciousness just like we do. In that piece the author wonders “will this make us stop treating these animals in totally inhumane ways?” His followup story seems to suggest that technology is trying and in many ways, succeeding in that goal. </p><p class="p1">This remarkable article is worth reading in full, but the gist is that for over 50 years efforts have been made to get animals out of labs. Just like we have the environmental slogan “reduce, reuse, recycle,” English scientists William Russell and Rex Burch have “Reduction, Refinement and Replacement” -- the goals being to use the fewest number of animals to greatest effect, reduce their fear and discomfort as much as possible, and use plants or non-sentient animals when possible.</p><p class="p1">That last bit -- replacement -- is becoming more feasable with, for example, <span class="s3">“<a href="http://www.mattek.com/pages/"><span class="s8">MatTek</span></a>'s in vitro <a href="http://www.mattek.com/pages/products/epiderm/skin_irritation"><span class="s8">3D human skin tissue</span></a>,” used to test cosmetics and radiation exposure; “non-invasive brain-scanning techniques,” like MRIs replacing the need for vivisection; “<a href="http://www.nc3rs.org.uk/downloaddoc.asp?id=339&amp;page=193&amp;skin=0"><span class="s8">microdosing</span></a>, where volunteers are given extremely small one-time drug doses,” which “is allowing researchers to work ethically with humans”; and of course, computer models, which Dvorsky says is likely where the future of drug testing will go. </span></p><p class="p3">By the way, it isn’t just the unspeakable cruelty of animal testing that makes it undesirable…it’s the lack of effectiveness. Dvorsky quotes a 2006 study in JAMA which said, "Even high-quality animal studies will replicate poorly in human clinical research."</p><p class="p4"><strong>10.</strong> <b>The last supper (or breakfast or snack)</b></p><p class="p1">It’s entirely fine, however, to do research on an animal that has been dead for 120 million years, especially if your question is, “So, what was good on the menu back in the day?<span class="s9">”</span></p><p class="p1">The animal in this case is <i>Sinocalliopteryx gigas, </i>a wolf-sized, fuzzy, feathery dinosaur whose fossil was found in Liaoning, China. <a href="http://www.livescience.com/22809-diinosaur-gut-contents.html"><span class="s1">Charles M. Choice reports on LiveScience</span></a> that the area is now mostly farmland but was once a warm, wet, volcanic, perfect spot for dinosaurs, hence a lot of the farmers having turned to “farming for dinosaurs,” according to Phil Bell, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative in Canada. </p><p class="p1">Two <i>Sinocalliopteryx gigas </i>fossils<i> </i>found here were well preserved enough to tell what their last meal was. One had “a birdlike, cat-size feathered dinosaur known as <a href="http://www.livescience.com/5949-dinosaur-packed-venom-fangs.html"><span class="s2"><i>Sinornithosaurus</i></span></a>, judging by the partial leg found in its gut" (see <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.livescience.com/22805-dinosaur-guts-photos.html">images of the dinosaur guts</a>). T</span>he other “at least two primitive crow-size birds known as <a href="http://www.livescience.com/15737-avian-ancestors-dinosaurs-learned-fly.html"><span class="s2"><i>Confuciusornis</i></span></a>, as well as acid-etched bones from a dinosaur.”</p><p class="p1">Finding two of the same birds make it likely that the animal was a predator and not a scavenger, and the researchers think that “capturing flying prey points to a stealthy, capable hunter.” The cool thing about finding such an intimate detail of a dinosaur is the ability to make them real to us.</p><p class="p1">"A lot of people look at fossils as just dead things — it's hard for them to imagine them as living, breathing animals. When you get something like this, it really brings them to life,” Bell says.</p><p class="p1">So as an attosecond is an incomprehensibly short time, 120 million years ago is incomprehensibly long -- until you have something like this to put the creatures that existed back then into sharp relief (and sharp 2D imagery as well, which you’ll see if you click the “dinosaur guts” link). </p><p class="p1">Imagine. Some day, 120 million years from now, all your hopes and fears may be lost to the ages, life may have changed in staggering ways, and some scientist, alien or time-traveler may be looking at <i>your</i> well-preserved gut remains, and in a tone of awed reverence announce to the world: “Ooooh, Pop Tarts!”</p> Thu, 06 Sep 2012 16:37:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 706127 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment 10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week http://www.alternet.org/environment/10-mind-blowing-discoveries-week-2 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Turns out it is pretty easy to hack into your brain to get your PIN and other important numbers. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_57264316.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><b>1. What the hack?</b></p><p class="p2">You’d think scientists from the University of Oxford in Geneva and the University of California would be making big enough salaries not to have to hack into people’s brains and get their PIN numbers.</p><p class="p3"><span class="s1">Yet that’s what they’re working on, using stuff even probably you could afford and anyone can buy. The researchers “</span>took an off-the-shelf Emotiv brain-computer" interface which lets users interact with computers by thought and costs around $299, according to CBS Seattle’s Peter V. Milo. They sat their subjects in front of images -- banks, PIN numbers and people -- then “tracked the signals coming off the brain, specifically the P300 signal,” given off when when people recognize something meaningful. Michael Harper, writing in redOrbit <a href="http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1112682171/hacking-human-brain-082712/">says</a>, “<span class="s1">To test this new hack, researchers showed their subjects images of Barak Obama. The P300 wave spiked shortly after the subjects saw this image, confirming recognition in the subjects’ brains.</span></p><p class="p4">“Next, the subjects were shown an image of their own house, which also caused the P300 wave to spike shortly thereafter.”</p><p class="p5">They were able to get the subject’s PIN 60% of the time. </p><p class="p5">This sounds pretty scary and the team said it was concerned about making information so easily obtainable. Two things in this writer’s opinion that make it slightly less worrisome: a) you’re not rich enough for someone to go through this trouble to get your PIN; and b) by the time this is a common form of robbery your personal information will be written into your DNA or on the inside of your urethra or something less hackable. It doesn’t seem worth sweating right now.</p><p class="p6"><b>2. If you don’t believe in evolution maybe you should try it.</b></p><p class="p6">Having your brain broken into is exactly the kind of scary thing that could make a person afraid of technology and science along with it. There are other things, like cloning and genetic engineering that make people leery of sci and tech progress. Then there’s religion which has certainly found itself at odds with both scientific and social progress.</p><p class="p6">Bill Nye, the Science Guy, had something pretty direct to say about that in a <a href="http://bigthink.com/think-tank/bill-nye-evolution"><span class="s2">video on Big Think</span></a> in which he talks about the problem of people who don’t believe in evolution. Evolution denial “holds everybody back” he says, and that if adult creationists want to do so, fine, but, “don’t make your kids do it, because we need them,” to be the “scientifically literate voters and taxpayers,” and the problem-solvers of tomorrow. </p><p class="p6">He won’t get any argument here. <span class="s2"><a href="http://oldsite.atheists.org/Interview%253A__Douglas_Adams">As Douglas Adams put it</a>,</span> “God used to be the best explanation we'd got, and we've now got vastly better ones.” I’ll put it this way: it’s lovely to believe in the spirit of Santa’s round-the-world journey but I’d be dubious about the physics.</p><p class="p6">This video actually went up in March but only went viral this week, showing up on sites <a href="http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&amp;rls=en&amp;q=bill+nye+creationism&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;oe=UTF-8"><span class="s2">from CNN to io9 to the New York Daily News</span></a>. Guess it, I dunno...evolved an audience. </p><p class="p2"><b>3. Forever in amber.</b></p><p class="p2">Here’s a perfect example of how that whole <a href="http://science.discovery.com/top-ten/2009/science-mistakes/science-mistakes-06.html"><span class="s2">Earth-is-6,000-years-old</span></a> belief might mess you up. Scientists just found some microscopic bugs trapped in droplets of amber found in Italy --  and the amber is 230 million years old. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/27/prehistoric-insects-amber-worlds-oldest_n_1834324.html"><span class="s2">Seth Borenstein of the AP</span></a> writes that the bugs would be from the Triassic period (which puts them before the Jurassic period and well before <i>Jurassic Park</i>).</p><p class="p9"><span class="s1">Scientists looked through 70,000 droplets of amber from northern Italy and found two tiny mites and part of a fly which was smaller than a fruit fly. David Grimaldi of </span>the American Museum of Natural History in New York was surprised to find the mites so strongly resembled their descendants, saying “they’re dead ringers for modern gall mites." Modern mites (sounds like a magazine, doesn’t it?) now live on flower plants: the ancient mites were here <i>before</i> flower plants.</p><p class="p9">They’re not the oldest fossils found -- “older insects have been found in rock fossils,” Borenstein writes, but they are the oldest to be found in amber -- 100 million years older than the previously prettily preserved specimens. </p><p class="p9">Amber is <a href="http://www.150.si.edu/150trav/discover/fossil.htm"><span class="s2">fossilized tree resin that sometimes traps and preserves insects</span></a>; it also makes beautiful jewelry and is my favorite stone. Consider that a birthday hint. </p><p class="p2"><b>4. Test: Will exploding pig manure pits be a great little ratings-grabber?</b></p><p class="p2">From the lovely, ancient, jewel-like artifact of the insects trapped in amber we go waaaaay to the other end of the spectrum to another trapped substance, this time methane trapped in bubbles that arise from pig manure and cause explosions. </p><p class="p2">Not quite as elegant as the bugs, but something tells this click-seeking journalist that “exploding pig crap” is a crowd-pleaser. </p><p class="p2">What happened was this, writes <span class="s2"><a href="http://discovermagazine.com/2012/sep/25-pop-goes-the-pig-dung">Joseph Bernstein of Discover</a> </span>magazine: the Minnesota Pork Producers Association came to agricultural engineer Chuck Clanton to see if he could figure out why the manure pits on pig farms were suddenly exploding and doing various levels of damage including knocking down structures and killing 1,500 pigs.</p><p class="p2">“Shortly prior to explosion, each pit had developed a viscous foam that stored and then expelled huge amounts of highly flammable methane, produced by bacteria in the pits.” The explosions started increasing around 2007, around the same time farmers started using a “livestock feed called <a href="http://www.ddgs.umn.edu/overview.htm"><span class="s4">Distillers Dried Grains with Solubles</span></a> (DDGS), a cereal-like byproduct of ethanol distillation.” The thing is that a variety of manufacturing processes come into play in making DDGS, which makes all the DDGS different. </p><p class="p2">Clanton’s theory hasn’t been proven yet but here it is: “Long-chain fatty acids are a precursor for soaps,” Clanton says, “and soap makes bubbles.” The tiny fibers the pigs digest strengthen these bubbles, which leads to more foam and trapping the natural methane.</p><p class="p2">Bernstein writes that, “Trials based on different variety of feeds are about to begin.”</p><p class="p2">I hope it doesn't escape anyone that this problem is yet one more byproduct of our horribly cruel <a href="http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2012/08/subway-gestation-crates.html">system of factory farming</a>; pigs weren't designed to spend their entire lives confined in tiny concrete-lined crates being fed chemical feed. They never get to see the sky, feel the earth under their feet or eat anything delicious. No wonder their poop is exploding.</p><p class="p2"><b>5. Hoax gone wrong.</b></p><p class="p2">Speaking of escapism, I love Bigfoot, Nessie and all things cryptozoological as much as the next person, which brings us to  <a href="http://www.livescience.com/22742-bigfoot-hoaxer-killed-in-accident.html"><span class="s2">LiveScience’s Bad Science columnist Bejnamin Radford </span></a>and the news that a Bigfoot hoaxer was killed after being struck by <i>two</i> cars while donning a costume meant to make him look like the elusive beastie. Randy Lee Tenley of Montana was wearing a “military style ghillie suit, which is a type of camouflage that resembles vegetation or foliage” (here are some pictures from a Web site that sells them, <a href="http://www.ghilliesuitsource.com/suit_bushman_head_shoulders_picture.html"><span class="s2">Ghillie Suit Source</span></a>). <span class="Apple-tab-span"></span><a href="http://m.dailyinterlake.com/news/local_montana/article_86a9d38e-f058-11e1-b794-001a4bcf887a.html"><span class="s2">Jim Mann of the  Daily Inter Lake.com</span></a> quoted Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Jim Schneider as saying, “Alcohol may have been a factor.” Tenley, 44, was in the right-hand lane at about 10:30pm and a 15-year-old girl coming down the road was unable to avoid him; another girl, 17, then hit him “as he lay on the highway.” </p><p class="p2">Bradford says that Tenley’s death will cause folks to revisit the debate that goes on in cryptozoology circles over whether it would be ethical to shoot a Bigfoot and kill it, thus once and for all being able to prove its existence -- or gunning down one of a potentially small-if-indeed-extant population of Bigfeet. A May 2012 blog from <span class="s2"><a href="http://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/newshound/2012/05/would-you-shoot-bigfoot">Outdoor Life</a> </span>asks, “If a hunter encounters a Bigfoot (not a hairy guy or someone dressed up in a gorilla suit) while afield should he or she shoot it?” The question Tenley’s fatal buffoonery raises is, “How do you <i>know</i> it’s not someone dressed up in a Halloween outfit?” </p><p class="p2">The answer can only be, “Put the gun away.” </p><p class="p2">That and, to all the hoaxers out there, get another hobby. Yours isn’t just old hat, it’s too dangerous.</p><p class="p12"><b>6. A new window on gardening.</b></p><p class="p12">In fact, why not just do some nice gardening? </p><p class="p12">Almost anyone can do it thanks to a clever new innovation from French designers <a href="http://barreaucharbonnet.com/30502/382068/design/volet-vgtal"><span class="s2">Nicolas Barreau and Jules Charbonnet</span></a> that allows even someone with no outdoor space to have a window garden. The <span class="s2"><a href="http://www.good.is/post/room-with-a-view-window-shutter-as-micro-urban-garden?utm_campaign=daily_good2&amp;utm_medium=email_daily_good2&amp;utm_source=headline_link&amp;utm_content=Room%2520with%2520a%2520View%253A%2520Window%2520Shutter%2520As%2520Micro%2520Urban%2520Garden">Daily Good</a> </span>says the Volet Vegetal is kind of like a drawbridge: oblong pots are set into holders that are set into a frame which is cranked down (there’s video on the link), allowing plants to get sun during the day; then you crank them back in at night and the frame becomes an indoor plant stand. Even with the smallest amount of space you could grow herbs, flowers, maybe even a pepper or two. And I can vouch for the fact that homegrown is best (I’m referring to tomatoes, oregano and basil, a nice pizza garden...what were you thinking?)</p><p class="p14"><b>7. You never know what’s gonna grow.</b></p><p class="p14">It seems entirely possible that one of these days you might be able to grow a flower in your garden that, until now, hasn’t been seen on earth for 32,000 years.</p><p class="p14">Brace yourself: this is spiffy. </p><p class="p14">A team of scientists studying ancient soil composition in Sibera in 1995 discovered “70 fossilized Ice Age squirrel burrows, some of which stored up to 800,000 seeds and fruits,” <a href="http://discovermagazine.com/2012/jul-aug/06-ice-age-flower-blooms-again"><span class="s2">writes Eric A. Powell</span></a> on Discover Magazine. The tissue of the narrow-leafed campion plant was extremely well preserved so researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences cultured the cells and recreated Siberian conditions in the lab, then watched as the tissue “sprouted buds that <a href="http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/02/20/flowers-regenerated-from-30000-year-old-frozen-fruits-buried-by-ancient-squirrels/"><span class="s2">developed into 36 flowering plants</span></a> within weeks.”</p><p class="p14">You can see the lovely, delicate, white blooms that haven’t been seen on Earth in 32,000 years on the links. Talk about a comeback. And seriously, it’s pretty metaphoric. How many times do we find ourselves saying something is “Never going to happen,” or that we feel we’ve been “waiting forever,” and despairing of a desired event coming to pass. If this plant could rebloom after 32,000 years, I’ve got some advice for you: wait. </p><p class="p12"><b>8. Water for everyone.</b></p><p class="p12">Having had only backyard and balcony gardens I’ve never had to think about them not getting enough rain; I’ve been lucky to always live where there was a tap and clean water handy. But <a href="http://water.org/"><span class="s2">many people don’t.</span></a></p><p class="p12">Now, as <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2012/08/changing-cities-a-wind-turbine-that-creates-fresh-water-out-of-thin-air/"><span class="s2">Carrie Halperin of ABC News reports</span></a>, a French inventor might make an immense change for the 20% of the world without access to drinkable water. Marc Parent lived in the Caribbean where he was subject to water shortages; it was there he was inspired to work on a system that would collect moisture out of the air and turn it into water. Back in France he founded Eole Water and built a system, the WMS1000 in which electricity generated by a wind turbine collects water -- no lake, river or well required. </p><p class="p15"><span class="s1">Eole spokesperson Thibault Janin told Halperein, “Each unit can create </span>1,000 liters of drinking water using only moisture and powered only by wind....Our technology integrates water creation, water collection, water treatment and water local distribution. The WMS1000 can produce and distribute water everywhere.”</p><p class="p15">The system is being tested in France and Abu Dhabi with that location being running and open to the public by the end of 2012. The WMS1000 costs $600,000 but is designed for remote areas and thus to need little maintenance and last about 20 years. </p><p class="p12"><b>9. Confirm request for 'diagnosing via Facebook.'</b></p><p class="p12">Technology has become so prevalent and second-nature to us that we sometimes forget, until a story like that last one comes along, exactly how brilliant it can be. Take Facebook, for example. It’s become so normalized now that all I’ve done is bitch about it lately, specifically Timeline, which I believe to be Mark Zuckerberg’s Jar Jar Binks (I’ve never met a fan who liked it, it’s obnoxious and you can’t get rid of it). But that’s not a big deal when you take a second to remember all the good things about Facebook.</p><p class="p12"><a href="http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1112681897/doctors-facebook-patient-stroke-diagnose-082512/"><span class="s2">Lawrence LeBlond, writing in redOrbit</span></a>, says that doctors at the Mayo Clinic were trying to diagnose a 56-year-old woman who had had an ischemic stroke but needed to know what caused the blocked arteries that caused the stroke. They noticed her right eye drooped and her right pupil was smaller than her left but she couldn’t tell them whether that appearance was normal for her or not. Dr. Manoj Mittal, who led the team, needed to see an older photo of the woman and ended up having to refer to her Facebook photos. They found in earlier photos that her eyes were more symmetric than they were post-stroke. They diagnosed the stroke as having been caused by trauma due to that finding. Turns out she had had chiropractic work, and “there is some association between <a href="http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1112551028/should-spinal-manipulation-for-neck-pain-be-abandoned/"><span class="s5">chiropractic manipulation and stroke</span></a>,” though the link isn’t definitive.</p><p class="p12">Dr. Mittal said they had treated her before seeing the Facebook photos, but figuring out what caused the stroke is “more comfort for the patient,” and helpful in preventing another. </p><p class="p12"><b>10. Goodbye, Neil Armstrong.</b></p><p class="p15"><span class="s1">Finally, it was especially poignant that just as we’ve taken a huge stride in planetary exploration with Curiosity -- and have even <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-205_162-57502024/mars-rover-broadcasts-will.i.am-song-from-surface-of-mars/"><span class="s6">played music from the surface of Mars</span></a> -- that we should lose the first man to walk on the moon. Neil Armstrong died last Saturday at the age of 82.</span> I was 3 when the Apollo 11 mission took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to that first moonwalk, so thanks to those great explorers I’ve never known a world in where space exploration didn’t exist. </p><p class="p15"><a href="http://www.theverge.com/2012/8/25/3268016/astronaut-neil-armstrong-has-died"><span class="s2">T.C. Stottek of the Verge</span></a> covered Armstrong’s passing and the magazine’s <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2012/8/28/3273736/neil-armstrong-coverage"><span class="s2">Louis Goddard</span></a> rounded up some of the best pieces celebrating the life of the American icon, most notably a gallery of photos on <span class="s2"><a href="http://life.time.com/history/to-the-moon-and-back-life-covers-the-lunar-landing/%231">Time’s Web site from Life magazine's “To the Moon and Back</a>." </span>There are spellbinding pictures from the Apollo 11 mission, and what a stark, scary, exciting prospect these pictures make the moon appear to be...as does the William Safire speech Richard Nixon would have delivered if they <i>hadn’t</i> made it. </p><p class="p15">This makes us wonder what it will be like to see the photos of the first person to set foot on Mars and <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-curiosity-rover-glenelg-intrigue-nasa-20120829,0,6125249.story?track=rss"><span class="s2">watching Curiosity’s progress</span></a> makes our debt to Armstrong that much more poignant. In remembering his contribution it might do well to remember the words of Isaac Newton, who said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” </p><p class="p15">As Armstrong's family asked, “Honor his example of service, accomplishment, and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down on you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."</p> Thu, 30 Aug 2012 05:11:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 701848 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment science discovery exploration 10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week http://www.alternet.org/environment/10-mind-blowing-discoveries-week-1 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Storing books in DNA, cleaning useless information out of your brain, and more. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_74158666.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>We don’t know if it’s the biggest news because he’s got his hands over his crotch but one of the most sensational news items of this week was <span class="s1">Prince Harry’s naked heinie</span>; the other was Republican Rep. Todd Akin’s <a href="http://www.newser.com/story/152414/gop-rep-legit-rape-victims-dont-get-pregnant.html"><span class="s1">idiotic statement about “legitimate rape.”</span></a></p><p class="p2">Sigh. Well, as Senator <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTSCRoYyM-Y"><span class="s1">Mark Lunsford Pryor (D) famously told Bill Maher,</span></a> “You don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate,” and the same is evidently true of the House. However embarrassed the Brits might be over Harry’s happy snaps, better a naked ass than just an ass. </p><p class="p2"><b>1. Mars? They’re up for that</b></p><p class="p2">We’ll come back to that later because frankly there’s only so much political idiocy I can take before I start making plans to move to Mars. (If you’re going to be in a place with no intelligent life anyway, why not one that’s less crowded?)</p><p class="p2">Sadly, we can’t go there yet but one family is doing its best to mimic life on the red planet -- they’ve switched to Mars time. David Oh is the Mars Rover’s flight director and since he has to be on Martian time his whole family, including wife and kids, decided to join him in the adventure, reports the <a href="http://www.newser.com/article/da0ojjj80/what-time-is-it-entire-family-shifts-to-living-on-mars-time-after-curiosity-rover-landing.html"><span class="s1">AP’s Alicia Chang</span></a>.</p><p class="p2">The days on Mars are called “sols” and are 39 minutes and 35 seconds longer than ours. That might sound great to the time-starved, but it accumulates. Add 40-ish minutes a day to your schedule and within a week you're about four hours off your normal time scale, which is forever sliding. Many of the 800 people on the project have compared it to a feeling of “perpetual jet lag.” </p><p class="p2"><b>2. Marriage drives women to drink</b></p><p class="p2">My friend Dennis once gave me a perfect piece of advice about jet lag and the stress caused by transferring time zones and other elements of traveling. Every day at 3pm, he said, you stop and have a beer. Then the trip stress won’t actually ruin the trip.</p><p class="p2">It often works even when I’m not traveling.</p><p class="p2">People reach for the bottle for a lot of reasons and married women reach for it more frequently than single women, which shocks me a bit because I’ve known single women who can make Hunter S. Thompson look like Carrie Nation. </p><p class="p2">Nontheless, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9482871/Study-shows-marriage-stops-men-drinking-as-their-wives-hit-the-bottle-instead.html"><span class="s1">John Bingham, writing in the London Daily Telegraph</span></a>, reports on findings that while men tend to drink “significantly more” than women, married men drink less than their single or divorced contemporaries and married women drink more. A team of sociologists reviewed a long-running study of thousands of Wisconsinites and also “<span class="s2">a separate set of 120 interviews with married, divorced, widowed and single people about their lifestyles.” </span></p><p class="p3">“They concluded that getting married or divorced had a 'dynamic relationship' on drinking habits, but in very different ways for men and women.”</p><p class="p3">The researchers found that essentially women pick up men’s drinking habits when they marry them and drop them again after a divorce, whereas divorced men hit the bottle harder: “the biggest difference in drinking levels were between men who were happily married and those who were recently divorced,” Bingham writes, “suggesting that they turned to alcohol during their marital breakup.”</p><p class="p3">Bingham concludes that another study "found last year that married people were generally more content with their lives.”</p><p class="p3">Well, sure. The chicks are <i>hammered</i>. </p><p class="p2"><b>3. In his bones</b></p><p class="p2">If there was one person in this world who could have used a drink it was Joseph Merrick, also known as the Elephant Man. Next time you think you’ve got a problem like not being able to afford an iPad or having to resist the chocolate cheesecake, think of this guy. <i>He</i> had problems. <span class="s3">What exactly caused Merrick’s disfigurement is unclear; at first it was “</span>Elephantiasis, a parasitic infection characterized by the thickening and enlargement of skin and tissue, hence his nickname,” writes <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/will-dna-unlock-the-elephant-mans-final-secret-8060069.html"><span class="s1">Paul Bignell of the Independent</span></a>; in 2001 Proteus syndrome -- "a congenital disorder that causes skin overgrowth and abnormal bone development” was diagnosed by some scientists and dismissed by others. </p><p class="p5">Now, Bignell writes, the bones will tell the story.<span class="Apple-tab-span"></span></p><p class="p5">Scientists are planning to take DNA from Merrick’s skeleton, both the normal and the abnormal bones, in the hopes that sequencing his genes will find the alteration that caused his condition. His skeleton has been housed at the Royal London Hospital at Whitechapel since his death in 1890 (at the age of 27) and his bones have undergone boiling and bleaching -- <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpqjtF1eGXg"><span class="s1">according to this intriguing documentary, by the surgeon involved in the Jack the Ripper case</span></a>. It was hoped that these methods would preserve the bones and Bignell says the bleaching was meant to keep them clean, but it may have made it difficult to get a proper DNA sample. Professor Richard Trembath, who is overseeing the research said it would be “extremely demanding,” but discovering the mystery behind Marrick’s condition will help treat others who suffer from it. </p><p class="p5"><b>4. A library in a test tube</b></p><p class="p2"><span class="s4">DNA was on a serious roll this week: as Joseph Merrick’s condition is being decoded an entire book was <i>en</i>coded into DNA. Harvard biologist George Church led the project to encode his latest book into a strand of DNA,</span> writes <span class="s1"><a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444233104577593291643488120.html">Robert Lee Hotz of the Wall Street Journal</a>. </span>“Each strand contained a portion of the text and an address that indicated where it occurred in the flow of the book.” The book wasn’t stored in a living cell that would be changed by regular cell biology. “In a tube it is less subject to evolution,” Church said.</p><p class="p2">Okay, first you’re thinking “But I <i>just</i> adjusted to my iPad! Am I going to have to get some DNA decoder ring just to read an Agatha Christie one of these days?” Well, no. You’ll be able to buy the book in a normal format in October (it’s called <i>Regenesis</i>) but in the meantime it shows what an amazing medium DNA is for storing information. </p><p class="p2">"For some archival problems, this could be the wave of the future," said Dr. Church. In DNA form, a billion copies of that book could now fit into a test tube. <span class="Apple-tab-span"></span>And you thought Space Bags were awesome.</p><p class="p2">You can encode all kinds of things in DNA. There are bioengingeered micro-organisms that carry the tune “<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ni7FRenk2A"><span class="s1">It’s a Small World</span></a>” in their DNA. For the first five minutes all the other micro-organisms think they’re adorable. After that they want them dead. </p><p class="p2"><b>5. Brain drain</b></p><p class="p2">Our brains seems so adept at information-gathering that at some point we often wonder why we don’t dump some of the useless stuff to make room for things we actually need. In Marie Osmond’s book <i>Might as Well Laugh About it Now</i>, the singer writes that in order to make room for the steps she had to remember for <i>Dancing With the Stars</i>, she “erased my brothers’ names and their birthdays. Sorry, Tito, Marlon and Jermaine.”</p><p class="p2">This week scientists saw for the first time how a mouse brain rids itself of unwanted materials. Since mouse biology is similar to ours we probably do the same thing. The process involves cerebrospinal fluid, but how it operated wasn’t clear until now, reports <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/08/120816-brains-health-science-cleaning-body/"><span class="s1">David Mosher of National Geographic News</span></a>. </p><p class="p2">In early experiments decades ago when scientists had opened the skull to study this system the researchers had accidentally turned the system off: “like a hydraulic pump it stops,” said Maiken Nedergaard, a neuroscientist of the University of Rochester who led the study. The recent experiments involved a two-photon microscope allowing a “deep <span class="s4">clear look into living brain tissue without harming it.” The skulls of the mice had to be opened to see the living brain, but in the new study a glass plate sealed each hole so the fluid pressure was kept up and scientists could see in.</span></p><p class="p5">“Fluorescent dyes injected into the mouse brains then allowed the team to record movies of the cerebrospinal fluid moving through brain tissue,” Mosher writes. </p><p class="p5">The team called the newfound plumbing the “glymphatic system,” after the glial cells that power cerebrospinal fluid. These cells build up around vessels, like a “pipe around a pipe,” Mosher writes, and pump nutrient-rich cerebrospinal fluid into some parts of the brain while pumping it away from others so the brain is fed and cleaned at the same time. If the same system exists in people -- which Nedergaard suspects it does -- it could have big implications especially for Alzheimer’s disease which is thought to be caused by a build-up of a protein waste that kills brain cells.</p><p class="p2"><b>6. “Bring it”</b></p><p class="p2">Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that cerebrospinal fluid could flush out all the things in our brain we think are right but are dead wrong? Which, of course brings us back to Todd Akin who now famously asserted that “the female body has ways of trying to shut that whole thing down."</p><p class="p5"><span class="s3">It’s an idea he should flush out of his brain because it “</span>is, according to a host of board-certified, well-respected physicians, a whole truckload of crap,” writes<a href="http://jezebel.com/5936470/medical-experts-heartily-dismiss-todd-akins-idea-of-legitimate-rape"><span class="s1">Jezebel’s Doug Barry</span></a>, who goes on to quote Dr. David Grimes, a clinical professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina: "To suggest that there's some biological reason why women couldn't get pregnant during a rape is absurd,” and “a 1996 study published in the <em>Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology</em> estimated that about 5 percent of rapes result in pregnancy.”</p><p class="p5">Then there’s Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience who uses Akin's “<a href="http://www.livescience.com/22515-akin-rape-pregnancy-myths.html"><span class="s1">extremely non-scientific beliefs</span></a>” as the kick-off to a story titled, “<a href="http://www.livescience.com/22611-akin-politicians-science-wrong.html"><span class="s1">5 Politicians Who Got the Science Wrong</span></a>.”</p><p class="p5">Don’t you want to know which politicians get the science right? Especially when they’re<span class="s3">making judgments the rest of us have to live with?</span></p><p class="p2">If so you’ll be interested to know that <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=bring-it-a-call"><span class="s1">Scientific American has joined what writer Marissa Fessenden</span></a> calls a “<a href="http://www.sciencedebate.org/signers.html"><span class="s1">swelling chorus of voices</span></a>” and paired up with <a href="http://www.sciencedebate.org/"><span class="s1">ScienceDebate.org</span></a> to call on President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to “address science and technology policy during the 2012 campaign.” They’ve sent the two candidates a list of 14 questions on topics from space exploration to vaccination campaigns, and a shorter list of questions to influential Senate members. SA will be evaluating the candidates’ answers down the road. In the meantime, if you want to join that chorus of voices you can sign up on ScienceDebate’s Web site.</p><p class="p2"><b>7. Bot what about bender? </b></p><p class="p2">In another point for democracy this year the inductees in the Robot Hall of Fame will be partly decided by popular vote. I know a lot of you think I just perfectly described the U.S. presidential election. Fair enough.</p><p class="p2">But seriously, there really is a <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.robothalloffame.org/">Robot Hall of Fame!</a> </span>And it's looking for votes! So if you have a beloved bot you want to show your support for this might be your chance. <a href="http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/20/13379931-vote-for-your-favorite-robots?lite&amp;__utma=238145375.221959394.1333426139.1344987850.1345576093.32&amp;__utmb=238145375.1.10.1345576093&amp;__utmc=238145375&amp;__utmx=-&amp;__utmz=238145375.1345576093.32.23.utmcsr=fark.com%257Cutmccn=(referral)%257Cutmcmd=referral%257Cutmcct=/geek_ext/&amp;__utmv=238145375.%257C8=Earned%2520By=msnbc%257Ctechnology%2520%2526%2520science%257Cscience%257Clivescience=1%255E12=Landing%2520Content=External=1%255E13=Landing%2520Hostname=www.msnbc.msn.com=1%255E30=Visit%2520Type%2520to%2520Content=Earned%2520to%2520External=1&amp;__utmk=27353471"><span class="s1">Alan Boyle of NBC News’s Cosmic Log</span></a> says the RHoF will take votes for the first time this year, but an expert panel of judges will also be influencing the outcome -- about 50/50 with the public vote. </p><p class="p2"><a href="http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/1112679240/robot-hall-of-fame-082112/"><span class="s1">Michael Harper of redOrbit</span></a> lists the four categories of robot: “Education &amp; Consumer, Entertainment, Industrial &amp; Service, and Research.” <a href="http://www.robothalloffame.org/nominate.html"><span class="s1">RHoF’s list of nominees</span></a> includes NAO, an “autonomous, programmable robot,” made by <a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/155680/10_amazing_things_the_world_learned_this_week"><span class="s1">Aldebaran who also made those robots who can dance Thriller</span></a>. We also have Rosie from the Jetsons, the adorable Wall-E and Johnny 5 from Short Circuit. </p><p class="p2">All fine specimens. But what Robot Hall of Fame could be complete without <a href="http://www.hulu.com/watch/70307"><span class="s1">Bender?</span></a> And <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcqmVws4nr4"><span class="s1">Marvin the Paranoid Android</span></a> from <i>Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy</i>? And the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RG0ochx16Dg"><span class="s1">robot from </span><span class="s5"><i>Lost in Space</i></span></a>? </p><p class="p2">Boyle is taking People’s Choice nominations on his blog so you can head over there and leave a comment (“I Heart <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxS6Rt8QJXY"><span class="s1">Hedonismbot</span></a>!”). </p><p class="p2"><b>8. Citizen involvement helps endangered species</b></p><p class="p2">The democratic process that will help underappreciated robots get their due is also helping endangered species. In a study comparing those species listed as endangered or threatened as initiated by citizens versus those listed by Fish and Wildlife Service, professor Berri Brosi of Emory University and Eric Biber of UC Berkeley found that citizens do a better job, says <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120816141533.htm"><span class="s1">Science Daily</span></a>. There is a clause in the Endangered Species Act that allows citizens to petition the FWS to protect species and to use litigation to challenge their decisions; the clause has been considered controversial but the study, the authors say, shows the need to “keep the public highly involved.”</p><p class="p2">Citizen-initiated species were more likely to be a problem for development, but they were also “significantly more threatened” than FWS-initiated species. The public brings species-specific expertise and can “help counter the political pressure inherent in large development projects.” Plus, the FWS has a pretty huge job and the help doesn’t hurt. </p><p class="p2">"There are some 100,000 species of plants and animals in North America, and asking one federal agency to stay on top of that is tough," Biber says.</p><p class="p2">"The overriding message is that citizen involvement really does work in combination with the oversight of the FWS," says Brosi. </p><p class="p2"><b>9. Give a hoot</b></p><p class="p2">Some species are considered endangered the minute they’re found. Such is the case with the 10, count ‘em 10 new species of owls recently discovered in the Philippines. Eight of those were previously considered sub-species, says the <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/owl-species-discovered-philippines-095304918.html"><span class="s1">AFP,</span></a> while two were brand-new: <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/photos/new-owl-species-discovered-in-philippines-slideshow/two-owl-species-discovered-photo-160100644.html"><span class="s1">the Cebu hawk owl and the Camiguin hawk owl</span></a>. It was their hoots that marked them out as different. Lisa Paguntalan, field director of Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Programme said they may already be endangered because they were only found in “small isolated islands or tiny pockets of forests.” Many wildlife species in the Philippines are threatened because of habitat destruction. </p><p class="p2">This is the <span class="s1"><a href="http://news.yahoo.com/photos/new-owl-species-discovered-in-philippines-slideshow/owl-species-ninox-reyi-photo-222954531.html">best photo of a pissed-off owl</a> </span>you’ll see all day: the Ninox-Reyi, who might be mad because he's endangered…or because he's suddenly being hounded by nature papparazzi.</p><p class="p2"><b>10. Chasing a bit of tail</b></p><p class="p2">So yeah, it’s been a dizzying news week, but nothing is probably quite as dizzying as being compelled to spin around in a circle until bystanders start mentally betting on when you’ll hit the coffee table. If you’ve ever seen a <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBLxb-PjIvE">dog chase its tail</a>,</span> what you’re witnessing is a behavior that’s very similar to human OCD.</p><p class="p2"><a href="http://www.livescience.com/22533-dogs-tail-chasing-compulsion.html"><span class="s1">LiveScience reports</span></a> that a team of Finnish researchers surveyed 368 dog owners of four breeds and collected DNA from 181 dogs. They concluded that while there was no link between tail chasing and the gene CDH2 which has been genetically linked to tail chasing in dogs, there is still a genetic link to tail chasing, but that environmental factors are a cause as well. They also found that tail-chasing dogs and humans with obsessive-compulsive disorder shared a few traits. Both, for example, begin these behaviors at a young age; may develop more of them; and vitamins and minerals seem to help both animals and people. Childhood stress is linked to OCD; tail-chasing dogs were separated from their moms at a younger age. So what might look like a funny, cute behavior might not feel so cute to the animal who’s doing it.</p> Thu, 23 Aug 2012 06:46:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 697944 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment science discovery technology 10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week http://www.alternet.org/environment/10-mind-blowing-discoveries-week-0 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Restoring sight to the blind, hearing extinct animals, and why your dog is amazingly evolved are just a few of our stories this week.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_52952863.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>It was one of those rare TV moments that makes a person want to jump up and down and run around the house -- I couldn’t believe what I heard. Performing in the closing ceremony of the Olympics, Eric Idle sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," and included the line “Life’s a piece of shit/when you look at it.” It was a golden moment. The entire world had come together to celebrate athletic achievement, glorious British culture and the spirit of the games, and then out comes that line which, after all the fireworks are over, is how lots of people feel lots of the time. I thought, "Okay, turn off the TV, it’s not going to get better." </p><p class="p1">Except that it did, because it was followed by video of Freddie Mercury, and later, Brian May and Jessie J. singing "We Will Rock You<i>." </i>Just goes to show ya -- shitty or not, might as well stick around, because you don’t always know what’s next.</p><p class="p1"><b>1. Apocalypse not now</b></p><p class="p1">And you really don’t know what’s coming next, not even those of you who have been tapping your feet waiting for this 2012 <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/42251653/"><span class="s1">apocalypse</span></a>. You might have seen <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/13/lake-in-france-turns-blood-red_n_1773202.html"><span class="s1">photos of this lake in France</span></a> looking like a <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.bl.uk/learning/cult/inside/goldhaggadahstories/10plagues/plaguesofegypt.html">plague of blood</a> </span>and thought, “Well, it’s about damn time.” Just like <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/19/harold-camping-reschedules-end-of-world_n_1020077.html"><span class="s1">the last apocalypse</span></a> and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events"><span class="s1">all the apocalypses before that</span></a>, it’s really nothing to get worked up about aside from being a staggering image probably like nothing you’ve ever seen before.</p><p class="p1">The lake is in the Camargue, where the Rhone meets the sea, and it changes from its normal color to red from high concentrations of salt in the form of salt flats, reports the Huffington Post. In these amazing photos in <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2185920/Extraordinary-natural-phenomenon-turned-French-beauty-spot-blood-RED.html"><span class="s1">the Daily Mail</span></a> the salt looks like ice, or cotton, and the whole thing looks like a set from <i>Lost in Space</i> or like one big Bloody Mary. Brunch, anyone? </p><p class="p1"><b>2. Play it again, TVLand!</b></p><p class="p1">If you’ve ever felt like it was the end of the world because your favorite show was canceled and then felt silly for wallowing in reruns, the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute for Addictions has the best news ever: watching reruns is good for you! Far from being a waste of time, the researchers found that immersion in a “familiar, fictional world” (hello, <em>Harry Potter</em>, <em>Star Wars</em>, <em>Star Trek etc.</em>) gets us into a positive mood and replenishes our ability to resist temptation, writes <a href="http://www.psmag.com/health/rerun-therapy-remote-control-restores-self-control-44378/"><span class="s1">Tom Jacobs in the Pacific Standard</span></a>. </p><p class="p1">The research, Jacobs writes, grows out of the idea <a href="http://www.psmag.com/mustread/the-down-side-of-self-control-3922/"><span class="s1">that self-control is finite</span></a>: exercise it in one part of your day (“I am not going to buy those purple platform shoes”) and it’ll probably be harder later on (“I’ll take the car!”). Improving our mood seems key to shoring up our self-control and mood improvement often involves interaction with friends and/or family. But sometimes those interactions are stressful; enter our fictional friends and family, providing what psychologist Jaye Derrick of Buffalo calls “social surrogacy,” which we find comforting.</p><p class="p1">Jacobs describes Derrick’s study, written up in the journal <i>Social Psychology and Personality Science. </i>It’s a bit complicated but the bottom line is that in experiments demanding various levels of self-control and concentration in a written essay, people who wrote about their favorite TV show -- who engaged in their fictional world -- did and felt better on subsequent tests than those who didn’t. </p><p class="p1">And frankly, I had to concentrate so hard when reading about that study that I should probably watch a little "Simpsons" now. Temptation lurks everywhere. Better to just be prepared.</p><p class="p1"><b>3. If I could talk to the extinct animals...</b></p><p class="p1">So, if hearing voices from old '70s shows is good for us, what about voices from millions of years ago? </p><p class="p1">Art and science are putting together the soundtrack to an earth long gone, the calls of ancient and extinct species, reports <a href="http://discovermagazine.com/2012/jul-aug/21-big-idea-bring-ancient-voices-back-to-life/article_view?b_start:int=0&amp;-C="><span class="s1">Jill Neimark of Discover Magazine</span></a>. Scientists’ greater knowledge of the anatomies of ancient creatures, including our own ancestor <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_(Australopithecus)"><span class="s1">Lucy, aka </span><span class="s2"><i>Australopithecus afarensis,</i></span></a><i> </i>have enabled the re-creation of their vocal tracts giving us an idea of what they sounded like. </p><p class="p1">Lucy had "air sacs, balloon-shaped organs that attach to an extension of the hyoid bone," says Bart de Boer, an expert in the evolution of speech at Vrije University in Brussels. Humans don’t have those; our hyoid bone supports our tongue muscles which lets us make a lot of different sounds. Air sacs, though, make vocalizations that are lower and louder, the way a larger musical instrument is lower and louder, Remark says. Howler monkeys, de Boer said, <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vxlnZ8BihI">sound like monsters</a> </span>because of their air sacs.</p><p class="p1">De Boer made a computer model of what vocalizations would sound like with an air sac; test listeners had difficulty telling vowels apart. (Here are some audio samples of <a href="http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228404.400-our-ancestors-speak-out-after-3-million-years.html"><span class="s1">how vowels sound with and without air sacs</span></a>.) The notion that our ancestors might have sounded like this most of the time -- "Duh...duh...duh” -- will come as no surprise to many people.</p><p class="p1">One animal you can <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228404.400-our-ancestors-speak-out-after-3-million-years.html">hear right now is the pretty, metallic clink of a katydid that existed 165 million years ago</a>. </span>Beijing biologists re-created the sound by examining the wings of a well-preserved fossil. </p><p class="p1">Artist <a href="http://www.mayalin.com/"><span class="s1">Maya Lin</span></a>, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC is designing what she says is her last memorial, “What is Missing,” including sounds of extinct and endangered species. “I also showcase the sounds of endangered species, ones we can still save,” Lin told Neimark. “We’ve even got the sound of an endangered coral reef, which sounds like Rice Krispies crackling in milk.”</p><p class="p1"><b>4. What’s a parent is not always apparent</b></p><p class="p1">Our ancestors from the distant past are such unknown quantities…but for some of us even our more recent relatives are unknown quantities, too. Blended families and various reproductive technologies have changed our ideas about family, <a href="http://io9.com/5933490/the-rise-of-the-three+parent-family"><span class="s1">writes io9 editor Annalee Newitz</span></a>, and in some cases have altered what we once took for granted as a stable proposition: what do we mean by “parent”?</p><p class="p3"><span class="s3">“</span>A British ethics board <a href="http://io9.com/5917822/controversial-fertility-treatment-requiring-three-genetic-parents-given-thumbs-up"><span class="s4">has just approved an experimental treatment</span></a> that results in babies with genetic material from two women and one man,” Newitz writes. The treatment has to do with avoiding passing heritable mitochondrial diseases from mother to child by taking healthy donor egg cells, scraping out the genetic material in the nucleus and replacing it with the mother’s DNA, so “a baby will be born with the donor mother's mitochondrial DNA, plus nuclear DNA from mom and dad.”</p><p class="p3">Newitz writes that babies born from donor eggs and sperm get genetic input from more than two parents <i>and</i> that surrogate mothers can influence the fetuses they carry; if, say, a surrogate smokes while pregnant that can effect the fetus’ “genetic expression.” </p><p class="p1"><b>5. Hair of the horndog</b></p><p class="p1">If you’re an expectant mother, you may be experiencing morning sickness. Gordon Gallup a SUNY-Albany psychologist, has a sort of hair-of-the-horndog remedy for that: ingest the sperm of the man who got you pregnant.  </p><p class="p5"><span class="s3"><a href="http://washington.cbslocal.com/2012/08/10/study-oral-sex-cures-morning-sickness/"><span class="s1">CBS DC</span></a> reports that “</span>Gallup says in his findings that the woman’s body will initially reject the father’s semen as an infection and react to it by vomiting.” The best way to get used to it is to “build up a tolerance to what’s already in her body.” </p><p class="p5">Note: this story did not come out on April 1 and didn’t have a byline of “Dixie Normus,” or “Jack Inoff.” </p><p class="p1">It’s not the theory I find hard to swallow; it’s the mechanics. I’ve never had morning sickness but I <i>have</i> been really drunk and if sticking a finger down your throat induces vomiting, one imagines that something bigger could far too easily result in something like the pea soup  scene from <i>The Exorcist</i>. It just seems easier to let some moths out of your wallet and invest in a roll of Tums. Then sex, oral and otherwise, can just be the fun it was meant to be, and not another have-to. </p><p class="p1"><b>6. Snackrifice</b></p><p class="p1">The suckiest thing about many have-to’s i.e., have-to drink responsibly, have-to pay your bills, have-to take this medication, is that they’re usually good for you. </p><p class="p1">Take the have-to of eating sensibly in order to maintain a healthier weight. Creating stricter rules on students’ access to certain snacks and sugary drinks seems to have done some good for students in states that have such rules. The <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/13/health/research/study-links-healthy-weight-in-children-with-tough-snack-and-sugary-drinks-laws.html?_r=1&amp;partner=rss&amp;emc=rss"><span class="s1">New York Times’ Sabrina Tavernese reports</span></a> a study <a href="http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/08/08/peds.2011-3353.abstract"><span class="s1">published in Pediatrics</span></a> “found a strong association between healthier weight and tough state laws regulating food in vending machines, snack bars and other venues that were not part of the regular school meal programs.” Researchers tracked 6,300 students between 2004 and 2007 and found that those in states with stricter policies on available snacks or “competitive foods” (so-called because they compete with school meals) gained about 2.25 fewer pounds (for a 5-foot-tall child) than kids in states with no laws.</p><p class="p1">Already-obese kids “in states with stronger laws were more likely to reach a healthy weight by eighth grade than those living in states with no laws.” The study did not say the policies directly resulted in the kids being a healthier weight, only that those outcomes happened in states with stronger policies.</p><p class="p1">Limiting access is actually the principle a lot of us adults use on ourselves when grocery shopping; if there’s junk food in the house I’ll eat it so I’m just not buying it. You don’t have to resist temptation that isn’t there. </p><p class="p1"><b>7. Gun violence as a social disease</b></p><p class="p1">It’s weird, but I feel the same way about guns as I do about junk food: if it’s not around, I won’t run afoul of it.</p><p class="p1">If you’re not a gun person and can’t help but wonder why our country is so trigger-happy and how that might change, check this out: <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-08-11/guns-public-health/56979706/1"><span class="s1">Marilyn Marchione of the AP</span></a> writes that public health experts are looking at gun violence as a social disease, i.e. like any other social problem that claims lives (smoking, drunk-driving and virus outbreaks).</p><p class="p1">"What I'm struggling with is, is this the new social norm? This is what we're going to have to live with if we have more personal access to firearms," says Dr. Stephen Hargarten, emergency medicine chief at Froedtert Hospital and director of the Injury Research Center at the <a href="http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Medical+College+of+Wisconsin"><span class="s5">Medical College of Wisconsin</span></a>. Hargarten was treating victims of the Sikh temple shootings when the need for a new approach “crystalized” for him, Marchione writes. "We have a public health issue to discuss. Do we wait for the next outbreak or is there something we can do to prevent it?" Hargarten said.</p><p class="p1">Ways to approach gun violence as a public health concern include demanding national safety oversights of guns as with other consumer products; finding out who is more likely to be a shooter and keeping guns out of their hands; pressuring gunmakers to increase weapon safety; and studying the “disease pattern” of gun violence.</p><p class="p1">These are all thoughtful approaches but I wonder if we can’t take a cue from Australia, which has just enacted a law stating that <a href="http://www.newser.com/story/152119/aussie-cigarette-packaging-to-turn-generic-gross.html"><span class="s1">cigarettes have to be put in generic packaging including graphic images of smoking’s consequences, like mouth cancer, alongside health warnings</span></a>. It’s one thing to hear “X people were shot and killed,” on the news every day; it would be another to see the physical damage guns do. If you have a strong stomach, Google image-search “gun shot wound.” Hard not to wonder if such images might not change some perceptions. </p><p class="p1"><b>8. Shake it, baby</b></p><p class="p1">Eeeeeyuck. So after that we need something sweet and comforting, and there’s no better comfort than our best friend the dog. Not only are they caring and loyal, they’re marvels of evolution. That huge shake they do when they come out of the pool, the rain or the bathtub? It gets them 70% dry in a fraction of a second. David Hu, who studies biolocomotion at Georgia Tech, says that could help in creating self-cleaning and drying robotics, <a href="http://www.livescience.com/22366-wet-mammals-shake-dry.html"><span class="s1">writes Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience</span></a>. </p><p class="p1">It’s essential for animals to get dry quickly especially in cold weather. A wet human can hold a pound of water and we hardly have any hair. A 60-pound dog would use 20% of its daily calories staying warm as it air dries, Hu and his team calculated. "Imagine you fell into the lake in the winter and had wet clothes all around you and couldn't dry," Hu told LiveScience.</p><p class="p1">Both water and dust can be problematic for autonomous robotics like the <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.livescience.com/22282-mars-rover-curiosity-color-panorama-pictures.html">Mars Rovers</a> </span>so to see how dogs dried themselves, Hu and his colleagues measured the frequency of their shaking and set up “wet dog simulators” that shook tufts of wet fur. The bigger the animal the slower the shake, because their fur goes further and has more centripital force (force that makes things move in circles). This <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.livescience.com/22357-how-animals-shake-it-off-slow-motion-video.html">little video</a> </span>of different animals shaking themselves dry in slow motion shows a rat drying off at 18 shakes per second, and 4.5  for a medium-sized dog. Having loose skin is also a big help. </p><p class="p6">"I don't think we're going to make a Mars Rover in the shape of a dog or anything like that," he said. "But if people can think about how animals do this so quickly, they'll get an idea of what is possible."</p><p class="p6">It’s certainly true that we can learn a lot from animals but we do like this whole idea of a Mars Rover shaped like Rover. Every kid and the <a href="http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/pet_ownership_statistics.html"><span class="s1">39% of Americans who own a dog</span></a> would take waaaaay more interest in space exploration.  </p><p class="p7"><b>9. Purrrfectly mysterious</b></p><p class="p7">From the loyal dog we come to the equally beloved but far more mysterious cat.  See, we can perfectly land a rover on Mars from millions of miles away and fiddle with cells in order to prevent heritable diseases…but we don’t know why or exactly how cats purr. <a href="http://io9.com/5934228/why-the-cats-purr-is-one-of-zoologys-greatest-mysteries"><span class="s1">Annalee Newitz of io9</span></a> looked into that luxuriously comforting sound and found some cool stuff including:</p><ul><li class="p7">Purring is emotional and comes in different types; cats purr when they’re petted, which seems like contentment but also under stress, like during a vet visit.</li><li class="p7">There is no “purring organ” that specializes in making the sound.</li><li class="p7">Swedish linguist Robert Eklund is devoted to these animal sounds; you can hear his recordings of lots of different purrs on <a href="http://Purring.org/"><span class="s1">Purring.org</span></a>.</li><li class="p7">Bioacoustics researcher Elizabeth von Muggenthaler has hypothesized that cats may purr to heal themselves because “cat purrs create frequencies that fall directly in the range that is anabolic for bone growth.”  </li></ul><p class="p7">But the coolest thing of all is that something so common and domestic is still so largely mysterious. Maybe the Egyptians were right and the cats are gods, beyond the comprehension of puny humans. Ask any cat; they’ll purr in agreement. </p><p class="p1"><b>10. Vision-restoring glasses</b></p><p class="p1">Since the cats want to maintain their aura of mystery we’ll move onto something easier, like the miracle of restoring sight to the blind. <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-13/blind-mice-given-sight-after-device-cracks-retinal-code.html"><span class="s1">Jeanna Smialek writes in Bloomberg</span></a> that scientists have “cracked the code the retina uses to communicate with the brain,” paving the way for a prosthetic device that can mimic that signal. The researchers restored the vision of blind mice by helping their diseased retinas send signals to the brain, which interprets those lights signals as images.</p><p class="p1">Lead author <a href="http://physiology.med.cornell.edu/faculty/nirenberg/lab/"><span class="s1">Sheila Nirenberg</span></a>, a neuroscientist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and co-author <a href="http://physiology.med.cornell.edu/faculty/nirenberg/lab/chethan/index.html"><span class="s1">Chethan Pandarinath</span></a> first studied healthy eyes “to determine the set of equations that translate light received by the retina into something the brain can understand. Then, they used special glasses to create a similar code and deliver it to the eye, which had been engineered to contain light-sensitive proteins. The cells received the code through the light sensitive proteins and fired electric impulses, which the brain could interpret as images.”</p><p class="p1">The technology could be adopted for human use within a year or two, Nirenberg says.</p><p class="p1">I don’t know if I’d qualify, but having grown up wearing the classic Coke bottle glasses and feeling like my eyes get worse every day now that I’m in my dotage, I’m psyched about this. </p><p class="p1">It’s easier to look on the bright side of life if you can see it. </p> Fri, 17 Aug 2012 07:01:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 694789 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment research science technology 10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week http://www.alternet.org/10-mind-blowing-discoveries-week <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A new snake-like creature? Spray-on skin? Just two of the fascinating things the world discovered this week.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2012-08-10_at_12.10.11_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p> </p><p>The Altamaha River in Georgia is said to be home to a fabled sea monster known as the Altamaha-ha. Altie, whom you can read all about in <a href="http://www.cryptomundo.com/bigfoot-report/altamaha-ha/">this excellent illustrated story by Creative Loafing’s Curt Holman via Cryptomundo)</a>, is said to resemble a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Plesiosaur">plesiosaur</a>.</p><p>A few years back, my friend Jim and I drove up to Georgia to see if we could spot it. The trip was a charmed one, a poor-girl’s substitute for Loch Ness, where I’ve always wanted to go. Did we see anything? I thought I remembered seeing <em>something</em> in the water, something pinkish silvery and a bit serpentine, but frankly I can’t remember if it was in that body of water or another one. (“If you go looking for monsters, eventually you’re going to see one,” says a lighthearted skeptic in Holman’s story.)</p><p><strong>1. I want to believe….but c’mon.</strong></p><p>So, l’d love for the recent headline-making photo of the Loch Ness monster, seen <a href="http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/loch-ness-monster-hunter-gets-1213943">here in the Daily Record UK</a> to be real, but…I dunno. The photo was snapped by George Edwards, a 60-year veteran of the Nessie hunting-and-touring trade. It looks like a living thing, but that doesn’t make it <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=au3DBVo1EqM">a sea monster</a> and Edwards says it didn’t register on his deep scanning sonar. It’s kind of an unconvincing hump in the water and frankly, we’ve all had too many of those to get overly eager about another.</p><p>It’s intriguing that the same week <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/08/120806-mars-rover-jpl-landing-nasa-curiosity-science-space-photos/"><em>Curiosity</em> made a great and true stride for scientific exploration</a>, a single blurry photo of the Loch Ness monster is still able to make headlines, albeit briefly. I mean, we’re exploring <em>Mars.</em> You’d think Loch Ness would be taken care of by now.</p><p>Benjamin Radford <a href="http://www.livescience.com/22118-loch-ness-monster-nessie-photo.html">wrote on LiveScience</a> about (among other things) the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3096839.stm">BBC’s big investigation into the Loch Ness in 2003</a> using sonar and satellites, which, for all its due diligence, found nothing unusual. The world is irritatingly knowable these days and that may be why Nessie and Altie endure. There’s a little fun in not knowing, and frankly, the power of that fun is what Edwards' picture proved. There are truly fantastic underwater creatures like <a href="http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/ubercool-mexican-walking-fish-nearing-extinction.html">this</a>, and <a href="http://www.travelerstoday.com/articles/2522/20120801/what-is-the-mola-mola-odd-fish-spotted-off-california-coast-video-mola-molas-ocean-sunfish-fishing-marine-life-ocean-santa-monica-bay-california-jellyfish-phil-friedman.htm">this</a>, and <a href="http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/enlarge/leafy-sea-dragon-ocean.html">this</a> that show up for photos regularly and never get Nessie-level attention. Nessie leaves us wanting more, the saucy minx. I’d look for her any day.</p><p><strong>2. Is that a snake-like tetrapod in your pocket, or…</strong></p><p>Speaking of mysterious, serpentine creatures, more than one person sent me a link to the tale of the newly discovered African blind snake-like creature that everyone thinks looks <a href="http://www.geekosystem.com/rare-caecilian-found-in-brazil/">embarrassingly phallic</a>. </p><p>“If this isn’t up your alley,” my friend Dave said, “I need a new GPS.” </p><p><a href="http://www.geekosystem.com/rare-caecilian-found-in-brazil/">Geekosystem’s Sui Ying Teoh</a> writes that when the Madeira River in Brazil was drained to build a dam, workers found about six of these tetrapods at the bottom of it, making the riverbed look like a Good Vibrations sale rack. They’re a rare species of caecilian, amphibians that look like worms or snakes, known as <em>Atretochoana eiselti</em>. They’re about 30 inches long and have no lungs so they breathe through their skin. You can almost hear it…can’t you? Pleasant dreams.</p><p>These actually have a leg-up on Nessie because we <em>clearly</em> see them but they are still mysterious, currently classified as “data deficient” by the <a href="http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/59493/0">International Union for Conservation of Nature</a> “in view of continuing uncertainties as to its extent of occurrence, status and ecological requirements.” There are no other known populations and of the six found one died, two were kept for study and three were released.</p><p>Everyone thinks they look like penises and yeah, they do, but in the same way <a href="http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.neighborhoodarchive.com/misc/other/separatedbirth/separated_birth_01.jpg&amp;imgrefurl=http://neighborhoodarchive.blogspot.com/2009/02/separated-at-birth-1988.html&amp;h=307&amp;w=475&amp;sz=28&amp;tbnid=3FB5uKCE6PXsmM:&amp;tbnh=78&amp;tbnw=120&amp;prev=/search%3Fq%3Dmick%2Bjagger%2Bdon%2Bknotts%26tbm%3Disch%26tbo%3Du&amp;zoom=1&amp;q=mick+jagger+don+knotts&amp;usg=__m0MgAUDqOtVVPmG-wbG-9TgaALQ=&amp;docid=bCPRtXgGhHRA5M&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=At8hUILPBYXc9ASHzoDoDA&amp;ved=0CGMQ9QEwBA&amp;dur=417">Don Knotts looks like Mick Jagger.</a> I see the resemblance, but it’s hardly exact. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a penis that clearly had a mouth?</p><p><strong>3. Spray-on skin?</strong></p><p>Okay, if the blind phallic mouthy tetrapod didn’t prove to you that there are plenty of real-life things to be astonished by, can I interest you in some spray-on skin?  </p><p>The <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19093302">BBC’s James Gallagher</a> reports on a study by US and Canadian researchers on 228 patients with leg ulcers showing that spray coating of “donated skin cells and blood-clotting proteins over the ulcer,” had great promise in healing the wounds more effectively than current treatment of compression bandages. Leg ulcers are caused by high blood pressure in leg veins that damage the skin and can develop into open wounds. With compression bandages, 70% of wounds heal in about six months. With the “spray-on skin” compound, developed  by Healthpoint Biotheraputics, “70% healed after three months compared to 46% who received other treatments.” </p><p>The new treatment could lessen the need for skin grafts for leg ulcer patients but it won’t be available right away: ”Further studies will decide if it is a practical treatment for leg ulcers.”</p><p>So, if it’s spray-on skin, will it fill in wrinkles? If so, it’s going to have a zillion-dollar market before you can say “Cancel the Botox party!”</p><p><strong>4. You’re not paranoid…they <em>don’t</em></strong><strong> like you.</strong></p><p>It’s one of those weird, self-fulfilling prophecies that often occur, like when someone is feeling insecure about her looks and goes for the plastic surgery and ends up having <a href="http://crushable.com/entertainment/bruce-jenner-face-plastic-surgery-interview-995/"><em>real </em>reasons</a> to worry. People sometimes end up courting exactly what they fear.</p><p>It’s that way with social rejection, according to a study from UBC Sauder School of Business, reports <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/08/study-paranoia-is-self-fulfilling/260560/">Lindsay Abrams of The Atlantic</a>. Researchers evaluated the subjects' MARTI levels -- "motivation to acquire relationship-threatening information” (i.e., how driven you are to find out who’s been talking smack about you) -- then measured the effects of that motivation on the subjects’ social relationships. </p><p>“Basically, the researchers confirmed that people who are highly motivated to acquire relationship-threatening information exhibit paranoia and related behaviors,” Abrams writes. High MARTI people were 3.63 times as likely to be excluded from groups than people who wanted feedback and 16.5 times more likely to be left out than people who wanted to learn social interaction. </p><p>So one guesses that if you hear your co-workers laughing in another room and you run in and say “You’re laughing at me, aren’t you? Just you wait! I’ll show you!" bang goes your invitation to the margarita-happy-hour-five-o’clock-rock-block after work. </p><p>Maybe when they’re developing that spray-on skin, they can work on making one that’s a little thicker for people who are prone to those kinds of worries.</p><p><strong>5. The wonderful world of color.</strong></p><p>Happily moving on from MARTI to MARDI, the Mars Descent Imager and the first color photo it has sent home from <em>Curiosity </em><a href="http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia16008.html">here on NASA’s website</a>. The green dot is exactly where <em>Curiosity</em> landed early Monday morning.</p><p>Two weeks ago we talked about "<a href="http://www.alternet.org/culture/10-mind-blowing-discoveries-week">awe therapy</a>" -- the feeling of time stopping and related calm when you see something that is truly awesome. These <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/index.html">NASA photos</a> are a wellspring of it. My favorites are <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia16005.html">two comparative shots</a> taken from the Hazard-Avoidance camera, first with the dust cover on, then without. It feels like the reveal on a makeover, showing Mars before and after the ladies from <a href="http://www.tv.com/shows/how-clean-is-your-house/">How Clean Is Your House?</a> got to it. Plus, the clear picture has that feeling of "sunrise-on-our-first-day-of-vacation" -- and it’s on <em>Mars.</em></p><p>And…break out the 3-D glasses! I’m told they should work on these 3-D images <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia16003.html">from the front</a> and <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/PIA16002.html">from the back</a> of <em>Curiosity</em>.</p><p>What’s great about all these pictures, aside from the obvious, is having to wait them to come back; to be excited about something as simple as a color picture. Weird how this most thrilling feat of human progress is attended by a joy of the past that we don’t get much of now: antici…pation.  </p><p><strong>6. Read before you pop.</strong></p><p>Popcorn is one of the great all-time sources of anticipation. But keep this in mind next time you buy popcorn in whatever form: a <a href="http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/tx3001016">study out of the University of Minnesota</a> says that one of the ingredients that makes up the butter flavoring of some products may be as bad for you as it is delicious. <a href="http://blisstree.com/eat/artificial-butter-flavor-diacetyl-alzheimers-654/">Hanna Brooks Olsen of Blisstree</a> reports that “prolonged or excessive exposure" to diacetyl (DA) which is used in margarine and as a flavoring for all kinds of snack foods, influences proteins in the brain. Clumping of these proteins, which diacetyl accelerates, is one of the signature symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.</p><p>Diacetyl was also found to cross what’s called the “blood-brain barrier,” a bodily mechanism that helps to curb the brain’s exposure to harmful substances. She  links to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/06/us/06butter.html?_r=2&amp;ex=1336104000&amp;en=8d5a0800872c853f&amp;ei=5124&amp;partner=permalink&amp;exprod=permalink">a New York Times story</a> detailing various concerns about diacetyl, including a “life-threatening lung condition” sustained by some factory workers in flavoring factories.</p><p>Some companies have stopped using diacetyl (check out <a href="http://www.jollytime.com/pressroom/press_releases/diacetyl_statement">this statement by Jolly Time</a>), but the story is a reminder that it pays to be careful about what you’re eating. You could always get naked popcorn and find an alternative to that butter flavoring, like, oh I dunno…butter?</p><p><strong>7. Nature’s own.</strong></p><p>Three more things presented themselves this week that underscore the advantages of going natural. My runaway favorite is family physician Emily Gibson’s declaration on <a href="http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/04/war-pubic-hair.html">KevinMD.com</a> that “It’s time to end the war on pubic hair, and allow it to stay right where it belongs.” It’s there for a reason, Dr. Gibson says, namely protection from skin irritation and bacteria. Removing it leaves “microscopic open wounds,” which, combined with the clammy environment of the genitals, creates vulnerability to some very nasty infections, including “staph boils and abscesses, necessitating incisions to drain the infection,” and possibly even STIs (how’s yer breakfast?). Bottom line: adults aren’t supposed to be bald as an egg down there. Give your precious nether regions a break.  </p><p>Next are the natural boosts of beetroot and tart cherry juices that <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/08/looking-for-fitness-in-a-glass-of-juice/">New York Times blogger Gretchen Reynolds</a> says some Olympic athletes favor as performance helpers. Beetroot juice appears to “improve blood and oxygen flow to muscles” and improve performance in short bursts. Reynolds cites a <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21471821">representative study</a> wherein cyclists who drank it half a liter before a specific time-trial were 3% faster than when they went without. For more long-term performance tart cherry juice “affects the body’s ability to recover from hard exertion,” so athletes who go through tough bouts of training or marathons experience less pain afterward. It also has "notable anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities.” There are a few caveats, but it’s worth a read. </p><p>Finally, <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/08/02/157606554/thank-the-simple-wasp-for-that-complex-glass-of-wine?ft=1&amp;f=1007">Elizabeth Shogren of NPR reported</a> that European hornets and paper wasps are responsible for the lovely, complex tastes of your favorite wines. <a href="http://www.duccioknights.org/curriculum-vitae-and-publications/">Duccio Cavalieri</a>, a professor of microbiology at the University of Florence and his colleagues found that when wasps bite the grapes that are still on the vines they begin the fermentation by leaving some of the yeast from their gut -- brewer’s yeast -- behind in the fruit. Yeasts can be added later but the wines don’t taste the same and the wasps “introduce microorganisms” that bring the wine more flavor. “Everything is linked,” Cavalieri says, in ways we humans don’t always see. </p><p><strong>8. Eye spy.</strong></p><p>Wine, of course, is the drink of romance. You sip, you look deeply into the other person’s eyes, and you see…their sexual orientation? </p><p>Chances are you already know that, but Cornell University just did the first large-scale study matching pupil dilation to sexual stimulus, <a href="http://www.livescience.com/22120-eyes-reveal-sexual-orientation.html">Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience reports</a>. Usually methods of measuring arousal include attaching instruments to monitor blood flow to the genitals while the subjects watch erotic films. That doesn’t work for everyone; some people can’t get aroused in a lab environment and some can suppress their reactions. Self-reporting isn’t always accurate. So they decided to look deeply into people’s eyes. </p><p>Our pupils dilate when we see something that excites us, sexually or otherwise. It’s a sign, Pappas writes, that our automatic nervous system is “ramping up.” In the pupil-cam experiment subjects watched short videos of either a man or a woman masturbating in a landscape setting. The researchers used “gaze-tracking cameras” that picked up on and recorded minute changes in pupils; subjects were also asked to self-report feelings of arousal. The results matched those of genital arousal studies: straight men and gay women responded more to videos of women, gay men preferred men, bisexual men liked everybody and…so did women.</p><p>An interesting side note in this piece says that sex researchers don’t know why women respond to erotic images of both sexes, but one theory is that because women have historically been at risk of rape they “evolved to respond with lubrication to any sexual stimulus, no matter how unappealing.” That way those to whom it did happen would be less traumatized and more likely to survive and reproduce. </p><p>Amazing for such an intriguing thing to have grown out of such a horrible one. </p><p><strong>9. Kinder, gentler bullets?</strong></p><p>It's hard to imagine anything good coming from bullets, but at least one company is trying to make them less lethal. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19116438">Angus Crawford of BBC News reports </a>that Scandinavian armies are replacing lead bullets with more environmentally friendly ones and is encouraging the Brits to do the same. The new lead-free bullets would be just as deadly to their targets, but less so to the environment and possibly the shooter.</p><p>“Lead is toxic,” Crawford writes “and there have been studies that have suggested it can <a href="http://www.ewg.org/files/leadpoll.pdf">leach from firing ranges into ground water</a>. The US Environmental Protection Agency provides <a href="http://www.epa.gov/Region2/waste/leadshot/">guidelines for firing ranges to avoid lead contamination</a>.”</p><p>Nammo, a Swedish arms manufacturer, is the maker of the “green” ammunition. Since the Swedish government requested alternative ammunition in 1995 Nammo has made 360 million lead-free bullets, which were available four years after the initial request. The unleaded bullets look like the old-fashioned kind but in addition to getting the lead out they’ve removed heavy metal from the gunpowder and the “core of the round is made of steel.” </p><p>"Once you decide that weapons and ammunition is needed in the world as it is today, you have to design them in as environmentally friendly way as possible," says Urban Oholm of Nammo.</p><p><strong>10. April flowers bring meteor showers.</strong></p><p>Finally,  just as the Olympics are winding down you’ll be able to take part in yet another spectacle people have been watching for thousands of years.</p><p>The Perseid meteor shower is coming to a sky near you this weekend (August 11/12) and <a href="http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1112670979/perseid-meteor-shower-080712/%0Ahttp://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1112670979/perseid-meteor-shower-080712/%0Ahttp://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1112670979/perseid-meteor-shower-080712/%0Ahttp://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1112670979/perseid-meteor-shower-080712/">April Flowers of Red Orbit</a> says the timing couldn’t be better. With the waning moon being only 25% full, visibility will be good and with the event coming on a Saturday night, more people will be able to stay up and watch. “You can expect to see somewhere around 80 shooting stars per hour between midnight and dawn,” Flowers writes.</p><p>Bonus: we know exactly where those shooting stars come from. They’re debris left from the Swift-Tuttle comet that passed over 135 years ago. <em>We</em> pass through <em>it, </em>or its remains, every August and these particular <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteoroid">meteoroids</a> are about 1,000 years old. Meteoroids are “bits of rock and ice streaking hanging around in space,” which burn up in the atmosphere and turn into meteors giving us a spectacular light show.</p><p>Flowers advises patience: “Sometimes the meteors won’t show for five or ten minutes at a time, then you will get a cluster.” </p> Fri, 10 Aug 2012 07:11:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 690757 at http://www.alternet.org Environment science nature environment loch ness 10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week http://www.alternet.org/environment/10-mind-blowing-discoveries-week <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Ever wonder what space smells like? That and nine other discoveries this week to rock the cocktail parties.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_108639104.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>We’re watching the Parade of Nations part of the 2012 Olympic opening ceremonies (cultural crack for an Anglophile like myself) and with each passing band of athletes it’s hard not to be struck by the fabulous height of the basketball players. My friend Marcy, smoking an electronic cigarette, blows out electronic smoke and says, “Look at that guy! Imagine the size of his feet.”</p><p>“Yes,” I say, cutting my eyes at her quickly. “His feet.”</p><p><strong>1. Divas of diving</strong></p><p>Even if you’re not normally a sports watcher, you’ve got to love the Olympics, and thus far my favorites have been gymnastics and synchronized diving. Though they haven’t been mentioned in any if-animals-were-Olympic-athletes stories, like this one in <a href="http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/view-image.htm?index=0&amp;gid=11932">Australian Geographic</a>, the imperial cormorant of Argentina may well be a contender in the diving competition.</p><p>According to <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120731160753.htm">Science Daily</a>, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and National Research Council of Argentina recently fitted one of the sea birds with a camera -- the WCS tracking of the birds is helping to design areas for their protection and to understand the effect of environmental conditions on them. The researchers were “stunned” to see the cormorant dive 150 feet under the ocean in 40 seconds, search for food for 80 seconds, and catch a snake-like fish and wiz up to the surface in another 40 seconds, becoming, SD writes, “superbird.”</p><p>Just imagine what the bird could do without a camera on its back.</p><p><strong>2. Edge-of-your-seat space drama</strong></p><p>The cormorants and the Olympic divers are making amazingly graceful descents. Cross your fingers the same thing happens for the Mars rover.</p><p>What Red Orbit’s<a href="http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1112666406/curiosity-seven-minutes-of-terror/">Lee Rannals calls</a>, "The most complicated landing in NASA’s history” will take place Monday, August 6 at 1:31am EDT when <em>Curiosity</em>, the 1-ton Mars rover, lands on the red planet.</p><p>This is big. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-mars-rover-landing-times-square-20120801,0,6595912.story">Being-broadcast-in-Times-Square</a> big. It’s even got a catchphrase (cue horror movie music): seven minutes of TERROR!</p><p>That’s not a joke: those seven minutes are the window wherein NASA has to bring <em>Curiosity</em> from its 13,000 mph traveling speed down to 1.7 mph for a safe landing from 300 million miles away, Rannals reports. At 180 mph, <em>Curiosity</em> will be released via “sky crane” method with a “backpack fitted with retrorockets controlling the descent speed” lowering the rover by three nylon cords. Probably one of the most nerve-wracking parts is the uncertainty: because of Mars’ distance it takes 14 minutes for signals from the craft to come to NASA engineers here on earth. Check out this excellent video on <a href="http://www.space.com/16265-7-minutes-of-terror-curiosity-rover-s-risky-mars-landing-video.html">Space.com</a> for all the edge-of-your-seat details.</p><p>Bonus: Shatner and Wheaton.</p><p>No, they’re not going, but <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bShFjFcN0ko">William Shatner</a> and <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj67YHeo_ac">Wil Wheaton</a> (<a href="http://www.startrek.com/database_article/james-t-kirk">Captain Kirk</a> and <a href="http://www.startrek.com/database_article/crusher">Wesley Crusher</a> in case you have been on Mars for the last few years) both narrate another great little video that details the stages of the landing and the amazing work <em>Curiosity</em> will do once it gets there. The rover will land in Gale Crater, whose layers were likely eroded by water. This geology will show “a cross-section of Mars history” the narration says, and <em>Curiosity</em> will examine rocks and analyze soil samples to see if there has ever been any <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v--IqqusnNQ">life on Mars</a>.</p><p><strong>3. Exploding termites</strong></p><p>When we imagine life on other planets we tend to envision it as being more bizarre than anything you can find on Earth…and yet we make daily discoveries of things right here that are mind-blowingly weird. Or in the case of the exploding termites, back-blowingly weird.</p><p><a href="http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/07/26/aging-termites-put-on-suicide-backpacks-full-of-chemical-weapons/?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%253A%2520NotRocketScience%2520%2528Not%2520Exactly%2520Rocket%2520Science%2529&amp;utm_content=Google%2520Reader">Ed Yong of Discover Magazine</a> reports that a pair of researchers from Brussels and the Czech Republic have found that the fate of elderly termite workers of the species <em>Neocapritermes taracua</em> is to be a kind of suicide bomber in defense of their colony. Some workers have blue crystals on their backs that get bigger as their mandibles get too worn down for the work of youth. The crystals contain a protein that works like our hemoglobin (carrying oxygen through their bodies) and is toxic to other termites. These crystals mix with saliva from a gland in the termites' back (yes, that’s where they keep it). When the colony is attacked by other termites the blue workers bite the interlopers and their backs release a sticky substance that kills invaders (video on the link). When researchers “dabbed the fluid on a competing termite species, 28 percent were paralysed and 65 percent died.”</p><p>That’s certainly a self-destruct mechanism worthy of any sci-fi alien or ship...<em>and</em> it’s got a little <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074812/"><em>Logan’s Run</em></a> "you’re-too-old-to-live" theme going for it, too. (Obviously, if I were a termite I’d have a blue back because I’m doddering enough to remember <em>Logan’s Run</em>.)</p><p><strong>4. This pitcher is quite the catcher</strong></p><p>So the termite is drafted into kamikaze service for its colony, which is kind of heroic. Ants who encounter the carniverous plant <em>Nepenthes gracilis</em>are simply tricked into klutziness.</p><p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/19/science/a-wily-trap-even-for-a-pitcher-plant.html?src=recg">Sindya N. Banho of the <em>New York Times</em></a> brings the story of this exotic pitcher plant, which provides good shelter for ants who want to get out of the rain. In fair weather they’re fine. But when a raindrop hits the top of the plant, BOING! The insect gets dropped into the pitcher. You can see some examples here on the Wikipedia entry for the plant.</p><p>So next time someone tells you, “A little rain never hurt anybody,” you’ll know better.</p><p><strong>5. Living on an inferno</strong></p><p>It’s one thing to have seven minutes of terror over a huge NASA project or a few moments of terror these poor insect have en route to <em>A Bug’s Afterlife</em>. But imagine if your house was sitting above an underground coal fire that had been burning for nearly 100 years?</p><p>Hard to imagine, but that’s the grim reality for the people of Jharia, India: A coal fire burning beneath their village that has the potential to consume houses and people; it swallowed 250 homes in a single two-hour period in 1995. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-india-coal-fire-20120731,0,2620353.story">Mark Magnier of the <em>Los Angeles Times</em></a> writes that the fires, which started in 1916, may be the result of old mines that weren’t properly decommissioned. Locals believe the state coal company lets the fire burn, “hoping residents will leave so it can exploit the estimated $12 billion in high-grade coking coal, used in steel production, that sits below Jharia.” The company denies it, but also says that as much of the natural resource as possible has to be exploited to grow the economy.            </p><p>Underground coal fires aren’t limited to this area: a 2010 <a href="http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2006195,00.html"><em>Time</em> magazine</a> story by Dan Cray says every continent except Antarctica has such fires and that 100 are burning beneath nine U.S. states. There is evidence that fires like these have been burning since the Pleistocene era. </p><p>Both stories are well worth reading, especially about the residents who stay in Jharia because they can’t get a good relocation deal to go elsewhere: Magnier writes, “Widespread <a href="http://www.latimes.com/topic/health/physical-conditions/asthma-HEPHC000007.topic">asthma</a>, <a href="http://www.latimes.com/topic/health/diseases-illnesses/tuberculosis-HEDAI0000083.topic">tuberculosis</a> and other <a href="http://www.latimes.com/topic/health/diseases-illnesses/respiratory-disease-HEDAI0000075.topic">respiratory diseases</a>, not to mention the mental stress, are the price they pay so affluent people in New Delhi and Mumbai can enjoy their energy-guzzling lives."</p><p><strong>6. In space no one can hear you…eww, what’s that smell?</strong></p><p>Never having smelled a coal fire I don’t know how bad it is. I bet outer space is better.</p><p>Though by all accounts it’s pretty whiffy.</p><p>"It's like something I haven't ever smelled before, but I'll never forget it.”</p><p>You hear that kind of thing said about the odor of dead bodies, but in this case the quote is from NASA astronaut Kevin Ford describing the aroma of space. Life’s Little Mysteries reported on astronauts’ impressions of the scent, which include “seared steak, hot metal and welding fumes.”</p><p>So, space smells like a shop class next door to an Outback franchise? Perhaps Frebreeze should be our first gift to the aliens.</p><p>Atomic oxygen and a “high energy vibration of ions,” may be part of the reasons space smells the way it does.</p><p>Gun powder and ozone were scents also reported by <a href="http://www.space.com/7245-space-sights-smells-surprise-rookie-astronauts.html">Space.com</a> (via LLM), but astronaut Don Pettit said, “The best description I can come up with is metallic; a rather pleasant sweet metallic sensation ....It reminded me of pleasant sweet smelling welding fumes.”</p><p>Okay, this is odd, but you know where I most frequently remember encountering a sweet, metallic smell? In the sweat of people who drink more than Peter O’Toole in <em>My Favorite Year</em>. Since I can’t find anything about this online, it may just be my imagination, but to me, it seems, space is going to smell like a next-day drunk. How very homey.</p><p><strong>7. Why you have food cravings</strong></p><p>Just reading the phrase “seared steak,” made me crave it. Aside from the obvious “delicious” factor, it turns out that there are certain reasons why we crave the foods we do. Our bodies often know what we need, so though we might not consciously be trying to lower our cholesterol or detoxify, our bodies signal us to eat the right things, writes <a href="http://io9.com/5930266/10-foods-you-crave-++-and-why-you-crave-them">io9’s Esther Inglis-Arkell</a>. </p><p>Some of our food cravings are totally understandable, like chocolate. You crave that because you want the high, not because of its legendary "love chemicals." But because it contains cannabinoids, also found in marijuana, you’d have to consume an awful lot of chocolate, she says, to get the same high you would from pot.</p><p>Some cravings are a little less common…like clay. I’ve heard of clay cravings, like a young lady on “<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGMNom72OtE">My Strange Addiction</a>,” who ate pottery, but it certainly isn't common. Inglis-Arkell explains that clay and dirt (the girl on the show also ate dirt as a child) contain kaolin which takes alkaloids out of unripe foods that humans and animals sometimes eat -- alkaloids are toxic to both groups. “When people get a craving to eat clay, they're acting on ancient, and correct, instincts that tell them they've been poisoned.”</p><p>She also explains why you might crave coffee as a painkiller, ginger for your heart, and milk in tea and coffee to protect your throat from tannins.</p><p>I’m sure there’s some ancient bodily wisdom about craving Doritos, and she just didn’t get around to covering that one.</p><p><strong>8. Flipper meet-up group</strong></p><p>It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but when you’re a fan of or an abstainer of certain things, including foods, you often group with people of like mind: a recent <a href="http://www.newser.com/story/149625/30-of-meat-eaters-refuse-to-date-vegetarians.html">Match.com poll</a> (via Newser) found that 30% of meat eaters would not date a vegetarian. Humans love their subcultures, whether it’s wine-tasting, Comic-Con or Superbowl parties, we like to be with people who share our interests.</p><p>Dolphins feel the same way.</p><p>For the first time animals, specifically dolphins, have been seen to group according to a shared preference. The preference is for an activity called “sponging,” slipping a sponge onto their beaks to protect them from rough surfaces when they hunt on the ocean floor. Bottlenose dolphins in Australia’s Shark Bay who had learned sponging tend to hang out with other dolphins who sponge, reports the <a href="http://phys.org/news/2012-07-dolphins-sponge-culture.html">AFP</a> (via Phys.Org). It’s “the first evidence of animal grouping based on mutual interest.”</p><p>Other tool-using animals, like chimps and elephants, learn their techniques from each other, but sponging isn’t like that; only the calves of females who sponge learn to do it, so it’s only a small percentage of dolphins who sponge. Study author Janet Mann of Georgetown University told the AFP that the dolphins “spend a lot of time hunting, tend to be solitary, but clearly go out of their way when they can to meet up. You could think of them as workaholic dolphins that prefer to meet up with the other workaholics."</p><p>Last week we talked about gorillas who teamed up to <a href="http://www.alternet.org/culture/10-mind-blowing-discoveries-week">dismantle poacher’s snares</a>, bringing to mind <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1318514/"><em>Rise of the Planet of the Apes</em></a>. We're looking forward to the first wolf pack wearing “Team Jacob” T-shirts.</p><p><strong>9. A 180 on climate change</strong></p><p>Here’s something else friends do together: practice denial.</p><p>“We didn’t drink <em>that</em> much wine,” we tell each other through our head-splitting hangovers. Or, “Well, you were craving those Doritos so you must have really needed them.” A little <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443343704577548973568243982.html?mod=WSJ_hps_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsTop">self-deception</a> can be fine if it helps you, say, pretend you’re confident so you can make a presentation, but too much denial can be decidedly unhelpful. </p><p>Which brings us to climate change denial and one scientist who has changed his mind about it, as r<a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2012/0730/Prominent-climate-change-denier-now-admits-he-was-wrong-video">eported by Neela Banerjee</a> in the <em>Christian Science Monitor</em>.</p><p>Richard A. Muller, physics professor at the UC Berkeley and co-founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, thought that flaws in prior studies called climate change into doubt. He’s now done a total reversal, saying “Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”</p><p>From the CSM:</p><blockquote><p>The Berkeley project’s research has shown, Muller says, that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by 2½ degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of 1½ degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.</p></blockquote><p>Interestingly, the Berkeley project is funded by the famous Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, which “has a considerable history of backing groups that deny climate change.”</p><p>Since so few people, especially those in the public eye, ever willingly say they were mistaken or even that they’ve changed their mind about such a hot-button issue, this is kind of a cool story. And with the record heat we needed something cool, wouldn’t you say?</p><p><strong>10. Your fly is open…to danger!</strong></p><p>The opinions and activities of scientists have a huge bearing on the way we view important global issues. And then there’s this:</p><p>Remember when you were a kid and you made your dolls look like they were having sex? Some scientists do that with dead flies. And yes, it’s a legitimate part of their job description.</p><p>Stefan Grief of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany authored a study on how the European Natterer’s bat locates the flies that are its prey. He found that the noises flies make while mating gives their location away to the bats, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/science/sounds-of-flies-mating-leave-them-most-vulnerable-to-bats.html?_r=1&amp;src=recg">reports</a> the <em>New York Time</em>s’ Sindya N. Bhando. The bats typically use ecolocation to find their prey, but background echoes drown out the sound of the flies. Video showed the researchers that the flies who were just mooching around or being still didn’t get attacked while mating pairs did -- 5% of mating pairs were attacked and 60% of those got eaten.</p><p>Isn’t there a song called “Don’t Fall in Love with a Screamer”?</p><p>Actually it’s not screaming, but a buzzing noise they make during sex that gives them away. Researchers played it to confirm that’s what the bats were looking for, and this is where the doll thing comes in -- they also mounted dead flies in a copulatory position. Grief said the bats left those alone.</p><p>The flies' dilemma -- should they copulate longer, increasing their chance of breeding, but risk death by bat? Or just have a quickie and live a little longer?</p> Thu, 02 Aug 2012 10:14:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 685921 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment discoveries bats dolphins termites outer space "science 10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week http://www.alternet.org/culture/10-mind-blowing-discoveries-week <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Great stuff this week on the possible neurological origin of consciousness, bug-killing paint, free college classes and gorillas learning how to destroy poaching traps. Oh, and more squid sex. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/gorilla.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p class="p1"><b>1. Eight arms to hold you tight</b></p><p class="p2">Would you be okay with a shorter life span in exchange for an exhausting, amazing, knock-down, drag-out sex life?</p><p class="p2">Duh! Squid sex is the sex in question and it must be pretty fab if it’s as depleting as a study by Amanda Franklin and her colleagues at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Zoology has found it to be. <a href="http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&amp;objectid=10821037"><span class="s1">Paul Harper of the New Zealand Herald News </span></a>reported on Franklin’s research that the southern dumpling squid engage in multi-partner sex in rigorous three-hour marathons and that their subsequent weariness might leave them unable to find food or swim away from predators. Their endurance was tested by putting them into flowing water in which they swam to see how long it took to tire them out. When put back into the flowing water after mating it took them 30 minutes to recover their original stamina. They live for a year.</p><p class="p2">Well, according to <a href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/zoology/marine-life/squid2.htm"><span class="s1">How Stuff Works.com</span></a> “Many squid live fast and die young - their entire life cycle takes just one year.” So that year may be about par for the squid course. Also, <i>I </i>can’t swim away from predators or forage for food after good sex either but that’s never been enough to make me stop and reconsider having it. </p><p class="p2">You can see the adorable dumplings on the <a href="http://www.science20.com/squid_day/dumpling_squid_prove_sex_aint_free-92272"><span class="s1">Danna Staaf’s Squid a Day blog</span></a> (Staaf became a favorite of mine after <a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/156099/10_mind-blowing_discoveries_this_week"><span class="s1">I wrote about</span></a> her take on a <a href="http://www.science20.com/squid_day/blog/squid_spermatophores_movie-91451"><span class="s1">freak accident of squid insemination</span></a>).</p><p class="p2">Staff also writes about the issue of “the costs of sex” in physical terms and notes that their three hours would be our equivalent of a week. </p><p class="p2">Okay…so that means their 30 minute recovery time would be about 28 of our hours. </p><p class="p2">I now believe in reincarnation and I know what I’m coming back as. </p><p class="p3"><b>2. Free astrobiology class</b></p><p class="p3">Another thing I like about these squids is their polyamorous lifestyle. I’m fond of sharing and I like people who share. </p><p class="p3">A most inspired example of sharing comes this week from the University of Edinburgh which is a member of Stanford University’s Coursera consortium and is offering a free five-week, ten lecture course called <a href="https://www.coursera.org/course/astrobio"><span class="s1">Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life</span></a>, which you can take even if you can’t commute to Scotland. Free.</p><p class="p3">The news comes to us from <a href="http://io9.com/astrobiology/"><span class="s1">Lauren Davis at io9 </span></a>(<span class="s2">via <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/18/searching-for-et-edinburg_n_1683970.html?utm_hp_ref=weird-news"><span class="s3">HuffPo</span></a> via <a href="http://www.themarysue.com/edinburgh-university-free-alien-class/"><span class="s3">The Mary Sue</span></a></span><span class="s3">). S</span>tudents won’t get college credit but  they will learn about what defines life, theories of how life on Earth began, the evolution of life on our planet, what might make other planets habitable, the prospects for life in other parts of the Solar System and how we search for them. </p><p class="p3">Guess who just signed up? </p><p class="p3">As one of the many, many, <i>many</i> people who would love to go back to school but are shock-blocked by the impossible cost, this is a major thrill and if you want to do the same you can click the course title above and/or check out more of <a href="https://www.coursera.org/courses"><span class="s1">Coursera’s classes</span></a> and also <a href="http://education-portal.com/articles/Universities_with_the_Best_Free_Online_Courses.html"><span class="s1">Education Portal’s Guide to the Best Free College Classes</span></a>. Just because <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/09/did-republicans-deliberately-crash-us-economy"><span class="s1">our economy has been so dumb </span></a>doesn’t mean you have to be. </p><p class="p2"><b>3. Slowing down time? Awesome.</b></p><p class="p2">Being moved to reflect on the complexity and beauty of the universe (and a free class) will be an awesome experience, and therefore a potentially therapeutic one.</p><p class="p2">I don’t mean “awesome” in the cavalier way it’s thrown around of late but in the true sense of the word, which means to inspire awe: something that makes your brain shut up for a second because what it’s processing is so unique and spectacular, like the <a href="http://www.lovethesepics.com/2011/03/grand-canyon-proof-that-nature-rocks-35-pics/"><span class="s1">Grand Canyon</span></a> for example. Taking a moment to be awed is great therapy for our pressure-cooker world because it slows down time and makes you feel as though you feel like you have more of it, reports Melanie Rudd, a graduate student at Stanford University.</p><p class="p2">Rudd decided to study awe because not many people had, writes <a href="http://www.livescience.com/21746-awe-expands-sense-of-time.html"><span class="s1">Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience</span></a>, and because being out in nature gave her a break from the time-pressed life of being a grad student (art, music, nature and other people’s achievements tend to inspire awe in people; their own achievements inspire happiness). Participants in one of her tests were induced to feel pressed for time via a word scramble with time-oriented words and then shown a video designed to inspire awe (like waterfalls or astronauts in space) or happiness (like confetti and parades). Subjects who watched the awe videos subsequently felt time was more plentiful. </p><p class="p2">Awe, it seems, gives us perspective, lets us see the big picture instead of the little nattering bits of it that so easily hijack our focus.</p><p class="p2">Awe therapy not only makes intuitive sense, but I have been told by friends that since I’ve been writing this column I’ve been happier: it’s become my job to seek out the awesome on a regular basis. So take a minute to look took at <a href="http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photogalleries/?source=NavPhoGall"><span class="s1">a website</span></a> or <a href="http://www.projectnoah.org/"><span class="s1">two</span></a> that makes time stop for just a second and get some free-and-easy therapy. </p><p class="p2">Drawback: You might only feel like you have time to click <i>after</i> clicking. </p><p class="p2"><b>4. Nice hat</b></p><p class="p2">Even the tiniest bit of awesome can go a long way…for instance after you look at  <a href="http://www.wired.co.uk/news/wired-aperture/2012-07/aperture-20-july"><span class="s1">these spiders with raindrops on their heads</span></a> reflecting colors, plants and other bugs you’ll think about them off and on all day and be amazed all over again: not only are the images so bizarre they seem unreal but it’s the first time a spider has looked cute (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jfer21/6091861763/"><span class="s1">animated</span></a> spiders notwithstanding). They look like living snow globes. The photos appeared on Wired UK’s Aperture column by Nate Lanxon and were taken by photographer Uda Dennie of Batam Island, Indonesia in his garden, which makes it an awesome double-whammy in that the images are fantastic and the fact that someone noticed spiders with raindrop hats is pretty arresting as well.</p><p class="p3"><b>5. Go, go gorrila</b></p><p class="p3">If that was a little awesome this is a big awesome that might not just make you stop and be amazed - it might make you jump up and cheer. Young Rwandan gorillas have learned to find and dismantle the traps set by poachers, protecting their clan from the deadly snares.</p><p class="p3">The first instance of gorillas dismantling traps was witnessed by trackers from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Center who search the forrest every day for traps, reports <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/07/120719-young-gorillas-juvenile-traps-snares-rwanda-science-fossey/"><span class="s1">National Geographic News’ Ker Than.</span></a> The traps are made by tying a noose to a branch and pulling it downward with the rope, holding it in place with a stick or rock so that when the prey moves the rock or brach, concealed with leaves, the trap will spring (it sounds like <a href="http://www.hulu.com/watch/30904"><span class="s1">Homer’s rabbit trap</span></a> only sadly more effective). They’re set for antelope but sometimes apes get caught in the snares; the bigger apes are often able to escape but smaller apes, who can’t, are simply left by the poachers to die.</p><p class="p3">Last week <span class="s2">John Ndayambaje, </span>a tracker saw a trap near the Kuryama gorilla clan and one of the silverbacks - Vubu - grunted, cautioning him to stay back. Soon two juvenile gorillas ran up and, as tourists watched, one broke the tree branch while the other dismantled the noose. They quickly moved on to destroy another trap that the tracker had missed. </p><p class="p3">Just a week before the trap-destroying behavior was seen in these four-year olds, an infant gorilla had died of snare-related wounds. </p><p class="p5"><span class="s4">The <a href="http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/static/categories_criteria_3_1"><span class="s5">endangered mountain gorillas</span></a></span><span class="s5"></span>face "a very high risk of extinction in the wild," the International Fund for Nature says. </p><p class="p5">Though they were excited by the news gorilla experts weren’t surprised by the gorillas intelligence. Veterinarian <a href="http://gorilladoctors.org/about-mgvp/veterinarians.html"><span class="s5">Mike Cranfield</span></a>, executive director of the <a href="http://gorilladoctors.org/"><span class="s5">Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project</span></a>, said "<a href="http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/chimpanzee/"><span class="s5">Chimpanzees</span></a> are always quoted as being the tool users, but I think, when the situation provides itself, gorillas are quite ingenious." </p><p class="p3"><b>6. Frankenjelly</b></p><p class="p3">I’m not surprised either. Apes are our closest relatives and we’re both pretty smart. And if human achievements jack you up as much as ape achievements here’s a pretty major one for you. Researchers at Harvard University and CalTech have made a  bioengineered “jellyfish,” out of silicone and rat heart cells (as you do when you have such things laying around and need a rainy day project….right?) </p><p class="p3">“Medusoid,” as they call their new creature, is not a living thing but it does have a “muscular structure” that closely resembles a jellyfish’s <i>and</i> it can swim freely through water, <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444097904577539081426736516.html"><span class="s1">reports Gautam Naik of the Wall Street Journal.</span></a> Medusoid is a start on scientists getting “really good at making tissue,” bioengineer Dr. Kevin Kit Parker told the WSJ, tissue for patients with damaged hearts, for example. </p><p class="p3">Parker, who had been looking for a model for the human heart, noticed on an aquarium trip that the way a jellyfish propels itself through the water by pumping, like a heart. The team studied jellyfish propulsion, muscle arrangement, body motion and “the fluid dynamics resulting from their swimming motion,” and then created a tiny one centimeter version using silicone. They overlaid rat heart cells and “coaxed them to self-organize so that they matched the [muscle] architecture of a jellyfish precisely," Dr. Parker said.</p><p class="p3">(“What did you do today?”</p><p class="p3">“Coaxed rat heart cells to self-organize to match jellyfish muscle architecture. You?”</p><p class="p3">“Watched Fashion Police.”</p><p class="p3">“Mmm.”)</p><p class="p3">“Medusoid,” propels itself by responding to oscillating electrical salt water currents controlled by researchers, whereas real jellies eat: the nutrients enable it to “activate the muscular contraction.”</p><p class="p3">While the team works to make Medusoid more like a real jelly fish it can already serve as a model for the human heart to test drugs, among other things. </p><p class="p3">"I could put your drug in the jellyfish and tell you if it's going to work," Dr. Parker told the WSJ.</p><p class="p3"><b>7. “What color is that?” </b><b>“Healthy.” </b></p><p class="p3">A few other ailments maybe not have gotten their very own rat-jellyfish chimera mascot but <i>did</i> get their own paint - bug-killing paint, to be exact, may help fend off some insect-transmitted diseases more effectively than insecticide. </p><p class="p3"><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/health/insecticidal-paint-shows-promise-in-curbing-disease.html?_r=2&amp;ref=health"><span class="s1">The New York Times’ Jean Friedman-Rudovsky </span></a>reported on a bug-killing paint that’s being experimented with in the Chaco region of Bolivia where a biting insect called the vinchuna, transmits a parasite that causes “the incurable, often fatal <a href="http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/chagas-disease/overview.html?inline=nyt-classifier"><span class="s1">Chagas disease</span></a>,” which is at world epidemic proportions with 10 million people infected. Seven thousand homes have been painted with Inesfly, a bug-killing paint made of “microcapsules” of pesticide within a water-based paint,” with time-released ingredient that increase its bug-killing ability for longer than insecticide application. In the Chaco region Inesfly has reduced rates of bug infestation from 90% to “nearly zero.”  Because of its small amounts of ingredients released over time, “it is much less toxic than the fumigation on which many countries rely for pest control.”</p><p class="p3">The paint hasn’t been evaluated by the World Health Organization yet but it is being tested in Africa against the breed of mosquitos that carry malaria and proving effective: it “<a href="http://www.pilarmateo.com/images/stories/publicaciones-ok/5.pdf"><span class="s6">had a kill rate of 100 percent for three months</span></a> against mosquito populations. The paint remained 90 percent to 93 percent effective after nine months.” It has also been shown to decrease the population of dengue-transmitting mosquitos in Africa and scorpions and kissing bugs in Mexico. The small Spanish company that makes it, Inesba, is applying for FDA approval  and “hopes to market the paint here as a tool to control household pests like cockroaches or ants.”</p><p class="p3">Bring it ASAP! I just had a cockroach in my house that was big enough to move furniture. Insecticidal paint can’t get to Florida fast enough for me. </p><p class="p3"><b>8. The good kind of inflation</b></p><p class="p3">Since I’m petitioning for Florida to get bug-killing paint I might as well petition for one of these new inflatable heat shields from NASA because it’s 96 degrees in the shade, leading many of you to wonder why I don’t just move. </p><p class="p3">It’s because all my stuff is here.</p><p class="p5"><span class="s4">The inflatable heat shield is actually not some sun umbrella, it’s IRVE-3, the <a href="http://www.space.com/16695-nasa-launches-hypersonic-inflatable-heat-shield.html"><span class="s7">Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment 3</span></a></span>, designed to withstand intense temperatures and hypersonic speeds and which will further enable our ability to explore Mars…including missions with humans. The prototype of the heat shield was packed into a 22-inch nose cone but when unfurled it expands to ten feet. I have jeans that work <i>exactly</i> like that.</p><p class="p5">The entire thing consists of “a cone made up of inflatable rings wrapped in thermal blankets,” and weighs 680 pounds, reports <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2012/0724/Inflatable-heat-shield-could-be-used-to-land-humans-on-Mars-NASA-says"><span class="s1">Denise Chow of Space.com</span></a> (if you click on the link you’ll see it looks like a perfect little mushroom). This week’s tests proved successful : the whole suborbital flight took 20 minutes and the shield proved able to withstand about 1000 degrees, speeds of up to Mach 10 (10 times the speed of sound) and 20 G’s of force (20 times the force of gravity). The shield would give more options for where to land exploratory vehicles, like higher altitudes, or, as NASA’s Neil Cheatwood, IRVE-3 principal investigator at <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/NASA+Langley+Research+Center"><span class="s7">NASA's Langley Research Center</span></a> explained they can “use this technology for larger payloads, such as humans.”</p><p class="p5">Have never been called a “payload.” Have been called worse. Will take it.</p><p class="p5">Neat! Should we order one for <a href="http://www.newser.com/story/150774/shocking-greenland-melt-spotted-by-satellite.html"><span class="s1">Greenland</span></a>? </p><p class="p3"><b>9. Why we are what we are</b></p><p class="p3">So far that’s a really impressive list of scientific findings but one of the most intriguing tasks of science is the brain trying to understand itself.  </p><p class="p3"><a href="http://neurosciencestuff.tumblr.com/post/27906071950/are-these-the-brain-cells-that-give-us-consciousness"><span class="s1">Caroline Williams of New Scientst,</span></a> wrote an amazing neuroscience story this week which focuses not just on why we do what we do but why we are what we are: sentient, intelligent, empathetic creatures. It feels all the more important to read about these highest aspects of our species after the nightmare story of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado wherein the alleged shooter, James Holmes, had, in a horrible irony, <a href="http://www.thestarpress.com/article/20120725/NEWS06/120725005"><span class="s1">once studied neuroscience</span></a>.</p><p class="p7"><span class="s4">The key to “the  </span>rich inner life we call consciousness, including emotions, our sense of self, empathy and our ability to navigate social relationships,” Williams writes, might lie in a 90 year-old discovery of a particular type of brain cell called a VEN - Von Economo neuron - after its discoverer, Constantin von Economo. VENs make up just one percent of the “anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the fronto-insular (FI) cortex,” areas that activate when we need to respond to social cues, “emotions such as love, lust, anger and grief,” when mothers hear crying babies, when we need to respond to pressing events and when we see ourselves in a mirror, “a key component of consciousness.” </p><p class="p7">At first it was hoped that VENs would turn out to be something that made humanity unique but the cells are also found in social creatures with “advanced behavior” like elephants, dolphins and chimps - yet they also have been spotted in giraffes and manatees (fascinating side note: elephants can recognize themselves in mirrors).</p><p class="p7">This is a piece that’s well worth reading in it’s entirety, about how the VENs may have evolved, why they might be related to shared food in our social culture, how their locations might be different in the brains of social and less social creatures.</p><p class="p7">When it feels for a moment like civilization is unraveling, there’s something enormously comforting about peering into the tiny element that might have helped it to start.</p><p class="p3"><b>10. Cheeses is Lord</b></p><p class="p3">And to keep the happy-note theme going: cheese. There’s a good chance it’s way better for you than you thought. </p><p class="p3">Cheese. You already know it improves everything it comes into contact with. What you may not know is in a huge study done in 8 countries and published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition researchers found that “people who ate cheese had a 12% lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes than those who shunned the food altogether,” reports <a href="http://www.medicaldaily.com/news/20120724/11057/cheese-dairy-intake-lower-type-2-diabetes.htm"><span class="s1">Makini Brice of Medical Daily</span></a>. “Mixed dairy intake also was associated with a similarly lower risk of diabetes, and included such fermented products as yogurt and fermented milk (and cheese).”</p><p class="p3">Good enough.  Gimmie the gouda. Hand over that havarti. </p><p class="p3">It’s ironic that a food considered to be fattening is associated with a <i>decreased</i> risk of a disease associated with obesity, but the Telegraph reports that it’s the type of fat that’s improtant. Researchers think it may have something to do with the fermentation process in cheese or, the <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/9422230/Cheese-could-reduce-diabetes-risk.html"><span class="s1">Telegraph</span></a> reports, that “<span class="s8">Although high in saturated fat, it may be rich in types of the fat that could be good for the body.”</span></p><p class="p8">The Telegraph also reports that “the charity Diabetes UK warned against eating more cheese until the results were confirmed in other studies.”</p><p class="p8"><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciayqUMCViY"><span class="s1">Wallace and Gromit</span></a> and I are going to pretend we didn’t read that far down in the article. Cheese!</p><p class="p9"> </p> Thu, 26 Jul 2012 12:51:00 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 681469 at http://www.alternet.org Culture Culture Food News & Politics Personal Health Sex & Relationships Visions squid sex awe therapy 10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week http://www.alternet.org/story/156381/10_mind-blowing_discoveries_this_week <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Some good news: cows get to drink wine and we&#039;re close to eradicating some horrific diseases.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1342713179_shutterstock50591089.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> We’ve talked about this before. And I don’t mean to minimize your troubles. All I’m saying is that whatever problems you’re having this week -- if the miracle of technology is making you <a href="http://charlotte.cbslocal.com/2012/07/17/study-people-who-are-constantly-online-can-develop-mental-disorders/"><span class="s1">a mental case</span></a> or if you were <a href="http://blog.sfgate.com/stew/2012/07/17/man-with-worlds-biggest-penis-stopped-at-sfo-security/"><span class="s1">the embarrassed TSA agent who got the guy with the world’s longest penis in his line</span></a> (I should have that person’s problems), tut tut. At least you don’t have a guinea worm and thankfully soon no one else in the world will either.</p> <p class="p1"> <b>1. The worm has turned</b></p> <p class="p1"> This week saw a lot of encouraging news on the disease-eradication front: the <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/FDA-approves-Truvada-as-HIV-preventive-3711782.php"><span class="s1">FDA approval of Truvada</span></a>, the first HIV preventative drug and the possibility that a peptide in spider venom -- <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120716142657.htm"><span class="s1">specifically that of the Chilean rose tarantula</span></a> -- could thwart the progression of muscular dystrophy. But for a blue-ribbon gross-out factor it’s hard to beat the guinea worm. This creature enters the human system through drinking water that has fleas in it that have guinea worm larvae in their system: “The larvae grow to maturity inside the human body,” reports <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=last-worm-tropical-disease-near-eradication"><span class="s1">Scientific American’s Roxanne Roberts</span></a>. They grow to be up to 3 feet long in there and then escape…put down your coffee or you’ll spit it...<i>through the leg or foot. </i></p> <p class="p1"> Did I lie? Say it with me: “Yes, things are bad but I’m not pulling a 3-foot worm out of my instep.”</p> <p class="p1"> Most cases occur in South Sudan and people who get it try to stem the pain of the exit by putting their feet in water -- and guess what happens? The water causes the process to start all over again. Jesus. </p> <p class="p1"> But through the efforts of the Carter Center and other groups the guinea worm is on its way out…of the world. These groups are providing cloth water filters and larvicide for drinking water and there has been a 99% eradication of the worm, which is kind of a superhero thing to do.</p> <p class="p3"> “We are approaching the demise of the last guinea worm who will ever live on earth,” says former US president Jimmy Carter, namesake of the Carter Center. </p> <p class="p3"> One thing’s for sure. Worms in real life are never, <i>ever</i> as good as they are on <a href="http://animeflavor.com/index.php?q=node/28000"><span class="s1">Futurama.</span></a> Then again, what is? </p> <p class="p3"> <b>2. See how you are</b></p> <p class="p1"> So cures did well this week, but diagnostics not only leapt forward but got a thousand times cooler. We’re about to get glasses that can tell you the health and mood of another person just by looking at them. </p> <p class="p1"> A2I Labs in Boise, Idaho has come up with a pair of glasses called 02AMPS. These "mood ring" glasses, <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/2591-mood-ring-glasses-emotions.html">reports Natalie Wolchover of Life’s Little Mysterie</a> </span>(she always writes about the coolest stuff) will enhance our natural ability to detect colors in a person's skin -- red, yellow, green, blue -- that tell us things about their health like whether their blood is oxygenated, has pooled or drained. It also subconsciously lets us know that person is, say, angry (red) or weak (green). Doctors “cite skin color when making about 15 percent of their diagnoses.” </p> <p class="p1"> Mark Changizi, an evolutionary anthropologist and director of human cognition at 2AI Labs says that parts of the spectrum of color we see in skin are “noise” -- useless information. Get rid of the useless information and you enhance the ability to see useful information.</p> <p class="p1"> The glasses will come in three types -- “vein-finders,” which you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever had a nurse poking at your arm for 20 minutes saying “I can’t find a vein”; “hemo-finders,” which will help EMTs tell where blood has pooled or drained; and “health monitors,” which enhance the contrast between colors in your skin, i.e. red vs. green, yellow vs. blue, giving cues to both health and emotional reactions. </p> <p class="p1"> Medical distributors can already buy them, but they’ll be available in wider markets next year. Finally, when you ask “What’s wrong?” and the other person says, “Nothing,” you’ll know he's lying.</p> <p class="p1"> Drawback: if he also has the glasses he'll know you’re lying too. </p> <p class="p1"> <b>3. “First cybernetic hate crime”</b></p> <p class="p1"> Another pair of high-tech specs caused what <span class="s1"><a href="http://io9.com/5926587/what-may-be-the-worlds-first-cybernetic-hate-crime-unfolds-in-french-mcdonalds/">io9 calls “the world’s first cybernetic hate crime</a>." </span></p> <p class="p1"> University of Toronto professor Steve Mann was allegedly assaulted and kicked out of a McDonald’s in Paris because he was wearing his own “Eyetap Digital Glass” eyewear, which delays images and is meant to help with vision and memory (he’s been wearing them or something like them since the '80s). The device is attached to Mann’s head and can only be removed with tools, so  it was probably pretty uncomfortable when one of the employees allegedly pulled at the Eyetap to get it off him. It’s actually kinda steampunk as you can see in this <a href="http://www.technolog.msnbc.msn.com/technology/technolog/cyborg-steve-mann-details-alleged-mcdonalds-assault-889595"><span class="s1">story by Avram Piltch on MSNBC.com</span></a>.</p> <p class="p1"> Initially when Mann came into the McDonalds with his family he was told there were no cameras allowed but he produced a doctor’s note stating that he needs the device and was allowed in with it. Later three employees tried to take the device, crumpled and destroyed his various documents and threw him out. Ironically, though the device isn’t meant to store images, once it was broken it did, so the incident was accidentally recorded. You can see pics on Mann’s <a href="http://eyetap.blogspot.com/2012/07/physical-assault-by-mcdonalds-for.html"><span class="s1">blog post</span></a>. </p> <p class="p1"> The idea of cyborg discrimination is a pretty crazy one, considering that most of us might as well have our phones welded to our hands. </p> <p class="p1"> And no one ever told us what we really want to know: what’s going on in that McDonald’s that they don’t allow cameras? Is it a nudist McDonalds? Anyone wanna McFlurry?</p> <p class="p1"> <b>4. The cow says “Where the hell is that sommelier?”</b></p> <p class="p1"> It’s certainly an odd story and especially odd that it happened in France, which I think of as too sophisticated for that sort of nonsense. Even their cows have better taste in spirits than many people do.</p> <p class="p1"> At least the cows of Saint-Geniès des Mourgues do and supposedly they taste all the better for it. The most literal pairing of wine and beef in this region has resulted in beef with a luxurious texture that caramelizes as you cook it, reports <a href="http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/07/14/loaded-livestock-french-farmers-serve-cows-two-bottles-of-wine-per-day/"><span class="s1">Nick Carbone of Time Magazine.</span></a> After reading studies that keeping animals happy makes their meat better, winemaker Jean-Charles Tastavy partnered with farmer Claude Chaballier, who tried feeding some of his cows first the pomace -- remains of pressed grapes -- and then real, locally produced wine from Saint-Geniès des Mourgues. The cows “appreciated the menu and ate with enjoyment,” Tastavy said.</p> <p class="p1"> Now they get up to two bottles a day, the cow equivalent of two or three glasses a human would drink.</p> <p class="p1"> The cost of feeding the cows tripled so this is a pricey steak. At about $122 for 2.2 pounds it should taste like heaven and come with a massage. I mean, at that price, who could afford wine with a meal? Luckily it’s already infused.</p> <p class="p1"> <b>5. Present tense</b></p> <p class="p1"> I’m lucky that a little wine is all I need to help me relax. Such was not always the case. Ten years ago I went to see a doctor I didn’t know who, after a visit of about 15 minutes, put me on an anti-anxiety drug that was worse than any anxiety I’d ever had. I decided no meds for me.</p> <p class="p1"> Ten years later I went through a bout of illness, could not get better and test after test turned up negative. Finally my doctor put me on a different depression/anxiety drug and I was better within the week. I went off it after a year and have been fine since.</p> <p class="p1"> So I’ve been on both sides of Crazy Street -- the meds-suck side and the meds-are-brilliant side. </p> <p class="p1"> It makes it a lot easier to understand the concern and controversy Sharon Begley of Reuters writes about in her story, <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48179749/ns/health-mental_health/%23.UAOWXJjK0UV"><span class="s1">“In the age of anxiety are we all mentally ill?”</span></a> in which she reports that there has been an increase of more than 1,200% in reported anxiety disorders in America since 1980.</p> <p class="p1"> The story explores the question of whether the increase is due to better diagnosis or whether we are now casting normal anxiety as a mental illness. Those who believe the latter say that the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, doesn’t recognize that some anxiety is normal and adaptive and that “<span class="s3">the DSM's description of anxiety is more about enforcing social norms than medicine.”</span> A new edition, slated to come out next May, would go further to “lower the threshold for identifying anxiety.” <span class="Apple-tab-span"></span></p> <p class="p1"> At a guess the truth is somewhere in between. It is very easy to prescribe and to accept a label and a drug, but it’s also extremely easy to believe that we’re more stressed than our ancestors, who had their share of worries but also had a natural pace of life, something the <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.psmag.com/health/manic-nation-dr-peter-whybrow-says-were-addicted-stress-42695/?utm_source=Newsletter221&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_content=0717&amp;utm_campaign=newsletters">Pacific Standard’s Mary Fischer explores in her interview with UCLA’s Dr. Peter Whybrow</a>, </span>who calls the computer “electronic cocaine,” and explains the chemical stress reactions it can put us under. </p> <p class="p4"> <span class="s2">“</span>Small wonder then that, <a href="http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1ANYANX_ADULT.shtml"><span class="s4">according to the National Institute of Mental Health</span></a>, anxiety is now the nation’s most common psychiatric complaint, affecting some 40 million people,” Fischer writes. </p> <p class="p4"> Sure, our ancestors had to sleep outdoors and walk everywhere. But they didn’t have to worry about how many “Likes” their latest upload got. It’s a tough world out there these days. </p> <p class="p1"> <b>6. Garbage-seeking drone</b></p> <p class="p1"> Sounds like someone you know with bad taste in men, doesn’t it? Actually, the garbage-seeking drone is a pretty neat invention and a reminder that technology is like food and wine -- a little of the right stuff and it makes the world a way better place. </p> <p class="p1"> This aquatic drone is doing its bit for the world by locating and hoovering up ocean garbage. <a href="http://www.tgdaily.com/sustainability-features/64705-garbage-eating-drone-destroys-ocean-pollution"><span class="s1">Beth Buczynski of TG Daily</span></a> says the undersea dustbuster was made by Eli Ahovi and his classmates at the French International Design School in response to the <a href="http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/translating-uncle-sam/stories/what-is-the-great-pacific-ocean-garbage-patch"><span class="s1">Pacific Garbage Patch</span></a> and its buddies. </p> <p class="p1"> It’s kind of like <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FS8CjmEeFAI&amp;feature=related">Wall-E</a> </span>without the shaping and stacking. It also reminds me of the <a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/155600/10_amazing_things_youll_want_to_know_about_this_week?page=5"><span class="s1">robot fish</span></a> we learned about a while back and, like them, has an “irritating” signal meant to repel living things so they won’t get sucked into the net, only trash will. So we’ll have a bunch of fish with temporary concert hearing but the world’s largest eco-system will be all the cleaner for it. </p> <p class="p1"> <b>7. Martian gardens</b></p> <p class="p1"> Sounds like something you’d get to buy in a geek monopoly game, right? But it’s another example of tech being put to good use. In its spare time, between <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/18/alien-planet-ucf-101-nasa-telescope-lava_n_1683793.html"><span class="s1">discovering exoplanets</span></a> and <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.sacbee.com/2012/07/17/4637661/nasa-conducts-mission-simulations.html">finding better ways to explore the moon</a>, </span>NASA has been planning one long, weird dinner party. </p> <p class="p1"> In fact, NASA has to plan meals for astronauts going to Mars for the 24 months it takes to get there, stay and return, <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48210630/ns/technology_and_science-space/%23.UAcgAJjK0UU"><span class="s1">writes Ramit Plushnick-Mast of MSNBC</span></a>. It’s just too darn far to send a supply vehicle every time they run out of Tang. </p> <p class="p1"> There is a little gravity on Mars, “allowing NASA to consider significant changes to the current space menu,” that feeds astronauts going to the space station a diet of bland, freeze-dried foods that stay good for two years. NASA senior research scientist Maya Cooper says the astronauts may even have a Martian garden -- not food grown in Martian soil, but in a hydroponic solution of mineral-laced water. </p> <p class="p4"> "That menu is favorable because it allows the astronauts to actually have live plants that are growing, you have optimum nutrient delivery with fresh fruits and vegetables,” Cooper said. </p> <p class="p4"> Plus it will embarrass us all into eating better because if they can go to <i>Mars</i> and still take the time to cut up carrots we have no excuse not to do the same.</p> <p class="p4"> By the way, beef and cheese don't have a long enough shelf-life so all the food will be vegetarian.</p> <p class="p4"> But wait…surely that wine-infused beef will hold up. Isn’t alcohol a preservative? </p> <p class="p4"> It better be. That’s my entire anti-aging plan.</p> <p class="p4"> <b>8. Puppy love</b></p> <p class="p1"> If you want to make every hour Happy Hour it’s simple: get a pet. </p> <p class="p1"> Numerous studies have shown that our emotional and physical health are improved by our animal roommates. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/health-benefits-pets-respiratory-infection-healthier-kids_n_1659424.html"><span class="s1">Amanda L. Chan of the Huffington Post</span></a> reports on a study on 397 kids in Finland which showed that having a pet in the house in early life helps boost kids’ immune systems. Children who lived with a dog in the house in their first year had 31% fewer respiratory infections and 44% fewer ear infections than kids in no-dog households and needed fewer antibiotics.</p> <p class="p1"> <em>Plus</em> a slideshow with the story gives numerous links to HuffPo and other stories detailing studies about the health benefits of pets, including how they raise our oxytocin levels which give us a sense of well-being, help our hearts adapt to situations like stress, and stabilize the blood pressure of people already on <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.medicinenet.com/ace_inhibitors/article.htm">ACE inhibitors</a>. Also, l</span>iving with a cat “is linked with a 40 percent lower risk of <a href="http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20080221/owning-a-cat-good-for-the-heart"><span class="s1">death after a heart attack</span></a> and a 30 percent lower risk of dying from other heart problems, like heart failure, heart disease and stroke, Web MD reported.” </p> <p class="p1"> Put simply: better living through cuddling.</p> <p class="p1"> <b>9. What did he call me?</b></p> <p class="p1"> It’s probably not quite so healthy for your pet to be a chimpanzee, though. Chimps are not meant to be pets, as <a href="http://www.janegoodall.org/chimp-central-pets"><span class="s1">Jane Goodall</span></a> tells us and besides, you might not want a pet that could learn to give you the finger.</p> <p class="p1"> Dr. Anna Roberts from Stirling University in the UK spent months in Uganda analyzing chimpanzee hand gestures and has found they use hand gestures much the same way we do -- they clap when they’re excited, wave their arms to drive others away, beckon them in a similar fashion and “<span class="s3">at least a third of the chimps' gestures were similar to those of humans and meant broadly the same thing,” writes <a href="http://io9.com/monkey-news/"><span class="s2">Alasdair Wilkins in io9</span></a></span>. Dr. Roberts identified 20 to 40 gestures that convey complex things like nursing, fighting and sex. </p> <p class="p1"> Roberts says, “We now know that these gestures must have been in the repertoire of our common ancestor and might have been the starting point for language evolution. Manual gesture in chimpanzees is controlled by the same brain structures as speech in the human brain." That common ancestor lived around six million years ago.</p> <p class="p1"> It’s not just the gestures, though; it’s the chimps ability, like ours, to infer what the other guy is trying to say with those gestures, a “mind-reading” ability we both have to figure out what someone means or wants. If chimps learn “the precise structure of their gestures from others,” then the cognitive skills required for language evolution are already present in our closest living relatives, Dr. Roberts says. </p> <p class="p1"> And neither <a href="http://www.stir.ac.uk/2012/wild-chimpanzee-gestures/"><span class="s1">the report from Stirling</span></a> nor <a href="http://io9.com/monkey-news/"><span class="s1">Alasdair Wilkins’s io9 story</span></a> told us what we all want to know: what are the gestures for sex? Do they eat bananas really slowly while staring one another in the eye?</p> <p class="p1"> Foxy. </p> <p class="p1"> Interestingly, a couple of years ago <a href="http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/02/04/weird-animal-news-monkeys/"><span class="s1">NatGeo reported</span></a> that mandrills in a British zoo developed a gesture that looks like it means “Everybody, piss off,” but which NatGeo politely describes as a “Do not disturb” sign. After you see it you won’t be able to help counting how many times you do it in a day. </p> <p class="p1"> <b>10. You and the oobleck</b></p> <p class="p1"> There are some days when we all feel like those mandrills, when we just want to get away from everybody, and if we had too, we would walk across water to do it. And actually, it wouldn’t be that hard if the water had a little corn starch in it. </p> <p class="p1"> This week, <a href="http://news.bioscholar.com/2012/07/messy-experiment-helps-solve-physics-mystery-of-cornstarch.html"><span class="s1">Bioscholar reports</span></a>, researchers at the University of Chicago have figured out the problem of why it is that water with cornstarch, known as oobleck, behaves the way it does, including allowing adult humans to walk across without sinking if they do so quickly. </p> <p class="p1"> If oobleck sounds familiar it’s because of the Dr. Seuss book <em><span class="s1"><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Bartholomew-Oobleck-Dr-Seuss/dp/0833542125">Bartholemew and the Oobleck</a> </span></em>in which mystic magicians make a new, gooey substance fall from the sky. And oobleck is pretty gooey because it’s a <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/Science-Stories/Strange-Liquids/Non-Newtonian-fluids">non-Newtonian liquid</a> that </span>sometimes acts like a solid and can become either more resistant and tougher (like cream, when you whip it into whipped cream) or more liquid-y (like ketchup, when you bang the bottle to get it out) as pressure is applied to it. In the case of oobleck -- and the researchers suspected in other suspensions (“liquids laden with micron-sized particles") -- it becomes resistant enough that it holds people up, but for a long time no one knew why.</p> <p class="p3"> <span class="s2">The Chicago researchers found that as pressure is applied to the suspension it builds up a mass in the suspension -- Scott </span>Waitukaitis says it works like a snow plow: push a shovel into loose snow and a mass of snow “grows out in front of the shovel which makes it harder for me to push.” D<span class="s2">riving a rod into the corn starch “</span>initiated a shock-like, moving front that starts directly beneath the impacting object and then grows downward, transforming the initially liquid suspension into a temporarily jammed state.</p> <p class="p3"> “As the front of this jammed region moves forward, it transforms the liquid region directly ahead of it.”</p> <p class="p3"> So it “grows its own solid as it propagates,” researcher Heinrich Jaegger said.</p> <p class="p1"> <span class="s5">And I’m thrilled to report that once again the only reason I knew jack about non-Newtonian liquids is because <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4K8r9OUIBM"><span class="s2">QI took the time to explain why Jesus could, indeed, have walked on custard</span></a></span>. British TV. Is there nothing it can’t do?</p> <p class="p1"> BONUS: <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.alternet.org/environment/155891/10_new_mind-blowing_discoveries/?page=1">Last month</a> </span>we talked about Paul Gaylord, who contracted the black plague after getting bitten by a stray cat who was choking on a mouse Gaylord tried to take away, as the <a href="http://www.newser.com/story/150350/oregon-man-hit-with-plague-could-lose-fingers.html"><span class="s1">AP via Newser reports</span></a>. Gaylord is out of intensive care and if you click the link you can see a picture (warning: it’s pretty gruesome): “One look at Paul Gaylord's hands shows why the plague is referred to as Black Death," the AP says. Doctors hope to be able to save part of his fingers. </p> <p class="p1"> So in addition to guinea worms, you probably don’t have the plague. Go now and think of how bad things aren’t. </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><a href="mailto:lizlangley@aol.com">Liz Langley</a> is a freelance writer in Orlando, FL. </div></div></div> Fri, 20 Jul 2012 18:00:01 -0700 Liz Langley, AlterNet 671765 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Visions Environment research science discovery