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10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week

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.
 
 
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1. Eight arms to hold you tight

Would you be okay with a shorter life span in exchange for an exhausting, amazing, knock-down, drag-out sex life?

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. Paul Harper of the New Zealand Herald News 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.

Well, according to How Stuff Works.com “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 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. 

You can see the adorable dumplings on the Danna Staaf’s Squid a Day blog (Staaf became a favorite of mine after I wrote about her take on a freak accident of squid insemination ).

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. 

Okay…so that means their 30 minute recovery time would be about 28 of our hours. 

I now believe in reincarnation and I know what I’m coming back as. 

2. Free astrobiology class

Another thing I like about these squids is their polyamorous lifestyle. I’m fond of sharing and I like people who share. 

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 Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life , which you can take even if you can’t commute to Scotland. Free.

The news comes to us from Lauren Davis at io9 (via HuffPo via The Mary Sue ). S 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. 

Guess who just signed up? 

As one of the many, many, many 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 Coursera’s classes and also Education Portal’s Guide to the Best Free College Classes . Just because our economy has been so dumb doesn’t mean you have to be. 

3. Slowing down time? Awesome.

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.

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  Grand Canyon 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.

 
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