The Week: Most Recent Science Posts recent posts.en-usMon, 15 Sep 2014 09:25:00 -0400http://theweek.com Recent Science Posts from THE WEEKMon, 15 Sep 2014 09:25:00 -0400Is back pain ruining your sex life?<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Sex and lower back pain might be the perfect recipe for a screwball comedy, but both the pain and the fear of exacerbating it are very real downers for a couple's sex life. Take heart, though: A new guide to sexual positions could help improve the mood.</p><p>Somewhere around four in five people will experience serious back pain at least once in their lifetimes, and a third or more of those report that pain affects their sex lives, says Natalie Sidorkewitz, a doctoral student at the University of Waterloo's Spine Biomechanics Laboratory and lead author of a new study that takes a look at how men's...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Nathan CollinsMon, 15 Sep 2014 09:25:00 -04005 animals that eat brains<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p><strong>1. Lumholtz' tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus Lumoltzi)</strong></p><p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p><p>Adorable though they may be, these marsupials have been known to add a dash of protein to their predominantly herbivorous diets by horking down the occasional bird brain. Unconcerned with waste management, tree kangaroos generally discard the rest of the corpse after consuming the gray matter.</p><p>(<strong><strong><span class="il">More</span> from <em><span class="il">Mental</span> <span class="il">Floss</span></em>: </strong></strong>The stories behind 10 Johnny Cash songs)</p><p><strong>2. Great tit (Parus Major)</strong></p><p><object id="flashObj" width="560" height="315" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" data="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"><param name="flashVars" value="videoId=37869012001&amp;playerID=2227271001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAADqBmN8~,Yo4S_rZKGX0rYg6XsV7i3F9IB8jNBoiY&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" /><param name="base" value="" /><param name="seamlesstabbing" value="false" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="swLiveConnect" value="true" /><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always" /><param name="src" value="" /><param name="flashvars" value="videoId=37869012001&amp;playerID=2227271001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAADqBmN8~,Yo4S_rZKGX0rYg6XsV7i3F9IB8jNBoiY&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" /><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true" /><param name="swliveconnect" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><param name="pluginspage" value="" /></object></p><p>The great tit's powerful beak is an excellent nut-smashing tool. It also doubles as a handy-dandy bat-skull-crusher. Seeds and insects are the favored cuisine...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Mark ManciniSun, 14 Sep 2014 09:00:00 -0400Is there really such a thing as a 'morning person'?<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Benjamin Franklin once said, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." But in Franklin&rsquo;s time most people slept in an unconsolidated fashion: They went to "first sleep" shortly after the sun went down, and woke four or five hours later for a few hours of activity before returning to "second sleep." Franklin himself liked to use the time between sleeps one and two to read naked in a chair.</p><p>Industrialization and electric lighting put the unconsolidated sleep pattern to rest, so to speak, and today most adults in the U.S. are expected to work from mid-morning...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Clare Smith MarashThu, 11 Sep 2014 17:19:00 -0400What I learned from hanging out with lemurs<img src="" /></P><p>Ardrey the aye-aye was showing signs of pregnancy. That means nest-building, the presence of a sperm plug, or simply not womping on any nearby males. Aye-ayes are lemurs, after all, and lemurs tend to be female dominant &mdash; which means male lemurs spend a lot of the day trying not to get the crap kicked out of them.</p><p>Because Ardrey is one of just 50 aye-ayes in the entire world living in captivity, her handlers at the Duke Lemur Center were anxious to give her a prenatal exam. Aye-ayes are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and sustaining a captive...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/jason-bittel" ><span class="byline">Jason Bittel</span></a>Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:05:00 -0400Here's a big problem: Most surgical research ignores women<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>The push to encourage women to enter STEM fields has become so ubiquitous that there are op-eds written seemingly every week, a dedicated page on the White House website, and even a line of interactive dolls. A lesser-known gender discrepancy in science, however, is the lack of female research subjects. Despite a 1993 law requiring women and minorities to be included as subjects in clinical research funded by the National Institutes of Health, women continue to be under-represented.</p><p>Of course, clinical trials (testing medical interventions on human subjects) are only a small subset of medical...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Bettina ChangThu, 11 Sep 2014 08:32:00 -0400Why our molecular makeup can't explain who we are<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Can the behavior of molecules and cells explain human behavior? The question of how the social becomes biological is, in one sense, about linking social effects with biological causes. Those causes are now more accessible than ever, thanks to new tools that researchers use to get under the hood in biology. But are we really connecting cause with effect? A close look at this research reveals a giant gap in our understanding of the relationship between molecular and human behavior. It's a gap that we will rarely bridge.</p><p>At first glance, you would think we have ample reason to be optimistic. For...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Michael WhiteSun, 07 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0400Meet Hydra, the shape-shifting Dr. Manhattan of the animal kingdom<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>The Conversation<br /></p><p>In the comic series <em>Watchmen</em>, physicist Jon Osterman is blown apart in a science experiment gone awry. But his "consciousness" is able to pull his body back together atom by atom, becoming the radiating, blue-skinned Dr. Manhattan. It took him months to reform, and in that time I wonder if he learned that trick from a tiny pond animal. For few creatures in fiction, and even fewer in real life, are capable of surviving being ripped to bits. But for hydras, it is an everyday affair.</p><p>Hydras are tiny freshwater animals, with column-shaped bodies ringed at the top with tentacles around a mouth...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Rebecca HelmTue, 02 Sep 2014 14:30:00 -0400The next pandemic<img src="" /></P><p class="p1"><strong> How likely is a pandemic?<br /></strong>Epidemiologists believe we're statistically overdue for a global viral outbreak, which occurs every generation or so. This year's Ebola crisis is probably just a dress rehearsal: Though the virus has killed at least 1,420 people in Africa in the last five months, Ebola is transmitted only through intimate contact with bodily fluids and doesn't have the global reach of a true pandemic, such as Spanish influenza in 1918. Humanity had no prior exposure or immunity to the Spanish flu, which is believed to have incubated in birds and pigs. So it spread like wildfire, infecting...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffSat, 30 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0400How snake venom could help fight cancer<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Generally, most of us try to get through life without having to cross paths with a venomous animal. But the dangerous substances in a snake's bite or a scorpion's sting may actually have value: In recent years, scientists have begun to investigate the disease-fighting properties of venom.</p><p>"Cancer [treatment] is an emerging area in venom research," says Mand&euml; Holford, a biochemist at the City University of New York's Hunter College. Her research subjects are venomous marine snails, which she describes as "walking drug factories," due to the useful medicinal compounds in their venom.</p><p>There...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Eli ChenMon, 25 Aug 2014 09:30:00 -0400The mystery of Britain's alien big cats<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>In 1983, a farmer in South Molton, a small town in the southern English county of Devon, reported a startling loss in livestock: 100 sheep had been killed, apparently violently, over a period of three months. Their throats had been slashed across. For many, the slaughter confirmed the area's vague but persistent legend, sighted since the early 1970s, of a large, possibly phantom cat. Named for the hilly moorland it was said to roam, they called it the "Beast of Exmoor."</p><p>The public reacted swiftly. The <em>Daily Express </em>offered the equivalent of a $1,600 reward for video footage of the Beast. More...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Katie HeaneyMon, 25 Aug 2014 07:41:00 -0400