Health & Science

How teens’ texts lead to unsafe sex; What wedding jitters portend; Orca helicopter moms; Earth’s debt to Jupiter

How teens’ texts lead to unsafe sex

Teenagers who engage in “sexting”—sending sexually explicit texts—are far more likely to begin having intercourse at an early age and engage in other risky behavior, a new study has found. The study of 1,800 Los Angeles high school students shows that one in seven has sent a “sext” message, and that those who have are seven times more likely to be sexually active. Teens who sext—especially girls— are also more likely to have unprotected sex, sleep with multiple partners, and use drugs or alcohol before having intercourse. “What we really wanted to know is, is there a link between sexting and taking risks with your body? And the answer is a pretty resounding ‘yes,’” study author Eric Rice, a researcher at the University of Southern California, tells Reuters.com. The fact that some teen girls have suffered humiliation when ex-boyfriends widely distributed photos of them naked doesn’t seem to be registering. “There is an emerging sense of normalcy around sexting behavior,” Rice says. Some 54 percent of teens say they have a friend who sexts, which makes them 17 times more likely to try it themselves. “If their friends do it,” Rice says, “they’re going to do it.”

What wedding jitters portend

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Brides-to-be who feel gnawing doubts about getting married should probably cancel the ceremony. A new study that followed 232 couples for four years after their weddings found that brides who admitted worrying that they were making a mistake had a high divorce rate of 19 percent in that short time, compared with just 8 percent for those who didn’t. Cold feet were more commonplace for men, and less predictive of future divorce. About 40 percent of women reported nagging doubts before their weddings. “People think everybody has premarital doubts and you don’t have to worry about them,” study author Justin Lavner tells LiveScience.com. But such worries are “not benign,” he says. If you have cold feet but think your “doubts will go away when you have a mortgage and two kids,” study co-author Thomas Bradbury says, “don’t count on that.”

Orca helicopter moms

Male orcas are among the marine world’s most effective killers, but at heart, they’re mama’s boys. A 36-year study of about 600 orcas found that adult males do better when their aging mothers take care of them: Those whose mothers die are 14 times more likely to perish within the following year than orcas whose mothers are still alive. Researchers aren’t sure how orca moms help their sons survive, though they suspect they aid them in hunting or provide “support during aggressive interactions” with other whales, study author Darren Croft, a researcher at the University of Exeter in the U.K., tells BBCNews.com. Female orcas, who raise children in pods of other females, don’t get as much help from their moms. Orca females hit menopause around age 40 but can live to 90, making orcas one of only a few species—including humans—whose female members live long past their reproductive years. Scientists think the long life spans in those species evolved because mothers who stick around provide valuable help to their adult offspring, thus increasing the chance they’ll pass on their genes.

Earth’s debt to Jupiter

The massive planet Jupiter serves as a cosmic sentinel, sucking in comets and asteroids that might otherwise make catastrophic direct strikes on Earth, new research indicates. Amateur astronomers recently caught Jupiter in the act, spotting a bright flash on the planet’s surface that was probably an asteroid striking the gas giant. “Jupiter has been taking hits like this for a long time,” astronomer Franck Marchis tells New Scientist. Most of those strikes have not been spotted, because professional astronomers usually train their large, expensive telescopes on stars, galaxies, and more distant objects, rather than on planets. But as amateur telescopes get more sophisticated, Jupiter’s protective role has become clearer; four asteroid strikes have been observed in just the past three years. The strikes suggest that Jupiter acts as “a big gravitational vacuum cleaner” for asteroids and comets that would otherwise continue on a collision course with our planet, says NASA scientist Glenn Orton. Experts say Jupiter may sustain an asteroid impact as often as once a week. Earth, by comparison, can expect a mass-extinction-causing asteroid to strike just once every 100 million years. The last such strike, which caused the demise of the dinosaurs as the planet’s dominant species, came 65 million years ago.

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