Health & Science

Ocean life, fathomed; The $#*! kids say today; Sleep the fat away; A peek into the bedroom

Ocean life, fathomed

The world’s seas are brimming with life to an extent previously unimagined. That’s the most important finding of the now-completed Census of Marine Life, a 10-year effort by thousands of scientists that has documented 250,000 species, including such strange creatures as 600-year-old tube worms; herring that swim in densely packed formations as large as Manhattan; a crab with extra-long, furry claws; and a jellyfish that bears a striking resemblance to Darth Vader’s helmet. “The most surprising thing was beauty,” Rockefeller University environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel tells The New York Times. “Our eyes pumped out of our heads in front of this beauty.’’ The census identified 6,000 species never before seen, and affirmed that as much as 90 percent of ocean life by weight consists of tiny, floating microbes. The census also mapped out the known unknowns: It estimated there are at least another 750,000 nonmicrobial species to be discovered, ranging from fronds to corals to worms to fish. (Fish only account for some 16,764 known species.) Despite the exhaustive effort by 2,700 marine scientists, researchers noted that at least 20 percent of the ocean’s volume, far beneath the waves, has yet to be explored or studied.

The $#*! kids say today

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Hold your ears for this news: Kids are swearing more often, and at earlier ages, than ever before, says “By the time kids go to school now, they’re saying all the words that we try to protect them from on television,’’ says Timothy Jay, a psychologist and swearing scholar at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Jay’s research suggests that kids mostly learn the habit from the adults around them: Nearly two out of three adults who prohibit their kids from swearing indulge in swearing themselves. (Though the English language offers more than 70 profane options, 80 percent of swearing involves just 10 words, including “hell,” “damn,” and the “S’’ and “F’’ words.) Swearing typically peaks in the teenage years, but the peak seems to be shifting younger, and the basic habit “takes off between 3 and 4,” Jay says. “That doesn’t mean they know what adults know, but they do repeat the words they hear.’’

Sleep the fat away

Sleeping in might not seem like the best way to lose weight—but a lack of sleep certainly won’t help, says Scientific American. In a recent study, researchers at the University of Chicago found that people on a diet lost half as much fat if they were getting only about five hours of sleep a night as dieters who got seven and a half hours. The 20 dieters lost the same amount of weight—about 6 pounds—under both conditions. The difference was the kind of pounds that were shed: Those with a full night’s sleep lost 50 percent of their weight in the form of fat. (The rest was “non­target” weight like water and muscle mass.) The sleep-deprived, however, lost barely a quarter of their weight as fat, and reported feeling hungry all the time. Blood tests revealed that a lack of sleep elevates levels of ghrelin, a hormone that controls hunger. “If your goal is to lose fat,” says researcher Plamen Penev, “skipping sleep is like poking sticks in your bicycle wheels.”

A peek into the bedroom

Americans have undergone a second sexual revolution over the past two decades, embracing a much wider variety of activities in the bedroom, a new survey has found. The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, conducted by researchers at Indiana University, interviewed nearly 6,000 people. The responses revealed that, while vaginal intercourse is still the main event, “the sexual repertoire of Americans has sort of expanded,” Michael Reece, lead author and the director of Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion, tells the Los Angeles Times. Acts that society once frowned on, such as oral sex and masturbation, are now practiced by large majorities. Indeed, close to 90 percent of men and women under 30 report having given and received oral sex. About 40 percent of women under age 25 said they’d engaged in anal sex. Roughly 7 percent of men and women identified themselves as “other than heterosexual.” But twice that percentage said they had experimented with homosexuality at some point. “It’s nice to have this validation of just how much the sexual repertoire is changing,’’ said Reece. “Many people struggle with the conceptualization of what a normal sex life looks like.’’

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