Pornography from prehistory
Men never change. The latest proof of this truism comes courtesy of an ivory sculpture that may be the oldest piece of art ever discovered—an erotic sculpture of a voluptuous woman from 35,000 years ago. The small ivory sculpture dates to an era in which humans first began settling in Europe, and depicts a woman with giant breasts, open legs, and a detailed vulva. “It’s sexually exaggerated to the point of being pornographic,” says British anthropologist Paul Mellars. “There was all this sexual symbolism bubbling up in that period. They were sex-mad.” Sculpted from ivory taken from a woolly mammoth, the 2-inch-tall carving has a knob instead of a head, leading scientists to think that it could have served as a pendant on a necklace—perhaps as a fertility symbol. Archaeologist Nicholas Conard, who discovered the sculpture in a German cave, believes that it proves that early humans had the intelligence to think abstractly and create symbolic art—that “cavemen” had brains like modern humans’. “We’re dealing with people like you and me,” Conard tells New Scientist. When he showed the erotic carving to a male colleague, he says, “his response was, ‘Nothing’s changed in 40,000 years.’”
When vitamins backfire
If you exercise for fitness and gobble vitamin pills, you might want to reconsider the second part of that health regimen. A new study has found that taking vitamins inhibits the beneficial bodily changes that come with strenuous workouts. When we exercise, our muscle cells burn sugar, releasing reactive oxygen compounds—oxidants—that cause cell damage. The body reacts to this damage by strengthening its defenses against cellular damage and becoming more metabolically efficient. Researchers in Boston and Germany found that when young, male exercisers took moderate amounts of vitamins C and E, the vitamins shut down the body’s natural defenses against cellular damage. As a result, they didn’t gain one of exercise’s key benefits. “If you exercise to promote health, you shouldn’t take large amounts of antioxidants,” study author Dr. Michael Ristow tells The New York Times. He and other researchers recommend instead that people get their antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, which provide more moderate doses of vitamins and also contain natural micronutrients that help keep the body in balance.
Why the baby’s name is Emma
Emma and Jacob are America’s top baby names at the moment, with most parents looking to pick unusual, “old-fashioned” names for their kids. But naming specialist Laura Wattenberg tells Wired.com that whether they realize it or not, modern parents seeking unusual names are heavily influenced by the naming fashions of the times. A century ago, parents were content to pick from among the most popular names, like William or Peter or Donna or Sally. In this more narcissistic age, parents see naming as an expression of their own creativity and taste. Still, moms and dads tend to choose names that sound similar to ones that are already popular, in what naming specialists call “the ratchet effect.” Take Emma, for instance. Emma supplanted Emily, a similar name, for the No. 1 spot this year. Without realizing it, parents who’d wanted a less common name than Emily wound up choosing a name with a similar sound, and a comforting familiarity. Most parents wind up choosing names that are variations on phonetic schemes that happen to be fashionable today—for girls, Ava, Emma, Ella, Bella. “What feels like your own personal taste, it’s everybody’s taste,” Wattenberg says. “It’s a no-win situation—if you pick a name you like, probably everybody else will like it too.”
Daydreaming is good for you
Daydreaming is often viewed as a sign of laziness or a lack of seriousness, but a new study says that’s a bad rap. Using a magnetic resonance imaging machine to study brain activity, University of British Columbia neuroscientists found that when a person begins daydreaming, there’s a lot of activity in regions of gray matter dedicated to high-level thought and complex problem-solving. “People assume that when the mind wanders away it just gets turned off,” researcher Kalina Christoff tells LiveScience.com. “But we show the opposite, that when it wanders, it turns on.” The average person spends as much as a third of his or her waking hours in reverie. During that time, we may not be paying attention to the meeting or class we’re in, she says. “But your mind may be taking that time to address more important questions in your life, such as advancing your career or personal relationships.”
Emotional sophistication is sexy
“Emotional intelligence,” the ability to perceive and understand your feelings and the feelings of people around you, has been shown to be very useful in life. For women, says the London Times, “EQ” has an additional benefit—it leads to more orgasms. When British researchers tested more than 2,000 women, they found those with a high EQ reported that they usually climaxed during sex. Those with low EQs were much more likely to have problems in the bedroom. Researchers said that an emotionally sophisticated woman more easily communicates her needs to her partner, and is better able to integrate sexual stimulation and mental fantasy in a way that helps her to reach orgasm.