Clowns can cause pregnancy, learning gets you high and the Big Apple is sweeter than you thought.

Pro-Jester One
A woman attempting in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is unlikely to conceive. But when performance is dismal, doctors know how to save the show: Send in the clowns! In a recent Israeli study, women undergoing clown therapy were 75% more likely to conceive through IVF than women whose lives lacked big red noses and overcrowded cars. Of the 93 women entertained by a professional clown for 10 to 15 minutes, 33 became pregnant. The study’s results appeared in the greater context of research showing that high levels of stress can prevent women from ovulating. Yes, apparently 15 minutes of personal attention from Bozo is a way of reducing stress. For all the women who might disagree with this assumption, perhaps clown time could be an effective new form of birth control. Warning: For the love of all that is good, don’t actually try using a clown as a contraceptive.
(source: the Scotsman)

Information Junkie
D.A.R.E. bigwigs, here’s an idea for your next commercial: A high school freshman is cornered by an older boy who says, “I’ve got something you’re going to love,” and hands him heroin. The confident freshman stares back and says, “No, thanks. The only thing I absorb to get high is knowledge!” The kid (who probably got beaten to a pulp after the exchange) would be referring to a recent article proposing that when someone grasps a new concept, the brain gets a shot of natural opiates. A USC neuroscientist notes an increased density of opiate receptors in the part of the brain responsible for image recognition and processing. He asserts that we’re addicted to the euphoria of comprehension; our thirst for knowledge is the hunger of a junkie awaiting his fix. Maybe those PSAs should use any slogan but “The More You Know.”
(source: University of Southern California)

A Fece Only A Mother Could Love
Mothers think their own baby’s poop smells nicer than that of other babies.  Scientists recently discovered this useful piece of cocktail party information by—what else?—making mothers smell dirty diapers. Thirteen lucky ladies sniffed pairs of unlabeled, used diapers and ranked their odors. The moms consistently said their kid’s underwear was less vile than the control pair. The researchers, who are looking at the evolutionary origins of disgust, say that while the emotion probably evolved to keep us away from dangerous, disease ridden objects like feces, it wouldn’t do us any evolutionary good if mothers are too grossed out to care for their children.
(source: New Scientist)

We’ll Request Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island Too
What is the most polite place in the world? New York f-in’ City! According to a recent report by Reader’s Digest, New York is the most courteous city in the world. The digest sent researchers into 35 cities around the world to see whether residents would hold doors, help pick up papers and say thank you after a customer purchased an item from a store. Each test was repeated 20 times in each city. The Big Apple got an 80% courtesy score; second place Zurich got a 77 and third place Toronto earned a 70. Least courteous was Mumbai, with an abysmal score of 32. The magazine notes that eight out of the nine Asian cities surveyed fell in the bottom 11, with fewer than 40% holding doors in any Asian city.
(source: Reader’s Digest Canada Edition)

Deep Freeze
For all you folks out there hoping to achieve immortality by being cryogenically frozen, scientists may have found just the material to preserve you: water. The formation of ice crystals damages human tissue, but if scientists can freeze and thaw water without making it crystalize, we may just have a frozen fountain of youth. Research by a University of Helsinki scientist has shown that when diluted aqueous droplets are slowly supercooled, they form “glassy water,” or low-density amorphous ice. This glassy water melts into highly viscous water, which, the scientist reports, is similar enough to regular water that they may be able to use it to freeze organs. At no point in the supercooling or warming process do ice crystals form.
(source: American Chemical Society)

With Batted Breath
Stop your breath, or vampire bats will stop it for you. A German study shows that vampire bats, the only mammals that live on blood alone, can recognize the sound of an individual person breathing far better than humans can. As bats like to drain the same individual over the course of several nights, the researchers propose that bats use breathing patterns to differentiate their victims from the unbitten masses. The bats were trained to associate recordings of humans breathing with specific cattle blood dispensers. When the researchers played recordings of the same people either at rest or under physical strain, the bats correctly flew to the corresponding dispenser for their gory reward. Delicious.
(source: BioMed Central Limited)

Blame Evolution For Teen Pregnancy
Randy teens who run around impregnating each other may be a nuisance in high schools, but as Dr. Laurence Shaw reminded the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology last week, high school didn’t really matter to Homo sapiens for the first 150,000 years of our existence. We evolved to reproduce in our late teens or early twenties, when women’s fertility is at its peak, so it’s no surprise that teenage gals are looking for love. As Dr. Shaw said:

Therefore, before we condemn our teenagers for having sex behind the bike sheds and becoming pregnant, we should remember that this is a natural response by these girls to their rising fertility levels. Society may ‘tut, tut’ about them, but their actions are part of an evolutionary process that goes back nearly two million years; whilst their behaviour may not fit with Western society’s expectations, it is perhaps useful to consider it in the wider context.

Take that, libidophobes!
(source: MR Communication and Analysis Ltd)

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Originally published June 26, 2006


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