Testosterone is the elixir of life, a physicist determines how to rate his colleagues and women lose their sex drive after years in a long-term relationship.

The Death of the ‘Girlie Man’
Low levels of testosterone don’t just decrease a man’s sex drive, lower his energy and up his depression; they can also foretell his untimely demise. According to a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, men with low testosterone levels have an 88 percent increase in mortality risk versus men with normal levels of the hormone. Researchers studied 858 male military veterans over the age of 40 between 1994 and 1999. Of the men with normal testosterone levels, 20.1 percent died during the course of the study, whereas 34.9 percent of the men with low testosterone levels died. The correlation held up even when researchers accounted for other factors that influence risk of death, including age, illness and body mass index. Apparently real men don’t let a little thing like death get in their way.

With the popularity of JDate, Shaadi and Naseeb, it was only a matter of time before the niche on-line dating service market expanded to other species. Zookeepers in the Netherlands are planning to set up cyber-chats so that their orangutans can flirt with Indonesian orangutans over the Internet. The apes will be allowed to “feed” each other food at the touch of a button as they stare longingly at one another’s pixelated faces. Anouk Ballot, spokeswoman for the Apenheul ape park in Apeldoorn, Holland, said that only the most cyber-savvy apes—those who show an interest in and aptitude for the program—will take part. The service should raise awareness of the plight of the orangutan: Its native jungle habitat is being destroyed by the spread of palm oil plantations and logging. The orangutans will likely hook up to the web in early 2007.

University of Madrid physicist José Soler has created a measure of scientific creativity. Soler examined the output of top physicists, taking both the number of citations in each paper and the number of citations of each paper and plugging these numbers into a simple function. Scientists who used fewer sources but had more of an impact on other scientists were considered to be the most creative. The highest scorer among physicists was Princeton’s Philip Anderson, who won the 1977 Nobel Prize for his work on the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems. The number two spot went to another Princetonian, Edward Witten, who is known for his work in string theory. Rounding out the top three was 1979 Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg, who combined electromagnetism and the weak force into the electroweak force.

Captain Obvious Visits Ohio
The only scientifically valid way to test a hypothesis is through systematic trials. But sadly, sometimes the best way to change policy is through one really powerful case study. Last week, the school board in Canton, Ohio, decided to change its abstinence-only health program to include instruction on safe and responsible sex, while still promoting abstinence. Apparently, the town recently discovered that 13 percent of its high school’s female students were pregnant last year. The school board will replace sex education textbooks from 1988 with newer versions.

Elephantastical Creatures
While President Bush worries about human-animal hybrids, scientists are already plotting the creation of frightening half-ancient, half-modern animal hybrids. Researchers have discovered that they may be able to extract viable sperm cells from extinct Ice Age mammals that have been preserved in permafrost. As scientists believe that woolly mammoths and present-day Asian elephants may be genetically similar enough to interbreed, they plan to inject frozen mammoth sperm into elephant eggs with the hope of creating mammoth/-elephant hybrids. Last year, Canadian researchers sequenced roughly 1 percent of the genome of a 27,000 year-old mammoth. Further studies on mice have shown that sperm can remain viable when it is frozen for up to 15 years. Prospects are better when the whole mouse, or at least the whole testes, is frozen. Researchers have already uncovered several mammoths in the permafrost, and they say there could be millions of frozen pachyderms waiting for their chance to produce offspring.

Sex Drive to Sex Neutral
Men, virile beasts that they are, maintain a strong sex drive throughout long-term relationships; but the weak sex drive of women wilts at the slightest hint of security, according to a forthcoming study to be published in the journal Human Nature. Researchers questioned more than 500 people about their sex lives to measure changes in sex drives. While 60% of 30-year-old women said they wanted sex “often” at the beginning of a relationship, fewer than 50 percent felt the same after four years in a relationship and a mere 20 percent wanted frequent sex after 20 years of a relationship. Author Dietrich Klusmann concludes, “Female motivation matches male sexual motivation in the first years of the partnership and then steadily decreases.” He notes that living apart from a partner may keep a woman’s sex drive amped. Otherwise the female stops seeking passion and looks for tenderness. Klusmann has an evolutionary explanation for his findings: Men’s continued sex drive may serve as protection against being cuckolded, and women may respond with low sex drives to their partners because they want to seek out other mates for more DNA in their offspring. Not everyone is thrilled with Klusmann’s conclusions or his explanation. A Cosmopolitan writer said lower sex drive is probably due to the exhausting responsibilities of having a career, raising kids and running a household.

Originally published August 22, 2006


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