The mentally ill prefer Bush, fertile men have more sons than daughters, and deja vu is explained—again.

So, you want to build a universe? Great! Anyone can do it with the right equipment. Columbia physicist Brian Greene has broadcast step-by-step instructions for creating a universe of your very own. First, you will need a “seed” that will eventually grow into your universe. Greene recommends a mini black hole. To make your mini black hole, simply take an object and condense it to fit into its Schwarzchild radius, the size at which, according to general relativity, it will collapse into a gravitational singularity. If you want to use your 150 pound coworker, for example, you’ll need to squeeze him into a sphere with a radius of 10-25 meters. It’ll be cozy, sure, but soon he’ll have a whole universe to himself. Then you’ll need to turn your mini black hole into a universe by generating a repulsive force. Luckily, gravity may have a repulsive component, so all you need to do to create your Biggish Bang is to get the repulsive side to dominate! This is left as an exercise for the reader.

Crazy Conservatives
Would you have to be insane to vote for George W. Bush? Well, no. But if the conclusions of a recent study hold up, it couldn’t hurt. During the 2004 presidential election, a social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University surveyed 69 psychiatric outpatients, and he found the more severe the person’s psychosis, the more likely he or she was to vote for President Bush. While the study was designed as an advocacy project—researcher Christopher Lohse said he hoped to get out the mentally ill vote—when the survey results were analyzed, a clear trend emerged. Lohse said that his results imply that psychotic patients prefer an authoritative leader, pointing to a 1977 study showing that psychiatric patients preferred Nixon over McGovern. The results are certainly preliminary—the small sample size, unconventional methodology, and potential alternative interpretations all present limitations—methinks the Republican party may soon become a strong advocate for rights for the mentally ill.

Go Stag
Manly males have manly sperm that breeds manly children! According to a study recently published in the journal Sciencemale red deer who are highly fertile are more likely to sire sons. Researchers used sperm from 14 males to inseminate healthy, captive female deer; each male inseminated between 11 and 69 hinds. The fertility rate for males—the proportion of females that got pregnant—ranged from 24 percent to 70 percent. The proportion of male offspring bottomed out at 25 percent and climbed as high as 72 percent, and fertility was directly correlated with percentage of sons. The researchers say this study supports the Trivers and Willard hypothesis, which predicts that parents should produce more of the sex that has the higher fitness benefit. Since having potent sperm and complex antlers don’t do a heck of a lot for daughters, it follows that these virile males should pass their power onto boys.

A Bouquet of Noses
You are a unique person. Nobody else looks exactly like you, nobody else thinks exactly like you, and according to a recent study, it’s may be true that nobody else smells exactly like you. The authors of the new paper, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, analyzed sweat, urine, and spit from 197 adults over a ten-week period. While the levels of some compounds fluctuated within an individual’s sample over time, the researchers identified nearly 400 volatile chemicals—those most likely to give off a scent—that persist in sweat independent of a person’s diet. The researchers say that we can distinguish between the sweat of two different people by determining which of these compounds are present and which are absent in samples. The authors said that while the study provides evidence that each individual has a distinct scent, they couldn’t yet definitively conclude that every person has a perfectly unique “smellprint,” the odor equivalent of a fingerprint.

Daddy’s Little Girl
Bald, whiny, and devoid of any secondary sex characteristics, newborn babies are exactly what grown men try not to be. But as soon as these little critters are out of the womb, their mothers cry, “Oh, she looks just like her father!” And the men don’t mind one bit. According to a study presented at the 2005 Human Behavior & Evolution Society conference, subconsciously, women claim that their babies look like Dad in order to reassure the father that the kid really is his. The researchers corralled 69 families with 83 children and asked the parents to rate how much their kids looked like themselves versus the other parent. All of the mothers of newborns said the babies looked more like their partner, but only 83 percent of fathers agreed. Unrelated judges said the kid looked most like dad a mere 40 percent of the time. It’s easy to see how women might benefit evolutionarily from convincing their partners that they should invest in rearing the child. But must the men continue to trust these deceptive vixens?

Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind
We’ve dispatched with the luminiferous aether, phlogiston, and the miasma theory of disease, and scientists have now put a final nail in the coffin of optical pathway delay, an antiquated theory that attempted to explain déjà vu. Optical pathway delay theory proposes that when input from one eye is delayed and is processed after the input from the other eye, a sense of familiarity arises. Thus: déjà vu. But now researchers at the University of Leeds have reported a case study of a blind person experiencing déjà vu. The subject experienced a feeling of familiarity triggered by sensory experiences involving smell, hearing, and touch. The researchers say that scientists tend to avoid investigating déjà vu, as it is so subjective. But one of the researchers, Akira O’Connor, cited a study where subjects remember words, then they’re hypnotized to forget the words. When experimenters showed them the same words again, about half of them experienced something akin to déjà vu. O’Connor said he believes that déjà vu occurs when there is a disruption to the area of the brain that deals with familiarity.

The Whole World Smiles With You
Good news has arrived from the world of reconstructive surgery! It has been one year since Isabelle Dinoire received the world’s first face transplant, and she is progressing marvelously. (See her right after the operation and now here.) Dinoire reports that she can roam the world without people noticing her scars, and she is even able to smile a bit. While she did have two instances of tissue rejection, Dinoire and her doctors were able to successfully suppress the immune response both times. She still doesn’t have a job, but her doctor said that when she found one she would be able to rebuild her social life. Dinoire lost her nose, lips, and chin when her dog mauled her after she had taken pills following “a very upsetting week, with many personal problems.”

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Originally published December 4, 2006


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