Men use as many words as women, rubber ducks follow the ocean currents, and the rhino's days could be numbered.

Rambling Man
Oh, those talkative women. Always gossiping, complaining, and pouring out their emotions onto strong, silent men. Well, perhaps not: A new study published in the journal Science concludes that women and men both utter an average of 16,000 words per day. Researchers used electronically activated recorders to track the number of words used by 396 university students. The subjects wore the recorders for several days, and the recorder taped 30 seconds of sound every 12.5 minutes. The authors found that the women spoke an average of 16,215 words a day and men a mean of 15,669; they say this difference is not statistically significant. While the researchers acknowledge that data from university students cannot necessarily be extrapolated to all people, they say their results pretty much rule out the possibility that women have evolved to be more talkative than men. The results also decidedly contradict the popular claim that women use about 20,000 words a day, while men use a mere 7,000.

Cute, Yellow, Chubby, Valuable to Science
In 1992, nearly 29,000 bright yellow rubber ducks broke free of their bathtub-bound destinies and set off to sail the high seas. While the company whose cargo ship spilled the ducks likely counted the dump as a loss, the ducks have proved to be an ideal tracking device for researchers interested in studying ocean currents. Citizens of the world are unlikely to report the arrival of the boring floats scientists usually use to track currents, but when a swarm of rubber duckies lands on a beach, locals are more likely to contact the authorities. Retired oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer has been tracking the ducks as they have traveled over 17,000 miles, and he is currently predicting that the rubber flock will turn up on the beaches of South-West England this summer. After being dumped in the middle of the Pacific, the ducks were caught in the Subpolar Gyre and landed on the shores of Alaska. Over the next three years they headed to Japan and eventually came back to North America. Some adventurous ducks headed north across the pole and arrived in the Atlantic, visiting the wreckage site of the Titanic. Ducks have recently been reported on the eastern seaboard of the US, and Ebbesmeyer says the Atlantic currents should take them across the pond. Keep your eyes peeled, Brits: If you find a duck, The First Years company will give you a $100 (~£50) savings bond.

Class Not Dismissed
Our online identities provide food for hungry researchers, eager to find out what online interaction can tell us about the human as a social animal. Now, ethnographer Danah Boyd has taken a look at MySpace and Facebook and concluded that the social networking sites are virtual representations of a real class divide in American teenagers. While her essay is not a scientific article, Boyd has analyzed thousands of social networking profiles and formally interviewed 90 teenagers of a variety of backgrounds in seven states. Boyd asserts that the “goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids are now going to Facebook,” and “MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, ‘burnouts,’ ‘alternative kids, ‘art fags,’ punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm.” Facebook kids are primarily white, and they come from families that emphasize higher education, while MySpace kids may get a job or go into the military directly out of high school. She also suggests that the aesthetics of the two sites may be tied to different lifestyles: The crisp look of Facebook mirrors upscale furniture stores, while the more flashy look of MySpace may closely mirror hip-hop culture’s “bling.” Boyd notes that the divide is present in the military: Officers gravitate toward Facebook, while soldiers congregate on MySpace. The researcher says she hopes to someday write a real academic article on the topic. Until then, you’ll have to leave your opinions as either comments or wall posts. Be careful what you choose; it may be awfully telling.

Tales from the Crypto
Those crazy cryptozoologists are at it again! This week, researchers from the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization will be visiting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to search for Sasquatch. While there have been no universally accepted sightings of Bigfoot, Matthew Moneymaker of BFRO says his organization has briefly seen or heard the monster on 27 of their 30 expeditions in the US and Canada. One of the most famous Bigfoot researchers, the late Washington State University physical anthropologist Grover Krantz, believed Sasquatch to be of a surviving population of Gigantopithecines, large apes that are thought to have died out over 100 thousand years ago. Krantz advocated killing a sasquatch for scientific study, if one were found.

Watch on the Rhino
In Children of Men, humanity erupts in chaos when all women become infertile and people realize that our species is not long for this world. The story was fiction, but not much of a stretch: Humans may be safe for now, but Malaysia’s endangered rhinos are facing reproductive problems that could precipitate their ultimate demise. Researchers have found that male rhinos are suffering from low sperm counts, and females have a high incidence of cysts in their reproductive system. Authorities have tried to breed rhinos in captivity, but their efforts have failed, and they are now counting on rhinos mating the old-fashioned way. The Sabah Wildlife Department estimates that there are only 30 to 50 rhinos left in Malaysia’s jungles on Borneo. The Borneo rhino, possibly a subspecies of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino, was captured on video for this first time this past April.

Originally published July 10, 2007

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