Pandas get a taste of blue cinema, Stalin tried to breed ape-men, and adolescents make decisions more carefully than adults.

mwcolumn.jpg MAGGIE WITTLIN  Column Archive

Love Sick
Ladies, when you and your man make sweet, sweet love, do you swoon, feel you can barely catch your breath, and start to get warm and tingly in your nether regions? In other words, do you experience dizziness, have trouble breathing, and feel uncomfortable burning or itching sensations in your genitals? If so, you may be allergic to your boy’s lovin’. Yes, according to David J. Resnick, acting director of the allergy division of New York Presbyterian Hospital, women can be allergic to their partners’ semen. Women with milder allergies may experience genital itching burning and swelling, but some ladies may react more severely. Those who break out in hives and have trouble breathing should keep an epi pen on hand, Resnick says. Also, while some are allergic to the entire male sex, some women have antibodies that only recognize their own unlucky partner.

But do not fear, sensitive girls, there is a treatment for this hideous malady, and I think your man will be pleased with the prescription: more sex. Under the guidance of a doctor—don’t try it on your own—you can gradually increase your exposure to your partner’s semen and decrease your sensitivity. One treatment consists of allergy shots containing small doses of your man’s semen. In the other treatment, called “intravaginal seminal graded challenge,” doctors introduce increasing amounts of semen into the woman’s vagina over the course of several hours. In both treatments, the couple is required to have sex at least two or three times a week. Couples who are not up to the task need to keep a frozen seed vault so the woman can treat herself.

Songs in the Key of Sea
Scientists trained a new group of super-high-range vocalists: dolphins. While some researchers have claimed that combining rhythm and vocalization is a process unique to people, it turns out that dolphins have the capacity to sing sweet melodies. To demonstrate this, researchers taught a dolphin to sing the greatest musical composition of our age: the theme from “Batman.” They trained an adult male bottlenose dolphin from Disney’s Epcot Center, first rewarding him when he produced the correct rhythm, then when he vocalized the rhythm, and finally when he also produced the correct pitch. Best of all, the dolphin sang on cue whenever he saw a Batman doll. Scientists say that the dolphins probably don’t realize they’re singing music, per se, but this ability may indicate that rhythm is an important aspect of dolphin communication. Still, since this was a year ago, I fully expect that the dolphin is now singing the Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute. Or at least a little Sinatra.

A Panda Hugginkiss
Chuang Chuang is going through puberty, but nobody’s yet given him “the talk.” The six-year-old panda has been living in a Thai zoo with five-year-old Lin Hui since 2003, but he still hasn’t made a move on the cute girl next door. So zookeepers are going to give Chuang Chuang a little prodding: Chuang Chuang will be allowed to watch hot panda porn on a large screen. The zoo’s panda project chief said that the videos should teach Chuang Chuang about the birds and the bees and give him some ideas about Lin Hui. For maximal effect, Chuang Chuang will watch the videos when zookeepers think he might be feeling randy, and he will not be able to spend time with Lin Hui during his December training period. He will, however, occasionally be permitted to lay his eyes on the prize.

Young and Foolish?
“‘Tyler’ this, and ‘Tyler’ that! If Tyler jumped off a bridge, would you?”

While we might all know the right answer—don’t jump off a frickin’ bridge—an adolescent would take longer to come up with it than an adult would. According to a review paper recently published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, research shows that adolescents take a longer time to make decisions that involve risk—“Is it a good idea to set your hair on fire?”—than adults do. The authors say that risky teenage behavior can’t be blamed on feelings of immortality—adults and teens exhibit the same level of optimistic bias, the idea that their own risks are less than their peers’. But adolescents are riskier because they actually spend more time weighing their risks, whereas adults just know certain activities to be dangerous and don’t do a cost-benefit analysis. Teens may often decide that the benefits outweigh the costs and decide to have unprotected sex or drive drunk. The adult gut-aversion to risky activities generally results in more responsible decisions. Malcolm Gladwell would be proud.

Unreal, Ultimate Power
In the mid 1920s, Josef Stalin noticed that communist Russia was missing something. Respect for individual human lives? No! An army of half-man-half-ape super-warriors? You betcha. According to newly uncovered classified documents, Stalin employed animal breeding scientist Ilya Ivanov to inseminate West African chimpanzees with human sperm and create the “invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat.” Soviets were anxious to build a new Red Army and restock a dwindling labor force, and who better to do it than the man who could artificially inseminate racehorses? Shockingly enough, Ivanov’s experiment failed miserably. Those pesky chromosomes got in the way of breeding members of different species, and even with a $200,000 Soviet investment in his program, Ivanov could not create ape-men. However, for his honorable efforts, he received the prize of five years’ exile in Kazakhstan, where he died after standing on a freezing railway platform for too long. Somehow I think this was what President Bush was thinking of when he banned the creation of human-animal hybrids.

Don’t Swing Your Partner
It’s always good to see people in important government positions who appreciate good science. That’s why it’s utterly tragic that Eric Keroack has been hired to oversee federal funding for family planning and reproductive health. Not only is Keroack against abortion, but he also claims that sex with many partners can prevent people from forming solid relationships. Yes,  according to his 2003 presentation (which needs a good graphic designer as much as it needs citations), Keroack believes that multiple sexual relationships lead to stress. This stress increases opiate levels in the body and lowers production of oxytocin, a chemical involved in bonding. This causes people to seek sex for relief but be unable to enjoy a bond with their partners. So non-marital sexual activity means you have more failed relationships and therefore more stress than the rest of the world? Sounds like a bit of a stretch to me, and I’m not the only one. If Keroack had a few peer-reviewed journal articles to cite, this would all be fine. Heck, if he weren’t being hired to oversee reproductive health programs, this would all be fine.

In-habit-ed By Ghosts
There is much scientific debate about what effect genes have on susceptibility to addiction. There is not much scientific debate about what effect ghosts have on susceptibility to addiction. But the Spiritual Science Research Foundation has now rocked the world of…spiritual science research…by claiming that a full 96% of addictions can be primarily attributed to possession by ghosts or departed ancestors. Don’t believe them? Neither do I. To determine the cause of people’s addiction, researchers at SSRF (by researchers, of course, they mean people who have “crossed the spiritual level of 70 percent”) diagnosed subjects using ESP. Of the 96 percent of addicts who suffered because of spiritual reasons, the diagnosticians found that 70 percent were addicts because bodies of departed ancestors were present. SSRF recommends a spiritual healing program to cure addictions. Now, maybe it’s mean to pick on these people who are so clearly not doing real science. But it’s useful to note that they put out a detailed study, they have the words “science” and “research” in their name, they even have a nice looking website. Doesn’t make it science, kids.

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Originally published November 21, 2006


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