Murderers are identified before they commit their crimes, lovelorn gorillas get sent to an island, and people act like their dogs.

Renal Systems from Penal Systems
Taking a tip from O.J. Simpson, the Deputy Health Minister of China has finally come out and confessed to what everybody already knew: Many of the organs Chinese doctors use in transplants come from executed prisoners. He also noted that a substantial number of recipients are foreigners willing to pay an arm and a leg for a kidney. While this illegal organ trade has long been an open secret, the Chinese government spent years denying that many spare parts came from the condemned. But now that China has announced it will be closely monitoring death penalty cases, it acknowledges that there is a problem with organ donation. Amnesty International estimated that at least 1,770 people were executed in China in 2005. Last year, Chinese doctors transplanted 8,102 kidneys, 3,741 livers and 80 hearts, and experts believe that well over 90 percent of these came from executed prisoners. Even with the ethically sketchy practices, only one percent of Chinese people who need transplants actually get them, and legal experts say the new oversight of death penalty cases will cut the number of executions by a third. It’s about time we started growing livers on the backs of mice, no?

Sizing Up the Competition
Men, does your size make you insecure? Do you think an extra inch or two would make you a successful lover? Well, it turns out your fears are well-founded! A new study out of the University of Essex shows that for every inch of height a man has on his rivals, the number of women who want to go out with him increases by five percent. Researchers analyzed the date selections of 1,800 men and 1,800 women who took part in 84 speed-dating events around the U.K. In addition to discovering that ladies like tall men, the researchers found that dudes dig smart chicks: Women with a college degree bested their less educated counterparts. Thin women also did better than the clinically overweight. Both sexes preferred youthful partners, and non-smokers generally stuck to other non-smokers, showing that people prefer rosy cheeks and rosy lungs. Most significantly, the researchers said, a man’s success was dependent upon how he stacked up against the others in his speed dating group; a 5’9 man in a group of 5’6 guys did as well as a 6’2 man in a group of 5’11 guys. No wonder Snow White found Prince Charming so attractive.

I’ve Got a Little List
With new advances in psychological science and criminal profiling, murderers will no longer have to go through the trouble of killing people; police will know about them before they’ve committed the crime! Psychologists from London’s Metropolitan Police’s Homicide Prevention Unit are drawing up a list of the 100 most dangerous murderers and rapists-to-be, as determined by statements from former partners, information from mental health professionals, and specifics about earlier criminal activity. The police say they are focusing on people with a history of domestic violence whose activity might escalate to deadly proportions; the team notes that about a quarter of murders are related to domestic violence. Civil rights groups are worried that people might be arrested before they actually commit crimes, turning the country into a futuristic dystopia. And indeed, the police are considering arresting the criminally-minded or sending them to “management programs” as soon as they are identified. Yikes.

Apes of Wrath
Five orphaned gorillas have been looking for love in all the wrong places, and a recent decision by the management of an African wildlife park means they’re not going to find it anytime soon. Between 1996 and 2003, the “Congo five”—male gorillas Yambo, Kola, Titi, Massissa, and Bangha—were released into the Lefini Reserve, where males greatly outnumber females. Because each family has a “silverback” male that mates with all the females, these five gorillas were unable to find themselves local ladies. So they widened their search to nearby villages, where they stormed private property and irritated the locals. But now these randy apes are about to feel the pain of countless Catholic school-bound teenage boys: They will be sent to a “bachelor island,” where they will share 60 acres of land and zero female gorillas. While the gorillas won’t be getting any love from the ladies, the island will prevent further conflicts between apes and villages. The large size of the island should also give each ape his own personal space, the project director said, preventing gorilla warfare.

His Bark’s No Worse Than His Bite
We’ve always known that people can bear an uncanny resemblance to their dogs. But according to a recent study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, this similarity isn’t just skin deep. The authors report that people who own dogs with a breed-wide reputation for viciousness are significantly more likely to have a criminal record than those who own gentler breeds. Researchers studied 355 dog owners in Ohio, about half of whom owned a high-risk breed such as a pit bull, and found that every person who owned a vicious dog had had at least one run-in with the law (even if it was only a traffic citation). Just under a third of those who owned a high-risk dog and had failed to register it had felt the wrath of the law at least five times, whereas only one percent of owners of gentle, licensed dogs were five-time convicts. The researchers say their results show that owning a socially deviant dog is itself a marker of social deviance.

Heated Competition
You are so sexy. No, seriously. You’re sexier than you could ever know. A new study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior shows that straight people believe their sexual competitors—members of their own sex—are more attractive than they actually are. When researchers showed heterosexuals pictures of both men and women and asked them to rate their attractiveness, men rated the men higher than women did, and women rated the women higher than men did. This result fit with error-management theory, which says that when people make judgment errors, they err on the side of caution: The make the mistake that is the least costly. Just as a man loses little, evolutionarily speaking, by mistaking a woman’s friendliness for sexual interest—if he makes a move, he’s at least got a shot—people who think their sexual competition is fierce are more likely to make themselves look as attractive as possible, increasing their odds with potential mates. So spruce yourself up, sure, but you should totally go for it! That starting quarterback with the 4.0 GPA, private jet, and 8-pack abs isn’t that cute…probably.

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Originally published November 28, 2006

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