Germans are grumpy, sex is soothing and plants are not to blame for global warming.

Chancellor Merkel may look happy now, but wait until she starts speaking.

Germans can be grumpy, unpleasant people—and it’s not because of post-Nazi guilt or a diet filled with bratwurst, says one American researcher. It’s because of their vowels. Hope College psychology professor David Myers says saying a vowel with an umlaut forces a speaker to turn down his mouth in a frown, and may induce the sadness associated with the facial expression. Myers added that the English sounds of “e” and “ah” naturally create smile-like expressions and may induce happiness. Clearly the solution for the Germans, much like the solution for every other people in the world, is to become more like Americans. The German Embassy would not comment on the findings, saying they were “too scientific.”
(source: BBC)

Loose Women are Less Up-Tight
Take deep breaths. Think of all of the tension running out of your muscles.  Picture yourself on a warm, breezy beach. Have traditional penetrative sexual intercourse. Are you relaxed yet? You should be. A new study by UK researcher Stuart Brody shows that people who have intercourse are less stressed than people who have other types of sex or no sex at all. In his study, 24 women and 22 men kept diaries of their sexual activity for two weeks. (“We’ll cuddle right after I jot this entry down!”) Then the subjects underwent a stress test involving public speaking and doing mental arithmetic aloud. Brody said the stress-reducing benefits of intercourse were not attributable to mere post-coital bliss; the relaxation lasts at least a week. The study’s applications are obvious, especially, the religious right must fear, to SAT-taking 16-year-olds.
(source: New Scientist)

Pucker Up for Safety
A “long and passionate” kiss can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, according to a recent study from Germany and Austria. Researchers believe that kissing releases bacteria, stimulating antibody production for fighting off foreign invaders. The team also surveyed the kissing subjects and found that men often regard kissing as a chore, whereas women usually enjoy kissing. The study said that women “considered it far more intimate and of a higher value than sex itself.” A higher value, eh? Perhaps there’s a place for men in the oldest profession after all.
(source: Daily Record)

Don’t Blame the Plants
The media has been spinning lies, say researchers from the Max Planck Institute in the Netherlands and the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland. In a recent collaborative study, the two institutions showed that plants produce methane, a greenhouse gas. The media quickly spun this study into radical anti-plant propaganda, blaming global warming on our floral friends. The scientists argue that the plants were producing methane long before we started messing with the environment. Their gas contributes to the natural greenhouse effect, but not to recent temperature increases. The scientists say reforestation programs will help the climate substantially. Tree huggers, get back to tree hugging.
(source: Max Planck Society)

British Intelligent Design
Don’t let their accents fool you: The British are not as scientifically-minded as they seem. According to a new opinion poll, just under half (48%) of Britons believe evolution is the best explanation for the origin and development of life, while 39% said either creationism or intelligent design best described their view on how life came to be. Also, over 40% of those questioned said they believed creationism or intelligent design should be taught in schools. While creationism is still a strong force in the US, at least scientists can be confident that the Revolutionary War wasn’t a giant mistake.
(source: BBC)

A British team of researchers analyzing skulls spanning 30 generations has found that our cranial vaults are 20% bigger than they were in the 14th century. The researchers suggest that the increased skull volume might be related to a higher mental capacity. They also found that our ancestors had more prominent features than we do, leading scientists to believe that hundreds of years from now, everyone will look like the alien allegedly discovered at Roswell, New Mexico.
(source: BBC)

Red States, Blue States, False States, True States
Scientists have found common ground between staunch Democrats and loyal Republicans: Both completely ignore the facts when making decisions about a candidate in an election. Prior to the 2004 campaign, scientists asked die-hard party members to evaluate information that reflected negatively on their preferred candidate. The researchers scanned the subjects’ brains as they evaluated the information and found that the areas of the brain involved in reasoning were not active during the analysis. The subjects did, however, use the areas of the brain involved in regulating emotion and resolving conflict. The scientists also said the subjects reached totally biased conclusions that ignored important facts. Democrats and Republicans reached the same conclusions when evaluating neutral candidates, such as the actor Tom Hanks.
(source: LiveScience)

A Plague on Athens
For centuries, scientists and historians have wondered what disease hit Athens over 2,000 years ago, causing the death of about one-third of the population and giving Sparta an advantage in the Peloponnesian Wars. Now, researchers have managed to extract pulp from the teeth of several bodies buried in a mass grave around 430 BCE. The tests came back positive for typhoid, which causes fever, rash and diarrhea, all symptoms described by historian Thucydides in his account of the plague. The scientists believe typhoid could have easily been spread by the unsanitary Athenian water supply.
(source: Scientific American)

Trivial Pursuit: Genus Homo
A DNA comparison shows that humans and chimps have evolved at a very similar rate, even though we split from a common ancestor between five- and seven-million years ago. This lends support to the push to reclassify chimps from their current genus, Pan, to our genus, Homo. Some biologists think the chimps should stay in their own genus, because transferring them into ours might implicitly give them moral rights and responsibilities they don’t deserve. Others believe that instead of moving them, we should suck up our pride and become Pan sapiens. The Discovery Institute would be thrilled about that one.
(source: Guardian)

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Originally published January 30, 2006


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