Prayer doesn't help heal the heart, celebrities will fork over a fortune to feel weightless and the Polish are smarter than the Brits.

Off Your Knees, Boy
Oh, scientists, say it ain’t so! A new study has concluded that prayer has no medical benefit. The cost to learn that entreaties to God are worthless: A total of $2.5 million. This money could have funded cancer research, food for hungry children or a full 25 minutes of the war in Iraq, but instead we’ve conclusively shown that patients who undergo cardiac bypass surgery and know others are praying for them fare no better than those who don’t. In the study, patients in others’ prayers actually suffered slightly more complications than those who didn’t receive any prayers at all. The doctors involved chalked up this strange effect to the stress the patients may have felt, thinking their condition was so bad that people needed to pray for their recovery. Some researchers said the effects of uncontrolled prayers from families and friends may have altered the results. Way to hold the study to the highest scientific standards, guys.
(source: Los Angeles Times)

In The Mood
A few cursed women have the painful pleasure of knowing what it feels like to be a 13-year-old boy. Researchers have recently put their fingers on an obscure women’s condition called “persistent sexual arousal syndrome” (PSAS), where the affected women involuntarily become sexually aroused for extended periods. In the International Journal of STD & AIDS, doctors describe the condition as “usually persistent, unprovoked, and unrelieved by orgasm.” And while the arousal is constant, the women don’t actually experience sexual desire. Doctors encourage women to visit healthcare workers who will listen and try to help. Thus far, however, there is no treatment for PSAS.
(source: WebMD)

Celebrities Book Virgin Galactic Trip
In 2008, the hottest, most exclusive travel spot for the A-list will not be the French Riviera nor Hawaii nor a private island in the Mediterranean. No, the 2008 vacation for the stars will be cold, cramped and less than three hours long. Also, there’s no toilet, and the celebrities will have to wear a diaper. Thus far, 150 wealthy people have booked tickets on the maiden voyages of Sir Richard Branson‘s Virgin Galactic program, which will take travelers 400,000 feet above the Earth and allow them to experience weightlessness for five minutes. The guest list already includes Alien actress Sigourney Weaver and Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. William Shatner is reportedly considering laying out the required six figure price for a ticket, and Stephen Hawking has also expressed interest, although his health issues may prevent him from flying.
(source: Scotsman)

Fat Boy, Slim IQ
According to a new study out of Boston University, obese men tend to have lower IQs than their trim counterparts. Men with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 30—a person standing 5’9” would need to weigh over 200 pounds to qualify—scored 23% lower on tests of mental acuity than their lower BMI counterparts. No similar link was found in women, and the causation of the correlation is still up in the air: The researchers suggest that an unhealthy diet might damage blood flow to the brain. Meanwhile, past research indicates that less intelligent people are more likely to have poor diets. Perhaps the best idea is to adopt a Calvinist stance and show that you are predestined for high IQ by staying fit.
(source: BBC)

There Go the Polish Jokes…
In further IQ news, a new study measured average IQ scores in 23 European nations. Germany topped the list with an average IQ of 107, followed closely by the Netherlands and then—defying Polak-joke expectations—Poland. Serbia sat at the bottom of the list with an average IQ of 89, while Great Britain beat out rival France, 100 to 94. Lead researcher Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster reported that men in the study were, on average, five IQ points more intelligent than women. He added that people in colder, more meteorologically challenged northern and central Europe have larger brains than those in the southeastern part of the continent. Lynn’s past work on IQ disparities between races and sexes has been criticized by other scientists as not sufficiently objective, misrepresentative of data and—would you believe it?—racist.
(source: Times)

Restoring Force α Displacement
A last minute deal has kept a nearly 350-year-old science manuscript—hand-written by Robert Hooke, the man who coined the term “cell”—from being auctioned off last Tuesday. The document, valued at £1 million, contains the minutes of The Royal Society‘s meetings from 1661 to 1682. An anonymous bidder bought the notes on behalf of the Royal Society through an agreement, which will enable the Society to sort out disagreements to its ever-so-controversial 1679 budget until its heart’s content. The Society will also display the document, which is over 520 pages in length, and make it available on the web. Hooke, who lived from 1635 to 1703, has several notable scientific achievements to his name: Aside from naming the cell, he invented the anchor escapement, discovered the first binary star, devised Hooke’s law of springs and served as Isaac Newton’s sworn nemesis, claiming that Newton stole his idea of an inverse square law of gravity. Talk to the hand, Robert.
(source: BBC)

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Originally published April 3, 2006

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