Archive for September 6th, 2011

September 6, 2011

Sex with Neanderthals, we’ve heard that. But now, with almost anything on two legs?

Those were the days, my friend…

Sex with Neanderthals, we’ve heard that. But now, with almost anything on two legs? – Knight Science Journalism Tracker

Interesting synchronicity in human sex news over the last few days and also about a week and a half ago. First came a flurry of reports, from a Stanford group’s paper in Science, that interbreeding by our H. sapiens ancestors with Neanderthals may have left a good many of us with stronger immune systems. That detail adds to a stream of news in the last year or two that not only Neanderthals are in the human ancestry mix, but that in Siberia a group dubbed the Denisovans, also of near-human nature, seem to have been intimate with some of the first humans to enter their territory.

Further reading:

Ancient Humans Were Mixing it Up

Did Africans join in on archaic interbreeding?

Ancient humans were just having sex with everyone

How often did humans and Neanderthals have carnal relations? Not very

September 6, 2011

A more progressive tax system makes people happier

But does it make millionaires happier? I mean, what’s the priority here?

A more progressive tax system makes people happier

The way some people talk, you’d think that a flat tax system—in which everyone pays at the same rate regardless of income—would make citizens feel better than more progressive taxation, where wealthier people are taxed at higher rates. Indeed, the U.S. has been diminishing progressivity of its tax structure for decades.

But a new study comparing 54 nations found that flattening the tax risks flattening social wellbeing as well. “The more progressive the tax policy is, the happier the citizens are,” says University of Virginia psychologist Shigehiro Oishi, summarizing the findings, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science

September 6, 2011

Female Orgasm Remains an Evolutionary Mystery

Talk about interesting phenomena that science still can’t explain…

Female Orgasm Remains an Evolutionary Mystery – Wired.com

After baffling biologists for decades, the female orgasm has resisted yet another attempt to explain its elusive evolutionary origins.

A survey of orgasmic function in thousands of twins found none of the statistical patterns expected if female orgasm is just a coincidental byproduct of natural selection on its male counterpart, as has been suggested.

“The evolutionary basis of human female orgasm has been subject to furious scientific debate, which has recently intensified,” wrote University of Queensland geneticist Brendan Zietsch and Pekka Santtila of Finland’s Abo Akedemi University in a Sept. 3 Animal Behavior article. “These results challenge the byproduct theory of female orgasm.”

Further reading:

Evolutionary mystery of female orgasm deepens

September 6, 2011

Baby Star Found on Earth’s Doorstep

Perhaps even more interesting than the possibility of finding planets being formed is the fact that this star is the closest pre-main-sequence star ever found. In other words, the star is so new that it still has a significant amount of lithium, because it’s still generating more energy from gravitational contraction than from nuclear reactions (which destroy lithium).

Baby Star Found on Earth’s Doorstep – ScienceNOW

To see how our solar system arose, astronomers point their telescopes at young stars. But these stars are usually so far away, the view is murky. Now a stellar newborn has turned up on Earth’s doorstep. Named AP Columbae, the star is so young it has yet to spark its main nuclear flame, and it’s so nearby—a mere 27 light-years from Earth—that scientists might be able to glimpse the glow of orbiting planets still cooling off from their formation.

THE SOLAR NEIGHBORHOOD. XXVI. AP Col: THE CLOSEST (8.4 pc) PRE-MAIN-SEQUENCE STAR

arXiv preprint