A growing body of literature has shown that environmental exposures in the period around conception can affect the sex ratio at birth through selective attrition that favors the survival of female conceptuses. Glucose availability is considered a key indicator of the fetal environment, and its absence as a result of meal skipping may inhibit male survival. We hypothesize that breakfast skipping during pregnancy may lead to a reduction in the fraction of male births. Using time use data from the United States we show that women with commute times of 90 minutes or longer are 20 percentage points more likely to skip breakfast. Using U.S. census data we show that women with commute times of 90 minutes or longer are 1.2 percentage points less likely to have a male child under the age of 2. Under some assumptions, this implies that routinely skipping breakfast around the time of conception leads to a 6 percentage point reduction in the probability of a male child. Skipping breakfast during pregnancy may therefore constitute a poor environment for fetal health more generally. [Biodemography and Social Biology]
Words can deceive, but tone of voice cannot. Voice tone analyses of therapy sessions accurately predict whether relationships will improve.
In Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy, Melvin Konner argues that male domination is an anomaly of human history, not a natural state for the human species. Specifically, Konner suggests that male supremacy is largely an effect of an oppressive social arrangement, namely civilization, which began with the invention of agriculture when humans began to form permanent settlements. Permanent settlements enabled men to be able to accumulate resources and allowed population densities to increase mainly through higher birth rates. Higher population densities placed more intense pressure on the land’s resources. Therefore, it became necessary for men to form coalitions with neighbors to defend against intruders. Power became concentrated in the hands of a few men, leading to a stratified society where male supremacy and female subordination reigned and male violence and war intensified. Today, Konner argues that technology limits the need for the muscle and strength of men, and male domination has outlived its purpose and is maladaptive. Therefore, empowering women is the next step in human evolution. Through empowering women, equality between the sexes will be restored and man-made disasters, such as wars, sex scandals, and financial corruption, will significantly decrease or be eliminated since women (who Konner claims are less emotional than men) will be in positions of leadership and power. [Evolutionary Psychology]
There’s no such thing as a male or female brain, study finds. Between 23% and 53% of individuals (depending on the sample) had brains with both “male-end” and “female-end” features. In contrast, the percentage of people with only “female-end” or only “male-end” brain features was small, ranging from zero to 8%.
A new study published in The Lancet, following one million middle-aged women in Britain for 10 years, finds that the widely held view that happiness enhances health and longevity is unfounded. “Happiness and related measures of well-being do not appear to have any direct effect on mortality,” the researchers concluded. […] Researchers decided to look into the subject because, he said, there is a widespread belief that stress and unhappiness cause disease. […] The new study says earlier research confused cause and effect, suggesting that unhappiness made people ill when it is actually the other way around. [NY Times]
Touch is a powerful tool for communicating positive emotions. However, it has remained unknown to what extent social touch would maintain and establish social bonds. We asked a total of 1,368 people from five countries to reveal, using an Internet-based topographical self-reporting tool, those parts of their body that they would allow relatives, friends, and strangers to touch. These body regions formed relationship-specific maps in which the total area was directly related to the strength of the emotional bond between the participant and the touching person. Cultural influences were minor. […] [T]ouching by strangers was primarily limited to the hands and upper torso. Genitals and buttocks formed clear “taboo zones” that only the emotionally closest individuals were allowed to touch. Frequency of social contact with an individual did not predict the area available for social touch, confirming that the experienced bond between the individuals, rather than mere familiarity, modulates social touching behavior in dyads. […] Skin is the largest organ and the clearest border between individuals and the world. Already 19-wk-old fetuses touch themselves and anticipate self-oriented touches. Skin-to-skin contact is also one of the earliest communication channels promoting attachment between the infant and the caregiver. Recent work has revealed a special class of unmyelinated C-tactile afferents that respond selectively to slow pleasurable stroking. Stimulating these fibers activates insular cortex and possibly provides the sensory pathway for emotional and affiliative touching. Our results imply that this kind of social touch is interpreted in context-dependent fashion depending on the interaction partner. Such social coding of touch seems to occur at early processing stages in the brain, as recent neuroimaging work has established that the human primary somatosensory cortex is involved in discriminating between interpersonal and physical aspects of social touch. [PNAS]
In 1995, a team of researchers taught pigeons to discriminate between Picasso and Monet paintings. […] After just a few weeks’ training, their pigeons could not only tell a Picasso from a Monet – indicated by pecks on a designated button – but could generalise their learning to discriminate cubist from impressionist works in general. […] For a behaviourist, the moral is that even complex learning is supported by fundamental principles of association, practice and reward. It also shows that you can train a pigeon to tell a Renoir from a Matisse, but that doesn’t mean it knows a lot about art. […] What is now indisputable is that different memories are supported by different anatomical areas of the brain. […] Brain imaging has confirmed the basic division of labour between so-called declarative memory, aka explicit memory (facts and events), and procedural memory, aka implicit memory (habits and skills). The neuroscience allows us to understand the frustrating fact that you have the insight into what you are learning without yet having acquired the skill, or you can have the skill without the insight. In any complex task, you’ll need both. Maybe the next hundred years of the neuroscience of memory will tell us how to coordinate them. […] Chess masters have an amazing memory for patterns on the chess board – able to recall the positions of all the pieces after only a brief glance. Follow-up work showed that they only have this ability if the patterns conform to possible positions in a legal game of chess. When pieces are positioned on the board randomly, however, chess grandmasters have as poor memories as anyone else. [The Guardian]
Why do dogs tilt their heads when we talk to them? Biologist here. Head tilting allows an animal to gain information about the vertical placement of the sound (how far up/down it is, relative to the axis of the skull). It is assumed that canids do head-tilting to try to localize a sound better. This is backed up by the fact that canids do a lot of head-tilting when hunting small prey that are hidden behind grass or snow. Generally – as bilaterally symmetrical animals, mammals already get pretty good information on left-right placement of a sound, due to the fact that we have an ear on the left and a different ear on the right – that means we can get left/right info by things like, time of arrival of the sound at each ear, & loudness of the sound in each ear. But up/down information (how high or low the sound source is) for a sound that is coming from directly in front can be difficult to figure out. This is a challenge for a predator that is typically approaching prey that are right in front. The head tilt solves this problem by offsetting the two ears vertically so that sounds from lower down will hit the lower ear first, and will also be ever-so- slightly louder in the lower ear, and vice versa for sounds coming from higher up. […] With domestic dogs looking at a human, typically they already know the sound is coming from the human; they seem to just instinctively add the head tilt when hearing a puzzling sound, even if they’re pretty sure where it’s coming from. [99trumpets/reddit]
A normal adult will die after eating 480 bananas. How Much [X] Could You Eat Before It Would Kill You?
What would happen if scientists could trick the brain into thinking broccoli tastes like chocolate? How our brains perceive the flavor of food
By the end of this century, Africa will be home to 39% of the world’s population, almost as much as Asia, and four times the share of North America and Europe put together.
A 200-year history of interest rates shows that the real aberration looks like the 7.3 percent average experienced in the United States from 1970 to 2007. [NY Times]
Although your client may think he is above the law and be accustomed to using lawsuits to bail out his failed business deals, the Federal Election Campaign Act and the FEC’s Regulations nonetheless apply to him and his campaign. Perhaps the attached complaint, filed today, will serve as a reminder of your client’s legal obligations under federal election laws. Just as your client is attempting to quickly learn the basics of foreign policy, we wish you personally the best in your attempts to learn election law. [Charles Spies to Trump Attorney/Washington Post]
They’re like, “The internet is public.” A lot of things are public, but it doesn’t mean they’re for you. For instance, you can walk down the street and you can look into all of your neighbors’ windows should they have chanced not to draw the curtains. If you really lean in, you can listen to all kinds of conversations that are too quiet for you to just overhear. You can do all kinds of things in public that you should not do. Are you walking down the street, interrupting random twosomes or threesomes of people to add your two fucking sentences? You’re not, so why are you on my Twitter? Why are you talking to me? [Sarah Nicole Prickett / Mask]
Penrose and many others argue from practical considerations, Godel’s theorem, and on philosophical grounds, that consciousness or awareness is non-algorithmic and so cannot be generated by a system that can be described by classical physics, such as a conventional computer, but could perhaps be generated by a system requiring a quantum (Hilbert space) description. Penrose suspects that aspects of quantum physics not yet understood might be needed to explain consciousness. In this paper we shall see that only known quantum physics is needed to explain perception. [James A. Donald]
In this study, we investigate cross-linguistic patterns in the alternation between UM, a hesitation marker consisting of a neutral vowel followed by a final labial nasal, and UH, a hesitation marker consisting of a neutral vowel in an open syllable.
…a general expletive (oh fuck!), a personal insult (you fuck!), a cursing expletive (fuck you!), an emphatic intensifier (fucking marvellous!), in pronominal form (like fuck), as an idiomatic set phrase (fuck all), and for a destinational usage (fuck off!). Being fluent at swearing is a sign of healthy verbal ability
Concert etiquette demands that audiences of classical concerts avoid inept noises such as coughs. and yet, coughing in concerts occurs more frequently than elsewhere, implying a widespread and intentional breach of concert etiquette.