March 4, 2005

Truth is Stranger than Fiction

Science marches on. We report, you deride.

Researches can tell from a single sample of saliva how many cavities a kid is going to get by the age of 30. They can even tell which teeth are at most risk. Apparently, it's all in the sugar chains. Now I'll be able to emphasize to my son if he should be brushing his teeth to avoid the drill or the cold shoulder.

Here's new meaning to giving someone the finger, but apparently you can tell something from the length of a man's finger.

A man's index finger length relative to ring finger length can predict how inclined that man is to be physically aggressive. Women do not show a similar effect. A psychologist at the University of Alberta, Hurd said that it has been known for more than a century that the length of the index finger relative to the ring finger differs between men and women. More recently, researchers have found a direct correlation between finger lengths and the amount of testosterone that a fetus is exposed to in the womb. The shorter the index finger relative to the ring finger, the higher the amount of prenatal testosterone, and as Hurd and Bailey have now shown the more likely he will be physically aggressive throughout his life.

"More than anything, I think the findings reinforce and underline that a large part of our personalities and our traits are determined while we're still in the womb," said Hurd.


Hmm, I bet Larry Summers was happy to hear this, along with everybody in the criminal justice system. Cops will be using it to profile, and defense attorneys will be using it to blame a man's mother for his violent ways. Shaking hands will take on a whole new meaning. Or not.

At last scientists are studying something useful -- does the order you appear effect how you're judged during a competition. And the answer is: Go last if you want to be first. A researcher studied European ice skating competitions and the Eurovison song contest. I guess she was too busy in the lab to hear that ice skating is fixed.

The search for life in the Universe may be on going, but Astronomers now have good evidence that carbonated beverages exist out there with their discovery of a "burper". I hope they don't discover evidence of Mexican food in outer space. What's a burper? A source of intense bursts of radio waves that isn't a quaser. I guess I should be happy they don't name celestial objects after TVs anymore.

In another break through, researchers have discovered that people immersed in a virtual world don't notice pain. The virtual world the researches used was a game played wearing a special headset with two small computer screens and a special sensor, which allows the player to interact with the game and feel a part of its almost dreamlike world. Sounds to me like some researches wanted somebody else to pay for their video game habit. I know people that when immersed in a video game don't notice time, the urge to pee, or even how badly they smell. I can see big pharma getting rid of Vioxx and instead making high end video games. I'd like to develop that ad campaign: Video games - good for what ailes you.

Astronomers didn't take time off to celebrate their discovery of burpers, and also managed to discover the smallest star yet.

And a team of Astronomers in Cambridge, worried about being left out of all the discoveries, announced they discovered an invisible galaxy. Yeah, sure you did. OK, they really did, and this is important, because it's this giant dark galaxy made out of something so exotic that instead of getting silly and calling it noseum or no-frickin'-clue or bandersnatch they call it dark matter.

Posted by Kevin Murphy at March 4, 2005 12:23 PM | Science
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The two older kids and I had a tremendous pillow fight last night! They are actually getting pretty good - Isabel can throw a mean pillow, and Simon is getting to be a master at ducking just in time for my throw to go whizzing over his head and smash into the wall or the chandelier behind him.

At one break in the action, I looked down and noticed that one of my fingers was covered with blood. It turned out to be just a scratch, probably from my watch band, but in the heat of battle I never felt it. So we washed off the cut and put on a bandage. I think we had to clean up the bedroom after that.

So - I think any kind of intense stimulus will cause you to be oblivious to pain, or the passage of time, or how much you have to pee, or anything not directly related to the battle at hand. Some soldiers from the Kuwait War (Persian Gulf I) reported that after an intense firefight they had no idea whether the battle lasted minutes or hours. It's nice to hear that some medical researchers are using this effect to take away the pain without drugs.

Posted by: Carl Drews at March 7, 2005 9:52 AM

I think the question is if you can establish that intense focus in the game in the face of already established pain. Maybe you start with a drug and then switch to the game.

Posted by: Kevin Murphy at March 8, 2005 7:39 AM