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Social Studies

Children can see winners, clever collegiate ploy, jolly fat men Add to ...

No pyramid peeking?

"Do Egyptian mummies have a right to privacy?" asks a headline in New Scientist magazine. "Should we consider the privacy or reputation of the individual when analyzing an Egyptian mummy? The assumption that ancient corpses are fair game for science is beginning to be challenged. Though strict ethical guidelines apply to research on modern tissue samples, up until now there has been little discussion about work on ancient human remains. In a recent paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics, anatomist Frank Ruhli and ethicist Ina Kaufmann of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, argue that this is disturbing because research on mummies is invasive and reveals intimate information such as family history and medical conditions. And, of course, the subjects cannot provide consent."

Good old Massachusetts

Smithsonian magazine quotes artificial-intelligence researcher David Levy of Maastricht University: "My forecast is that around 2050, the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots."

Children can see winners

"Our minds have been mainly sculpted during the Pleistocene era, spanning from around two million years ago until about 12,000 years ago, when we lived in small, isolated communities of about 150 people," write Anjana Ahuja and Mark van Vugt, authors of Selected: Why Some People Lead, Why Others Follow and Why it Matters. "In the absence of CVs and other objective ways of measuring competence, a fit, healthy, manly appearance was synonymous with leadership potential. In hunter-gatherer societies, conflicts were primarily settled by force, so being strong and tall were prerequisites. And sure enough, the taller candidates routinely triumph in American elections. … Another study found that CEOs rated as 'stronger-looking' by observers tended to run higher-ranked companies than weaker-looking individuals; while children confronted with photographs of electoral candidates generally favour the eventual winner."

Source: The Daily Telegraph

Clever collegiate ploy

"The entire admissions cycle can be one stress point after another these days at private colleges," Scott Jaschik writes for Inside Higher Ed. "Will enough students show interest? Will they visit? Will they apply? Will they enroll?" The numbers, he adds, are looking great at the University of Dayton. "According to Sundar Kumarasamy, vice-president for enrolment management, it's all about pushing the envelope - and he means just that, the envelope. One of the most successful strategies employed by the university involves an unusual arrangement with UPS and DHL that has allowed the university to send the viewbooks and other materials in envelopes with the UPS and DHL logos. Dayton isn't paying for express delivery of the tens of thousands of items it sends this way - they are mailed through the U.S. Postal Service. But the university is licensing the right to use the envelopes from the two express mail services. 'We're sending a message that you are important' with the envelopes, Mr. Kumarasamy said: 'We are saying that you are not going to be like bulk mail to us.' "

Jolly fat men

"Put down the weights and grab a hamburger: Researchers in Turkey have finished a year-long study that correlated body mass index with male sexual performance," Anneli Rufus reports for The Daily Beast website. "Their findings may surprise you: Heavier men were able to make love for an average of 7.3 minutes, while slender men lasted an average of 108 seconds. The study, published in Nature, showed overweight men had higher levels of the female estradiol hormone, which blocks male hormones and delays the climax."

A tropical killer

"Snake bite is one of the world's most neglected health issues," write Nick Brown and Dev Kevat in the New Scientist. "In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a 'neglected tropical disease.' ... The extent of the problem is difficult to quantify, but the WHO estimates there are five million cases annually worldwide, with up to half of all victims experiencing effects from venom. Snakebites cause at least 100,000 deaths and up to 400,000 amputations each year." They add that it's probable snakebite causes more death and disability than many other tropical diseases.

A gleam in the eye

"Cattle infected with mad cow disease give off a telltale glow in their eyes, according to new research published in the journal Analytical Chemistry," Jennifer Viegas reports for Discovery News. "In future, the discovery could lead to a long-sought test to detect infection with the agent that causes mad cow disease, preventing it from spreading throughout the food supply for humans." The characteristic fluorescence is thought to come from an accumulation of lipofuscin in the retina, said research team leader Jacob Petrich of Iowa State University. Lipofuscin is pigmented waste material that's made up of free radical-damaged proteins and fats. In human skin it's the common cause of "age spots." The scientists also determined that the retinas of sheep infected with scrapie, which is similar to mad cow disease, emit a characteristic glow when examined with a beam of light from a special instrument.

Thought du jour

"Every man is the builder of a temple, called his body, to the god he worships, after a style purely his own, nor can he get off by hammering marble instead. We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones."

- Henry David Thoreau

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