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How To Avoid Being Cannibalized By Your Mate

There are two ways that adult male Darwin's bark spiders can avoid being eaten after sex. First, they can mate only with young and inexperienced female spiders who are like really bad at the whole mating thing, or they can subdue the adult female spiders with a bit or [sic] oral pleasuring in order to continue living their lives relatively unharmed.
[emphasis mine]


I really have nothing more to add here.

By min | February 27, 2015, 8:02 AM | Science | Comments (2)| Link

The Flavor of Fat is "Delicious"

You know how sometimes you get that piece of fat on a steak or a porkchop? I loved that. Marrow's prolly pretty fatty. That's also delicious. And duck skin...Yeah, fat's a flavor and that flavor is "mmmmm..."

A paper published early this month by Australian researchers in a special edition of the journal Flavour highlights recent breakthroughs in our understanding of fat as a taste. Citing dozens of studies, it describes what is understood about the chemical and electrical pathway between fat in the food we eat and our brains.

Although taste has been studied and contemplated since the time of Aristotle, there's no textbook definition of what makes a taste. In science, "taste" is the perception of certain chemicals on the tongue, while "flavor" is the combined experience of taste and smell. Fat definitely induces responses based on its smell and texture, but over the past decade, evidence has been mounting that it may also have a taste component.


Mattes pointed me to one practical reason for understanding whether fat is a taste. "Fat replacers," products used to mimic fat in food to reduce calorie count, are designed based on texture. If there is a taste component, it likely isn't being captured, which could explain why products with fake fat don't taste as good. (No, fat-free half and half is not as good as the real thing.)

Join us next time for a discussion on how enjoyable it is to eat gristle. Gotta love that crunch.

By min | February 20, 2015, 1:16 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link

Why So Threatened, Bro?

I wish they hadn't chosen a pic of Britney Spears and her ex(?)-husband for this article. Makes me feel like i'm reading celebrity gossip.

[emphasis mine]

In 2013, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business published a paper that looked at 4,000 U.S. married couples who responded to the National Survey of Families and Households. It found that when the wife was the higher earner, the chances that the couple would report being in a "happy" marriage fell by 6 percentage points. Couples in which the wife earned more were also 6 percentage points more likely to have discussed separating in the past year.

Trying to understand the causal link between female breadwinners and divorce, the authors looked at housework and child care. On average, women do more than men (that's well known), but the researchers found that the housework gap got even larger when the woman was the primary earner. They think this finding, which is based on eight years' worth data from the American Time Use Survey, "suggests that a 'threatening' wife takes on a greater share of housework so as to assuage the husband's unease with the situation." Ultimately though, that "second shift" becomes too tiring for the woman and places additional strain on the marriage.

There are other ways in which an income gap can lead to marital stress. Christin Munsch, then a doctoral candidate at Cornell University, analyzed data on 18- to 28-year-old couples (some were married and some were cohabiting) from the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. She found that the more that a man is financially dependent on his female partner, the more likely he is to cheat on her. Men who are entirely dependent on their girlfriends or wives are five times more likely to cheat than men who earn the same amount as their partners. In contrast though, the more financially dependent a woman is on her male partner, the less likely she is to cheat. The trend was clear, despite that the overall numbers were low -- 3.8 percent of men and 1.4 percent of women admitted to cheating on their partners in a given year between 2002 and 2007.

Women reading this may wonder whether the only men suitable for marriage are those who earn a lot more. But the research from Cornell found that men who made significantly more than their female partners were also more likely to cheat.

I would have liked to see it broken down by couples who had kids and those who didn't and compare those happiness numbers. Are couples without children as likely to be unhappy when the wife is the higher earner than those with?

One hopes that at some point, some study will come up with a better causal analysis so that we can't comfortably fall back on "men suck". I'm more inclined to think "people suck at communicating expectations" is the cause of most relationship ills.

Sadly, according to these numbers, only 29% of women earn more than their husbands. I guess i should be happy that at least it's trending up. I don't think it can ever reach 50% because babies. Even with paternity leave and fathers being more than willing to put in their fair share of the work, unless parents choose to formula-feed, moms are kinda chained to that infant for the first couple of months, at a minimum, and that has to impact a woman's career, especially if there's more than one child. Unless society moves to a Walden Two Skinner-esque model, that is (why aren't you putting your baby in a Skinner crib??? why???).

By min | February 11, 2015, 1:09 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (0)| Link

So There Should Be an Equal Percentage of Vegan Options

The internets tell me that approximately 2.5% of the population in the U.S. are vegans (i googled it).

Five Thirty Eight tells me that approximately 2% of the population in the U.S. have a wheat allergy, celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

So, how come i'm more likely to find a "gluten-free" section on a menu than a vegan one? How come i can get gluten-free pizza at the place down the street, but no place within delivery range offers Daiya cheese?

Because there's 28% of you eating gluten-free for no reason and ruining everybody's good time, that's why. Jerks.

By min | February 11, 2015, 8:54 AM | Science | Comments (0)| Link

Synthetic Antibodies

Advances continue to be made on treatments for cancer, HIV, and others (which is heartening because i'm always wondering what the hell they're doing with all that money people donate at fundraisers for things like cancer research). Link

In work recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society Spiegel and his team have successfully developed the first synthetic molecules that behave like antibodies. Like the real thing, these so-called "synthetic antibody mimics"--or "SyAMs"--bind to both diseased cells and disease-fighting immune cells. Specifically the compounds were found to zero in on and bind to a specific antigen on prostate cancer cells. The SyAMs also bind to and activate certain immune cells that then devour the malignancy.

Spiegel's SyAMs are produced in a way that is similar to conventional drugs, by using chemical reactions to piece together various structural features often not found in nature. As he explains, the therapeutic potential of synthetic antibodylike compounds is vast: "Because antibodies are proteins they're difficult and expensive to produce on a large scale, can cause unwanted immune reactions and tend to aggregate and denature with long-term storage." Spiegel speculates that SyAMs will be easier and cheaper to produce and less likely to incite aberrant immune activity. SyAMs are also one twentieth the size of antibodies--more akin to the size of most medications--and can therefore perhaps be administered orally. This could be a major boon to patients with cancers and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis who have to regularly get themselves to infusion centers for monoclonal antibody therapy.

By min | February 10, 2015, 10:23 AM | Science | Comments (0)| Link

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