Human Nature

People Watching

News from the science and technology of humans.

Latest Human Nature columns: 1) Biotechnology and the unpleasant alternatives. 2) The timidity of liberal bioethics. 3) Tom DeLay’s mortal hypocrisy. 4) Social Security, longevity, and Latinos. 5) Terri Schiavo, Catholicism, and divorce. 6) Schiavo’s persistent legislative state. 7) Jews vs. Catholics in the stem cell debate. 8) A plan to create an embryo-like thing. 9) Give me pain relief or give me death. 10) Scalia’s flip-flop on the competence of minors. 11) The case for raising the retirement age. 12) What Larry Summers got right and wrong.

A study found that milk and meat hardly differ between cloned and regular cattle. There was no significant difference in antibodies between cloned and regular cow milk, and the clones’ meat was virtually identical to regular meat on more than 90 percent of factors measured.

Liberals and conservatives switched sides on silicone breast implants. At an FDA hearing, supporters of traditional femininity defended a woman’s right to choose such implants, even with a health risk. Pro-choicers on abortion argued that the implants were too dangerous to legalize universally.

NASA reviewers approved a design for a robot rescue of the Hubble Space Telescope. This is just the first step of a process that requires further technical review and would have to overcome the Bush administration’s decision not to attempt such a mission.

An entrepreneur has developed glasses that hang from a pierced nose. You push a mini-barbell through the bridge of your nose and attach the lenses with magnets.

More than 1,000 American women aged 50 or older gave birth using donor eggs in the last decade. In 2002, more than 5,000 American women in their late 40s gave birth.

Flies have been genetically engineered to be controlled by lasers. Scientists injected a chemical into the flies’ brains that makes them flap their wings or jump when the chemical is activated by ultraviolet beams. Behavior that was experimentally controlled by electrodes can now be controlled externally.

Larry Summers warned of sex bias in academics. Three months ago, the Harvard president got in trouble for suggesting differences in “intrinsic aptitude” between boys and girls. This time he focused on research showing effects of bias and discouragement.

Flesh-eating bacteria are spreading in the general population. They’re apparently adapting to our overuse of antibiotics.

The market for genetically customized health forecasts is growing. Companies test for twice as many diseases as five years ago. They advise clients to orient diets and medications to this or that disease based on genetic susceptibility.

More Americans and Europeans are going to India for cheaper and faster surgery. Foreign patients there are expected to rise 15 percent each year.

The director of the National Institutes of Health conceded that stem-cell lines excluded from federal funding by President Bush would help answer some medical questions. This essentially contradicts the White House line.

We may have found the earliest evidence of human compassion. A 1.8-million-year-old skull indicates its aged owner survived without teeth for two years, possibly because others found soft food for him or softened up tough food for him. The explanation is speculative.

Food makers are studying chemicals to make you think you’re eating salt and sugar when you aren’t. The chemicals trick your taste receptors. Good news: The companies would then reduce salt and sugar content. Bad news: They won’t list the new chemicals on ingredients labels.

The U.S. is remotely piloting more than 700 drones over Iraq. The military plans to spend billions for more. They’re “tracking insurgents, foiling roadside bombings, protecting convoys and launching missile attacks.”

Companies are fighting obesity by drugging the brain. One experimental drug blocks a pleasure receptor; another signals the brain to stop eating.

Researchers used brain scans to detect how much you trust another person. The scans show blood flow in a specific part of the brain.

Proteins can edit mutational errors in human DNA. This is a more precise alternative to gene transplants. Scientists claim the technique’s 20 percent success rate is “probably adequate to elicit a cure if the technique were to be used on an actual patient.”