Human Nature

People Watching

News from the science and technology of humans.

Latest Human Nature columns: 1) Why pro-lifers should fear the morning-after pill. 2) If steroids are cheating, why isn’t LASIK? 3) Biotechnology and the unpleasant alternatives. 4) The timidity of liberal bioethics. 5) Tom DeLay’s mortal hypocrisy. 6) Social Security, longevity, and Latinos. 7) Terri Schiavo, Catholicism, and divorce. 8) Schiavo’s persistent legislative state. 9) Jews vs. Catholics in the stem cell debate. 10) A plan to create an embryo-like thing. 11) Give me pain relief or give me death. 12) Scalia’s flip-flop on the competence of minors. 13) The case for raising the retirement age. 14) What Larry Summers got right and wrong.

The National Academies of science and medicine recommended a ban on cell transplants between human and animal embryos. The human-to-animal ban would apply only to “nonhuman primates.” The academies would also ban research on human embryos older than 14 days.

A study foundno correlation betweenbrain tumors and cell-phone use.

Mammals can be put in suspended animation. Using gases, researchers made mice hibernate, then revived them. No damage was detected. In humans, this could be used to “buy time” while awaiting transplants or transportation to an emergency room.

Florida will mandate lifelong GPS tracking of child molesters after two passed bills are reconciled. Some child advocates warn the electronic bracelets won’t stop molesters.

Two studies suggest day care may protect kids from leukemia. Children who had day care, nursery school, or regular play groups very early in life showed the lowest risk. Scientists think exposure to infections helps kids avoid later immune-system challenges that trigger the disease.

Rodent research indicatesadult stem cells may be versatile. In one study, marrow stem cells helped repair blood vessels and heart muscle; in another, they became nerve cells specialized for hearing; in a third, hair stem cells became neurons. Skeptics await completion of the studies and corroboration that in the past has not materialized.

Chimpanzees used a pin to open a locked gate and maul a man nearly to death. Police believe one of the chimps “reached about 18 inches through a tight space between the chain-link fence and the block wall and popped the metal pin out of the steel door’s locking mechanism.” Experts say other chimps have unraveled chain-link fences and leaned branches against electrified fences in order to escape.

Lawmakers are cracking down on remote-controlled hunting. Their target is a Web site through which you can operate a video camera and make a real gun shoot a real fenced-in animal.

Government researchers found that being a bit “overweight” may be good for you. The data indicate 1) extreme obesity causes the most deaths, but 2) being underweight comes in second, slightly ahead of obesity, and 3) being overweight but not obese prevents more deaths than extreme obesity causes. Radical spin: Overweight should be the new norm. Skeptical spin: The study measured death, not disease, and most people die after 70, when weighing more may be better for you.

The government issued a new food pyramid. Experts praised it for including exercise, personalizing the prescribed amount of each food group by sex and age, and measuring the amounts in ounces and cups, since nobody knew what a “serving” was. But they blamed the food industry for excluding information about what not to eat.