Human Nature

Big Arnold Is Watching You

And other news from science and technology.

(For the latest Human Nature columns on race, crime, creationism, and anal sex, click here.)

California authorized the purchase of GPS tracking monitors for thousands of criminals on parole or probation. The monitors can be assigned by probation officers without court orders. Lawmakers say they’ll cut both crime and costs. (For Human Nature’s take, click here.)

A pro basketball star was traded after refusing to be DNA-tested for a heart condition. Eddy Curry missed part of last season due to an arrhythmia; tests suggested he might have a condition that killed two other players. The test could prove he has the condition (thereby ending his career) but couldn’t prove he doesn’t. His old team says without the test, his risk of dying on the court is too high; his new team says it’s up to him.

Brain scans can help spot compulsive liars. People who score high on tests for deceptiveness have 25 percent more white matter and 14 percent less gray matter in the prefrontal cortex than others do. One theory: White matter helps with the intellectual challenges of trickery.

“Weather modification” experts are plotting ways to knock out hurricanes. One plan would spray film on the ocean to block the heat transfer hurricanes need; another would spray soot in the atmosphere to get the same effect; a third would use jet engines on barges to disrupt a hurricane with small tropical storms. But a successful plan might divert the hurricane to a different landing site, causing legal or international havoc.

Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett said “you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” Bennett called the idea “ridiculous and morally reprehensible,” and he cited it to suggest that abortion policy shouldn’t be used to engineer society. But critics also saw racism in the predictive aspect of his statement. (For Human Nature’s take, click here.)

Low cholesterol in men may cause Parkinson’s. Men with LDL cholesterol levels below 135 were four to six times more likely to get the disease. One theory: Cholesterol helps eliminate toxins that trigger Parkinson’s. Another: Cholesterol is related to chemicals involved in the central nervous system.

Connecticut became the first state to enact new restrictions on fertility treatment. One provision halts mandatory insurance coverage of fertility treatment at age 40; another limits the number of implanted embryos to two per treatment. The rationale for the age limit is cost-effectiveness; the rationale for the embryo limit is reduction of multiple births. The age limit doesn’t apply to men.

A study suggests MRIs can detect lies with accuracy exceeding 90 percent. If true, that beats polygraphs. During lies, MRIs showed greater blood flow to brain areas associated with lie-related processes such as anxiety, impulse control, and multitasking.

A trial pitting evolution against “intelligent design” opened in Pennsylvania. Some parents are suing a school district for promoting ID. Unlike the recent hearings in Kansas, this case is being fought hard by evolutionists and may well end up in the Supreme Court. (For Human Nature’s take on ID, click here.)

Only 64 percent of men wash their hands after using bathrooms at New York’s Penn Station, compared with 92 percent of women. On average, in several cities, 83 percent of Americans using public restrooms do so. “Harris Interactive observed the behavior of 6,336 adults (3,206 males and 3,130 females) in public restrooms. … Observers were instructed to groom themselves (comb their hair, put on makeup, etc.) while observing.”

Critics are targeting the legal peddling of performance-enhancing stimulants to kids as young as 4. A company advertises its drink mix, loaded with more than twice the average daily caffeine intake of kids aged 6 to 11, as a way to “develop fully as a high-performance athlete.” The mix needs no caffeine warning because it’s technically a dietary supplement.

Latest Human Nature columns: 1) Bill Bennett’s racial determinism.2) “Intelligent design”  chickens out. 3) The mainstreaming of anal sex. 4) The political use of fetal pain. 5) The difference between blacks and animals. 6) The emerging technology of artificial wombs. 7) The case for  growing embryos for their parts. 8) The evolution of creationism.