Researchers Describe A New Hypothesis About Why The Female Orgasm Exists – REBECCA HERSHER August 1, 2016 9:15 PM ET


Depiction of female reproductive organs during ovulation.

Depiction of female reproductive organs during ovulation. — BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

A pair of scientists have a new hypothesis about why the female orgasm exists: It might have something to do with releasing an egg to be fertilized.

Scientists have puzzled over, and sometimes even questioned the existence of, a phenomenon that appears to have no physical effect on conception. While a male orgasm is crucial to impregnate a female, it is not obvious how a female orgasm affects whether she is impregnated.

In fact, Aristotle and Hippocrates both pointed out the female orgasm appears to be an afterthought, at least when it comes to creating offspring.

The theory would explain the modern reality that women do not experience orgasms as easily or as regularly as men.

But, until now, no hypothesis looked to the biology of distant human mammal relatives, even older than primates, for clues about the orgasms of modern women. In a paper published Sunday in the Journal of Experimental Zoology, Mihaela Pavlicev of the University of Cincinnati and Gunter Wagner of Yale University describe how, over millions of years, evolutionary history suggests reproduction could help explain the female orgasm after all.

If you think of an orgasm as consisting of three parts — a wave of hormones, intense pleasure and muscle contractions — it’s possible to see similarities between a human orgasm and phenomena in other mammal species. The authors are particularly interested in mammals who ovulate in response to copulation.

Article continues:

Inside the Lab That’s Inventing Your Next Favorite Flavor -TOM VANDERBILT 05.19.16. 3:20 PM


DrPepper-470709106-582x388

There are few entities in the world where the question of how things taste, and what they taste like, looms larger than with the global flavoring giant McCormick. One day, I drove from my Brooklyn home to suburban Baltimore to visit the company’s headquarters and observe a group of people at work who are, in essence, paid to taste.

As I pulled up, I detected a faint whiff of a spice that I could not quite give a name to. When I met Marianne Gillette, the company’s vice president of applied research, she noted that many old Baltimoreans, back when the company was based on the waterfront, “associated the smell of Baltimore with McCormick.”

Everyone “remembers the cinnamon,” perhaps no surprise, because not only is it a best-selling spice but, citing the company’s internal research on food and emotion, Gillette told me that “cinnamon is the most loving spice.” It is a virtual memory pathway—for many people, one of the most potent smells of early childhood (I remember the oblong white McCormick cinnamon tin in a way that I do not remember the company’s oregano). Although many of us may associate the McCormick name with tins or bottles of spices, much of the company’s business now comes in providing “custom flavor solutions” for products higher up the food chain. “We are in every aisle of the supermarket,” Gillette told me, and in any number of “quick-serve casual restaurants.”

To visit the company’s flavor laboratories is to see where the human vagaries of flavor meet the certainties of hard science. As I spied a few test tubes on a workbench, Silvia King, McCormick’s white-coated chief scientist, invited me to take a whiff. It smelled like tomato or, more accurately, the smell that remains on your fingers after you touch tomato leaves. “We had a customer come in who had a processed tomato product,” she told me, “that was really lacking in that fresh tomato profile—where you pull it off the vine.”

Article continues:

Why (almost) everything you know about food is wrong – by Julia Belluz on January 2016


LTDean/Shutterstock

There was a time, in the distant past, when studying nutrition was a relatively simple science.

In 1747, a Scottish doctor named James Lind wanted to figure out why so many sailors got scurvy, a disease that leaves sufferers exhausted and anemic, with bloody gums and missing teeth. So Lind took 12 scurvy patients and ran the first modern clinical trial.

The sailors were divided into six groups, each given a different treatment. The men who ate oranges and lemons eventually recovered — a striking result that pointed to vitamin C deficiency as the culprit.

This sort of nutritional puzzle solving was common in the pre-industrial era. Many of troubling diseases of the day, such as scurvy, pellagra, anemia, and goiter, were due to some sort of deficiency in the diet. Doctors could develop hypotheses and run experiments until they figured out what was missing in people’s foods. Puzzle solved.

Unfortunately, studying nutrition is no longer that simple. By the 20th century, medicine had mostly fixed scurvy and goiter and other diseases of deficiency. In developed countries, these scourges are no longer an issue for most people.

Today, our greatest health problems relate to overeating. People are consuming too many calories and too much low-quality food, bringing on chronic diseases like cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Unlike scurvy, these illnesses are much harder to get a handle on. They don’t appear overnight; they develop over a lifetime. And fixing them isn’t just a question of adding an occasional orange to someone’s diet. It involves looking holistically at diets and other lifestyle behaviors, trying to tease out the risk factors that lead to illness.

Today’s nutrition science has to be a lot more imprecise. It’s filled with contradictory studies that are each rife with flaws and limitations. The messiness of this field is a big reason why nutrition advice can be confusing.

It’s also part of why researchers can’t seem to agree on whether tomatoes cause or protect against cancer, or whether alcohol is good for you or not, and so on, and why journalists so badly muck up reporting on food and health.

To get a sense for how difficult it is to study nutrition, I spoke to eight health researchers over the past several months. Here’s what they told me.

Article continues:

http://www.vox.com/2016/1/14/10760622/nutrition-science-complicated

Science Says Soda Taxes Work


RapidEye/iStock

Mexico is among the world’s top consumers of sugar: In 2011, the average Mexican consumed 163 liters of sugary drinks a year, or about 43 gallons. In order to combat the country’s high obesity rate—which, among developed countries, is topped only by the United States—the Mexican government implemented a 10 percent tax on sugar-sweetened drinks in January 2014.

A study published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal suggests that the tax is working: After one year, sales of sugar-sweetened drinks in Mexico dropped by 12 percent. And among poor households, which have the highest levels of obesity and untreated diabetes, sales fell 17 percent.

The study, conducted by researchers at Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, looked at sugary-drink purchases among some 6,000 households in cities across Mexico, and compared real purchases with expected purchases without the tax. In addition to a reduction in sugary-drink sales, the researchers found a 4 percent increase in untaxed beverage sales—primarily water.

“These results are not surprising, but their empirical confirmation is of the greatest importance for governments that have opted to use taxes on sugar sweetened beverages as part of public health strategies, and those considering to do it,” wroteFranco Sassi, head of the public health program of the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation.

Mexico’s tax of 1 peso per liter was celebrated by health advocates in part because of the way it was constructed: The price increase showed up on the price tag and not just at the register, and it was a big enough price jump that consumers noticed a difference.

Meanwhile, Berkeley, California, is the only city in the United States to have a soda tax, passed in March 2015 despite heavy beverage industry spending. It’s too soon to tell if that tax has had a similar effect.

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/01/more-evidence-soda-taxes-work-mexico

Childhood Asthma Rates Level Off, But Racial Disparities Remain – Rob Stein December 28, 20151:51 AM ET


Asthma is a big cause of school absences and can cause parents to miss work, too.

Asthma is a big cause of school absences and can cause parents to miss work, too. AJPhoto/Science Source

There’s finally some good news about childhood asthma in the United States: After rising for decades, the number of children with the breathing disorder has finally stopped increasing and may have started falling, according to a government analysis.

“That was a big surprise,” says Lara Akinbami of the National Center for Health Statistics. “We were expecting the increase to kind of continue. But in fact we saw the opposite.”

The percentage of U.S. children with asthma doubled in the 1980s and 1990s and had been increasing steadily since then. The reason for the increase has remained mysterious, but there may be many possible factors, including exposure to secondhand smoke, obesity and children’s immune systems failing to develop properly.

Akinbami and her colleagues detected the first change in that trend when they analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey between 2001 and 2013.

Among children ages 17 and younger, the prevalence of asthma peaked at 9.7 percent in 2011 and then plateaued until 2013, when it declined to 8.3 percent, the researchers report Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

But asthma prevalence continues to rise among children in the poorest families and remains far more common among African-American children than white children. More than 14 percent of black children have asthma, compared to about 8 percent of white children. Black children are also much more likely than white children to suffer severe complications.

Article continues:

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/12/28/460845335/childhood-asthma-rates-level-off-but-racial-disparities-remain

 

A Star-Crossed ‘Scientific Fact’: The Story Of Vulcan, Planet That Never Was – NPR STAFF Updated November 30, 20151:46 AM ET


There’s a common misconception that science is purely about cold, hard facts — concrete evidence, mathematical models and replicable experiments to explain the world around us.

It’s easy to forget that there are people behind the data and equations. And when people are involved, there is always room for human error.

The Hunt for Vulcan
The Hunt for Vulcan

And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe

by Thomas Levenson

In The Hunt For Vulcan, author Thomas Levenson, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explores one glaring error that was taken as fact for more than 50 years: the belief that there was another planet in our solar system that we couldn’t see behind the sun.

The mistake started with good science, Levenson says: the observation of something odd, and the development of a reasonable hypothesis to explain it.

“In the mid-19th century, an extremely talented astronomer — a really, really top-flight guy — was studying the orbit of the planet Mercury, and he found that there was a wobble in it. There was an unexplained extra residue of motion,” Levenson tells NPR’s Michel Martin.

And, Levenson says that according to the prevailing science of the time, there was a clear explanation for that: “another planet that we hadn’t yet discovered, inside the orbit of Mercury, that could tug it just slightly off its expected course.”

Professor Thomas Levenson, during the History Channel 2008 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

After the theory was announced, both amateur and professional astronomers reported that they’d actually spotted the planet. The planet was named Vulcan, and its orbit was calculated. It all appeared quite cut and dry.

Then Albert Einstein came along.

Article continues:

http://www.npr.org/2015/11/29/457782813/a-star-crossed-scientific-fact-the-story-of-vulcan-planet-that-never-was

EVERY STATE IN THE USA, RANKED BY ITS FOOD/DRINK – BY KEVIN ALEXANDER AND MATT LYNCH PUBLISHED ON 7/6/2014


During America Week, a parlor game emerged among our editors, in which we discussed what state we’d want to eat and drink in for the rest of our lives if we couldn’t move anywhere else. And, in order to prove each other wrong, we began to research, then really research, and then began to get deep into some weird food forums, and, at the end of it all, we realized we needed to do the most research possible and turn this into a story.

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at Jul 8, 2014 12.29

Jennifer Bui

So here is what we did: we ranked states by the food/drink available in that state, focusing on four key questions: 1) What did they produce (beef, oranges, ugh, sorghum?), 2) What iconic items were they known for (key lime pie? onion burgers?), 3) What is their beer/wine/spirits production like (great breweries/wineries?), and finally 4) What is the food/drink scene like in their cities? Weighing all those factors, here is our by-no-means-scientific ranking. If you disagree and want to tell us how stupid our faces are, well, that’s what Internet commenting forums are all about:

50. South Dakota

When you Google “South Dakota and food”, an image of a hungry child crying comes up, and then the computer goes black.

49. North Dakota

This could have been at 50. We flipped a coin.

48. Utah

You pride yourself on your secret “fry sauce”, which is just the same ketchup and mayo hybrid one finds at burger joints EVERYWHERE. But at least you have really arcane liquor laws!

47. Iowa

Your most iconic food is meat that a person was too lazy to pack together.

 

List continues:  http://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/every-state-ranked-by-its-food-drink

How to Motivate Yourself: 3 Steps Backed By Science – by Eric Barker   12:01 AM ET


 You write a to-do list… but then you don’t follow through.

And this happens again and again and again. Seriously, what’s the problem?

Why are we so good at thinking of what to do but so terrible at actually doing those things?

The problem is you’re skipping an essential step. Here’s what it is…

The Mistake Every Productivity System Makes

Productivity systems rarely take emotions into account. Andfeelings are a fundamental and unavoidable part of why humans do what they do.

We can’t ignore our emotions. Because of the way our brains are structured, when thought and feelings compete, feelings almost always win.

And we can’t fight our feelings. Research shows this just makes them stronger.

Via The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking:

…when experimental subjects are told of an unhappy event, but then instructed to try not to feel sad about it, they end up feeling worse than people who are informed of the event, but given no instructions about how to feel. In another study, when patients who were suffering from panic disorders listened to relaxation tapes, their hearts beat faster than patients who listened to audiobooks with no explicitly ‘relaxing’ content. Bereaved people who make the most effort to avoid feeling grief, research suggests, take the longest to recover from their loss. Our efforts at mental suppression fail in the sexual arena, too: people instructed not to think about sex exhibit greater arousal, as measured by the electrical conductivity of their skin, than those not instructed to suppress such thoughts.

So what does the unavoidable power of feelings mean for motivation?

In their book SwitchChip and Dan Heath say that emotions are an essential part of executing any plan:

Focus on emotions. Knowing something isn’t enough to cause change. Make people (or yourself) feel something.

We need to think to plan but we need to feel to act.

So if you’ve got the thinking part out of the way – how do you rile up those emotions and get things done? Here are three steps:

1) Get Positive

When do we procrastinate the most? When we’re in a bad mood.

Via Temptation: Finding Self-Control in an Age of Excess:

So procrastination is a mood-management technique, albeit (like eating or taking drugs) a shortsighted one. But we’re most prone to it when we think it will actually help… Well, far and away the most procrastination occurred among the bad-mood students who believed their mood could be changed and who had access to fun distractions.

Meanwhile, research shows happiness increases productivity and makes you more successful.

What does the military teach recruits in order to mentally toughen them up? No, it’s not hand-to-hand combat.

It’s optimism. So how do you get optimistic if you’re not feeling it?

Monitor the progress you’re making and celebrate it.Harvard’s Teresa Amabile‘s research found that nothing is more motivating than progress.

Via The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work:

This pattern is what we call the progress principle: of all the positive events that influence inner work life, the single most powerful is progress in meaningful work; of all the negative events, the single most powerful is the opposite of progress—setbacks in the work. We consider this to be a fundamental management principle: facilitating progress is the most effective way for managers to influence inner work life.

(More on how to get happier here.)

Okay, so negativity isn’t making you procrastinate and holding you back. But what’s going to drive you forward?

Read the rest of the list here:

http://time.com/2933971/how-to-motivate-yourself-3-steps-backed-by-science/

 

How one publisher is stopping academics from sharing their research BY ANDREA PETERSON December 19 at 5:51 pm


In this Nov. 13, 2008 file photo, the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. is seen. Harvard University officials say Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011 that its largest-in-the-nation endowment earned a profit of $4.4 billion in fiscal 2011, growing to a robust $32 billion. This marks the second year in a row of strong growth for an endowment that fell by $11 billion to $26 billion during the fiscal year that ended June 2009. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, file)

In this Nov. 13, 2008 file photo, the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, file)

One of the world’s largest academic publishers has launched a wide-ranging takedown spree, demanding that several different universities take down their own scholars’ research.

Elsevier is a commercial firm that publishes some of the leading journals in many academic fields. In recent weeks, it has sent takedown notices to the academic social media network Academia.edu, as well as to the University of Calgary, the University of California-Irvine, and Harvard University.

In these cases, Elsevier is within its legal rights to demand the material be taken down. The firm often requires researchers to surrender their copyrights in a paper as a condition of publishing it. But the takedown campaign goes against a long-standing industry practice in which journal publishers look the other way when academics post their own work.

Elsevier’s new hard-line posture is likely to intensify a debate over the future of academic publishing. Thanks to the Internet, academics no longer need traditional academic publishers to distribute their research to the world in paper form. And a growing number of researchers are beginning to wonder if legacy publishers are becoming more of an obstacle than an aid to distributing their work. Outrage over Elsevier’s takedown spree could intensify their search for alternative models that allow academics to share their work directly—without companies like Elsevier taking such a big cut.

Article continues:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/12/19/how-one-publisher-is-stopping-academics-from-sharing-their-research/

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