Harper’s Findings: 7/02/08

Written by Harper's Findings, Music

A selection of “Findings” from the back page of Harper’s Magazine, June 2008.

A genetic variation affecting two thirds of East Asian men might allow them to take performance-enhancing testosterone undetected, a study found. As yet there exists only anecdotal evidence that Chinese, Japanese, and Korean athletes are more successful at cheating. (Randy Newman, “Yellow Man” [download])

Biologists warned that woody plants were poised to invade China, and phytologists in Europe confirmed that invasive Chinese black truffles threaten Perigord black truffles with extinction through interbreeding. (Woody Guthrie, “This Land Is Your Land” [download])

Scientists found that the DNA of platypuses comprises bird, mammal, and reptile genes, and that the Amazon molly fish has been reproducing asexually for 70,000 years but has avoided the rapid genetic deterioration associated with asexual vertebrates by stealing the DNA of its sister species. (Tears for Fears, “God’s Mistake” [download])

Australian biologists discovered that subordinate gobie fish restrict their eating so as not to grow large enough to threaten dominant fish, and primatologists found that subordinate female macaques, stressed from constant harassment by dominant females, tend to eat too much calorie-rich food. An overweight English hedgehog was reported to have lost weight on the Atkins diet. (The Staple Singers, “The Weight” [download])

Women who consume bananas before conception are more likely to bear boys. (Sparks, “Dick Around” [download])

Economists established that the 63 percent drop in Brazil’s birth rate between 1960 and 2000 was due in part to soap operas. (Ornette Coleman, “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” [download])

Researchers were building robot nanoworms, designed to seek out and kill cancer cells, and swarms of robot dragonflies for the U.S. military. (Robyn, “Robotboy” [download])

The Earl of Cranbrook put forth that Borneo’s iconic pygmy elephants are actually an alien species introduced to the island centuries ago by the Sultan of Sulu. (Freddie Stevenson, “If An Alien Astronomer Could See Us from Afar” [download])

Thai doctors were unable to verify whether nang bong caterpillars, which favor the leaves of the golden-shower tree, are an effective aphrodisiac, and Chinese zoologists found that exposure to cat urine makes male mice more aggressive and makes their urine more likely to attract females. South African scientists observed an Antarctic fur seal attempting to rape a king penguin. (R. Kelly, “You Remind Me of Something” [download])

Norway once had parrots. (Aztec Camera, “Birds” [download])

Ornithologists said that great tits can cope well with global warming, though British tits were found to be better adjusted than Dutch tits, and neuroscientists studying zebra finches found that baby birds babble before they become capable of adult birdsong. (Joe Walsh, “I.L.B.T.’s” [download])

Urban food deserts were growing in size and number throughout Canada, undersea deserts were expanding, the reduction of air pollution in North America was thought to be causing droughts in the Amazon, chemists warned that aquatic ecosystems could be destroyed by nanoparticle silver washing out of odor-fighting socks, and British meteorologists noted a foul “Euro-whiff” emanating from the Continent. (Freedy Johnston, “Gone Like the Water” [download])

Cosmologists postulated that the universe began not with a bang but with a splat, and suggested that the solar system may be situated within a billion-light-year-wide bubble of low density surrounded by a shell of high density, which would create, for observers on the Earth, the illusion that the universe’s expansion is accelerating. (Sonny Landreth and Eric Johnson, “The Milky Way Home” [download])

Geologists remained uncertain about why the Earth hums. (The Finn Brothers, “Gentle Hum” [download])