Latest Human Nature columns: 1) Grandma vs. a clump of cells. 2) The evolution of creationism. 3) Why GPS tracking is good for felons. 4) No steroids in football, but let them eat steak. 5) Why pro-lifers fear the morning-after pill. 6) If steroids are cheating, why isn't LASIK? 7) Jews vs. Catholics in the stem-cell debate. 8) The case for raising the retirement age.
The Air Force is pushing to weaponize space. Programs are in the works to 1) make radio waves lethal, 2) build planes that "strike from halfway around the world in 45 minutes," 3) use blimps and mirrors to aim lasers at earth targets, and 4) fire heavy-element cylinders "striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon."
U.S. military associations are fighting restrictions on women in combat. A new bill would tighten the official ban. A retired general says it's too hard to enforce the ban strictly, since troops can now be attacked anywhere.
Scientists are debating the evolutionary logic of the femaleorgasm. Some think it motivates women to have sex; others think it improves sperm retention; others think it's "phasing out." Latest theory: Nature gives all human embryos the neural basis for orgasm because this promotes reproduction in boys. For girls, it's a happy byproduct.
Fake acupuncture works as well as the real thing at averting headaches. Researchers suspect a placebo effect or "physiological effects of needling."
Antibodies to nicotine help people quit smoking. At high levels, they nearly double the percentage of smokers who quit for at least half a year. The next step is to make a vaccine.
A CIA flying drone killed an al-Qaida operative in Pakistan. The drone was "operated from a secret base hundreds of miles" away. The Air Force will buy 59 more drones over the next five years and arm them with up to 3,000 pounds of precision-guided munitions.
Major drugstores will movemore than 100 cold medicines behind the counter to help stop methamphetamine production. The medicines include Advil, Benadryl, Contac, Claritin, Motrin, Sudafed, and Tylenol products. The companies want uniform policies because they can't keep track of new state laws on these products.
Congressional Republicans are proposing to raise the retirement age for Social Security. One committee chairman indicates some manual laborers might be exempted. Scholars point out that Americans now spend one-third of adulthood in retirement. (For Human Nature's take, click here.)
The President's Council on Bioethics outlined four ways to get around the moral problems with embryonic stem-cell research. Scientists objected that the proposed routes would waste precious time with no guarantee that they'd work. The council's chairman advised scientists to devote more ingenuity to making them work. (For Human Nature's reports on the debate, click here, here, and here.)
Massachusetts is rethinking when life begins. The governor wants to preserve the state's 1974 statement that life begins at fertilization. The legislature wants to define life as beginning at implantation. Embryonic stem-cell research requires embryo destruction after fertilization but before implantation.
An FDA staffer may have circumvented a scientific advisory panel to restrict a morning-after pill. David Hager, an evangelical member of the panel, said a staffer asked him to write a memo to the FDA commissioner opposing the panel's advice to allow the pill. (The FDA denies it, but Hager is reportedly on the record.) The FDA then overruled the panel. Hager said of his intervention, "What Satan meant for evil, God turned into good."