Don't Feed the Reaper
And other news from science and technology.
(For the latest Human Nature columns on mandatory pregnancy, creationism, and more, click here.)
Italy's IVF law survived a referendum. The law bans sperm donation and surrogate motherhood and requires women to implant simultaneously all the embryos they create. (For Human Nature's take, click here.)
Astronomers found the smallest planet yet detected outside our solar system. It has seven times the Earth's mass, is made of the same stuff, and might have an atmosphere. This is as small a planet as we can detect with present technology, so there's no evidence that Earth-sized planets won't be found as our instruments improve.
New evidence suggests that fat makes you age faster. Obesity adds about nine years to your biological age, as measured by cellular deterioration.
Psychiatrists are debating whether too many people are being classified as mentally ill. Some say over-diagnosis is diverting resources from seriously ill people to those with mild problems. Others say it's better to catch the mild cases before they become serious.
IVF kids are taller and have more good cholesterol than naturally conceived kids. The height difference seems related to more growth hormones, not parental size. The study's author thinks the difference is caused by IVF-induced genetic change, not by eugenics.
Robots are invading online poker. They never get tired or lose concentration, and your robot can make money for you while you sleep. But learning opponents' behavior patterns is crucial in poker, and the best humans can still beat the best computers at that.
Genes affect monogamy in male prairie voles. Those with longer versions of a certain DNA segment show "increased probability of preferences for a familiar-partner female over a novel-stranger female." Human DNA varies similarly, but nobody knows whether it affects human monogamy.
Asexuals are coming out of the closet. More than 4,000 have joined the Asexual Visibility and Education Network; an analysis last year indicated that 1 percent of British adults might be asexual. Some psychologists think asexuality is inherently dysfunctional; others classify it as "hypoactive sexual desire disorder" only if it causes distress.
Middle age is rising. In 2000, the average American was 35.3 years old, and remaining life expectancy from that point was 43.5 years. In 2050, demographers project the average American will be 41.7, but remaining life expectancy will be 2.3 years longer for that 41-year-old than it was for the 35-year-old in 2000.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.