My Other Vagina
And other news from science and technology.
(For the latest Human Nature columns on creationism, anal sex, and re-engineering human embryos, click here.)
A woman gave birth to twins from two wombs. She was born with two vaginas, but doctors had merged them into one. Seventy women have reportedly carried double-womb pregnancies in the last century. Odds of twin births in this case were 5 million to one. (For Human Nature's take on deformities, click here.)
Aborting an unwanted pregnancy doesn't increase a woman's risk of depression. This study rebuts a previous study that suggested a correlation. To the contrary, the authors conclude, "Delivering a first unwanted pregnancy is, however, associated with lower education and income and larger family size—all risk factors for depression." (For Human Nature's take on abortion politics, click here.)
Doctors are testing remote-controlled surgery through mini-robots inserted in your body. The wheeled robots are three inches long with cameras or surgical tools. Advantages: 1) They see your insides better than doctors can. 2) They can reach places doctors' hands can't reach. 3) They can get around with just one small incision, reducing infection risks and recovery time. Possible applications: 1) astronauts in space, 2) soldiers on battlefields, 3) replacing all conventional surgery. The robots have succeeded in animal tests and will be tried on humans next spring.
The science establishment is cracking down on creationists. The National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association blocked the Kansas education board from using their education materials unless it reconsiders 1) its heavy emphasis on problems in Darwinism and 2) its openness to supernatural explanations in science. (For Human Nature's latest take on the "intelligent design" trial, click here.)
Nearly one of every four people arrested last year was a woman. In prison, the number of women is growing at nearly twice the rate of men. Theories: 1) Women are committing more crimes involving drugs, violence, or fraud; 2) Tougher drug-crime sentences are putting more female offenders behind bars.
President Bush signed legislation ending coverage of erectile-dysfunction drugs under Medicare and Medicaid. The provision was attached to a hurricane relief bill. Legislators argued that cutting subsidies for such "lifestyle" drugs would help fund more important aid to the poor.
Smoking increases male sterility. A study indicates that chronic smokers' sperm are 75 percent less fertile than nonsmokers' sperm, and the more you smoke, the less fertile your sperm are. The causal route implies that smoking probably reduces female fertility, too.
Smoking may lower intelligence. In a small study of men, smoking 1) correlated with lower IQ scores, verbal reasoning, and spatial reasoning; and 2) correlated more strongly with low mental proficiency (verbal reasoning, math reasoning, short-term memory) than drinking did. The authors suspect smoking impairs blood and oxygen flow to the brain.
The FDA approved the first transplant of fetal neural cells to human brains. Some of the neural tissue comes from abortions. The recipients are kids facing a genetic disease that will blind, silence, paralyze, and kill them. (For Human Nature's take on growing embryos for tissue, click here.)
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.