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Oct. 31 2005 8:07 AM

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.)

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

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.)

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that disease prevention does not justify longer jail sentences for gay than straight statutory rape. The court noted that the law in question punishes lesbian sex and male-on-male oral sex more severely than heterosexual anal sex, which is more likely to transmit HIV and other diseases. (For Human Nature's take on oral vs. anal sex, click here.)

Sleeping-pill use among kids and teenagers nearly doubled between 2000 and 2004. Fifteen percent of these users are also taking pills for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Theories: 1) Kids need sleeping pills because their ADHD keeps them awake. 2) They need sleeping pills because their ADHD pills keep them awake. 3) Stop drugging your kids.

Ultraviolet images show oxygen on the moon.The Hubble Space Telescope found minerals containing oxygen that could be chemically extracted to sustain human visitors.

A global research network will bypass U.S. restrictions on stem-cell funding. South Korea, which excels at human cloning, will fund a center to do that part of the job. American and British researchers will use the resulting embryonic cells for research through privately initiated labs in California and Britain, which support and fund such research. (For Human Nature's take, click here.)

The key trial witness for the theory of intelligent design said it "does not propose a mechanism" to explain evolutionary developments that aren't explained by Darwinism. He said the mechanism of such intelligent activity was "intelligent activity." (For Slate's report from the trial, click here; for Human Nature's take, click here.)

Some spiders drink mammalian blood by targeting mosquitoes that have siphoned it. The African jumping spiders 1) choose to live in dark huts that are bad for catching prey but are rich in gorged mosquitoes and 2) attack gorged mosquitoes rather than empty ones.

Scientists proved they can get stem cells without killing embryos. One team derived stem cells by removing single cells from mouse embryos at the eight-cell stage (earlier than was previously possible), allowing the embryos to grow and be born. Another team derived mouse stem cells from near-embryos that were engineered to be incapable of embryonic development. Moral critics are falling back on the arguments that 1) the first method is slightly risky for the embryo, and 2) the second method kills something that's too much like an embryo. (For Human Nature's take, click here.)

Latest Human Nature columns: 1) Monty Python's flying creationism. 2) Two breakthroughs in the stem-cell war. 3) Bill Bennett's racial determinism.4) The mainstreaming of anal sex. 5) The political use of fetal pain. 6) The emerging technology of artificial wombs. 7) The case for  growing embryos for their parts.