Should we lower the drinking age?
Microsoft launched a Web site for storing and sharing individual health records. Google and major health insurers are developing similar plans. Sample uses: 1) Your doctor puts your records on the site, where you can access them anytime. 2) You check your blood pressure or glucose at home, and your monitor automatically sends the data to your online records, where your doctor can access them. Microsoft's spins: 1) This will improve health care. 2) All your doctors will know all the medications you're taking. 3) We'll keep your records encrypted and totally private; only people you designate can look at them. 4) Consumers will get used to this just as they have with online banking. Skeptical reactions: 1) Private? Riiiight. 2) Even if the system is safe, people won't believe it, so they won't use it. 3) People don't care enough about their health to eat vegetables, much less manage their medical information. (Would you put your records on the Web? I would.)
Companies are peddling new home robots: 1) a roof-gutter cleaner; 2) a hospital robot through which doctors can interact with patients; 3) a Roomba-like Webcam you can steer around your house from far away, allowing you to "participate in family moments even though you're working late" or "read your kids a story and see their faces light up" while you're on a business trip; and 4) a "video surveillance" robot that can watch your pets while you're on vacation or spy on your kids if they're home alone. Industry spin: The new robots help you "connect" with your loved ones. Critiques: 1) They help you pretend you're connecting while you spend your life at the office. 2) They teach your kids that you need to spy because you don't trust them, even though you don't love them enough to be there in person. 3) Serves you right when some thief or pervert hacks into your Webcam robot. (Related stories: remote-controlled pigeons; remote-controlled hunting; remote-controlled aerial drones; remote-controlled flying saucers.) Human Nature's view: My wife would deactivate the robot on Day 1, after my son spent the afternoon mooning it.
Nearly half of the male-to-female transsexuals in a small study say they've achieved postoperative orgasm. All the participants had feminizing genitoplasty, i.e., "their penis surgically removed, their urethra repositioned and female labia constructed." In a follow-up subsample, roughly 90 percent had installed a vagina and a "neoclitoris" made from their penile glans. Findings: 1) Twenty-three percent had regular intercourse. 2) Forty-eight percent achieved orgasm. 3) Fourteen percent "reported having an overly sensitive clitoris." 4) Twenty-nine percent "were troubled by vaginal hair growth." Researchers' conclusion: Most patients were happy with the surgery. Human Nature's prediction: The next (but much rarer) breakthrough procedure will be adding a vagina while keeping your penis. Laurels to the first reader who can find a case in which this has already been done. (As always, post the URL in the Fray.)
Latest Human Nature columns: 1) Rethinking the age of consent. 2) The best sex stories of 2007. 3) Are conservatives stupid? 4) Larry Craig's anti-gay hypocrisy. 5) The jihad against tobacco. 6) Fat lies and fat lies revisited. 7) Liberals and bioethics. 8) The case for turning food into fuel. 9) Recombining man and beast. 10) The spread of virgin births.
Correction, Oct. 20, 2007: The item originally said that 22 percent of the influence on picky eating comes from "raising genetically similar kids in different households, so parenting style might make a difference." This was incorrect. The 22 percent influence comes from differences in environmental factors between individuals who share the same household. (See this Fray thread posted by Mangar.) (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of nun on Slate's home page by Digital Vision. Photograph of an elderly man on Slate's home page by Digital Vision.