Why Sex Doesn’t Gross You Out When You’re Aroused
( TIME )

If you think about it, sex is actually sort of disgusting, what with
all the sweat, saliva, fluids and smells. So much so that a group of
researchers from the Netherlands got to thinking, How do people enjoy
sex at all?

According to their small new study, people -- at least women -- may
be able to get over the “ick” factor associated with sex by getting
turned on. Sexual arousal overrides the natural disgust response, the
researchers found, and allows women to willingly engage in behaviors
that they might normally find repugnant.

The study, conducted by scientists at the University of Groningen,
involved 90 women who were randomly assigned to one of three groups.
One group watched a “female friendly” erotic video; another watched
a video of high-adrenaline sports like skydiving or rafting, designed
to be arousing but not sexually so; and the third group watched a
neutral video clip of a train.

Afterward, all the women were asked to perform 16 tasks, most of them
icky, like drinking from a cup with a bug in it (the bug was fake),
wiping their hands with a used tissue, eating a cookie that was next
to a live worm or putting their finger in a tray of used condoms.

The researchers found that the women who watched the sexually
arousing video rated the unpleasant tasks as less disgusting than did
their counterparts who were not sexually aroused. They were also more
likely to complete more of the tasks, suggesting that sexual arousal
not only dampens the disgust response but also influences how much
women are willing to do.

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When Men Stop Seeking Beauty and Women Care Less About Wealth
( TIME )

Men seek youth and beauty, while women focus on wealth and status --
evolutionary psychologists have long claimed that these general
preferences in human mating are universal and based on biology. But
new research suggests that they may in fact be malleable: as men and
women achieve financial equality, in terms of earning power and
economic freedom, these mate-seeking preferences by gender tend to

The idea behind the evolutionary theory is simple: biologically,
sperm are cheap -- men make 1,500 sperm per second on average. In
contrast, eggs are expensive; typically, women release just one egg a
month and each baby girl is born with her full lifetime’s supply of
egg cells. (Yes, this means that the egg from which you sprang was
formed inside your maternal grandmother.) What’s more, pregnancy
costs a woman nine months, while the initial male contribution to
parenthood generally requires no more than a few minutes.

As a result, evolutionary theorists argue, women will be far more
selective than men about their sexual partners, and they will tend to
seek those with the most resources to invest in their children. Men,
on the other hand, can afford to be less choosy. They’ll care far
less about a woman’s ability to provide and far more about her basic
signs of fertility, such as her youth and the symmetry of her facial
features -- a characteristic associated with beauty and good health.

But while these mate-seeking preferences may have made sense when
humans first evolved -- and subsequently shaped our unconscious
desires -- the world has changed since our species dwelled in caves.
And so, researchers at the University of York in the U.K. wanted to
know whether factors that characterize modern-day society, such as
women’s increased earning power and status, made a difference.

To figure out if that’s true, the researchers ranked nations
according to a new measure of gender equity introduced by the World
Economic Forum in 2006. Within various societies, they looked for
relationships between the gender gap and how much of a difference
there was between male and female mate preferences. And indeed, the
researchers found, the greater the equality of power between the
genders, the more similar were the traits that both men and women
sought in potential mates. In Finland, the country with the greatest
gender parity among the 10 countries included in the more current of
the two surveys, there was a far smaller difference between male and
female preferences than in Turkey, which had the biggest gender gap.

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Why Stressed-Out Men Prefer Heavier Women
( TIME )

Most men prefer leggy and lean women, Gisele Bundchen lookalikes,
right? Not necessarily. In fact, the body type that a man finds
attractive can change depending on his environment and circumstances,
a new study finds: when under stress, for instance, men prefer
heavier women.

The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, reports that when men
were placed in stressful situations, then asked to rate the
attractiveness of women of varying body sizes, they tended to prefer
beefier frames, compared with unstressed men whose tastes skewed

“This suggests that our body size preferences are not innate, but
are flexible,” said study co-author Martin Tovee of Newcastle
University in the U.K., in an email, noting that they may be
influenced by our particular environment and resources.

The findings fall in line with evolutionary theories that suggest
when resources are scarce or unpredictable, a woman’s thin physique
may signal illness, frailty and the inability to reproduce. Indeed,
Tovee and colleague Viren Swami of the University of Westminster in
London have previously found that men under trying conditions -- like
extreme hunger -- tend to rate heavier women as more attractive. The
researchers suggest also that underlying biological mechanisms, such
as blood sugar and hormone levels, are major players in how we
perceive our surroundings.

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What Genius and Autism Have in Common
( TIME )

Child prodigies evoke awe, wonder and sometimes jealousy: how can such
young children display the kinds of musical or mathematical talents
that most adults will never master, even with years of dedicated
practice? Lucky for these despairing types, the prevailing wisdom
suggests that such comparisons are unfair -- prodigies are born, not
made (mostly). Practice alone isn’t going to turn out the next 6-year-
old Mozart.

The study found a few key characteristics these youngsters had in
common. For one, they all had exceptional working memories -- the
system that holds information active in the mind, keeping it available
for further processing. The capacity of working memory is limited: for
numbers, for example, most people can hold seven digits at a time on
average; hence, the seven-digit phone number. But prodigies can hold
much more, and not only can they remember extraordinarily large
numbers, they can also manipulate them and carry out calculations that
you or I might have trouble managing with pencil and paper.

Surprisingly, however, the study found that not all of the prodigies
had high IQs. Indeed, while they had higher-than-average intelligence,
some didn’t have IQs that were as elevated as their performance and
early achievements would suggest. One child had an IQ of just 108, at
the high end of normal.

There was something else striking too. The authors found that prodigies
scored high in autistic traits, most notably in their ferocious
attention to detail. They scored even higher on this trait than did
people diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of
autism that typically includes obsession with details.

Three of the eight prodigies had a diagnosed autism spectrum disorder
themselves. The child who had spoken his first words at 3 months,
stopped speaking altogether at 18 months, then started again when he
was just over two-and-a-half years old; he was diagnosed with autism at
3. What’s more, four of the eight families included in the study
reported autism diagnoses in first- or second-degree relatives, and
three of these families reported a total of 11 close relatives with
autism. In the general population, by contrast, about 1 in 88 people
have either autism or Asperger’s.

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物理学者たちに花火を ヒッグス粒子が発見される

Fireworks for the Physicists: A Higgs Is Found
( TIME )

Be grateful America's great historical figures don't talk like
scientists. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down, modify, or otherwise reduce the
architectural footprint of this wall," would not have had the same
resonance as the original. Patrick Henry would have surely been less
memorable if he'd asked for liberty, death or an equitable out-of-court

This July 4 however belongs to the scientists -- at least the ones
presiding over a packed press conference in Geneva convened today by
CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research. With cheers echoing and
the crowd on its feet, CERN researchers announced that they had nabbed
the most sought-after particle in the history of modern physics: the
Higgs boson -- first theorized nearly 50 years ago -- which gives all
other particles mass. There's no understating the significance of that:
no Higgs, no mass; no mass, no you, me or anything else. Even so,
scientist-speak was the rule of the day -- at least at first.

"We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of
5 sigma, in the mass region of 126 GeV," said Fabiola Gianotti, the
head of one of the two main research teams responsible for the findings.

The mass region of 126 GeV means 126 billion electron volts -- pretty
much a bulls-eye for what the Higgs is supposed to weigh; the level of
5 sigma means how certain the scientists are of their results -- and 5
sigma is very, very certain. In Geneva today, that was the stuff of a
standing ovation -- even as Gianotti hastened to urge patience. "A
little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication,"
she implored.

So CERN will stay busy and the LHC, which cost $10 billion to build,
will have more to do before it pays for itself. Make no mistake though:
Like the Higgs that comes hidden in a shower of particles, there's a
word hidden in the shower of equivocation from Heuer and Bertolucci.
That word is a whispered "eureka." The physicists won a very big, very
old battle today. So tonight, send up a few fireworks for them; they're
surely too modest to do it themselves.

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