That’s something I think many cisgender people don’t realise, or think about. We’re all born with the same template, and our hormones then decide what particular bits of the recipe our bodies should follow – so for example in the womb a rush of hormones tells us whether we should grow male or female gonads; in puberty hormones tell us whether to grow breasts or beards. But the template for both sexes remains, so if you take somebody born male, suppress their testosterone and increase their estrogen then their body (and their emotions; jeez, the emotions…) will change.

Reproductive systems aside, men and women aren’t that different: the idea that there are huge biological differences between the sexes is largely based on status preservation.

Hormones aren’t biological now?

This is cool

With their enormous shaggy torsos and long curved tusks, the imposing creatures last walked on earth during the Ice Age.

Fast forward thousands of years and the woolly mammoth may once again make an appearance on this planet – after Japanese scientists claim to have taken a “significant step” towards bringing the long-extinct animals back to life.

Researchers extracted bone marrow and muscle tissue from the remains of a mammoth named Yuka, who has lain frozen in Siberian permafrost for more than 28,000 years.

No idea whether the sciencey bit here is accurate. But it would be cool, wouldn’t it?

And wouldn’t it be even better if they were able to do it with the pygmy types of elephant, rhino and so on? Sadly, they won’t, as they tended to be on islands that were rather warmer, like Malta etc. But, still, would be fun.

A slightly different questions. Mammoths are more closely related to Asian elephants than African elephants are to Asian. And something I don’t know, can Asian and African cross breed? So, are we really talking about different species?

So here’s a stupid question

Obviously, geographical separation is what – OK one of the things – that leads to speciation. The oceans are a lot less geographically separated than the land masses. So, we get rather wider distribution of sea species than we do land ones.

Sorta, at least.

I can imagine that a barrier in the sea is the Equator. Not so much currents and stuff but heat. Down deep even that doesn’t matter of course. But I could imagine at least that we get N Hemisphere fishies and S Hemisphere ones.

At which point, how true is this?

Take, say, cod. I know there’s a Pacific cod as well as an Atlantic one. And they’re both up in northern waters as they don’t like it hot. But, and here’s the thing, do we have closely related species which are S hemisphere? Or other, cognate species? Or something entirely different occupying the niche? Or does the niche not exist?

No particular reason, just a question that crossed the synapses.

There’s me told then

The mystery of eel migration which has puzzled ecologists since Aristotle is about to be solved, the Environment Agency has said as it announced plans to locate their origin.

The critically endangered species travel some 3,700 miles from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean to spawn – but where exactly remains completely unknown.

Researchers claim the eels spawn and die somewhere in the Sargasso Sea, a vast area off the east coast of the United States and north of the Caribbean.

So yes, I know about the migration, and elvers. Catch them in the rivers you do.

And yet I’ve always vaguely – for I’ve not tried very hard at this – thought that the elvers are coming downstream.


Is South Asian right here?

You all know more than I do:

Marriage between cousins leading to fatal genetic conditions remain a factor in a significant proportion of child deaths in Bradford, according to a safeguarding report.

The report by the West Yorkshire city’s child death overview panel found that consanguineous relationships led to deaths from genetic and congenital abnormalities.

The report, published annually by Bradford children’s safeguarding board, reviewed 69 child deaths. These included 29 that occurred in 2017-18, 33 in 2016-17, and seven that took place in previous years.

More than two-thirds of these deaths, 67%, involved children under the age of one, most of whom died within 28 days.

Children of south Asian heritage were overrepresented in the figures

South Asian? Or Pakistani? Is cousin marriage common among “South Asians” or is it more restricted than that?

Such an amusement

Matthew Bishop was told there was no treatment that could save his vision. But now scientific breakthroughs in gene therapy have given him, and others, hope

There’s an argument against genetic manipulation. I understand it even if disagree with it. There’s one in favour as well. But how do we construct an argument that’s in favour of doing it to humans and not to rice?

How lovely – and how rare

Someone getting a science article right. Even, someone getting evolution right – nearly.

It’s a development that would have delighted Darwin.

African elephants are losing their tusks in an astonishing example of evolution by natural selection which protects them against ivory poachers.

Until the 1990s, around 2,500 elephants lived in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique,

but 90 per cent were killed during the 15-year civil war which raged from 1977 to 1992 – with their ivory used to finance weapons.

Now scientists have noticed that nearly one third of the female elephants born since the war have lost their tusks.

Normally fewer than four per cent of a population are born without tusks, but because tuskless animals were ignored by poachers, they gained a biological advantage and…

The decision isn’t tusk, no tusk, for the infant, It’s that the tuskless are still there to pass on their genes. But it is nice to see someone getting much of it right, isn’t it?

A strange theory

We seem to have more reports of whale beachings and strandings than we used to. This could be because the modern world is distracting them, undersea noise perhaps.

It could also be because there are more whales around. We stopped hunting in any volume what, 50 years ago? We might this be returning to the “natural” level of strandings.

Anyone know which is the correct answer here?

What Simon Baron Cohen has been saying for ages

If you often sit on a train pondering how the rail networks are coordinated then you are more likely to be male, new research suggests.

Likewise if friends often come to you with their problems, then chances are you’re a woman.

In the biggest ever study examining differences between the sexes, scientists have concluded that women really are more empathetic while men are more analytical and logical.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge tested more than 680,000 people and found that on average women have a greater ability to recognise what another person is thinking intuitively and respond appropriately.

On the other hand men have a stronger drive to view the world through ‘rule-based systems’,…

On the other hand, given that this is Cambridge, it might actually be Baron Cohen.

Stunning scientific finding

The smell – and clothes – of a loved one could have a powerfully calming effect. So claims a study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which tested 96 women, who were asked to randomly smell one of three scents – a male partner’s, a stranger’s or a neutral scent. Those who caught a whiff of their partner tended to experience a reduction in stress hormones, while those forced to sniff a stranger experienced the opposite. The study suggested that sniffing a partner’s used clothing had a calming effect.

Does this work for men, too? The psychotherapist and psychologist Peter Klein says not so much: “You often hear of a woman wearing partner’s T-shirt, but you rarely hear of a man wearing his girlfriend’s T-shirt! Research suggests women have a better developed sense of smell and men are more visually stimulated, so men would be more likely to experience stress reduction through seeing their partner’s clothing.”

He adds: “How close a woman feels towards her male partner – how much oxytocin she experiences when she’s with them or how happy she is in the relationship – will also affect how comforting she finds smelling the clothing.”

What makes you happy makes you happy.

True dat.

Something I’d not thought about

So, bigger people. Are they bigger because they have more cells? Or because their cells are bigger? Never thought about it before until I saw this:

Taller people have a greater risk of cancer because they are bigger and so have more cells in their bodies in which dangerous mutations can occur, new research has suggested.

So, that answers that question then.

Thinking it through, it needs to be that way too, doesn’t it? Things like, umm, sciencey words and insert the right ones here, osmosis, that sorta stuff, depend crucially upon size don’t they? Surface area to volume ‘n’ stuff? So it’s got to be more, not bigger, right?

And think if it were the other way. You’d be able to tell how tall someone was from the cell size in some dandruff, which would make cop shows rather different… this reality you can only do that by looking at the bruising from how far it has fallen.

This is a surprise, isn’t it

Mothers who give birth using donor eggs do not have the same connection with their babies as women who use their own eggs, a new study suggests.

Men who have children by AI might also have some similarly subtle difference. Anyone tested it yet?

For cuckolds do tend to have a different reaction. And all for the same reason of course.


Sir Gregory is currently the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, which has now has produced 33 Nobel Prize winners — three more than Sweden. If it were a country, it would be ranked just after France, at number five in the rankings.

I’m extremely, extremely, doubtful about this.

Perhaps BiG, who has some expertise in this area – genes and DNA and stuff, not child abuse – could educate us all:

Childhood sexual abuse may leave “molecular scars” on a victim’s DNA which could one day be used as evidence in court, scientists have said.

A new study found similar alterations in the activity of genes among men who had been abused in childhood.

Researchers at Harvard and the University of British Columbia (UBC) believe the discovery of the differences in a process called methylation between those who had been abused and those who had not could pave the way for a genetic test to indicate whether abuse took place.

Methylation acts as a “dimmer switch” on genes, affecting the extent a particular genes is activated or not.

Published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, the study found a distinct methylation difference between victims and non-victims in 12 regions of the men’s genomes.

In eight DNA regions, the genes of victims were dimmed by more than 10 per cent compared to non victims, and in one region the difference was 29 per cent.

Objective tests about such abuse all too often turn out not to be objective.

The team was also trying to establish the extent to which changes in gene expression as a result of life experience are passed on to the next generation.

Very close indeed to Lamarckism, isn’t it? And if it were so to any great extent then why didn’t New Soviet Man turn up?

So, encourage the nuclear family then

The number of “lonely” over 50-year-olds is set to hit two million within seven years, Age UK has warned.

The charity said that the growing population of older people means more of them are going to be lonely and isolated in the future.

The figures came as a separate report showed that thousands of roles in the adult social care sector were left unfilled.

Hmm, what’s that? Why reverse course on half a century of killing the nuclear family you say?

Well, possibly because humans don’t do very well without that nuclear family? There being a reason we’re likely descended from those who were in one?

No, not really

Heavy metal fans have evolved to communicate with each other like remote tribes in Papua New Guinea, a study by UCL anthropologists has found.

They have rules for behaviour in the front-of-stage “mosh pit” that are passed down by “elders”, there are gift-sharing rituals at concerts and dark cathartic music, which mirror rites among Papuan tribes that have changed little in 40,000 years.

Lindsay Bishop, a researcher, has spent 10 years studying heavy metal, the loud, pounding style of music that has grown from early followers of the band Black Sabbath in Birmingham into a worldwide culture with millions of fans in almost every country.

Human beings communicate like human beings. Pass on unwritten knowledge as we do. Precise and specific forms might mimic each other across willy different cultures. But the underlying parts are, well, umm, human, thus universal among humans. Passing on the details of the culture from older to younger? The Opies showed playgrounds have been doing this for centuries, no?

What correlates with religion then?

For it could of course be the correlates which drive this effect:

Pupils raised in religious homes are more likely to succeed, regardless of whether they went to faith school or not, a study has found.

Research by the UCL Institute of Education found that pupils from Catholic and Church of England families did well because of their upbringing, not because of their school.

At best, researchers found, attending a religious school was associated with better results at O-Level, but did not affect how well the pupils did at A-Level or university.

For a cohort born in 1970 they analysed pupils’ religious upbringing and the school they went to and found that while Christian pupils at Church of England and Catholic schools did better, this became statistically insignificant when the positive impact of their religious upbringing was factored in.

And they’re right in part at least, it could be correlates:

“The much-vaunted ‘Catholic school effect’ was mostly explained by the fact that Catholic school pupils were usually from Catholic homes.”

The paper suggests that stricter parenting, the protective influence of being part of a faith community, or for Catholics, being of Irish immigrant heritage, could be behind the advantage.

“It is well established that immigrant and ethnic minority groups manifest high rates of educational persistence, staying on in further and higher education at higher rates than ethnic majority peers with similar levels of prior attainment,” the study argues.

Professor Sullivan added: “We can speculate that the academic advantage of a religious upbringing at home may be due to cultural differences, such as differences in parenting practices and attitudes to education, as well as to religious belief or practice itself.

“For example British Catholics at this time were often of Irish or European origin, bringing different cultural norms to those raised in other faiths, or none.”

Not that it would be PC to do this but it could be that a greater propensity to maintain the nuclear family has some sort of effect. You know, maybe? But think on the difficulty of getting that result published….

There is an explanation for the perfume industry you know

As well as that war of the sexes:

Women who smell nice are more likely to be fertile, study finds

Well, no.

Women who smell attractive to men are more likely to be highly fertile, scientists have found.

A new study revealed a close correlation between feminine odours that male participants judged pleasant and hormone combinations that indicate a good chance of getting pregnant.

Previous research has identified a link between perceived facial and bodily attractiveness in women and hormones relating to fertility.

But the new experiment, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first of its kind to indicate that the link also exists for smell.

Men find the smell of a woman who is fertile attractive. As they find the looks that indicate fertility such. Gt to get these things the right way around.

As to the war bit, humans have concealed fertility. But not entirely 100%, because there’s that competition bit about whether the male can sniff it out, that cycle, or not……