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……

That nature bit before the nurture kicks in

Parents often describe young children as little monkeys, but now scientists have confirmed that toddlers are “just tiny apes” sharing 96 per cent of the same gestures.

Researchers at the University of St Andrews in Scotland have discovered that before children learn how to talk, they use a range of hand and body movements to communicate in the same way as chimpanzees and gorillas.

The study, published in Animal Cognition, found children aged one and two-years-old using 52 gestures including head shaking, poking, stomping, hitting themselves and throwing objects.

And they discovered that 50 of those movements are also shared with apes, suggesting they may have been used for millions of years in…

Well, guess so really. Partly it’s roughly the same body parts in roughly the same arrangements, communication by movement isn’t going to differ that much.

But we share more than 96% of our DNA, so that nature part should be quite similar, no?

How does this work then?

Hedgehogs are disappearing form the British countryside because they are being devoured by badgers, a study has found.

Researchers said the mammals, which are increasingly having to move to urban areas, are now present in just a fifth of the countryside.

Regular destruction of habitat with heavy agricultural machinery – as well as the use of pesticides in intensive farming – is also said to be wiping out the worms, beetles, slugs, caterpillars, earwigs and millipedes it feeds on.

Badgers aren’t exactly new in Britain now, are they? So it’s unlikely they’re the cause of any significant population change…..

Interesting from a science blogger

I believe, like many, that we are living through a dangerous era of untruth, one that will be recognised in the history books as a dark blight on our civilisation. Fascists, charlatans and propagandists are as old as time, but never before have they been mobilised with today’s powerful tools, which can coalesce forces globally and amplify messages in a flash. Ne’er-do-wells formerly had their village pub, their back-alley rendezvous, their circus stall – an influence confined by geography to a small canker. Newspapers reached more widely, but still they were binned each evening to yellow with irrelevance. Even the terrible dictators of the past who managed large-scale atrocities were constrained by the limitations of an internet-free world.

Now, it’s a free-for-all, and we’ve all witnessed the shocking spread of lies and the way their sheer frequency has numbed us into impotence. Any one of Donald Trump’s dodgy dealings would have brought down any other president, but the creeping paralysis of untruth-overload has de-sensitised the population to his many scandals as effectively as “aversion therapy”– as when an arachnophobe is thrown into a pit with a thousand spiders and soon cured. Even definitive proof that the Russians have been meddling in the elections of Western states and sowing general discontent via social media has met with a collective shrug from the inured populace – while individuals might get riled up, each bit of fake news is just another defused spider to the collected whole.

So it’s science to buy the Democratic campaign that Hills didn’t lose the election, it must have been stolen from her?

No, this isn’t how it works

Beluga whales and narwhals go through the menopause – taking the total number of species known to experience this to five.

Along with humans, killer whales and short-finned pilot whales were the only others previously known to experience the ‘change’ with most species being able to continue to reproduce until they die.

The study used data from the dead whales of 16 species and found dormant ovaries in older beluga and narwhal females.

The researchers believe they go through the menopause to prevent resources being taken away from their other children and grandchildren, but stay alive to help protect the younger pod members.

Nothing evolutionary like the menopause (or, to remain with female sexual oddities like tits, the female orgasm in humans and so on) is because “taking care of younger pod members” or anything like it. It’s always, but always, because the population is descended from those who carried the genes for those things, menopause, tits and so on. Those attributes led to more children surviving to have children, thus the genes spread.

It might well be that the post-menopausal whales do those things, that they’re beneficial to the survival of their genes down the generations, but it’s still not because nor in order to. It just happened than then the environment sorted through whether it led to that greater long term progeny production.

Compare and contrast

Such issues are again making headlines following last week’s remarks by the astronaut Tim Peake, who said he thought the universe could be the result of divine creation. “I’m not religious [but] it doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t seriously consider that the universe could have been created from intelligent design,” he said.

That the universe could have been? Not that I think well ever find out but it’s possible. That “Let there be light” and the setting of the basic equations and off we go.

These views are mild but will nevertheless be seized on by those determined to see the handiwork of God everywhere they look, from the shapes of bananas to the colour of the sky, a habit that is more common in the US than the UK. And for that we Britons should be grateful, for intelligent design is not just wrong; the idea is misguided and intellectually rotten, a point best illustrated in the study of our own bodies – and in particular our eyes.

Creationists say natural selection cannot explain the wonders and complexity of the eye. It must have been designed by a divine entity, they claim. How else can you explain how it co-ordinates the behaviour of each of its 125m photoreceptor cells to provide us with vision that has colour and depth? It is too complex to have evolved through random, physiological changes, they say.

Yes, yes, we know about eyes. But that’s not what Peake said, is it? He didn’t say “intelligent design” which is the code for God made the details of humans according to Genesis.

Robin McKie is the Observer’s science editor

Even just a journalist about science should know that you on’t disprove one claim by disproving another….

The terms of the Drake Equation seem to be changing

The chances of finding alien organisms have been boosted by the discovery of hundreds of “water worlds” capable of supporting life.

New analysis by Harvard University estimates that one in three “exoplanets” outside our solar system that are larger than Earth are likely to contain an abundance of water.

The scientists say the planets that are two to four times bigger than Earth that have the best chance of supporting life.

Not that this changes the basic problem with alien – or indeed time travelling – life. If such exists, then where in buggery are they?

Stunning finding, eh?

Darwin comes to town: how cities are creating new species
From the nut-cracking crows of Sendai to ‘Turdus urbanicus’ (the new urban blackbird), animals are changing their behaviour and evolution in cities – and in dramatic and surprising ways

The essence of the theory being that random mutations are sorted for fitness to survive by the environment.

So, change the environment and different genetic mutations thrive.

Stunner, eh?

So, these peeps, the usual nutters or what?

Electromagnetic radiation from power lines, wi-fi, phone masts and broadcast transmitters poses a ‘credible’ threat to wildlife, a new report suggests, as environmentalists warned the 5G roll out could cause greater harm.

An analysis of 97 studies by the EU-funded review body EKLIPSE concluded that radiation is a potential risk to insect and bird orientation and plant health.

However the charity Buglife warned that despite good evidence of the harms there was little research ongoing to assess the impact, or apply pollution limits.

Having absolutely no knowledge base from which to judge this, don’t know.

So, does anyone out there?

This the power lines cause leukaemia crowd? Or something even vaguely plausible?

Fun with mathematics

A new analysis of some of the world’s most popular bottled water brands says more than 90% contain tiny pieces of plastic.

Analysis of 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries across 11 different brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every litre of water being sold.

The paper is here.

Looks rather like contamination from the packaging process – it’s higher than in tap water for example.

My own reaction was we’ve an average of 23 pieces per litre of water (median, I think) and pieces are divided into more than 100 nm and less than (so, perhaps 50 nm on average for the smaller group). nm is a millionth of a metre.

Me, I’m going to go with this being equal to nothing in the vernacular. But I’ll admit that I get lost in 10-6, volume and length measurements and so on. Anyone like to tell us all what this actually is as contamination in ppm, or ppb?

It would be fun if this plastics concentration was less than, say, the allowable levels of As in drinking water…..

Really entirely missing the point of social life

The more I use Facebook, the more miserable I become (and vice versa). I’m not the only one: heavy users in particular are unhappier, lonelier, meaner, and so on.

Why is that? And why, then, do people keep using it?

This comes down to the most subtle and interesting conflict at the heart of Facebook: user versus user. Let me explain, via a little story.

Facebook is really just the digital version of a facebook, a printed book with everyone’s headshot and a brief bio – where they came from, went to school and what their hobbies are – given to students at prestigious colleges and universities.

I went to such a school, and at the beginning of every year, we’d grab the facebook and devour it. Who was that pretty face? Man, look at that dork! Doesn’t that person look like a nobody, a monster, a sycophant? Everyone spent hours with their friends going over it. Why, exactly?

We were too young to know it then, but what we really doing was performing social comparisons. After doing this, we placed everyone on a pecking order based on prejudicial judgments made according to the few superficial attributes that were in the facebook – a face, a smile, a name. But those verdicts made it difficult for us to get to know our peers as people. So. Allow me to ask again: what were we really doing?

Social comparisons are me-versus-you interactions, not me-with-you or me-and-you interactions.

And every kaffeeklatch, bridal shower and drinking party is the same thing. That’s just what human society is, a constant and consistent game of one upmanship. Don’t people know this?