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Weird Science


July 22nd, 2010

Life Imitates a Drew Barrymore Movie: Michelle Philpotts of Spalding, England, and her husband, Ian, and their two children have adjusted, since a car crash 20 years ago, to her anterograde amnesia, w...

Life Imitates a Drew Barrymore Movie: Michelle Philpotts of Spalding, England, and her husband, Ian, and their two children have adjusted, since a car crash 20 years ago, to her anterograde amnesia, which, every day, robs her of short-term memory, forcing her to constantly re-learn her life. According to a June profile in London's Daily Mail, that includes Ian's convincing her that the stranger in her bed every morning is her husband, which he does by showing her their wedding photographs.

An April National Geographic TV special tracked "Silvano," an Italian man for whom sleep is almost impossible. He has "fatal familial insomnia," making him constantly exhausted, and doctors believe he will eventually fall into a fatal dementia. Only 40 families in the world are believed to carry the FFI gene.

Cleverest Non-Humans: (1) Wild elephants recently rampaged through parts of Bangladesh, and according to the head of the country's Wildlife Trust, those super-intelligent animals "are quick to learn human strategies." For example, he pointed to reports that elephants (protecting their migration corridors) routinely swipe torches from hunters and hurl them not randomly but directly at the hunters' homes. (2) Recent research on the "cat virus" (toxoplasma gondii) acknowledges that, to be viable, the virus must be passed in rodent feces but can only be hosted in a cat's stomach and thus that the "toxo" somehow tricks the rodents to overcome their natural fear of cats and instead, amazingly, to entice cats to eat them. Scientists are now studying whether, when human dopamine goes haywire, such as with schizophrenia, a toxoplasma-gondii-type phenomenon is at work.

The Trials of the Cricket-Sex Researcher: Biologists from Britain's Exeter University who set out to study the sexual behavior of field crickets in a meadow in northern Spain reported in June that they set up 96 cameras and microphones to cover a population of 152 crickets that they individually identified with tiny, numbered placards on their backs (after DNA-swabbing each one). Publishing in the journal Science, they claimed the study is important in helping us understand how "climate change" will affect habitats.
 
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