Harper’s Magazine / October 2010
Researchers found that suicide rates drop after U.S. presidential elections in states that support the winning candidate, and that suicides drop even further in states that support the loser. It was determined that stock-market returns in predominantly Muslim countries are nine times higher during the holy month of Ramadan than they are the rest of the year. Girls with younger brothers lose their virginity later, and girls with older brothers experience menarche later. Women who drink regular beer are at increased risk for psoriasis, but women who drink light beer are not. A man’s likelihood of picking up a female hitchhiker was correlated with her breast size, and a man’s likelihood of infidelity to a female partner was correlated with his financial dependence on her. A new species of titi monkey, which has a bushy red beard and mates for life, was discovered in Colombia. American students exhibit an inferior understanding of the “equals” sign. At Stonehenge, archeologists discovered a second henge; in the Sistine Chapel, a brain stem and spinal cord were discovered in God’s neck; and on Bulgaria’s Sveti Ivan island, the bones of John the Baptist were unearthed. It was revealed that the human buttocks tan poorly.
Three liger cubs were born in a Taiwanese zoo whose keepers had allowed an African lion and a Bengal tigress to cohabitate. Previous attempts to separate the couple, said the zoo’s owner, had made the lion “very angry.” Beavers reintroduced to Scotland through the Scottish Beaver Trial had produced offspring, the first beavers to be born in the country in 400 years. Polar bears were eating the eggs of barnacle geese, and both Greenlandic polar bears and Svalbardian glaucous gulls were suffering from industrial contamination. Moose malnourished in childhood are at greater risk of developing arthritis in old age. Female mongooses were found to coordinate their litters in order to keep other mongoose mothers too busy to kill rivals’ pups. Adult moongooses were seen teaching their children how to open plastic Easter eggs filled with rice and fish. Neurologists identified the regions of the brain responsible for baby talk. Scientists concluded that the female ancestor of all human beings lived 200,000 years ago and that frogs learned to leap before they learned to land.
In Nevada, Christians prayed for the relocation of Bubba, a 700-pound black bear with a bulletproof skull who steals peanut butter from the poor. Ethnoprimatologists recommended ways for villagers in Guinea to avoid or defuse chimpanzee attacks. “Keep calm,” advised Kimberley Hockings of the New University of Lisbon. “Try not to scream.” Five hundred people were attacked and four children were killed by Peruvian vampire bats. The brains of gregarious locusts are 30 percent larger than those of solitarious locusts of the same species, according to neuroscientists who bred the insects over three generations. Aphids living on plants that produce the same pheromone whereby the insects announce that ladybugs are eating them become inured to the smell and are themselves likelier to be eaten by ladybugs. Pea aphids will drop to the ground in the presence of a lamb’s breath. Optimism was observed among happy pigs.