You should watch last night’s ceremony in its entirety, but here are (drumroll) the winners:
Sperm banks are a pretty great idea: women who don’t have a male partner or whose partners aren’t fertile can choose a genetic father with characteristics they like, such as a certain height, eye color, hair color, hobbies, and so on. Thousands of children are born each year in the United States to mothers who like the sound of “tall, dark, enjoys astrophysics and Shostakovich” or “blond surfer, Ivy-League educated, great sense of humor.”
But something very strange has been going on over the last couple decades, and the New York Times covers it in a recent piece: some donors’ sperm has been used many, many times—so many times, in fact, that people are starting to get alarmed.
Get yer streetwalking permit here!
From 8:15 pm to 6:00 am each day, prostitution is legal in Germany, where working call girls staff brothels, sauna clubs, and other such establishments. In the city of Bonn, which, uh, “boasts” around 200 prostitutes, an average of 20 freelancers go cruising each night, picking up clients on the street and heading to garage-like structures called “consummation areas” the city put up especially for that purpose. They’ve thought of everything, those Germans!
Girls in the various brothel-like establishments have always been subject to a prostitution tax, but streetwalkers, apparently, haven’t being paying. Now, though, the city has a way to make things fair for everyone: a parking meter for prostitutes.
When a male’s bits don’t fit with a female’s bits, you wind up with reproductive malfunction. But shape isn’t everything, as a team of researchers recently discovered while watching hundreds of skink lizards court and spark.
Most studies looking at how genitalia mismatch contributes to new species take the concept literally: if the bits don’t fit together like lock and key, matings will be unsuccessful. And if the mismatch between the gear of two groups is bad enough, they will form separate reproductive populations, and, eventually, species. But the idea, which was first tossed around more than 150 years ago, has been discounted as a possible source of new species. Differently sized or shaped genitalia is such a big change that it’s likely to come after many other speciation triggers, like mutations or long separations between populations divided by mountain ranges.
If you haven’t heard about the corkscrew kookiness that is duck genitalia by now, you need to check that stuff out ASAP.
Ducks’ twisting vaginas and telescoping penises are well-known part of an evolutionary arms race between the sexes that’s been going on for millennia, with each side trying to exert control over which males’ sperm fertilize the female’s eggs—a battle that, especially in birds, is fierce, occasionally violent, and weird as all-get-out. The most recently discovered example of what biologists deem “sexual conflict,” a little behavior hens have developed called sperm ejection, upholds that fine tradition.
By now you’ve probably heard the recent news that male bisexuality is in fact real, in stark contrast with a 2005 study by some of the same scientists that claimed just the opposite. Bloggers and news outlets have unleashed a torrent of witty headlines and snarky remarks about the research, such as CBSNews’ “Study says bisexuality real, but bisexuals say ‘duh.’” Even the Gray Lady herself, The New York Times, got in on the fun with its quip, “No Surprise for Bisexual Men: Report Indicates They Exist.”
Presumably the studies aren’t picking up on a real increase in bisexuality over the past six years, so what’s the deal here—why the sudden change of heart for the Northwestern University researchers?
For male Houbara bustards, extravagant sexual displays come with a price: rapid sexual aging. By studying over 1,700 North African Houbara bustards, researchers in France have learned that the birds, by age six, already begin producing smaller ejaculates with a large number of dead and abnormal sperm. The more showy the bustard, the quicker he burns himself out. As lead researcher Brian Preston said in a prepared statement:
This is the bird equivalent of the posers who strut their stuff in bars and nightclubs every weekend. If the bustard is anything to go by, these same guys will be reaching for their toupees sooner than they’d like.
[Read more about these peculiar birds and see a video of one of their seductive dances at the BBC.]
Image courtesy of Frank. Vassen / Flickr
Sometimes sex just isn’t worth your life.
For male black widow spiders, standing at just a quarter of the size of their mates, sex involves a very real danger: females of the species have no qualms about turning cannibalistic if they’re hungry after getting down and dirty. But it seems that it’s more than just a game of chance for horny male spiders. Researchers at Arizona State University have now learned that simply walking on the webs of female spiders can provide males with chemical cues telling them if their potential mates are ravenous enough to eat them.
Good news dental students: soon you will no longer have to approach your first victim patient with shaky, unsure hands. Researchers at Showa University in Japan have unveiled a new dental dummy, a realistic robot for dental students to practice on before taking the drill to real, human mouths.
Here’s a good use for augmented reality: directing clubgoers to the bars that have the best odds for meeting persons of their preferred gender. And how do you figure that out? Well, a start-up company called SceneTap is doing it with facial recognition.