A parasite that causes rats to sacrifice themselves to cats may also change human behavior, making women more outgoing and warmhearted, and men more jealous and suspicious. The Toxoplasma
protist is shed in cat feces, which are eaten by rats; infected rats become fearless in the presence of cats, which makes them easier to catch, which, in turn spreads the disease to new cats.
Carl Zimmer is the author of Parasite Rex, a sharp science book dealing with the amazing ways that parasites attack us, change us, farm us, use us and kill us. He reports on new research on the effect of Toxoplasma bacteria on humans.
Toxoplasma was previously believed to be largely harmless to humans (though it can compromise our immune systems). But new research suggests that humans, like rats, go through behavioral changes when infected with the parasite, though the effects are opposite in women and men.
Regular BB readers will remember my review of Scott Westerfeld's Peeps, a young-adult vampire novel largely inspired by Parasite Rex, in which all of the behaviors attributed to vampires are explained in parasitological terms.
Some scientists believe that Toxoplasma changes the personality of its human hosts, bringing different shifts to men and women. Parasitologist Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague administered psychological questionnaires to people infected with Toxoplasma and controls. Those infected, he found, show a small, but statistically significant, tendency to be more self-reproaching and insecure. Paradoxically, infected women, on average, tend to be more outgoing and warmhearted than controls, while infected men tend to be more jealous and suspicious.
David Robinson used the data from the 28,657 people who self-selected to take the Stack Overflow survey to investigate the relationship between programmer pay and the conventions of using either tabs or spaces to mark indents, and found a persistent, significant correlation between using spaces and bringing home higher pay.
It’s the end of an era, sort of: Fraunhofer IIS, the developers of the MP3 audio compression format, announced that they are ceasing their licensing program. In a blog post, spokesman Matthias Rose says that it’s had a good 20-year run and is obsolete. But it’s also true that the decoding patents expired last year, […]
Freddy deBoer writes that he’s been telling the same joke for years about Silicon Valley’s only product, which might be universalized as “At last, a way to verb with nouns on the internet!” But the social-media techopoly is stable, now, and so the venture capitalists have moved on to the three terrible trends that will […]
Although flagship smartphones are unlikely to adopt heavy-duty outer casing anytime soon, you can always prepare your device for the outdoors with a beefy case and and an external battery like this Nomad Tile Trackable PowerPack, available in the Boing Boing Store for $119.95.The Nomad Tile can fully recharge an iPhone 7 over three times […]
Even though credit cards now feature an EMV chip for securing transactions, they still have to include the magnetic strip for compatibility with older point of sale systems. Because of this, there’s no way for the chip’s new security capabilities to protect against card skimmers in the wild.How do you protect yourself from legacy-technology-induced fraud? […]
As the old saying goes, “You should sit in meditation for 30 minutes every day. Unless you are too busy, in which case you should meditate for an hour.” Since most of us have an endless list of things to do and people to see, carving out quiet time can feel impossible, especially when most […]