This article by Monique Robinson is interesting — not because it tells you anything particularly useful about what you can do before conception to influence the sex of your child, but because it provides a rundown of the many random correlations studies have linked to fetal sex determination over the years. From eating cereal to being a billionaire's kid, it's an intriguing look at how easy it is to find patterns, even when those patterns may (or may not) be totally meaningless. — Maggie
I've been linking Double X Science a lot lately. That's because they're great. It's rare to get such smart, fascinating, science-centered discussion about female anatomy and reproductive issues that goes beyond the surface dressing we all already kind of know. Case in point: This piece by Emily Willingham about the development of the human heart in utero. You've probably heard at one point or another that a fetus' heart starts beating around 6 weeks (an age which is, by the way, calculated from the date of the mother's last period, NOT from the date of actual conception; so the fetus itself is really only about 4 weeks old at this point, and its mother only missed her period two weeks ago). But what's the heart actually like at that point? Turns out, absolutely nothing like what you imagine. Very cool stuff. — Maggie
If you think about lactation too hard, it starts to seem a little strange — like the biological equivalent of saying the word "that" over and over until it's just a weird sound you're making. But, writes Nicholas Day at Slate, the sort of existential weirdness of breast milk is nothing compared to what's going on in the stuff at a chemical level. For instance, breast milk contains sugars that aren't actually digestible by human infants. That's because they aren't meant for the infant, itself. Rather, your breast milk is helpfully feeding your baby's intestinal bacteria. Freakier still: In monkeys, the chemical composition of breast milk can change, depending on factors like your baby's sex and whether your baby is showing signs of illness. — Maggie
There is definitely a seasonality to human births, writes Beth Skwarecki at Double X Science. The complicated bit is that human baby season isn't necessarily the same (or as strongly expressed) from place to place and culture to culture. In the United States, significantly more babies are born in July, August, and September. Meanwhile, in Europe, babies seem to make their way into the world in spring. So there's clearly a cultural component to this — but culture doesn't explain it, entirely. Skwarecki's piece explores a messy place where culture, genetics, and circadian rhythms intersect. — Maggie
National Geographic's Enric Sala took this photo during an expedition in Gabon. He and another researcher were using a remote operated vehicle to explore the ocean off the coast of that country's Loango National Park.
When we picked up the shell from the ROV’s arm, to our surprise, a small octopus came out of the shell. It was a female that laid her eggs inside the shell. We put shell and octopus in a tank with seawater, and after one minute thousands of octopus larvae started to stream out of the shell. The octopus eggs were hatching! That was the first time we had observed such a magnificent show. The larvae were changing coloration from transparent with dark spots to brown, and swimming like squid – although on a millimeter scale.
An 18 month-old toddler was ordered off a plane Tuesday at Ft. Lauderdale airport, after TSA representatives told airline employees they wanted to "speak" to her.
Riyanna's father was flabbergasted. "It's absurd," he said. "It made no sense. Why would an 18-month-old child be on a no-fly list?" Riyanna's parents, who asked not to be identified, said they think they know the answer to that question. They believe they were profiled because they are both of Middle Eastern descent.
They were detained for 30 minutes; no apology was forthcoming for the humiliating theatrics. The airline, JetBlue, says that the TSA asked for the baby's removal and that both it and the agency were investigating. The TSA said, however, that the event was an "airline issue" and that it was not investigating it at all.
Here's an amazing feel-good video with which to end your week, via the National Science Foundation. The really awesome footage starts around a minute and a half in.
"James C. (Cole) Galloway, associate professor of physical therapy, and Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering -- have outfitted kid-size robots to provide mobility to children who are unable to fully explore the world on their own."
The robotic assistance devices are designed to help infants whose mobility and independence is limited by conditions such as autism, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy.
I understand that these will be among the many exhibits on display at the USA Science Fest at the Washington, DC Convention Center on Sat., April 28th. Babies probably not included.