People whose arms were stroked by a robot nurse named Cody felt more comfortable if they believed Cody was cleaning them than if they believed Cody was attempting to comfort them. People who have low serotonin levels underestimate the intimacy shared by couples they do not know. The children of depressed fathers are four times as likely to be spanked, and the brains of depressed mothers are less responsive to the cries of the mothers’ children. Mental illness was going largely untreated among American babies. Test subjects experienced fear when they were given a third, prosthetic arm and researchers threatened that arm with a knife. A connection between violence and happy hour was noted in Wales, where officials planned to move ahead with a badger cull in Pembrokeshire and to rebeaver the countryside near Furnace. In England, Slimbridge scientists surveyed the fatness of swans’ behinds, and doctors treated a three year old for alcoholism. Welsh mountain sheep were deemed capable of following rules. “Sheep have great potential,” said Jenny Morton of Cambridge University. “They’re not as daft as they look.”
Chemists discovered why Van Gogh’s yellows were fading; a Dutch ornithologist remained unsure whether the yellow breasts of great tits change with age but found that the offspring of older females are likelier to die young. In Finland, tawny owls were evolving from gray to brown and sperm quality in humans was deteriorating. Religion was going in extinct in the Czech Republic. A sacred soft-shelled turtle in Hanoi, one of only four species left in the world, was gravely ill yet continued to evade capture. A female mite preserved in amber with her mate was observed to have been controlling the terms of their copulation. Florida could be up to 50 percent older than previously believed. Astrobiologists hypothesized that the first multi-cellular animal resembled cancer. Tonsillectomies make children gain weight. Weight-loss surgery makes children lose weight. Doctors touted the benefits of removing the gallbladder through the vagina. Texas scientists cut holes in the hearts of baby mice; the hearts then healed themselves.
The passages above are from the “Findings” section in the May 2011 issue of Harper’s and were written by Rafil Kroll-Zaidi.