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News Bytes of the Week (Why Have Sex? Edition)

Fresh science droppings: Dasvidanya North Pole, a gene for lefties and more …
Why have sex? Are you kidding?
There may be 23 positions in a one-night stand, but there are 237 reasons (at least) for getting yourself in that position. University of Texas at Austin psychologists asked 400 students to list their reasons for doing the deed and had a separate group rate the importance of each of the 237 motivations on the titillating list (available here). The top 10 reasons for men and women were largely identical ("I was attracted to the person"; "I was sexually aroused and wanted the release"; "I was 'horny")—and a bit redundant. Some other motivations ("I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease") were understandably infrequent. Yet another reason to renew your subscription to Archives of Sexual Behavior, which published the study. (University of Texas)

I claim this Pole in the name of the Kremlin
Arctic explorer and patriotic Russian Artur Chilingarov descended 14,000 feet in a submersible on Thursday to plant a titanium flag under the North Pole, symbolizing his nation's claim to the Lomonsov Ridge, which is thought to contain up to 10 billion barrels of oil, according to the London Telegraph. In June, the paper notes, Russia's Institute of Ocean Geology said it had come closer to fulfilling a U.N. requirement for ceding Arctic territory by gathering new evidence that the undersea mountain range sits on the country's continental plate. Melting ice sheets have made the region more attractive as a potential shipping lane and pit stop for resources. Risk, anyone? (Telegraph)

What, ministering to the poor?
Doctors who describe themselves as religious are slightly less likely to practice medicine among the needy, according to a University of Chicago survey of 1,144 physicians of all specialties. Respondents who scored high on church attendance and "intrinsic religiosity" were only 31 percent likely to treat underserved populations, compared with 35 percent among the nonreligious; spirituality and youth were better predictors of service. So much for answering a (house) calling. (Annals of Family Medicine; University of Chicago)

FDA panel: Iffy diabetes drug should stay put
No sooner than a federal drug advisory panel agreed by a 20-to-three margin on Monday that the GlaxoSmithKline diabetes drug Avandia raises the risk of heart attacks, it turned around and voted 22 to one to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allow it to stay on the market. The New York Times reports that experts were unsure exactly how big a risk the drug presented. A study in the May issue of The New England Journal of Medicine that combined data from 42 separate clinical trials found that rosiglitazone (Avandia) boosted the risk of death by 64 percent. The FDA has yet to vote on the matter, but almost always goes with advisory board recommendations. (New York Times)

A lefty gene? Right
Researchers claim to have found a gene that increases a person's odds of being left-handed—and having schizophrenia. Dubbed LRRTM1, the Oxford University–led team speculated that the poorly understood gene contributes to the brain's division of labor between left and right hemispheres, which becomes skewed in the disease. But lefties need not fret: the researchers stressed to the BBC that schizophrenia has many greater risk factors. (BBC; University of Oxford)

Rodents gone mad
In other schizophrenia news, a new transgenic mouse may allow researchers to better study the enigmatic disease, which afflicts one percent of people worldwide. A Johns Hopkins University team this week reported inserting a disrupted human gene, the schizophrenia risk factor DISC1, into lab mice, causing them to exhibit the brain asymmetry characteristic of schizophrenia as well as agitation in open spaces and trouble finding hidden food—traits reminiscent of the restlessness, impaired sense of smell and depressionlike symptoms schizophrenics suffer, Reuters reports. Until now, researchers had needed drugs to simulate the condition in mice. (Reuters)

No quarter for stem cells
The White House ban on new stem cell research is blocking testing that could potentially spare embryos, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper reported Sunday that researchers at Alameda, Calif., stem cell firm Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) as well as Wake Forrest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and others have been in limbo since submitting a grant proposal to the National Institutes of Health in February to compare new techniques for deriving embryonic stem cell lines, such as extracting a single cell from an eight-cell embryo. Robert Lanza, ACT's vice president of research and scientific development, complained to the Post that the White House is "trying to ride the clock out." (Washington Post)

Bad pot luck: Marijuana is like cigarettes on crack
Potheads took another hit this week when a study found that smoking a single joint can cause as much lung damage as five cigarettes. Those who sipped of the weed at least once a day had no signs of emphysema after five years—unlike pack-a-day cigarette smokers after one year—but marijuana smoke obstructed air passages to a similar extent, closing fine airways and restricting the larger ones. Researchers said pot's damage stemmed from a joint's higher burn temperature and the deeper inhalation, not to mention the lack of a filter. (Associated Press)

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