Infidelity Lurks in Your Genes

Probability in Relationships, Science –

We are accustomed to thinking of sexual infidelity as a symptom of an unhappy relationship, a moral flaw or a sign of deteriorating social values. When I was trained as a psychiatrist we were told to look for various emotional and developmental factors — like a history of unstable relationships or a philandering parent — to explain infidelity.

But during my career, many of the questions we asked patients were found to be insufficient because for so much behavior, it turns out that genes, gene expression and hormones matter a lot.

Now that even appears to be the case for infidelity.

Richard A. Friedman, New York Times, May 22, 2015

Help! I think my dentist overdoes it on X-rays

Probability in Health and Medicine, Science –

Q. “The surprising dangers of CT scans and X-rays” led me to review the schedule of my own dental X-rays. On a recent visit I declined them, and the office manager said that I couldn’t have my teeth cleaned because it’s against the law for them to treat me. (The Georgia Dental Association told me that it’s not against the law, but that the dentist has the right to not treat me.) I want a dentist who will treat me without frequent X-rays. Any advice?—P.B., via e-mail

A. If you’re otherwise happy with your current dentist, talk with him or her first, says Jay W. Friedman, D.D.S., M.P.H., a consumer health care advocate and dental adviser to Consumer Reports. Share your concerns and underscore the fact that the American Dental Association (ADA) doesn’t recommend X-rays at every visit.

Consumer Reports, May 23, 2015

Hey dude, are you angry? Or is it just your red shirt?

Probability in Psychology – 

Heads up, men: Pulling on a bright red shirt in the morning may change the way people perceive you throughout the day.

According to a new study, most of us think men dressed in red look more aggressive, dominant and angry than if they were clad in gray or blue.

[M]ale zebra finches with red leg bands get more access to resources than their unbanded counterparts, and some monkeys have been known to avoid people wearing red.

Previous studies have shown that wearing red increases a person’s chances of winning sports games and is linked to a higher heart rate and higher testosterone levels. Still other studies suggest that competitive athletes wearing red appear more brave, aggressive and dominant to an observer.

Deborah Netburn, Washington Post, May 18, 2015

Who Let The Dogs In? We Did, About 30,000 Years Ago

Probability in Evolution – 

It looks like dogs might well have been man’s (and woman’s) best friend for a lot longer than once thought.

The long-held conventional wisdom is that canis lupus familiaris split from wolves 11,000 to 16,000 years ago and that the divergence was helped along by Stone Age humans who wanted a fellow hunter, a sentry and a companion.

Now, DNA evidence suggests that the split between dogs and their wild ancestors occurred closer to 30,000 years ago.

In other words, there may have been a faithful Fido walking with a human before the end of the last Ice Age (and before agriculture).

Scott Neuman, NPR, May 22, 2015

Paper finds a surprising link between warmer temperatures and math test scores

Probability in Education, Climate – 

Drawing on existing literature on how warmer temperatures can affect the brain, the researchers proceeded to examine children’s test scores from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a very long-running study that began with children born between 1957 and 1964, and since 1986 has also involved assessments of their kids.

“we find that math performance declines linearly above 21C (70F), with the effect statistically significant beyond 26C (79F),” as the paper puts it. No effect was found for reading scores, however.

Chris Mooney, Washington Post, May 12, 2015

More Consensus on Coffee’s Benefits Than You Might Think

Probability in Health and Medicine – 

When I was a kid, my parents refused to let me drink coffee because they believed it would “stunt my growth.” It turns out, of course, that this is a myth. Studies have failed, again and again, to show that coffee or caffeine consumption are related to reduced bone mass or how tall people are.

Coffee has long had a reputation as being unhealthy. But in almost every single respect that reputation is backward. The potential health benefits are surprisingly large.

Aaron E. Carroll, New York Times, May 11, 2015

Here Comes Trouble: Forecasters Agree El Nino Is Here

Probability in Climate – 

Three of the big meteorological agencies on the Pacific Rim now agree: El Nino has come.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology joined the U.S. Climate Prediction Center and Japan Meteorological Agency on Tuesday in declaring that sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are high enough — and the atmosphere above the ocean has reacted strongly enough — to mean an El Nino has begun.

If this seems like old news, that’s because people have been talking about this El Nino since 2013, when predictions began popping up among researchers and the media that the Pacific would warm and global weather patterns were going to be altered.

Brian K. Sullivan, BloombergBusiness, May 12, 2015

Hedge Funds Close Doors, Facing Low Returns and Investor Scrutiny

Probability in Investing – 

These days, bothersome investors who make too many demands are just one item on a long list of frustrations. Privately, and sometimes publicly, managers complain that it has become harder to make money and that regulation has raised the cost of business.

Add to that six long years of a bull stock market in the United States, and a coinciding six consecutive years of underperformance from the hedge fund industry. The average hedge fund returned 3 percent last year compared with a 13.7 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.

Alexandra Stevenson, New York Times, May 17, 2015