Discovered: the easily scared are more conservative by nature and politics; watching lots of TV linked to lower sperm count; a really big new prime number; Arctic squirrels that hibernate at sub-zero temperatures.
The easily scared tend to be more conservative by nature. Are political leanings tied to the psychology of fear? A paper published in American Journal of Political Science argues that individuals inclined to fear others — i.e., those apart from a group to which the individuals already belong — are more likely to espouse policies like racial segregation and favor more stringent immigration policies. But that's not to say conservatives are more fearful in general; it's that those who fear more are more likely to want things to stay the same. "People who are scared of novelty, uncertainty, people they don’t know, and things they don’t understand, are more supportive of policies that provide them with a sense of surety and security," researcher Rose McDermott explained. [American Journal of Political Science]
Watching too much television correlates lower sperm counts. American researchers obtained sperm samples from nearly 200 men and discovered that participants who watched a lot of television — that is, more than 20 hours per week — had dramatically lower concentrations of sperm than those who watched less. The research doesn't establish cause — your TV isn't blasting rays at your groin — but instead indicates that inactive men post lower sperm counts than those who get up and move around more. [British Journal of Sports Medicine]
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We have a new largest prime number. A Missouri professor has discovered the largest prime number known to man, a 17-million-digit integer indivisible by zero, using hundreds of computers networked on the campus of University of Central Missouri, in Warrensburg. The utility of such a number is small. Indeed, looking for increasingly greater prime numbers is more of a vanity expedition, according to Chris Caldwell, a Tennessee professor, who told the New Scientist that "For some reason people decide they like diamonds and so they have a value. People like these large primes and so they also have a value." [New Scientist]
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Arctic ground squirrels hiberate at sub-zero temperatures. An especially hardy species of squirrel, native to the Arctic circle, is able to hibernate for eight months a year in literally freezing temperatures, researchers discovered. Nobody seems to know how they do it, especially in the dark Arctic, but there are clues that explain the physical feat of hibernating so long, such as the consistency of the squirrel's blood, which does not freeze (and thus keeps flowing throughout the body) during hibernation. Check out the video below to watch the arctic ground squirrel awake from its slumber. [Grist]