Discovered: Racial separation corresponds with more lung cancer; barnacles have gross sex; social interaction is genetic in ants; Facebook is more memorable than books for many people.
Segregation linked to higher cancer rates. When members of different races are contained to different parts of town, the reality that emerges not only promotes more racism—it also correlates with pretty unhealthy outcomes. A study led by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Awori J. Hayanga finds that African-Americans who live in more segregated counties have a much higher likelihood of dying from lung cancer than those in integrated areas. What's surprising is that this trend held true even when the researchers took into account different smoking rates and other socio-economic determinants on health. [The New York Times]
Barnacle sex (ew). Parents, now's the time to make the little turn their eyes away from the computer screen. We're now going to learn about barnacle sex. Mainly about how gross it is. Richard Palmer of the University of Alberta and his colleagues studied this issue, finding that male Pollicipes polymerus gooseneck barnacles are able to impregnate female barnacles without even coming into contact with them. Their penises are unusually small, so they've evolved to shoot sperm through water. "Darwin would be thrilled," says Palmer about the discovery. "He was that kind of guy." [Science News]
Social genes discovered in ants. Fire ants are worse than mean high schoolers when it comes to socializing. They form two warring factions in their ant colonies, and a new study thinks they've located a genetic basis for the social competition. The chromosome pair GP-9 gene looks like a promising place to look for the basis of social activity, according to evolutionary geneticist Laurent Keller of the University of Lausanne. "This is a spectacular piece of work," says Keller's colleague Kenneth Ross of the University of Georgia, who wasn't involved in this particular study. "They've unlocked a whole new mechanism for how a supergene can determine something as complex as behavior." [ScienceNow]
Reading Facebook is more memorable than reading a book for many. No one wants to admit this, but sometimes a Facebook status update sticks in your mind more than a wordy passage from a literary novel. But researchers at the University of Warwick and the University of California, San Diego know the truth. In a new study, they found that text pulled from Facebook jogged experimental subjects' memories better than text picked from books. "Our findings might not seem so surprising when one considers how important both memory and the social world have been for survival over humans’ ancestral history," says researcher Christine Harris. "We learn about rewards and threats from others. So it makes sense that our minds would be tuned to be particularly attentive to the activities and thoughts of people and to remember the information conveyed by them." [Salon]