Tears and Testosterone, Interstellar Dust Clouds and a Medical Mystery, Unsolved

BY Jenny Marder  January 10, 2011 at 12:31 PM EST

In Women’s Tears, a Chemical that Says, ‘Not Tonight, Dear’

emotional tears.jpg When a man gets close enough to sniff a woman’s tears, his sex drive and hormone levels drop, but his mood and empathy remain unchanged, according to a new study, published last week in the journal, Science. Researchers also studied male skin responses and brain activity after sniffing the stuff. No conclusions yet on men’s emotional tears. John Boehner’s weeping, for example, remains an open question, this New York Times article says. (Pam Belluck, The New York Times)

One in a Billion: A Boy’s Life, a Medical Mystery

Medical_mystery.jpgThanks to the Knight Science Journalism Tracker for alerting us to this one. The focus of this heartwrenching three-part medical series is Nicholas Volker, described as “a short, blue-eyed 4-year-old who loves Batman and squirt gun fights and steak – on the rare occasions when he’s not restricted to a feeding tube.” This story details his extremely rare illness, how it confounds doctors and the urgency around sequencing his DNA to help Nicholas and others like him. (Mark Johnson and Kathleen Gallagher, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Mystery Flares Betray Hidden Force Within Crab Nebula

Thumbnail image for crab_nebula.jpgThe Crab nebula, an interstellar dust cloud, is a natural particle collider even more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider, this New Scientist article reports. The gamma ray flares, thought to be caused by electrons “whipped up to record breaking speeds,” release more energy than previously thought: about 100 times the energy scientists expect to attain by colliding protons inside the LHC at full power. (Rachel Courtland, New Scientist)

Why Did 4,000 Dead Birds Drop From the Sky in Arkansas?

For a comedy interlude, don’t miss Washington Post’s ComPost writeup, which offers some alternate reasons for why the thousands of blackbirds may have plunged from the Arkansas sky to their death on New Year’s Eve. Starts with “Birds saw Justin Bieber, hyperventilated, died,” and ends with my personal favorite: “Pharaoh of Arkansas really needs to let Israelites go.” (Alexandra Petri, Washington Post ComPost)

And in case you missed it, some stories from our Science page last week:

Is Technology Wiring Teens to Have Better Brains?

Birds Tumbling From the Sky; Fish Floating Dead in the Water: How Unusual Are These Animal Die-Offs?

Methane-Munching Bacteria Ate Potent Gas From Gulf Oil Leak at Top Speed