The human body: An inspiring biological work of art? Or a meaty sack of germs and fluids? Either way, there’s still a lot we don’t know about what goes on in there — and scientists are constantly attempting to find out more. Here are the most interesting things we learned about our bodies in the last seven days:
This Is the Way the World Ends: Sperm Counts Are Perilously Low
The combined results of 185 studies conducted across the U.S., Europe, Australia and New Zealand have found that sperm counts have almost halved in the last four decades. The research — which has admittedly been treated with some skepticism — suggests a bleak future for the human race, or rather, no future at all if sperm counts continue to drop at the same rate.
In the meantime, men may want to try some of the advice uncovered this week by a study of medieval male infertility cures: “Boiled catnip taken on an empty stomach for three days,” or a generous helping of “dried, ground pig testicles mixed with wine” are among the most appetizing options.
No one would blame you if you chose extinction instead.
“Pet Translators” Will Apparently Become a Thing, Even Though They Won’t Really Because That’s Not How Animal Language Works
Futurist William Higham claims that we’re less than 10 years away from being able to buy a device that translates your dog’s woofs, growls and yelps into a human language you can understand. Which, as other scientists have pointed out, would be an impressive feat, since a) animals don’t even have languages in the way we understand them — they are able to communicate basic warnings and instructions but not abstract concepts like happiness or love; and b) most of the communication they do use is non-verbal and therefore untranslatable by such a device anyway.
Interestingly, a different study released this week found that humans are able to accurately gauge the emotional state of various land animals, including fear, anger and, er, arousal. Good to know!
In Related News, It Turns Out Whales Are Really Into Remixing Each Other’s Sweet Tunes
You heard it here first: Whale mashups are the next big thing.
You Can Be Good at Fighting or Good at Running Away, But Not At Both
It really is a case of “fight or flight,” at least according to a study conducted on mice at the University of Utah. Researchers found that mice that were less good at running were much better able to rumble with rival mice, despite them all being roughly the same body mass. The results, the researchers claim, are likely down to subtle psychological differences, much like the subtle psychological differences between the friend who stays and watches your back, and the friend that screams and runs away at the first sign of trouble. (I’m sorry about that, Dave, I really am.)
Poison Control Centers Get a Call Every 24 Minutes About Dietary Supplements
According to a study in the Journal of Medical Toxicology, the number of such calls increased by nearly 50 percent between 2005 and 2012. Seventy percent of these calls involved a child under 6 swallowing some kind of supplement, some of which resulted in symptoms including seizures and heart and breathing problems.
All in all, it’s generally a bad idea to let your child eat dietary supplements that have never been through any form of clinical trial or been tested or approved by the FDA (which is all dietary supplements). In fact, you might want to stop buying this stuff altogether, since most of it is about as effective as, well, a device that claims to be able to translate your dog’s barks into English.