Archive for the ‘Science’ Category


Y Chromosome Differentiation 180 Million Years Old

24 April 2014

Just published in Nature is a study revealing the origins of maleness in mammals. The team of Prof. Henrik Kaessmann at the Center for Integrative Genomics and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics concludes that the key male-differentiating features in the Y chromosome appeared 180 million years ago in placentals and marsupials with the arrival of the sex-determining gene, SRY. Curiously, the AMHY gene, performing the same function in monotremes, appeared independently 175 million years ago. In other words, testicles have been around for a good long while, but not as long as one might have imagined.

The study, which required 29,500 computing hours, was done by isolating special Y chromosome genes among fifteen mammalian species. It is the largest study of the Y chromosome to date. More information can be found in the current issue of Nature or here.


Manhood, Modesty, and Pandemics

28 July 2013

The World Health Organization has reported that the death rate of the new MERS virus is higher than SARS (50%) but slower-spreading. Only 90 cases have been reported since last September, most of them in Saudi Arabia. Oddly, 80% of the cases from the past year were men.

Dr. Christian Drosten from the University of Bonn was quoted in The Times of India saying it probably has less to do with manhood and more to do with standards for female modesty.

MERS also appears to be mainly affecting men; nearly 80 percent of the cases in the new study were men. Drosten said there might be a cultural explanation for that. “Women in the [Middle East] region tend to have their mouths covered with at least two layers of cloth,” he said, referring to the veils worn by women in Saudi Arabia. “If the coronavirus is being spread by droplets, [the veils] should give women some protection.”



Oldest Man in Modern History, Dead at 116

12 June 2013

According to Genesis 5:27, Methuselah lived a whopping 969 years. But that was before the flood and before Guinness Book of World Records. The longest-living male just died today, Wednesday, at the ripe age of 116. Jiroemon Kimura of Kyotango, Japan, used a low-calorie diet and a good set of genes to get him all the way through the 20th century alive.

116 years, however impressive by itself, is a long way from the all-time world record. It was set far out of reach by Jeanne Louise Calment when she died at age 122 in France. That a woman holds the record got me wondering about the longevity of men vs. women over age 100. It turns out there’s a graph for that, compiled by Afrim Alimeti:

Gerontology Research Group,

Gerontology Research Group,


One Small Quip for [a] Man…

25 August 2012

Neil Armstrong is dead at age 82.  While a half dozen new biographies of the iconic moon-walker will undoubtedly be released in the next year, the truth about him will probably remain well concealed.  Armstrong’s silence throughout his life was deafening.  Where others like Buzz Aldrin learned to live in the limelight, he retreated into the space-like quiet.

Armstrong never sought to be a spokesman.  How ironic he is known for his words!  Even his legendary quip, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” was, by his own belated admission, botched: it was supposed to be “One small step for a man…”  Still, that slogan, correctly delivered or not, stands out precisely because of the personal void around Armstrong.  He ushered the world into the great beyond.


New Avenues for Birth Control Pill for Men

17 August 2012

In that perennial quest for the holy grail, the pill for men, scientists are showing a new round of optimism.  Every attempt in recent years has failed due to a host of complications with terminating billions of sperm effectively and without side effect.  Organon’s attempt at an implant failed in trials, for example, despite it being heralded as some kind of messiah-pharmaceutical.  Nevertheless, some new drugs are in testing phase, however, pursuing the prospect of massive sums of money to the winning developers.

James Bradner reports for his squad, which has seen successful results among mice.  The drug JQ1 targets a testis-specific protein, rendering production of sperm impossible.  Bradner reports elsewhere that he suspects the pill for men will be available within a decade.

Indian scientists have developed a gel called RISUG which is injected into the vas deferens in a procedure much like a vasectomy.  The chemical somehow disrupts sperm by electrocuting them with a charge produced by the surface of the polymer.  It is in phase III trials in India as of 2012.

Testosterone undecanoate, currently used with success for hypogonadism, is being considered as a contraceptive.  Chinese researchers report early success in trials with their injection method, which mixes the compound in tea seed oil.  Some permanent infertility was noted, however.


The Venus Transit, Rational Christianity, and Fornicating Gods

5 June 2012
The solar transit of Venus – when the planet gets between the earth and the sun, doing so only twice a century – isn’t eliciting much attention in the news today.  That wasn’t the case in 1769, however, when inspired Europeans invested enormous sums of money and energy sending scientists to the edges of the earth.  Those scientists were to write down the exact times Venus entered and left the sun’s field.  By taking one measurement and comparing it to a measurement taken in, say, Tahiti, a mathematician could use parallax to determine the distance of the earth to the sun.  As it turns out, explorers Captain James Cook and Joseph Banks were there in Tahiti at the time to take those planetary measurements.
Knowing the distance between the earth and the sun was a big deal in 1769.  Having that kind of knowledge meant humankind could peer into the heart of God’s created order.  Scientists and philosophers became something like gods in the process.  Discoveries like the distance from the sun to the earth (93 million miles, if you must know) did much to spur on the Enlightenment – an explosion of rational thought that, when taken as a religion, mutated Christian orthodoxy into deism and pantheism.  Anglicans like Cook and Banks would venture far from their doctrinal roots.
Not that everyone was busy rationalizing Christianity.  For Joseph Banks, basking in the Tahitian sun, there were things more interesting than planetary transits and metaphysics.  His journal says remarkably little about the astronomical observations but plenty about island culture.  He writes that after the transit he partied with a a local chieftain, and shortly thereafter came across some particularly easy women who were effortlessly coaxed into his tent.
So much for godhood.

NASA’s Territorial Pissing

29 May 2012

With a blog name like “Men on the Moon,” why not talk about men on the moon every once in a while?

With the advent of commercial space flight, the old guard of NASA want businessmen everywhere to know that the moon (at least select parts of it) is their jurisdiction. In July 2011 the world received “NASA’s Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities,” a set of guidelines to private sector missions. The document included parameters for lunar explorations, namely, “exclusion zones” of historically significant areas. The Apollo landing sites, for example, should not be approached by a lander within 2km, and even rovers are prohibited within immediate vicinity.

Is it just me, or is the “preservation” line ringing a little hollow here? Since the surface of the moon is essentially a collection of powder, what is being preserved is NASA’s claims to real estate, which belongs to them by virtue of a set of footprints. One doesn’t have to go to the moon to discern the tell-tale trail they’ve spritzed into the lunar dust.