Increased Scents-itivity:

Sex improves your sense of smell. It is known that levels of the hormone prolactin surge after orgasm, and frequent sex boosts the overall levels of this hormone. Now a study of mice shows that elevated prolactin causes the number of neurons in the brain’s olfactory bulb to proliferate, presumably heightening the sense of smell. Researchers suggest that the evolutionary significance of this finding is that increased “scents-itivity” adds to recognition of mates and offspring, cementing family bonds. Telegraph UK

Illinois Governor to Empty Death Row

In a move of unusual political courage and integrity, ‘Gov. George Ryan will commute the death sentences of all 156 inmates on Illinois’s death row, and he has sent letters to victims’ families warning them of the move, his spokesman said Saturday… Ryan halted the state’s executions nearly three years ago after courts found that 13 death row inmates had been wrongly convicted since the state resumed capital punishment in 1977 – a period during which only 12 other inmates were executed… Ryan spread the blame in his hour-long speech, calling the state’s criminal justice system “inaccurate, unjust and unable to separate the innocent from the guilty, and at times very racist.” ‘ The Nando Times If anyone can point me to any press about any behind-the-scenes political machinations involved in this decision, I would be grateful.

Thought Control

The scourge of the Greens accused of dishonesty:

The Bjorn Lomborg saga took a decidedly Orwellian turn this week. Readers will recall that Mr Lomborg, a statistician and director of Denmark’s Environmental Assessment Institute, is the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, which attacks the environmental lobby for systematically exaggerated pessimism. Environmentalists have risen as one in furious condemnation of Mr Lomborg’s presumption in challenging their claims, partly no doubt because he did it so tellingly. This week, to the delight of greens everywhere, Denmark’s Committees on Scientific Dishonesty ruled on the book as follows: “Objectively speaking, the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty.”

How odd. Why, in the first place, is a panel with a name such as this investigating complaints against a book which makes no claim to be a scientific treatise? The Skeptical Environmentalist is explicitly not concerned with conducting scientific research. Rather, it measures the “litany” of environmental alarm that is constantly fed to the public against a range of largely uncontested data about the state of the planet. The litany comes off very badly from the comparison. The environmental movement was right to find the book a severe embarrassment. But since the book was not conducting scientific research, what business is it of a panel concerned with scientific dishonesty? The Economist

Evolutionary Superiority of Democratic Decision-Making?

Group decision-making in animals: “Groups of animals often need to make communal decisions, for example about which activities to perform, when to perform them and which direction to travel in; however, little is known about how they do so. Here, we model the fitness consequences of two possible decision-making mechanisms: ‘despotism’ and ‘democracy’. We show that under most conditions, the costs to subordinate group members, and to the group as a whole, are considerably higher for despotic than for democratic decisions. Even when the despot is the most experienced group member, it only pays other members to accept its decision when group size is small and the difference in information is large. Democratic decisions are more beneficial primarily because they tend to produce less extreme decisions, rather than because each individual has an influence on the decision per se. Our model suggests that democracy should be widespread and makes quantitative, testable predictions about group decision-making in non-humans.” Nature [requires free registration]