Are we going to need a love vaccine?

In the new issue of Nature, the neuroscientist Larry Young offers a grand unified theory of love. After analyzing the brain chemistry of mammalian pair bonding – and, not incidentally, explaining humans’ peculiar erotic fascination with breasts – Young predicts that it won’t be long before an unscrupulous suitor could sneak a pharmaceutical love potion into your drink.

That’s the bad news. The not-so-bad news is that you may enjoy this potion if you took it knowingly with the right person. But the really good news, as I see it, is that we might reverse-engineer an anti-love potion, a vaccine preventing you from making an infatuated ass of yourself. Although this love vaccine isn’t mentioned in Young’s essay, when I raised the prospect he agreed it could also be in the offing.

Could any discovery be more welcome? This is what humans have sought ever since Odysseus ordered his crew to tie him to the mast while sailing past the Sirens. Long before scientists identified neuroreceptors, long before Britney Spears’s quickie Vegas wedding or any of Larry King’s seven marriages, it was clear that love was a dangerous disease.

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Evangelical Refuses to Drive “There’s Probably No God” Bus

Ron Heather, 62, an evangelical Christian from Southampton, refused to drive a bus bearing an advert from a national campaign aimed at persuading more people to “come out” as atheists.

About 800 buses across the country are to carry the adverts, which read: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and go and enjoy your life.” Heather said he was “aghast” when he realised last Saturday that he would have to drive a double decker emblazoned with the slogan. He walked out of his shift in protest.

He said: “I was just about to board and there it was staring me in the face – my first reaction was shock horror. I felt that I could not drive that bus, I told my managers and they said they had not got another one and I thought I better go home, so I did….”

Heather later agreed to return to work on the condition that he would drive buses with the adverts only if no other vehicles were available. “I’m not going to let passengers down because of my feelings.”

Shouldn’t being challenged be an evangelical’s dream? He can begin ranting without being accused of having brought up the subject.

Response to advert for “best job in the world” swamps website

Daylife/AP Photo by Darren Jew

The chance to be the caretaker of a tiny tropical island in Australia has sparked so much interest around the world that a rush of applications crashed the website advertising the post.

The job, which offers a salary of $105,000 to spend six months on the Great Barrier Reef island of Hamilton, has been inundated with hundreds of thousands of prospective candidates.

An official from the state of Queensland, which is offering the position, said the job was created as an antidote to the global economic slump and was being advertised in 18 countries including the United States and China.

Local media said technicians had to restore the website after it could not cope with the volume of interest and crashed for several hours. Some sections are still not up and running…

The successful candidate will have to go scuba diving, snorkeling and hiking and enjoy at least 25 nearby island resorts. Thrown in is a luxury three-bedroom home and transportation to and from the island.

No skills, nor experience is needed, and there is no age requirement. The job starts in July.

I don’t know if I can offload all my responsibilities by July. But, I surely would try like hell.

Top Saudi cleric says child brides are cool!

Prince Faisal gets a hug from Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al al-Sheikh
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

The debate over the practice of men marrying children in Saudi Arabia was back in the spotlight this week, with the kingdom’s top cleric refusing to annul the marriage of an 8-year-old girl to a 47-year-old man.

“It is incorrect to say that it’s not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger,” Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the kingdom’s grand mufti, said in remarks quoted Wednesday in the regional Al-Hayat newspaper. “A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she’s too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her…”

“We hear a lot in the media about the marriage of underage girls,” he said, according to the newspaper. “We should know that Shariah law has not brought injustice to women…”

The Saudi Ministry of Justice has not made any public comment on the issue.

The concept of Age of Consent doesn’t mean a hell of a lot – when there is no opportunity for consent. Or refusal.

This is a special keepsake inauguration column – print it out, save it!

Daylife/Getty Images

The ardor among marketers for Barack Obama is intensifying with the approach of Inauguration Day, when, it seems, they intend to name him the nation’s new consumer in chief.

Obama’s election set off a boom in merchandise, official or otherwise, that has come to be called Obamabilia. Among the myriad offerings are coins, plaques, plates, clothing, magazines, newspapers, books, posters, DVDs, jewelry, dolls, greeting cards and jigsaw puzzles.

The new items include bottles of Hennessy Cognac, bearing labels that read “44”; commemorative issues of publications like The New Yorker, Newsweek, USA Today and The Washington Post; and T-shirts from the Presidential Inaugural Committee that urge “Be the change…”

And Quaker Oatmeal will host house parties on Tuesday morning in 11 cities — Washington included — where women who write so-called mommy blogs will serve breakfast to friends and other guests before they watch coverage of the ceremonies…

In Washington, Pepsi-Cola will sponsor the inaugural ball of the Creative Coalition, an arts and entertainment advocacy organization, as well as a symposium at Howard University, titled “Refresh the World,” that is to feature participants like Spike Lee, Queen Latifah and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

“Without commenting specifically on the president-elect, it is a cultural moment for everybody,” said Ralph Santana, vice president for colas at Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages in Purchase, New York, “and I do think it transcends politics.”

It doesn’t – however – transcend opportunism. RTFA just in case you missed an overpriced souvenir.

Sleep may be best cure for the common cold


There is no cure for the common cold, but in an experiment that deliberately infected volunteers with a virus, researchers have shown that getting less sleep can substantially increase the risk of catching one.

For 14 days, the researchers monitored and recorded the sleep time of 153 healthy men and women ages 21 to 55. They also scored their sleep efficiency, the percentage of time in bed spent asleep. Then they dripped a solution containing a rhinovirus into their noses and monitored their health for five days. Almost all subjects became infected, and more than a third had cold symptoms.

The study, led by Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University, was published…in The Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers found that those who got less than seven hours of sleep a night were almost three times as likely to have clinical symptoms as those who got eight or more. Those with a sleep efficiency score of 85 percent or less were more than five times as likely to be infected as those with higher efficiency.

Go away! Don’t bother me! I’m getting healthyzzzzz…

A biblical miracle preserved forever – in a lava lamp


An Australian man says his life has been blessed since an image of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus appeared in his lava lamp.

The man, John Smith of Sydney, has set up a shrine to the lava lamp in his home and on his website.

“I had been going through a tough time and was paying for a sign… a divine sign from God that I was not alone and that all would work out fine,” he explains on the website.

“I turned on my brand new lava lamp and watched in awe as the unmistakeable image of the Holy Mary cradling the Baby Jesus appeared. I immediately turned off the lamp and the lava has remained in this position ever since.”

Since then, he says he, “…met the most incredible woman, my angel here on earth. We have gotten engaged, phenomenal job offers have come flooding in, money keeps presenting itself and we are blessed by the warmth and love of angels constantly protecting and guiding us.”


Midlife coffee drinking may protect against Alzheimer’s disease

Midlife coffee drinking can decrease the risk of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease (AD) later in life.

The study included participants previously surveyed…from 1972, 1977, 1982 or 1987 (midlife visit)…and re-examination in 1998.

“We aimed to study the association between coffee and tea consumption at midlife and dementia/AD risk in late-life, because the long-term impact of caffeine on the central nervous system was still unknown, and as the pathologic processes leading to Alzheimer’s disease may start decades before the clinical manifestation of the disease,” says lead researcher, associate professor Miia Kivipelto.

The study found that coffee drinkers at midlife had lower risk for dementia and AD later in life compared to those drinking no or only little coffee. The lowest risk (65% decreased) was found among moderate coffee drinkers (drinking 3-5 cups of coffee/day)…Tea drinking was relatively uncommon and was not associated with dementia/AD.

Kivipelto also notes that, “Given the large amount of coffee consumption globally, the results might have important implications for the prevention of or delaying the onset of dementia/AD. The finding needs to be confirmed by other studies, but it opens the possibility that dietary interventions could modify the risk of dementia/AD. Also, identification of mechanisms of how coffee exerts its protection against dementia/AD might help in the development of new therapies for these diseases.”

A lot of science-speak there; but, I don’t think anyone will have a problem understanding what was learned.

Coffee has played an on-again, off-again, role in my casual life. I stopped altogether for a spell – when early studies at Harvard indicated a connection with pancreatic cancer. Very scary stuff. Final analysis said, Nope – no problem.

So, I returned to a cup or two – though I still tend to drink one more cuppa tea than coffee.

Trident nuclear missiles are £20 billion down the crapper

Britain’s nuclear submarines are “completely useless” against modern warfare, and the £20 billionn spent on renewing them is a waste of money, say a group of retired senior military officers.

The former head of the armed forces Field Marshal Lord Bramall, backed by two senior generals, argued that the huge sums being spent on replacing the delapidated submarines that carry the Trident ballistic missiles could be better used to buy conventional weapons which are badly needed by the armed forces.

“Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently face or are likely to face, particularly international terrorism,” the group said in a letter to the Times. “Our independent deterrent has become virtually irrelevant, except in the context of domestic politics.”

Ramsbotham said he no longer believed that Britain’s nuclear deterrent was truly independent.

“We don’t own the missiles and it is absolutely unthinkable that we should ever consider using it or threatening to use it without having the clearance of the United States,” he said.

“The fact is that Trident is an inappropriate weapons system. You can’t see Trident being used against something like nuclear blackmail by international terrorism. It is a cold war weapon. It is not a weapon for the situation where we are now.”

Every political activist in the United States knows the British military are kept on a short leash by the Pentagon. If and when our military-industrial complex demands a continuation of 1950’s military design, Whitehall dances to the same tune. If anything, jumping a wee bit higher, trying to be noticed by the beancounters with the checkbook.