what i learned last week

1. there is a tapeworm-like parasite called a “bloodfluke” that can inhabit your body on a trip to africa. if you’re really unlucky, you’ll be the home for a male and a female who can hang out together, swimming around in your bloodstream, for decades.

2. there is a 50% reduction in probability of a person with a hookworm infection to have asthma. in addition, becoming infected with a hookworm may cure asthma and allergies. if you would like to try it, you can buy hookworms HERE.

3. there is a parasite called toxoplasma that has some interesting characteristics and even more interesting associated theories:

3a. toxoplasma can only reproduce (sexually, if you’re interested) inside the gut of a cat. after doing so, however, it lays eggs which are excreted by the cat. now the parasite (once the eggs hatch) wants to get back into another cat, so it sits there (in the cat poo) until a rat comes along to eat it. once inside the rat’s gut (which is not where it wants to be) it starts migrating to the rat’s brain (this takes about 6 weeks). now, remember that the toxoplasma is trying to get back into a cat, but it’s stuck inside a rat which is typically afraid of cats and the way they smell… so, the toxoplasma heads for the amygdala (the part of the brain where fear resides) which happens to be next-door to the part of the brain where sexual arousal resides. the toxoplasma then is able to “cross the wires” between these two brain bits, thus making the smell of cat urine sexy to the rat. the rat looks for a cat, who eats it, and the toxoplasma is back inside a cat where it wanted to be in the first place…

3b. before reading this one, you have to read the previous one, since it’s important to know that toxoplasma changes the rat’s behaviour by rewiring its brain. there is an theory that the rise in incidence of schizophrenia (which practically didn’t exist in humans about 500 years ago…) is directly attributable to having cats as pets. it seems that there may be a link between having toxoplasmosis (being infected by the toxoplasma parasite) and schizophrenia.

3c. people with toxoplasmosis are 2 to 3 times more likely to be in a car accident. remember from (3a) that the toxo parasite is able to make the rat think that dangerous things are sexy? the theory goes that they may also be able to do this to humans, thus removing the fear associated with driving recklessly.

3d. if proven to be true, this may have implications on the issue of “free will”.

4. the new head of unesco – the united nations’ agency that is supposed to promote education, science and culture – is an egyptian who once said that he would burn all israeli books found in egypt’s libraries. see here.

5. salaries for porn stars are dropping. see here.

6. given enough time, it is possible to take a photograph of the entire sky. see here.

7. cows with names give more milk than those without. see here.

8. “probiotic” food doesn’t have any proven benefit over food that isn’t. see here.

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