The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'parasites'
New research suggests that differences between average national IQs may be due to the prevalence of parasites. One theory posits that children from countries with high incidences of parasites devote energy to fighting them off which would otherwise be spent on brain development.
When the researchers analyzed each factor independently, they found that infectious disease burden was more closely correlated to average IQ than the other variables. "Parasites alone account for 67% of the worldwide variation in intelligence," Eppig says.Meanwhile, a correlation has been found between incidence of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (i.e., the crazy-cat-lady parasite) and a nation's success in football, though the cause of the correlation is still unknown:
Rank the top 25 FIFA team countries by Toxo rate and you get, in order from the top: Brazil (67 percent), Argentina (52 percent), France (45 percent), Spain (44 percent), and Germany (43 percent). Collectively, these are the teams responsible for eight of the last 10 World Cup overall winners.
Now, what does the Toxo parasite do that could possibly relate to soccer performance? Not much is known about its impact on the human brain, but there are clues. We know that infection increases testosterone in male brains, making them more likely to get into car accidents, more attractive to females, and more prone to being jealous, dogmatic, and dismissive of authority. Evidence even suggests that motorcyclists are more likely to have Toxo. Something like a James Dean effect. Generally, males with Toxo are more aggressive and less inhibited. Keep in mind that FIFA, in line with most sporting organizations in the world, bans testosterone supplements of any kind. But they do not ban Toxo, and if Toxo increases testosterone levels, we may be dealing with a form of inadvertent, cultural doping.
If you live in Britain, you've probably been confronted by chuggers; those armies of attractive, bubbly young people in jackets bearing the logo of some charity or other who loiter in packs in pedestrian areas, waiting for you to pass before intercepting you, latching on like a lamprey and attempting to guilt a direct debit out of you, giving you only two options: surrender and pay up, or be rude to a nice person and feel like a heel for it.
The charity watchdog Intelligent Giving has investigated the activities of chuggers and found almost all of them to be breaking both the law and codes of conduct, harrassing shoppers and asking them to commit fraud to bolster their commissions, and is calling on the public to boycott them.
[A] survey of their tactics has found that some face-to-face fundraisers are not as good as the causes they represent. They have been caught out misleading the public about how they are paid, harassing shoppers who say they are not interested, and asking donors to lie on direct debit forms to help them meet their targets.
The watchdog also found that 15 fundraisers from nine charities broke the Institute of Fundraising's own code of conduct by refusing to back off when asked to do so. These included fundraisers for the British Red Cross and Scope.So next time you tell a chugger to naff off (with all due politeness, of course), remember: you're not being a miser or a crabby old troll, but a responsible citizen.
Alternative/industrial musician Trent Reznor has a few words to say about his record company in Australia:
Well, in Brisbane I end up meeting and greeting some record label people, who are pleasant enough, and one of them is a sales guy, so I say "Why is this the case?" He goes "Because your packaging is a lot more expensive". I know how much the packaging costs -- it costs me, not them, it costs me 83 cents more to have a CD with the colour-changing ink on it. I'm taking the hit on that, not them. So I said "Well, it doesn't cost $10 more". "Ah, well, you're right, it doesn't. Basically it's because we know you've got a core audience that's gonna buy whatever we put out, so we can charge more for that. It's the pop stuff we have to discount to get people to buy it. True fans will pay whatever". And I just said "That's the most insulting thing I've heard. I've garnered a core audience that you feel it's OK to rip off? F--- you'. That's also why you don't see any label people here, 'cos I said 'F--- you people. Stay out of my f---ing show. If you wanna come, pay the ticket like anyone else. F--- you guys". They're thieves. I don't blame people for stealing music if this is the kind of s--- that they pull off.
(via Boing Boing)
A biologist posits the intriguing hypothesis that a country's national character may be influenced by its rate of parasite infection, particularly by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (i.e., the "crazy cat person" parasite):
The author of the study is Kevin Lafferty, a biologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Lafferty made three straightforward observations.Lafferty's hypothesis predicted that the national cultures/characters of countries with high rates of Toxoplasma infection would have higher rates of characteristics such as neuroticism, uncertainty avoidance and "masculine" sex roles:
- Toxoplasma infection rates vary from country to country. South Korea has prevalance rate of only 4.3%, for example, while Brazil's rate is 66.9%. These rates are determined by many factors, from the eating habits in a country (steak tartar, anyone?) to its climate (Toxoplasma oocysts survive longer in warm tropical soil).
- Psychologists have measured some of the personality traits influenced by Toxoplasma in these countries. People with Toxoplasma tend to be more self-doubting and insecure, among other things. Among the differences in men, Toxoplasma is associated with less interest in seeking novelty. Toxoplasma-infected women are more open-hearted.
- A nation's culture can be described, at least in part, as the aggregation of its members' personalities.
He found a signficiant correlation between high levels of the parasite and high levels of neuroticism. There was a positive but weak correlation between Toxoplasma and levels of uncertainty avoidances and masculine sex roles. However, if he excluded the non-Western countries of China, South Korea, Japan, Turkey, and Indonesia, the correlations of both personality measurements with Toxoplasma got much stronger.
So--has Lafferty discovered why the French are neurotic (Toxo: 45%) and Australians are not (28%)? As he admits, this is just a first pass.
Lafferty also notes that many other factors shape a nation's culture--which actually raises another interesting question: what about other parasites? Do viruses, intestinal worms, and other pathogens that can linger in the body for decades have their own influence on human personality? How much is the national spirit the spirit of a nation's parasites?
(via Mind Hacks)
Intestinal worms may prevent bowel cancer; as such, a health drink containing whipworm eggs to replenish your body's supply of the
parasites symbionts may soon go on the market in Europe. The worms will be the pig variety, which doesn't survive long in humans, and is less likely to cause complications. (via FmH)
I wonder how long until we all have personalised populations of genetically engineered ex-parasites, modified to eliminate potential health problems long before any symptoms would arise, in our bowels, bloodstreams and elsewhere.
Those stereotypes of crazy cat people may have some truth to them. A Czech scientist has found that a cat parasite causes behavioral changes in human hosts. Men infected by the toxoplasma gondii parasite tend to be "quiet, withdrawn, suspicious, jealous and dogmatic" (i.e., the typical cranky cat-owning misanthrope), whereas infected women tend to be "reckless and friendly", with slower reaction times (i.e., the typical flaky cat lady).