Wanna live 15 years longer?

Men, cut off your balls.

Lifepans of Korean eunuchs and intact men in three families (Mok, Shin, and Seo). Eunuchs lived longer. Figure reprinted from Min et al. 2012.

In a study published this week in Current Biology, Min and others analyzed historical data on lifespans of men in Korea. Apparently, back in the day, emperors would adopt eunuchs (men castrated before puberty) to live with and work with them. What better way to prevent the staff from sleeping with your family members? Well, it turns out, men without testes live 15 years longer, on average, than men with testes of similar socio-economic status. It seems that testosterone just isn’t that good for you. So, if you want to live longer, just cut your balls off.

A Mother’s Love

Progeria is a rare genetic disease that causes a range of symptoms in children that are usually associated with the elderly. People often say that children with progeria “age rapidly.” They lose their hair, get very skinny, and suffer joint stiffness, kidney failure, and cardiovascular problems. It’s caused by a mutant gene that produces a protein that is now called progerin. The symptoms don’t appear until the kids are toddlers, and most kids with progeria only live to be 13 or so. It’s very sad.

Leslie Gordon and her son Sam. Credit: The Progeria Research Foundation

When Leslie Gordon’s child was diagnosed with Progeria, she got to work looking for a cure. She got her PhD, and now has a breakthrough paper in PNAS. It’s not a cure, but her experimental drug has showed some exciting preliminary results, including a 50% increase in weight gain compared to pre-therapy. That’s a kick-ass mom. Full story here.

Are you reading this within an hour of bed time?

Are you having trouble sleeping lately?

Have you tried reading before bed?

What’s that? You’re reading an e-book?


Research is starting to converge on a pretty clear picture of how the brain knows to go to sleep, and the lack of light is a huge player. That means that reading on a backlit electronic display prevents you from going to sleep. It has to do with melatonin. Here’s an article summarizing the whole story, but if you’re thinking you want to be unconscious in the next hour, turn off your computer/tablet/phone/whatever and pick up a book. You can read about sleep when you wake up.

Cute Animals

A few weeks back on Riskin’s Business, I pointed out that bats are cuter than Jerboas. Please direct your attention to exhibits A and B.

Which is cuter? The Jerboa (left), or the White-winged Vampire Bats (right)?

I admit I’m stacking the odds in my favour: The bats are White-winged Vampire Bats (Diaemus youngi), which are among the cutest bats out there. I think the bats are cuter, but the Jerboa’s got it going on, too. Which one do you think is cuter? (You can leave a comment, you know.)

More generally, the bigger question is “what’s cute?” This inspired me to do a separate Riskin’s Business about cuteness itself, so today we headed to the zoo.

Continue reading Cute Animals

Kids on a Roller Coaster

Two kids getting ready to ride in the back seat of the Bizarro roller coaster at Six Flags New England, for a Riskin’s Business segment on Daily Planet

One of my favourite segments on Daily Planet so far this year was an experiment we ran with some kids on a roller coaster. The question was: Which is scarier: the front seat or the back seat? We filmed the segment in late July, and it aired on our season-opening day, September 4. You can see the segment here. We did it as part of a weekly feature called Riskin’s Business.

Continue reading Kids on a Roller Coaster

Major Overhaul Underway

Okay… I’m switching the underbelly of noctilio.com to make it easier for me to update it. I was doing everything by hand, editing my own CSS and HTML code using TextWrangler, then using FTP software to post. That was a great way to learn how a lot of this stuff works, but it was a pain. So I’m switching to WordPress and we’ll see how this goes. Right now it’s just the default template, but I should have things nicely customized in the coming weeks.