Thursday, February 7, 2019

Limits to Fitness Benefits of Prolonged Post-reproductive Lifespan in Women: Having a maternal grandmother improves grandchild survival, co-residence with old paternal grandmothers decreases grandchild survival

Limits to Fitness Benefits of Prolonged Post-reproductive Lifespan in Women. Simon N. Chapman et al. Current Biology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.12.052

Highlights
•    Women’s hazard of death increases when grandmothering opportunities decline
•    Having a maternal grandmother improves grandchild survival
•    Co-residence with old paternal grandmothers decreases grandchild survival
•    Grandmothering favors post-reproductive longevity only up to a point

Summary: Recent advances in medicine and life-expectancy gains have fueled multidisciplinary research into the limits of human lifespan [1, 2, 3]. Ultimately, how long humans can live for may depend on selection favoring extended longevity in our evolutionary past [4]. Human females have an unusually extended post-reproductive lifespan, which has been explained by the fitness benefits provided from helping to raise grandchildren following menopause [5, 6]. However, formal tests of whether such grandmothering benefits wane with grandmother age and explain the observed length of post-reproductive lifespan are missing. This is critical for understanding prevailing selection pressures on longevity but to date has been overlooked as a possible mechanism driving the evolution of lifespan. Here, we use extensive data from pre-industrial humans to show that fitness gains from grandmothering are dependent on grandmother age, affecting selection on the length of post-reproductive lifespan. We find both opportunities and ability to help grandchildren declined with age, while the hazard of death of women increased greatly in their late 60s and 70s compared to menopausal ages, together implying waning selection on subsequent longevity. The presence of maternal grandmothers aged 50–75 increased grandchild survival after weaning, confirming the fitness advantage of post-reproductive lifespan. However, co-residence with paternal grandmothers aged 75+ was detrimental to grandchild survival, with those grandmothers close to death and presumably in poorer health particularly associated with lower grandchild survival. The age limitations of gaining inclusive fitness from grandmothering suggests that grandmothering can select for post-reproductive longevity only up to a certain point.


Preliminary support for the cuckoldry-risk hypothesis: Men pursuing a relatively slow life history strategy produced higher quality ejaculates, implying resource allocation decisions for greater parenting effort

Barbaro, N., Shackelford, T. K., Holub, A. M., Jeffery, A. J., Lopes, G. S., & Zeigler-Hill, V. (2018). Life history correlates of human (Homo sapiens) ejaculate quality. Journal of Comparative Psychology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/com0000161

Abstract: Life history strategies reflect resource allocation decisions, which manifest as physiological, psychological, and behavioral traits. We investigated whether human ejaculate quality is associated with indicators of relatively fast (greater resource allocation to mating effort) or slow (greater resource allocation to parenting effort) life history strategies in a test of two competing hypotheses: (a) The phenotype-linked fertility hypothesis, which predicts that men pursuing a relatively fast life history strategy will produce higher quality ejaculates, and (b) the cuckoldry-risk hypothesis, which predicts that men pursuing a relatively slow life history strategy will produce higher quality ejaculates. Men (n = 41) completed a self-report measure assessing life history strategy and provided two masturbatory ejaculate samples. Results provide preliminary support for the cuckoldry-risk hypothesis: Men pursuing a relatively slow life history strategy produced higher quality ejaculates. Ejaculate quality may therefore reflect resource allocation decisions for greater parenting effort, as opposed to greater mating effort. The findings contribute informative data on correlations between physiological and phenotypic indicators of human life history strategies.

Consciousness rests on the brain’s ability to sustain rich brain dynamics (including signal coordination) & pave the way for determining specific & generalizable fingerprints of conscious & unconscious states

Human consciousness is supported by dynamic complex patterns of brain signal coordination. A. Demertzi et al. Science Advances Feb 06 2019: Vol. 5, no. 2, eaat7603
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat7603

Abstract: Adopting the framework of brain dynamics as a cornerstone of human consciousness, we determined whether dynamic signal coordination provides specific and generalizable patterns pertaining to conscious and unconscious states after brain damage. A dynamic pattern of coordinated and anticoordinated functional magnetic resonance imaging signals characterized healthy individuals and minimally conscious patients. The brains of unresponsive patients showed primarily a pattern of low interareal phase coherence mainly mediated by structural connectivity, and had smaller chances to transition between patterns. The complex pattern was further corroborated in patients with covert cognition, who could perform neuroimaging mental imagery tasks, validating this pattern’s implication in consciousness. Anesthesia increased the probability of the less complex pattern to equal levels, validating its implication in unconsciousness. Our results establish that consciousness rests on the brain’s ability to sustain rich brain dynamics and pave the way for determining specific and generalizable fingerprints of conscious and unconscious states.

Professor Jack Ponton's New Paper: Grid Scale Electricity Storage Can’t Save Renewables

Professor Jack Ponton's New Paper: Grid Scale Electricity Storage Can’t Save Renewables. Global Warming Policy Foundation, Feb 7 2019, https://www.thegwpf.org/new-paper-grid-scale-electricity-storage-cant-save-renewables

Engineer pours cold water on battery and hydrogen technologies

A new briefing paper from the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) dismisses the idea that grid-scale electricity storage can help bring about a UK renewables revolution.

According to the paper’s author, Professor Jack Ponton, an emeritus professor of engineering from the University of Edinburgh, current approaches are either technically inadequate or commercially unviable.

Many commentators have suggested that intermittent power from wind turbines could simply be balanced with batteries or pumped hydro storage, but as Professor Ponton explains, this approach is unlikely to be viable.

“You need storage to deal with lulls in wind generation that can last for several days, so the amount required would be impracticably large. And because this would only be required intermittently, its capital cost could probably never be recovered”.

Professor Ponton also thinks that another potential saviour of the renewables revolution – hydrogen storage – has been unjustifiably hyped:

“A major problem with hydrogen is its low volumetric energy density. The only practical way of storing the large volumes required would be in underground caverns or depleted gasfields. We are already short of this type of storage for winter supplies of natural gas.”

Professor Ponton concludes that a lack of suitable storage technologies means that intermittent renewables cannot replace dispatchable coal, gas and nuclear power and so a sensible energy policy cannot be based on them.

“Wind and solar power are not available on demand and there are no technologies to make them so. Refusing to face these inconvenient facts poses a serious threat to our energy security”.

>>> Grid-Scale Storage: Can it solve the intermittency problem? https://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2019/02/GridStorageWeb-1.pdf

Prevalence & correlates of medical cannabis patients' use of cannabis for recreational purposes: More than half of medical cannabis users used it recreationally, which is much more misuse than for other medications

Prevalence and correlates of medical cannabis patients' use of cannabis for recreational purposes. Meghan E.Morean, Izzy R.Lederman. Addictive Behaviors, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.02.003

Highlights
•    Patients (55.5%) legally using medical cannabis (MC) reported recreational use (RC).
•    RC use was associated with living in a state where RC is legal and being female.
•    RC use was associated with using MC to treat pain and mental health conditions.
•    RC use was associated with using MC products with high THC concentrations.
•    Using MC products with high CBD concentrations protected against RC use.

Abstract
Background: Rates of legal medical cannabis (MC) use are increasing, but little is known about the prevalence and correlates of recreational cannabis (RC) use among medical users (MC/R).

Methods: 348 MC users who resided in a state in which MC is legal and had medical authorization to use MC legally completed an anonymous survey in Spring 2017 (64.1% female, 82.8% White, mean age 33.03[±10.37] years). Rates of endorsing MC/R and the following potential correlates of MC/R were examined: the legal status of RC in participants' states of residence, sex, age, race, primary medical condition, MC product(s) used, MC expectancies, features of MC sought out (e.g., high tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] content), and negative cannabis use consequences.

Results: 55.5% of MC users engaged in MC/R. MC/R was associated with residing in a state in which RC is legal, being female, using MC for pain or mental health conditions, vaping MC concentrates, holding positive expectancies for combustible MC, and seeking out MC products with high THC concentrations. Preferring MC products with high cannabidiol (CBD) concentrations protected against MC/R.

Conclusions: More than half of MC users endorsed MC/R, which is considerably higher than rates of misuse observed for other prescription medications. Findings raise concerns about circumvention of RC laws in states where RC remains illegal and could be used to inform MC regulatory efforts (e.g., reducing THC content, increasing CBD content). Findings also suggest that prevention/intervention efforts to reduce MC/R are needed, especially among high-risk populations of MC users (e.g., women, pain patients, psychiatric patients).

Numerical cognition in honeybees enables addition and subtraction

Numerical cognition in honeybees enables addition and subtraction. Scarlett R. Howard et al. Science Advances Feb 06 2019: Vol. 5, no. 2, eaav0961. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav0961

Abstract: Many animals understand numbers at a basic level for use in essential tasks such as foraging, shoaling, and resource management. However, complex arithmetic operations, such as addition and subtraction, using symbols and/or labeling have only been demonstrated in a limited number of nonhuman vertebrates. We show that honeybees, with a miniature brain, can learn to use blue and yellow as symbolic representations for addition or subtraction. In a free-flying environment, individual bees used this information to solve unfamiliar problems involving adding or subtracting one element from a group of elements. This display of numerosity requires bees to acquire long-term rules and use short-term working memory. Given that honeybees and humans are separated by over 400 million years of evolution, our findings suggest that advanced numerical cognition may be more accessible to nonhuman animals than previously suspected.

Paul Romer suggestions for the World Bank: outsource the bank’s research; for good reasons, the bank’s shareholders have chosen to protect its diplomatic function, at the expense of its research

Paul Romer, Nobel Prize in Economics, suggestions for the World Bank. https://paulromer.net/ft_oped/

First, outsource the bank’s research upon which it depends for identifying problems and proposing solutions. Diplomacy and science cannot both thrive under the same roof. One consequence of the bank’s commitment to diplomacy is its necessary embrace of the helpful ambiguity that makes it possible for multilateral institutions to allow “Chinese Taipei” compete in the Olympic Games without “Taiwan, China” having a seat in the UN. Dispassionate examination makes clear that what the bank does to maintain conformity on the diplomatic front is not compatible with scientific research.

All that matter in science are the facts. When complex political sensitivities are allowed to influence research by stifling open disagreement, it ceases to be scientific. For good reasons, the bank’s shareholders have chosen to protect its diplomatic function, at the expense of its research.

Outsourcing research would be a better, more efficient way for the bank to establish the facts needed to do its job. This would also be an investment in the universities that make the discoveries that drive human progress.

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My question: What about the IMF?

An exogenously-induced optimism engenders greater dishonesty than pessimism; dishonesty is positively correlated with self-reported optimism and mood upswings

Optimism, pessimism, mood swings and dishonest behavior. Erez Siniver, Gideon Yaniv. Journal of Economic Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joep.2019.01.007

Highlights
•    The effects of optimism, pessimism and mood swings on dishonesty are examined.
•    An exogenously-induced optimism engenders greater dishonesty than pessimism.
•    Dishonesty is positively correlated with self-reported optimism and mood upswings.
•    Optimism in coping with a mental challenge does not trigger a sense of entitlement.

Abstract: The present paper reports the results of two experimental studies designed to examine the effects of optimism, pessimism, and mood swings on dishonest behavior. In Study 1, optimistic and pessimistic moods were exogenously induced to two classes of economics students who subsequently performed the die-under-the-cup task. Subjects experiencing an optimistic mood were found to exhibit greater dishonesty than those experiencing a pessimistic mood. In Study 2, economics students were asked, before and after taking a much-feared exam, to indicate on an optimism/pessimism mood scale how they felt about their success in it, subsequently performing the die-under-the-cup task. Dishonesty was found to be positively (negatively) correlated with post-exam optimism (pessimism) as well as with mood upswings (downswings) occurring between the post and pre-exam points of time. A side study ruled out the possibility that post-exam optimism induced a sense of entitlement which could have driven greater dishonesty.