Last updated December 7, 2017 at 11:27 am
The Check Up is a weekly feature highlighting some of the best, most fascinating, most important, or simply unmissable health, medical, and human stories from around the web.
Autism spectrum facts
If there’s one story that has dominated the news all week, it’s the allegations against Don Burke. I watched terrestrial television for the first time in ages on Monday night to tune into both A Current Affair and 7:30. Partly because I’m horrifically interested in the story, and partly because I wanted to soak in Tracey Grimshaw’s brilliance. In amongst being outraged by his general lack of humanity, one thing that stood out like a sore thumb was his flippant self-diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. As this article details, there is absolutely no link between being on the autism spectrum and being a sexual predator. People on the autism spectrum are just that – people – and often instead of respect and support they face stigma and are in fact more likely to be the victims of bullying and harassment. Not perpetrators.
Eggs aren’t passive sperm recipients
The narrative about human fertilisation we’ve all been sold is that the egg floats down the fallopian tube into place, then patiently waits for the strongest, fastest, fittest sperm to come along. But that’s probably not true! Eggs probably have mechanisms to attract specific genes, and therefore the most attractive sperm to them. This article tells the story of testicular cancer researcher Joe Nadeau, who has been investigating this since 2005 (but an inkling of this idea traces back all the way to the 1970s).
Linking alcohol type to behaviour
I’m from Queensland, so I’ve only ever known a certain type of dark alcoholic beverage (rhymes with Schmundaberg Schmum) as Fight Juice. Whether it’s the alcohol itself, or the mixer it’s often drunk with, or a self-fulfilling prophecy I don’t care – just keep me away from people drinking it. Now, researchers are trying to figure out whether certain types of alcohol cause certain emotions. This article details an observational study where the subjects self-reported their emotional state, so nothing has been proven definitively. But it’s the silly season – there is plenty of time to experiment further. Responsibly, of course.
Spatial reasoning is for everyone
After decades of research, there is only one thing that we can definitively say about the difference between male and female brains: male brains (like the bodies that enclose them) tend to be bigger. Outcomes for males and females though, are starkly different. According to this article, in the US only 50 per cent of women who enrol in engineering degrees graduate – and this could be caused in part by spatial reasoning skills. Men do tend to score better on tasks like this, but the difference is probably due to socialisation rather than innate skill. But the (female) engineer featured in this story has figured out a solution that only takes fifteen hours and drives the graduation rate up to 80 per cent. And it all has to do with the plasticity of our brains.
Opportunity knocks, Gentlemen
And finally, this story has a bit of something for everyone – robots, a future-proof career, and awesome boundary-pushing men.