TIL that Galileo was born in the same year that Michelangelo died, and died in the same year that Newton was born
TIL that Deleting a certain gene in mice can make them smarter by unlocking a mysterious region of the brain considered to be relatively inflexible. Scientists at Emory University have named this gene associated with memory and learning the “Homer Simpson gene”
Scientists at Emory University have named a gene associated with memory and learning the “Homer Simpson gene,” after the bone-headed patriarch of the cartoon family chronicled in Fox’s hit show, The Simpsons. The researchers say that deleting the gene in mice made them more skilled at navigating mazes and remembering objects. The Medical Daily reports:
Deleting a certain gene in mice can make them smarter by unlocking a mysterious region of the brain considered to be relatively inflexible, scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have found.
Mice with a disabled RGS14 gene are able to remember objects they’d explored and learn to navigate mazes better than regular mice, suggesting that RGS14’s presence limits some forms of learning and memory. The results were published online this week in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Since RGS14 appears to hold mice back mentally, John Hepler, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology at Emory University School of Medicine, says he and his colleagues have been jokingly calling it the “Homer Simpson gene.”
If their conclusions are correct, they raise an odd question. Why would mice, who are researched so frequently in part because they share much of the DNA with humans, have evolved a gene that actually makes them less intelligent? The lead scientists on the research attempt an explanation. “I believe that we are not really seeing the full picture. RGS14 may be a key control gene in a part of the brain that, when missing or disabled, knocks brain signals important for learning and memory out of balance,” he said.
TIL that exercise does not actually contribute much to weight loss. Simply eating better has a significantly bigger impact, even without much exercise.
Exercise has many benefits, but there are problems with relying on it to control weight. First, it’s just not true that Americans, in general, aren’t listening to calls for more action. From 2001 to 2009, the percentage of people who were sufficiently physically active increased. But so did the percentage of Americans who were obese. The former did not prevent the latter.
Studies confirm this finding. A 2011 meta-analysis, a study of studies, looked at the relationship between physical activity and fat mass in children and found that being active is probably not the key determinant in whether a child is at an unhealthy weight. In the adult population, interventional studies have difficulty showing that a physically active person is less likely to gain excess weight than a sedentary person. Further, studies of energy balance and there are many of them, show that total energy expenditure and physical activity levels in developing and industrialized countries are similar, making activity and exercise unlikely to be the cause of differing obesity rates.
Moreover, exercise increases one’s appetite. After all, when you burn off calories being active, your body will often signal you to replace them. Research confirms this. A 2012 systematic review of studies that looked at how people complied with exercise programs showed that over time, people wound up burning less energy with exercise than predicted and also increasing their caloric intake.
Other metabolic changes can negate the expected weight loss benefits of exercise over the long term. When you lose weight, metabolism often slows. Many people believe that exercise can counter or even reverse that trend. Research, however, shows that the resting metabolic rate in all dieters slows significantly, regardless of whether they exercise. This is why weight loss, which might seem easy when you start, becomes harder over time.
TIL that males who have married into the British royal family can never become King: they only have the opportunity of being Prince consort (however, females who marry in have the opportunity of becoming Queen).
When Prince Philip married then-Princess Elizabeth nearly 70 years ago, he was forced to renounce his Greek and Danish royal titles in order to become the Duke of Edinburgh; however, a decade later, then-Queen Elizabeth II officially named him a British Prince. It’s a ceremony that, judging by the promotional photo below, we’re going to see in the upcoming season of The Crown.
But why isn’t he King Philip?
The wives of British monarchs tend to receive the ceremonial title of queen—or, more specifically, queen consort. For example, Elizabeth’s mother (also Elizabeth) became queen consort when her husband, George VI became King. Duchess Kate will likely become Queen Catherine when William ascends to the throne. Camilla could become queen consort, though for now, Clarence House has announced that “It is intended that Mrs. Parker Bowles should use the title HRH The Princess Consort when The Prince of Wales accedes to The Throne.”
However, the reciprocal is not true. Men married to the British monarch are known as prince consorts, not king consorts. As with many royal traditions, you can chalk this one up to very old and powerful patriarchy. Kings always reign, whereas Queen can be a symbolic title.