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Thinkstock/Bryan Dugan

Scientists Say Sex and Time Travel Might Not Mix

Thinkstock/Bryan Dugan
Thinkstock/Bryan Dugan

It’s a wonderful concept—the fact that one day you might be able to travel back in time and buy a drink for a now-aging celebrity crush of yours—but you may want to avoid rolling around in the sheets with them if one drink happens to lead to another. According to new research being conducted at the Center for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in Montpellier, France, sex and time travel might not work out so well.

At least, not for the ladies.

The experiments are being carried out with brine shrimp, which, according to Popular Science, make “an ideal subject for a time-traveling experiment” due to the fact that their eggs can survive decades of drought through a form of dormancy called cryptobiosis. Once water is introduced to a preserved egg, it hatches, producing a creature that was conceived perhaps 10 or 15 years prior. 

As if that’s not cool enough in itself, the team in France has begun to mate these “time travelers” from different generations with others from a variety of time periods, about 160 generations in total. What they found is that sex between shrimp from different generations resulted in a lower life expectancy for the female.

“They found that females that mated with males from the past or future died off sooner than those that mated with their own generation,” writes Popular Science. “The longer the time-shift, the earlier they died: The 22-year time difference shortened female lifetimes by 12 percent; the effect was 3 percent for the 11-year time-shift. Interestingly, this didn’t affect the females’ reproductive success. Those that lived shorter lives produced the same average number of offspring, they just did it at a faster pace. ”

The dilemma at work is apparently a classic battle of the sexes in the form of reproductive adaptation. “If males and females coevolve their sex organs in tandem, mating with a partner from a different time could leave you unprepared—sort of like heading into modern war with 17th-century armor,” Popular Science said. Further research over a longer time-shift is needed to determine in what form this adaptation is occurring and, in turn, what makes the seed of the time-traveling shrimp so lethal.

Time travel obviously isn’t a reality yet, and humans certainly aren’t brine shrimp, so we humbly admit that the applicability and reliability of these experiments remains to be seen. That said, you’ve been warned! Those with a thing for period costumes might want to count their blessings and be content with attending the yearly Renaissance Fair.

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What Pop Culture Gets Wrong About Dissociative Identity Disorder
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From the characters in Fight Club to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, popular culture is filled with "split" personalities. These dramatic figures might be entertaining, but they're rarely (if ever) scientifically accurate, SciShow Psych's Hank Green explains in the channel's latest video. Most representations contribute to a collective misunderstanding of dissociative identity disorder, or DID, which was once known as multiple personality disorder.

Experts often disagree about DID's diagnostic criteria, what causes it, and in some cases, whether it exists at all. Many, however, agree that people with DID don't have multiple figures living inside their heads, all clamoring to take over their body at a moment's notice. Those with DID do have fragmented personalities, which can cause lapses of memory, psychological distress, and impaired daily function, among other side effects.

Learn more about DID (and what the media gets wrong about mental illness) by watching the video below.

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History
Scientists Reveal Long-Hidden Text in Alexander Hamilton Letter
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Age, deterioration, and water damage are just a few of the reasons historians can be short on information that was once readily available on paper. Sometimes, it’s simply a case of missing pages. Other times, researchers can see “lost” text right under their noses.

One example: a letter written by Alexander Hamilton to his future wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, on September 6, 1780. On the surface, it looked very much like a rant about a Revolutionary War skirmish in Camden, South Carolina. But Hamilton scholars were excited by the 14 lines of writing in the first paragraph that had been crossed out. If they could be read, they might reveal some new dimension to one of the better-known Founding Fathers.

Using the practice of multispectral imaging—sometimes called hyperspectral imaging—conservationists at the Library of Congress were recently able to shine a new light on what someone had attempted to scrub out. In multispectral imaging, different wavelengths of light are “bounced” off the paper to reveal (or hide) different ink pigments. By examining a document through these different wavelengths, investigators can tune in to faded or obscured handwriting and make it visible to the naked eye.

A hyperspectral image of Alexander Hamilton's handwriting
Hyperspectral imaging of Hamilton's handwriting, from being obscured (top) to isolated and revealed (bottom).
Library of Congress

The text revealed a more emotional and romantic side to Hamilton, who had used the lines to woo Elizabeth. Technicians uncovered most of what he had written, with words in brackets still obscured and inferred:

Do you know my sensations when I see the
sweet characters from your hand? Yes you do,
by comparing [them] with your [own]
for my Betsey [loves] me and is [acquainted]
with all the joys of fondness. [Would] you
[exchange] them my dear for any other worthy
blessings? Is there any thing you would put
in competition[,] with one glowing [kiss] of
[unreadable], anticipate the delights we [unreadable]
in the unrestrained intercourses of wedded love,
and bet your heart joins mine in [fervent]
[wishes] to heaven that [all obstacles] and [interruptions]
May [be] speedily [removed].

Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler married on December 14, 1780. So why did Hamilton try and hide such romantic words during or after their courtship? He probably didn’t. Historians believe that his son, John Church Hamilton, crossed them out before publishing the letter as a part of a book of his father’s correspondence. He may have considered the passage a little too sexy for mass consumption.

[h/t Library of Congress]

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