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How Much DNA Is There in the World?

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The world is full of genetic material. Just how much remains up for debate. But a new estimate by a group of researchers with the University of Edinburgh’s United Kingdom Centre for Astrobiology demonstrates just how mind-boggling the amount of DNA on Earth might be. 

All the DNA across the world, plants and animals both, adds up to at least 53 nonillion (a number equal to 5.3 × 1031) megabase pairs. A megabase pair, equal to one million base pairs, is the unit of length for nucleic acids. That amount of DNA would weigh 50 billion tons, according to the estimates published in PLOS Biology

If scientists were to store that level of genetic information, it would take 1 sextillion (one thousand trillion, or 1021) supercomputers with storage capacities equivalent to the world’s four most powerful current supercomputers. 

The estimate was calculated based on several different factors, including the number of single-celled organisms thought to live on Earth and their average genome size, the number of eurkaryotic cells in the world, and the mass of all the animal cells in the world. The scientists used several different methods and compared the numbers before arriving at their conclusion. While the numbers are not exact, the researchers speculate that if anything, this is an underestimate of all the genetic material present in the world. 

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Animals
Why Do Female Spotted Hyenas Give Birth Through Their Pseudo-Penises?
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At the zoo, you can sometimes tell the difference between male and female animals by noting their physical size, their behavior, and yes, their nether regions. Hyenas, however, flip the script: Not only are lady spotted hyenas bigger and meaner than their male counterparts, ruling the pack with an iron paw, they also sport what appear to be penises—shaft, scrotum, and all.

"Appear" is the key word here: These 7-inch-long phalluses don't produce sperm, so they're technically really long clitorises in disguise. But why do female hyenas have them? And do they actually have to (gulp) give birth through them? Wouldn't that hurt … a lot?

The short answers to these questions are, respectively, "We don't know," "Yes," and "OW." Longer answers can be found in this MinuteEarth video, which provides the full lowdown on hyena sex. Don't say we didn't warn you.

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science
Are Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll Really Linked? Researchers Investigate
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Around the world, sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll are said to go hand-in-hand. But do they? As PsyPost reports, a pair of Pennsylvania psychologists recently dove into the empirical evidence tying the three together, asking college students to talk about their drug use, sex lives, and music preferences and talents to suss out whether people who play and enjoy rock music really do have more active sex lives and drug use.

Published in the journal Human Ethnology Bulletin, the study [PDF] of 467 students relied on self-reporting, which isn't typically the most reliable evidence—people are wont to exaggerate how often they've had sex, for instance—but the survey also asked them about their desires, posing questions like "If you could, how frequently would you have sex?" It also asked about how often the students drank and what drugs they had tried in their lifetimes. They also described their musical experience and what kind of music they listened to.

The results were mixed, but the researchers identified a relationship between liking faster, "harder" music and having more sex and doing more drugs. Acoustic indie rock aficionados weren't getting quite as wild as heavy metal fans. High-tempo-music lovers were more likely to have taken hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, for example, and tended to have had more sexual partners in the previous year than people who favored slower types of music. According to the study, previous research has found that attention-seeking people are more likely to enjoy "hard" music.

The study didn't have a diverse enough group either in age or in ethnicity to really begin to make sweeping generalizations about humans, especially since college students (the participants were between 18 and 25) tend to engage in more risky behaviors in general. But this could lay the groundwork for future research into the topic. Until then, it might be more accurate to change the phrase to "sex, drugs, and heavy metal."

[h/t PsyPost]

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