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February 2, 2018

Weekend reads: Go ahead, swat at mosquitoes—one slap could deter them for days

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    Swat at a mosquito and it might remember you. If you ever need to get rid of an annoying mosquito, just swat at it—it will likely avoid coming back to you, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology. For the study, researchers exposed thousands of mosquitos to human scents while delivering a shock to them appropriate to the experience of being swatted by a person. They found that mosquitos can recollect specific human odors and make decisions based on short-term memories associated with those odors. According to Jeffrey Riffel, the lead author on the study and a professor of neurothology at the University of Washington, "Once [the mosquitos] learned a chemical indicates that they might get swatted, then they'll avoid it to the same degree as a really strong repellent."

    Teenagers aren't getting enough sleep. The vast majority of adolescents aren't getting the sleep they should, according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Report. CDC researchers found that 73% of high school students from 30 different states were not getting the eight to 10 hours of sleep the department recommends, up from 69% in 2009. Similarly, nearly 58% of middle school students weren't getting the nine to 12 hours recommended for optimal health, the report found. However, the rates of short sleep varied nationwide, with South Dakota having the lowest rate among high schoolers at 62% and West Virginia having the highest at 83%. Meanwhile, New Mexico had the fewest middle-school short sleepers (50%), while Kentucky had the most (65%).

    Rachel Schulze's reads

    Decoding genetic tests. Genetic tests can bring unexpected results, as Carmen and Gisele Grayson, a mother and daughter who recently completed tests, learned. Carmen knew her mother was born of Italian parents, but a DNA test from one maker showed her DNA was only 31% from Italy and Southern Europe—while daughter Gisele's test showed no markers from the "Italy and Southern Europe category" at all. How could Gisele get these results despite having an Italian grandmother? One reason, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, said, is that test companies have a good amount of room for interpretation—the tests "would be most accurate at the level of continental origins, and as you go to higher ..., they would become less ... accurate." In addition, while each parent contributes half of a child's genes, the child may not inherit the genes that the parent has—in this case, the Italian ones.

    What's it like to race skeleton—the notoriously brutal sport. Writing for the New York Times Magazine, Clive Thompson outlines the physical demands of the Olympic sport. On the course, the slightest movement can have a big effect on where the sled goes. Katie Tannenbaum, a skeleton athlete from the Virgin Islands, said, "There are even times when I just use my eyes," explaining that a small movement can shift her posture enough to steer. Meanwhile, a tight turn on the course can generate G-forces, or "pressures," up to five times normal—astronauts in a rocket launching experience roughly three G-forces, Thompson reports. Matt Antoine, a member of this year's U.S. Olympic skeleton team, said, "You pretty much never do more than three tracks a day. You can't handle it." 

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