Watercooler Stories

By United Press International  |  June 3, 2005 at 6:30 AM
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Oxytocin makes people more trusting

LONDON, June 3 (UPI) -- People are more likely to trust their money to someone else if they sniff oxytocin, a brain chemical nicknamed the "love hormone," Swiss researchers say.

The naturally occurring compound, triggered by a number of stimuli that include sex and breastfeeding, is known as being important to forming social and romantic ties.

Researchers, led by the University of Zurich's Ernst Fehr, tested people who played an investment game.

Thirteen of 29 people who inhaled oxytocin handed over all of their cash to their human trustee vs. just six of 29 who inhaled a placebo. However, the effect disappeared when the human was replaced with a random number generator.

Researchers, reporting in the London journal Nature, said that shows oxytocin boosts social interactions rather than merely making people more willing to take risks.

Fehr said the ability to increase trust "may be useful" in treating social phobias or autism.

Could unscrupulous stores pump the air full of oxytocin to boost sales?

Perhaps, said University of Iowa neurologist Antonio Damasio, but advertising already uses tricks to get people to trust a brand that probably work "exactly the same way."

New dinosaur fossil found in Argentina

PATAGONIA, Argentina, June 3 (UPI) -- A fossil found in Argentina suggests food competition in prehistoric times led to a dinosaur known as Brachytrachelopan mesai evolving a shorter neck.

The short-necked dinosaur lived in Patagonia, Argentina, about 150 million years ago, the magazine Nature reported. It was a member of the sauropod group of dinosaurs, which includes the 100-foot-long Diplodocus.

Sauropods typically had long necks, allowing them to reach into trees for food. But the B. mesai fossil shows it measured fewer than 32 feet.

Scientists say a long neck is unnecessary if ground food is readily available. That might explain the existence of B. mesai, says Oliver Rauhut of the Bavarian State Collection for Palaeontology and Geology in Munich, Germany. "It was a really well-preserved specimen," Rauhut said, adding the fossil also provides exciting clues about the evolution of sauropods.

The B. mesai is believed to have evolved during the middle Jurassic period, after the separation continents in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, but before Africa and South America fully broke apart.

Said Barrett: "It looks like this is a dinosaur that's trying to reinvent itself. This fossil is telling us a lot about how these ecosystems evolved."

Canadian woman scales Everest

TORONTO, June 3 (UPI) -- A Canadian woman scaled Mount Everest in Nepal Thursday, becoming the third woman to reach the summit of the world's tallest peak at 29,028 feet.

The Everest victory also made Urszula Tokarska of Toronto the first Canadian woman to climb the highest peaks on all seven continents, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Tokarska, 42, appears to have beaten Ottawa teacher Peggy Foster, who is on Everest in quest of the same distinctions, the report said.

Short of food and cooking fuel, Foster and her companions planned a last-chance push for the summit during the weekend.

Tokarska, climbing with a group of Americans, reached the highest point on Earth just after dawn Thursday, said an online diary posted by team leader Jim Williams of Wyoming.

Tokarska also has climbed Mount McKinley in Alaska, Aconcagua in Argentina, Elbrus in Russia, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Kosciusko in Australia and Antarctica's Vinson Massif.

Iraqi targets security with poison melons

MOSUL, Iraq, June 3 (UPI) -- An Iraqi posed as a farmer and gave poisoned watermelons to U.S. soldiers stationed near Mosul, it was reported Thursday.

The man was arrested by police after several of the solders and security forces got sick after eating the melons, the BBC said.

U.S. military officials in northern Iraq said the man drove around to military checkpoints and offered the melons to thirsty troops.

Military sources did not reveal how many soldiers were stricken by the poisoned fruit, but they said all had recovered -- although the BBC said it was being reported elsewhere that one person died.

The melons were being tested in Baghdad to determine what poison had been injected into them.

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