• Getty

    Study uncovers biological clock able to measure age of human tissues

    Apparently a woman’s breasts are kind of like the rings of a tree—it can reveal her true age.  A biological clock found embedded in our genomes has proved that women’s breast tissue ages faster than the rest of the body, according to a UCLA study released this week. The findings of the UCLA study could offer valuable insights into cancer research, and help to discover ways to slow down the aging process. Scientist Steve Horvath was surprised to discover that “healthy breast tissue is about two to three years older than the rest of a woman’s body. Excitingly, the discovery also proved that scientists can rewind the body's biological clock and restore it to zero, which, if the clock is found to control the aging process, could mean there is a way to control the process and perhaps even halt it entirely.

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  • Nick David/Getty

    GLASS CEILING

    Female Scientists Needed

    “Slow drumbeat” of discouragement for women.

    The question almost took down Lawrence Summers: why are there so few women in math and science? The answer could be as simple as the lack of encouragement women receive from childhood on, according to The New York Times magazine. Look at this way: not only are math and science not really seen as “cool” for kids, but also women who do go into math and science are often told to give up when the going gets tough. The masculine atmosphere and the lack of female support can cause women to give up math and science all together. And then when women are applying to the cutthroat programs, they face that age-old gender discrimination. In one particularly telling example, a group of researchers were given the exact same resumes for a John and Jennifer and told to rank them, with John coming up a point higher in every category except likability and with a starting salary recommendation nearly $5,000 more. “I’ve thought for a long time that understanding this implicit bias is critical,” said Meg Urry, a professor of physics and astronomy at Yale.

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  • Courtesy John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    Brainiacs

    MacArthur’s Genius Women

    A look at the 11 female innovators recognized this year.

    Out of 24 recipients, 11 women won this year’s MacArthur genius grant—a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000 over five years, up from its previous sum of $500,000. The recipients range from an atomic physicist to an immigration lawyer to a photographer, women working with passion on unique projects around the country. Here’s who they are, what they’re doing, and why you should pay attention.

    Angela Duckworth left a high-powered consulting job in her late 20s to become a seventh grade math teacher in public schools. As she worked with her students, she started wondering what the best predictors of success for the kids would be—raw intelligence clearly wasn’t the only factor. Eventually she went back to school and became a research psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, studying kids and adults in stressful situations—cadets in training at West Point, competitors in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, rookie teachers starting out at inner-city schools—to see who would succeed. She found that, more than any other factor, one thing predicted success: whether a person has the quality she calls “grit.” “Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Duckworth explained in an April TED talk. Now, she’s working on ways to “make our kids grittier” and decrease dropout rates.

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  • Psychologist Dr. Virginia Johnson and gynecologist Dr. William Masters of Washington University, have compiled research information and co-authored the book Human Sexual Response. (Bettmann/Corbis)

    Le (Petit) Mort

    The Sex Lives of Others

    Virginia Johnson, who pioneered sex research as part of the famed Masters and Johnson duo—and who discovered the female multiple orgasm—passed away this week at 88.

    Who knew Virginia Johnson, a Missouri farm girl born during the Great Depression, would find her calling as a trailblazing sex researcher in the 1960s, watching couples fornicate and women pleasure themselves with vibrating dildos in lab rooms? As the clever partner of St. Louis gynecologist William H. Masters, she helped revolutionize the treatment of sexual dysfunction; debunk Freud’s theories that vaginal orgasms were superior to clitoral ones; and, perhaps most explosively, prove that women were capable of multiple orgasms.

    Johnson died earlier this week at age 88, more than 50 years after she became the female half of the famed Masters and Johnson team whose groundbreaking research forever changed our understanding of human sexuality.

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  • Media for Medical/Jean-Paul Chassenet

    Baby Boom

    Cheaper IVF Debuts

    Twelve kids have been born via new technique.

    Could there really be a cheaper version of the ever-costly IVF? Belgian researchers say they have a found a more inexpensive way for women to get the fertility treatment—and they claim the success rate is 30 percent. Normal IVF has a success rate of 33 percent. The new technique replaces the expensive equipment with “kitchen cupboard” ingredients, cutting the cost to 10 to 15 percent. But at the same time, researchers said the technique probably won’t replace traditional IVF, since it is not for everyone, especially for men who have severe infertility problems. The initial draw to the cheaper technique is that it opens up the possibility to IVF treatments in the developing world and even to poorer residents in the U.S.

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  • Human embryo. (Bourn Hall Fertility Clinic/AP)

    Will be argued in the state Senate Health Committee this week.

    Rent money in exchange for your eggs? The practice is currently banned in California, but a new proposal would allow women in the state to be paid for donating their eggs to research. The bill would allow eggs or embryos left over from fertility treatments to be donated. A panel would determine how much a woman would be paid, but guidelines suggest somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000. Some critics of the bill argue that it could lead to exploitation of low-income women. California women can already be compensated for donating for fertility treatments.

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  • Mother cradling newborn. (Nick Stevens/Getty)

    Baby Making

    Orgasms During Childbirth?!

    A new study from France says some women experience climactic pleasure during labor. Lizzie Crocker investigates the claims of the agony versus the ecstasy.

    To most American women, the idea having an orgasmic birth is beyond oxymoronic. Squeezing a grapefruit-size head out of one’s vagina after enduring contractions that are incomparable to even the worst menstrual cramps sounds like a particularly elaborate form of torture. Or at least that’s what we’ve been taught.

    But a new study has found it’s entirely possible for a woman to scream out in climactic pleasure as her baby makes its way through the birth canal. The study, conducted by French psychologist Thierry Postel and published in the journal Sexologies, is one of the first to attempt to nail down numbers when it comes to women experiencing intense pleasure during birth. Postel reached out to 956 French midwives with an online questionnaire about orgasmic birth, and he received 109 completed surveys from midwives who had collectively assisted 206,000 births. The midwives reported 668 cases in which mothers said they’d felt “orgasmic sensations” in birth, 868 cases of mothers demonstrating signs of pleasure, and 9 mothers confirming they had full-blown orgasms.

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  • AP

    Love vs. Lust

    What Women Want

    A new book tackles the science of female promiscuity—but does it do a disservice to the “fairer sex”? Lizzie Crocker investigates.

    Throughout history, female desire has been portrayed as one of the most destabilizing and dangerous forces. It caused Cleopatra to throw away her kingdom for an ill-fated dalliance with Marc Antony. It felled Eve, led Anna Karenina astray, and doomed Emma Bovary. Even after the sexual revolution of the 1960s, lusty women still tend to be slut-shamed by their peers and reduced by popular culture to a Girls Gone Wild stereotype. American society has yet to escape those old madonna/whore dichotomies, no matter how hard we try.

    Meanwhile, the true nature of women’s sexuality remains as elusive as ever. The latest attempt to tackle the mysteries of eros, which will surely be one of the summer’s hottest new reads: Daniel Bergner’s What Do Women Want? Based off of his popular New York Times Magazine cover story, Bergner’s book attempts to pull back the societal veil on female sexual urges, to argue that our postfeminist, scientifically advanced age still gets the issue all wrong—and that women are even more animalistic, promiscuous, and dependent upon sexual novelty than men. The provocative 2009 cover story stirred up plenty of controversy, prompting even the liberal author Greg Mitchell to gawk at its photos of women mid-orgasm, while cultural anthropologists criticized Bergner for making blanket statements about women despite that none of his research ventured outside the Western Hemisphere.

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  • Corbis

    Babies

    To Freeze or Not to Freeze

    In her new book, 'Motherhood Rescheduled,' Sarah Elizabeth Richards discusses reproductive science and why she's glad she froze her eggs.

    So, does egg freezing improve women’s lives, after all? If we look at the end result—whether those frozen eggs turn into babies—the answer is yes for only one of the three women profiled in this book who thawed their eggs. This success rate is in line with doctors’ estimates that women have a 30 to 40 percent chance that the procedure will work. Although these women froze their eggs when the technology first became available and wasn’t as effective as it is today, they all still expected their eggs to work. Yet two of three women did not get what they paid for.

    But the question is more complicated than that and can’t be answered objectively. Their faith that egg freezing would work set in motion positive events in their lives. They enjoyed years with less baby panic, comforted that they were getting a second chance at motherhood.

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  • Dr. Carl June, via AP

    SCIENCE

    Women’s Immune Systems Age More Slowly

    One reason why we live longer.

    So as if women’s sexual peak coming later in life wasn’t enough to convince you women are the superior sex, here is some new evidence: women’s immune systems age slower than men’s. The stronger the immune system, the better a person is at fighting off infections—and thus one having a stronger immune system later in life is key to living longer. According to a new Japanese study, the number of white blood cells in the immune system decreased for both men and women as they aged, but at least two key types of cells declined at a faster rate. Researchers also found another type of cell that tackles viruses and tumors increased with age, with women having a faster increase than men.

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  • Team America Rocketry Challenge, 2007. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

    Jet Set

    Girls Ready to Rocket

    Though few in numbers, they’re taking on the Team America Rocketry Challenge.

    Building a rocket ship has become as ubiquitous a high-school science project as making an erupting volcano (though rocket science is a bit more challenging). Still, it hasn’t crossed the gender divide: in this year’s Team America Rocketry Challenge, only five of the 100 groups are all-female. These teens are eager to prove they can build a rocket that will “travel 750 feet in the air within 48 to 50 seconds,” gently enough that a raw egg placed on the inside will not break. Some can afford to make it to the competition on their own dime, while some need subsidizing from their schools or outside programs. But all are confident: “When I was in elementary school, it was a little intimidating,” says one student, “But now it's like, ‘Ha, we can beat you.’”

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  • Rengim Mutevellioglu/Getty

    Visual Thinking

    Temple Grandin: My Big Idea

    The animal-science pioneer and autistic activist looks inside her brain to learn about autism—and discovers that she’s quite face-blind.

    What’s your big idea?

    That there are three kinds of thinking. The traditional way of describing different kinds of minds is to say that some people think visually and some people think verbally. But “visual thinker” doesn’t really describe that part of the population well. I think in pictures, but I found that other visual thinkers don’t think like me at all. They think spatially. The more I asked people how they think, the more convinced I became that picture/object thinking and pattern/spatial thinking were as distinct from each other as the old visual and verbal categories. But did my hypothesis have any basis in scientific fact? To my delight, I discovered it does. Research by a neuroscientist named Maria Kozhevnikov has convincingly shown that not only do different parts of the brain correspond to picture-object thinking and pattern-spatial thinking, but that a brain that’s really good at one of those ways of thinking is usually weak in the other. They truly are different kinds of thinkers. Which makes sense. If you look at scientists and artists, they’re both visual thinkers, but they don’t think the same way.

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  • Damian Dovarganes/AP

    It could become a way to test babies before symptoms appear.

    Children are not diagnosed with autism until after they are toddlers, but researchers may have now found a way to test children at birth. A new study has found that the placenta that once nourished children while they were in the womb has more creases and folds in families with a higher genetic risk for autism. The children in the study whose placentas were tested are all between ages 2 and 5, and they won’t know until next year if the placenta folds directly correlate to autism. But if it does, it could mean that children could be tested for autism as early as birth.

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