Lifestyle

Kyles fall short in attempt to set Guinness World Record for largest same-name gathering

May 23, 2024

Not enough Kyles came through on Saturday, May 18, to set a world record in a Central Texas town competing for the largest same-name gathering, reports The Dallas Morning News.

The City of Kyle—about 20 miles south of Austin—had asked for people with the same first name to show up in its latest bid to set a Guinness World Record. But the Kyles fell short by more than 1,600.

The city counted 706 Kyles—less than half of last year’s turnout—in its fifth attempt, city spokesperson Alison Kelly said.

Last year, nearly 1,500 Kyles from across the country descended on the town—its largest gathering of people named Kyle thus far. The record for a same-name gathering actually belongs to the town of Kupres, Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a gathering of 2,325 people named Ivan in 2017.

Research contact: @dmnews

Does your dog need more friends?

May 22, 2024

“A friend recently told me that she was worried her dog was lonely,” says Kelly Conaboy, a contributor to The Washington Post. “He’s the only dog in the house, and there isn’t a park nearby where he can interact with other pups. Does my dog need friends?” she asked. “Should I set him up on, like … a doggy playdate?”

“I had to admit I didn’t have much experience with this particular anxiety,” says Conaboy. “I live in a two-dog household now, but before living with my husband and his shepherd mix, my dog seemed unbothered by his canine solitude—joyful in it, even. The kind of dog who preferred to sniff along the perimeter of the dog park rather than play within it.

“Still, social interaction is obviously important for human physical and mental health. Could it be the same for dogs?”

She decided to consult with an expert.

“There’s so much variation in what dogs might need,” says Noah Snyder-Mackler, an associate professor at Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences. “Not all domestic dogs are necessarily better off or happier with other dogs.”

Still, according to the results of a study led by Snyder-Mackler, which was published last year, social companionship (both canine and human) has a major effect on a dog’s health and life span.

The study, which was published in the journal, Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, surveyed the guardians of more than 21,000 dogs about various aspects of their pet’s lives—whether the canine lived with another dog, its level of physical activity, and its health, among other things.

The pet parents also provided information about themselves. The researchers used this data to determine five key factors that influence a dog’s social environment: neighborhood stability, total household income, social time with adults and children, social time with animals and pet-parent age.

Out of these, social companionship from adult humans and other dogs was determined to have the largest positive impact on a dog’s health as they aged. In fact, it was five times as great as any other factor considered. “Dogs are social animals,” Snyder-Mackler says. “It is somewhat debilitating, and not good for their health and well being, to not have close social partners.”

Snyder-Mackler was careful to note that the results of his study didn’t necessarily mean that adopting a second dog would make your dog’s life better or longer. (Although he shared that his wife, a psychology professor, did use the findings as an excuse to get a second dog.)

He also notes that humans can be just as good (and for some dogs, better) social partners for their pets—every animal is unique, and not all dogs enjoy the company of their peers. But what the results show clearly is that strong social companionship has an overall positive effect on a dog’s health and well-being.

So how do you know whether you’re giving your dog the amount of companionship she needs? “When there’s something that’s missing from a dog’s routine, we see this manifest in terms of ‘misbehavior’ or anxiety-related responses,” says Zachary Silver, an assistant professor of psychology at Occidental College, where he’s starting a Dog Cognition Lab. “And it’s not always obvious what the source of those might be.” Though you should consult your vet if you’re concerned about your dog’s behavior, one potential reason for acting up could be a lack of social companionship, which Silver compares to a lack of appropriate exercise.

Like Snyder-Mackler, Silver notes that a dog’s social needs can often be met by their human, particularly if that human is spending a good amount of dedicated one-on-one time with them. But for dogs that get along well with other pups, he says, letting them socialize only with humans is akin to a toddler hanging out only with his parents, versus playing with other kids his age. For some pups, other dogs can offer intraspecies companionship and play behaviors that humans just can’t replicate.

This leaves guardians of companionship-craving solo dogs with a predicament: How do you facilitate canine play sessions? You could visit dog parks, but all that unleashed romping can be intimidating for some pups, plus there’s no real way to ensure your dog’s safety. An alternative, Silver says, could be setting up safe and controlled doggy playdates with a friend or family member the exact kind my friend was curious about. Going for a walk with a friend and their dog could also have a positive impact, or taking a joint hike.

If those options aren’t available, set aside a bit more time to interact with your dog yourself. “There’s all kinds of ways that you can give your dog the types of experiences that they need to be happy,” Silver says. “And for some people, that might exist outside the scope of direct interactions with other animals.”

Other ways of providing companionship and cognitive enrichment include taking long, sniff-filled walks, engaging in training sessions, or just playing throughout the day. The key is making sure it happens regularly enough that your dog’s daily needs are met.

While I think my slightly introverted dog is still most at peace when sniffing solo, or when he has my undivided attention, I do catch glimpses of him opening up more fully around his canine stepbrother. He follows him dutifully on hikes, with a bit more bravery than he would possess, alone, and tends to want to play longer outdoors when his stepbrother is with him. While I’d describe their relationship more as roommates than friends, I can tell my dog is better off for it. I’m glad they have each other.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Giving as good as he gets: Chimpanzee throws dropped sandal back to zoo visitor

May 21, 2024

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes might not be far off: A chimpanzee at a China zoo has proven that we’re, indeed, quite alike by tossing a lost shoe that had fallen into his enclosure back to its human owner, reports the New York Post.

A guest had dropped the sandal in the primate’s paddock at the Shendiao Mountain Wildlife Park in Weihai City, Shandong Province, Newsflare first reported.

Upon noticing the misplaced footwear, a 14-year-old chimp named Dong Dong began to play with it. Distressed, the shoe’s owner implored one of the park’s staff for help.

That’s when the unthinkable happened: In a video clip, Dong Dong can be seen clutching the white footwear, which resembled a Croc, in his mouth like a chew toy as guests chuckled and marveled at the silly spectacle.

All of a sudden, the gruff voice of the keeper could be heard commanding the primate to return the shoe “quickly.” Quick as a flash, the simian samaritan tossed the sandal up with his hand, prompting onlookers to cry out in astonishment.

According to the keeper, Dong Dong is super intelligent and has returned lost items to visitors in the past.

This isn’t the first time that a chimp—our closest living relative alongside the promiscuous bonobo—has tossed something back at a zoo-goer.

In a less amicable incident last year, a man tossed a water bottle at a chimp at a Chinese zoo, only to have the animal hurl the item back into the crowd, nailing a girl in the face.

Research contact: @nypost

Scientists calculated the energy needed to carry a baby. Shocker: It’s a lot.

May 20, 2024

It takes a lot of energy to grow a baby. Just ask anyone who has been pregnant. But scientists are only now discovering just how much, reports The New York Times.

In a study published on Thursday, May 16, in the journal, Science, Australian researchers estimated that a human pregnancy demands almost 50,000 dietary calories over the course of nine months. That’s the equivalent of about 50 pints of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream, and significantly more than the researchers expected.

Previous estimates were lower because scientists generally assumed that most of the energy involved in reproduction wound up stored in the fetus, which is relatively small.

But Dustin Marshall, an evolutionary biologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and his students have discovered that the energy stored in a human baby’s tissues accounts for only about 4% of the total energy costs of pregnancy. The other 96% is extra fuel required by a woman’s own body.

“The baby itself becomes a rounding error,” Marshall says. “It took us a while to wrap our heads around that.”

This discovery emerged from Marshall’s long-running research on metabolism. Different species have to meet different demands for energy. Warm-blooded mammals, for example, can maintain a steady body temperature and stay active even when the temperature drops.

But being warm-blooded also has drawbacks. Maintaining a high metabolic rate requires mammals to constantly feed the furnace. A coldblooded snake, in contrast, can go weeks between meals.

Marshall set out to compile a complete inventory of the energy consumed by dozens of species over the course of their lives. He recognized that most females must not only fuel their own bodies, but must also put additional energy into their offspring.

When Marshall began looking into the costs of reproduction, he couldn’t find solid numbers. Some researchers had guessed that indirect cost—that is, the energy females use to fuel their own bodies while pregnant—might come to only 20% of the direct energy in the baby’s tissues. But Marshall didn’t trust their speculation.

He and his students set out to estimate the costs for themselves. They scoured the scientific literature for information such as the energy stored in each offspring’s tissues. They also looked for the overall metabolic rate of females while they were reproducing, which scientists can estimate by measuring how much oxygen the mothers consume.

“Folks were just poodling along, collecting their data on their species, but no one was putting it together,” Marshall says. By aggregating such data, the researchers estimated the costs of reproduction for 81 species, from insects to snakes to goats.

They found that the size of an animal has a big influence on how much energy it needs to reproduce. Microscopic animals called rotifers, for example, require less than a millionth of a calorie to make one offspring. By contrast, a white-tailed deer doe needs more than 112,000 calories to produce a fawn.

The metabolism of a species also plays a part. Warm-blooded mammals use three times the energy that reptiles and other coldblooded animals of the same size do.

The biggest surprise came when Dr. Marshall and his students found that in many species, the indirect costs of pregnancy were greater than the direct ones.

The most extreme results came from mammals. On average, only 10% of the energy a female mammal used during pregnancy went into its offspring.

“It shocked me,” Marshall said. “We went back to the sources many times because it seemed astonishingly high based on the expectation from theory.”

David Reznick, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California-Riverside, who was not involved in the study, was also startled at how high the indirect cost could get. “I wouldn’t have guessed that,” he said.

And yet what surprised him even more was that Marshall’s team was the first to pin down these numbers. “It is disarming,” he said. “You think, someone has done this before.”

The study offers clues about why some species have higher indirect costs than others. Snakes that lay eggs use much less indirect energy than snakes that give birth to live young. The live-bearing snakes have to support embryos as they grow inside their bodies, whereas egg-laying mothers can get their offspring out of their bodies faster.

There may be a number of reasons why mammals pay such high indirect costs for being pregnant. Many species build a placenta to transfer nutrients to their embryos, for example. Marshall suspects that humans pay a particularly high cost because women stay pregnant longer than most other mammals do.

Marshall says that the new results may also explain why female mammals put so much effort into caring for their young after they’re born: because they put in so much effort during pregnancy.

“They’ve already got massive sunk costs in the project,” Marshall says.

Research contact: @nytimes

Students show up to graduation, find commencement speaker is an AI robot

May 17, 2024

You’d hope that universities would celebrate their students’ graduation with a memorable ceremony. But for the graduating class at D’Youville University in Buffalo, New York, last weekend, their commencement was arguably one to forget, reports Futurism.

With Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock” blasting the auditorium, the institution brought a humanoid AI-powered robot on stage to address the over 2,000 bright-eyed youths in attendance.

Dressed in a D’Youville hoodie and with its brain exposed, Sophia, as the robot is called, spun-off generic advice in dry, synthetically-inflected tones. It did not give a scripted speech, but answered questions from the emcee. The whole charade drew “mixed reactions” from the crowd, The New York Times reportswith many students feeling downright insulted.

“Congratulations to all the graduating students,” Sophia intoned, at one point brandishing a creepy, full-toothed grin.

The university contends that it had very serious and lofty intentions in its hiring of a robot speaker—and didn’t just cheap out on trying to get someone famous.

“We wanted to showcase how important technology is and the potential for technology to really enrich the human experience,” Lorrie Clemo, president of D’Youville, told the Times.

Many students didn’t feel that way. When the university announced Sophia would be the speaker, more than 2,500 signed a petition saying the decision “disrespected” the students and demanding that a human take the stage.

The impersonal nature of the robot speaker, the petition argues, is an unwanted reminder of the virtual high school graduations they were forced to have during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is shameful to the 2020 graduates receiving their diplomas, as they feel they are having another important ceremony taken away,” the petition reads.

But if showcasing AI technology was the goal, the stunt was inadvertently a sobering success. The robot’s unscripted responses perfectly encapsulate what generative AI largely does (and is very good at): coldly repackaging stuff that humans already have said.

“I offer you the following inspirational advice that is common at all graduation ceremonies: Embrace lifelong learning, be adaptable, pursue your passions, take risks, foster meaningful connections, make a positive impact, and believe in yourself,” Sophia said, after being asked to share tidbits from other commencement speeches.

Feeling inspired yet? The robot, built by Hong Kong-based firm Hanson Robotics, was also given several opportunities to plug the AI industry. If students already felt “disrespected” ahead of the commencement ceremony, we doubt they’ve been won over by Sophia waxing mechanical about the wonders of AI.

Research contact: @futurism

Please don’t FLiRT with me!

May 16, 2024

For the past several months, JN.1 has been the dominant COVID strain in a seemingly endless string of variants, reports New York Magazine. Now, a new variant is poised to take over for the summer, and it apparently wants to … flirt with us? (Please don’t!)

On Friday, May 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data about KP.2, an Omicron offshoot that is currently spreading throughout the country. It’s also one of several variants scientists are calling the “FLiRT variants,” after the technical names for their amino-acid mutations: amino phenylalanine (F) replaces leucine (L), and arginine (R) is replaced by threonine (T).

According to the CDC, KP.2 currently accounts for 28% of all COVID infections since early May, with experts anticipating a potential  small summer uptick of the virus.

Compared to JN.1, which started circulating in the winter, KP.2 has three additional mutations in its spike proteins—which could make it easier for the variant to swerve by existing immune protections, although preliminary research suggests that it’s generally less efficient at infecting cells in the first place. KP.2 symptoms are similar to those of previous variants and can include fever, chills, cough, nausea, and muscle or body aches.

As with other COVID strains, high-risk patients—elderly people, the immunocompromised, and people with underlying conditions—can experience more severe symptoms.

While the variant is expected to continue evolving, medical experts aren’t sweating it. The CDC says it doesn’t see evidence that FLiRT causes more severe illness than previous variants, and lab tests have shown that KP.2 isn’t causing a surge in infections or transmission.

Medical experts say existing vaccines should hold up against FLiRT, although a new formulation expected to become available in the fall may offer stronger protection.

Research contact: @NYMag

If you read a lot of fiction, scientists have very good news about your brain

May 15, 2024

It’s a big day for bookworms: Scientists studying how reading fiction affects your brain say the news is very good, reports Futurism.

In an interview with PsyPost, Lena Wimmer, a postdoctoral researcher at Germany’s Maximilian University, explained that she and her colleagues wanted to lay the groundwork for quantitative studies about fiction’s effect on thinking—and found, to their delight, that reading it is better for you than some detractors suggest.

“Over the last decades, scholars from several disciplines have claimed far-reaching benefits—but also potential disadvantages—of reading fiction for cognition in the real world,” she said. “I wanted to get an objective, quantitative overview of the relevant empirical evidence in order to decide whether any of these assumptions is supported by empirical studies.”

To figure out how reading fiction affects the brain, Wimmer and her co-researchers conducted two meta-analyses:

  • The first, as the German psychological researchers explain in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, looked into the results of a study that measured cognitive function for people who read various types of fiction.
  • The other took data from a longitudinal study that correlated lifelong fiction readership with cognitive outcomes ranging from abstract thinking and reasoning skills to the ability to empathize with others.

In the first meta-analysis—which included data from 70 studies and more than 11,000 participants—the researchers found that reading fiction had a small but “statistically significant” positive effect on subjects’ cognition. In particular, the people in that cohort who read more fiction seemed to better empathize with others and understand the way they thought, PsyPost explains.

That analysis also found that reading fiction was more impactful compared to either doing nothing or watching fiction on a screen than it was when held up against reading nonfiction.

The second meta-analysis—which included 114 studies and more than 30,000 participants—found an even more substantial positive correlation between reading fiction and cognitive abilities; especially when it came to verbal skills, reasoning, abstract thinking, and problem-solving. Like with the first analysis, the researchers found a general trend towards better emotional cognitive abilities like empathizing, though that correlation wasn’t as pronounced.

Overall, Wimmer said, both meta-analyses demonstrated similar trends: “That people who read a lot of fiction have better cognitive skills than people who read little or no fiction.”

“These benefits are small in size across various cognitive skills, but of medium size for verbal and general cognitive abilities,” she told PsyPost. “Importantly, there is a stronger association between reading fiction and cognitive skills than between reading nonfiction and those skills.”

By no means a smoking gun, this research introduces a framework for further study into how different types of reading habits affect our brains—but for now, let’s just say that the fiction section wins this round.

Research contact: @futurism

Cats ‘purrfectly’ demonstrate what it takes to trust robots

May 14, 2024

Would you trust a robot to look after your cat? New research suggests that it takes more than a carefully designed piece of machinery to care for your cat; the environment in which they operate is also vital, as well as human interaction, reports EurekAlert.

Cat Royale is a unique collaboration between computer scientists from the University of Nottingham and artists at Blast Theory, who worked together to create a multispecies world centered around a bespoke enclosure in which three cats and a robot arm coexist for six hours a day during a twelve-day installation as part of an artist-led project.

The installation was launched in 2023 at the World Science Festival in Brisbane, Australia, and has been touring since. It has just won a Webby award  for its creative experience.

The research paper—“Designing Multispecies Worlds for Robots, Cats, and Humans”—has just been presented at the annual Computer-Human Conference (CHI’24) in Honolulu where it won best paper. It outlines how designing the technology and its interactions is not sufficient, but that it is equally important to consider the design of the “world” in which the technology operates. The research also highlights the necessity of human involvement in areas such as breakdown recovery, animal welfare, and their role as audience.

Cat Royale centered around a robot arm offering activities to make the cats happier, these included dragging a ‘mouse’ toy along the floor, raising a feather ‘bird’ into the air, and even offering them treats to eat. The team then trained an AI to learn what games the cats liked best so that it could personalize their experiences.

“At first glance, the project is about designing a robot to enrich the lives of a family of cats by playing with them. “ commented Professor Steve Benford from the University of Nottingham who led the research, “Under the surface, however, it explores the question of what it takes to trust a robot to look after our loved ones and potentially ourselves.”

Working with Blast Theory to develop and then study Cat Royale, the research team gained important insights into the design of robots and their interactions with the cats. They had to design the robot to pick up toys and deploy them in ways that excited the cats, while it learned, which games each cat liked. They also designed the entire world in which the cats and the robot lived—providing safe spaces for the cats to observe the robot and from which to sneak up on it, and decorating it so that the robot had the best chance of spotting the approaching cats.

The implication is that designing robots involves interior design as well as engineering anCd AI. If you want to introduce robots into your home to look after your loved ones, then you will likely need to redesign your home.

Research workshops for Cat Royale were held at the Univeraity of Nottingham’s unique Cobotmaker Space, where stakeholders were bought together to think about the design of the robot /welfare of cats.

Eike Schneiders, transitional assistant professor in the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham worked on the desig. He said, “As we learned through Cat Royale, creating a multispecies system—where cats, robots, and humans are all accounted for—takes more than just designing the robot.

We had to ensure animal wellbeing at all times, while simultaneously ensuring that the interactive installation engaged the (human) audiences around the world. This involved consideration of many elements, including the design of the enclosure, the robot, and its underlying systems; the various roles of the humans-in-the-loop; and, of course, the selection of the cats.”

Research contact: @EurekAlert

What makes people so annoying?

May 10, 2024

“You don’t like in other people what you don’t like in yourself, someone once told me,” Guardian US Editor Betsy Reed reports, adding, “I wonder if it’s as simple as that.”

Of course, not all annoying people act like us. Sometimes a behavior is annoying because we don’t understand it.

In Annoying, authors Palca and Lichtman quote Michael Cunningham, then a communications professor and researcher at the University of Louisville, who describes annoying acts as “social allergens.” These don’t bother us so much at first—but build up over time.

Cunningham says that most annoying acts fall into one of four categories: uncouth habits, inconsiderate acts, intrusive behaviors, and “norm violations”.

The first three categories are all about roughly the same thing: crossed boundaries. Someone’s actions are intruding on our time, personal space or sense of propriety. Yet Cunningham’s final category may be the most important.

“These are intentional behaviors that are not aimed at you personally—but violate some standard that you have,” Cunningham is quoted as saying.

Norms and values dictate our lives and show us what to expect. These can vary widely, however. In a recent conversation with a friend, Reed says she discussed someone she thought was a bit conceited.

“Don’t you hate when people go on and on about all the things they’ve done?” Reed asked her.

She disagreed. She figured people like that were just being honest, and taking pride in their accomplishments. Reed was stunned. Didn’t everyone believe that modesty was the ultimate virtue, like her Irish-Catholic father and raised-in-Minnesota mother had taught her? Apparently not. There are a million different cultures and viewpoints. Obviously, some will conflict.

MC Flux, a psychologist, neuroscientist, and science communicator from the University of Colorado-Boulder, describes annoyance as “moderately negative, and moderate arousal.”

Ultimately, he believes, humans want to “maintain homeostasis,” to feel as if they are safe, stable, and in control. Emotions, particularly high-arousal ones, often lead to actions that we hope will get us there.

Similarly, annoyance serves a purpose, says Flux: “It’s basically a flag, saying: ‘Something is wrong, and I should probably do something about it.’”

“I know I can be annoying.” Reed writes. “Sometimes I’ve wondered if it’s possible to have secondhand embarrassment for myself. I also know that I can be easily annoyed.”

Pam Shaffer, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, suggests getting “curious about the other person’s experience”. If someone is doing something that violates our norms or boundaries, there’s almost always a reason for it. Trying to imagine what is driving their behavior can make us feel less annoyed.

While it’s not necessarily a positive emotion, curiosity “can defray a negative emotion,” Shaffer says.

So we shift the question from “Ugh, why would anyone do that?” to “Huh, why would anyone do that?”

“Often the behavior I find most annoying is attached to some deep-seated insecurity,” says Rachel Vorona-Cote, author of Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today. What annoys her is people who lack awareness of their own actions. “It’s uncomfortable to bear witness to people who don’t have any idea of the effect they have on others.”

Monitoring our own behavior, then, and being conscious of what we are insecure about, might make us less likely to irritate others. This can be tricky, though, especially for the many people who struggle to interpret social cues, or for those who live in a culture different from the one they were raised in.

And how much looking inward is too much? The cruel irony is that being obsessed with how one is coming across can make one more annoying. I spent my teens and 20s as the friend who apologized constantly. It was exhausting, both for me and for others.

Flux suggests that it’s not helpful to think about how to be less annoying: “Everyone’s going to find you annoying in some way,” he says. A more important question might be: “How do we learn to better manage things that annoy us?”

“I think sometimes we can take too much of a confrontation-heavy approach to how we interact,” says Flux. Instead, we could try what he calls “prosocial behaviors”—actions that are designed to build connections with others, like teamwork, positive reinforcement, or making ourselves useful.”

Research contact: @GuardianUS

RFK Jr. threatens to eat ‘five more brain worms’

May 9, 2024

After news of his alleged brain worm went viral, third-party presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is back with a startling rejoiner: that he could out-debate the election’s frontrunners, even if he ate five more, reports Futurism.

“I offer to eat five more brain worms and still beat President [Donad] Trump and President [Joe] Biden in a debate,” the son of the late Robert “Bobby” Kennedy posted on X-formerly-Twitter. “I feel confident of the result, even with a six-worm handicap.”

Earlier in the week, The New York Times had dropped a bombshell report about Kennedy’s health struggles a decade or so back, in which he claims a doctor believed some cognitive issues he was having at the time were the result of an unknown parasite that had taken up residence in his cranium, eaten part of his brain, and subsequently died.

In a 2012 deposition during his divorce from his second wife, the political scion also alleged that he’d been diagnosed with mercury poisoning after a diet heavy in tuna and perch resulted in him having ten times more mercury in his blood than the Environmental Protection Agency says is safe.

“I have cognitive problems, clearly,” Kennedy said in the 2012 divorce deposition, which involved him arguing that his earning potential had been impacted by his strange brain issues and that he should therefore pay less alimony to his second wife, Mary Richardson Kennedy. “I have short-term memory loss, and I have longer-term memory loss that affects me.”

As the parasite expert who spoke to The New York Times for the piece pointed out, there’s a greater chance that the mercury poisoning—which is known to cause neurological problems—led to the conspiracist candidate‘s cognitive impairment than a brain worm.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln parasitologist Scott Gardner, tapeworms or other invasive parasites end up being calcified in the brain—resulting in them turning, essentially, into a tumor.

Given that Kennedy claims the issue went away after he stopped eating so much fish and underwent chelation therapy—which expels heavy metals like arsenic and mercury from the body—Occam’s razor tells us that the most likely answer here is the simplest: that mercury poisoning, and not a brain worm, was what caused his cognitive problems.

Nevertheless, the candidate still seems to believe that he has had a dead parasite hanging out in his brain for at least the past 14 years—and is, jokingly at least, willing to entertain the possibility of ingesting more to prove a point.

Not long after Kennedy was deposed in his second divorce, an Iowa woman bought a tapeworm online and ate it in a disturbed effort to lose weight—prompting not only urgent warnings from doctors but several copycats who wanted to see if the “tapeworm diet” could work for them too.

It should go without saying that purposefully ingesting a parasite is extremely risky, not to mention often illegal. Hopefully, Kennedy is just capitalizing on the viral publicity from the NYT‘s reporting, because, otherwise, this election season’s about to get even more deranged.

Research contact: @futurism