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No, Scientists Have Not Found the ‘Gay Gene’

By Ed Yong

The media is hyping a study that doesn’t do what it says it does.

A woman works with human genetic material at a laboratory in Munich May 23, 2011. On May 25, 2011 the ethic commission of the German lower house of parliament (Bundestag) will discuss about alternative proposals for a new law on the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (Praeimplantationsdiagnostik) is a technique used to identify genetic defects in embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) before pregnancy, which is banned by German legislation.

This week, a team from the University of California, Los Angeles claimed to have found several epigenetic marks—chemical modifications of DNA that don’t change the underlying sequence—that are associated with homosexuality in men. Postdoc Tuck Ngun presented the results yesterday at the American Society of Human Genetics 2015 conference. Nature News were among the first to break the story based on a press release issued by the conference organisersOthers quickly followed suit. “Have They Found The Gay Gene?” said the front page of Metro, a London paper, on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, the mood at the conference has been decidedly less complimentary, with several geneticists criticizing the methods presented in the talk, the validity of the results, and the coverage in the press.

Ngun’s study was based on 37 pairs of identical male twins who were discordant—that is, one twin in each pair was gay, while the other was straight—and 10 pairs who were both gay. He analysed 140,000 regions in the genomes of the twins and looked for methylation marks—chemical Post-It notes that dictate when and where genes are activated. He whittled these down to around 6,000 regions of interest, and then built a computer model that would use data from these regions to classify people based on their sexual orientation.

The best model used just five of the methylation marks, and correctly classified the twins 67 percent of the time. “To our knowledge, this is the first example of a biomarker-based predictive model for sexual orientation,” Ngun wrote in his abstract.

The problems begin with the size of the study, which is tiny. The field of epigenetics is littered with the corpses of statistically underpowered studies like these, which simply lack the numbers to produce reliable, reproducible results.

Unfortunately, the problems don’t end there. The team split their group into two: a “training set” whose data they used to build their algorithm, and a “testing set”, whose data they used to verify it. That’s standard and good practice—exactly what they should have done. But splitting the sample means that the study goes from underpowered to really underpowered.

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There’s also another, larger issue. As far as could be judged from the unpublished results presented in the talk, the team used their training set to build several models for classifying their twins, and eventually chose the one with the greatest accuracy when applied to the testing set. That’s a problem because in research like this, there has to be a strict firewall between the training and testing sets; the team broke that firewall by essentially using the testing set to optimise their algorithms.

If you use this strategy, chances are you will find a positive result through random chance alone. Chances are some combination of methylation marks out of the original 6,000 will be significantly linked to sexual orientation, whether they genuinely affect sexual orientation or not. This is a well-known statistical problem that can be at least partly countered by running what’s called a correction for multiple testing. The team didn’t do that. (In an email to The Atlantic, Ngun denies that such a correction was necessary.)And, “like everyone else in the history of epigenetics studies they could not resist trying to interpret the findings mechanistically,” wrote John Greally from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in a blog post. By which he means: they gave the results an imprimatur of plausibility by noting the roles of the genes affected by the five epi-marks. One is involved in controlling immune genes that have been linked to sexual attraction. Another is involved in moving molecules along neurons. Could epi-marks on these genes influence someone’s sexual attraction? Maybe. It’s also plausible that someone’s sexual orientation influences epi-marks on these genes. Correlation, after all, does not imply causation.

So, ultimately, what we have is an underpowered fishing expedition that used inappropriate statistics and that snagged results which may be false positives. Epigenetics marks may well be involved in sexual orientation. But this study, despite its claims, does not prove that and, as designed, could not have.

In a response to Greally’s post, Ngun admitted that the study was underpowered. “The reality is that we had basically no funding,” he said. “The sample size was not what we wanted. But do I hold out for some impossible ideal or do I work with what I have? I chose the latter.” He also told Nature News that he plans to “replicate the study in a different group of twins and also determine whether the same marks are more common in gay men than in straight men in a large and diverse population.”Great. Replication and verification are the cornerstones of science. But to replicate and verify, you need a sturdy preliminary finding upon which to build and expand—and that’s not the case here. It may seem like the noble choice to work with what you’ve got. But when what you’ve got are the makings of a fatally weak study, of the kind well known to cause problems in a field, it really is an option—perhaps the best option—to not do it at all. (The same could be said for journalists outside the conference choosing to cover the study based on a press release.)As Greally wrote in his post: “It’s not personal about [Ngun] or his colleagues, but we can no longer allow poor epigenetics studies to be given credibility if this field is to survive. By ‘poor,’ I mean uninterpretable.”

“This is only representative of the broader literature,” he told me. “The problems in the field are systematic. We need to change how epigenomics research is performed throughout the community.”

Complete Article HERE!

Some of the Most Incredible Facts About the Human Body

BY ABI TRAVIS

That’s right; most of you isn’t even really you. In fact, between 2 and 6 pounds of your weight is actually just bacteria. Feel free to factor that in next time you’re on a diet.

Scientists have discovered that there are small deposits of magnetite in human brains. While they’re not 100% sure why, a leading theory is that the magnetic crystals aid our sense of direction by drawing upon Earth’s natural magnetic fields. Similar deposits can be found in the brains of homing pigeons, dolphins and bats, who all use magnetic fields to navigate.

The muscle that moves your jaw up and down (called the masseter) exerts more pressure than any other muscle in your body — up to 200 psi on your molars! However, we still wouldn’t recommend trying to chomp through a jawbreaker.

You might not be able to run faster, but you can run farther! Human bodies are perfectly engineered for running long distances, and it’s believed we evolved this way in order to hunt more efficiently. In fact, this type of hunting — called Persistence Hunting — is still practiced by hunter-gatherers in Southern Africa. You can see a video of the process here.

There are a few other primates who can toss objects, but humans are the only animals who excel at accurate, high-momentum throwing. Some scientists argue that our ability to throw is very much responsible for our success as a species, as it gave us a way to kill strong animals from a distance. Today it comes in handy as a way to play fetch with your dog.

That’s right, GOLD! However, it’s only 0.2 milligrams of gold, which by today’s standards will net you…less than a cent. But still. It’s real gold. In fact, there are a lot of valuable chemical elements floating around your body, including Rubidium, Boron and Scandium (all valued at thousands of dollars per kilogram). All together, the chemical elements of an average human body are worth about $160.

Of course you know that your fingerprints are unique but, as it turns out, the shape of your ears is, too! Biometrics developers are working on ways of implementing this knowledge in order to easily identify individual people in crowds from CCTV footage or to take attendance in a classroom. If you’re looking for a way to evade this new technology, we recommend wearing a hat, or maybe investing in some Spock ears.

Both the shape and the pattern of bumps on your tongue are entirely unique to each individual. In fact, both your teeth and the bacteria in your mouth are also unique between people — even identical twins! So the next time someone calls you unoriginal, just stick your tongue out at them and show ’em how special you are!

A baby has over 300 bones at birth, but adults have only 206. So what gives? Did you just lose some bones and not realize it? Nope! Actually, many of the bones in a baby’s body fuse together to create bigger, mega-bones (not a medical term), and that’s how you end up with only 206 in adulthood.

Babies are born exhibiting a number of fascinating reflexes, including the ability to walk on a flat surface (as long as the baby’s body and head are supported). Another baby superpower is called the Palmar Grasp, which allows the baby to grab onto an object with surprising strength. In fact, some babies can even support their own weight (although we don’t advise trying to recreate the picture above).

And speaking of superpowers, here’s a shout out to your liver, which is basically the superhero organ of the human body. Your liver performs over 500 functions, including producing bile and cholesterol, removing bacteria from the bloodstream and — of course — clearing the blood of toxins from drugs and alcohol. Keep that in mind next time you complain about working overtime.

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And if that’s not impressive enough for you, it’s recently been discovered that your nose can smell at least 1 trillion scents, making it the most sensitive organ in the body by a large margin. However, I think we can all agree that there are some scents you might be better off forgetting.

It’s called the Mammalian Diving Reflex, and it is seriously one of the coolest things your body is capable of. When you splash cold water on your face, your body thinks it’s going for a swim, and prepares accordingly. First, your heart rate slows down 10-25%. Then the blood vessels in your extremities constrict and send more blood to your lungs. As a result, you use up less oxygen and — if you were swimming — would be able to stay underwater longer.

Maybe the Mammalian Diving Reflex is what the people in face wash commercials are actually demonstrating…

Ounce for ounce, human bones can withstand a lot more pressure than steel. In fact, a cubic inch of human bone could bear a load of 19,000 pounds! Bones are also a lot lighter, less dense and more flexible than steel, which makes them a great material for, you know, supporting your entire body. Steel wins when it comes to building materials, though, because using bones would be a little too spooky.

Like, a lot of saliva. In fact, throughout the course of your lifetime, the amount of saliva you produce could fill the Olympic-size swimming pool pictured above…twice. Maybe even more if you spend a lot of time thinking about Warhead candies.

A single strand of hair can support about 100g (which is equal to about two candy bars). But twisted together, one person’s entire head of hair (consisting of about 150,000 individual strands) could support 12 tons of weight — that’s the weight of 2 elephants!

Not only is hair very strong, it’s also virtually indestructible. Aside from being flammable, hair won’t break due to extreme temperatures, and it’s also resistant to a lot of acids and other corrosive chemicals.

Although hair doesn’t easily break, you still lose between 60 and 100 strands of it every day. Think of how many elephants you could be lifting if you didn’t!

This reflex, known as the Photic Sneeze Reflex, is present in 18-35% of the population, and it causes people to sneeze when exposed to a change in light intensity (such as leaving a dimly lit building on a sunny day). Sneezing can also occur in some people after eating spicy foods, or even when they’re full after eating. This phenomenon is not completely understood, but we’re pretty sure it’s the lamest superpower ever.

While your eyes remain the same size throughout your entire life, your ears and nose will continue growing as you get older. This is partially due to the fact that they are made out of cartilage (rather than bone), but is mostly as a result of gravity. So they’re not actually growing as much as sagging. Regardless, you’ll be able to tell your grandkids “all the better to hear you with,” so that’s pretty cool.

Since fat is essentially an endocrine organ, it needs a supply of blood to function. So, as fat is added to your body, your body in turn constructs blood vessels and capillaries to provide blood to the fat cells. For each pound of fat, your body creates 7 miles of blood vessels, and that means your heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body. This is part of the reason why obesity is often linked to heart disease, and is also part of the reason why we’re having a salad for lunch.

Complete Article HERE!

SEX WISDOM With Benjamin Law — Podcast #419 — 06/04/14


Hello sex fans! Welcome back.

June is indeed bustin’ out all over. And that can mean only one thing here at Dr Dick’s Sex Advice. IT’S LGBT PRIDE MONTH! Hurray!

Benjamin Law-1

To kick off our celebration we’re gonna take an audio fieldtrip to the land down under to visit with one of the most interesting men I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. And seeing this is the SEX WISDOM show, you can be certain that my guest is among the movers and shakers in the field of human sexuality. Because this is the series where we meet researchers, educators, clinicians, pundits and philosophers who are helping us take a fresh look at our sexual selves.

My guest is none other than Benjamin Law, the author of the critically acclaimed book, Gaysia; Adventures in the Queer East. Benjamin is a journalist, columnist, and screenwriter. And has a Ph.D. in television writing and cultural studies, don’t cha know. His passion is evident in all he does, but he is also funny as all get out. I can’t wait for you to meet him.

Benjamin and I discuss:

  • His way with words;
  • Cleis Press, his North American Publisher;
  • His international audience;
  • Modern gay consciousness is linked to a certain economic class;
  • Bad reviews;
  • Sex tourism;
  • Living on the sexual fringe;
  • His travels throughout south Asia;
  • Religion, family responsibilities, and sexual minorities;
  • Sex work can come from a place of pride or from a place of desperation;
  • The double standard for women and men.

I’m going to make sure that Benjamin reads from Gaysia; Adventures in the Queer East, so you won’t want to miss that.

Benjamin invites you to visit him on his site HERE! And he’s also on Twitter HERE!

Click on the cover art below for more information about Gaysia; Adventures in the Queer East.

Gaysia Adventures in the Queer East

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Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: Dr Dick’s Stockroom.

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How things work down there

Name: Samantha
Gender: female
Age: 17
Location: Kansas City, KS
I’m with this boy and his penis is too big. Like it literally hits the end of my vagina and there’s still an inch or two hanging out. I’m not sure why, but when he want to go all the way in it hurts. It hurts like virgin hurts. It’s not fun at all. But when he doesn’t go all the way in and keeps those couple of inches out, it’s the best sex of my life. But then he always ruins it by shoving the whole thing in, if you know what I mean. I’m just wondering if you have any advice on how he could control himself, or help me tolerate his thrusting. I’m just wondering if there is any help for this.
PS: I love your podcasts!

Aww shucks! Thanks for your kind words about the podcasts, darlin’. I really appreciate it.

As to the issue you raise about your horse-hung BF, I have a whole lot to say, don’t cha know. I have suggestions for him, suggestions for you, and suggestions for the both of you. You’ll also find one of my Sexual Enrichment Tutorials: Basic Sexual Positions For One And All, very helpful.

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First, here are my suggestions for your BF. I’m gonna go way out on a limb here and guess that he is a young thing like you, and he has yet to learn how to handle that big pipe of his. So many guys, regardless of their cock size, think that they are givin’ their woman some mighty fine pleasure by slammin’ into them like a wild stallion. These guys probably picked up this unfortunate information through watching porn. And if there is one thing that we all can say for sure it is, if a guy gets his sex education from porn, he’s gonna be poorly equipped for when he encounters a real woman who’s gonna let him jump her bones.Woman_On_Top

In your BF’s defense, he’s only doin what comes naturally. Here’s the thing; as he gets closer to cuming he will increase his thrusts and try to smash deeper inside you. Nature programmed us men folk to do this to insure the spunk we’re about to spew will land as close to the female’s cervix as possible. After all nature’s only concern is insuring successful impregnation of female, not insuring her pleasure. Bummer that, huh?

I guess you realize, as I do, that this brutish natural tendency needs to be tamed if there’s gonna be any pleasure in it for you. And guess what? There’s no one better situated to subdue the beast in your BF than you. Probably neither you, or you BF knows all that much about your internal anatomy. Am I right? Thought so. That’s why I think you both might benefit from a remedial anatomy lesson. Did you know a vulva is made up of the same tissue as a penis and scrotum? In other words a cock and balls are simply a pussy on a stick. And pussies come in a variety of sizes shapes, just like cocks & balls.

Ok, so we’re clear on that point, right? Excellent. Now the variation in size and shape of the external components of female genitalia, the vulva, vaginal lips, clit, etc., are only a preview of the amazing capacities of the internal components, the vagina itself. A vagina is best understood as a potential space. It’s very expandable. It has to be, since whole babies come pushin’ through that space from time to time. I’m just gonna hope that you both are clear on that concept.

Again if you follow where I’m going with this you’ll realize that just about any adult female vagina is able to accommodate even the really big boys. However, being able to accommodate and wanting to be impaled by a giant johnson are two very different things.

This brings me to my suggestions for you, Sam. I wholeheartedly recommend that one day real soon you have a nice long talk with the BF about you and your parts. But you have to familiarize yourself with them first. It’s beyond me why the men folk don’t ask to be introduced to a new cunt before they start pokin’ at it. Like I said earlier, everyone’s is different. I mean, most guys will take some time to figure out what all the buttons, gizmos, gadgets, and levers do when he gets behind the wheel of a new car, right? Why they don’t to that with an unfamiliar pussy is beyond me. But I digress.

Take your BF by the hand, literally and show him around. It’ll be your job to point out all the really exciting points of interest in your neither regions…and there are plenty of ‘em, don’t cha know. I’d be willing to guess that you both will be sorely amazed. Most guys think their dick is talented. But let me tell you, it pales in comparison to a cooch.

Let me introduce you both to a little exercise called: THE AT HOME SEXOLOGICAL EXAMINATION. I use this exercise frequently in my private practice.

Disposable-Vaginal-SpeculumThis exercise is designed to facilitate communication with your partner about what each of you likes and dislikes about genital stimulation. You will need a good anatomically correct diagram of both the female and male genitalia — internal as well as external.   You will also need a speculum, hand mirror, and a flashlight. I suppose you know what a speculum is, right? It’s a medical device designed for investigating body cavities. You can get an inexpensive plastic disposable vaginal speculum online for around seven bucks.  Believe me it’s well worth the price. You probably could get one from your doctor or your local Planned Parenthood clinic too. All ya gotta do is ask.

How to proceed:

  1. Look online for a really good diagram of both the female and male genitalia. Make sure the diagrams you choose label all the parts, inside and out. Print these out if necessary. You’re gonna want to have the diagrams close to hand for this exercise.sex exam
  2. Take turns examining and being examined. It’s gonna be just like playing doctor. First, look for and then touch to all the parts of your external genitalia — he touches you and you touch him. This is touching for information as opposed to touching for pleasure, but it’ll be pleasurable nonetheless.
  3. Give each other plenty of specific feedback about what you are discovering. Be honest. Try different strokes on all of the parts. Use some agreed upon system for designating pleasure, like a scale of 1-5. 1 = discomfort, 3 = neutral, and 5 = hot, hot, hot. You could use colors just as well as numbers; it’s up to you.
  4. Once you have the parts down, so to speak, allow the person being examined (person A) to guide the hand of the examiner (person B). The examiner (B) allows the one who is being examined (person A) to be in charge for a few minutes. Person A guides person B’s hand in the areas, strokes, rhythms, pressures she or he prefers.
  5. Person B then takes over without guidance from person A. Person B spends some time giving the strokes he or she enjoys giving. Person A provides specific feedback — “I like that! I don’t much like that!” Use your fingers, hands, and mouth.
  6. Once you are familiar with one another’s external genitalia, you’ll want to use the speculum to take a peek inside your vagina. You, Sam will need a hand mirror and the BF will need the flashlight.
  7. With the speculum in place and open, see if you can find your cervix. It should be pretty obvious. I believe it is your cervix that your BF is bumping into with his deep manly thrusts. And that, as you well know, is pretty damn painful. Once he has an appreciation of how things are situated inside you, he will have a much better appreciation for how to pleasure you, without hurting you. And you will know what to do to help him get off without hurting you.
  8. If you feel like having sex when you’ve finished your exam, I encourage you to wait at least a couple of hours before you do. This way you can better focus on the educational aspects of this exercise as opposed to having it be just seductive foreplay.  Sometimes, information gathering can be really sexy too.

Finally, as I said earlier, check out that sexual positions tutorial. You may find that all you and the BF need to do is come up with a new position for the fuck, like you on top, or doggie style.

Good luck





The Erotic Mind of Stella Harris — Podcast #405 — 02/03/14


Hey sex fans, welcome back.

Do you realize that we haven’t had an edition of The Erotic Mind series since last October? Well it true! And that ain’t right. As you probably know, this is the show where I chat with noted erotic artists, both visual and literary, from all over the freakin’ world. Today we turn our attention to the literary end of the spectrum and we travel to the wilds of Portland, OR to visit with the delightful Stella Harris.

StellaHeadshotRed

Stella is a renowned author. Her prolific output often features lots of edgy kinky stuff. And I’m guessing, if I ask real nice, Stella will read from her work for us. It’ll be perfectly steamy stuff, I guarantee! It’ll be the ideal antidote to this mid-winter’s chill and gloom.

Stella and I discuss:

  • Modeling, Editing, Writing, Consulting, Teaching, and Kink coaching;
  • Literary Pin-Up Calendar;
  • Her nonprofit background;
  • High-heeled purveyor of smut;
  • Writing from the perspective of different genders and sexual identities;
  • The booming fetish and BDSM sub-genre of erotica;
  • Erotica, the gateway to a better sex life.

Stella reads from Strummed.

Stella invites you to visit her on her beautiful site HERE! Her Facebook page is HERE! And her Twitter feed is HERE!

(Click on the cover art below to discover volumes featuring Stella’s work.)

BigBookofBondageCover      kinky sex cover-small      Shameless cover      Strummed - cover-med      SuddenSexCover      love burns bright cover      OrgasmsCover           Calendar cover

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: Dr Dick’s Stockroom.

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