Finance Dads More Likely to Have Autistic Sons

Science, via Yahoo! Shine, has identified new risk factors for autism or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), like having a dad who makes bank.

Fathers who worked in finance were four times more likely to have a child on the autism spectrum than those with the nontechnical jobs (which could include those in media, education, or sales industries, for example). And those who worked in health care (working in a medical lab, for example) were six times more likely. A mother’s job held no association to autistic offspring unless both she and her husband worked in technical fields. In that case, their children were at a higher risk of developing a more severe case of autism.

Other correlations: “advanced” age of the father, “advanced” age of the mother, advanced age of the grandparents, parents’ educational levels and possibly socioeconomic status. I’ve now found studies that say high (in America) and low socioeconomic status (in Sweden) correlate with autism, so those might cancel each other out. Interesting questions remain. Do ASD clusters in highly-educated American communities like LA and San Francisco mean only that more parents there can afford to send their children to specialists for diagnosis? Do fathers with a high-functioning version of ASD themselves tend to work in certain lucrative fields, marry and reproduce later, and pass their genes on to their children? Are ASDs more common now that parents, especially well-educated and higher-income ones do on average wait longer to produce the next generation, since “advanced” age is a risk factor? Or do we just recognize the symptoms better now that we know what to look for?

FWIW, the costs of ASDs are considerable: “Harvard researchers estimate that the added costs of autism-related healthcare and education average more than $17,000 per child per year in the United States.”

Image via

The Study of Duck Sex Organs is Good for the Global Economy

Duck penis researcher Patricia Brennan defends the importance of her research into duck penises.

Why We Save Garbage

My first thought: “Oh, no no no. You don’t deserve this.” And I bent down, pulled it off of the branch, and cradled it in the palm of my hand.

My second thought: “I will save you.” And I zipped it into my coat pocket.

My next thought: “What the hell was that?” I’d just picked up trash from a dirty Brooklyn sidewalk and put it in my pocket. Worse: if my dog likes peeing on those trees, I’d bet the other dogs in the neighborhood do, too, which made it a probable urine-soaked piece of trash. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away.

Brooke Borel has a post on The Last Word on Nothing (a really terrific blog maintained by science writers), about why we develop feelings for garbage (like, actual things people have thrown away—not terrible people who have treated you not-so-well). Borel says the main reason she saved the garbage she found was because it had human features, and when you see something that looks like a human, you develop empathy for it. Basically, this is The Carrie Diaries, but for Hoarders.

Photo: Brooke Borel