Discovered: slugs have violent sex; older men more likely to father autistic children; our bosses outwork us; a very old, very strange star.
Your boss is 1.75 times more productive than you. Pop culture's portrayal of bosses as hapless, unproductive Michael Scott types might appeal to disgruntled office workers, but the numbers don't bear it out, according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Researchers from Stanford University and the University of Utah Edward Lazear, Kathryn Shaw and Christopher Stanton have found that replacing an underperforming boss with a successful one is just about equal to adding another employee to the office. The numbers suggest that bosses, on average, are 1.75 times as productive as the typical worker. The researchers say that this is the first hard study on boss-to-worker productivity, writing, "the literature has modeled the relationship between boss and worker at an abstract level and has not pushed beyond to examine what is likely to be the most important relationship in the workplace." The study surveyed 23,878 tech industry workers, and their 1,940 bosses over a four-year period. [The Washington Post]
Slugs have kinky sex. You think Fifty Shades of Grey is naughty? You obviously haven't read how slugs do it. The Siphopteron quadrispinosum species of sea slug is a "simultaneous hermaphrodite," meaning that every sea slug has both male and female reproductive organs. Researchers from Germany's University of Tübingen have found that in order to reproduce, one of the slugs begins by stabbing the other with a syringe-like organ, injecting them with prostate fluid. The slug acting as the male inserts a spikey organ into his partner, which physically harms the other slug. And these male slugs are devious—they lure their mates in with food, initiating this barbaric mating ritual once they've trapped them. "Males are giving with one hand and taking with the other," says University of Sheffield researcher Siva-Jothy. Copulation never sounded so violent. [New Scientist]
Is this the oldest star in our galaxy? Astronomers have taken an interest in a primordial star at the distint edge of the Milky Way which defies astrophysical logic. SDSS J102915+172927 is 13 billion years old, and it's a peculiar star because it isn't composed of the materials scientists have long thought crucial in the formation of low-mass stars. "This star has the composition that is the nearest that has been found up to now to the big bang composition," says French astronomer Piercarlo Bonifacio from the Paris Observatory. Due to its chemical make-up, which notably lacks elements heavier than hydrogen, scientists are speculating that this might be the oldest star ever discovered. [Daily Galaxy]
Older men more likely to father autistic, schizophrenic children. As couples continue to put off having children, some scientists have discovered that men who wait until later in life to have children may be contributing to the rise in autism and schizophrenia. Every year that men delay having children, their sperm undergoes more and more random mutations. These mutations make it increasingly likely that older fathers will conceive children that suffer from autism or schizophrenia, according to Decode's Dr. Kari Stefansson and colleagues. "This study provides some of the first solid scientific evidence for a true increase in the condition," says Yale's Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, commenting on the the research. "It is extremely well done and the sample meticulously characterized." The age of the mothers, on the other hand, seems to have no effect on whether children will be born with these diseases. [The New York Times]