Discovered: Men more likely to be attracted to—and project attraction on—their female friends; Office of Naval Research builds mechanical fish; smallest photographs; diagnosing sex addiction.

Is "just friends" just a myth? Science doesn't preclude the possibility that people of the opposite gender might be friends, but it does suggest that men have a harder time with it than women. Scientists behind a new study conducted research on the age-old question by interviewing 88 pairs of undergraduate opposite-sex heterosexual friends. When asked whether they considered their friends attractive, men were more likely to confess attraction to their female friends. And they were more likely to think their female friends were attracted to them. In a follow-up study, men were more likely to list the possibility of developing "romantic feelings" as a benefit of opposite-sex friendship than women. [Scientific American]

Robot fish. OK, researchers at the Office of Naval Research are just trying to bring their childhood  daydreams to life now. Under the cover of "studying" how "creatures move in water," ONR scientists are building robot eels, jellyfish, and bluegill sunfish. "We, as engineers, haven't created anything that swims nearly as well as a very basic fish," says Drexel University's James Tangorra. "There are great things we can learn from fish ... The way they propel themselves; the way in which they sense water." The field of hydrodynamics has been buzzing about new theories from scientists like the University of New Orleans' William Vorus, who believes that the physics of sinuous undulation could be used to move robots through the water slowly, but with no wake in their trails. The Navy hopes that these mechanical creatures will help them build, "the next generation of robotics that would operate in that very Navy-unique underwater domain." [AP]

It's a Small World. The winners of this year's Nikon Small World contest have been announced. These closest-ever close-ups of objects like garlic, snail fossils, stinging nettle, bat embryos, bone cancer, and ladybugs were taken using cutting-edge microscope photography. The first place image (seen below) shows an extreme zoom-in on the blood-brain barrier of a living zebrafish embryo. "We used fluorescent proteins to look at brain endothelial cells and watched the blood-brain barrier develop in real-time," write the scientists behind the image, Jennifer Peters and Michael Taylor of Memphis' St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. "We took a 3-dimensional snapshot under a confocal microscope. Then, we stacked the images and compressed them into one – pseudo coloring them in rainbow to illustrate depth." WIRED has a slideshow of the 19 other awarded photographs. [WIRED]


Dr. Jennifer L. Peters and Dr. Michael R. Taylor / St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Diagnosing sex addiction. Since sex addiction is now considered a legitimate mental health disorder, not just a convenient excuse to fool around, researchers from UCLA thought there should be a set of objective criteria for diagnosing the condition. In a new study on hypersexual disorder, Rory Reid lays out the following signs that a person might be suffering from sex addiction:

 

  • A recurring pattern of sexual fantasies, urges and behaviors lasting six months or longer, which are not caused by other issues like substance abuse, another medical condition or manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder;
  • A pattern of sexual activity in response to unpleasant mood states, such as feeling depressed, or a pattern of repeatedly using sex as a way of coping with stress;
  • A lack of ability to reduce or stop sexual activities the patient believes are problematic; and
  • Evidence of “personal distress” caused by the behavior, like interference with work or relationships.

Reid says that using sex to cope with stress or occasionally being sexually reckless isn't enough to qualify as a verified sex addict. "For these patients, it’s a constant pattern that escalates until their desire for sex is controlling every aspect of their lives and they feel powerless in their efforts to change." [Popular Science]