Ticking Sex Bomb

Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones may have earned notoriety for her “have sex like a man” philosophy, but a recent study found that the fictional 40-something’s seemingly insatiable sexual appetite may be the standard rather than the exception for middle-aged women. Psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin reported that women ages 27-45 had more frequent sexual fantasies, more active sex lives, and a greater willingness to have casual sex than their counterparts in the 18-26 age group. Researchers believe that increasingly adventurous libidos in older women result from a physiological push to capitalize on their remaining childbearing years. —Nadia Tamez-Robledo

In the Danger Ozone

We’ve always known smog damages your lungs, but a recent study has shed new light on the danger it poses to your heart. The unsightly air pollution created by industrial exhaust and burning fossil fuels is a complex chemical cocktail, but researchers singled out O3 (more commonly known as ozone) for a study funded in part by Texas A&M University. Though ozone is better known for the protection it provides from the sun’s rays, on the ground where it can be breathed in, ozone can be deadly. Rats exposed to ozone showed lower levels of a natural heart-protecting protein that prevents heart cells from dying prematurely. More ozone? More dead heart cells. —Kevin Sullivan

Federally Fat

The National Student Lunch Program feeds roughly 30 million children, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But a recent study from Southern Methodist University found that federally funded lunches are linked to childhood obesity. The USDA-funded study analyzed almost 13,500 elementary school students and found that school lunches don’t help children maintain a healthy weight. Researcher Daniel L. Millimet said one reason school lunches contribute to obesity is the sale of à la carte items. This probably isn’t surprising to anyone who’s seen a school cafeteria, but here’s the twist: The study found that the lunches seem to be unhealthier than federal breakfasts. Federally funded breakfasts, which feed only 10 million pupils, were actually healthier than the guidelines set forth by the government. —Steve Thompson

Canvas Code

When it comes to Van Gogh, average admirers just want to marvel at his work. The slightly more ambitious want to see X-rays of the paint underneath. But the just plain crazy want a canvas thread count. Rice University professors Don Johnson and Richard Johnson have designed a computer program that deciphers the thread count and density of each painting’s canvas, essentially creating a “fingerprint” for each of his paintings. Van Gogh, being the perfectionist that he was, was fastidious about his canvas, which he cut from large bolts. By piecing the fingerprints of the paintings together, Johnson and Johnson are working towards a hypothesis that may better reveal the timeline of Van Gogh’s and other masters’ paintings, one canvas at a time.  So while just looking at Van Gogh’s wheat fields and illuminated nights may be enough for you, Johnson and Johnson are working to reveal the history beneath. —Alanna Lindley

Hot Flash News Flash

Oprah is not the only one embracing life after menopause these days. UT Austin Nursing professor Dr. Eun-Ok Im says, in comparison to other ethnicities, white women are increasing their acceptance of menopause and are using their experiences to refocus on their lives. Im’s survey shows white women are moving beyond society’s obsession with youth to positively view menopause and accept it “as a normal developmental process.” White women surveyed experienced a greater variety of symptoms, but also were more likely to use treatment; 67.8 percent of black women experienced hot flashes—the highest of all groups. The study also said minority women expressed greater interest in further education programs about menopause. According to Im, the awareness reflects a need for increased dialogue about menopause symptoms management, a change from the lack of discussion and flow of information in the past. —Kelsey Crow

Home Work

Suggesting that managers encourage their subordinates to spend more time at home might seem counterintuitive, but according to a recent Texas A&M study, it’s the secret to a happy workplace. Researchers conducted a survey to understand the effect of work-and-family-life balance on workplace productivity. Results showed that when employees feel they have greater control (such as making their own schedules), their job performance, as evaluated by their supervisor and themselves, improved. Researchers theorized that supervisors with a healthy work-family balance in their own lives may become more aware of the family needs of their subordinates, which can lead to the informal policies that seem to improve quality of work. So managers, take that long lunch with your spouse or adjust your schedule to be at your child’s game for once—the workplace will be better off for it. —Alexandra Murphy

Parental Advisory

Abusive mothers who went through “rehab” could reduce negative behaviors at home, according to a recent study from SMU. The experiment focused on families living below the poverty line and were enrolled in the Texas child welfare agency. Team members from a program built by researchers (dubbed “Project Support”) met weekly with 17 families for up to six months, focusing on 12 specific areas of child-rearing, including responding to bad behavior, listening, comforting, and play. The project also provided therapy for the moms, offering emotional support and lessons on living under the poverty threshold. Eighteen other families did not receive the Project Support counseling, and were handled instead by Child Protective Services. Twenty-eight percent of the families under government care later reported abuse, whereas less than six percent of the families rehabilitated by Project Support reported additional abuse. —K.S.

Reefer Replacement

Medical marijuana may have just gotten a whole lot less controversial. A study from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center shows that a synthetic compound similar to the active ingredient in marijuana—not actual weed itself—has neuropathic pain-alleviating potential. The clincher seems to be that while the new compound seems to mimic the same pain relief as marijuana, it doesn’t cause the mental and physical effects of the illegal drug. The researchers studied rats and the compound needs more investigation before it can be tested in humans, but the researchers agree that these findings are a promising step in the right direction to providing relief to patients with difficult-to-treat neuropathic pain. Until then, the battle to legalize the green stuff rages on. —Vi-An Nguyen