biology

Growing A Penis At Twelve

Yes, you read that right. In the Dominican Republic, there is a small town where many men first present as girls when they are born, and grow a penis later, during the onset of puberty.

The absolutely fascinating article above explains it has to do with a deficiency in a certain enzyme that affects the conversion of testosterone in the womb.

What’s truly amazing is that because of this discovery, the pharmaceutical company, Merck, was able to develop a drug that has been successful in treating issues like benign enlargement of the prostate.

It never ceases to surprise me how much we still have to learn about ourselves. Often, the frontiers outside take up most of our attention. We marvel at space, at the oceans, at the animal kingdom. But we fool ourselves that we know and understand our own bodies, for the most part, when this is so not the case.

We even have a habit of ignoring information that doesn’t fit into society’s common understanding of human development and biology. For example, research has has turned up the fact that our sex chromosomes can be a bit sloppy when sharing genetic information. That can lead to a situation where someone can develop as a male, but be genetically female. And as it turns out, sex determination varies widely in humans and across the plant and animal world. Even more shocking, our entire understanding of the X and Y chromosomes and the part they play in gender determination is wrong. This article touches on some of the misinformation that has been spreading in science classes for generations. Yet I’ve seen none of this on the weekend news, or in the pages of newspapers.

That’s mind-boggling when you consider the implications for gender and the way humans develop. This article explains most of the new research and its ground-breaking discovers. For one, there’s the fact that mothers sometimes trade genetic material with the boys they carry in the womb and retain them, essentially testing male after birth. And science has proven there is not just male and female–there is a literal sex spectrum. Gender is, biologically, far more varied than we ever thought or taught.

Since I happen to be building a world where gender and magic are interrelated, all of this has inspired me hugely. Each new day brings new frontiers in our understanding of ourselves. I can’t help thinking it’s a great time to be a speculative fiction writer.

The sky is nowhere near the limit.

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We Live In A Weird And Wonderful Universe

Once again, we’ve identified a new species of fish that seems to have been created just to give us nightmares.

Scary New Fish Discovered in Ocean Depths

This gorgeous George is apparently a ceratioid anglerfish. That funny looking glow-stick on its head is used to lure fish looking for nightclub to dance the night away into its jaws instead.

The diversity of life on this planet alone is just mind-boggling to me. It’s one of my favourite things about world-building in my novels, by the way. Using the explosion of life on Earth to inspire creatures and aliens in my stories. I figure, as weird as this world and its inhabitants are, you can never go to far in imagining worlds that are even stranger.

So the next time you’re thinking about where you want to set your story, challenge yourself. Look up the bacteria, flora and fauna that populate our world. Branch off of that and take it to the next level. Go crazy. Get inspired.

And then get to writing. ‘Cause that’s the best part.

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Stay thirsty, my friends!