Can You Really Trust At-Home Tests?

Ancient Egyptians relied on a pregnancy test that was roughly 70 percent accurate: if a woman urinated on grain seeds and they grew—thanks to high levels of estrogen and progesterone in her urine—she was probably pregnant. Today, people still place a high premium on diagnosing themselves from the comfort of their own bathrooms.

California: The Upside Side to Speedy Foreclosures

The recent freeze on home foreclosures brought cheers from some quarters—especially owners of the more than 1 million homes nationally due to be repossessed. But the delay may only prolong the pain, say housing analysts. Local markets can’t rebound until they hit bottom, the logic goes, and they can’t do so until states clear backlogs of distressed properties. This has produced a striking “two Americas” scenario, in which states with fast-track foreclosures are, all else being equal, bouncing back long before their slower counterparts.

Is 'Living in Sin' Still Bad for Your Marriage?

Moving in together before marriage used to be associated with a higher risk for divorce. But now, as more unmarried couples than ever before decide to live under the same roof, do they face the same fate? Sociologists think the calculus may have changed. Part of the difference stems from just who’s deciding to shack up.

Clicking for Love

It is not a truth universally acknowledged, but a single man in possession of no fortune may still be in want of a wife. At least that was the case for Gary Kremen, the founder of the online dating service

Fashionably Dangerous

Corsets, cage crinoline petticoats, and foot binding have gone out of vogue, but some of the latest fashion trends are just as bad—if not worse—for your health. Here’s what you should know about the risks associated with everything from skinny jeans to the Brazilian wax.

The Dilemma of Talented Children

In all the uproar over the Sunderland family's alleged reality-TV contract, it sometimes sounded like, in search of a quick buck, teenage sailor Abby Sunderland's parents snatched her from in front of the Xbox, threw her on a sailboat, and forced her to sail around the world.

New Report Claims That Many Probiotics Provide Fewer Live Cells Than Listed on Labels

Americans are spending more and more dollars each year on probiotic supplements, or so-called “friendly” bacteria. Studies have shown that probiotics—which you might purchase in the form of yogurt, capsules, miso, beverages, or powders—can treat a host of conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea caused by viral infection or antibiotics, vaginal yeast infections, hypertension, the common cold, and even acne. Over the past decade, consumer sales of probiotics in the U.S. have nearly quadrupled (growing from $115 million in 1998 to $425 million in 2008), according to Nutrition Business Journal. But, according to a report released today, many of the most popular probiotic supplements don’t contain the amount of live bacteria listed on their labels. ConsumerLab, a private company that tests health and nutritional products at independent labs across the country, found that at the time a consumer buys a probiotic, it may contain as little as 10 to 58 percent of the amount...

Making a Digital First Impression: Why You Can't Fake Your Facebook Profile

 by Johannah Cornblatt The photo showed a man in a T shirt and baseball cap standing on top of a mountain. Tien-Yi Lee, a Web-site designer who had joined’s online dating service, says she felt an instant connection. “I saw his picture, and he had a very kind of friendly, sparkly vibe,” she says. “He had a great smile.” A few days later, Lee met the man at a bar in Cambridge, Mass. Lee remembers thinking that the photo on Nerve provided a “very accurate” reflection of her date’s personality in real life. A year after marrying the man from the photo, Lee’s first impressions of her future husband still largely hold true. “The picture was in sync with who he is,” she says. Lee’s experience is common among those who meet on the Internet, according to a new study on the role of physical appearance in creating first impressions. The study, which will be published in next month’s issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that you can actually learn a great...

Can You Hit a Curveball? Can You Even See One?

By Johannah Cornblatt Baseball fans have been enjoying a great World Series marked by exceptional pitching and some notably iffy offense. Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira, who led the American League this year in home runs and RBI, was hitting a meager .105 through the first five games. His Phillies counterpart, Ryan Howard, who led the National League in RBI the last two seasons, has been equally woeful, batting just .158 so far. We can only speculate about the underlying reasons for this power outage, and both players could turn things around before the Series ends. But could their struggles at the plate be traced, at least in part, to problems transitioning from foveal to peripheral vision? In other words, are curveballs driving them nuts? Arthur Shapiro from American University, Zhong-Lin Lu from USC, and two colleagues won first place in the Vision Sciences Society's Best Visual Illusion of the Year contest for this very cool animation, which offers a theory about how the...

Is Your Coffee Poison? Scary Questions From the Leaked Harvard Memo

A group of Harvard scientists and students were poisoned in August after drinking from coffee contaminated with a chemical preservative known as sodium azide, according to an internal memorandum leaked to the Boston Herald yesterday. Seconds after sipping the coffee, all six victims felt dizzy and were rushed to a nearby hospital. The lab workers were released, but the jury’s still out on how the odorless white solid, which can be deadly, got in the single-serve coffee machine near the victims’ pathology lab. NEWSWEEK’s Johannah Cornblatt talked to Dr. Michael Greenberg, the president of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, about the dangers of sodium azide, as well as the chemical’s atypical use as a poison. Although Greenberg considers sodium azide a strange choice for a poisoning agent, he remains “very suspicious” that the chemical ended up in the Harvard coffeemaker by accident. How is sodium azide typically used? It’s usually used as a preservative. It used to be used...

Hair-Mineral Analysis: More Speculation Than Science

by Johannah Cornblatt The day after Beethoven died, Ferdinand Hiller, a 15-year-old German music student, clipped a large lock of the composer’s wild hair to keep as a memento. Beethoven had died too young, after going deaf in his 20s, developing severe stomach problems, and shocking friends and neighbors with his eccentric habits (like standing naked in his apartment window). For years, scientists and historians puzzled over what might have caused all of those symptoms. Ultimately, it was the 585 strands of hair—a mix of brown, silver, and white—that helped scientists unlock some of the many mysteries surrounding Beethoven’s poor health. A 2000 chemical analysis of the composer’s hair revealed high concentrations of lead, strong evidence that lead poisoning caused Beethoven’s lifelong illness and untimely death.Beethoven’s not the only famous figure whose hair strands have helped solve historical controversies. Postmortem analyses of hair locks also shed light on the deaths of...

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified Explained

Today, we ran an article about an increase in eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) among college students. But what does EDNOS really mean? The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) defines eating disorders not otherwise specified as “disorders of eating that do not meet the criteria for any specific eating disorder.” The EDNOS classification encompasses a wide range of patients: Individuals who are at 87 percent of their ideal body weight instead of the 85 percent required to be considered as anorexic. Females who meet the weight criteria for anorexia but continue to menstruate. People who repeatedly chew and spit out—but do not swallow—large amounts of food. Binge eaters. “It’s a wastebasket diagnosis,” says Susan Ice, the vice president and medical director of Philadelphia’s Renfrew Center, which specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. “It [EDNOS] is a hodgepodge of things that don’t necessarily belong together,...

Don't Panic: Showerhead Germs Won't Kill You (Or Make You Sick)

First came the news that the average computer keyboard was five times as filthy as a toilet seat. Then came the reports that flip-flops played host to more than 18,000 bacteria. Now, after you’ve stocked up on Purell and started wearing closed-toe shoes—even on the beach—there’s a new report soon to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences documenting the billions of microbes lurking in your shower, the last clean place on earth. What are we supposed to do now? Stop by CVS on the way home and purchase a lifetime’s supply of spray body cleaner? Hardly. Though these studies are captivating in their disgustingness, the microbes living on your daily possessions don’t do much to compromise your health. The latest panic-inducing study, conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder and released today, looked at 45 showerheads from across the United States. The researchers found that each showerhead was home to, on average, several billion...

HPV Vaccine Is the Hot Shot on Campus

When Dr. James Turner gave his freshman-orientation health talk at the University of Virginia, he spotlighted one thing: a new vaccine against human papilloma virus (HPV), the fastest-spreading sexually transmitted disease and the main cause of cervical cancer and genital warts. After he mentioned that nurses were standing by to give shots to female students, "parents grabbed their kids and said, 'Come on, we're going to get that'," he said.As school starts, health officials are promoting the HPV vaccine to teens and twentysomethings who rarely see a doctor but need protection the most. A national plan calls for most girls to get it between the ages of 11 and 13 (it's recommended for females ages 9 to 26). Playing catch-up with older teens is tough. Some Los Angeles high schools aim to offer it in area clinics, where it will be free for many through the federal Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. Other schools are mulling similar plans.But the VFC doesn't cover those over 19, and...

Glitter's Gone

The NFL has effectively banned stadiums from playing Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part 2" after the Brit rocker was convicted of molesting underage girls in Vietnam, prompting a search for a substitute celebratory anthem. The Denver Broncos switched to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's "Go Daddy-o"; Kansas City Chiefs fans voted for P.O.D.'s "Boom." The New England Patriots are polling fans on their Web site for a replacement. Jeff Conroy, New York Giants special-events manager, hopes this isn't a trend. "We play Michael Jackson, others play R. Kelly," he said, citing two stars who've faced allegations of sexual misconduct. (Jackson was acquitted; Kelly's pleaded not guilty.) But most teams just hope to hear their touchdown song--whatever it is--often.