Filthy Pools, Penis Transplant & More: 5 Things We Learned This Week

penis transplant
Thomas Manning of Halifax, Massachusetts, underwent the first successful penis transplant in the U.S. Massachusetts General Hospital

From the therapeutic promise of "magic" mushrooms to how DNA shapes our noses, here are five things we learned in Tech & Science this week:

  • Public pools are generally filthy cesspools. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) annual report on public watering holes found that nearly 80 percent of venues inspected in 2013 were found to have at least one safety or hygiene violation. Fully 20 percent of kiddie pools were closed after inspection. The CDC found that 58 percent of pool filters sampled tested positive for E. coli, a bacteria normally found in the human gut and feces.
swimming pool
The cleanliness of a public swimming pool often compares with that at a toxic waste dump. Fred Greaves/REUTERS
  • It's now possible to receive a penis transplant. The first such transplant in the U.S. was completed this week at Massachusetts General Hospital on a man who had lost his penis to cancer. The accomplishment is seen as particularly promising for military members who suffered genital damage in combat, and improves on the successful phalloplasty treatments that require penis pumps to maintain erections.
  • Psychedelic mushrooms may hold promise for treating depression. Psilocybin, the active ingredient in the reality-altering substance, was given to 12 depressed patients in a study published May 17 in The Lancet Psychiatry. All 12 showed improvement after just one session; three months later, 7 of the 12 were still significantly less depressed. But the authors warn that their findings don't prove anything and cautioned against taking mushrooms outside of a clinical setting (even if Timothy Leary would have approved).
Psilocybin, found in "magic mushrooms" like this species (Psilocybe semilanceata), shows promise for treating severe depression. Photofusion/Universal Images Group/Getty
Peanut sandwiches
Students at Escondido Charter High School work to set a world record by using the most flavors of peanut butter and jam on a previous National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. New data show that the earlier highly allergenic foods like peanuts are offered to infants the less likely they are to develop food sensitization to the foods by age 1. Mike Blake/Reuters
  • We have our ancestors to blame for the size of our noses. Research published May 19 in Nature Communications details how four genes determine the dimensions of noses, which adapt and evolve over time. Essentially, features change from generation to generation to suit a person's environment. For example, a nose with a narrow bridge—prevalent among Europeans—is a genetic adaptation to life in a cold, dry environment.
Your DNA determines the shape of the nose you're born with, but elective surgery is always an option if you hate it. Arezoo Abassi poses for a photograph beside a pre-surgery photograph at the office of her surgeon, three weeks after nose surgery. Caren Firouz/Reuters