Science News in Brief: New research backs up political stereotype of the ‘Neanderthal right’

In other news, the EU finally responds to Danish concerns to ban four kinds of phthalate esters, chemicals used in softening plastics that are particularly harmful to children

New research carried out by the Aarhus School of Business and Social Sciences reveals that physical strength amongst men is often related to political convictions.

“Men with large muscular torsos are inclined to favour social inequality and a restricted division of resources,” concluded colleagues Professor Michael Bang Peterson and Lasse Laustsen, an associate professor, in an article published in Political Psychology.

What your right arm’s for
The researchers measured the size of subjects’ upper arms and chests and how hard an individual could squeeze a grip-measuring device. In addition, they looked into how the measurements tied in with the political convictions of the subjects.

“It is rather surprising to find that our views are not solely based on reason and rationality, but also stem from some fundamental physiological and biological processes. That rather flies in the face of the picture many of us have about politics,” added Petersen.

Back to early man
The new results also help explain the paradox of poor males who support economic inequality despite the fact that a broader distribution would appear to be in their best interests.

Among women, there was no connection between physical strength and political views. According to the researchers this is in accordance with the idea that like other male animals, men have used their muscles to fight for status whilst women have evolved different strategies that take into consideration the fact that they are not as physically strong.

Funding for advanced fuel pilot project on Funen
A biogas plant situated at Ringe between Odense and Faaborg on Funen will be the site of a pilot project to take surplus CO2 from biogas production and combine it with hydrogen produced through electrolysis by wind turbine electricity and turn it into methane. Among other things the methane can be stored in the natural gas network and used as a raw material to produce fossil fuel-free aviation fuel and plastic, reports Ingeniøren. Budgeted at 23 million kroner, the project has been supported with 16.6 million kroner from the state energy authority’s energy technological development and demonstration program EUDP. Behind the project are plant owner Nature Energy, BiogasClean, one of the world’s leading suppliers of sulphur-free biogas, the educational institutions DTU and SDU, and MiljøForum Fyn.

Danish technology to sniff out maritime pollution
In future, one of the weapons in the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) arsenal for monitoring air pollution from shipping will be large ‘sniffer’ drones. A Danish company called Explicit will be responsible for the sniffer technology, software and analysis capacity for the drones for this major European project, reports Ingeniøren. The Swedish-made long-range drones will overfly shipping traffic monitoring emission levels to ensure that internationally-agreed levels of sulphur in marine fuel are upheld.

DTU beefing up electrotechnology
From 2019, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) is expanding its profile in the area of electro-technology. The university is conducting a major reorganisation of the field that will result in a new institute called DTU Elektro, which will focus on research involving classic electronics, energy, electromagnetism, automation and acoustics. In addition, the centres for magnetic resonance and hearing systems along with biomedical engineering with be part of the new institute.

Converting waste plastic to diesel in Skive
A new plant owned by the Norwegian company Quantafuel will shortly be able to convert 60 tonnes of plastic waste a day into diesel, new plastic products and products for the oil and chemical industry. Situated in the GreenLab Skive business park at Kåstrup north of Skive, the new factory is expected to be up and running by the end of the summer and employ 20 people, reports Ingeniøren. “I expect to see the first drops of synthetic fuel in August – maybe before,” said its investor and chief environmental officer, Hanne Risgaard. At the moment a lot of the plastic waste collected in Denmark ends up being sent to Germany for reprocessing, so the new plant will save Danish taxpayers money.

Protests halt construction of turbine park
A new wind turbine park planned for a 15 km stretch along Holmsland Klit between Ringkøbing and Nymindegab on the west coast of Jutland has been halted due to local protests. Summerhouse owners in the affected area have been up in arms, pointing out that the permits granted to the Swedish company Vattenfall by the environmental authorities and the energy authority are no longer valid as Vattenfall has altered the siting of the turbines.

Harmful plastic softeners ko’d by Danish research
Based on research carried out in Denmark the EU has decided to severely restrict the use of four kinds of phthalate esters – chemicals used in softening plastics. Back in 2008 and 2009, Danish researchers investigated which chemicals a two-year-old would be exposed to throughout an average day, and the results were so alarming that Denmark took the matter to the EU in 2011, reports Ingeniøren. In 2017 the EU ruled that the chemicals caused damage to human hormonal development. The EU ruling restricts the use of the four chemicals to 0.1 percent, but according to the Danish Environment and Food Ministry, in order for the chemicals to be effective at least 5 percent is needed, so the ruling is seen as a de facto ban.

Novo cash for new obesity research centre
The Novo Nordic fund’s Challenge Program has allocated 60 million kroner over the next six years towards the setting up of a new research centre that, among other things, will look into the difference between obesity among men and women. Based at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU), the Center for Adipocyte Signalling (ADIPOSIGN) will investigate how fat cells change character during obesity. Professor Susanne Mandrup from the SDU’s institute for biochemistry and molecular biology will lead the centre.