Infertility is defined as failure to conceive after a year of unprotected sex. About 10-15% of couples run into this problem. Some cases of infertility are fairly easily explained: there may be a shortage of sperm, or they may be unable to swim far enough to make it to the egg. The eggs in turn may be malformed, or the womb may have conditions that make implantation of the fertilized egg difficult. But in about 20% of infertile couples, it’s not clear what is impeding the process. […]
The scientists investigated a mutant variant of the gene for DEFB126, a protein that’s found on the membrane of sperm cells. Due to a mix-up with a genetic stop sign, this variant produces a protein that’s longer than the normal version. Humans have two copies of each gene, one from each parent. When both of a man’s copies of a gene had the mutation, the cells’ quality control mechanisms seemed to destroy most of the proteins, and sperm had correspondingly fewer of them on their surfaces, though they seemed otherwise perfectly healthy. But when the scientists tried to get them to swim through a laboratory version of cervical mucus, nearly all of them stalled and got stuck. The more protein a sperm had, the more likely it was to swim through.
1. Zhaghzhagh (Persian) The chattering of teeth from the cold or from rage. 2. Yuputka (Ulwa) A word made for walking in the woods at night, it’s the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin. 3. Slampadato (Italian) Addicted to the infra-red glow of tanning salons? This word describes you. 4. Luftmensch (Yiddish) The Yiddish have scores of words to describe social misfits. This one is for an impractical dreamer with no business sense. Literally, air person. 5. Iktsuarpok (Inuit) You know that feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet? This is the word for it. 6. Cotisuelto (Caribbean Spanish) A word that would aptly describe the prevailing fashion trend among American men under 40, it means one who wears the shirt tail outside of his trousers. 7. Pana Po’o (Hawaiian) “Hmm, now where did I leave those keys?” he said, pana po’oing. It means to scratch your head in order to help you remember something you’ve forgotten. 8. Gumusservi (Turkish) Meteorologists can be poets in Turkey with words like this at their disposal. It means moonlight shining on water. 9. Vybafnout (Czech) A word tailor-made for annoying older brothers—it means to jump out and say boo. 10. Mencolek (Indonesian) You know that old trick where you tap someone lightly on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool them? The Indonesians have a word for it. 11. Faamiti (Samoan) To make a squeaking sound by sucking air past the lips in order to gain the attention of a dog or child. 12. Glas wen (Welsh) A smile that is insincere or mocking. Literally, a blue smile. 13. Bakku-shan (Japanese) The experience of seeing a woman who appears pretty from behind but not from the front. 14. Boketto (Japanese) It’s nice to know that the Japanese think enough of the act of gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking to give it a name. 15. Kummerspeck (German) Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.
Every four years, the National Institute of Science and Technology adjusts the official values of such natural constants to reflect more accurate measurements made possible by advancing technology. This week, in the latest update, the radius of a proton, the speed of light, the Planck constant, and many, many others have received facelifts that will decrease uncertainty in physics measurements. But this update will also affect units much closer to home: In October, the General Conference on Weights and Measures will vote on a measure to base the definition of a kilogram on the values of such natural constants, instead of the 130-year-old slug of platinum and iridium that currently holds the title.