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Parasite Correlated With World Cup Success 366

mahiskali writes "A parasite commonly found in cats, Toxoplasma gondii, has an unnerving relation to World Cup victories by country. (This parasite was discussed here twice in 2006.) Toxo can be found in almost every type of mammal, from rats to humans. The overall goal of the parasite is to end up in a feline stomach, which is the only place it can reproduce. In other mammals, humans for example, the parasite heads for the brain. It is estimated that nearly 1/3 of the human population has a latent Toxo infection, with individual countries having infection rates varying from 6% (Korea) to 92% (Ghana). Countries with greater incidence of this parasitic infection in their populations tend to win more World Cups than those without. The article, written by a Stanford University neuroscientist, goes on to try out various rationales for such a correlation, ranging from increased testosterone to increased dissent of authority — all symptoms of a Toxo infection. Now we just need to find a parasite that causes an inability to referee properly, and we'll have this whole World Cup business all sorted out."
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Parasite Correlated With World Cup Success

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  • Interesting fact (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:12PM (#32818300) Homepage
    A bit OT, but I thought it was a fact worth mentioning:

    The most common carrier of Toxoplasma gondii are cats. When a cat with Toxo injures a rat (but does not kill it) it usually passes the infection to the rat. The effect of the parasite on rats makes them slower and far easier for predators (like cats) to catch/kill them. Which, in turn, passes the parasite on to the cat. The cat then takes a swipe at a rat...and so on ad infinitum.

    The parasite uses the natural predator/prey relationship to keep itself alive.
  • Re:Interesting fact (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Antony T Curtis ( 89990 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:21PM (#32818394) Homepage Journal

    The Toxo infection in rats not only makes the rats reaction time slower: It has been documented in detail that it also appears to modify the behaviour of the infected rats.

    Infected rats are likely to be "suicidal" insofar as putting themselves in the path of cats, hanging out near to where they smell feline urination and/or feces.

    It is in the interest of the parasite to make the rats exceedingly easy to find/kill so that they may complete their life cycle.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:27PM (#32818460)

    solid theoretical evidence

    interesting phrase.

    When it comes down to it:

    Correlation == recorded observations

    Causation == bulshit we make up

    so, yeah ... correlation is not causation. It is better. The very idea that causation exists as something other than than a human yearning for order is not backed up by empirical evidence.

  • Re:Good News is... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @07:23PM (#32819102)

    But the process is very heavily weighted for European countries.

    All of Asia - four slots representing 3.88 billion people.

    Africa - six slots (including 1 for the host)representing 1 billion people

    Central and North America, Caribbean - 3 slots for .528 billion people

    South America - 5 slots for .385 billion people

    Europe - 13 slots for .731 billion people.

    And one slot up for grabs between Asia and Oceania.

    Asia should have 7 slots, Europe, 8, South America 4, Africa, 7, North/Central America 4 with the last spot interchangeable with South America like how Oceania and Asia's is now and Oceania 1. Thats 31 plus 1 for the host country.

  • Re:Good News is... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @09:13PM (#32820380) Homepage
    Seriously, though, I researched toxoplasmosis a while ago (new kitten plus pregnant wife equals a million people saying OMG KEEP BABBY AWAY FROM KITTAH) and it's a very interesting disease.
    From wikipedia:

    The study suggests that male carriers have shorter attention spans, a greater likelihood of breaking rules and taking risks, and are more independent, anti-social, suspicious, jealous and morose. It also suggests that these men are deemed less attractive to women. Women carriers are suggested to be more outgoing, friendly, more promiscuous, and are considered more attractive to men compared with non-infected controls. The results are shown to be true when tested on mice, though it is still inconclusive. A few scientists have suggested that, if these effects are genuine, prevalence of toxoplasmosis could be a major determinant of cultural differences.

    It makes men more macho (the study does lose major credibility, though, by suggesting that risk-taking rule-breaking antisocial men are LESS attractive to women... what planet are they from?) and it makes women friendlier and sexier. Where's the bad?

  • Re:Turkey (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zill ( 1690130 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:47PM (#32821026)
    Toxoplasmosis is more often transmitted through raw meat than with cats, contrary to popular belief.
  • Re:Good News is... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @01:58AM (#32822224) Homepage

    Turkey are also an islamic nation, and their national team tends to be quite good... They made it to the last 4 in 2002 for instance.

    Because of the way qualifying is done in regional groups, you usually get some low ranking teams qualifying... If qualifying was entirely based on ability you'd typically only see european and south american teams at the finals.

    North Korea did surprisingly well, they held their own against Brazil who have traditionally been one of if not the best team.. People were amazed when it got to half time and it was still 0:0, and even more amazed when north korea actually scored in the second half. Sure they lost, but this was a team ranked 105 (and weren't they ranked lower at the time?) playing against the team ranked 1. North Korea were also the first asian team to reach the quarter finals in 1966, it took until 2002 for another asian team to better their record.

  • Re:Good News is... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zombie_monkey ( 1036404 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @05:08AM (#32823224)
    Indeed, that's why the European Cup, in which 16 teams qualify for the finals, is regarded as a stronger tournament than the World Cup.
  • Re:Good News is... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hodr ( 219920 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:47AM (#32824666) Homepage

    Since you mentioned checking facts, I think you should double check yours.

    Aparently, Soccor/Football doesn't even make the top 10 "recreational sports" in the U.S., and if you mean competative amateur sports, then Bowling is #1 and Soccer / Football still does not make the top five.

    My Source (where is yours?): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sports_in_the_United_States#Most_Popular_Sports_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson