If you’ve ever been told that masturbation is unnatural, evolutionary biologist Matilda Brindle begs to differ. Indeed much of the animal kingdom is at it, if her fascinating article about its evolutionary reasons is anything to go by. Primates, the animal group humans belong to, seem particularly dedicated to self-pleasure.

Testing the idea that masturbation may help protect animals from sexually contracted infections and boost their chances of passing on their genes, Matilda has found evidence that self-gratification has given an evolutionary advantage to male primates since at least the ancestor of all monkeys and apes, including humans. Unfortunately, things aren’t so clear for females.

Meanwhile, research shows that though there are many benefits to eating fruit and vegetables, plant foods that are rich in compounds called flavanols may be more helpful than others. Here’s what you need to know.

And late last year, scientists recorded one of the brightest explosions in the universe ever known. Now, astronomers think they may have figured out why it happened.

Thank you to all our readers who have donated during this campaign. If you haven't yet, and are able to, please consider supporting The Conversation with a donation today.

Jenna Hutber

Commissioning Editor, Science

This female rhesus macaque seems surprised at the idea not everyone thinks masturbation is natural. Matilda Brindle

Why we’re searching for the evolutionary origins of masturbation – and the results so far

Matilda Brindle, UCL

Masturbation seems like an evolutionary conundrum. New research has found an explanation.

Two-and-a-half cups of green tea contain the recommended daily amount of flavanols. granata68/ Shutterstock

Flavanols are linked to better memory and heart health – here’s what foods you can eat to get these benefits

Gunter Kuhnle, University of Reading

Many plants contain flavanols – but some contain more than others.

An x-ray of the brightest ever gamma ray burst reflected off dust layers, creating extended ‘light echoes’ of the initial blast. Nasa

Brightest cosmic explosion of all time: how we may have solved the mystery of its puzzling persistence

Hendrik Van Eerten, University of Bath

Radiation from the brightest cosmic explosion ever seen may have been mixing with gas and dust around its dying star – making the signal last longer.

An anti-COVID mask protest on November 7 2020 in Aylmer, Canada, organised by the Church of God. Mette Holm/Alamy

COVID has highlighted the connection between spirituality and vaccine scepticism

Tamas Lestar, University of Winchester

To adequately prepare for the next pandemic, we need to understand where people’s spirituality and science scepticism overlap – and why.

Workers decommission an oil rig in the North Sea. Lee Ramsden/Alamy Stock Photo

Keir Starmer hasn’t really called time on North Sea oil and gas – here’s why

Gavin Bridge, Durham University; Gisa Weszkalnys, London School of Economics and Political Science

Labour would still honour existing licenses to drill for fossil fuels.

Ivor Cummings. Courtesy of Chris Rochester

Ivor Cummings: the forgotten gay mentor of the Windrush generation

Nicholas Boston, Lehman College, CUNY

A paper trail, both typed and handwritten, documents Cummings’ dogged efforts to secure accommodations and resources for the Windrushers on a time crunch.

Politics + Society

Business + Economy



More newsletters from The Conversation for you:

Ukraine Recap • Imagine climate action • Global Economy & Business • Europe newsletter

About The Conversation

We're a nonprofit news organisation dedicated to helping academic experts share ideas with the public. We can give away our articles thanks to the help of universities and readers like you.

Donate now to support research-based journalism


Featured events

View all
The Revolution Continues

14 June 2023 • London

Undergraduate Open Day

17 June 2023 • Manchester

PlasticsFuture 2023 conference

20 - 22 June 2023 • Portsmouth

Promote your event

Contact us here to have your event listed.

For sponsorship opportunities, email us here