misshepeshu: (Blackbeard)
I cried today. I wept just about as hard as I'd ever cried over a broken heart or personal tragedy. The weight of the grief is a boulder in my chest and stomach; no matter what I do, I cannot dislodge it. And I'm not entirely sure I want to.

Why? Because we've systematically and brutally stripped the world of its apex predators, and not only are we the poorer for it, we're only just beginning to realize the consequences and ramifications. I've kept this in the back of my mind ever since I saw a documentary some years ago about how reintroducing gray wolves to Yellowstone allowed the beavers to flourish again, but William Stolzenburg's absolutely amazing book, Where the Wild Things Were, made the whole thing hit home especially hard.

The implications of a world in which we're the only apex predator left are chilling my feet and my fingers as I read the book, but the parts that tear at me the hardest are the descriptions of what hunters did to wolves captured alive, and the inventive tortures they came up with, from hamstringing them to dragging them behind horses. This passage, in particular, was what triggered my crying jag; re-reading it and typing it out for you is making me teary-eyed again.

One of the most notorious of [elusive renegade wolves] was Lobo, who with his mate, Blanca, and a phantom pack had run rings around the stockmen and trappers of the Currumpaw cattle range of northern New Mexico. Lobo and his pack were imbued by legend with monstrous size and speed . . . . By the time the flamboyant nature writer and erstwhile wolf-killer Ernest Thompson Seton was called in to take his shot, Lobo, the King of Currumpaw, had a thousand-dollar bounty on his head. . . .

Lobo's mate, Blanca, a white queen of a wolf, was the first to misstep into Seton's trap. Seton and his accomplice, not wanting to ruin the pelt with a bullet hole, used ropes instead. "We each threw a lasso over the neck of the doomed wolf, and strained our horses in opposite directions until the blood burst from her mouth, her eyes glazed, her limbs stiffened and then fell limp." Lobo fell shortly thereafter, held fast by a foot in each of four steel traps. The King of Currumpaw had finally been baited by the alluring scent of his lost mate, whose carcass Seton had shrewdly dragged atop the buried set of traps.


Stolzenburg freely admits to writing with a bias and an agenda. Reading this passage, you can pretty clearly discern what it is. It's a bias and an agenda I share, and as I re-read the passage, I'm swamped with anger and grief--at the brutality of the killing; at the way Blanca's horrible death was dictated, not by mercy or respect for a worthy adversary, but by a desire to not mar the pelt; at the way Lobo was lured to his death. I'm not prone to anthropomorphizing animals or nature; I'm the last person to call nature "benign" or "loving" (look into the eyes of an animal while its skin, guts and muscles are being systematically ripped apart by teeth, or knives, or by something burrowing its way out of its innards, and just try to argue that God or Life Force or Gaia or whatever the fuck is benevolent and full of love in any kind of way we humans can begin to understand). I'm also, however, the first person to acknowledge that many species of animals form long-lasting attachments to companions in ways that are very closely analogous to our own--perhaps even identical in all the ways that matter. And I have a hard time seeing how other people can miss this obvious similarity, and not feel the deepest kinship.

But then people have a hard enough time as it is acknowledging other humans deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion, so I realize I'm perhaps being a cock-eyed optimist in thinking that we as a species can learn to view something with large pointy teeth and jaws that can crush us into pulp as something worth preserving and treating with care and respect--but it behooves us to, not only because the predators are valuable by virtue of being fellow travellers in life, but because they have a disproportionately large ecological impact, often with unexpected ramifications.

When it comes down to it, I'm OK with people being eaten by big jaws that go snap-snap-snap. I eat other animals, and I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with being part of the food chain in that way; if other animals want to eat me, they should have at it. But then, part of my sanguine attitude stems from the fact that the odds of me being eaten alive are pretty much zero, unless I suddenly decide to troll cannibalism fetish sites and offer myself up as a candidate for nomming. And looking at the patterns of competition that exist and all the reasons why we've made damn sure that we're the only apex predators left worth a damn, I'm not sure there's an answer left other than dismantling civilization as we know it. It goes beyond "Let's not eat meat because cattle ranchers are probably the biggest threats to wolves and grizzlies in the United States." It goes to the very way we feed ourselves: aggressive monoculture agriculture is incredibly destructive and deprives the animals of a viable habitat. It goes to the very way we live: our cities are not long-term sustainable by a long shot.

Some days, I just want to write to [livejournal.com profile] pristis and say "Hey, remember that human extinction program we joked morbidly about last year? Can I get on board? How much funding do you think we'll need? Can we actually get frickin' sharks equipped with frickin' laser beams, or would that distress the sharks too much?"

All of this mulling eventually spilled over into what I want to do with myself and law school. I'm pulled in two different directions: intellectual property and environmental law. Right now, I'm tempted to specialize in animal law (Lewis & Clark is one of the few law schools to offer this specialty, and our Animal Law Moot Court is one of the best in the nation), go to grad school, get an ecology degree and specialize in apex predator advocacy when I get out.

And likely die broke, insane and heartbroken. It'll be a life of fruitless struggles, of fighting for the most incremental of steps and praying that they will be enough, of endless, grinding compromises that are less than are needed but all I can ever hope for. This, I think, will be the danger of throwing myself into a cause so deeply personal.

Intellectual property, on the other hand, is a safer avenue. Don't get me wrong: I'm passionate, but I'm not personally invested in quite the same way. My passion for cerebral matters is intense, but it's colder and less likely to consume me from the inside out.

I'm not going to resolve anything tonight, but Where the Wild Things Were has certainly pointed me to an avenue for me to explore. In any case, the book is well-written and heart wrenching and important; Stolzenburg writes beautifully and with passion for his subject, and it's shaking me up and making me re-examine my life in all the best but most painful ways. If you're at all interested in ecology, animals and the way humans have made our mark in the world, pick it up. Do it now.
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
You guys ever see that old strongman trick in which the dude pulls a bus or a train using a hitch tied to his hair?

I was always somewhat impressed as a little kid; I wondered why their scalps weren't torn off. I have a fairly sensitive scalp, and the thought of that much tugging on my hair made me wince. As I grew older, I knew there were basic physics principles at work, but I wasn't sure what. However, early this morning, I finally figured it out:

1. The most important thing is this: attach the hitch to a huge clump of hair. I can't remember which exact scientific principle is at work here, but essentially, while it's easy to pull out one, two, or even a few dozen strands of hair out by the root at the same time, the force required to yank out the hair goes up exponentially the more hair you add. Something about the way force is distributed along each individual strand? ([livejournal.com profile] vyrin, [livejournal.com profile] redsouffle or [livejournal.com profile] ccarrico, you guys know how this works off the top of your head?)

(I was completely unaware of how that turn of phrase would read in context when I first wrote it. Man, how awesome is my unconscious brain? Muy awesome.)

2. The second most important thing: attach the hitch near the root of the hair. Hair gets much more brittle towards the tip and breaks much more easily.

3. Start the motion slowly and gradually. A rapid yank hurts and the rapid acceleration could create enough force to cause real damage, but gradual acceleration creates a force that feels like...pressure. It's not necessarily pleasant, but it's bearable.

4. The rest is essentially back and leg strength, and getting the head at the correct angle so that you transfer the force down along the spine instead of wrenching your neck. It's still a fairly impressive feat of strength, mind you, but the pulling-by-hair is a bit of distracting flash; it essentially works like a harness in this situation.

Science is nifty.
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
Thanks to today's Cute Overload, I've learned that glasswing butterflies exist.

They're gorgeous, but mostly, I'm fascinated by translucent animals. I've seen it in marine animals--various species of cephalopods, cnidarids and crustaceans are in possession of clear tissues; this is, however, the first time I've noticed a terrestrial animal with that trait.

What I wonder is: what is the mechanism that makes those tissues clear? I understand (on a very basic level) how color perception works in humans, and why something appears to be a particular color, but the thought of being able to evolve a tissue so that lightwaves pass through it instead of being absorbed or scattered breaks my brain a little bit. It strikes me that it'd be much easier to pull off in a marine environment, for some reason--I have some vague (and utterly crackpot) theories regarding water and the water content of marine invertebrates. Any of you biologist types in the audience want to take a crack at explaining this to a layperson? Or point me to some helpful resources that could help explain it?
misshepeshu: (Stop trying to fuck me)
Nature red in tooth and claw--and, uh, penis.

The slugs (which are hermaphroditic) have relatively very large penises which wrap around each other in a tight spiral. They can have difficulty separating afterwards. Should that be the case, the solution is for the slug to gnaw off either its own, or its partner's penis - making separation possible. No replacement penis grows. The apophallated slug adopts a purely female function.


Either nature is very, very weird and evolved these wacky adaptations as dictated by a harrowing combination chance and expediency, or God has a filthy sense of humor.
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
A while ago, I told a friend of mine--I want to say [livejournal.com profile] theotherjay, but it might well have been somebody else--that the crack of a whip was caused by a sonic boom, i.e., the tip of the whip breaking the sound barrier. The friend was skeptical, but we didn't have ready access to any Internet tubes, so I couldn't provide any proof, just a lame protestation along the lines of "No, I swear, I read that fact from a credible source!"

Then just a few minutes ago, while dreamily contemplating the thunderstorm raging outside my office window, I thought about the speed of sound and how to calculate the distance of the lightning (it's just over a kilometer for every three seconds, since sound travels at about 340 m/s). All these musings about sonic speeds brought to mind the conversation about the whip (but obviously not the person I had it with, heh!), and what do you know, this time I had at my disposal several Internet tubes that are not at all like dump trucks, so I commandeered one of them thar tubes and dug up this article in the American Scientist about the physics behind the sound of a cracking whip.

But really, this is all an elaborate, long-winded way for me to say to that friend, whose name and face are lost in the mists of a spectacularly awful short-term memory: Neener neener, I was right, and you were a fool, a fool, for doubting me.

(OK, for serious, now: cracking a whip entails generating your own sonic boom. That is pretty goddamn cool.)
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
Reading this article on Pharyngula today started me thinking about religion in the classrooms and bringing God up in science classes, especially biology.

I really don't understand why there was ever a controversy to begin with. I'm pretty sure I'm stating the obvious when I say that religion and mentions of deities in general should be kept of the science classroom because they're inherently unscientific and therefore are completely irrelevant to the class. If one allows religion into the science classroom, then one might as well teach deconstruction theory during biology, or Keynesian economics during physics, or knitting during chemistry.

In short: Parsimony is one of the cornerstones of science, dammit, and throwing God into a theory isn't parsimonious.

And honestly, if I were religious and/or believed in God, I'd be offended at the way Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates use the Almighty as some sort of all-purpose intellectual spackle: "We have NO IDEA how this happened, ergo Goddunnit!" It's lazy, and it completely misses the point of the scientific method.

I'd love to rant about this in more detail, but egad, I have so much work to catch up on, and people smarter and more articulate than I have done so plenty of times already, I'm sure.

(Oh, who am I kidding? I wrote this whole thing just so I could use the phrase "all-purpose intellectual spackle.")
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
Thing 1: Scientists and Engineers For America: A political advocacy group geared towards scientists and engineers. They even have a Bill of Rights for Scientists and Engineers. (Hot damn, that has got to be one of the sexiest collection of words in the English language.) My two favorite items:

6. Appointments to federal scientific advisory committees shall be based on the candidate’s scientific qualifications, not political affiliation or ideology.

7. The federal government shall not support any science education program that includes instruction in concepts that are derived from ideology and not science.


HOT! So sign up and/or contribute to the cause, if you're so inclined.

Thing 2: Check out this Trick-or-Vote handbill. Know who helped lay that out? Yeah, that's right, bitches. *thumbs to chest* ME. I didn't create the art or decide on the color scheme, but I laid it out and chose the fonts, go Team Moi, woo hoo. I have a bunch of printed out postcard versions of this, and I'm all squealy and excited because LOOK MA I HELPED MAKE THAT and yeah, I'm ridiculous like that.

The line-up on that handbill isn't final, by the way. We're hoping, hoping, hoping to get a brilliant MC and headliner; we'll know by next week, and if we do get who we hope to get, y'all should be able to hear my squeeing from clear across the country.

Thing 3: Tonight, I learned about Candidates Gone Wild. I'm enough of a dork to find the whole thing very, very amusing. Gubernatorial candidates subjected to a talent show and questions from the audience, accompanied by music and funny films? I'm there. If any of you wish to accompany me, I highly, highly recommend that you come (attending the event would be good, too, of course); tickets are only $4. I only wish I could vote.

Thing 4: My friend Jimmy, who's in Israel right now, called me today and left me a loooong message that starts out "Hello, your royal hotness" and ends with him singing along to "Mozzarella Swastika" by Adam Green. He wasn't even drunk. It's just...yeah, I have totally awesome friends.([livejournal.com profile] heyokish, aren't you jelus? Admit it, you are!)
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
Once again, Pharyngula provides some fascinating linkage, this time to a series of articles by John Wilkins about why creationists are, well, creationist. I haven't read through all the different bits yet, so this entry is as much a reminder for me to do so as it is a way to share my "HOLY CRAP, AWESOME!" reaction when I read the first part of the series.

The pertinent links to "Why Are Creationists Creationist?":

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
Dude buys three and a half pounds of sodium metal from eBay and has a sodium droppping party, part of which took place by a lake. AWESOMENESS ENSUES.

Reading and seeing this sort of thing makes me wish I'd gone into chemistry like my father wanted. *sniffle*
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
Via Pharyngula, PETA has a bee in their bonnet (hur hur) about a study involving gay sheep, and in the process, use some pretty nasty invective. A more accurate and much less hysterical explanation for what Dr. Roselli is trying to do can be found at The Next Hurrah.

For what it's worth, though I think PETA is jumping to some pretty hasty conclusions--they must've dumped a gallon of KY on that slope, it's so goddamn slippery--I do think that it's a logical extension of the implications of the research. If scientists do manage to find biological bases for homosexuality, and if physiological therapy can actively switch somebody's sexual orientation...well, I can imagine some of the extremists pushing for a "cure," if the cultural environment will allow it. (This doesn't make sense to me, of course; in my opinion, a cure for homogaiety is about as sensible as trying to cure, say, blue eyes, or the ability to raise one eyebrow higher than the other.) However, I'm somewhat optimistic; we've been moving away from the whole "homosexuality is a disease" viewpoint for a while now, even though we still have a long, long way to go.

In the meanwhile, bisexual sheep are largely ignored, and treated as indiscriminately slutty and/or indecisive about whether they're male- or female-oriented. The whores.
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
I'm barely 10 pages into Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer--mind you, that means I'm still working through the prologue--and I've cringed more times than I can count. Filaria that can cause your testicles to swell to the size of ottomans, and others that make you scratch yourself to death. Guinea worms that burrow their way out by way of the skin on your legs. A dizzying array of flukes and worms. Microorganisms that literally make your blood cells explode with their progeny.

This book is so awesome. I haven't felt this excited about reading in a long, long time. I want to sit down somewhere quiet, gulp this book down and mentally go "AAAAUUUUUGGHH!" and flinch every 5 seconds.
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
I've never heard of Carl Zimmer before, ohhh, a couple of weeks ago, but I looked through his published booklist, and OMG, it's enough to make any geek girl interested in the history of science cream her pants.

(BUT I DON'T WEAR PANTS! HA! HA!)

(Also, Carl Zimmer looks pretty hot in that one picture of his. I'd hit it.)

Anyway, have any of youse read his books? Are they any good? They all sound fascinating.

Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain--and How it Changed the World

Parasite Rex : Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures (This one looks really, really cool, and oh, the lust I harbor in my heart for it, despite the couple hundred books already awaiting my attention on my bookshelves.)

At the Water's Edge : Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea (The prospect of reading this one gives me happy goosebumps, too.)

Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea

Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins

I'm thinking I have to burden to my already-massive Library Holds list even further...
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
Note: I started this a few weeks ago, when Jay posted this entry about the carbon dioxide ads from the Competitive Enterprise Institute; I just never got around to finishing it. However, after watching An Inconvenient Truth last night, I feel inspired to finally complete and post this.

[livejournal.com profile] theotherjay brought to my attention a series of commercials made by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, all of which note that carbon dioxide = LIFE, and look at those evil, evil people trying to lower carbon dioxide emissions, they must be anti-LIFE or summat, those monsters.

The issue of anthropogenic sources of air pollution--specifically, trying to deny that it impacts the environment, especially with regards to climate change--makes me see red. In a lot of ways, the global warming debate reminds me of the way Intelligent Design has been handled: science is quite clearly on our side, but enough scientifically illiterate people have been bamboozled by misinterpreted and misrepresented data that they'll chirrup back information that's quite clearly wrong, but that has gained cachet simply because it's been repeated so many times.

In Which Our Intrepid Heroine Starts Frothing at the Mouth! )
misshepeshu: (Default)
I finally watched An Inconvenient Truth yesterday, dragging along [livejournal.com profile] theotherjay and my friend Jen, she of the PhD in atmospheric chemistry (she wrote her dissertation on nitrogen radicals or summat--I used to know details about it back when she was in the thick of things, but now all I can remember about her research is that she worked with fricking lasers, yo).

What did I think of the movie? Sylvia wrote a review that says almost everything I wanted to, except with more eloquence and less profanity than I ever could've managed, so please go over there and read it--though I have no doubt the majority of you on my friendslist have already done so.

The few quibbles I have with the documentary are minor. To wit:

1. I felt that rehashing what happened in the 2000 election coup theft debacle was unnecessary.

2. I really could've done without the further propagation of the frog-in-gradually-boiling-water legend.

3. I was also puzzled by how global warming could possibly impact tuberculosis. The other diseases named that are spread by vectors such as insects, which could conceivably be killed off seasonally by cold spells and otherwise be affected by changing weather patterns, I could buy, but TB? International travel and antibiotic abuse seem to be much larger factors in the spread of newer, more virulent strains of TB.

4. Jay and I laughed out loud when Gore talked about the unique American democratic tradition that led to the end of slavery (unspoken: about 30 years after England had outlawed it) and to the birth of the civil rights movement (unspoken: about 100 years after black people were freed). The latter was especially hilarious, because unless my understanding of American history is wrong, much of the significant progress brought about by the civil rights era was largely due to judicial fiat, not legislative progressiveness. Legislate this from the bench, bitch.

But as Jay pointed out, when talking about American political history in public, especially in a documentary meant to appeal to the masses, this sort of rah-rah bait-and-switch is downright mandatory, and it was all presented in the context of a call to action and of what power the people can hold, etc., so as far as flaws go, this one wasn't too bad.

But what about the science? Did the documentary flub any of the scientific bits? As we walked out the theater, I asked Jen whether the movie had mis-represented any of the science, and she said "Nope. That movie just showed you what scientists have been screaming about for years and years."

All in all, this documentary is fascinating, moving (I cried a little when it came to the part about the polar bears), scientifically sound and inspiring--but most of all, it's so goddamn important. If you know of anyone who's skeptical about global warming--hell, if you're skeptical about global warming ([livejournal.com profile] borktron, I have my eye on you) please, please, please go see it. I'm thinking of buying the DVD and making myself watch this at least once a year, just to let the images of the shrinking glaciers and drowning polar bears help me keep my goals at the forefront of my mind.
misshepeshu: (Kitten claws)
Earlier today, I talked to Jeff, the resident Autodesk Inventor guru at this here place, for just about an hour. We see eye to eye on a lot of things, and our temperaments and senses of humor match up very well, so we greatly enjoy each other's company whenever I drop by his office. (He has fairly severe MS and is completely wheelchair-bound, whereas I work in an office at the top of a long, steep staircase.) Jeff, however, is a very devout Christian (which isn't something I have an issue with) and an avid Creationist (which I do have an issue with).

We eventually got to the topic of Socratic wisdom, and he told me how three of his doctors, an eye surgeon, a neurologist and an orthopedic surgeon, after extensive study of the human body and awed at the vastness of their ignorance despite the prodigious amount of information they'd already amassed, are convinced that they see the hand of a divine Creator.

I tried to point out that this was the classic God of the Gaps fallacy, and also brought up examples of everyday things that stumped people for the longest time and were thought to be unexplainable or supernatural in origin--combustion and electricity were the two I used (to be honest, I like talking about the former because "phlogiston" is one of my favorite words). I also pointed out that the scientific method is very, very young, and key concepts like falsifiability are even younger. Not only that, but scientific progress can often depend on the sophistication of equipment at the scientists' disposal; quantum mechanics is a relatively new field because the instruments that can detect, manipulate and measure sub-atomic particles were only recently invented and put into production.

Jeff just shook his head and said "Well, it's just interesting, that's all" and started talking about how relativity and quantum mechanics are incompatible.

And that's when I realized that invoking the God of the Gaps requires monumental arrogance--an arrogance not predicated on the person's belief in his own prowess, but an arrogance based on the belief that we know all that there is to know already, and that the depths of the unexplained can only be illumined by the light of divine agency.

This belief has been proven false over and over and over again, and I don't know why people insist on proclaiming the End of History once every generation. You think we'd learn, but nope, people love to jump on that intellectual treadmill and work it for all they're worth. The fact of the matter is, we have barely begun to scratch the surface of what we know about the world and the universe. For (a purely metaphorical) God's sake, we've only been at this enterprise for a few hundred years. Not so very long ago, people didn't know about ovaries, for cry-eye, and even more recently, people didn't know about oxygen, or magnetic fields, or quarks.

Compared to the vastness of the data out there for us to discover and unlock, our knowledge is indeed puny. My knowledge of this knowledge is even punier. This I can't deny. But I refuse to invoke the God of the Gaps to cover human ignorance.
misshepeshu: (cowbell)
Mentos fresh and full of life! (When dropped in diet coke.)

Link cheerfully stolen from [livejournal.com profile] lilithsaintcrow.

For you science geeks whose first thought was "NO WAY Mentos can do that to diet Coke!" check out their explanation page. Veddy, veddy cool.
misshepeshu: (Kitten claws)
Below are a series of interesting articles about faces and sexual attraction, all culled from the comments section of today's discussion on SBTB:

Women like girly men better when we're on the rag.

Men like girly men better when we're getting about to get on the rag.

Facial prejudices.

Chicks dig big, manly...vocal chords.

Especially before we're about to go on the rag.

And apparently, regulating our on-the-ragginess can change our mate preferences, too.

There's some interesting information in those pieces, but a lot of the conclusions drawn (at least, as reported by the BBC) are a bit too sweeping for my comfort. Some of the research also seems to contradict one another. For example, from the research about how birth control pills affect attraction:

They found those taking the pill were more likely to choose macho men, and to rate men with more feminine, softer physical features as a turn off.

However, the researchers say it is these men who tend to be more sensitive, and more likely to making trustworthy and faithful husbands.

They proved more popular among women not taking the pill who took part in the study.

Blocked ovulation

The researchers believe that the key may be the fact the taking the pill blocks the natural process of ovulation.

As women who take the pill cannot become pregnant, they are sub-consciously attracted to sexy, macho men, rather than to men who are most likely to make a sensible long-term mate.


And then in the article about how women who are ovulating prefer macho men:

Women are attracted to more masculine-looking men at the most fertile time of their menstrual cycle, psychologists have shown.

During the less fertile times, they choose men with more feminine-looking faces. These are seen as kinder and more co-operative, but less strong and healthy genetically.

A controversial implication of the new research is that, in evolutionary terms, it is natural for a woman to be unfaithful in order to secure both the best genes and the best carer for her children.

This is because a less masculine-looking man may be a better long-term partner, but the strongest, healthiest children would be produced by a quick fling with a more masculine-looking man.


OK, look, you can't really have it both ways: ovulating women want to fuck macho men because of their OMG good genes that the women want to pass on to the (potential) sproglets, and non-ovulating women want men who are caring and nurturing, but women who are on the pill (and therefore not ovulating) apparently like to fuck macho men as well because...they're unable to make good long-term mate choices??

I'm not arguing that these differences aren't real, but there seems to be some tricky dickery going on here, with researchers providing conclusions based on cultural prejudices. "This one here wants good genes for her kids, and this one, here, just wants to get laid."

Was birth control the only factor that could explain the women's inverted preferences? I don't have access to the studies, but I'd be interested in looking at the women's age, education level, upbringing, political affiliation, reasons why they are or aren't on birth control and income, all of which can conceivably impact attraction and mate choice. I mean, really, if women get on BC pills because they're looking to get laid without becoming pregnant, and these sorts of women tend to prefer macho men for whatever reason, then we might very well see the differences the researchers found--but then the BC pill becomes a side-issue. What I want to know is, do women who go off hormonal BC methods show the same preferences once they're off 'em? What about women who switch from hormonal to non-hormonal BC methods, and women who switch from hormonal to no birth control at all, or non-hormonal birth control to no birth control?

And this bit from the "men are more suspicious of macho men when their women are ovulating" article also bothered me:

"Whether they consciously know it or not, women do tend to have affairs with dominant males during their most fertile phase.

"That's independent of whether they want to get pregnant or not."


That may be true, but this is assuming a population of women who choose to have affairs, yes? How common is infidelity, and is the sample size big enough so that women who cheat are somehow representative of women in general? And how do we know that these women don't share some other sort of quirk which may explain why these macho men are preferred?

I'm somewhat bothered by how very reductionist these studies are, and how some of them seem to consistently conflate physical beauty with sexual attraction with mate selection. Look, just because somebody's pretty doesn't mean I want to fuck him, and just because I want to fuck somebody doesn't mean I want to be with him forever. Also, these studies strip the personality dynamic out of the equation entirely, when I'm not sure that's feasible.

However, some of the information resulting from these studies, such as what are considered masculine vs. femine faces, and introverted vs. extroverted faces, is very interesting.
misshepeshu: (words of wisdom from eric)
Is America flunking science?

Why, funny you should ask. Yes. Yes, it is.

Can anything be considered funny if you're crying as much as you're laughing?
misshepeshu: (Test Tube)
About six years ago, researchers in Princeton apparently demonstrated the possibility of travel at superluminal speeds. Very roughly speaking, a pulse of laser light was shone through some cesium vapor and left the chamber before it finished entering.

What happened next demonstrates what typically happens when Freaky Science is reported.

Here's how it was reported in the popular press, with the Freaky Bits distorted and blown out of proportion.

Here's how the news story was co-opted by an ideologue with some science training, then distorted even further so it could be used to bolster his religious convictions.

And here's where somebody who actually knows what he's talking about explains everything in detail, without distortion of Freaky Bits (which are plenty freaky, but then again, I'm easily impressed).

This is nothing new, of course. One of the more recent (and egregious) examples of this sort of thing happened with quantum entanglement when researchers confirmed it was real. Many, many dipshits immediately latched onto it as proof of precognition, superluminal travel and/or the existence of God, among other things.

One study, three different reports from three viewpoints with three different agendas. There's a lesson in there somewhere. Unfortunately, my brain has currently been evicted in favor of copious amounts of warm snot.

Speaking of which: Time to go see the doctor. Whee!

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