Hey, Internet. It’s science here wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day. And we do mean happy—we wouldn’t be here if there weren’t any oxygen in the air right?
Let’s start with a pretty picture. Copy all of the below mathematical function and enter it into Google. Just do it.
sqrt(6-x^2), -sqrt(6-x^2) from -4.5 to 4.5
…and links to the best V-Day science out there:
That soap opera cliche of someone clutching their chest and kneeling over dead after finding out a dead lover has some science behind it. Sudden shocks—even positive ones like winning the lottery—can cause a massive release of adrenaline, causing the heart to freeze up. The hearts of patients who die from this take on a distinctive shape resembling a Japanese octopus trap, which is where the name takotsubo cardiomyopathy comes from.
Every year on Valentine’s Day, writers dig up the origin of the holiday to talk about naked Romans. Sorry, we’re not immune to it either. Those pagan Romans used to run around naked with whips, hitting young women to increase their fertility. (Seriously? Dinner plans are looking so much better now.) Then, the Church pegged that pagan celebration to the story of St. Valentine, so today we have chocolate and roses and singing valentines. We’re not really sure what those have to do with St. Valentine either.
The “love hormone” oxytocin makes you more empathetic and generous and, as it turns out, also more racist and less trustful. Huh? Ed Yong, who’s covered this before on his blog, writes on the latest hypothesis about oxytocin at New Scientist. Instead of just making us feel cuddly, it helps direct our attention to salient social cues in the environment. And what’s salient, of course, depends on the environment.
Since Facebook tracks both your relationship status to and what songs you listen to when (among other things), they put it together and released a list of most popular songs when starting new relationships and breaking up. We’re only surprised that Adele doesn’t have a monopoly on the breakup list.
Oldies but goodies. Two pieces comparing the types of men and women you date with the types of physics you might encounter. Did you know that the derivative of acceleration is called jerk? Just saying some of these remind us of that.
Elsewhere on DISCOVER, you’ve got the hearts of space (love really is universal), animals that don’t have sex (sex is not so universal), and right here on Discoblog’s NCBI ROFL is the Valentine’s week archive. Get lovin’.
Oh Lord. From the Telegraph, we’d expect this. But New Scientist?
From a piece posted earlier this week:
Women: do you have a man? If you do, better beware. Chances are that some lone female has her eye on him.
A new study provides evidence for what many have long suspected: that single women are much keener on pursuing a man who’s already taken than a singleton.
The study of which they speak consisted of a survey of 184 heterosexual university students, both male and female. Half were single, and half in relationships. The entire group was told that a computer program would match them with an ideal partner.
Unbeknownst to the participants (but knownst to us), everyone was offered a “fictitious candidate partner who had been tailored to match their interests exactly.” Every woman was shown the same picture of “Mr Right,” and ditto for the men. Half the participants were told their ideal mate was single, and the other half that he or she was off the market. According to NS,
The most striking result was in the responses of single women. Offered a single man, 59 per cent were interested in pursuing a relationship. But when he was attached, 90 per cent said they were up for the chase.
The article goes on to quote the study authors’ conclusions like:
single women may be more drawn to attached men because they’ve already been “pre-screened” by other women and found to be satisfactory as a mate, whereas single men are more of an unknown quantity.
What the piece neglected to note was the fact that filling out a survey form indicating you might be willing to go after a dude is a far cry from actually going after that dude. So by logic, a small sample size of women reporting more interest in an attached man shouldn’t lead to a screaming rush of hide-your-men-crazy-zombie-mate-poachers-are-on-the-loose.
Plus, there’s also the small matter of what those photos of Mr. Right looked like, as the study authors note:
One limitation of the present study was that it used a single male and female target photo and although our pretest indicated both photos were perceived as moderately attractive, our study showed men’s attractiveness ratings for the female photo were higher than women’s ratings for the male photo.
So maybe the lede should be something more like: “If your man is not super attractive, other women may need him to be pre-screened before they’d think about going after him.”
This post has been appended from its original version.
Discoblog: Can Pheromone Body Wash Make You More Desirable?
Discoblog: Bad Study of the Week: A Social Life Predisposes Women to Rape
Discoblog: Two Twins, Two Dads: DNA Test Proves “Twins” Born to Different Fathers
Plenty of people love roller coasters—but few as much as Amy Wolfe, a 33-year-old Pennsylvania woman who plans to marry one.
Wolfe is the latest in a series of people who have married inanimate objects, from the Berlin Wall to the Eiffel Tower. This type of sexual behavior has a name: objectum sexual, meaning a person becomes attracted to, and even falls in love with, non-human (or even -animate) objects.
According to a perhaps-too-detailed report by The Metro U.K.:
[The woman] enjoys a “satisfying” sexual relationship with a fairground ride – a “magic carpet” themed ride named 1001 Nachts – and now plans to marry it. The 33-year-old rides the machine 300 times a year and uses pictures of it to satisfy herself at home.
Because she lives about 80 miles from the amusement park, the relationship has been long-distance. But even if Wolfe relocates to be closer to “her” ride, we’re willing to bet this marriage will have, er, more than its fair share of ups and downs.
Discoblog: The End of Divorce? Growing Numbers of People Marrying Inanimate Objects
Discoblog: Love Potion Number 10: Oxytocin Spray Said to Increase Attraction
Discoblog: What Viagra? New Spray Increases Male Performance Time
Image: flickr / Thomas Euler
Despite the fact that they were born at the same time to the same mother, Justin and Jordan look nothing like twins, besides having the same skin color. In fact, they look so different that James Harrison, the supposed father, decided to request a paternity test. Turns out, his instincts were right: One of the infants is his child, and the other is not.
Mia Washington, the mother of the “twins,” admitted to cheating on Harrison, her fiancé, prior to becoming pregnant. But she didn’t have any idea the pregnancy was a result of two separate sets of sperm.
Biologically speaking, this can happen when two or more eggs from the same woman are fertilized during the same ovulation period by two different men. When this rare event occurs, it is called heteropaternal superfecundation—and we really mean rare: There have only been about 10 other cases of this, according to the president of Clear Diagnostics’ DNA lab, Genny Thibodeaux. And in those cases, it was more obvious because the children were of different ethnic backgrounds.
Proponents of marriage like to toss around the statistic that married people (and married men in particular) are happier and healthier than the wretched ranks of the unwed. But new research has found that the happiness/health gap is narrowing, not because the married crew is losing its happy glow (though that may indeed be occurring), but because the single component is getting happier.
The study, led by Hui Liu, assistant professor of sociology at Michigan State University, used data from the National Health Interview Survey from 1972 to 2003. The researchers found that while the self-reported health of the married is “still better than that of the never-married,” the “gap has closed considerably.” Single women shouldn’t rejoice just yet: The uptick was due overwhelmingly to improvements in the health of never-married men. Liu thinks that this result may be “partly because never-married men have greater access to social resources and support that historically were found in a spouse.” (Female robots, perhaps? Or Internet porn?) Still, single women also saw an increase, and the singles health boost also spread across racial lines to both blacks and whites.
For those with one or more marriages in their past, the results aren’t as clear—the health of the the divorced, widowed, and separated worsened from 1972 to 2003 relative to their married peers (though whether entering into a second or third marriage increased your health wasn’t mentioned). So maybe the statistic should be revised to something like “first marriages and single-malehood, and possibly second and third marriages will make you happier and healthier.” Happy dating!