When choosing a mate, you can't beat up-close chemistry

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | January 3, 2011 12:21 pm

My latest article in The Austin Statesman is now available online. It begins:

You would expect that with the virtual world at our fingertips, it should be relatively easy to locate an ideally suited partner. Yet in reality, the Internet has made navigating the dating landscape more challenging than ever. As I spent the past two years composing “The Science of Kissing,” I learned a great deal about what attracts two people together. It turns out that real chemistry involves many nonverbal signals that are impossible to detect when searching for love from behind a laptop.

Sure, there are obvious online benefits: The singles pool is no longer limited to one town or community, so those looking for a partner can literally shop through thousands of profiles as easily as looking for holiday gifts. In mere seconds, a long list of available men or women can be presented for consideration, a feat that might make even Genghis Khan jealous. Securing a date this way is a quick and efficient dip into a boundless sea — where there are always other fish.

Through an ever-growing number of website services, users gain insight into each other’s “personalities” long before they ever have a real conversation, exchange a single e-mail, or send a virtual “wink.” Prospective “dates” can be sorted by income, body type or any specified parameter — assuming the information they submit is accurate. Those who don’t fit your prescribed set of standards conveniently disappear before they even cross your screen so there’s no need to waste an evening on an awkward, star-crossed first date. What could possibly be better, faster, or a more reliable indicator of shared values and interests?

Science suggests it’s an old-fashioned, traditional encounter.

Read on…

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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.

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