Category Archives: Science And Society

The World’s Oldest Profession

It apparently goes back further than mankind itself. The New York Times reports the first observed case of monkey prostitution:

Something else happened during that chaotic scene, something that convinced Chen of the monkeys’ true grasp of money. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of money, after all, is its fungibility, the fact that it can be used to buy not just food but anything. During the chaos in the monkey cage, Chen saw something out of the corner of his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind. (Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.)

The World’s Oldest Profession

It apparently goes back further than mankind itself. The New York Times reports the first observed case of monkey prostitution:

Something else happened during that chaotic scene, something that convinced Chen of the monkeys’ true grasp of money. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of money, after all, is its fungibility, the fact that it can be used to buy not just food but anything. During the chaos in the monkey cage, Chen saw something out of the corner of his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind. (Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.)

Don’t Know Much About Biology

In discussing AIDS drug prices, Derek Lowe notes that:

I’ve known some pretty good Brazilian scientists, but the country isn’t up to being able to discover and develop its own new ones. (Very few countries are; you can count them on your fingers.)

I’d never thought about this, but I imagine it’s true. There’s a reason that so many countries send students to the US (and the UK, and few other places) for their education. I recall a chapter in one of Feynman’s autobiographies, in which he described the state of physics education in Brazilian universities. It was basically rote memorization, with no apparent comprehension of the actual meaning or applicability of the formulas. It would be interesting (and sad) if that remains the case.

Don’t Know Much About Biology

In discussing AIDS drug prices, Derek Lowe notes that:

I’ve known some pretty good Brazilian scientists, but the country isn’t up to being able to discover and develop its own new ones. (Very few countries are; you can count them on your fingers.)

I’d never thought about this, but I imagine it’s true. There’s a reason that so many countries send students to the US (and the UK, and few other places) for their education. I recall a chapter in one of Feynman’s autobiographies, in which he described the state of physics education in Brazilian universities. It was basically rote memorization, with no apparent comprehension of the actual meaning or applicability of the formulas. It would be interesting (and sad) if that remains the case.

Don’t Know Much About Biology

In discussing AIDS drug prices, Derek Lowe notes that:

I’ve known some pretty good Brazilian scientists, but the country isn’t up to being able to discover and develop its own new ones. (Very few countries are; you can count them on your fingers.)

I’d never thought about this, but I imagine it’s true. There’s a reason that so many countries send students to the US (and the UK, and few other places) for their education. I recall a chapter in one of Feynman’s autobiographies, in which he described the state of physics education in Brazilian universities. It was basically rote memorization, with no apparent comprehension of the actual meaning or applicability of the formulas. It would be interesting (and sad) if that remains the case.

Do You Have To Be Psycho

…to be successful in business? Here’s an interesting article about your boss, the potential psychopath:

…cynics might say that it can be an advantage to lack a conscience. That’s probably why major investors installed Dunlap as the CEO of Sunbeam: He had no qualms about decimating the workforce to impress Wall Street. One reason outside executives get brought into troubled companies is that they lack the emotional stake in either the enterprise or its people. It’s easier for them to act callously and remorselessly, which is exactly what their backers want. The obvious danger of the new B-Scan test for psychopathic tendencies is that companies will hire or promote people with high scores rather than screen them out. Even Babiak, the test’s codeveloper, says that while “a high score is a red flag, sometimes middle scores are okay. Perhaps you don’t want the most honest and upfront salesman.”

Another Shocker

Having org@sms relieves stress in women.

Who woulda thought? Where is Obvious Man when you really need him?

I’ll bet there are millions of men sending this link to their wives and girlfriends as I type.

And yes, I am in fact trying to establish a reputation for this blog as all womens’ org@sms, all the time. I mean, it can’t be all space and dog rape.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s an entertaining Free Republic thread about the article.

Imagine My Shock

…to discover that women can fake org@sms. I found this part interesting:

When women genuinely achieved an org@sm, areas of the brain involved in fear and emotion were deactivated. Those areas stayed alert however when women were faking it.

The researchers also found that the cortex, which is linked with consciousness, is active during a fake org@sm but not during the real thing.

Sounds like fun research for all involved. You have to wonder, though, if some of the response is influenced by the experimenters. I’d think that it would be kind of hard for people to do what comes naturally when they know they’re being observed. Sort of a variation on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

[Update on Monday evening]

At the risk of alienating a large (perhaps, even likely, intelligent) portion of my readership, I nonetheless feel compelled to ask, is this why blondes have more fun?

Brain Size Follow Up

I think that a lot of people misunderstood me in this post, judging by the comments.

I’m not claiming that brain size correlates perfectly with intelligence, and that size is the only factor of interest. Obviously, there’s no reason to think that a non-human brain twice the size of a human brain would be expected to be smarter. My point was that for humans, with normal brain configuration, it’s a reasonable assumption that a bigger brain is generally going to be smarter than a smaller one. There’s just room for more brain stuff that constitutes smarts (and I don’t think that transport speeds have much relevance, relative to numbers of neurons).

With regard to Gould, yes, I did read The Mismeasure of Man, and I also read between the lines. He was a dedicated Marxist, and the very notion that there could be a correlation between “race” (and yes, I know that this is an imprecise concept, and a social rather than biological construct) and intelligence would have been anathema to him, which was why it was so important to him to debunk it. I have no particular beliefs about whether or not whites are on average smarter than blacks, or vice versa, but I think that it’s absurd to claim that it’s impossible for there to be any gross correlation between intelligence and melanin content. Anything that’s heritable will have variability in human populations, and anyone who doesn’t think that IQ, however measured or defined, doesn’t have a heritable component is indulging themselves in the blank slate fallacy.

Of course, the whole issue, while it may be of scientific interest, shouldn’t be so societally controversial. So what if whites are dumber, on average, than blacks, or vice versa? We don’t deal with average people–we do, or at least should, deal with individuals. It doesn’t matter what group I come from if I have a high IQ, and am one of the people raising the average for that group. Such research cannot rationally be used to justify any particular social policy, at least any that’s congruent with the Fourteenth Amendment.