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Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

The Beauty of Science

March 25, 2011 1 comment

Scientists don’t like pseudoscience because it diverts attention away from the awesomeness of the natural world. The natural world instills a sense of wonder in scientists because of its diversity and complexity.

Pseudosciences hate real science because it points out the how ridiculous their claims are. But many people are more familiar with pseudoscience (bigfoot, UFOs, psychics etc) and it is these pseudosciences which instill their source of wonder in the world. As a result, many people feel scientists “ruin their fun” or “take the wonder out of everything” when we try to explain why these phenomena really aren’t that incredible.

I believe it was Ned Flanders who once said:

Science is like a blabbermouth who ruins the movie by telling you how it ends. Well, I say there are some things we don’t want to know. Important things.

But in fact the opposite is true. Scientists see the beauty in all things. Whether it be a mathematical proof, a chemistry demonstration, or a physics equation. (I have often hear physicists refer to Maxwell’s Equations as “beautiful”).

Maxwell's Equations. You don't have to know what they mean to know that they look cool!

If you read the xkcd webcomic, you know that I was inspired to write this post because of the comic posted today

So just because scientists spend their day in a lab or in front of a computer screen, this doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate the world around us. We probably appreciate it more than the average person.

It is sometimes said that scientists are unromantic, that their passion to figure out robs the world of beauty and mystery. But is it not stirring to understand how the world actually works — that white light is made of colors, that color is the way we perceive the wavelengths of light, that transparent air reflects light, that in so doing it discriminates among the waves, and that the sky is blue for the same reason that the sunset is red? It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it.  – Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994)

The Science of ‘Beer Goggles’

August 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Oh yes, we’ve all been there.

You knock back a few pints, maybe a few jager bombs and the party really gets started. You think maybe it’s the dimly lit dance floor, or maybe its because you have no idea what time it is, but that girl (or guy) your are dancing with suddenly seems a lot more attractive.

Colloquially, it is known as the Beer Goggle effect. Alcohol is making everyone in the room seem more attractive than if you were sober. It is a well documented effect, and psychologists are trying to nail down what exactly is happening to our brains when this happens.

A study recently published in the journal Alcohol (they have a journal for everything these days, even *guh* homeopathy) may shed some light on whats going on here.

Many studies have shown that when humans rate a person’s face as “attractive”, this is largely due to high levels of symmetry in the person’s face. For example, their nose isn’t crooked (like mine) or their eyes aren’t at different heights, things like that. Any asymmetries will cause attractiveness scores to fall.

So the way this study worked was the experimenters went to a bar after everyone had a chance to down a few drinks. They showed 64 students a series of pictures, some of whom were sober (the control group), and some were intoxicated. The students then rated a series of photos of faces, symmetric and some asymmetric, as attractive or not attractive.

The conclusion was that alcohol worsens our ability to detect symmetry in a peoples faces, consequently making them appear more attractive (not surprising).

What WAS surprising about this study though, was that alcohol affected women’s abililty to detect symmetry more than men. So women actually have a stronger “Beer goggle” affect than men. Crazy.

Of course, guys tend to get much more rambunxios when they are drinking than women, so that’s why this result may be surprising.

But cool stuff. Next time at the bar if you are worried about bringing home an ugo just make sure you look at them in bright light, before turning out the light.

Cheers everyone!