Today I Learned…

…that H.M., one of the most important neuroscience patients in history, died this week.  H.M. had anterograde amnesia stemming from an experimental brain surgery he had more than 50 years ago to alleviate severe epilepsy.  Henry Molaison had been unable to create new memories for about a half century, and died without ever having any knowledge of what he contributed to the field of neuroscience.

Today I Learned…

…something very interesting about how we talk about sex in English.  All of the “vulgar” verbs for the sex act are transitive verbs — in that they can fit into the construction John verbed Mary (please substitute Joan and Larry respectively, one or both, if you prefer):

fuck, screw, hump, ball, dick, bonk, bang, shag, pork, shtup

All of the more polite verbs are intransitive — they require a preposition to introduce the sexual partner:

have sex, make love, sleep together, go to bed, have relations, have intercourse, mate, copulate

Gotta love how attitudes towards sex are encoded in the very grammar of the language we’ve all agreed on.  Got this from Steven Pinker’s book The Stuff of Thought, which I would recommend for anyone who is nerdy on the cognitive science or language level.

Today I Learned…

…that wearing red can boost a woman’s sex appeal.

I guess we’ve all heard of that theoretical/clichéd pinnacle of womanhood, the “woman in the red dress.”  Well, it seems that there might be something to that — and why she’s not in a green dress, like I thought she should be.  According to a study from the University of Rochester (they have nothing better to do — it’s Rochester), heterosexual men with normal color vision rated the same woman 1.25 points higher on average on a 7-point sexiness scale, “with 1 being the least sexy and 7 being a white-hot sex goddess.”

First of all, please tell me that quote was actually in the operational definition of sexy.  Second of all… well, there’s really no second of all.  I just want that to actually be how they defined it, word for word.

The CNN.com writer, like any “good” science “journalist,” goes on to ask ridiculous questions which have nothing to do with the data in an attempt to lengthen their article.  “That’s nice, but given the looming election, one might wonder: Does wearing red make you more attractive in the voting booth too?”  Give me a break.  Just once I want a science writer for a mainstream media outlet to not make a fool of themselves talking to a researcher.  It’s not that it’s not a valid question — there’s a ton of money out there in the political realm to try to make candidates look better on TV with different color ties and whatnot, and it’s taken on a whole new importance and scale with the emergence of the modern female major party candidate in Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.  The problem is that there’s nothing in the data that could even begin to suggest a link there, and trying to force a scientist into making an irresponsible leap like that is questionable at best.

The researcher does go on to say that they measured what other effects the color red may have, and… “[they] only found the effect for attraction, so males don’t rate females in red as more intelligent, more likable, or as having a better personality; they only rate her as sexier and more attractive.”

I guess what I take away from this is the following: all you smart, awkwardly sexy girls out there?  Keep wearing green and I’ll still drool, you white-hot sex goddesses you.

Today I Learned…

…that chartreuse is the most visible color there is.

Chartreuse, a yellow-green hue, excites more of the cones in your retina than any other wavelength of light because it falls right smack in the middle of the visible light spectrum.  Your cones are tuned for red, green, and blue light (approximately either end of the visible light spectrum and green near the middle), and chartreuese contains sizeable amounts of all three of these colors.

Because of this, many cities have begun phasing out the traditional “fire truck red” (which, incidentally, figured in the very first sentence I ever uttered, “Look mom, big dog, red truck.”) in favor of a yellow-green color which will be easier to spot.