Comment »Posted on Sunday 2 November 2008 at 3:46 pm by Jacob Aron
In Physics, Psychology, Weekly Roundup

Public understanding of science? Sautoy’d

Early this week mathematician Marcus du Sautoy was appointed to the University of Oxford’s Simonyi professorship for the public understanding of science, taking over from Richard Dawkins.

It will be interesting to see how his approach differs to that of his predecessor. I reviewed both Dawkins’ and du Sautoy’s most recent appearances on TV, so if you read those you probably won’t be surprised to hear I’m happy with this decision. Dawkins doesn’t really do science any favours with stunts like the “There’s probably no God” buses, and hopefully du Sautoy will steer away from religion and stick to the science.

Can certain colours make you more attractive? It’s not so red-iculous

Psychologists at the University of Rochester have published a study suggesting that for women, wearing red could make you more attractive. They found that men were also prepared to spend more money on a date with a woman in a red shirt, rather than a blue shirt.

Women shown the same pictures showed no such bias when asked to give an attractiveness rating, suggesting that there is a link with fertility, because as red is the colour of blood it can easily by used by a female animal as an external signal to a partner, according to Dr Jo Setchell, an anthropologist from Durham University:

“For example, a lot of female monkeys have bright red sexual swellings, which show that they are around the time of ovulation.

“There has been controversy over whether, in female humans, ovulation is advertised or not, although there is some evidence that behaviour, such as going out, changes around that time.

“But wearing red could give you an advantage.”

“Seriously, how hard can it be to come up with a pun about coughs?” he said

The New York Times has some rather nice images of coughs, candles, and other “invisible” liquids and gases. They were taken by engineering professor Gary Settles, of the gas dynamics laboratory at Pennsylvania State University, using a technique known as schlieren photography. By using a small, bright light source, lenses, and mirrors along with a razor blade that blocks parts of light beams, it is possible to view and even photograph the disturbances in the air caused by coughing and other phenomena.

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