Daddies' girls prefer daddies' looks, a baby monitor shows NASA's missions, and espionage comes to a lab near you.

Daddy Dearest
Yesterday, you probably demonstrated your love for your Father with a new necktie, a family brunch, or yet another Frank Sinatra album. Hey, if you love your Dad so much, why don’t you marry him? According to a new study, you just might. Well, of course you won’t marry your actual father, but a paper in a forthcoming issue of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior indicates that women who had good childhood relationships with their fathers are more likely to be attracted to men who look like their dads. In the study, 49 Polish eldest daughters picked the most attractive face out of 15 different stimuli. Researchers took several measurements of each of the sample faces and each of the girls’ fathers and surveyed the subjects about their relationships with their dads. Women who rated their relationship highly showed a substantially stronger correlation between the proportions of their father’s face and that of their favorite stimulus than other women. The authors say their findings support previous research showing a relationship between the faces of parents and spouses. They also note that “well known ‘daddies’ girls’” back up these findings—for example, broadcast journalist Nigella Lawson’s husband Charles Saatchi bears a more than passing resemblance to her beloved father, Nigel Lawson.

Spacial Visualization
So, after a long day of diaper changing, you’re sitting in the kitchen, having a relaxing dinner, thankful that your baby is finally asleep. Just to be sure that the kid is in peaceful slumber, you flip on the baby monitor, only to find an image of your small child…docking with the International Space Station? Such was the tale of science teacher Natalie Meilinger of Palatine, Illinois, whose baby monitor recently started picking up a NASA video feed of the space shuttle Atlantis at the ISS. Ms. Meilinger and her husband Tom have seen a live space walk, pictures of the Earth from afar, and mission control, all from the comfort of their own baby monitor. NASA has no idea why their public feed is being picked up by the Meilingers’ monitor—all of the other monitors in the area are just showing babies—but apparently engineers at local television station CBS 2 are on the case! Stay tuned for updates. The couple is now keeping the monitor on all day every day, but they’re not always paying attention to 3-and-a-half-month-old Jack Meilinger. How could spitting up and babbling compare to astronauts and space?

Ivory Tower of Terror
Does a graduate student in your lab or local university keep strange hours? Does he show unusual interest in scientific information that lies outside his prescribed tasks? Does he secretly talk to foreign people? If so, beware! He is exhibiting several espionage indicators and might be a spy or terrorist. FBI agents are currently warning the nation’s top universities that they should keep their eyes peeled for potential foreign spies or terrorists infiltrating research facilities. The FBI plans to travel around New England over the next few months, offering faculty training on how to spot a bad apple who hopes to steal research. The agency’s website warns that spies could pose as international students or visitors in order to gain access to sensitive or classified information. They could use their knowledge to undermine US defense technologies, and they could use student visas to sneak into the country undetected. The FBI has offered its services to universities who wish to report “unnatural or unexplained interest” in research, said Worcester Polytechnic Institute president Dennis Berkey. So, professors, if you notice a quiet foreign student in your lab who works late into the night and is really, really into your science, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Make Love, Not War
The story may be years old, but this week, the blogosphere shook with the less-than-new news that in 1994, the US military had proposed to build a “gay bomb,” a non-lethal weapon that could put enemy units in the mood for loving and make them attracted to each other. The Sunshine Project, a biodefense watchdog organization, obtained the military proposal, “Harassing, Annoying, and ‘Bad Guy’ Identifying Chemicals,” from the Air Force’s Wright Laboratory via the Freedom of Information Act. The proposal calls for the development of chemicals that could, say, “attract annoying creatures to the enemy position and make the creatures aggressive and annoying.” But the proposal also mentions developing chemicals that could affect human behavior: “One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior.” Pentagon officials confirmed to CBS that military leaders had indeed considered developing such a weapon, but the proposal was ultimately rejected. Some gay community leaders said the idea was at once offensive and almost laughable. Geoff Kors of Equality California said, “It’s just offensive that they think by turning people gay that the other military would be incapable of doing their job.”

Super Happy Fund Time
When you propose an experiment that will determine whether time can run backwards, there are two things you can be sure of: Scientists will be skeptical, and the public will be excited. University of Washington physicist John Cramer experienced both of these reactions when he proposed a table-top experiment to test whether “retrocausality,” communication in reverse time, could explain quantum entanglement, when the states of two particles separated by a distance coordinate with each other instantaneously. Traditional funders such as NASA and DARPA rejected Cramer’s grant proposal, but excited civilians have come forward with funds for the unconventional research. Through the generosity of a music industry executive, a rocket scientist, an artist, a chemist, and a gas-and-oil man, Cramer has raised $35,000 for his research. Music mogul Mitch Rudman justified his contribution saying, “This country puts a lot more money into things that seem to me much crazier than this.” Businessman John Crow also noted, “Heck, if it works we can go back in time and get our money back.” Well, Cramer’s only trying to see if light operates under a skewed version of time, he’s not trying to transport us quite yet, but if that’s what’s making you fund science, Mr. Crow, you don’t need to know that. Hey, at least the donation is tax deductible.

Originally published June 18, 2007

Tags research risk social science space time

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