Vulture life-partners break up, the science of speed-dating and how depressing it is to be a parent.

A Griffon vulture stares into the distance, possibly pining for a lost love.

Brokeback Mountain: Vulture Edition
Not long ago, Yehuda and Daishik were just two male Griffon vultures in love. Starting in 1997, the pair, housed at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, exhibited all of the behaviors associated with mating, including building a nest and copulating. For years they also rejected the brazen overtures of interested female vultures. The zoo first tested the couple’s commitment by giving them a dummy egg, and the vultures treated it like their own. In an effort to raise more of the endangered species, the zoo then gave them a real chick, and Yehuda and Daishik went on to raise three adopted chicks over the past three years. All was sunny for these star-crossed lovers until last year when Daishik, the “Ennis” of the pair, left Yehuda and partnered with a female vulture and was moved to Tel Aviv. This Valentine’s Day, in a final blow to their love, Yehuda finally took up with a female partner as well, venturing back into the closet. The zoo director said he has no intent to reintroduce the male vultures since they want to breed as many young as possible. You know, it could’ve been like that, always.
(source: Haaretz)

One Hand, One Heart, One Chin, One Smile…
It’s creepy how much people can look like their dogs, but maybe it’s even creepier how much some people resemble their spouses. If you always thought this connection was the result of your overactive imagination, fret no more: We are attracted to like-looking people because they have similar personalities and, a new study suggests, the longer couples stay together, the more similar they look like one another. Researchers asked 22 participants to rate the age, attractiveness and personality traits of 160 real married couples (participants didn’t know who was married to whom). The subjects rated couples similarly, and the longer a couple had been together, the closer their ratings were. The researchers suggest shared experiences can shape facial characteristics similarly. Well, that explains that nagging childhood conundrum: Why Mama and Papa of The Berenstain Bears look so much alike.
(source: LiveScience)

Speed Dating = Speedy Data
Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire has decided to conduct the first large-scale scientific experiment on speed-dating. Two hundred volunteers will first complete a personality test, then take part in a series of five-minute meetings and afterward rate how much they liked their dates. Wiseman hopes to determine whether people with similar or different personalities get along best. Well, Professor Wiseman, take a look at the study noted above: People should be so darn similar they start to look alike. But you definitely win points for creative experimental design and the potential for sparking love through science.
(source: Scotsman)

Chubby Checkers
Dove may be dovetailing with its new “Campaign for Real Beauty.” A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that looking at moderately heavy models actually lowers women’s self-esteem. The study demonstrated that seeing pictures of slightly overweight women makes ladies concentrate on how heavy they feel. When they looked at pictures of moderately thin models, the women perceived themselves as thinner and demonstrated an increase in self-esteem. But the results for the approximate means do not apply to the extremes: Women felt bad about themselves when they looked at extremely thin models and good when they looked at extremely heavy models.
(source: University of Chicago Press Journals)

No Sexual Selection
Let’s play Madlibs! “You come home from the maternity ward, proudly clutching your bouncing baby (noun) .” If your fill-in-the-blank response was “Who cares? I have a child! The joy!” You’re with a plurality of Americans surveyed in a recently published study. The 1,197 men and women surveyed overwhelmingly agreed that they would not use a simple medical procedure to choose the sex of their child; only 18% said they would. Additionally, 42% said they had no preference regarding the sex of their first child. Of those who did have a preference, however, two-thirds said they’d like their kid to be a boy. 
(source: WebMD)

Parenting is Depressing
The joys of motherhood and fatherhood are great and all, but a new study analyzing a survey of 13,000 residents of the US shows that parents are more depressed than non-parents. “But that’s just because they have to spend so much time taking care of their children!” you say? Nope. They’re still more depressed after the kids grow up and leave home or if they don’t have custody of the kids. “Then it must be a weird consequence of passing on their genes?” Nope. They’re depressed even if the kids are adopted or are stepchildren. While studies have long focused on the emotional toll of motherhood, this survey indicated that fathers are just as depressed as mothers. No wonder teenagers have so much angst: They’ve had to live with depressed people their whole lives.
(source: WebMD)

Give An Inch…
...And you’ll already be topping the results of the average penis enlargement. Surgeons at St. Peter’s Andrology Center in London report that two-thirds of men who underwent penis enlargement surgery are unhappy with the results. The average enlarged man only grew by about 1.3 cm (0.5 inches), so they didn’t get the porn star-sized schlongs promised by e-mail spam. This report is not to be confused with the study mentioned in this column a few weeks ago, stating most men are happy with their penile prosthetics. (Prosthetics are grand, enlargements are…baby grand.) The authors of the St. Peter’s report said that men who are unhappy with their normal penises should seek counseling, not surgery. But clearly the solution is to ditch both the surgery and the counseling and go straight for the penis pump, the only true path to well-hung glory. It is your bag, baby.
(source:BBC)

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Originally published February 19, 2006

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