Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Skunk of Trust. The Hazzards of Marriage.

Last night, I was talking to a friend, an artist and writer who actually doesn't hit the internet like a crack monkey after its fix pellets- unlike whom?

I introduced her to the idea of blogs. She was delighted to learn how they assist international exchange, reasoned debates and unstructured conversations. I described how blogs give people a safe way to reach out to others sharing their deeply personal concerns. I told her how they've allowed people on the ground in remote places and oppressive situations to become citizen journalists, how the distributed nature allows truths to filter to the surface quickly in the maelstrom of reactions. It was wonderful to restate for virgin ears what invigorates me about the fabulousness of the blogosphere, even if after all that, the sort of thing that I try to do here seems spindly by comparison. But it's an exciting world, right? And better that screwdrivers don't try to become hammers. So here's today's contrarian jumble.

1) Scientists are studying whether oxytocin is a hormone that helps people trust each other. "Of course, this finding could be misused," said Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich, the senior researcher in the study, which appears in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. No offense, Ernie, but you might be getting beyond yourself here.

There's a BIG difference between getting people to gamble away near-worthless experimental "monetary units" without consequence and getting them to trust in situations with real stakes. Also, should I have to point out that the less than 200 subjects were all 20-something men, a pretty nonrepresentative sample whose "trust" only increased 17% over the control group? I believe if the "trustee" were an attractive coed in a low-cut blouse versus a science geek, we could induce a greater change in behaviors than that. Don't get me wrong, the area of inquiry is interesting, but extremely preliminary. So am I alone in perceiving the article's lede as a trifle overheated?

Trust in a bottle? It sounds like a marketer's fantasy, like the fabled fountain of youth or the wild claims of fad diets. Yet that's what Swiss and American scientists demonstrate in new experiments with a nasal spray containing the hormone oxytocin... The researchers acknowledged their findings could be abused by con artists or even sleazy politicians who might sway an election, provided they could squirt enough voters on their way to the polls.

I just adore when they sex up the science and distort the results, don't you? But let's say we have now spawned a rash of cheats and crooks squirting people randomly. It's downright irresponsible not to cover how long the affect lasts and how you control the object of someone's trust. It's like this reporter and these researchers haven't even watched Love Potion No. 9.

2) This is the man who won the job as VP of the Dukes of Hazzard Institute. I'd been following the story since encouraging a friend and occasional reader to apply for the position. Well you'll have to cry into your Boss Hogg commemorative pillow, Daisy, 'cause it's too doggone late now. (HT: KJL, The Corner)

3) I'm traveling soon to celebrate a couple's 65th wedding anniversary, but they're pikers compared to the record holders, 100 year-old Florence whose been married to 105 year-old Percy for 80 years. (HT: ditto)

4) Who says rockers aren't smart? Still, we knew the genuis wouldn't be a drummer, didn't we? Jeff "Skunk" Baxter played with Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, but now he's one of our nation's top (self-taught) counter terrorism experts who began with his first crack at a rudimentary missle defense system. WOW, Skunk. That is some righteous gray matter, dude. (HT: PowerLine)

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