Friday, August 13, 2004

Hey Benny You're So Fine

Say it with me now, soft and slow in your most sultry bedroom voice: "Ben...Ben...Ben." Getting a little weak in the knees? Need a cold shower and not sure why? Turns out my name has that effect on people:
So what are the ingredients of a sexy name? For boys, a good name will contain vowel sounds made at the front of the mouth, such as 'e' or 'i' sounds; names with fuller, rounder vowel sounds such as 'u' tend to score lower. So pat yourself on the back if you're called Ben... but if your name is Paul you might have to work harder to snare a date.
They discovered this advantageous phenomenon by posting 24 pictures on, an online meat market where users can rate people's attractiveness on a scale from 1 to 10. When the photos were accompanied with names like Ben or Mike they scored higher than with names like Paul or Ralph. The conclusions of this breakthrough scientific work sound good to me. It's the researcher's explanation that makes me a bit uneasy:
The finding that men with 'small-sounding' names are attractive might seem counterintuitive, Perfors admits. "Front-mouth vowels imply smallness," she says. "But when girls are looking for mates, they don't necessarily want a super testosterone-charged guy. They want someone who will hang around and be a provider."
Small-sounding?! Provider? What happened to my raw sex appeal? I want women to jump into bed when I growl my singular syllable of sexiness, not size me up for future child rearing! I was thinking more along the lines of "Who's your daddy?" than Daddy Dearest. Guess you can't have it all. At least I'm not a Paul.

For more cool science, don't miss the Annals of Improbable Research's Ig Nobel Awards. One of last year's ground breaking winners was "An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces." As my friend Brad says: Science!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Milennium Park -- Chicago

The Bean
Chicago, one of the country's most beautiful cities, just got $475 million of new jewelry, including a gigantic chrome coffee bean and multi-story video screen fountains for kids to splash in. Don't miss this amazing photo essay on a daring new public space.

Learning by Performing

Blogging is anything but a one-way medium. It's a multi-way, raucous network of conversations. Some will just lurk, read, and absorb but others will be moved to write a response in your comments or on their own blog. The sphere of chatter allows one person's thoughts to feed into all the others. We're all watching each other. We're all performing for each other. My friend Lalarene's question "Is blogging a world of voyeurism or exhibitionism?" sets up a false dichotomy. The answer when it comes to most new technologies is yes and yes, an additive world of multiplicity and choice. Look out onto the millions of connected individuals, each only a random google away from peering through the window you've opened to your brain. Welcome to the global stage where you're both actor and audience.

The public conversation allows everyday people to produce and share their own digital culture, tinkering with ideas like with a car, adding a little horsepower to a puttering argument, painting flames on an underappreciated classic. All those parts we leave lying around in our heads, a stunning insight after that third cup of coffee, a rant festering under intimidation and rules, can come out:
Blogging...blurs the distinction between the private and the doing both private and public communication simultaneously, you can save both time and effort, and that might make it economical to engage in forms of communication with oneself and with others that would previously not have been possible.
Our narcissism fools us into putting those nascent, half-formed conversations out into the world: "Hell somebody'll get a kick out of this, even if it's just my mom." Knowing how much we like watching others, we get off on the hope others might watch us.