Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MIT Gangnam Style

How MIT does Gangnam Style.

Look for the cameo by Noah Chomsky!

Sciency Jack-o-Lanterns

Happy Halloween!

Here are some sciency pumpkins for your enjoyment. Now I'm going to look for some will power to not eat every piece of candy in sight.

Carl Segan pumpkin


Pumpkin Pi

Skeleton hand pumpkin

Leaves and Science pumpkin

Space Shuttle pumpkin

Equation pumpkin

Anatomical Heart pumpkin

Mitosis pumpkin

(via The Segan SeriesCells in Culture, Science Stuff on FB, forevergeek, and

Monday, October 29, 2012

MMM...Chocolate Braaains!

Tis the season for candy everything, and Halloween is a perfect time for candy body parts of all kinds.

Check this out: chocolate brains! Not just any chocolate brains though. These edible brains are made at the 3D technology company Inition. The brain-shaped chocolate candy is created using sliced data sourced from an MRI scan of co-founder Andy Millns' brain. So how do you use an MRI to create a chocolate brain? Easy:

Step 1: Convert sliced DICOM data into the STL file format (a 3D geometry format widely used for 3D printing)
Step 2: Edit that model to clean up
Step 3: Print a 3D solid model
Step 4: Produce a latex mold
Step 5: Cast chocolate
Step 6: Eat your brain while making "mmm...braaains!" noises

After consuming his own brain, Millns said: "I've been involved in some weird 3D projects over the years at Inition but eating my own chocolate brain was one of the most bizarre."

You can get the full instructions for creating a chocolate brain, and lots of neat computer images, over at Instructables.

Additional chocolatey brain links:
Inition blog story "Inition Co-founder Eats His Own Brain"
Laughing Squid story "Edible Chocolate Brains Created From MRI Scan Data"
That's Nerdalicious blog story "Company Creates Edible Chocolate Brain From MRI Scan Data"

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Marine Biology of Pokémon

I was never really a Pokémon fan, but I thought this was cute.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How NOT to Promote Science to Women

I truly had a facepalm moment when I saw this video.

This video was published by the European Commission for a campaign designed to attract more women - or girls, rather - to a career in science, showing them that "science does not just mean old men in white coats." They designed it to "speak their language to get their attention," to be "fun, catchy" and strike a chord with young people. Instead it looks like an shallow fashion magazine. One of the video's comments sums it up nicely: "Science!!! Its good for creating MAKEUP! And you can look hot doing it!!" 

The original video was taken down after it received so many negative comments. Omigod, I like totally challenge you to guess why.

(via Huffington Post, VideoSift, and GeeksAreSexy

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Rocky Mountain Parnassius Problem

Lately, I've been thinking about butterflies. I won't subject you to the interesting, if slightly convoluted, train of thought that led me to today's paper (this post is long enough as it is), but suffice it to say that we are back on the topic of butterflies and climate change. If you remember, back in March I wrote about a paper that explored how a single climate parameter can determine population dynamics in a butterfly species, the Mormon Fritillary (Speyeria mormonia) - An Early Spring Isn't Always a Good Thing. In that case, it was how snow melt time in the first year would affect butterfly fecundity through flower abundance.

Along these lines, a preprint in the journal Ecology takes a look at how regional climate, particularly winter and winter extremes, affects annual rates of population change. We know that climate change is causing range shifts in many species. Good examples of this can be seen in high elevation, typically mountainous regions. The idea here is that a warmer climate facilitates growth in areas where a colder climate had previously prevented growth. However, this warming trend is not the only prediction attached to climate change. Variability in climate and weather and the extremes of seasons and events are also expected to have a large impact on ecological processes. This means that not only do species have to respond to general climate warming but also to general and local extremes. Long-lived vertebrate species with overlapping generations may be buffered to this because such these extreme changes act primarily on a single age class or cohort. Short-lived, univoltine (one brood or generation per year) ectothermic species have little to no buffering, meaning the entire population is affected by these extreme events.

The authors of this study use long-term (15 year) estimates of population size for 21 subpopulations of the Rocky Mountain Apollo butterfly (Parnassius smintheus Doubleday) in Alberta, Canada. This species is common in the alpine meadows of the Rocky Mountains of North America. They are known to overwinter as pharate larvae inside the egg, hatching in May, feeding on their obligate host plant (Sedum lanceolatum), pupating in late June, emerging as adults in late July, and the females ovipositing on their host plant through August. Although they are common, they tend to occur in relatively small subpopulations, having limited dispersal, which makes them good for metapopulation studies and studies of local changes. The researchers estimated population size in each subpopulation using mark-recapture data. The climate variable they chose was the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) index, an index shown to have strong correlations with their chosen study site. This index “contrasts the spatial distribution of sea temperatures between the northeastern and northwestern Pacific Ocean after correction for mean global temperature…providing a single integrative measure of climate across western North America through its strong temporal correlation with both temperature and precipitation.” A positive PDO means that warm water is along the coast and are associated with warm, dry years inland. A negative PDO means that cooler water lies along the coast and are associated with cool, wet years. They used both annual PDO as well as seasonal PDO values corresponding to stages of the life-cycle that were of particular interest. Then they ran some models that I won’t go into (I’ve used up a lot of space and I haven’t even gotten to the results yet!).

These models showed that “more frequent climate extremes pose important consequences or animal population growth affected by climate.” They found that winter values of the PDO were a strong predictor of annual population growth. The effects of climate in these butterflies was found to be curvilinear wherein both extremes (too warm and too cold) result in population decline. This suggests that the variability and extremes predicted by climate change models will greatly affect the population dynamics of species such as this and that there may be less opportunity for them to adapt to general climate warming as the occurrences of these extremes increases. Additionally, the curvilinear nature of these results suggests some complications in the mechanisms involving range shifts. Their data support range shifts (either poleward or elevational) in that climate warming may sustain a positive population growth, although low latitude and low-elevation range margins might be affected more causing negative growth.

Are these results applicable to all species? No. P. smintheus is an alpine species that is naturally subjected to a cold, unpredictable environment, and, as such, they exhibit several behavioral, morphological and physiological adaptations. This means that curvilinear results of the model suggest multiple climate-related factors that need to be teased out (temperature, precipitation, snow cover, snow distribution, etc.) and that the PDO index itself may have a range with extreme values on its edges. Because these are extreme factors rather than just gradual shifts in climate, conservation planning could be more difficult over the long term. The extremes themselves decrease populations and the variability shrinks geographic ranges (depending on event and climate interactions) also causing decreases. Perhaps helping to curtail the effects of the short-term weather extremes may help in the long-term. As yet it is unknown, and, as with most science, needs more investigation.

I encourage you to read the entire paper. There are additional ideas and fleshing out of these conclusions that are particularly interesting.

ResearchBlogging.orgRoland, J., & Matter, S. (2012). Variability in winter climate, and winter extremes, reduce population growth of an alpine butterfly Ecology DOI: 10.1890/12-0611.1

There are also a couple of articles that have nice interviews with the authors:
From EurekAlert! and the University of Alberta: "Climate change isolates Rocky Mountain butterflies"
ScienceDaily's article: "Climate Change Isolates Rocky Mountain Butterflies" 

(image via GeoLocation)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Nye Needs Help

How can we ignore a plea from Bill Nye the Science Guy? I'm thinking "We can't" may be the only acceptable answer to that. Here's what he's asking us to do:

"We are at a crucial turning point in the history of planetary exploration.

After the wild successes of Cassini, the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and the breath-taking skycrane landing of Curiosity, the future of NASA's planetary exploration program lies in doubt.

Earlier this year, the proposed 2013 budget included a 21% cut to the planetary sciences division within NASA. This division is responsible for all robotic space exploration beyond the Earth and Sun. This cut represents a major setback for the program. Major missions are not possible on this budget, and merely maintaining support for current missions would be difficult.

Right now, we're asking our members and supporters to send a message to the President. Can you help?

The Planetary Society is in the middle of a long-term campaign to reverse these proposed cuts. We've organized our members to contact politicians and staffers at the national budget agency to express their support. We've been spreading the word to the public and meeting with key decision-makers on Capitol Hill. Our CEO, Bill Nye, has visited Washington, D.C. multiple times, and we've worked closely with our lobbyist in Congress.

Together, we can get the budget we need to support for our planetary endeavors and Save our Science."

Go over to The Planetary Society website and look for a big red link button about mid-way down the page that says "Write to the President." It will bring up a form letter that you can keep as it is or personalize as much as you wish. Take 5 minutes to be a science activist.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


When I build new environmental sensors I feel like I need to do this...

...and then I say "Please work!"

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Science Debate 2012

Warning: Today's post is political in nature, but don't worry, it is really sciency too.

I am posting this because it directly relates to science, and even though it deals with American politics, the resulting policies will impact the rest of the world. I'm not taking a political side and all of the links presented here give equal time to each side.

If you are interested in science - education, policy, funding, etc. - then you should check out Science Debate 2012.

In November 2007 a small group of U.S. citizens -  two screenwriters, a physicist, a marine biologist, a philosopher and a science journalist - wanted to work towards restoring science and innovation to America's political dialogue. So they put together Science Debate 2008. The idea was very simple: A presidential debate on science. This idea turned out to be very popular. Within weeks, more than 38,000 scientists, engineers, and other concerned Americans signed on (see who here and sign in here). It became so popular as to grow into the largest political initiative in the history of science, representing over 125 million people. These people submitted thousands of questions they wanted the presidential candidates to answer about science and the future of America (submit your own question here).

Long story short, the candidates refused. They refused even after the Science Debate team secured cosponsors in the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Council on Competitiveness. They refused after bipartisan congressional co-chairs were secured. They refused after a deal was made with NOVA and NOW on PBS to broadcast the debate, and a venue was secured. Instead, the candidates opted to debate their religious faith in two nationally televised "faith forums." In my opinion, we probably didn't need two of those, one would have gotten the point across nicely.

Want to stun the scientific and engineering community? That is how you do it. Considering that the questions that would have been asked at this debate lie at the center of most of the major unresolved policy challenges facing the country, it is kind of amazing that the candidates would refuse to debate them. So what was the next step?

The Science Debate team culled their thousands of submitted questions into "The Top 14 Science Questions Facing America," and teamed with Research!America to do a national poll to show the candidates that 85% of the American public thought that debating these topics was important. That's a large percentage, one the candidates couldn't really keep ignoring. Response attained, televised debate still refused. The candidates assembled teams of science advisers to help them answer the questions in written form. That's good. It helps inform the candidates' strategic thinking and gets them to look, in detail, at topics that they really should have already been looking at. The result: The inauguration of Barack Obama marked the first time a president has gone into office with a fully formed science policy and a sense of how it fits into his overall strategic agenda.

Now the U.S. is on the verge of another election. Are we getting our Science Debate 2012? Unfortunately, no. But both candidates have answered "The Top 14 Science Questions Facing America." Science Debate 2012 gives a nice side-by-side comparison of the candidates answers. Now, I know that many of us Americans have already picked our candidate, but I still encourage everyone to read through the responses to these questions. Both sides!
Perhaps just as interesting, the Science Debate 2012 team partnered with Scientific American and posed a subset of eight of the 14 questions to thirty-three members of Congress in leadership positions on the nation's science-oriented congressional committees. Six of them declined outright, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, who were asked to participate because of their overall responsibility for the flow of legislation through Congress. Several more ignored numerous requests from ScienceDebate and Scientific American. Nine of the thirty-three responded. If you think about it, the U.S. Congress is a very powerful branch of government (more powerful than many Americans realize), and so I also encourage everyone to read the few responses that were sent.

My parting words on this topic: If you can vote, please vote!

Nov 1, 2012 UPDATE:
This morning a Presidential Surrogate Debate was held called "After Sandy: Climate Change, Science, and the Next 4 Years." This debate featured Obama campaign surrogate Kevin Knobloch and former Republican congressman and Delaware governor Mike Castle, and it was moderated by Chris Mooney of ClimateDesk Live and Shawn Otto of -- Watch it here:

Watch live streaming video from climatenexus at

If you want to keep reading on this topic:
Scientific American article: "Does Congress Get a Passing Grade on Science?"
Science Magazine article: "In a Torrent of Campaign Rhetoric, Hints of Science Policy"
LA Times' article: "Obama and Romney answer questions about science policy"
The Scientist's article: "Obama's Science Report Card"
... and more!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Wine-ific Method

I tend to buy wine like I buy books: by their cover. Give me a good label and I'll probably give it a try.

This is why when I came across the wines of the Roots Run Deep Winery I got all kinds of impressed in the science-nerd part of my brain. Roots Run Deep is a Winery out of Napa Valley, California, and they pride themselves on producing great wines that are also affordable. In my opinion, they should also pride themselves on their wonderful naming and labeling system.

Meet Hypothesis, a Cabernet Savingnon that is 100% produced from a brand new winemaking technique called "flash detente." "This technique is an all natural and organic pre-fermentation process that simply involves quickly heating and cooking the skins of the fruit before beginning fermentation." As far as wine names go though, this one is pretty good.

Next, meet Educated Guess, a Cabernet Sauvignon that got its name "during a lively, second bottle of wine conversation about winemaking styles, vineyard sites, and the progressive escalation of wine prices without comparable increases in quality. The discussion the proceeded to the 'art vs. science' aspect of winemaking and after a few more glasses of wine...'Educated Guess' was born!!!" Not only is the name great, I find the label to be spectacular! The label was "deigned to tell the story of how you can make an educated guess in winemaking," showing you "the actual winemaking formulas that are either induced or naturally occur during a specific winemaking process." I'll drink to that!

Head over to the Roots Run Deep Winery website to learn more about their unique wines.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dinosaurs, Diversity, Distribution, and the LBG

For some reason I am in the mood to read a biogeography paper. I didn’t really have a particular topic in mind when I started looking, just a few journals I occasionally peruse. Then I came across a paper about palaeodiversity and the distribution of dinosaurs. I like dinosaurs and I like biogeography. So this must be a win-win. I haven’t visited the idea of dinosaur community structure and distribution since my Dino Eco post back in 2010. That paper concluded that the entire Western Interior of North America may have once been populated by a single dinosaur community with low beta diversity. Today’s paper looks at dinosaur diversity on a global scale. Last month, authors Philip Mannion et al. published a paper in Global Ecology and Biogeography that used the dinosaur fossil record to examine spatial patterns in terrestrial biodiversity.

To really get into this paper we’ll have to first explore the latitudinal biodiversity gradient (LBG). The LBG is essentially a biodiversity pattern in which species richness (a simple count of species) is highest in the tropics and declines polewards. It is a well-recognized pattern with causes that are a little less clear and that are still strongly debated. The two strongest hypotheses are that climate is the prime driver that influences biodiversity directly or via increased productivity in the tropics (warm areas are more hospitable and produce more food) or that the global distribution of area where the greater land area supports more species (the more land you have the more species will fit on it). The fossil record offers a deep time perspective that may help figure out the causes of the LBG we see today. The authors of this study chose a group of animals that was widespread, ecologically diverse, well studied, belonged to a long-lived clade, and had a fossil record that was adequate for the application of sampling standardization techniques. This gave them dinosaurs of Mesozoic terrestrial ecosystems for 160 million years, from the Late Triassic to the terminal Cretaceous (230-65.5 Ma).

Mannion and his colleagues decided to use genera as the taxonomic unit of analysis for their study as the species scale can be inconsistent in its taxonomic treatment and the family scale tends to have arbitrary content (some families comprise a single genus while others are diverse). They then assembled a comprehensive dataset of Mesozoic dinosaur genera (738), including birds. Using the Paleobiology Database, they compiled stratigraphic ranges and modern geographic coordinates for occurrences, converting modern day coordinates to paleolatitudes using software called PointTracker (uses palaeogographical reconstructions of continental drift to transform present-day coordinates to past ones). They used a number of different methods to account for sampling biases in the fossil record, and they analyzed the data in seven time slices representing epochs and then the entire Jurassic and cretaceous periods as bins.

The authors found that dinosaurs did not conform to the modern LBG. Dinosaur diversity was found to be highest at temperate latitudes rather than tropic. This result was consistent across the different time slices suggesting that the pattern was not controlled by climate fluctuations; in fact, it is possible that the Mesozoic climate gradient was much weaker than it is today. Rather, or because of this weakness, the driver of this diversity was likely the result of greater land area in these latitudinal belts. These larger land areas may also have facilitated the gigantism attained by many dinosaur species.

Figure 3 Residual dinosaur diversity (thick solid lines) after controlling for numbers of dinosaur-bearing collections (DBCs) and formations (DBFs), plotted against non-marine area (NM area) and palaeogeographical reconstructions (using Mollweide projections) for the Late Triassic (bottom), Jurassic (middle) and Cretaceous (top). From Mannion et al. (2012)
Unfortunately, these results suggest modern diversity patterns cannot be extrapolated into deep time. Guess we'll have to look somewhere else. However, it does add support to the hypothesis that land area is the primary control on the terrestrial LBG during times of weakened climatic gradient. And that, on its own, is a really interesting conclusion. The contrary, modern vs. past result also indicates that there may have been some kind of shift that took place during the middle Cenozoic that gave rise to the diversity patterns that we see today. I think I see a future study!

ResearchBlogging.orgPhilip D. Mannion, Roger B. J. Benson, Paul Upchurch, Richard J. Butler, Matthew T. Carrano, & Paul M. Barrett7 (2012). A temperate palaeodiversity peak in Mesozoic dinosaurs and evidence for Late Cretaceous geographical partitioning. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 21 (9), 898-908 DOI: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2011.00735.x

Also, check out this guest post by article author Philip Mannion over at Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings blog: "Guest Post: Dinosaurs and the latitudinal biodiversity gradient"

(top image titled Dinosaur Diversity by Elliot Merton III found on Dinosaur Central)

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Paper Bird Projects

Diana Beltran Herrera is an artist that is inspired about everything that exists in nature, animals, humans, everything that has a life, a shape, a color. She questions "what is the life, where is the point where it starts...everything that exist in the space, and then, discover that in this relations, things are created, transformed, improved in this constant evolution." For her, the movement is the big question and she wishes it understand it in a way that it can be communicated to others and allows people to relate to one another.

These first three pictures belong to her project Salida de campo (Field Trip) where she collaborates with Colombian photographer Victoria Holguín to put the art "subject" into a real context that provides information about its relationship to the environment.

These next three pictures are from her Colibri investigations project where she explores hummingbirds and their relationships to plants.

These final three pictures are from her Studies of movement project where she analyzes the movement of birds in relation to space.

If you like these then go over to Diana Beltran Herrera's website to see lots more!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Google Goes Underwater

If you have been online ever then you are probably familiar with Google Street View, the interactive panorama feature within Google Maps. Over the past couple of years Google Maps has expanded past the terrestrial roads we drive everyday to more exotic locales such as eye-level images of Antarctica, inside NASA's Kennedy Space Center, floating down the Amazon, and through the halls of famous museums.

Now Google Maps is going underwater. On Wednesday, the site added panoramic undersea images of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, visages of the waters off the Apo Islands in the Philippines, and the wonder that is the underwater life around the Hawaiian islands. It even has zoom features that allow you to get close up looks of coral and fish. These photos are part of a partnership with the Catlin Seaview Survey, a project working to document the world's reefs in 360-degree images so that scientists can study them. Their partnership with Google is an attempt to get people involved in the fate of these ecosystems and to understand how oceans play a role in the health of the planet.

The images you see were taken by a camera called SVII that was custom-designed for the Catlin Seaview Survey. The design of the camera was inspired by sharks, and it is a rapid-fire camera that can be controlled by a tablet in a watertight housing. When a picture is taken it also records GPS data along with the exact angle at which the photo was taken. However, taking images at greater depths (30-100m or 98-328ft) becomes a little more complicated. The Survey crew will need to send down a special remotely operated vehicle outfitted with remote-controlled digital single-lens reflex cameras. Right now you can browse through the 15,000 available panoramic photos. And keep a look out for more photos in the future. The team would like to have between 50,000 and 100,000 pictures by the end of next year, expanding to sites like Bermuda, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and the Coral Triangle.

Learn more here:
World Wonders Project
Google article: "Dive into the Great Barrier Reef with the first underwater panoramas in Google Maps"
CNN Tech article: "Stunning undersea panoramas now on Google Street View"

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Anatomical Barbie

Last year, at about this time, I posted about TreeTop Barbie, a specially made Barbie doll from the Forest Canopy Lab at The Evergreen State College in Washington.that had special field work clothes made for it.

Now, meet Anatomical Barbie! Artist Jason Freeny has created this hand sculpted, anatomically accurate Barbie doll. You can see his process over at his Facebook page.

Sources and links: blog - Jason Freeny's Artworks and Illustrations blog
The Colossal's story "Anatomical Barbie by Jason Freeny"

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hey, I Could Be Your Girlfriend

In the immortal words of Avril Lavigne: “Hey hey, you you, I don't like your girlfriend / No way, no way, I think you need a new one / Hey hey, you you, I could be your girlfriend...”

Do I need to apologize for subjecting you to that? I almost feel as if I do. But it serves my point, I swear. Let’s say that the song was not titled “Girlfriend,” but instead was called “Mate Poaching.” Admittedly, it doesn’t really have the same ring to it, but that is essentially what she’s talking about.

Human mate poaching is when someone tries to attract another person who is already in a relationship. This special form of attraction comes in both the short-term (the casual sexual dalliance) and the long-term (“If they only knew we were soul-mates!”) varieties. You can also look at it from different perspectives, the poacher or the poachee. In the latter, you have what is called mate poaching enticement where the person in the relationship is trying to attract someone new. Regardless of the duration, the interaction involves at least three people in a complex web of emotions, conflict, and sex (usually secretive sex). Put that together and you’ve got one good psychology study and several mediocre movies on your hands. Think about it: Romance, attraction, competition, persuasion, deception, jealousy, betrayal. It’s like the Hollywood checklist. But, being a science blog and this coming from a science paper, we’ll stick to the psychology study part.

Now, I’ve done quite a few posts on relationships. Most of these have to do with the attraction of one sex to another. Today we look at the other end of the relationship. A slightly older paper published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin delves into mate poaching enticement. How do you attract someone when you have this extra relationship component? Studies have shown that it is the same way you attract someone otherwise. Men tend to like beauty and sex, and women like the resource acquisition and dominance. You’re shocked, I can tell. However, mate poaching has several unique aspects or tactics. For example, targeting the mating rival and manipulating that emotional commitment. It also has costs that range from a blemished reputation to an all-out physical smack-down from the offended party. This paper looks at the former, the tactics, that people use to elicit a poaching attempt on themselves. The researchers do this by separating their study into two studies:

Study 1: What tactics do people use to entice another into making a mate poaching attempt? 

A preliminary study was conducted to identify and name mate poaching enticement tactics so that they could be rated for effectiveness in the main study. In the main study, they gave participants a sheet of paper asking for their sex and containing an instructional set. These instructions explained mate poaching enticement, gave a list of tactics compiled from the preliminary study, and asked the participants to rate the acts on a 7-point scale. They found that already-mated men who were seeking a short-term relationship had the most luck using the tactics “Enhance Potential Mate” (boost their ego, compliment them, tells them they deserve someone better), “Use Humor”, and “Provide Easy Sexual Access” (offer sex, ask for sex, make a pass). If a man is seeking a long-term relationship then his best tactics are “Enhance Potential Mate,” “Be Generous” (show you are a caring person, be extra polite, help with work or chores), and “Use Humor.” The researchers found that already-mated women seeking a short-term relationship had the best luck when the “Arrange Easy Sexual Access” (appear naked in room or car, turns a friendly date into a romantic one, suggests casual sex only), “Enhance Potential Mate,”, and “Provide Easy Sexual Access” tactics were employed. So, offer sex and thou shalt receive sex? Yep. For women seeking a new long-term partner, the best tactics were to “Develop Emotional Closeness” (confide in them, be good friends, talk about interests), “Mention Looking for Replacement,” and “Be Generous.” Overall, they found that enhancing an ego and being generous worked the best.

Study 2: What tactics do men and women use to disguise mate poaching enticement? 

People tend to use deception tactics to gain access to things that they want. Often these tactics both increase the deceiver’s perceived value while also hiding their intentions from the competition. You can probably see how this is useful in the scope of mate poaching enticement. Again, the researchers conducted a preliminary experiment to identify and name these deceptions and disguise tactics so they could be rated later. As with the previous study, they gave a set of participants an instructional set, asking them to rate on a 7-point scale how effective each tactic would be at hiding from a current partner the fact that someone is trying to attract a new partner. They found that women were seen as more effective when they used the tactics “Keep Things Normal” (don’t change physical look, keep daily routine), “Use Friends” (introduce new partner to a faithful friend, friends help in the cover up, continues to go out with friends), “Lie About Relationships” (future plans, family involvement), "Lie About Self” (lie about past, lie about ending current relationship, keep conversation routine), “Establish Independent Self” (open bank account in own name, separate credit cards), and “Social Isolation” (attend fewer events, don’t discuss new partner, don’t spend much time away from work or home). In contrast, men were more effective when they used the tactics “Decrease Time with Current Partner” (goes out less with current partner, avoid being alone with current partner) and “Use Work Excuse” (work more hours, extra projects, sneak away from work). In terms of social level, when deceiving a community it is best to use the “Distance Friendships” (stop hanging around with mutual friends, don’t tell anyone about new partner, think before speaking in public) tactic, but when deceiving a single person it is best to use “Phone Tactics” (give new partner a fake phone number, buy new cell phone, get separate line). Overall, it was found that the effective acts for men were those that showed others that his current relationship would continue unabated, providing his mate with a close emotional connection. For women to be most successful at deception they must show that they maintain their daily routine. Apparently acting as if nothing is different or even increasing romance and sex with her mate are especially effective in disguising a mate poach. Put simply: blind him with sex.

The more I read through this paper the more I felt like I was reading Science’s Guide to Cheating and Getting Away With It. I can’t say that any one thing in this study was particularly surprising. I don’t know if it is because it truly is predictable or if it is because we’ve all heard these excuses before. Hard to tell really. What do you think?

ResearchBlogging.orgDavid P. Schmitt, & Todd K. Shackelford (2003). Nifty Ways to Leave Your Lover: The Tactics People Use to Entice and Disguise the Process of Human Mate Poaching. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29 (8), 1018-1035 DOI: 10.1177/0146167203253471

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