Good advice from house finches?

We are definitely not down on birds here, but still one doesn’t think of them as aces at practical reasoning.  But, however they arrived at it, male house finches have a great strategy.  One doesn’t need the strategy if one’s an ornate bird; those birds can just stay where they are and they’ll have mates.  But the less ornate ones can do very well if they move around social groups. 

The message:  if you want a partner and haven’t been able to find one, change or expand your social circle.

This was uncovered using network theory.  I’m sure I’ll use this example somewhere…. Meanwhile, we might try to decide who in the  picture below will be  moving on:

The research is reported in Nature, July 22, 2010, and it appears originally here.

Pink Sari Gangs

We did a post about these back in 2007. But there’s now a much fuller story at Slate.

The founder of the gulabis is the fearless Sampat Pal Devi, 40, who was married off at the age of 12 to an ice-cream vendor and had the first of her five children at 15. The gulabis, whose members say they are a “gang for justice,” started in 2006 as a sisterhood of sorts that looked out for victims of domestic abuse, a problem the United Nations estimates affects two in three married Indian women. Named after their hot-pink sari uniforms, the gang paid visits to abusive husbands and demanded they stop the beatings. When obstinate men refused to listen, the gulabis would return with large bamboo sticks called laathis and “persuade” them to change their ways. “When I go around with a stick, it’s to make men fear me. I don’t always use it, but it helps change the mind of men who think they are more powerful than me” says Pal. She has assumed the rank of commander in chief and has appointed district commanders across seven districts in Bundelkhand to help coordinate the gang’s efforts.

Pal’s group now has more than 20,000 members, and the number is growing.

As J-Bro notes, pink isn’t always a sign of weakness. (Thanks to him, Mr Jender and Kitchen Chick for the story.)

Class divisions in the UK – health

One way in which class divisions manifest themselves is health: in short, poorer people tend to be less healthy than rich people. The UK government has, over the years, attempted to narrow the health gap. But a recent review of deaths between 1921 and 2007 has shown that people in the most deprived areas are still more likely to die prematurely than people from richer areas. The Guardian article is here.

Gendered food

Ever wondered why chocolate is for girls, and steak is for boys? (Ever wondered whether chocolate is for girls and steak is for boys?) Well wonder no more, because those lovely scientists have been doing some researching and come up with some answers – which contradict each other, of course. First up, there’s the innate difference brigade, who claim that women are genetically predisposed to prefer sweet food, whilst men are genetically predisposed to prefer bitter tastes. This is why men prefer beer and women prefer alcopops. Then there are those in the evolution camp, including our old mate, David Katz. Men need more protein because they were hunters, so they prefer to eat meat. Delicate ladies like ourselves, however, can get by on vegetables, because we just evolved to sweep the cave and pick a few carrots. (Anyone know how much protein’s involved in making new humans? I’ll wager a fair bit’s required to make all those little brains and nervous systems and muscles and bones and… ok we get the picture). Third, there are those folks who realised that a proper study of gendered food preferences might want to peer past the US boundaries and see what all those foreign types were eating. And hey presto, they found that things were different overseas. Spanish women and men craved chocolate equally – it wasn’t just those Spanish lasses locking themselves in a bath to feast on well-known chocolate treats, whilst Egyptians all preferred salty foods. Finally, there’s Brian Wansink, director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab (wow – who knew such a place existed?), who has discovered that people like to eat food that they’ve been told reflects or embodies the sorts of qualities they want to have or see themselves as possessing. So food choices are an extension of people’s identities. But this is a phenomenon that is more prevalent in the US (and perhaps the UK?) where there is an abundance of food. In places such as India, for example, attitudes to food are different – it is considered sacred – and there are less gendered food preferences. So there you have it, folks. You can read more here.