January 29, 2008

Smell, Algorithms or China

Ah love.  Every February we are treated to scads of articles about love, romantic love, and how to find it.

Time magazine looks at The Science of Love especially the importance of smelling right.

One of the most primal of those desires is that a possible partner smells right
Scent not only tells males which females are primed to conceive, but it also lets both sexes narrow their choices of potential partners. Among the constellation of genes that control the immune system are those known as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), which influence tissue rejection. Conceive a child with a person whose MHC is too similar to your own, and the risk increases that the womb will expel the fetus. Find a partner with sufficiently different MHC, and you're likelier to carry a baby to term.
Saliva also contains the compound, a fact that Haselton believes may partly explain the custom of kissing... "Kissing," she says simply, "might be a taste test."

One thing that throws us off the scent is the birth-control pill. Women who are on the Pill--which chemically simulates pregnancy--tend to choose wrong in the T-shirt test. When they discontinue the daily hormone dose, the protective smell mechanism kicks back in. "A colleague of mine wonders if the Pill may contribute to divorce," says Wysocki. "Women pick a husband when they're on birth control, then quit to have a baby and realize they've made a mistake."

While John Tierney in The New York Times explores online match-making and competing algorithms in Hitting it off, Thanks to Algorithms of Love

As the matchmakers compete for customers — and denigrate each other’s methodology — the battle has intrigued academic researchers who study the mating game. On the one hand, they are skeptical, because the algorithms and the results have not been published for peer review. But they also realize that these online companies give scientists a remarkable opportunity to gather enormous amounts of data and test their theories in the field. EHarmony says more than 19 million people have filled out its questionnaire.

If neither of those work, you can always go to China to find a husband as Ellen Graf did in Our Joy Knows No Bounds or Lanes

At 46, I had been burned to ash by divorce and had crawled back toward life, sometimes on hands and knees. The common wisdom is that people, in seeking love, risk losing themselves, but I did not fear this loss. And I thought that not choosing for myself might work better than choosing. I didn’t wonder about what my perfect person would be like. I was way beyond that kind of amusement.
Somebody must be looking out for us. A few years ago, my life was roadworthy but lonely — it cried out for an intervention. Now every day feels like a wild car ride with Zhong-Hua: lurching and unpredictable, but rich with humor, determination and devotion.

Posted by Jill Fallon at January 29, 2008 10:57 AM | Permalink