Photo of the day

From Telegraph’s Animal Photos of the week:

A raccoon reaches out with his paw to the hand of a visiting child at the zoo in Wiesbaden, southern Germany

A raccoon reaches out with his paw to the hand of a visiting child at the zoo in Wiesbaden, southern GermanyPicture: FREDRIK VON ERICHSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Physical attractiveness of athletes

Kim and I have both noted that there’s a lot of very attractive men participating in the World Cup.  This is most likely quite true and no accident.  Here’s some evidence from cycling:

IT IS unfair, but true, that beautiful people are more successful than ugly ones. Data indicate that this rule applies in both business and politics—and biological theory suggests the underlying reason is that beauty is an indicator of good genes and good health. How that reason translates into success, though, is more questionable. It could be that the pretty and handsome get a helping hand from their colleagues, bosses (and, in the case of politicians, voters) which is denied to the plain and the unseemly. Or it could be that beautiful people’s underlying qualities mean they really are better, on average, at doing things.

One way to disentangle these explanations is to look at a field of endeavour which is about as close as it is possible to get to a true meritocracy: professional sport. Though favouritism here might put you in the team, it will never land you on the winner’s podium. Erik Postma, of the University of Zurich, has therefore done just that, using long-distance cycling as his example. His results, just published in Biology Letters, suggest that good looks really do reflect underlying fitness, in both the athletic and the biological senses.

Dr Postma recruited 816 volunteers (72% women; 28% men) as judges in a beauty competition. He also assembled a collection of 80 mugshots of participants in the 2012 Tour de France…

Both sexes agreed on who was good-looking and who was not, though women tended to give those at the top of the list higher marks than men did—especially if the women in question were undergoing natural menstrual cycles. (Women on the pill gave assessments closer to those of men.) Overall, on the five-point scale Dr Postma used, the top 10% of cyclists in the race were reckoned 25% more attractive than the bottom 10%.

So there’s probably some real science behind this list.

Or that the Croatian soccer coach looks a lot like Joseph Gordon-Levitt

The Russian influence on NC State Senate elections!

A coalition of NC Environmental organization is running ads against NC State Senator Chad Barefoot (and other NC Senate Republicans) for their support of fracking.  (Some details here).  This race is especially notable to me as Barefoot’s opponent, Sarah Crawford, is a friend, former student of mine, and easily one of the brightest, hardest-working, most public-minded people I know.  It’s a tough race for her, but if elections were based on character, she’d win 80-20.

Anyway, since Barefoot doesn’t like being attacked for fracking (for the record, I support fracking with strong regulatory oversight, whereas most Republicans support fracking with minimal oversight and allowing companies to secretly put whatever poisons they want in the ground without telling us) his fundraising is blaming the Russians.  That’s right– the Russians.  From the always-awesome Mark Binker at WRAL:

THE EMAIL: Barefoot’s email references these “negative attack ads” as well as comments by a NATO leader that “Russians are ‘secretly’ joining forces with extreme liberal environmental groups to spread misinformation regarding energy exploration.” Although Barefoot stops short of saying this explicitly, the overall impression of the email is that “interests as far a field as Moscow and the Kremlin” are somehow playing a part in his state Senate campaign. Here’s the text of the fundraising email…

I’ll cut to the not-at-all-surprising chase:

THE CALL: Hit the brakes. There seems to be scant evidence that Russians are funding the European fracking debates, much less dabbling in fracking policy here in the United States. Experts say its unlikely, bordering on “silly,” to suggest the Russians would have the time, money or inclination to bother with a North Carolina legislative race. Therefore, we give this fundraising email a red light on our fact-checking scale.

Not to mention, the Russians support the Assad regime, and Assad regime has used chemical weapons, therefore a vote against Chad Barefoot is a vote for chemical weapons!  Or something like that.

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