This is the adorable way that a physicist proposed to his girlfriend, who is also a physicist :)
“Taking these results into account, the author proposes to Christie the indefinite continuation of the study. The subject’s response to this proposal should be indicated below”
I trust this was peer reviewed, and passed with flying colors …
Some of the Science of Love as told through selected tales of brain chemistry, by the guys at AsapSCIENCE.
Despite what those picture memes that you run into on Tumblr tell you, love is a complicated, incompletely understood interaction of many neurotransmitters, brain regions and complex human behaviors. It’s about a helluva lot more than just oxytocin, which instead of being called the “hug hormone” should really be called the “hype hormone”.
So if you want to be MY valentine, respect the beauty that comes in not completely understanding the science of love, a feeling so universal, so powerful … an unknown whose true nature that we continue to chase in so many different ways :)
Some adorable valentines inspired by nature, from the always wonderful Bird and Moon comic.
That middle one is especially cool. Certain species of ants “milk” sweet sap from aphids in order to get a sugary meal. It’s a biological relationship called “mutualistic symbiosis”. Maybe not love, but certainly a tight-knit bond.
The tricky part in designing [the algorithm] was how to take something mysterious — human attraction — and break it into components that a computer can work with.
How OKCupid’s love-matching algorithms work. Also see the math of finding love and how one woman hacked the algorithms of online dating to find her soulmate.
I love this look behind the curtain of finding a match in the modern age. Analyzing the scientific nature of love does not diminish its beauty and passion, but instead unlocks a new appreciation for how special that combination of neurochemistry, mathematics and human evolution truly is.
Combine this with my latest YouTube episode: The Odds of Finding Life and Love (with a Sagan cameo!)
What happens when we fall in love is probably one of the most difficult things in the whole universe to explain. It’s something we do without thinking. In fact, if we think about it too much, we usually end up doing it all wrong and get in a terrible muddle. That’s because when you fall in love, the right side of your brain gets very busy. The right side is the bit that seems to be especially important for our emotions. Language, on the other hand, gets done almost completely in the left side of the brain. And this is one reason why we find it so difficult to talk about our feelings and emotions: the language areas on the left side can’t send messages to the emotional areas on the right side very well. So we get stuck for words, unable to describe our feelings.
Robin Dunbar, Evolutionary psychologist, on what’s happening in our brains when we experience love.
It’s part of a new collection of Big Questions From Little People, brilliant scientists from Lawrence Krauss to Richard Dawkins answering the questions of children. It’s brilliant. Check it out at Brain Pickings.
Part of my job as a Science Guy™ is to kidnap widely disseminated platitudes, those comfort blankets of sweet sappiness that folks love to slap on top of pictures of sunsets and people in love, pull out their souls Temple of Doom style with my cold, scientific hands, and squeeze all the fun and truth out of them. It comes with the job description.
We need to talk about oxytocin.
If you Google oxytocin, which is what you do if you want to find out more about it, Wikipedia gives you this: “A mammalian hormone that acts primarily as a neuromodulator in the brain.” So far, so good. But oxytocin has been attributed to a lot of things that, well, there’s not a lot of strong scientific evidence for. And what there IS evidence for is not as simple as you’ve been led to believe. It’s getting bad out there. If you don’t believe me, just check out all the Tumblr posts tagged #oxytocin. If scientific evidence is your thing, maybe you want to read on?
This morning, if you were very quiet, you may have heard the screams of a livid British science writer blown in on the early Westerly breeze. Ed Yong, author of Not Exactly Rocket Science, had a conniption about oxytocin. Researcher Paul Zak, featured in this TED talk, had given his opinion on oxytocin as the “moral molecule”. You may have also heard it referred to as the “love hormone” or the “cuddle chemical”. While that makes us feel good (I mean, who isn’t intrigued by the idea that we could biologically explain love?), it does a horrible job at fully describing what oxytocin does.
Yes, oxytocin is released when you think about someone you love, from eye contact to intercourse. Yes, it helps mothers bond with their children. It is also released to make social situations more comfortable. But it also can make you feel envious. It can make people act less social or cooperative. A whole mess of other contradictory examples from Ed (who I also stole “schmoxytocin” from) are collected here.
It’s a complicated molecule, with a deep evolutionary history. And that history goes back long before vertebrates even thought about cuddling and canoodling. It probably does some of what people say, but how it affects our social behavior is probably more about the specific situation than it is dictated by C43H66N12O12S2.
So oxytocin wears many biological hats. You must realize that each of those hats is shared with a multitude of other signals and influences, past and present. I realize that’s a pretty awkward-looking hat, but work with me here. We need to study oxytocin carefully. Prescribing it may one day help people reach their emotionally fulfilled peak in life, to conquer fears and to overcome pain and loneliness. But it also induces premature childbirth and lactation. So, you know, maybe be a little careful.
If you’d like a take-home message, let it be this: It’s a romantic idea, in the truest sense of the word, that a neuro-hormone like oxytocin would be the cause of all that makes us feel warm and snuggly and the cure to all which makes us feel alone and cold. But things like love and parenting and social comfort are some of the most complex behaviors that we’ve developed in our journey to become human. They simply can’t, and won’t, be explained by a single chemical.
Except for maybe alcohol.
Maria Popova gives us this tidbit from Jesse Bering’s Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?: And Other Reflections on Being Human, a look at the social and chemical biology underlying some of humanity’s idiosyncracies.
Could heartbreak be an adaptive trait of an empathic species like ours? Do we hurt in order to spare relationships at all costs? And what has that done to our evolutionary genetics? What traits have we reinforced in our battle to save each other’s feelings?
[O]ne of the more fascinating things about the resignation/despair stage is the possibility that it actually serves an adaptive function that may help to salvage the doomed relationship, especially for an empathetic species such as our own…. [H]eartbreak is not easily experienced at either end, and when your actions have produced such a sad and lamentable reaction in another person, when you watch someone you care about (but no longer feel any real long-term or sexual desire to be with) suffer in such ways, it can be difficult to fully extricate yourself from a withered romance. If I had to guess — in the absence of any studies that I’m aware of to support this claim — I’d say that a considerable amount of genes have replicated in our species solely because, with our damnable social cognitive abilities, we just don’t have the heart to break other people’s hearts.
More at Brain Pickings.