When women are too angelic as angels
I received three bags of hate mail after last week’s column and its intimation that women may, in fact, be worse drivers than men. (Yes, in my imagination my fan mail still arrives via the post office, in big canvas sacks. (And yes, in my imagination I receive fan mail.)) You might think, then, that I’d stay away from potentially incendiary gender-difference topics this week. You, of course, would be wrong. Probably because you’re a woman. Kidding! No, you’d be wrong because I don’t shy away from anything here at “The Social Animal.” What do I look like, a girl?
Anyway, my point is that there is a study in this month’s issue of my favorite journal about the theory and practice of entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship, Theory & Practice, about how the so-called “stereotype threat” might be to blame not only for girls’ math scores in school, but also for timidity among women “angel” investors (groups of wealthy investors who pool resources to make investments into a diverse group of start-up companies). Researchers found that when women represented a small percentage of an angel group, they tended to invest less aggressively than when they represent a more proportionate share. “When there is only a handful of women participating in these groups, their status as women, who are less aggressive investors, induces greater reluctance to invest,” said John Becker-Blease, one of the co-authors of the study. “But as the proportion of women increases, women investors are made less aware of their status, and invest with greater confidence.” All of which is fine and dandy — confidence is usually a good thing — but it’s also worth noting the distinction between aggressive investing and effective investing. In fact, that exact topic is the subject of a new book about how and why women are actually better investors than men. The book’s title? Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl.
And now, to a long-term investment of a different kind…
Ladies, can I interest you in a man who actually has a chance to keep up with you in the long run? Someone who won’t drop dead of a heart attack at 58, leaving you widowed and lonely and dependent on the strong but gentle touch of a new, much younger, probably Latin lover? Might I suggest the proverbial nice guy? Perhaps a low-key beta male? According to a new study of wild baboons in Kenya, the troops’ alpha males reportedly suffered from high stress, demonstrating levels equal to even the lowest ranking members of the troop. (For those of you wondering how great it would be to leave the stress of your own job behind and go study apes in Africa instead, it might be worth pointing out how the baboons’ stress levels were calculated: namely, via their fecal samples.) “The stress,” as The New York Times nicely summed it up, “was probably because of the demands of fighting off challengers and guarding access to fertile females. Beta males, who fought less and had considerably less mate guarding to do, had much lower stress levels.” I can relate. Keeping my well-stocked stable of cute Jewish astrophysicist lingerie models from mating with lesser males in Brooklyn is positively exhausting. I barely have time for this column.
Scratch that. Your man will die first no matter whom you pick.
A new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention — great summer beach reading, by the way — has shown that more men in the U.S. are getting cancer than women. Dr. Michael B. Cook and other researchers at the National Cancer Institute analyzed data from a large database that contained statistics from 1977 – 2006 on 36 types of cancer. Given the seemingly infinite number of variables one would expect to encounter with that much data, it’s probably not surprising that the scientists weren’t able to zero in on a “singular root cause” to explain the differences.
Another reason to get your world rocked in bed
Along with outdoor movie screenings and sex on the beach (the act, not the drink), hammocks have always been on my list of Things That Are Better in Theory Than in Practice. (It’s hard to find one that doesn’t squish your arms together, and the netting is never as soft as it looks, and it’s basically impossible to make it work with two people, which is sort of the whole point if you’re hanging out in the type of place that would have a hammock anyway, no?) But as a big fan of all things sleep-related, I may have to revise my thinking. Neuroscientists at the University of Geneva found that a gently rocking bed not only helped study participants fall asleep faster, but also produced more “effective” sleep. Apparently the rocking motion increased both the length of N2 sleep, a key component of non-REM sleep, and the frequency of slow oscillations and “sleep spindles”—brief bursts of neurological activity associated with memory and brain plasticity.
Stay tuned for the 2041 Alberta syrah blend
Attention all oenophiles and pretentious winos who like to refer to themselves as “oenophiles”: finally, a reason to care about global warming after you recover from last night’s three-too-many glasses of ’95 Chateau Haut Brio Bordeaux. Apparently climate change is not only causing catastrophic worldwide drought, melting millennia-old glaciers, and killing polar bears, but it’s also—and here the squeamish may want to stop reading—potentially affecting some of the world’s great wine-making regions. A new study from Stanford University says that vineyards in California could shrink by 50% over the next 30 years, and regions in France, Spain, Italy, and other prolific wine-producers could become “effectively desert.” Bad news for wine-lovers and “French Paradox” believers both. At least one wino—er, vintner—isn’t worried, however. Andy Beckstoffer, of Beckstoffer Vineyards in Napa, thinks climate change could even make his grapes better. “This global warming,” he said, “it’s getting warmer at night, which might mean that we get more flavor development. So, there is a chance for a silver lining here.” Totally. Thirty years from now, when I’m dehydrated, malnourished, and being chased by a polar bear who has wandered down from the Arctic, I, for one, will be thinking, There’s something about this merlot that makes it marginally better than the 2011.