Monday, October 27, 2008

Of faces and asses...

This is the kind of research that deserves a nobel prize. This is the kind of research that will probably end up winning the ignoble prize.

Often times we have some of the most brilliant ideas and imaginations and questions as kids. Then we grow up, and spend the rest of our lives re-inventing the wheel. For example, you might have wondered about the fact that humans look different from each other, while different members of other species all look the same. You might have further wondered whether other species can recognize each other. And then you might have gone off to play cricket. And totally forgotten about it till now.

Apparently some people did not forget. Messers Waal and Pokorny, who presumably had no access to cricket games in which to forget said ruminations, based their entire careers out of that question. How do chimps recognize each other?

Hypothesis 1: They don't give a chimp's ass.

Hypothesis 2: They actually do, quite literally, and recognize each other by their asses! And faces, of course.

Mr. Waal and Mrs. Pokorny then played the children's game of match the following with some chimpanzees, with column A showing a bunch of faces, and column B showing a bunch of asses, jumbled up, of course. And the chimps passed with flying colours!

Naturally, the question then arises, can us humans win at the game too? Of matching faces and asses? Perhaps. But it is not important. Because, you see, chimps move about on fours (legs, I mean, not the other sort). So of other chimps, they see: 1) faces (when face to face), and 2) asses (when butt to face). The research thus makes perfect sense. With chimps, it makes sense to match faces and asses.

Humans, on the other hand, evolved (if you are a conservative nut, please read to the end of the post before taking any action) to move about on twos (legs again). The unfortunate consequence was that asses were no longer in the line of sight of people. Women, generally being smarter than men, evolved further, and developed breasts as a feature that would attract mates.

With this background in mind, I propose a similar "match the columns" experiment on humans. Except, in deference to evolution, asses must be replaced with breasts. For the sake of thoroughness, I also propose part two of the same experiment with asses. The fun part is that in the original experiment, both columns were featured purely by the test taking chimp's acquaintances, for very obvious reasons. Therefore, said test on humans must also feature only acquaintances of the test takers. Further, since it is the women that evolved breasts (and since no one really wants to look at a man's breasts), they will provide the pictures, while the men will take the test.

Is it sexist? You betcha. Ironically, its the women who brought this upon themselves. Is it unscientific due sample bias cutting off half the population? Maybe. But evolution is to blame for that. Testing applicants are requested to provide names of atleast ten female acquaintances.


SEV said...

We need to get v.scientific about this. Start with ass-face recognition between humans, and then between human and chimp. Presumably humans will fail the test, leading to debates on the direction of evolution. Then move to other body parts, starting with boobs. Again, presumably, the recognition rate will improve for humans, with evolution now "favoring" humans. Finally, face-face tests, at which time a statement will be made that it has been proved that humans are better evolved coz they are able to match faces to faces better than chimps.

I want an acknowledgment! Now!

Sailesh Ganesh said...

Yes, thats a good suggestion. You can include any and all body parts (including, but not restricted to faces, breasts and asses), in any combination, (such as match asses to breasts). I am willing to you make you my main assistant in this experiment :D

Harish said...