Rohit's Realm

// / archive / 2008 / 01 / 12 / scratch-and-sniff-love

January 12, 2008

Scratch and Sniff Love

As yet another quarter of law school ramps up at an entirely unforeseen velocity, I am often left with the none too consoling thought that perhaps, everything I did as an undergraduate will have absolutely no bearing on my life or career in any way whatsoever. I mean, in between reading about rapists and murders and 19th century contract disputes about bales of hay and gravel, it's hard to see why either biology or computer science are particularly pertinent. In other words, the four years I spent at Berkeley, while immensely enjoyable, just as well might have been spent chaining smoking cigs and pounding shots of the three wise men (Jim®, Jack®, and Johnnie®) while contemplating the meaning(lessness) of life with a loaded revolver to my head (what?). Luckily, just when the feelings of worthlessness were about to consume me entirely, along comes the venerable Economist to rejuvenate hope, if ever so slightly, with a fascinating article that validates (for me, at least) the four years of onerous study of such voodoo as organic chemistry and molecular biology. (All right, who am I kidding? I loved organic chemistry. Don't judge me.)

The article discusses a new dating site, Scientific Match, which is built on the premise that genes that define the MHC (major histocompatibility complex) in the immune system can (and do) play a factor in sexual attraction, specifically through body odor, which is influenced by the MHC. And apparently, MHC-compatibility is nothing to turn your nose up at: the net effect of complementary (i.e., different) immune systems promises better orgasms, a lower likelihood of cuckoldry, more happiness and so on. To translate, this research basically means that the way to the (much elusive, oft-discussed) goal of love and happiness (or at the very least, reproductive success) is to find the person you smell least like. Sure as hell beats quibbling over emotional (un)availability, right?

In any case, reading that article, especially the evolutionary genius of coupling sexual attraction with complementary immune systems, reminded me of why I chose to study biology in the first place: the elegance of the natural world is enchanting. And let's not forget the more practical implications: the next time I'm at a bar trawling (trolling?) and sniff the hair of a particular woman, instead of getting a slap in the face, I can impress her with my Economist-validated immunology skills. Win-win? I think so!


You sniff girls' hair at bars? Ew! Creepy!

Ain't nothing wrong with it.

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