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October 06, 2006

The IgNobel in Biology.

At last, one of the great problems in life is solved. Just what is it with women and shoes?

Now, bear with me here as this is new science, unsupported by much evidence but it will indeed be hailed as a great breakthrough.

Now, start from a universally acknowledged fact. Men's feet smell more than women's. Even when there are exactly the same number of foot washings and sock changes.

Previous research has shown that this is because men have fewer pairs of shoes than women. The smell gets concentrated in the shoes faster with men.

OK, but.....we still have no (and it is oh so fashionable to be able to point to a Darwinian reason for things, is it not?) reason as to why this shoe imbalance should exist.

Until this year's IgNobel prizes.

BIOLOGY - Bart Knols of Wageningen Agricultural University in the Netherlands, the National Institute for Medical Research in Tanzania and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria and colleague Ruurd de Jong for showing that the female Anopheles gambiae mosquito, which carries malaria, is attracted equally to the smell of limburger cheese and to the smell of human feet.

Riiight! It's an evolutionary race, a battle of the sexes. Before the invention of limburger cheese feet had to be used to ward off mosquitoes and malaria. As it is the smell of said feet that attracts them, there is evolutionary advantage in a mate with said smelly feety: they get bitten and you do not.

With the invention of shoes this application of game theory carries on. Women are in a race to have as many pairs of shoes as possible in order to lower the smelliness of their feet and thus be bitten less. Men are engaged in a race to limit their female companion's shoe buying budget in order to make their feet smell more, thue meaning that the men are bitten less.

From this basic situation we can go on to predict things like the Great Shoe Event Horizon.

See! It all makes sense!

Great, so, do I get the prize next year?

October 6, 2006 in Science | Permalink


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» Women and Shopping from Vivre La Différence
Hey, why not a controversial subject for a Friday afternoon? After Id done this tongue in cheek post for my own blog (women buy more shoes than men to keep the mosquitoes attacking the men. Seriously, backed up by real science!) I was reading, a... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 6, 2006 5:14:46 PM


Only an economist could have written that.

Posted by: james highamj | Oct 6, 2006 8:36:47 PM

Tsk, only someone with tongue firmly in cheek!

Posted by: Tim Worstall | Oct 6, 2006 9:00:12 PM