Strange but True: Height can help when seeking success


Q: It's a tall order for people to increase their pay at the job, to get a better job, to become the company CEO, or when all goes really right to win a U.S. presidential election. So how might these ends be effected?

A: Via the hormone testosterone, which among other things increases physical stature, says Anjan Chatterjee in "The Aesthetic Brain." Additional height is something that most people like. Taller men, for instance, almost always win U.S. presidential elections, are more likely to be the CEOs of successful companies and to draw higher starting salaries. "The link between height and status goes both ways. People thought to be powerful are seen as a few inches taller than if they were thought to be relatively powerless."

On the romantic front, women tend to be drawn to men who stand at average or above average height, and such men are also more popular on personal ad sites. "To be very concrete about sexual selection, when choosing sperm donors in fertility clinics, women are more likely to want the sperm of tall men."

Q: Zeroing in on an old curiosity, is zero an odd or an even number?

A: This one's not so hard to answer or to prove, says Arthur Benjamin in "The Magic of Math." Odd numbers, as you know, are 1, 3, 5, 7, 9.... Even numbers are divisible by 2 — 2, 4, 6, 8.... Expressed algebraically, this means that even numbers can be written as n = 2 x k where k is any integer. Regarding 0, you can say 0 = 2 x 0, meaning that 0 is an even number. A smart proof indeed! You might EVEN say it's brilliant.

Q: Can anyone name the electrical engineer who invented the smartphone?

A: Don't count on it! And why would anyone point to an electrical engineer and not a mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, engineering physicist, etc. "The smartphone is undoubtedly the most complex electronic device commonly found in households, epitomizing the brilliance and wonder of current electrical engineering technology," argues Robert Lucky in "IEEE Spectrum" magazine. "The depth of complexity in a smartphone's circuitry, software and algorithms is such that any single engineer can understand only a fraction of its entirety."

Like many modern devices, it is a victory for society as a whole: Civilization is many different engineers putting their "smart" minds together to further technological progress.

Q: Are you a lifetime million-miler?

A: A million miles is 40 times around the world (25,000 times 40) or 300 flights across the U.S., says Bob Berman in "Zoom: How Everything Moves, from Atoms and Galaxies to Blizzards and Bees." Starting with data galore plus some savvy guesstimation, researchers arrive at 65,000 miles of walking for the average American today — not so different from people of times past. But today's estimated million miles for each of us was unheard of until recently. In fact, "the word 'million' didn't exist until the 14th century, before which the largest number was a myriad — 10,000." Also travel danger per mile was so great even as recently as the Civil War era that few people would have survived long enough to join the million-mile club.

Obviously, we're a whole lot more mobile today. Driving maybe 100 miles daily to work and back for 250 days a year makes you a million-miler within just a few decades.

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