Adventures in Ethics and Science

As I turned on the lights this morning, the younger Free-Ride offspring graced me with some faces.

Younger offspring: This one (eyes squinted and teeth wide in a gappy second grader smile) and this one (eyes bugged out and mouth in an O of horror) creep people out. My mad look (eyebrows lowered and eyes rolled upward in a glare) doesn’t creep people out.

Dr. Free-Ride: Maybe that’s because people see it so often.

Younger offspring: Anyway, it’s my look.

Dr. Free-Ride: Kiddo, I was giving people that look long before you were born, and your grandfather was giving it to people long before I was born.

Younger offspring: Do you mean it’s genetic?

Dr. Free-Ride: Between genes and environment, it was probably inevitable that one of my kids would be giving me that look.

Younger offspring: A friend from aikido told me that one of her classmates has a wide-eyed scary look that makes everyone who sees it cry.

Dr. Free-Ride: Really?

Younger offspring: Really!

Dr. Free-Ride: Do you think it’s because of the scary emotions people are used to having when they see a scary look like that, or do you think it’s the look itself that makes people cry?

Younger offspring: I think it’s the look itself that makes people cry.

Dr. Free-Ride: Hmm. We might need to do a cross-cultural experiment to see. Maybe people other places would think some of our scary looks were funny or bored or something, and maybe we’d find their happy looks mad or scary.

Younger offspring: I still think maybe a look could just make everyone cry.

Dr. Free-Ride: Maybe. There are some things that all humans are supposed to react to the same way. For example, there’s a particular sound-frequency that some people say makes people poop themselves.

Younger offspring: Really?

Dr. Free-Ride: The scientific evidence is not good, but apparently people in the military think so. The sound wave is supposed to set up a resonant frequency with the bowels that makes them let go. That would assume we share that resonant frequency, which seems kind of weird.

Younger offspring: And the military uses that sound on people instead of guns or bombs? I guess that’s good.

Dr. Free-Ride: Hmmm.

Younger offspring: My look (flashing the glare again) isn’t that powerful.

Dr. Free-Ride: That’s OK. I’d rather have a look make me cry than make me poop.


  1. #1 donquijoterocket
    January 23, 2009

    Just injecting but didn’t the guys on mythbusters deal with that “brown note” conjecture? I believe they ended up discounting the possibility that sound of a certain pitch or volume could cause defecatory distress.Still I’m impressed that the younger offspring had heard of the hypothesis and would bring it into the conversation you report, but then I’m often impressed by your offspring.

  2. #2 Isis the Scientist
    January 23, 2009

    Don’t tell the older Sprog, but I think the younger may be my favorite.

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