Gorge on passion: Scare your sweetie into love


DRAWING BY DEBORAH DERR McCLINTOCK

Q. To summarize the "bridge theory" of romance, "Adrenaline makes the heart grow fonder." How might you put this to work in winning over your own sweetie? –C. Goren

 A. Researchers had an attractive woman approach male strangers coming off a long narrow swaying footbridge high over a deep gorge, and ask them to fill out a questionnaire–supposedly for a sociology class. Then the men were invited to "call later for the results, if you're interested."

As it turned out, these interviewees were far more likely to make a call than a control group of men who met the woman right after crossing a low, safe bridge. Upshot: Passion can ride piggy-back on fear, anxiety, or other emotional states, so take your date to see a thriller movie or for a heart-pounding roller coaster ride.

Q. Do dreams take place in an instant, as has been suggested, or do they unfold in real time? –S. Freud

A. A famous dream, reported by 19th century French scholar Alfred Maury, took him back to the time of the French Revolution, when he was found guilty of treason and led to the guillotine. Suddenly, he saw the blade begin to fall, then felt it sharply on his neck! He awoke in terror to find that a rod from the canopy over his bed had fallen across the back of his neck, right where he had felt the blade strike. From this, Maury concluded that the richly detailed dream had played out instantaneously, triggered by the falling rod. Nice try, Al.

Modern researchers have since put dream time to the test: They tracked the brain waves of sleepers and waited for the onset of REM sleep (for "rapid eye movements," and associated with dreaming). After five minutes or so, they sprayed water on the dreamers, then awakened them moments later. Under these conditions, subjects usually reported something like, "I was hit by a sudden rainshower at the end of the dream."

But when the experimenters waited five minutes between the spraying and the awakening, about five minutes' worth of dream story line was reported following the water event. Conclusion: Psychologists today believe that external events become incorporated into dreams rather than trigger them, which take place in something close to real time.

Q. If planets in our solar system were rated on their hospitality to life, which one would come in dead last? –C. Sagan

A. Venus, our "sister planet," with a diameter and density much like Earth, but all family resemblance ends there, says Bob Berman in Secrets of the Night Sky. Day and night, the forecast never varies: highs around 850 F., lows around 850 F. It's a stygian sauna, more scorching than even sun-hugging Mercury because of its thick atmosphere trapping heat. This is the infamous "greenhouse effect," the place that put the phrase on the map.

Worse, the Venusian surface is hit with 90 times the air pressure of Earth, making it the most efficient pressure cooker in the solar system. "A few seconds would turn the cow who jumped over the moon into beef stew. The first Russian spacecraft lasted just 23 minutes before it could no longer transmit its nightmarish report from the surface," Berman relates.

Q. Take a trip down memory lane as you see how many of these classic mnemonic devices you can decode, from Spencer Rathus' Essentials of Psychology: 1. Every Good Boy Does Fine 2. Roy G. Biv 3. HOMES 4. Mercury's very eager mother just served us nine potatoes 5. Turn the letters D and B on their sides 6. May I have a large container of coffee? 7. Poor Queen Victoria eats crow at Christmas. –C. T. Magnificent

A. 1. Musical treble clef notes EGBDF 2. Acronym for colors of the rainbow, red to violet 3. The Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior 4. Order of nine planets out from the sun 5. One hump for Dromedary camels, two for Bactrian 6. First eight digits of mathematical pi, 3.1415926, by counting letters in each word 7. Seven hills of Rome–Palatine, Quirinal, etc.

Send Strange questions to brothers Bill and Rich at strangetrue@compuserve.com.