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The Dorsal View

Tall tales on where our political leanings lie

The relationship between a person’s height and their income has been the subject of a number of studies. The British Household Panel study from 2006 looked at more than 9,700 adults and took into account their height, income and political leanings and found that, simply put, taller people tend to earn a little more that their shorter counterparts. 

Now researchers have used that UK data in an effort to determine whether height is any indication of political leanings.

Dr Sara Watson, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Ohio State University, US, and co-author Mr Raj Arunachalam, found that greater height is strongly associated with more conservative political leanings.

This applied not only to their personal opinions, but also to the type of political parties they vote for.

The discovered that a one-inch increase in height was correlated with increased support for the UK’s Conservative party by 0.6 per cent, while that extra inch increased likelihood of voting for the Tories by 0.5 per cent.

In terms of the height-income relationship, Dr Watson suggested that it was elementary: “I’ve always been struck by this research because I am five feet tall and typically, I’m the shortest person in the room. It seemed unfair that shorter people seem to pay a penalty in the labour market.”

But the real revelation from the data related to political persuasions of taller folks. It was found that they were more likely to agree with statements such as ‘government should place an upper limit on earnings’ and ‘major public services and industries ought to be in state ownership’.

The findings (published in the British Journal of Political Science) stood up, even when variables such as religion, marital status, level of education, cognition, utilisation of public healthcare services and race were taken into account.

Dr Watson said: “It was important to us to figure out if the effect of height on voting could be explained by factors that have nothing to do with income… it was a robust finding.”

The height-political leanings association was twice as prominent in men as in women, but was present in both genders — an extra inch of height resulted in a 0.8 per cent increase in support by men for the Conservatives, compared to 0.4 per cent for women.

The height-income relationship was also apparent.

An extra inch of height was linked with an additional €408 additional regular income and an increase in Conservative voting tendencies of approximately 5.5 per cent, with a 10 per cent increase in income.

“Height is useful in this context because it predicts income well,” Dr Watson said. “Because we only expect height to affect political behaviour through income, we can use it to investigate the effect of income on voting.”

‘Five-second rule’ debunked

Remember the ‘five-second rule’ from childhood? Next time your little one drops a sausage on the floor and invokes the old ‘rule’, feel free to print this off and introduce them to some evidence-based research at a tender age.

Researchers at Rutgers University, New Jersey, US, found major cross-contamination — sometimes within a contact window of less than one second — occurs across type of surface and moisture, as well as contact time.

Four surfaces were tested — wood, carpet, ceramics and stainless steel, and four food types got the drop —  candy, bread, bread and butter, and watermelon.

The contact times varied between one and 300 seconds. Tryptic soy broth or peptone buffer were used to grow Enterobacter aerogenes. It was cultivated on the surfaces, which were allowed to dry completely before the tests.

Over to Dr Donald Schaffner, Professor of Food Science at Rutgers: “We decided to look into this because the practice is so widespread. The topic might appear ‘light’, but we wanted our results backed by solid science.

“Transfer of bacteria from surfaces to food appears to be affected most by moisture,” Dr Schaffner said in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

“Bacteria don’t have legs; they move with the moisture, and the wetter the food, the higher the risk of transfer. Also, longer food contact times usually result in the transfer of more bacteria from each surface to food.”

Surprisingly, carpet had the lowest transfer rate: “The topography of the surface and food seem to play an important role in bacterial transfer… The five-second rule is a significant over-simplification of what actually happens when bacteria transfer from a surface to food.

“Bacteria can contaminate instantaneously.”

The last word

A couple of abstract one-liners to finish off from medical humorist Jerry Aragon:

Remember, the colder the x-ray table, the longer you’ll be on it.

If you choke a smurf… what colour does it turn?

A bartender is just a pharmacist with limited inventories.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish, and he will be in a boat all day drinking beer.

In medicine, to steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal many ideas is called research.

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