Many years ago in another twin study we showed that underarm body odour as perceived by human sniffers had a genetic basis – with huge variability in how strong smells were perceived. This showed that we have gene variations controlling both the odours we perceive and the chemical odours we produce. In this way we are similar to mosquitoes because they also have big differences in which odours and chemicals attract and repel them.
Different mosquitoes prefer different parts of our bodies to others. The species Aedes Gambiae prefers the odours of our hands and feet to other bits like groins and armpits. Some animals use their body odour to keep insects away and companies have been trying to unravel what the best chemicals are.
So, the next time you get bitten by a mosquito on the ankle – don’t blame bad luck or your cheap repellent – think of the amazing evolutionary match-making processes that hooked up your special mix of genes to a particular community of microbes that feed off your skin and produce a chemical that only certain species of mosquito find irresistible.
President Barack Obama’s historic normalization talks with Cuba have brought about a lot of excitement in business circles, and hardly a day goes by without new reports of U.S. investors, lawyers and entrepreneurs flocking to the island. But I’m afraid most of them will lose their shirts there.
In a recent interview, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker told me that even though Cuba is a small economy, the Cuban people are entrepreneurial , and have a great economic potential. “It’s a beginning, you have to start. And by starting, things will evolve,” she said.
My opinion: Maybe so. But for the time being, as Florida International University business professor Jerry Haar has rightly — and only half-jokingly — commented, the most profitable businesses dealing with Cuba will be those that put together conferences and seminars on doing business in Cuba.
Obama did the right thing in starting normalization talks with Cuba’s military dictatorship, although he should be much more forthright in demanding basic freedoms on the island. But the administration should tone down its claims that the U.S.-Cuba honeymoon will lead to political and economic changes on the island, and to great business opportunities for foreign companies. It won’t, at least in the near future.
Two-thirds of the world’s citizens live under a dictatorship, and two billion people suffer from an oppressive rule. Freedom House says 106 dictatorships or partial dictatorships persist today, accounting for 54% of the world’s nations.
Contrary to popular Western belief, however, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for all places and people. Not all dictatorships end in misery, and not everyone wants to live in a democracy. “A bad democracy might be worse than a humane dictatorship,” Pinker points out.
There is no proof that the desire for freedom and democracy is an innate part of human nature, Ezrow says. As long as quality of life remains high and people are allowed to live their lives as they wish, citizens can be completely happy under a dictatorship. “Some cultures may just prefer security and stability over freedom.”