What is love? Five theories on the greatest emotion of all

“What is love” was the most searched phrase on Google in 2012, according to the company…The Guardian has gathered writers from the fields of science, psychotherapy, literature, religion and philosophy to give their definition of the much-pondered word.

The physicist: ‘Love is chemistry’

Biologically, love is a powerful neurological condition like hunger or thirst, only more permanent. We talk about love being blind or unconditional, in the sense that we have no control over it. But then, that is not so surprising since love is basically chemistry. While lust is a temporary passionate sexual desire involving the increased release of chemicals such as testosterone and oestrogen, in true love, or attachment and bonding, the brain can release a whole set of chemicals: pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin. However, from an evolutionary perspective, love can be viewed as a survival tool – a mechanism we have evolved to promote long-term relationships, mutual defence and parental support of children and to promote feelings of safety and security.

• Jim Al-Khalili is a theoretical physicist and science writer

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Don’t tell the TSA to piss off! There’s a Federal database for that.


Get in line! Keep your hands where I can see ’em! No talking!
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Airline passengers who get frustrated and kick a wall, throw a suitcase or make a pithy comment to a screener could find themselves in a little-known Homeland Security database.

The Transportation Security Administration says it is keeping records of people who make its screeners feel threatened as part of an effort to prevent workplace violence.

Privacy advocates fear the database could feed government watch lists and subject innocent people to extra airport screening…

A TSA report says the database can include names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, home addresses and phone numbers of people involved in airport incidents, including aggressors, victims and witnesses.

Incidents in the database include threats, bullying or verbal abuse, remarks about death or violence, brandishing a real or fake weapon, intentionally scaring workers or excessive displays of anger such as punching a wall or kicking equipment, the report says…

A TSA document published in February says database information can be given to government agencies and to airports, airlines and rail and bus systems in cases involving their workers or job applicants. “They may be contacted by the TSA if an incident involves their employee,” Lee said.

Uncle Sugar continues to expand the Big Brother act. It begins to feel as if every new agency formed to protect us really focuses on keeping an eye on us.

Though I suppose pissed-off Americans who don’t have anything to do with terrorism are easier to track. Probably should revise the TSA mission statement to identify folks who are disagreeable – or cranky?

Zuma faces polygamy question at Davos – this is economics?

South African President Jacob Zuma was forced to defend his right to have three wives after he was put on the spot during an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Polygamy is legal in South Africa but remains a subject of contentious national debate. Zuma has married five times in total but has faced criticism from opponents who say the practice is out of step with modern times and inherently unfair to women.

On the second day of the WEF, Zuma told Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria it is part of his culture. “People interpret cultures differently,” he said. “Some people think their culture is superior to others, that it is the only one accepted by God.

“That is a problem and one we need to deal with. We (South Africa) follow a policy that says we must respect the cultures of others…”

Too bad Americans don’t feel the same. Goodness knows, I’m the happiest man on Earth – having found the right woman to be with after decades of wandering – and marrying. That doesn’t mean I support all the religious folderol that somehow mandates gender, number and whatever else in defining what constitutes a family unit.

Zuma told Zakaria that his cultural choices do not influence his political beliefs or his views on female equality.

Asked if he treated his three wives equally, he replied: “absolutely,” much to the amusement of the packed conference hall.

Individual freedom of choice is another one of the subsets of Liberty proudly used by Westerners – especially Christians – to demand the rest of the world conform to their folkways and mores.

There are other religions as backwards on many questions. The operative word being religions.

Hillary Clinton – “At first I said no…”


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

When then-President-elect Barack Obama first asked Hillary Clinton to be his top diplomat, she turned him down and recommended others for the job, the secretary of state said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

Speaking to ABC’s “This Week,” Clinton also said the president has answered the central question she raised about him when she was his chief rival for the Democratic nomination last year.

In her famous “3 a.m.” ad, she questioned whether Obama was the right candidate to handle a middle-of-the-night international crisis.

Has the president answered it for you?” host George Stephanopoulos asked.

“Absolutely,” Clinton replied. “And, you know, the president, in his public actions and demeanor, and certainly in private with me and with the national security team, has been strong, thoughtful, decisive, I think he is doing a terrific job. And it’s an honor to serve with him.”

The former senator from New York and former first lady revealed details of how she came to accept the role. Video Watch analysts dissect the Clinton-Obama relationship »

“I never had any dream, let alone inkling, that I would end up in President Obama’s cabinet,” she said. “When I left the presidential race after getting some sleep and taking some deep breaths, I immediately went to work for him in the general election. … And I was looking forward to going back to the Senate and, frankly, going back to my life and representing New York, which I love. And I had no idea that he had a different plan in mind…”

She added, “Ultimately, it came down to my feeling that, number one, when your president asks you to do something for your country, you really need a good reason not to do it. Number two, if I had won and I had asked him to please help me serve our country, I would have hoped he would say yes. And finally, I looked around our world and I thought, you know, we are in just so many deep holes that everybody had better grab a shovel and start digging out.”

I guess Stephanopolous didn’t read Richard Wolfe’s diary of the Obama campaign.

When I saw Wolfe on TV being interviewed about the book – he said Obama had picked Hillary for Secretary of State before he was even elected, before the primaries were over. Which describes his early insight – and confidence.

Ask Google – out loud – via iPhone

Pushing ahead in the decades-long effort to get computers to understand human speech, Google researchers have added sophisticated voice recognition technology to the company’s search software for the Apple iPhone.

Google’s voice search software works only with iPhones, but the company plans to make it available to other phones.

Users of the free application, which Apple is expected to make available any minute, now, through its iTunes store, can place the phone to their ear and ask virtually any question, like “Where’s the nearest Starbucks?” or “How tall is Mount Everest?” The sound is converted to a digital file and sent to Google’s servers, which try to determine the words spoken and pass them along to the Google search engine.

The search results, which may be displayed in just seconds on a fast wireless network, will at times include local information, taking advantage of iPhone features that let it determine its location…

Raj Reddy, an artificial intelligence researcher at Carnegie Mellon University who has done pioneering work in voice recognition, said Google’s advantage in this field was the ability to store and analyze vast amounts of data. “Whatever they introduce now, it will greatly increase in accuracy in three or six months,” he said.

You can see all the places this is going to go – including having an argument with your iPhone/smartphone/laptop – and losing!