In our lives and in our universe, the force of attraction exerts its influence in infinite ways. Why do we find some people appealing, but not others? How do black holes work? How does magnetism help reveal the structure of complex systems? In this series, our experts consider the many facets of attraction, examining this notion from perspectives including physics, psychology, politics, and literature. Join us as we try to name the invisible forces that move us.


May 13, 2013

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

Attraction: Episode #4

With the help of scientists like Sophia Hayes, associate professor of chemistry, new technologies may make it possible to remove the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, turn it into a solid, and store it in a safe environment elsewhere. Hayes uses a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to understand the structure of materials, including carbon dioxide. Hear her describe this research project, explain how NMR works, and reveal how “the magic angle” – a Washington University innovation – changed the field.

April 1, 2013

In the Next Room

Attraction: Episode #3

In the Victorian era, just after the birth of the electric lightbulb, a novel remedy was developed for women diagnosed with a mysterious ailment called "hysteria." In 2010, Sarah Ruhl wrote In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) about a doctor who specialized in these treatments. Director Henry Schvey, professor of drama and comparative literature, talks about the power of attraction and the lure of technology within this comic play, which opens April 19 at Washington University's Edison Theatre.

March 6, 2013

The Eye of the Beholder

Attraction: Episode #2

We've all heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but is this adage true? What personality traits do others find most attractive, and how can we use this information to develop meaningful relationships? Simine Vazire, associate professor of pyschology, discusses the costs and benefits of exaggerating our own and our partners' attractiveness and explains how a little self-knowledge can go a long way.

March 4, 2013

Hardwired for Love

Attraction: Episode #1

"So a fruit fly walks into a bar..." In all seriousness, finding a mate is an important part of life for almost every species. But how do animals like fruit flies determine what is attractive in a potential mate? Yehuda Ben-Shahar, assistant professor of biology, studies the role of genetics in courtship and mating behaviors. Join us as he describes his research and explains how biologists manipulate genes to test their theories.