(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Aug. 11, 2001.)
Today we present an important breakthrough in the ongoing effort by research scientists to figure out what, if anything, men are thinking. But first, we have an important warning concerning a worrisome topic that, unfortunately, is very much on our minds these days: pecan safety.
This warning is based on an alarming report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, written by Heather Ratcliffe and sent in by a number (14 million) of alert readers. The report concerns a Pacific, Mo., couple who -- like so many people -- kept a bucket of pecans in their garage. ''Their visiting grandchildren like to feed the nuts to squirrels,'' explains the Post-Dispatch.
The story states that one fateful day, the man -- seeking to keep the couple's dog from getting into the bucket -- put a second bucket on top of it, thus sealing the pecans tightly inside. You have probably already guessed what happened next: The dog burned down.
No, sorry. The HOUSE burned down. According to the Post-Dispatch, a reaction called ''spontaneous combustion'' -- which is caused when oxygen combines rapidly with a snack food -- took place inside the bucket, and the pecans ''burst into flames.'' (The same reaction occurs inside your stomach when you eat a Slim Jim.)
The Post-Dispatch, getting both sides of the story, contacted a Missouri pecan grower, Elizabeth James, 82, who has been growing pecans since 1940. She stated that her pecans have never, in all those years, given her any trouble. ''They don't explode by themselves,'' she is quoted as saying, adding, ``my Lord.''
Nevertheless, we can all agree there are several important conclusions to be drawn from the Missouri tragedy:
1. Let the squirrels get their own darned nuts.
2. If your dog wants to get your pecans, it's best to just let him, even though he will eat the whole bucket, and then, after conducting a thorough, inch-by-inch survey of your entire house, throw up on your most valuable floor covering.
3. Congress needs to hold hearings into this question: How come airlines go to all that trouble to prevent people from taking bombs onto planes, and then just HAND EVERYBODY A BAG OF NUTS?
We are now approaching our actual column topic, which has baffled everybody for thousands of years: Why do men like to look at good-looking women?
The answer, according to a study that I am not making up, conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, is that looking at attractive women -- prepare for a shocking finding -- gives men pleasure.
Yes. According to news reports, the researchers had a group of young men look at photos of people of various degrees of attractiveness. The study showed that, when the men saw a photo of a beautiful woman, their pecans burst into flames, if you get my drift. If the men wanted to keep looking at a photo of an attractive woman, they had to keep pressing a key; one researcher said that some men pressed the key 6,000 times in 40 minutes, which is ``as much as a rat presses for cocaine.''
The researchers concluded that looking at attractive women stimulates ''reward centers'' of the men's brains that are ``considered to be evolutionary holdovers from reptiles.''
That sounds right to me. I live in South Florida, which is Lizard Central. There are thousands of lizards in my yard alone, and as far as I can tell, the males do virtually nothing, all day long, except stare at the females. Occasionally, when a male lizard sees a female lizard that he considers to be particularly hot, he will inflate a red sac on his throat. Apparently, the males believe that this is highly attractive -- that when female lizards get together in the ladies' restroom, they say: ``Did you SEE the throat sac on Vernon?''
But the point is that, thanks to this breakthrough Massachusetts research, we can draw some important conclusions:
1. If a man is with, let's say, his wife, and he sees an attractive woman, and his eyeballs go shooting SPROING out of their sockets and dangle from their optic fibers around his knees, this is NOT HIS FAULT, because he is under the control of his primitive reptile brain, and his wife should not get angry at him, even if it happens to be their wedding reception.
2. We now know what part of the brain causes men to believe that women will be attracted to them if they have a big red Corvette.
3. Let the rats get their own darned cocaine.
(c) 2008, Dave Barry
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