The Curiosity Project
Spitting Genetics: Can we engineer friends?
In a world where "social" seems to be the buzz word, isn"t in interesting to think of the innate origins of our ability to be sociable and have friends? Although it"s not necessarily a direct part of engineering, research and ideas into this topic have implications across all scientific disciplines, including engineering. After all, each of us "engineers" our own social world - both on and offline. Attributes like team work and co-operation are hugely important in engineering, so how could our genes make us better engineers?
I met up with some researchers from the University of Oxford"s Social " Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group (SENRG) who are conducting research into "The Genetics of Human Sociality". Essentially they are looking at how much our genes relate to our social lives (how we think, feel and act).
By examining DNA and genes taken from salvia samples from participants (like me!!), along side other data such as social and relationship habits and finger length, they hope to see how our genes are linked to how we think, feel and act in social situations.
I was hugely interested to learn that scientists have worked out that us humans are only able to have a maximum of 150 friends, as our brains just can"t cope with anymore! This is called Dunbar"s Number. (there is some more info on the video below)
Our genes are the building blocks of every part of us. For this research, they are looking at genes that influence how chemicals act in our brains and impact us in social situations.
Why measure finger length?
The 2D:4D ratio ie. the length of your fourth finger compared to your second finger, is related to how much testosterone you were exposed to in your mother"s womb. Testosterone could have an impact on our sociality. Watch the video here to learn more about this :)
So what now?
The team are still collecting samples and data from people all over the UK before starting to analyse the data and assessing their findings. It might take a few years but I"ll be checking their website to see what their findings are! What do you think they will find?
If you want to know more, check out the SENRG"s website or watch the videos of me and Researcher Dr. Rafael Wlodarski to find out how they conduct their research.
Science is pretty amazing and it"s work like this that shows just how diverse it is. Even if genetics isn"t your thing, wouldn"t it be cool to run experiments and find out ground-breaking information to make the world a better place? Find out more about how you could turn an interest in science into a lifelong career here.