Attraction can’t be denied, even if it can’t be explained

Gravity got you down? (Sorry, nerd joke.) But whether it does or not, there’s not much you can do about it. It makes no sense to get mad about gravity. It’s just one of those inexplicable, attractive forces.

Whenever humans don’t know what something is, we give it a name so we can talk about it. That’s what happened when I was born. Like my parents, there are a lot of things that we give names to that we don’t actually understand.

Like, why don’t I fly off a planet that is rotating at about 800 miles per hour? Logic says we should fly off, but we don’t. So man invented a force that keeps us on and named the force gravity. That doesn’t mean we understand gravity. For example, we have no idea where it comes from.

By definition, gravity is the phenomenon by which physical bodies are attracted to each other. Gravity gives us weight, which is the measurement of the pull of gravity on an object. We know that weight can change with location. Our weight on Earth is not the same as our weight on the moon.

The mass of an object, however, is a measurement of the amount of matter something contains. If it contains more atoms it has greater mass and it will always have the same number of atoms. Heavy people can change their weight by going to the moon, but that doesn’t change the number of atoms. Dense people cannot change their density. Anyway, gravity is one of the inexplicable attractive forces of nature.

Magnetism was discovered by Sherlock Ohm. (Are we paying attention?) It appears to work based on opposite poles and attractions. Yet no one has a clue why there are opposite charges in the first place. Electromagnetism, which is what we named this force, is the force that causes the interaction between electrically charged particles. The particles that make up our world often have one of two opposite charges. Opposite poles attract each other and like charges repel.

These opposing elements are called charges in electricity, and poles in magnetism. An electrical current running in one direction creates a circular magnetic field around the wire perpendicular to the wire. In this way, magnets can be converted to electricity and electricity to magnetism. It’s another one of those inexplicable, attractive forces.

The attraction between men and women, while not generally recognized by the physics community as a “fundamental, inexplicable, attractive force,” meets all the above criteria. It has been much studied, there are innumerable theories, we know a little about how it works, but the fundamental causes of this attraction are inexplicable. Precise prediction is nearly impossible. Control? Fuhgetaboutit!

The physicists don’t like to bring this whole topic up. They know that if word gets out the real serious scientific questions are about sex, they will lose disciples quickly. I mean, look around. Notice who good-looking women are seen with and tell me it’s explicable. (I think inexplicable in this context means “expletive deleted.”)

We haven’t even gotten to the real mystery. Everyone knows men are attracted to women. But women seem to be attracted to men. Try and figure that one out. I told my daughters men are highly overrated and that I should know, being one. All right, I admit they didn’t listen, but you can’t say I didn’t warn them.

Here is the miracle, though, that shapes more men than our culture wants to recognize. It’s the miracle that many young girls have never seen, and so, cannot comprehend. A man being attracted to women is one thing. That is biology and can be explained. A man being attracted to a particular woman is something else. That is something very different, perhaps almost holy. That one there, in the sweater, smiling shyly ... I must have that one.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey!

Gary McCallister is a professor of biology at Colorado Mesa University.


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