We just got our cruise documents for the Scientific American Bright Horizons 15 cruise departing on October 25th! The itinerary includes a private tour of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, the Vatican’s Observatory, Athens, Ephesus, Haifa, and Jerusalem. Steve and I are two out of six featured speakers, and we are both looking forward to the experience.


I made the mistake of reading the latest Table of Contents from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and this title caught my attention: “Gender, social norms, and survival in maritime disasters“. Some Sleights of Mind‘s readers may remember that my grandfather Enrique survived the sinking of the SS Castillo de Olite, which claimed 1,476 lives (the greatest loss of life from the sinking of a single ship in Spanish history). Naturally, I had to know more about this study.

Swedish economists Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixson analyzed 18 maritime disasters spanning three centuries, covering the fate of over 15,000 individuals of more than 30 nationalities. Their data shows that, Jack Dawson’s heroics notwithstanding, women have a clear survival disadvantage compared with men, and passengers are more likely to die than captains and crew. The authors conclude: “Taken together, our findings show that human behavior in life-and-death situations is best captured by the expression “every man for himself.””

I just hope they have enough lifeboats.

–Susana Martinez-Conde