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Mathematical Digest


Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Why We Take Risks," by Richard Coniff. Discover Magazine, December 2001,pages 62-67.

This article discusses a principle in evolutionary biology known as the"handicap principle." The handicap principle "holds that animals and humansalike prosper not in spite of our riskiest and most extravagant behaviors butbecause of them," the article states. "These behaviors are the way weadvertise how prosperous, how fit, how fearless we are." Since it was firstproposed in the 1970s, the handicap principle has accumulated evidence. Now anOxford biologist has demonstrated with a mathematical model that the principlemakes sense in evolutionary terms.

--- Allyn Jackson