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Why red is the colour if vuinning is your game

THE Washington Redskins, Manchester United and the Welsh rugby team have all been playingwith an unfair advantage. Just seeing their red kit is seemingly enough to cow their opponents into submission even before a ball is kicked.

Russell Hill and Robert Barton of Durham University in the UK tracked success in four Olympic sports: boxing, taekwondo, Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling. In these sports athletes do not wear national colours, but are randomly assigned either red or blue. Of 441 bouts, reds won 242 and in all four sports reds triumphed in more contests. And the red advantage was higher in dose encounters: 62 per cent of red-garbed competitors won these. But in pusho/er contests there were similar numbers of red and blue winners. "Ifyou're rubbish, a red shirt won't stop you from losing," Barton says.

The same is true in soccer. Five teams in the Euro 2004 competition who had predominantly red in one of their two kits all did significantly better while wearing red, scoring around one extra goal per game.

Such effects could be due to instinctive behaviour, says Barton. In animal displays red in particular seems to vaiy with dominance and testosterone levels. Human competitors might experience a testosterone surge while wearing the colour, he says, or feel submissive when facing a scarlet opponent.

Evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar from the University of Liverpool speculates that primate eyes may be particularly sensitive to red. "The significance is then a matter of context," he says. Red fruit is good; red competitors are bad.

Performance director of the Great Britain taekwondo team, Gary Hall, says most of his athletes don't have a strong colour preference. Buthesays that if red is an advantage the sport should consider changing kits. "We should takeoutany anomaly likethat," Hall told New Scientist. MairiMacleod •

it I was bayed at. Several hundred people were shouting. Some called out "Nazi!", "bastard!" and "Why don't you roll over and die!" I was shouted down. It was utterly terrifying. JJ

How anti-vivisectionists reacted to Mike Rob bins at a debate on the proposed animal research centre in Oxford, UK, when he tried to explain how animal research had helped treatments for his Parkinson's disease (The Obsen/er, London, 15 May)

iiTobe scooped by prostitutes is humbling.»

Roger Short of the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, on finding that prostitutes in Nigeria are using "citric douches". Short is launching an international fund to finance trials to test his theory that lemon and lime juice douches may protect women from HIV infection (The Age, Melbourne, 13 May)

it The United States cannot preach temperance from a barstool.JJ

Representative Edward Markey, arguing that the Bush administration cannot effectively fight nuclear proliferation while pursuing research into new nuclear weapons (Global Security Newswire, 13 May)

tt Linking blood type and personality is not only unscientific, it's wrong.»

PsychologistTatsuya Sato at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, criticises the widespread belief in blood stereotypes in Japan, where it leads to marriage break-ups and school and office bullying (Associated Press, 11 May)

i( Most bad people think they're good people.»

Star Wars creator George Lucas, explains at the Cannes Film Festival how the "good" JediAnakin Skywalkerturns into the "veiy bad" Darth Vader (Agence France Presse, 16 May)

Killer colour combo

Nuclear waste? Just burn it

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