Meeting of the Minds
The final lap in the race to become the next British prime minister got off to an expectedly shallow—but unexpectedly amusing—start this week with a surprise revelation: one of two remaining candidates, Liz Truss, allegedly buys her earrings at Claire’s.
Air Mail Pilot readers surely know Claire’s, the ubiquitous chain store where American tweens traditionally get their ears pierced and spend hard-earned allowance dollars on all kinds of sparkly, glittery jewelry, make-up, hair stuff, and assorted bedroom clutter.
(For older readers who may be less familiar with Claire’s: if you’ve seen stills from the set of Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Barbie movie, that’s more or less the aesthetic.)
Truss and her rival, Rishi Sunak, are both members of the U.K.’s Conservative Party—or Tories, as they’re familiarly known. Since the Tories hold the majority in Parliament, the leader of the party serves as prime minister. The previous P.M., Boris Johnson, agreed to step down after a series of scandals involving drinking and lying. (Trust us, it’s much less interesting than it sounds.)
Next month, Conservative Party members will choose between Truss and Sunak, with the winner to be announced on September 5. He or she will then move into 10 Downing Street, the surprisingly shabby British version of the White House.
Claire’s entered the contest when a Truss ally, Nadine Dorries, the country’s culture minister, tweeted photos of the two candidates side by side. Truss, Dorries wrote, “will be traveling the country wearing her earrings which cost circa £4.50 from Claire’s.” (That’s the equivalent of $5.50.) Meanwhile, according to Dorries, Sunak was campaigning in a “bespoke suit” she priced at the equivalent of $4,200, and “Prada shoes” worth $540.
Her point: Sunak is out of touch with normal voters who, unlike the vast majority of Tories, didn’t go to school with Prince William.
Fair or not, that stung. When asked during a debate this week about his expensive taste in clothing, Sunak fired back that he “wasn’t born this way”—i.e., swaddled in bespoke diapers. Rather, he said he grew up working in his mother’s pharmacy and waiting tables at an Indian restaurant. (Sunak, whose grandparents immigrated from India, would be the U.K.’s first P.M. of color.)
“I am standing here because of the hard work, the sacrifice, and love of my parents,” he added. Bringing up your hard working, sacrificing parents almost always plays well with voters, as Scranton boy Joe Biden well knows.
For her part, Truss said of Dorries, “I don’t know how she knows where I got my earrings, to be perfectly frank.”
Air Mail Pilot would like to pause here for a brief civics lesson: When a politician makes a point of saying that she’s being “perfectly frank,” she has probably got a trick up her sleeve. Air Mail Pilot suspects a calculated leak regarding the Claire’s shopping trips. We await further reporting.
Truss concluded this portion of the debate—which ate up six minutes of an hour total—by adding, a bit smugly, “I’m not going to give Rishi fashion advice.” In fairness to Sunak, we should note that there isn’t really a men-and-boys equivalent to Claire’s, although a quick search on eBay revealed dozens of Donald J. Trump Signature Collection men’s silk neckties selling for as low as $5, or £4.11, a bargain even by Claire’s standards. —Bruce Handy
Today AIR MAIL Pilot publishes a statement we never thought we would: Your parents are wrong.
After millions of parents trained their kids to chew with their mouths closed, a scientist has discovered that food tastes better when chewed with an open mouth. “We’ve been doing it all wrong,” Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, told The Times of London. While chewing with your mouth closed might be better for those around you, Spence explained that “chewing open-mouthed will result in a fuller sensory experience.”
There’s science to back up his claim. All foods, from fruits and veggies to meat, contain “volatile organic compounds,” which is a fancy way of saying they have molecules that create aromas. If you chew a chocolate chip cookie with your mouth open, more of those compounds will reach the back of your nose, stimulate the cells responsible for smelling, and thus enhance the flavor of the cookie.
“It’s not just smell that impacts the taste of food—sound, sight, touch, smell—effect taste,” Spence said. Just imagining the satisfying crunch of biting into a crispy chocolate chip cookie has our mouths watering. As Spence points out, chewing with an open mouth amplifies those noises, thereby heightening the cookie-eating experience.
So, why do we have table manners at all? Spence told The Guardian that British etiquette around food was “designed by people who are embarrassed by food.” If you don’t want to seem embarrassed, then you better chew with your mouth opened extra wide.
Science aside, AIR MAIL Pilot endorses kids trying out this taste-enhancing trick when their parents aren’t looking. —Clara Molot
Bees often do stupid things, like disrupt our picnics or try to land on our ice cream cones. While you might swat them away while yelling “stupid bee,” it turns out the tiny creatures have big brains.
In his new book, The Mind of a Bee, Lars Chittka, a professor of sensory and behavioral ecology at Queen Mary University of London, reveals that bees can not only recognize and remember humans, but also count, plan ahead, and grasp abstract concepts.
To find this out, Chittka conducted the insect equivalent of an I.Q. test on a group of female worker bees. In the first round, he showed black-and-white pictures of different human faces to the bees, but only gave the insects a sugar reward when one specific face was shown.
After a few rounds of training, “then, we give them a choice of different faces and no rewards, and ask: which do you choose now?” Chittka told The Guardian. “Indeed, they can find the correct one out of an array of different faces.”
Next task: math skills. To test the bees’ counting abilities, Chittka pitched a row of tiny tents and hid food under every third one. “After they had reliably flown there, we either increased the number of landmarks over the same distance or decreased it,” he explained. Even after he changed the order or added more tents, the bees swooped to every third tent to collect their treats. According to Chittka, this means “they were using the number of landmarks to say: ah ha, I’ve flown far enough, this is a good place to land.”
Most exciting of all, Chittka has discovered that bees have complex thought processes. In some trials, the scientist taught a skill to just one bee—the “demonstrator bee.” Without being taught, his friends, the “observer bees,” not only picked up the habits, but often perfected them. This proves an “intentionality” behinds bees actions, Chittka said. “It’s an internal modeling of ‘how will I get to the desired outcome?’, rather than just trying it out.”
The study is causing quite a bit of buzz, but AIR MAIL Pilot has one main takeaway: be nice to the bees interrupting your picnic. They will remember your face for a very long time. —Elena Clavarino