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Correlation vs. Causation

Posted Mar 03 2012 12:00am
Husband dropped by the lab to visit this week and take advantage of the free food and beer following a poster competition in which I had to present.  Last night, he commented that science must be really stressful, because he noticed most of the younger females (mid 20s-30s), especially in my lab, all had lots of grey hair.  Being a good little (rude) scientist, I immediately interrupted him mid-sentence, reminding him that correlation does not imply causation.

I offered up the alternative that, perhaps, lots of women in lots of fields are developing grey hairs by this point in their lives, but they are more proactive about hiding them.  I have a lot of friends who started experimenting with their hair color by the age of 14 and never stopped; they have no recollection of their natural hair color.  If you've been regularly dyeing your hair for 15 years, how would you even know if you had grey hair starting to come in?  Perhaps scientists, widely stereotyped for being fashion-challenged, never played around with hair color in the first place (I only tried once, attempting to dye my hair with purple manic panic in a hotel in Virginia Beach on a high school trip, but my hair was far too dark for it to show up).

Once those grey hairs show up noticeably, perhaps women in other more conservative, formal professions start scheduling regular 6-week appointments to cover up those greys.  Here in science, though -- well, if you could feasibly show up to work in a stained shirt and ripped jeans (frequently observed on male graduate students in the chemistry department), certainly no one is going to bat an eye at a few (or many) grey hairs.  When you're working 80+ hours/week for less financial compensation than anyone else you know working a normal 40 hour work week, there really isn't time or funding for regular hair appointments.

So, what are your thoughts?  Does working in science cause premature greying?  Or are scientists just too busy and/or unmotivated to keep up appearances as women in other fields?

And, most importantly, is this my husband's way of hinting that perhaps I need to take time out to do something about 4-months worth of grey roots?
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