A couple of times a year you see a rash of news articles about some institute or scientists trying to prove there's a way to tell whether someone is gay by one trait or another. In the LA Times we have a nice listing of some of the proto-scientific gaydar crap out there -- it's pretty amusing.

Studies contradict each other, and some promising paths don't pan out. (A link between male homosexuality and finger lengths isn't holding up, and a claim that gays have distinctive fingerprint ridge patterns is largely discredited.) Scientists don't always agree on how to interpret the results, and more progress has been made with regard to men than to women.

Below the fold are some of the entertaining items in this particular report. * The big brother studies. Some data shows that gay men have more older brothers than straight men do. The problem is that only big brothers count and the increase in chances of turning out homo rise with each older brother by 33%. Naturally, this doesn't seem to bear out for lesbians. A note for the Phelps clan breeding patrol: if the U.S. went to a one-child-per-family policy, this would lower the number of fags churned out by 29%.

* Lefties and lesbians. Apparently if your left hand is your dominant hand and you're a woman, your chance of being gay increases by 90%. (That didn't work out for me - I'm a deviant righty, lol). For guys, it's less of a factor -- an increase of 34%. The theory here has something to do with fetal development and the amount of testosterone in the womb. Whatever.

* How your hair grows. OK, this one is simply weird. In 2004, a study was conducted on Delaware's Rehoboth Beach, and another beach not known to be popular with gay men, and out of nearly 500 men examined, if your hair grew in counterclockwise pattern, you were 3.5 times more likely to be gay; the majority of people it grows clockwise. My question on this particular effort -- what about those of us who have kinky hair? It's not clear to me that there is a pattern of growth that is applicable at all.

The study, although intriguing, suffers from a lack of scientific rigor. The author walked around while on vacation, collecting hair-whorl observations on men from a discreet distance. He didn't know anyone's sexual orientation for sure, and didn't objectively examine any scalps up close. Rahman's group is attempting to replicate the results in the lab.

* Pick a pecker. The old penis size studies.

Anthony Bogaert of Brock University in Ontario and his colleagues re-analyzed data on 5,000 gay and straight men from sexologist Alfred Kinsey's famous files, collected from the 1930s to the 1960s. The results, published in 1999, showed that gay men had longer, thicker penises than did straight men: on average, about 6.5 inches long and 4.95 inches around when erect, versus 6.1 inches long and 4.8 inches around for straight men.

You know what the next studies on the horizon are?

* A look at how gay and straight brains navigate new cities

* The difference in response to erotic images

* the effect of the scent of sweat and urine in the two groups.

I don't know if any of these studies can come up with anything definitive, particularly since lesbians are (as usual), rarely studied and bisexuality doesn't seem to exist at all.