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My 15-year-old is disinclined to work for her GCSEs, saying her time is better spent preening herself in preparation for assignations with her delightful, diligent, privately educated, moneyed boyfriend. She insists the money spent on nail-painting, hair-colouring and the like is an investment and will be more than repaid when he marries her. Is she deluding herself?

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  Dear Curious Mother,

  Surprising as this may seem in the 21st century, your daughter's strategy is not unusual. Evidence on speed-dating gathered by the economists Michèle Belot and Marco Francesconi shows that women are attracted by rich men, while men focus more on a woman's physical appearance. Lena Edlund, another economist,has found that in the areas of her native Sweden where the wealthiest men live, women of prime marriageable age are over-represented。

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  However, your daughter is only 15; for Edlund, “prime marriageable age” is 25-44. Your daughter is either going to have to get her hooks into this chap unusually early, or she is going to have to keep him on the boil for another decade – a lot of nail-painting。

  Not only is she concentrating her investments into a single asset by abandoning her education, but she may even be making her main goal harder to achieve. Belot and Francesconi discovered that a strong social trend towards “assortative mating” means that although educated, high-achieving men are not interested in marrying a rich woman, they do like educated high-achieving women, rather than shallow girls with shiny nails。

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  Your daughter should learn to work hard and look good at the same time. Not only will it advance her immediate goals, it will also – sadly – stand her in good stead for the rest of her life。

Unless we spend money to spot and prevent asteroids now, one might crash into Earth and destroy life as we know it, say some scientists.

  Asteroids are bigger versions of the meteoroids that race across the night sky. Most orbit the sun far from Earth and don’t threaten us. But there are also thousands of asteroids whose orbits put them on a collision course with Earth.

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  Buy $50 million worth of new telescopes right now. Then spend $10 million a year for the next 25 year5s to locate most of the space rocks. By the time we spot a fatal one, the scientists say, we’ll have a way to change its course.

  Some scientists favor pushing asteroids off course with nuclear weapons. But the cost wouldn’t be cheap.

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  Is it worth it? Two things experts consider when judging any risk re: 1) How likely the event is; and 2) How bad the consequences if the event occurs. Experts think an asteroid big enough to destroy lots of life might strike Earth once every 500,000 years. Sounds pretty rare—but if one did fall, it would be the end of the world. “If we don’t take care of these big asteroids, they’ll take care of us,” says one scientist. “It’s that simple.”

  The cure, though, might be worse than the disease. Do we really want fleets of nuclear weapons sitting around on Earth? “The world has less to fear from doomsday rocks than from a great nuclear fleet set against them,” said a New York Times article.

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A curious mother My 15-year-old is disinclined to work for her GCSEs, saying her time is better spent preening herself in preparation for assignations with her delightful, diligent, privately educated, moneyed boyfriend. She insists the money spent on nail-painting, hair-colouring and the like is an investment and will be more than repaid when he marries her. Is she deluding herself?

  A curious mother

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