In an interview with UPI about his new best seller "The Blank Slate," Professor of Psychology Steven Pinker was asked about his voluminous curly hair. The interviewer thought Pinker looked like musicians Peter Frampton, Roger Daltrey and Robert Plant, and philosopher Baruch Spinoza. Pinker saw more similarity to Mark Bolan from the band T. Rex, conductor Simon Rattle, jazz guitarist Pat Metheny and "Bruno," the pianist on the television series "Fame."
The News Office illustrated the comparison and linked the image to its home page, asking readers to give their opinions about this pressing matter - and the results are now in. Given the choices above, as well as an "Other" category for write-in votes, the most popular response was Rattle (with 13 votes), followed by "Bruno" (12), Frampton (10), Metheny (9), Daltrey (6), Plant (4), Spinoza (4) and Bolan (2).
Twenty-one votes were cast for "Other." By far, the most popular write-in candidate was "Little House on the Prairie" star Michael Landon. Other responses included Colombian soccer player Carlos Valderrama, French King Louis XIV, Phish bassist Mike Gordon, actress/singer Bette Midler, Indian president Abdul Kalam, cartoonish confectioner Willy Wonka, New Age musician Yanni, Queen guitarist Brian May and "a Chia Pet."
The News Office survey is here. The page contains a link to the UPI interview, and also to the Annals of Improbable Research's Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists, of which Pinker is a charter member.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 4, 2002.