domingo, 30 de septiembre de 2007

Curbside, We’ll Never Have Paris

New York Times, Week In Review, domingo, 30 de septiembre de 2007, pp. 1, 4.


September 30, 2007


AMONG the many reasons to suspect that Europeans are more gifted than Americans at enjoying urban life is this: they eat outdoors because it’s pretty. We eat outdoors even though it’s not.

By we I mean New Yorkers, and I specifically mean the New Yorkers who, from the first rumor of spring to the dying gasps of an Indian summer, insist on restaurants with sidewalk cafes, apparently believing that nothing sauces roasted chicken like the exhaust from an M104 bus and there’s no music more relaxing than the eek-eek-eek of a delivery truck in reverse.

On the narrow and sometimes cobbled byways of Paris, Rome or Barcelona, a sidewalk cafe most likely has a view, a mood, a purpose beyond fresh air. (To be fair, it isn’t so fresh there, either.)

On Broadway, Columbus or Lexington, a sidewalk cafe has traffic — pedestrian and vehicular — so dense and close that a diner has to learn not to flinch. Wine helps. For me just three and a half glasses do the trick.

Of course I’m generalizing, and perhaps I’m exaggerating, but I’m nonetheless wondering: are the ranks of New Yorkers who like these seating arrangements really so large?

On the evidence of last week’s news, they are. And they’re growing.

And they’re a neat window into the peculiar character of this city’s denizens, although some open-air epicures are really just looking for a place to smoke. Thanks to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, they get a double dose of carbon monoxide — some from Marlboro, some from Mercedes — for the price of one entree of braised short ribs. The man knows how to cull the herd.

What happened last week was an announcement by city officials that restaurants with sidewalk cafes could henceforth install portable natural-gas heaters and thus extend the weeks or months when a diner might comfortably — in terms of temperature, that is — lunch or sup outside.

And part of what fueled that decision, apparently, is the increased popularity of sidewalk cafes in New York, the number of which has grown by 25 percent over the last four years, according to city officials. There are now 900 of them.

Some are really lovely.

I bet 875 aren’t.

I should be clear: I’m talking about cafes that are actually on sidewalks — that jut into public space — because exposed areas or patios that are set back from the sidewalk, and exist within the bounds of a restaurant, aren’t part of the aforementioned count. They’ve been using portable heaters for a while.

And I’m not talking about back gardens. Who doesn’t love a back garden? It’s often quieter than the rest of the restaurant — trees and clouds are effective mufflers — and sometimes it’s even surrounded by vine-covered brick walls or a painted wood fence.

What surrounds many a sidewalk cafe are waist-high metal dividers that recall crowd-control barricades as much as anything else. The tables are a pinkie’s width apart. I look at the diners gorging themselves in these pens and wonder if they’re actors rehearsing to play veal in the movie version of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

They’re on awkward display, not so much people watching as people watched, letting all the world see whether they chew with closed mouths and what kind of crumb management they’ve mastered. It has to be nerve-racking.

So why go through it?

Theory 1: It lets them pretend they’re in Europe. While many Americans outside New York get excited about “freedom fries” and dismiss Europeans as too-thin scolds with too-small cars, New Yorkers envy their fuel efficiency, their monuments, their cheese, their eyewear.

And their cafes. Never mind that eating outside in Rome means a Bernini statue and a Baroque church while eating outside in uptown Manhattan means an unobstructed panorama of Bed, Bath & Beyond. New Yorkers are fantastic at make-believe, which leads me to ...

Theory 2: New Yorkers have a highly evolved, unrivaled knack for glossing over the limitations, absurdities and dubious habitability of an unforgiving metropolis.

They walk into a friend’s 545-square-foot two-bedroom (one bath, no tub) and stammer: “Just $4,965 a month for this?” They walk into the Spotted Pig at 5:55 p.m. on a Tuesday night and exult: “Only a 90-minute wait?”

And they sit in a sidewalk cafe — sirens blaring, vagrants swearing and jackhammers jittering all around them — and sigh: “It’s so relaxing to soak up the street life.”

Theory 3: If something is in limited supply, New Yorkers want it, period.

Most restaurants don’t have sidewalk cafes. If they do, there are fewer seats outdoors than indoors. So these seats take on an exclusive aura, and once all of them are occupied, they become more exclusive still. In New York, the only thing better than something there’s not enough of is something there’s absolutely none of.

At the restaurant L’Impero on a recent night, most of the precious few tables in front of the entrance were taken. Most of the dozens of tables inside weren’t. When I turned down the hostess’s offer of one of the remaining perches outside, she just about went pale with shock. I explained that while I was fond of fresh air, what I was really gaga about was air-conditioning.

On the Upper West Side, when scaffolding went up around the sidewalk cafe in front of the Ocean Grill this year, the restaurant’s owner, Stephen Hanson, wasn’t about to let the lure and luster of those seats be dimmed. He had chandeliers and potted plants hung from the top of the scaffolding and leafy vines wrapped around the poles.

Mr. Hanson operates a dozen restaurants in Manhattan. Seven have outdoor seating; four have actual sidewalk cafes. He was a big proponent of the new portable-heater rule. He said he thought it could extend sidewalk season from the first day of April to the last day of October.

I think it could be the death of sidewalk cafes.

If they’re around for only four or five months every year, they’re exceptions, digressions, reminders of warm weather that won’t last. As Mr. Hanson said when I asked him for his own theories about why New Yorkers embrace these enclosures: “It’s the seasonality of it. It’s something you can’t have all the time.”

But if sidewalk cafes start to operate for six or seven months, they’re standard, and eating in one isn’t a celebration of summer. It’s a celebration of man’s talent for climate control, even on the pavement in front of Circuit City.

New Yorkers, of course, might find some other, rosier way to see it. I’d ponder the possibilities, but I’m late for a picnic someone’s having in the Holland Tunnel.

viernes, 14 de septiembre de 2007

Uso del masculino en referencia a seres de ambos sexos

2.1. En los sustantivos que designan seres animados, el masculino gramatical no solo se emplea para referirse a los individuos de sexo masculino, sino también para designar la clase, esto es, a todos los individuos de la especie, sin distinción de sexos: El hombre es el único animal racional; El gato es un buen animal de compañía. Consecuentemente, los nombres apelativos masculinos, cuando se emplean en plural, pueden incluir en su designación a seres de uno y otro sexo: Los hombres prehistóricos se vestían con pieles de animales; En mi barrio hay muchos gatos (de la referencia no quedan excluidas ni las mujeres prehistóricas ni las gatas). Así, con la expresión los alumnos podemos referirnos a un colectivo formado exclusivamente por alumnos varones, pero también a un colectivo mixto, formado por chicos y chicas. A pesar de ello, en los últimos tiempos, por razones de corrección política, que no de corrección lingüística, se está extendiendo la costumbre de hacer explícita en estos casos la alusión a ambos sexos: «Decidió luchar ella, y ayudar a sus compañeros y compañeras» (Excélsior [Méx.] 5.9.96). Se olvida que en la lengua está prevista la posibilidad de referirse a colectivos mixtos a través del género gramatical masculino, posibilidad en la que no debe verse intención discriminatoria alguna, sino la aplicación de la ley lingüística de la economía expresiva; así pues, en el ejemplo citado pudo —y debió— decirse, simplemente, ayudar a sus compañeros. Solo cuando la oposición de sexos es un factor relevante en el contexto, es necesaria la presencia explícita de ambos géneros: La proporción de alumnos y alumnas en las aulas se ha ido invirtiendo progresivamente; En las actividades deportivas deberán participar por igual alumnos y alumnas. Por otra parte, el afán por evitar esa supuesta discriminación lingüística, unido al deseo de mitigar la pesadez en la expresión provocada por tales repeticiones, ha suscitado la creación de soluciones artificiosas que contravienen las normas de la gramática: Marca de incorrección.las y los ciudadanos.

2.2. Para evitar las engorrosas repeticiones a que da lugar la reciente e innecesaria costumbre de hacer siempre explícita la alusión a los dos sexos (los niños y las niñas, los ciudadanos y ciudadanas, etc.; 2.1), ha comenzado a usarse en carteles y circulares el símbolo de la arroba (@) como recurso gráfico para integrar en una sola palabra las formas masculina y femenina del sustantivo, ya que este signo parece incluir en su trazo las vocales a y o: Marca de incorrección.l@s niñ@s. Debe tenerse en cuenta que la arroba no es un signo lingüístico y, por ello, su uso en estos casos es inadmisible desde el punto de vista normativo; a esto se añade la imposibilidad de aplicar esta fórmula integradora en muchos casos sin dar lugar a graves inconsistencias, como ocurre en Marca de incorrección.Día del niñ@, donde la contracción del solo es válida para el masculino niño.

3. formación del femenino en profesiones, cargos, títulos o actividades humanas. Aunque en el modo de marcar el género femenino en los sustantivos que designan profesiones, cargos, títulos o actividades influyen tanto cuestiones puramente formales —la etimología, la terminación del masculino, etc.— como condicionamientos de tipo histórico y sociocultural, en especial el hecho de que se trate o no de profesiones o cargos desempeñados tradicionalmente por mujeres, se pueden establecer las siguientes normas, atendiendo únicamente a criterios morfológicos:

a) Aquellos cuya forma masculina acaba en -o forman normalmente el femenino sustituyendo esta vocal por una -a: bombero/bombera, médico/médica, ministro/ministra, ginecólogo/ginecóloga. Hay excepciones, como piloto, modelo o testigo, que funcionan como comunes: el/la piloto, el/la modelo, el/la testigo (no debe considerarse una excepción el sustantivo reo, cuyo femenino etimológico y aún vigente en el uso es rea, aunque funcione asimismo como común: la reo). También funcionan normalmente como comunes los que proceden de acortamientos: el/la fisio, el/la otorrino. En algún caso, el femenino presenta la terminación culta -isa (del lat. -issa), por provenir directamente del femenino latino formado con este sufijo: diácono/diaconisa; y excepcionalmente hay voces que tienen dos femeninos, uno en -a y otro con la terminación -esa (variante castellana de -isa): diablo, fem. diabla o diablesa; vampiro, fem. vampira o vampiresa.

b) Los que acaban en -a funcionan en su inmensa mayoría como comunes: el/la atleta, el/la cineasta, el/la guía, el/la logopeda, el/la terapeuta, el/la pediatra. En algunos casos, por razones etimológicas, el femenino presenta la terminación culta -isa: profetisa, papisa. En el caso de poeta, existen ambas posibilidades: la poeta/poetisa. También tiene dos femeninos la voz guarda, aunque con matices significativos diversos ( guarda): la guarda/guardesa. Son asimismo comunes en cuanto al género los sustantivos formados con el sufijo -ista: el/la ascensorista, el/la electricista, el/la taxista. Es excepcional el caso de modista, que a partir del masculino normal el modista ha generado el masculino regresivo modisto.

c) Los que acaban en -e tienden a funcionar como comunes, en consonancia con los adjetivos con esta misma terminación, que suelen tener una única forma (afable, alegre, pobre, inmune, etc.): el/la amanuense, el/la cicerone, el/la conserje, el/la orfebre, el/la pinche. Algunos tienen formas femeninas específicas a través de los sufijos -esa, -isa o -ina: alcalde/alcaldesa, conde/condesa, duque/duquesa, héroe/heroína, sacerdote/sacerdotisa (aunque sacerdote también se usa como común: la sacerdote). En unos pocos casos se han generado femeninos en -a, como en jefe/jefa, sastre/sastra, cacique/cacica.

Dentro de este grupo están también los sustantivos terminados en -ante o -ente, procedentes en gran parte de participios de presente latinos, y que funcionan en su gran mayoría como comunes, en consonancia con la forma única de los adjetivos con estas mismas terminaciones (complaciente, inteligente, pedante, etc.): el/la agente, el/la conferenciante, el/la dibujante, el/la estudiante. No obstante, en algunos casos se han generalizado en el uso femeninos en -a, como clienta, dependienta o presidenta. A veces se usan ambas formas, con matices significativos diversos: la gobernante (‘mujer que dirige un país’) o la gobernanta (en una casa, un hotel o una institución, ‘mujer que tiene a su cargo el personal de servicio’).

d) Los pocos que terminan en -i o en -u funcionan también como comunes: el/la maniquí, el/la saltimbanqui, el/la gurú.

e) En cuanto a los terminados en -y, el femenino de rey es reina, mientras que los que toman modernamente esta terminación funcionan como comunes: el/la yóquey.

f) Los que acaban en -or forman el femenino añadiendo una -a: compositor/compositora, escritor/escritora, profesor/profesora, gobernador/gobernadora. En algunos casos, el femenino presenta la terminación culta -triz (del lat. -trix, -tricis), por provenir directamente de femeninos latinos formados con este sufijo: actor/actriz, emperador/emperatriz.

g) Los que acaban en -ar o -er, así como los pocos que acaban en -ir o -ur, funcionan hoy normalmente como comunes, aunque en algunos casos existen también femeninos en -esa o en -a: el/la auxiliar, el/la militar, el/la escolar (pero el juglar/la juglaresa), el/la líder (raro lideresa), el/la chofer o el/la chófer (raro choferesa), el/la ujier, el/la sumiller, el/la bachiller (raro hoy bachillera), el/la mercader (raro hoy mercadera), el/la faquir, el/la augur.

h) Los agudos acabados en -n y en -s forman normalmente el femenino añadiendo una -a: guardián/guardiana, bailarín/bailarina, anfitrión/anfitriona, guardés/guardesa, marqués/marquesa, dios/ diosa. Se exceptúan barón e histrión, cuyos femeninos se forman a través de los sufijos -esa e -isa, respectivamente: baronesa, histrionisa. También se apartan de esta regla la palabra rehén, que funciona como epiceno masculino (el rehén) o como común (el/la rehén), y la voz edecán, que es común en cuanto al género (el/la edecán; edecán). Por su parte, las palabras llanas con esta terminación funcionan como comunes: el/la barman.

i) Los que acaban en -l o -z tienden a funcionar como comunes: el/la cónsul, el/la corresponsal, el/la timonel, el/la capataz, el/la juez, el/la portavoz, en consonancia con los adjetivos terminados en estas mismas consonantes, que tienen, salvo poquísimas excepciones, una única forma, válida tanto para el masculino como para el femenino: dócil, brutal, soez, feliz (no existen las formas femeninas *dócila, *brutala, *soeza, *feliza). No obstante, algunos de estos sustantivos han desarrollado con cierto éxito un femenino en -a, como es el caso de juez/jueza, aprendiz/aprendiza, concejal/concejala o bedel/bedela.

j) Los terminados en consonantes distintas de las señaladas en los párrafos anteriores funcionan como comunes: el/la chef, el/la médium, el/la pívot. Se exceptúa la voz abad, cuyo femenino es abadesa. Es especial el caso de huésped, pues aunque hoy se prefiere su uso como común (el/la huésped), su femenino tradicional es huéspeda.

k) Independientemente de su terminación, funcionan como comunes los nombres que designan grados de la escala militar: el/la cabo, el/la brigada, el/la teniente, el/la brigadier, el/la capitán, el/la coronel, el/la alférez; los sustantivos que designan por el instrumento al músico que lo toca: el/la batería, el/la corneta, el/la contrabajo; y los sustantivos compuestos que designan persona: el/la mandamás, el/la sobrecargo, un/una cazatalentos, un/una sabelotodo, un/una correveidile.

l) Cuando el nombre de una profesión o cargo está formado por un sustantivo y un adjetivo, ambos elementos deben ir en masculino o femenino dependiendo del sexo del referente; por tanto, debe decirse la primera ministra, una intérprete jurada, una detective privada, etc., y no Marca de incorrecció primera ministro, Marca de incorrección.una intérprete jurado, Marca de incorrección.una detective privado, etc.: «Me llamo Patricia Delamo y soy detective privada» (Beccaria Luna [Esp. 2001]).

Fuente: Diccionario panhispánico de dudas. Santillana y Real Academia española.

miércoles, 12 de septiembre de 2007

Proyecto nuevo: música

Aquí, muy pronto, aparecerán materiales que tienen que ver con música: archivos midi, partituras en PDF, mezclas, comentarios...

lunes, 10 de septiembre de 2007

De cómo los mexicanos conquistaron Nueva York

De cómo los mexicanos conquistaron Nueva York
Editorial Colibrí-Secretaría de Cultura del Estado de Puebla
Autor: Cohen, Sandro y Josefina Estrada
Colección: Cantera Rosa

jueves, 6 de septiembre de 2007

Short on Labor, Farmers in U.S. Shift to Mexico

Workers harvest broccoli in central Mexico for Valley Harvesting and Packing, which moved some operations from California. Fotografía de Janet Jarman, para el New York Times

September 5, 2007


CELAYA, Mexico — Steve Scaroni, a farmer from California, looked across a luxuriant field of lettuce here in central Mexico and liked what he saw: full-strength crews of Mexican farm workers with no immigration problems.

Farming since he was a teenager, Mr. Scaroni, 50, built a $50 million business growing lettuce and broccoli in the fields of California, relying on the hands of immigrant workers, most of them Mexican and many probably in the United States illegally.

But early last year he began shifting part of his operation to rented fields here. Now some 500 Mexicans tend his crops in Mexico, where they run no risk of deportation.

“I’m as American red-blood as it gets,” Mr. Scaroni said, “but I’m tired of fighting the fight on the immigration issue.”

A sense of crisis prevails among American farmers who rely on immigrant laborers, more so since immigration legislation in the United States Senate failed in June and the authorities announced a crackdown on employers of illegal immigrants. An increasing number of farmers have been testing the alternative of raising crops across the border where there is a stable labor supply, growers and lawmakers in the United States and Mexico said.

Western Growers, an association representing farmers in California and Arizona, conducted an informal telephone survey of its members in the spring. Twelve large agribusinesses that acknowledged having operations in Mexico reported a total of 11,000 workers here.

“It seems there is a bigger rush to Mexico and elsewhere,” said Tom Nassif, the Western Growers president, who said Americans were also farming in countries in Central America.

Precise statistics are not readily available on American farming in Mexico, because growers seek to maintain a low profile for their operations abroad. But Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, displayed a map on the Senate floor in July locating more than 46,000 acres that American growers were cultivating in just two Mexican states, Guanajuato and Baja California.

“Farmers are renting land in Mexico,” Ms. Feinstein said. “They don’t want us to know that.”

She predicted that more American farmers would move to Mexico for the ready work force and lower wages. Ms. Feinstein favored a measure in the failed immigration bill that would have created a new guest worker program for agriculture and a special legal status for illegal immigrant farm workers.

In the past, some Americans have planted south of the border to escape spiraling land prices and to ensure year-round deliveries of crops they can produce only seasonally in the United States. But in the last three years, Mr. Nassif and other growers said, labor force uncertainties have become a major reason farmers have shifted to Mexico.

While there are benefits for Mexico, as American farmers bring the latest technology and techniques to its crop-producing regions, American farm state economists say thousands of middle-class jobs supporting agriculture are being lost in the United States. Some lawmakers in the United States also point to security risks when food for Americans is increasingly produced in foreign countries.

Tramping through one of his first lettuce crops near Celaya, an agribusiness hub in Guanajuato, Mr. Scaroni is more candid than many farmers about his move here. He had made six trips to Washington, he said, to plead with Congress to provide more legal immigrants for agriculture.

“I have a customer base that demands we produce and deliver product every day,” he said. “They don’t want to hear the excuses.” He acknowledges that wages are much lower in Mexico; he pays $11 a day here as opposed to about $9 an hour in California. But without legal workers in California, he said, “I have no choice but to offshore my operation.”

The Department of Labor has reported that 53 percent of the 2.5 million farm workers in the United States are illegal immigrants; growers and labor unions say as much as 70 percent of younger field hands are illegal.

As the American authorities tightened the border in recent years, seasonal migration from Mexico has been interrupted, demographers say. Many illegal farm laborers, reluctant to leave the United States, have abandoned the arduous migrant work of agriculture for year-round construction and service jobs. Labor shortages during harvests have become common.

Some academics say warnings of a farm labor debacle are exaggerated. “By and large the most dire predictions don’t come true,” said Philip Martin, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis. “There is no doubt that some people can’t count on workers showing up as much as they used to,” Professor Martin said. “But most of the places that are crying the loudest are exceptional cases.”

But some recent studies suggest that strains on the farm-labor supply are real. Stephen Levy, an economist at the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, in Palo Alto, compared unemployed Americans with illegal immigrant workers in the labor market. “The bottom line,” Mr. Levy said, “is that most unemployed workers are not available to replace fired, unauthorized immigrant workers,” in part because very few of the unemployed are in farm work.

Mr. Scaroni said he started growing in Mexico reluctantly, after seeing risks to his American operations. At peak season his California company, Valley Harvesting and Packing, employs more than 1,000 immigrants, and all have filled out the required federal form, known as an I-9, with Social Security numbers and other identity information.

“From my perspective everyone that works for me is legal,” he said. But based on farm labor statistics, he surmises that many of his workers presented false documents.

An impatient man in perpetual motion, Mr. Scaroni marches through his fields shouting orders to Mexican crew leaders in rough Spanish while he negotiates to buy new trucks in Mexico on a walkie-talkie in one hand and to sell produce in the United States on a cellphone in the other.

Frustrated with experts who say that farmers with labor problems should mechanize, he plunges his hands into side-by-side lettuce plants, pulling out one crisp green head and one that is soggy and brown. After his company invested $1 million in research, he said, “We haven’t come up with a way to tell a machine what’s a good head and what’s a bad head.”

He also dismisses arguments that he could attract workers by raising wages, saying Americans do not take the sweaty, seasonal field jobs. “I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I did that I would raise my costs and I would not have a legal work force,” Mr. Scaroni said.

Still, transferring to Mexico has been costly, he said. Since the greens he cuts here go to bagged salads in supermarkets in the United States, he follows the same food-safety practices as he does in California. Renting fallow Mexican land, he enclosed his fields in fences and installed drip-irrigation systems for the filtered water he uses.

He trained his Mexican field crews to wear hair nets, arm sheaths and sanitized gloves, and held drills on the correct use of portable toilets. In the clean-scrubbed cooling house, women in white caps scrutinize produce for every stray hair and dirt spot.

By now about one-fifth of Mr. Scaroni’s operation is on five farms approaching 2,000 acres in Guanajuato. A few of his Mexican employees came from California, like Antonio Martínez Aguilar, a field manager who worked there for 15 years but could never get immigration documents.

“I tried everything, but there wasn’t anything anyone could do to make me legal,” Mr. Martínez said.

Negotiated among growers and unions over seven years, the agricultural measure in the failed immigration bill, known as AgJobs, had wider bipartisan support than the bill as a whole, lawmakers said. Its supporters have said they hope to bring it before Congress this fall, perhaps attached to the farm bill. [It was hurt by last week’s resignation of Senator Larry E. Craig, the Idaho Republican who was one of its chief sponsors.]

Mr. Scaroni expects to recover his start-up costs because of the lower wages he pays here, although he says Mexican workers are less productive in their own country.

“It’s not a cake walk down here,” he said. “At least I know the one thing I don’t have to worry about is losing my labor force because of an immigration raid.”

domingo, 2 de septiembre de 2007

The Myth, the Math, the Sex


Published: August 12, 2007

EVERYONE knows men are promiscuous by nature. It’s part of the genetic strategy that evolved to help men spread their genes far and wide. The strategy is different for a woman, who has to go through so much just to have a baby and then nurture it. She is genetically programmed to want just one man who will stick with her and help raise their children.

Surveys bear this out. In study after study and in country after country, men report more, often many more, sexual partners than women.

One survey, recently reported by the federal government, concluded that men had a median of seven female sex partners. Women had a median of four male sex partners. Another study, by British researchers, stated that men had 12.7 heterosexual partners in their lifetimes and women had 6.5.

But there is just one problem, mathematicians say. It is logically impossible for heterosexual men to have more partners on average than heterosexual women. Those survey results cannot be correct.

It is about time for mathematicians to set the record straight, said David Gale, an emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Surveys and studies to the contrary notwithstanding, the conclusion that men have substantially more sex partners than women is not and cannot be true for purely logical reasons,” Dr. Gale said.

He even provided a proof, writing in an e-mail message:

“By way of dramatization, we change the context slightly and will prove what will be called the High School Prom Theorem. We suppose that on the day after the prom, each girl is asked to give the number of boys she danced with. These numbers are then added up giving a number G. The same information is then obtained from the boys, giving a number B.

Theorem: G=B

Proof: Both G and B are equal to C, the number of couples who danced together at the prom. Q.E.D.”

Sex survey researchers say they know that Dr. Gale is correct. Men and women in a population must have roughly equal numbers of partners. So, when men report many more than women, what is going on and what is to be believed?

“I have heard this question before,” said Cheryl D. Fryar, a health statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics and a lead author of the new federal report, “Drug Use and Sexual Behaviors Reported by Adults: United States, 1999-2002,” which found that men had a median of seven partners and women four.

But when it comes to an explanation, she added, “I have no idea.”

“This is what is reported,” Ms. Fryar said. “The reason why they report it I do not know.”

Sevgi O. Aral, who is associate director for science in the division of sexually transmitted disease prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there are several possible explanations and all are probably operating.

One is that men are going outside the population to find partners, to prostitutes, for example, who are not part of the survey, or are having sex when they travel to other countries.

Another, of course, is that men exaggerate the number of partners they have and women underestimate.

Dr. Aral said she cannot determine what the true number of sex partners is for men and women, but, she added, “I would say that men have more partners on average but the difference is not as big as it seems in the numbers we are looking at.”

Dr. Gale is still troubled. He said invoking women who are outside the survey population cannot begin to explain a difference of 75 percent in the number of partners, as occurred in the study saying men had seven partners and women four. Something like a prostitute effect, he said, “would be negligible.” The most likely explanation, by far, is that the numbers cannot be trusted.

Ronald Graham, a professor of mathematics and computer science at the University of California, San Diego, agreed with Dr. Gale. After all, on average, men would have to have three more partners than women, raising the question of where all those extra partners might be.

“Some might be imaginary,” Dr. Graham said. “Maybe two are in the man’s mind and one really exists.”

Dr. Gale added that he is not just being querulous when he raises the question of logical impossibility. The problem, he said, is that when such data are published, with no asterisk next to them saying they can’t be true, they just “reinforce the stereotypes of promiscuous males and chaste females.”

In fact, he added, the survey data themselves may be part of the problem. If asked, a man, believing that he should have a lot of partners, may feel compelled to exaggerate, and a woman, believing that she should have few partners, may minimize her past.

“In this way,” Dr. Gale said, “the false conclusions people draw from these surveys may have a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.”