"Essentially, they trained a computer to determine, for each individual face, the most attractive set of distances and then choose the ideal closest to the original face. . . .
"Studies have shown that there is surprising agreement about what makes a face attractive. Symmetry is at the core, along with youthfulness; clarity or smoothness of skin; and vivid color, say, in the eyes and hair. There is little dissent among people of different cultures, ethnicities, races, ages and gender.
"Yet, like the many other attempts to use objective principles or even mathematical formulas to define beauty, this software program raises what psychologists, philosophers and feminists say are complex, even disturbing, questions about the perception of beauty and a beauty ideal."
-- "The Sum of Your Facial Parts," NYT Online, 10/8/08
I remember reading an article about this sort of thing in a newsmagazine a few years ago. It was illustrated with headshots of Denzel Washington and Lyle Lovett, complete with lines indicating symmetry or the lack thereof. (I thought it was kind of mean, but I guess if I were Lyle Lovett, I'd be used to it by now.)
Well, the developer does say that the goal wasn't to prove (or even argue) that the altered faces are more beautiful. He wanted to figure out how to alter a face according to agreed-upon standards of attractiveness but still produce results that leave the face recognizable. Of course, among those who are jumping on this are cosmetic surgeons. :-\