After the near‐collapse of the world’s financial system has shown that we economists really do not know how the world works, I am much too embarrassed to teach economics anymore, which I have done for many years. I will teach Modern Korean Drama instead. Although I have never been to Korea, I have watched Korean drama on a daily basis for over six years now. Therefore I can justly consider myself an expert in that subject. [Uwe E. Reinhardt, Princeton University | PDF]
New research shows that, for most of us, the last experience we’ve had can be the defining one when it comes to taking a decision, coming at the expense of other experiences we’ve accumulated further back in time [ScienceBlog]
An experimental algorithm out of Facebook’s artificial intelligence lab can recognise people in photographs even when it can’t see their faces […] with 83 per cent accuracy. [NewScientist]
California-based company Face First is rolling out a system for retailers that it says will “boost sales by recognising high-value customers each time they shop” and send “alerts when known litigious individuals enter any of your locations.” […] “You walk into a car dealership and the salesman knows your name and how much you make.” Another company, called Churchix is marketing facial recognition systems for churches. Once the faces of a church’s membership have been added to a database, the system tracks their attendance automatically. It also claims to be able to discern demographic data about the entire congregation, including age and gender. [NewScientist]
I was laying on a towel in a parking spot in Soho — I put money in the meter so it was mine to do whatever I wanted with — and was tanning in a used Versace speedo that I bought on eBay, and got spotted. It all happened so fast, it was truly a blessing. […] I knew that having a mediocre body would one day become the new having a great body, and that time has finally arrived. Those lines you get when you’re super fit that point toward your genitals are way out, having a body like Shrek is way in. [The Fat Jew/Hollywood Reporter]
There is no question that biases exist in self-perceptions of personality. To what extent do people have insight into their positive and negative self-biases? In two samples (total N = 130), people with positive biases (i.e., self-perceptions that are more positive than a reputation-based criterion measure) accurately described themselves as positively biased, and people with negative biases accurately described themselves as negatively biased. Furthermore, people were able to distinguish which traits they were more or less biased about. These findings suggest that people may know more about themselves than they initially admit. [Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin]
In a patent dispute between two pharmaceutical giants arguing over who owns the royalty rights to a lucrative wound-dressing solution, […] three judges coined a new legal definition of “one”. […] The ConvaTec patent covered any salt solution “between 1 per cent and 25 per cent of the total volume of treatment”. However, Smith & Nephew devised a competing product that used 0.77 per cent concentration, bypassing, or so it believed, the ConvaTec patent. […] Their lordships concluded that “one” includes anything greater or equal to 0.5 and less than 1.5 – much to the chagrin of Smith & Nephew. [The Independent]
The method to achieving what seemed like a superhuman feat was called the Dymaxion sleeping schedule: four naps of 30 minutes taken every six hours. […] Problems began after 36 hours. I was finding it hard staying awake at night. […] I changed to an easier sleep schedule: the Everyman, where I slept for 3.5 hours at night and took three 20-minute naps in the day. […] After three weeks and a few more obstacles, I finally settled into the new schedule. [Quartz]
Why you should answer all your emails at 3PM (The ideal work schedule, as determined by circadian rhythms)
In the course of several studies, 22 male and female subjects, ranging in age from 5–75 years, have been stimulated while asleep by simulated sonic booms […] and subsonic jet flyover noise. […] Children (5–8 years of age) are uniformly unaffected by noise during sleep; older subjects are more sensitive to noise than younger subjects; women are more sensitive to noise during sleep than are men. [Journal of Sound and Vibration]
Previous studies reveal relationships between birth month and several diseases including atherothrombosis, asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and myopia, leaving most diseases completely unexplored. […] We found 55 diseases that were significantly dependent on birth month. […] Seasonally dependent early developmental mechanisms may play a role in increasing lifetime risk of disease. […] Looking at all 10 (9 novel) cardiovascular conditions revealed that individuals born in the autumn (September–December) were protected against cardiovascular conditions while those born in the winter (January–March) and spring (April–June) were associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk (Figure 5). Interestingly, one study found that people born in the autumn (October–December) lived longer than those born in the spring (April–June). [Oxford University Press]
In 1908, an asteroid measuring perhaps 90-190 meters across struck Siberia, damaging over 2,000 square kilometers of Russian forest – an area that measures larger than New York’s five boroughs. Scientists estimate that the energy of that explosion was about 1,000 times that of the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. This is far from the only close call that humans have had with asteroids. In 2004, an asteroid big enough to have its own small moon narrowly missed the planet. In 2013, an asteroid struck the Russia countryside with many times the force of the Hiroshima bomb, and was widely captured on video. And of course, it was an asteroid, smashing into the Earth with the force of more than billion Hiroshima bombs, which nixed the dinosaurs and allowed humans to take over the Earth in the first place. [More: The event appears to have hit all continents at the same time | Many hypotheses have been put forward to explain these extinctions] […] The probability that you’ll die from an asteroid may be surprisingly large – about the same probability as dying from a plane crash, according to research. [Washington Post]
Einstein wondered what would happen if the Sun were to suddenly explode. Since the Sun is so far away that it takes light eight minutes to travel to Earth, we wouldn’t know about the explosion straight away. For eight glorious minutes we’d be completely oblivious to the terrible thing that was about to happen. But what about gravity? The Earth moves in an ellipse around the Sun, due to the Sun’s gravity. If the Sun wasn’t there, it would move off in a straight line. Einstein’s puzzle was when that would happen: straight away, or after eight minutes? According to Newton’s theory, the Earth should know immediately that the Sun had disappeared. But Einstein said that couldn’t be right. Because, according to him, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light — not even the effects of gravity. […] Before Einstein people thought of space as stage on which the laws of physics play out. We could throw in some stars or some planets and they would move around on this stage. Einstein realised that space isn’t as passive as that. It is dynamic and it responds to what’s happening within it. If you put something heavy in space — let’s say a planet like Earth — then space around it gives a little. The presence of the planet causes a small dent in space (and in fact, in time as well). When something else moves close to the planet — say the Moon — it feels this dent in space and rolls around the planet like a marble rolling in a bowl. This is what we call gravity. […] Stars and planets move, causing space to bend in their wake, causing other stars and planets to move, causing space to bend in their wake. And so on. This is Einstein’s great insight. Gravity is the manifestation of the curvature of space and time. [Plus Magazine | Part One | Part Two]
Research has shown that humans consciously use alcohol to encourage sexual activity. […] In the current study, we examined if males exposed without their knowledge to pheromones emitted by fertile females would increase their alcohol consumption, presumably via neurobehavioral information pathways that link alcohol to sex and mating. We found that men who smelled a T-shirt worn by a fertile female drank significantly more (nonalcoholic) beer, and exhibited significantly greater approach behavior toward female cues, than those who smelled a T-shirt worn by a nonfertile female. [Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology]
[B]oth men and women show roughly the same neural activity during orgasm. […] “What we see is an overall activation of the brain; basically it’s like all systems go.” This may explain why orgasms are so all-consuming – if the whole forest is blazing, it’s difficult to discriminate between the different campfires that were there at the start. “At orgasm, if everything gets activated simultaneously, this can obliterate the fine discrimination between activities,” Komisaruk adds. It is maybe why you can’t think about anything else. […] The penis has just one route for carrying sensations to the brain, the female genital tract has three or four. […] After orgasm, however, some important differences do emerge, which might begin to explain why men and women react so differently after climax. Komisaruk, with Kachina Allen, has found preliminary evidence that specific regions of the male brain become unresponsive to further sensory stimulation of the genitals in the immediate aftermath of orgasm, whereas women’s brains continue to be activated: this may be why some women experience multiple orgasms, and men do not. [BBC]
Healthy people who were given the serotonin-boosting antidepressant citalopram were willing to pay twice as much to prevent harm to themselves or others, compared to those given a placebo. By contrast, those who were given a dose of the dopamine-enhancing Parkinson’s drug levodopa made more selfish decisions, overcoming an existing tendency to prefer harming themselves over others. [IB Times]
Most humans perceive a given odor similarly. But the genes for the molecular machinery that humans use to detect scents are about 30 percent different in any two people, says neuroscientist Noam Sobel. […] This variation means that nearly every person’s sense of smell is subtly different. [….] Sobel and his colleagues designed a sensitive scent test they call the “olfactory fingerprint.” […] People with similar olfactory fingerprints showed similarity in their genes for immune system proteins linked to body odor and mate choice. […] It has been shown that people can use smell to detect their genetic similarity to others and avoid inbreeding, says neuroscientist Joel Mainland of Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. [Science News]
The brain shrinks over the course of the day, ending up smaller in the evening – before returning to its full size the next morning.
Swimming under the surface is faster than swimming on the surface. And the fish kick may be the fastest subsurface form yet.
If sea levels rise as feared, some of the world’s island nations may disappear this century. Does that mean they no longer exist as countries?
Do observers like curvature or do they dislike angularity? [PDF]
Is it possible to gauge how wealthy a New Yorker might be just by the way they pronounce their /r/ s? And: The Social Stratification of (r) in New York City Department Stores [PDF]