Triple-Decker Weekly, 44
Walter Bond, NIO’s “Director of Militant Direct Action,” is serving a federal sentence for torching a restaurant that served foie gras. He’s written that the world would be better off if “non-Vegans were disposed of.”
U.S. study warns of extreme heat, more severe storms. While U.S. agriculture will likely remain resilient in the next 25 years, yields of major crops could start declining by mid-century and warming oceans could threaten fish, the study said.
Artists, creative writers, and musicians have long been interested in the complex motives that spark passionate love, sexual desire, and sexual behavior. Recently, scholars from a variety of disciplines have begun to investigate two questions: “Why do men and women choose to engage in sexual liaisons?” “Why do they avoid such encounters?” Theories abound. Many theorists have complained that there exists a paucity of scales designed to measure the plethora of motives that prompt people to seek out or to avoid sexual activities. In fact, this observation is incorrect. […] Until recently, American sexologists generally assumed that young people engage in sexual activities for one of three reasons (the Big Three): love, a desire for pleasure, and/or a desire to procreate. […] Take a foray into the worlds of culture, art, and literature, however, and suddenly one becomes aware of how narrow the perspective of the Western scientist has been. There are a multitude of reasons why men and women might wish to engage in sexual activities. As Levin (1994) observed: “Coitus is undertaken not only for pleasure and procreation but also to degrade, control and dominate, to punish and hurt, to overcome loneliness or boredom, to rebel against authority, to establish one’s sexuality, or one’s achieving sexual competence (adulthood), or to show that sexual access was possible (to “score”), for duty, for adventure, to obtain favours such as a better position or role in life, or even for livelihood.” [Interpersona]
Thanks Rob, 2: The case of Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker and finalist for college football’s highest honor, and his fake dead girlfriend takes this question to a whole new level. How can someone claim to have fallen in love with a woman he never met? [NY Times ]
Thanks Rob, 3: The Phantom Time Hypothesis is a conspiracy theory developed by Heribert Illig in 1991. It proposes that periods of history, specifically that of Europe during the Early Middle Ages (AD 614–911), did not exist, and that there has been a systematic effort to cover up that fact. Illig believed that this was achieved through the alteration, misrepresentation and forgery of documentary and physical evidence. [Wikipedia | via Nick Moran]
Over one hundred million women in the world are estimated to be “missing” from the world’s population due to some form of gendercide. Gendercide exists on almost every continent and affects every class of people. Gendercide has traditionally taken the form of sex-selective abortion, infanticide, or death caused by neglect.
What is memory for? Episodic memory enables one to capture the precise details of an experience, and then to recollect this information rapidly whenever and wherever needed. Typical examples of its evolutionary value focus on the individual navigating the world, but the advantages conferred by episodic memory may be more far-reaching than often appreciated. For example, interactions with other people are important for our survival and wellbeing. Might episodic memory be crucial for establishing and/or maintaining interpersonal relationships? To address this question, we examined social relationships in three amnesic patients. [Frontiers]
Extraversion does not just explain differences between how people act at social events. How extraverted you are may influence how the brain makes choices — specifically whether you choose an immediate or delayed reward, according to a new study.
All indulgences in life are bad for us—or at least it often seems that way. We regularly desire things that provide short-term satisfaction, yet may harbor long-term negative consequences. In order to enjoy these ‘‘guilty pleasures’’ however, we often find ways to justify their consumption. Challenging or adverse experiences serve this purpose well, providing a convenient rationale for self indulgence and making us feel more entitled to a little pleasure. This paper considers two studies that support the link between adversity and self-reward. Study 1 demonstrates that pain leads to self-reward but only in contexts that frame the experience of pain as “unjust.” Study 2 shows that after pain people are more likely to self-reward with guilty pleasures (chocolate) in preference to other kinds of rewards (a pen). The studies provide evidence that simply experiencing physical pain facilitates indulgence in guilty pleasures. [SAGE | PDF]
A lucky two percent of people have a gene for stink-free armpits. But a new study finds most of them still use deodorant.
A massive effort to uncover genes involved in depression has largely failed. By combing through the DNA of 34,549 volunteers, an international team of 86 scientists hoped to uncover genetic influences that affect a person’s vulnerability to depression. But the analysis turned up nothing. The results are the latest in a string of large studies that have failed to pinpoint genetic culprits of depression. […] Depression seems to run in families, leading scientists to think that certain genes are partially behind the disorder. But so far, studies on people diagnosed with depression have failed to reveal these genes. [ScienceNews]
The DNA that makes up your genes is entwined in 46 chromosomes, each of which ends with a telomere, a stretch of DNA that protects the chromosome like the plastic tip on a shoelace. Telomeres are quite long at birth and shorten a bit every time a cell divides; ultimately, after scores of divisions, very little telomere remains and the cell becomes inactive or dies. And because elderly people generally have shorter telomeres than younger people, scientists believe that telomere length may be a marker for longevity as well as cellular health. Now researchers are discovering that experiences can affect telomeres—intriguing new evidence for nurture’s impact on nature. […] “We found that children who experience multiple forms of violence had the fastest erosion of their telomeres, compared with children who experienced just one type of violence or did not experience violence at all,” says Idan Shalev, the study’s lead author. Another study, conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, hints at possible physical effects of chronic stress. Among a sample of 5,243 nurses nationwide, those who suffered from phobias had significantly shorter telomeres than those who didn’t. […] While researchers are adding to the list of things that can shorten telomeres (smoking, for instance, and infectious diseases), they’ve also zeroed in on activities that seem to slow down telomere degradation. In a German study, people in their 40s and 50s had telomeres about 40 percent shorter than people in their 20s if they were sedentary, but only 10 percent shorter if they were dedicated runners. [Smithsonian]
The question is, what happens to your ideas about computational architecture when you think of individual neurons not as dutiful slaves or as simple machines but as agents that have to be kept in line and that have to be properly rewarded and that can form coalitions and cabals and organizations and alliances? This vision of the brain as a sort of social arena of politically warring forces seems like sort of an amusing fantasy at first, but is now becoming something that I take more and more seriously, and it’s fed by a lot of different currents. Evolutionary biologist David Haig has some lovely papers on intrapersonal conflicts where he’s talking about how even at the level of the genetics, even at the level of the conflict between the genes you get from your mother and the genes you get from your father, the so-called madumnal and padumnal genes, those are in opponent relations and if they get out of whack, serious imbalances can happen that show up as particular psychological anomalies. We’re beginning to come to grips with the idea that your brain is not this well-organized hierarchical control system where everything is in order, a very dramatic vision of bureaucracy. In fact, it’s much more like anarchy with some elements of democracy. Sometimes you can achieve stability and mutual aid and a sort of calm united front, and then everything is hunky-dory, but then it’s always possible for things to get out of whack and for one alliance or another to gain control, and then you get obsessions and delusions and so forth. You begin to think about the normal well-tempered mind, in effect, the well-organized mind, as an achievement, not as the base state, something that is only achieved when all is going well, but still, in the general realm of humanity, most of us are pretty well put together most of the time. This gives a very different vision of what the architecture is like, and I’m just trying to get my head around how to think about that. [Daniel C. Dennett/Edge]
New York police will begin asking city pharmacies to stock decoy bottles fitted with GPS devices among powerful painkillers like Oxycontin and oxycodone in the latest bid to combat gunpoint robberies of drug stores.
People are often broken into two groups when doing hypnosis research. High hypnotizable people and non-hypnozable people. As most people have heard, hypnosis does not work on everybody. But why is that? Research shows that high hypnotizable people actually have structural differences in their brains. [Quora]
String theory is an attempt to describe all particles and all forces in nature in one unified theoretical framework. It encompasses quantum mechanics and gravity, and it is based on the idea that the fundamental building blocks of matter are not particles, but strings: objects which have some length, and which can vibrate in different ways. [Steven Gubser/The Browser]
Did you know that around 85% of humans only breathe out of one nostril at a time? This fact may surprise you, but even more remarkable is the following: our body follows a pattern and switches from breathing out of one nostril to the other in a cyclical way. Typically, every four hours it switches from left to right, or right to left. [United Academics]
Materialistic consumers may derive more pleasure from desiring products than they do from actually owning them, and are willing to overspend and go into debt because they believe that future purchases will transform their lives, according to a new study. […] “Materialists are more likely to overspend and have credit problems, possibly because they believe that acquisitions will increase their happiness and change their lives in meaningful ways. Learning that acquisition is less pleasurable than anticipating a purchase may help them delay purchases until they are better able to afford them,” the author concludes. [Journal of Consumer Research | PDF]
China has been running the world’s largest and most successful eugenics program for more than thirty years, driving China’s ever-faster rise as the global superpower. […] Chinese eugenics will quickly become even more effective, given its massive investment in genomic research on human mental and physical traits. BGI-Shenzhen employs more than 4,000 researchers. It has far more “next-generation” DNA sequencers that anywhere else in the world, and is sequencing more than 50,000 genomes per year. It recently acquired the California firm Complete Genomics to become a major rival to Illumina. […] A new kind of misplaced worries is likely to become more and more common. The ever-accelerating current scientific and technological revolution results in a flow of problems and opportunities that presents unprecedented cognitive and decisional challenges. Our capacity to anticipate these problems and opportunities is swamped by their number, novelty, speed of arrival, and complexity. […] As we experience faster flows of information online, we become, in other words, less patient people. [What Should We Be Worried About? | Edge]
From the 1940s through the 1980s, recovery was accompanied by significant job growth—on the order of between 10 and 20 percent after four years. In our last three recessions, by contrast, we actually continued to lose jobs through the first months of “recovery,” and then added jobs at a glacial pace. [Dissent]
Jon M at Sociological Speculation reports: ”…new drugs such as Modafinil appear to vastly reduce the need for sleep without significant side effects (at least so far). Based on reports from users, it seems that people could realistically cut their sleep requirements to as few as 2.5 hours a night without a decrease in mental acuity.” He notes that people would probably work more, and wonders whether… “…these pills would amount to an increase in the labour supply and cause a fall in hourly wages or unemployment.” Normal microeconomics makes the right answer obvious: A rise in supply pushes down the price of work, so wages will fall. But normal microeconomics only takes you so far: to get at dynamics and interdependence you need some kind of macroeconomics, a tool for seeing the big picture. So here’s what probably happens when drugs make it easier to work more hours: All those extra work hours make capital more valuable, since your assembly line, your delivery truck, your call center can now all produce more output per machine. What happens when something gets more valuable? People try to accumulate more of it. And what happens when the economy accumulates more capital? All those extra machines probably make workers more productive, boosting labor demand and therefore raising wages. [Garett Jones/EconLog]
“They’re in the hedge fund business, so they drop their windfall profits into art. It’s just not serious,” he told the Observer. [...] “I hope this is the start of something that breaks the system. At the moment it feels like the Paris salon of the 19th century, where bureaucrats and conservatives combined to stifle the field of work. It was the Impressionists who forced a new system, led by the artists themselves. It created modern art and a whole new way of looking at things.” [Guardian]
Google agrees. “Along with many in the industry, we feel passwords and simple bearer tokens such as cookies are no longer sufficient to keep users safe,” Grosse and Upadhyay write in their paper. Thus, they’re experimenting with new ways to replace the password, including a tiny Yubico cryptographic card that — when slid into a USB (Universal Serial Bus) reader — can automatically log a web surfer into Google. They’ve had to modify Google’s web browser to work with these cards, but there’s no software download and once the browser support is there, they’re easy to use. You log into the website, plug in the USB stick and then register it with a single mouse click. They see a future where you authenticate one device — your smartphone or something like a Yubico key — and then use that almost like a car key, to fire up your web mail and online accounts. In the future, they’d like things to get even easier, perhaps connecting to the computer via wireless technology. [Wired]
Stretching before exercise is a sacred ritual, but researchers have been finding that it actually slows you down. Florida State researchers recently showed that stretching before a run makes you about 5 percent less efficient, meaning you have to burn more energy to run at the same pace. This year, Italian researchers studying cyclists discovered why stretching is counterproductive. They found evidence that toe-touching stretches change the force-transmission properties of muscle fibers and alter the brain signals to muscle, reducing exercise efficiency by about 4 percent. Furthermore, there’s insufficient scientific evidence that pre-exercise stretching reduces injury risk. [Popular Mechanics]
Myth: Sugar makes kids hyper. Fact: Many studies have shown that consuming large amounts of sugar does not inherently make kids (or adults) bounce off the walls. Dr. Tom Robinson explains that because so many parents (and thus children) expect eating sweets to make them hyper, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. “The way we think we should feel has a lot to do with how we do feel,” he said. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a review of 23 studies on the subject, and the results back up Robinson’s rationale. [San Francisco Chronicle]
Are there any side effects to cracking knuckles? There is no evidence that cracking knuckles causes any damage such as arthritis in the joints. However, a couple of reports in the medical literature are available associating knuckle cracking with injury of the ligaments surrounding the joint or dislocation of the tendons ( attachments of muscles to bones) which improved with conservative treatment. A study found that after many years of cracking habitual knuckle crackers may have reduced grip strength compared with people not cracking their knuckles. [Arthritis Center]
Ask most people how to determine a dog’s age in human years, and they’ll probably say, “Multiply by seven.” However, this method is inaccurate, and more so the older a dog gets. […] Dogs mature faster than humans, reaching the equivalent of twenty-one years in only two, but then aging slows to an average of four human years every year after. So, next time someone asks you a dog’s age in human years, you’ll know how to give a more accurate answer. Subtract two from the age, multiply that by four and add twenty-one. [Cesar's Way]
A nine-year-old Pennsylvania girl wearing a black and white Halloween costume was shot in the shoulder by a shotgun-wielding relative who mistook her for a skunk. Is a bullet wound in the shoulder as harmless as the movies make it seem?
All Scrabble players know that Q and Z are the highest scoring tiles. You can get 10 points for each, in the English language version of the game. But according to one American researcher, Z really only deserves six points.