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Shines Like Gold
By imp kerr
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Triple-Decker Weekly

Fortune Teller Used Google to Speak to the Dead.

Zoo Keeper Helps Constipated Monkey Pass Peanut By Licking Its Butt For An Hour.

The scientists individually told each member of another group of randomly selected people, “I hate to tell you this, but no one chose you as someone they wanted to work with.” […] The whole point of going through all of this as far as the students knew, was to sit in front of a bowl containing 35 mini chocolate-chip cookies and judge those cookies on taste, smell, and texture. The subjects learned they could eat as many as they wanted while filling out a form commonly used in corporate taste tests. The researchers left them alone with the cookies for 10 minutes. This was the actual experiment – measuring cookie consumption based on social acceptance. How many cookies would the wanted people eat, and how would their behavior differ from the unwanted? […] Why did the rejected group feel motivated to keep mushing cookies into their sad faces? […] The answer has to do with something psychologists now call ego depletion, and you would be surprised to learn how many things can cause it, how often you feel it, and how much in life depends on it. [You Are Not So Smart]

Research that I have done over the past decade suggests that a chemical messenger called oxytocin accounts for why some people give freely of themselves and others are coldhearted louts, why some people cheat and steal and others you can trust with your life, why some husbands are more faithful than others, and why women tend to be nicer and more generous than men. In our blood and in the brain, oxytocin appears to be the chemical elixir that creates bonds of trust not just in our intimate relationships but also in our business dealings, in politics and in society at large. Known primarily as a female reproductive hormone, oxytocin controls contractions during labor, which is where many women encounter it as Pitocin, the synthetic version that doctors inject in expectant mothers to induce delivery. Oxytocin is also responsible for the calm, focused attention that mothers lavish on their babies while breast-feeding. And it is abundant, too, on wedding nights (we hope) because it helps to create the warm glow that both women and men feel during sex, a massage or even a hug. Since 2001, my colleagues and I have conducted a number of experiments showing that when someone’s level of oxytocin goes up, he or she responds more generously and caringly, even with complete strangers. […] In our studies, we found that a small percentage of subjects never shared any money; analysis of their blood indicated that their oxytocin receptors were malfunctioning. [Paul J. Zak/WSJ]

When objects are arranged in an array from left to right, the central item calls out to you “Pick me, pick me!” […] In a new study psychologists have provided further evidence for what’s called the “Centre Stage effect” – our preferential bias towards items located in the middle. [BPS]

Sexual selection is a variant of natural selection in which one gender prefers certain traits be present in their mate. Thus individuals with those attractive traits will have a high reproductive success, spreading their genes (and the trait) through the population. This is the process which resulted in the large, elaborate tails of peacocks. Given the influence sexual selection can have on a population, researchers started to wonder if there were any traits in humans that were the product of mate-choice preferences. [EvoAnth]

The universal nature of human facial preferences suggests the possibility that such preferences are adaptations to the problem of mate choice. Sexual selection will have favored preferences for facial traits which are associated with reproductive success. […] One way facial traits may signal mate quality is by indicating the health of the individual displaying them. Healthy individuals confer a reduced risk of infection as well as the possibility of heritable immunity for their suitors’ offspring. Preferences for facial traits that are linked with health are therefore expected to be present. […] This study supports the finding that facial femininity and attractiveness may indicate women’s health history, which partially supports (although without confirmation of such relationships in future health, does not confirm) the hypothesis that female facial structure is a direct indicator of health functioning. [Evolutionary Psychology | PDF]

Jealousy and envy at work are different in men and women.

David Eagleman, neuroscientist: Take the vast, unconscious, automated processes that run under the hood of conscious awareness. We have discovered that the large majority of the brain’s activity takes place at this low level. The conscious part – the “me” that flickers to life when you wake up in the morning – is only a tiny bit of the operations. This understanding has given us a better understanding of the complex multiplicity that makes a person. A person is not a single entity of a single mind: a human is built of several parts, all of which compete to steer the ship of state. As a consequence, people are nuanced, complicated, contradictory. We act in ways that are sometimes difficult to detect by simple introspection. […] Raymond Tallis, former professor of geriatric medicine: [You] present us as more helpless, ignorant and zombie-like than is compatible with the kinds of lives we actually live and, what’s more, with doing brain science. [Guardian]

Efron observed the conversations of 1,250 Lithuanian and Polish Jews and 1,100 Italians from Naples and Sicily in and around New York City. Jews used a limited range of motion, mostly from the elbow. Their movements were more angular, jabbing, intricate, and vertical than those of the Italians, who used larger, smoother, more curved lateral gestures which pivoted from the shoulder. Jews tended to use one hand, Italians both. [Lapham's Quaterly]

Neuroscientists have uncovered the first evidence of a common genetic thread, which links together multiple senses in humans. The new findings suggest our sense of touch is genetically intertwined with our sense of hearing. [Cosmos]

Are straight people born that way? […] We have to start with a more fundamental question: What do we mean when we say someone is “straight”? At the most basic level, we seem to be imagining female bodies that are specifically sexually aroused by male bodies, and vice versa. Laboratory studies suggest that, while such people probably do exist — at least in North America, where many sexologists have focused their attentions – it’s not uncommon for straight-identified people to be at least a little aroused by the idea of same-sex relations. The media has tended to broadcast the news that gay-identified men and straight-identified men have quite discernible arousal patterns when they are shown various kinds of sexual stimuli. And that’s true. But if you look closely at the data, you’ll see that most straight-identified men do tend to show a little bit of arousal across sex categories (as do gay-identified men). [The Atlantic]

Drawing on the metaphor of ‘Prozac’, Prozac leadership encourages leaders to believe their own narratives that everything is going well and discourages followers from raising problems or admitting mistakes. Prozac is used to denote and symbolize a widespread social addiction to excessive positivity. Problems can occur, particularly if this positivity is seen to be discrepant with everyday experience. For example, if leaders repeatedly promise that ‘things can only get better’ but over time this does not happen, followers can become increasingly sceptical and cynical. This article warns that Prozac leadership, whether in corporate, political or other settings, can damage performance by eroding trust, communication, learning and preparedness. [SAGE]


Albert Tirrell and Mary Bickford had scandalized Boston for years, both individually and as a couple, registering, as one observer noted, “a rather high percentage of moral turpitude.” […] Choate kept that case in mind while plotting his defense of Tirrell, and considered an even more daring tactic: contending that Tirrell was a chronic sleepwalker. If he killed Mary Bickford, he did so in a somnambulistic trance and could not be held responsible. [Smithsonian]

Brain neuroimaging studies continue to outline the structural and functional abnormalities in disorders of mood. A relatively consistent finding has been a reduced volume of the brain hippocampus in major depressive disorder. […] The hippocampus is an important brain region to understand in the mood disorders. The hippocampus has a key role in memory. Patients with mood disorders commonly display impairments in mood including deficitis in autobiographical memory. Unipolar depression appears to increase risk for later development of Alzheimer’s disease. Hippocampal volume reduction is a common finding in Alzheimer’s disease. [Brain Posts]

A sense of the constraints faced by surgeons, and the mettle required of patients, in the era before anesthesia and antisepsis. [New England Journal of Medicine]

After a busy week with short nights, many use the weekend to make up for lost hours of sleep. Not a healthy habit, says researcher Paulien Barf. On the long run it could result into the development of obesity or even diabetes. Previous studies have shown that sleeping to recover from sleep shortage is of importance for a variety of physiological processes. [United Academics]

Well-meaning friends and family members may suggest that you have a couple of drinks after living through a stressful event. A friend of mine had a bike accident recently that sent her over a car door and miraculously left her with only a few bruises. Having a couple of drinks immediately after this will of course dull her nerves, since ethanol is an anxiolytic. But is it really a good idea to get tipsy (or worse) after living through a stressful event? Given that alcohol is an anxiolytic and that it causes amnesia, it doesn’t seem such a stretch to think that having a beer right after very a stressful event (within the next, say, 6 hours) will decrease the likelihood of long-term negative consequences (say, developing a phobia of biking). [xcorr]

Recent years has seen the emergence of a popular ‘raw food’ movement. Dehydrating food to make it palatable, raw-foodies argue that cooking food destroys valuable vitamins and enzymes, rendering it nutritionally impoverished. It sounds logical, but – especially with vegetables – is often false. Many vegetables actually gain nutritional value after careful cooking or steaming. Furthermore, a strict vegan raw food diet is not good for long term health. […] Red meat is notable in that it contains a good source of B-vitamins that are essential for healthy muscles, skin and nerves. It also contains iron and other important minerals. Like most things however, steak should be in moderation as a high intake is associated with colon cancer and other health nasties. […] The longer steak is cooked, the fewer vitamins it contains. [Doctor Stu]

The first perspective produces legislative atrocities like the proposed New York City bill that would have penalized taxi drivers for transporting prostitutes. […] I’m in favor of legalizing all forms of sex work for adults—not because I think it’s necessarily such great work, but because I think being a legal worker is better than being an illegal worker. [Jacobin]

All our ancestors lived in the continent of Africa until 150,000 years ago. Some time after that, say the genes, one group of Africans somehow became so good at exploiting their environment that they (we) expanded across all of Africa and began to spill out of the continent into Asia and Europe, invading new ecological niches and driving their competitors extinct. There is plenty of dispute about what gave these people such an advantage—language, some other form of mental ingenuity, or the collective knowledge that comes from exchange and specialization—but there is also disagreement about when the exodus began. […] Sea levels were 150 feet lower then, because the cold had locked up so much moisture in northern ice-caps, so not only were most Indonesian islands linked by land, but the Persian Gulf was dry and, crucially, the southern end of the Red Sea was a narrow strait. [WSJ]

From what I previously understood, people would ingest mushrooms, and if they were in a negative state of mind, they’d have a “bad trip.” […] I just figured that magic mushrooms must hyper-activate the parts of the brain that perceive color and sound, to the point where people perceive things that aren’t even there. However, recent research out of the U.K. says that, surprisingly, I’ve got it all backwards. […] The thought behind this finding is that when people do shrooms, pathways in the brain that would normally restrict cognition are temporarily turned off, allowing people to cognate at higher levels than ever before. [Try Nerdy]

In 1927, Gestalt psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik noticed a funny thing: waiters in a Vienna restaurant could only remember orders that were in progress. As soon as the order was sent out and complete, they seemed to wipe it from memory. Zeigarnik then did what any good psychologist would: she went back to the lab and designed a study. A group of adults and children was given anywhere between 18 and 22 tasks to perform (both physical ones, like making clay figures, and mental ones, like solving puzzles)—only, half of those tasks were interrupted so that they couldn’t be completed. At the end, the subjects remembered the interrupted tasks far better than the completed ones—over two times better, in fact. […] Your mind wants to finish. [Maria Konnikova/Scientific American]

Exercise, done right, has been found to reduce the risk of dying from any cause by at least one third with a 9% reduction for every one hour of vigorous exercise performed per week. To be fair, studies which calculate such risks are inherently flawed. […] That’s why I like to look at the exercise-health correlation using fitness as the marker. Because fitness is a direct consequence of exercise, and it is something we can objectively measure in the lab. A fit 45 years old man has only one quarter the lifetime risk of dying from cardiovascular causes compared to his unfit peer. And 20 years later, at the age of 65, being fit means having only half the risk of an unfit 65-year old. […] The association of fitness with cancer is not as well researched as with cardiovascular disease. But the available data clearly point to a substantial effect. [Chronic Health]

Cockroaches are actually highly social creatures. Cockroaches do not like to be left alone, and suffer ill health when they are. [BBC]

A single-celled organism in Norway has been called “mankind’s furthest relative.” The organism, a type of protozoan, was found by researchers in a lake near Oslo. They found it doesn’t genetically fit into any of the previously discovered kingdoms of life. It’s an organism with membrane-bound internal structures, called a eukaryote, but genetically it isn’t an animal, plant, fungi, algae or protist (the five main groups of eukaryotes). [LiveScience]

Not only is it accurate enough to compensate for the tiny aberrations in the optics, but it’s so accurate that we don’t know how accurate it is because we don’t yet have instruments accurate enough to measure the level of its accuracy. The point is it’s pretty accurate. [Gizmodo]

The internet is no stranger to crime. From counterfeit and stolen products, to illegal drugs, stolen identities and weapons, nearly anything can be purchased online with a few clicks of the mouse. The online black market not only can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection, but the whole process of ordering illicit goods and services is alarmingly easy and anonymous, with multiple marketplaces to buy or sell anything you want. In our scenario we are going to legally transfer $1,000 USD out of a regular bank account and into a mathematical system of binary codes, and then enter a neighborhood of the Internet largely used by criminals. This hidden world anyone lets purchase bulk downloads of stolen credit cards, as well as a credit card writer, blank cards, some “on stage” fake identities—and maybe even a grenade launcher they’ve had their eyes on. A journey into the darker side of the Internet starts with two open-source programs: Bitcoin and the Tor Bundle. [CSO]

A group of computer security researchers have refined an innovative method of combatting identity theft. […] Its method, described in the journal Information Sciences, “continuously verifies users according to characteristics of their interaction with the mouse.” The idea of user verification through mouse monitoring is not new. As the researchers note, “a major threat to organizations is identity thefts that are committed by internal users who belong to the organization.” [Pacific Standard]

To justify its sky-high valuation, Facebook will have to increase its profit per user at rates that seem unlikely, even by the most generous predictions. […] The company is set to profit from selling user data but the users whose data is being traded do not get paid at all. That seems unfair. […] Why not  pay individuals for their data? […] If buyers choose only the cheapest data, the sample will be biased in favour of those who price their data cheaply. And if buyers pay everyone the highest price, they will be overpaying. [The Physics arXiv Blog]

The buy, driven entirely by Zuckerberg, was made because Facebook’s CEO was petrified of Instagram becoming a Twitter-owned property. [VentureBeat]

Google’s harvesting of e-mails, passwords and other sensitive personal information from unsuspecting households in the United States and around the world was neither a mistake nor the work of a rogue engineer, as the company long maintained, but a program that supervisors knew about, according to new details from the full text of a regulatory report. [NY Times]

Face recognition techniques usually come with a certain amount of controversy. A new application, however, is unlikely to trigger any privacy concerns because all of the subjects are long dead. Before photography took over, oil painting and portraiture was used to record what important people looked like. As a result for every artistically important painting there are a lot of “instant snaps” that fill museums and art gallery vaults. What would make these paintings much more valuable is knowing who all of the people in the portraits are. The solution might be to apply face recognition software. [I Programmer | UCR]

For eight days running, YouTube’s front page had been taken over by “botted” videos—videos whose views had been artificially inflated by software programs designed to trick YouTube’s servers—and as far as YouTubers could tell, YouTube’s owner, the mighty Google, seemed powerless to stop them. Google did eventually stop the worst of the bots, fixing a vulnerability in how the site counts mobile views. But the botting problem is far from over. And the episode leaves a lot of lingering questions over the site’s future. [DailyDot]

In 2009, the United States crossed a digital Rubicon: For the first time, the amount of data sent with mobile devices exceeded the sum of transmitted voice data. […] Placing a voice call, compared to streaming The Hangover 2 on Netflix or uploading a video clip of your friend’s latest freestyle BMX trick to YouTube, consumes virtually no bandwidth. […] And our calls are getting shorter. [The Wilson quaterly]

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Apple spent $2.3 million on lobbying last year and its lobbying expenditures have been steadily increasing over the past decade – in 2000, it only spent $360,000 on lobbying. A big chunk of this is spent lobbying specifically on tax policy, especially repatriation legislation, which lets firms bring profits held overseas back to the United States at a cheaper tax rate. One bill in particular, the Freedom to Invest Act of 2011, would save companies like Apple, Google, and Cisco $78.7 billion, paid for by the American people. [Republic Report]

Why Verizon Doesn’t Want You to Buy an iPhone.

How awesome is this treasure trove of emails, documents, files placed online by the NY Fed? Some of the emails between Lehman execs are laughable — naive, silly, hubristic, childish. But my favorite piece simply has to be the Morgan Stanley research report from June 30, 2008 “Overweight Rating” on Lehman Brothers — “Bruised, Not Broken, Poised for Profitability.” 60 days later, Lehman Brothers filed what was then the largest bankruptcy in the United States. [Ritholtz]

How much is a recipe worth? About $1.8 million, according to the owner of Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint, who boosted the sale price of her Singapore eatery by that amount when she put it on the market this year. [Bloomberg]

The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350, and is estimated to have killed 30–60 percent of Europe’s population, reducing world population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in the 14th century. [Wikipedia]

These persecutions were the burning of Jews between 1348 and 1351, when in anticipation of, or shortly after, outbreaks of plague Jews were accused of poisoning food, wells and streams, tortured into confessions, rounded up in city squares or their synagogues, and exterminated en masse. [Oxford Journals]

How persistent are cultural traits? This paper uses data on anti-Semitism in Germany and finds continuity at the local level over more than half a millennium. When the Black Death hit Europe in 1348-50, killing between one third and one half of the population, its cause was unknown. Many contemporaries blamed the Jews. Cities all over Germany witnessed mass killings of their Jewish population. At the same time, numerous Jewish communities were spared. We use plague pogroms as an indicator for medieval anti-Semitism. Pogroms during the Black Death are a strong and robust predictor of violence against Jews in the 1920s, and of votes for the Nazi Party. In addition, cities that saw medieval anti-Semitic violence also had higher deportation rates for Jews after 1933, were more likely to see synagogues damaged or destroyed in the ‘Night of Broken Glass’ in 1938, and their inhabitants wrote more anti-Jewish letters to the editor of the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer. [SSRN]

I read somewhere — and the person who wrote this was not a mountaineer but a sailor — that the sea’s only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong. [Primo Levi]

For decades, a small group of scientific dissenters has been trying to shoot holes in the prevailing science of climate change, offering one reason after another why the outlook simply must be wrong. Over time, nearly every one of their arguments has been knocked down by accumulating evidence, and polls say 97 percent of working climate scientists now see global warming as a serious risk. Yet in recent years, the climate change skeptics have seized on one last argument that cannot be so readily dismissed. Their theory is that clouds will save us. [NY Times]

From the diver who finds the body parts, to the forensic specialist who identifies flecks of paint on the victim and the handwriting expert who examines the killer’s notes. What happens at a crime scene?

Valuing art through its theft.

It is the only instance in the history of naval warfare where one submarine intentionally sank another while both were submerged.

The bear famously tranquilized on the University of Colorado campus last week, and immortalized in a viral photo by CU student Andy Duann, met a tragic death early Thursday morning in the southbound lanes of U.S. 36. [DailyCamera]

Michel Foucault with hair.

Mary E. Frey, Real Life Dramas, 1984-87.

Thomas Demand, Junior Suite [Whitney Houston's last supper], 2012 [DesignBoom | NY Times]

List of silent musical compositions.

Before entering the club, everyone had to sign a waiver, acknowledging that they were “at peace” with being fucked to death by Dr. Alexander Criscofist.

Nipples at the Met.

Bee, Join me, Welcome baby.

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