Triple-Decker Weekly, 145

The Prisoner, 1967

It seems that as we get older our ears get bigger (on average by 0.22 mm a year). [PDF]

The scrotum in humans is asymmetric, the right testicle being visibly higher than the left in most men. Paradoxically, it is also the case that the right testicle is somewhat larger, rather than smaller, as might be expected. […] The cause of this asymmetry is not clear. We may however reject a simple mechanical explanation which would say that the heavier of the two organs is pulled to the lower position by the action of gravity, for in both adults and foetuses it is clear that the right testicle is both the heavier and also the greater in volume; that is the larger and heavier is also the higher. Such a relationship is counter-intuitive, and we may expect that it would present difficulties to artists, and to sculptors in particular. […] Greek classical and pre-classical art, which took great care in its attention to anatomical detail, correctly portrayed the right testicle as the higher, but then incorrectly portrayed the left testicle as visibly larger. [Laterality]

Beer bottles are often used in physical disputes. If the bottles break, they may give rise to sharp trauma. However, if the bottles remain intact, they may cause blunt injuries. […] We tested the fracture properties of beer bottles in a drop-tower. Full bottles broke at 30 J impact energy, empty bottles at 40 J. These breaking energies surpass the minimum fracture-threshold of the human neurocranium. […] The phenomenon of empty beer bottles breaking at higher energies than full ones is explainable by two factors. Firstly, beer is an almost incompressible fluid. Even a slight deformation of the bottle due to the impact of the steel ball leads to an increase of the pressure within the bottle and its destruction. Another possibly major additional factor may be that beer is carbonated. [Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine]

The convergence in physical appearance hypothesis posits that long-term partners’ faces become more similar with time as a function of the shared environment, diet, and synchronized facial expressions. While this hypothesis has been widely disseminated in psychological literature, it is supported by a single study of 12 married couples. Here, we examine this hypothesis using the facial images of 517 couples taken at the beginning of their marriage and 20 or more years later. […] The results show that while spouses’ faces tend to be similar at marriage, they do not converge over time. [PsyArXiv]

Faces are a primary source of social information, but little is known about the sequence of neural processing of personally relevant faces, such as those of our loved ones. We applied representational similarity analyses to EEG-fMRI measurement of neural responses to faces of personal relevance to participants – their romantic partner and a friend – compared to a stranger. Faces expressed fear, happiness or no emotion. […] Models of face processing postulate that recognition of face identity takes place with structural encoding in the fusiform gyrus around 170 ms after stimulus onset. We provide evidence that the high personal relevance of our friends’ and loved ones’ faces is detected prior to structural encoding […] as early as 100 ms after stimulus onset. […] Our findings imply that our brain can ‘bypass’ full structural encoding of face identity in order to prioritise the processing of faces most relevant to us. [BioRxiv]

S is a woman if and only if: “S is systematically subordinated along some dimension (economic, legal, political, social, etc) and S is ‘marked’ as a target for this treatment by observed or imagined bodily features presumed to be evidence of a female’s biological role in reproduction.” To be a woman is to be subordinated in some way because of real or imagined biological features that are meant to indicate one’s female role in reproduction. [Aeon]

Physical pain represents a common feature of Bondage and Discipline/Dominance and Submission/Sadism and Machochism (BDSM) activity. This article explores the literature accounting for how painful stimuli may be experienced as pleasurable among practitioners of BDSM, and contrasting this with how it is experienced as painful among non-BDSM individuals. […] The experience of pain in this context can bring about altered states of consciousness that may be similar to what occurs during mindfulness meditation. [The Journal of Sex Research]

Parents forget newborn baby in taxi on way home from hospital

In this study, we examine whether perceived loneliness is greater among the Baby Boomers—individuals born 1948–1965—relative to those born 1920–1947, and whether older adults have become lonelier over the past decade (2005–2016). […] Overall, loneliness decreases with age through the early 70s, after which it increases. We find no evidence that loneliness is substantially higher among the Baby Boomers or that it has increased over the past decade. [PsyArXiv]

Washington is first state to allow composting of human bodies

Why do many people come to believe that they and others have a true self?

On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit [PDF]

Florida politicians may expunge an old law that gives Disney World the right to build its own nuclear plant

Several years ago, there were rumors that metals might have an awkward cousin

Metal fraud cost NASA two satellites worth $700 million

Electric vehicles emit more CO2 than diesel ones, German study shows

Driverless electric truck starts deliveries on Swedish public road

Alphabet’s Wing drone deliveries are coming to Finland next month

Electric ‘flying taxi’ prototype unveiled by German start-up

At the moment, only one in 250 cars on the road is electric. Researchers have no idea when electric cars are going to take over

French man arrives in Caribbean after crossing Atlantic in giant barrel

Millions of people uploaded photos to the Ever app. Then the company used them to develop facial recognition tools.

Teenager sues Apple over ‘facial recognition error’ that led to his arrest

China says it’s created a facial recognition app for pandas

out of 8.9 million dogs in the UK, 2.1 million were left alone in their owner’s home for quite considerable lengths of time. This is not always progressive towards a dog’s social welfare, which without being able to socialize may be inclined towards more negative and problem behaviors. Perhaps if they (i.e. dogs) could contact each other via the internet, their situation might improve?

The Peter Principle states that organisations promote people who are good at their jobs until they reach their ‘level of incompetence’, implying that all managers are incompetent. This column examines data on worker- and manager-level performance for almost 40,000 sales workers across 131 firms and finds evidence that firms systematically promote the best salespeople, even though these workers end up becoming worse managers, and even though there are other observable dimensions of sales worker performance that better predict managerial quality. […] We provide evidence that the Peter Principle may be the unfortunate consequence of firms doing their best to motivate their workforce. As has been pointed out by Baker et al. (1988) and by Milgrom and Roberts (1992), promotions often serve dual roles within an organisation: they are used to assign the best person to the managerial role, but also to motivate workers to excel in their current roles. If firms promoted workers on the basis of managerial potential rather than current performance, employees may have fewer incentives to work as hard. We also find evidence that firms appear aware of the trade-off between incentives and matching and have adopted methods of reducing their costs. First, organisations can reward high performers through incentive pay, avoiding the need to use promotions to different roles as an incentive. […] Second, we find that organisations place less weight on sales performance when promoting sales workers to managerial positions that entail leading larger teams. That is, when managers have more responsibility, firms appear less willing to compromise on their quality. Our research suggests that companies are largely aware of the Peter Principle. [VoxEU]

Products developed by companies such as Activtrak allow employers to track which websites staff visit, how long they spend on sites deemed “unproductive” and set alarms triggered by content considered dangerous. […] To quantify productivity, “profiles” of employee behaviour — which can be as granular as mapping an individual’s daily activity — are generated from “vast” amounts of data. […] If combined with personal details, such as someone’s age and sex, the data could allow employers to develop a nuanced picture of ideal employees, choose whom they considered most useful and help with promotion and firing decisions. […] Some technology, including Teramind’s and Activtrak’s, permits employers to take periodic computer screenshots or screen-videos — either with employees’ knowledge or in “stealth” mode — and use AI to assess what it captures. Depending on the employer’s settings, screenshot analysis can alert them to things like violent content or time spent on LinkedIn job adverts. But screenshots could also include the details of private messages, social media activity or credit card details in ecommerce checkouts, which would then all be saved to the employer’s database. […] Meanwhile, smart assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa for Business, are being introduced into workplaces, but it is unclear how much of office life the devices might record, or what records employers might be able to access. [Financial Times]

Google uses Gmail to track a history of things you buy. […] Google says it doesn’t use this information to sell you ads.

…a phenomenon privacy advocates have long referred to as the “if you build it, they will come” principle — anytime a technology company creates a system that could be used in surveillance, law enforcement inevitably comes knocking. Sensorvault, according to Google employees, includes detailed location records involving at least hundreds of millions of devices worldwide and dating back nearly a decade. The new orders, sometimes called “geofence” warrants, specify an area and a time period, and Google gathers information from Sensorvault about the devices that were there. It labels them with anonymous ID numbers, and detectives look at locations and movement patterns to see if any appear relevant to the crime. Once they narrow the field to a few devices they think belong to suspects or witnesses, Google reveals the users’ names and other information. […] Google uses the data to power advertising tailored to a person’s location, part of a more than $20 billion market for location-based ads last year. [NY Times]

[I]nside of a Google server or a Facebook server is a little voodoo doll, avatar-like version of you […] All I have to do is simulate what conversation the voodoo doll is having, and I know the conversation you just had without having to listen to the microphone. [Quartz]

Navy Seal’s lawyers received emails embedded with tracking software

Baltimore ransomware nightmare could last weeks more, with big consequences. Houses can’t be sold, bills can’t be paid while city networks are shuttered.

boring speakers really talk for longer

acne is strongly positively associated with overall grade point average in high school, grades in high school English, history, math, and science, and the completion of a college degree. We also find evidence that acne is associated with higher personal labor market earnings for women.

We find a positive relationship between intelligence scores and fertility

Fetal facial expression in response to intravaginal music emission

our results suggest bilingualism may not enhance cognitive ability at 9.5 months

How a Harrowing Photo of One Woman’s Death Became an Iconic Pro-Choice Symbol

Uncontrolled bleeding during surgery can cause death. What if, instead of slow surgical stitching, you could rapidly glue a wound together? A new “bio-glue” — an experimental adhesive gel that is activated by a flash of light — has been proven to stop high pressure bleeding in the hearts of pigs.

There’s been an explosion of interest in the use of psychedelics in psychiatry. […] Psychedelics have mostly been investigated in small studies run by true believers. […] Some of the most exciting psychedelic findings have already failed to replicate […] Ketamine is the best comparison for psychedelics. […] Like psychedelics, it got hyped as an exciting new innovation that was going to revolutionize everything in psychiatry (in this case, depression treatment). But it’s been in pretty common (albeit non-formulary) use for five years now, and nothing has been revolutionized. […] Between 10% and 50% of Americans have tried psychedelics. If psychedelics did something shocking, we would already know about it. […] Even if all of the above are wrong and psychedelics work very well, the FDA could kill them with a thousand paper cuts. Again, look at ketamine: the new FDA approval ensures people will be getting the slightly different esketamine, through a weird route of administration, while paying $600 a pop, in specialized clinics that will probably be hard to find. Given the price and inconvenience, insurance companies will probably restrict it to the most treatment-resistant patients, and it probably won’t help them (treatment-resistant patients tend to stay that way). Given the panic around psychedelics, I expect it to be similarly difficult to get them even if they are legal and technically FDA-approved. Depressed people will never be able to walk into a psychiatrist’s office and get LSD. They’ll walk into a psychiatrist’s office, try Prozac for three months, try Wellbutrin for three months, argue with their insurance for a while, eventually get permission to drive to a city an hour away that has a government-licensed LSD clinic, and get some weird form of LSD that might or might not work, using a procedure optimized to minimize hallucinations. [Slate Star Codex]

Acid-free paper can last 500 years; stone inscriptions even longer. But magnetic media like hard drives have a much shorter life, lasting only three to five years.

No, someone hasn’t cracked the code of the mysterious Voynich manuscript

Ranking celebrity chef cookbooks by how many animals their recipes kill

Burger King’s new Whopper is 0% beef

The Big Kitchen at the World Trade Center, 1981

A woman took a picture of three Irish men in Times Square. It took Twitter only an hour to track them down.

Reducing Crime Through Environmental Design: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment of Street Lighting in New York City

Diane Arbus photographed by Tod Papageorge and Garry Winogrand

Pentagram’s new design for parking signs throughout New York City

3M jacket makes automated sinks go bonkers [Thanks Tim]

Down with the sickness