Triple-Decker Weekly

Hot enough to cook an egg on a sidewalk?

Scientists create Wi-Fi that can transmit seven Blu-ray movies per second.

You see a shopper trip over in a busy street. Someone else can help. That’s what you tell your conscience. This is the Bystander Effect in action – the dilution of our sense of responsibility in the presence of other people – and it’s been demonstrated in numerous studies over many years. But life is complicated and psychologists have begun looking at the circumstances that can nullify or even reverse the effect. [BPS]

Disease has changed since 1812. People have different diseases, doctors hold different ideas about those diseases, and diseases carry different meanings in society. […] Disease is always generated, experienced, defined, and ameliorated within a social world. Patients need notions of disease that explicate their suffering. Doctors need theories of etiology and pathophysiology that account for the burden of disease and inform therapeutic practice. Policymakers need realistic understandings of determinants of disease and medicine’s impact in order to design systems that foster health. The history of disease offers crucial insights into the intersections of these interests and the ways they can inform medical practice and health policy. […] The bill of mortality from 1811 contains both the familiar and the exotic. Consumption, diarrhea, and pneumonia dominated the mortality data, but teething, worms, and drinking cold water apparently killed as well. […] Doctors agreed that even a near miss by a cannonball — without contact — could shatter bones, blind people, or even kill them. Reports of spontaneous combustion, especially of “brandy-drinking men and women,” received serious, if skeptical, consideration. […] A century later, the infections had been redefined according to specific microbial causes. The Journal ran reviews of tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Diphtheria, measles, pneumonia, scarlet fever, and typhoid made frequent cameos, and Massachusetts still maintained a leper colony on Penikese Island. [New England Journal of Medicine]

His view was that 1% of people would never steal, another 1% would always try to steal, and the rest of us are honest as long as we’re not easily tempted. Locks remove temptation for most people. And that’s good, because in our research over many years, we’ve found that everybody has the capacity to be dishonest and almost everybody is at some point or another. […] People are able to cheat more when they cheat for other people. In some experiments, people cheated the most when they didn’t benefit at all. […] Small dishonesties matter because they can lead to larger ones. Once you behave badly, at some point, you stop thinking of yourself as a good person at that level and you say, What the hell. […] We think if we make the punishments harsh enough, people will cheat less. But there is no evidence that this approach works. [Dan Ariely/Time]

Are human beings intrinsically good but corruptible by the forces of evil, or the reverse, innately sinful yet redeemable by the forces of good? […] A conflict ensued between individual-level selection, with individuals competing with other individuals in the same group, versus group-level selection, with competition among groups. The latter force promoted altruism and cooperation among all the group members. It led to group-wide morality and a sense of conscience and honor. The competitor between the two forces can be succinctly expressed as follows: within groups selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, but groups of altruists beat groups of selfish individuals. Or, risking oversimplification, individual selection promoted sin, while group selection promoted virtue. [Opinionator/NY Times]

Legal action conducted by organizations deemed to be “patent trolls” cost US companies an estimated $US29 billion during 2011. The study suggested that during 2011, 2150 companies mounted a total 5842 defences in US cases against intellectual property companies that owned and licensed patents without producing any related goods of their own. [IT News]

James and Daniel are twins. What sets them apart is that one is white and one is black – and the differences don’t end there. James is gay, gregarious, and academic. He’s taking three A-levels next summer, and wants to go to university. Daniel is straight, shy, and he didn’t enjoy school at all. [Guardian]

After 50 years of the current enforcement-led international drug control system, the war on drugs is coming under unparalleled scrutiny. Its goal was to create a “drug-free world”. Instead, despite more than a trillion dollars spent fighting the war, according to the UNODC, illegal drugs are used by an estimated 270 million people and organised crime profits from a trade with an estimated turnover of over $330 billion a year – the world’s largest illegal commodity market. [via Neurobonkers]

Miami Cannibal attacker was not on bath salts, just marijuana.

What if we someday learn how to model small brain units, and so can “upload” ourselves into new computer brains? What if this happens before we learn how to make human-level artificial intelligences? [Robin Hanson/Extropy, 1994]

One of the few pieces of evidence I find compelling comes from Mihály Csíkszentmihályi research into the experience he calls “flow.” His work suggests that humans are most productive, and also most satisfied, when they are totally absorbed in a clear but challenging task which they are capable of completing. [Overcoming Bias ]

In a study of more than a thousand compliments, women accepted compliments from other women 22% of the time. When they came from men? 68%. [The Beheld]

People can be trained to forget specific details associated with bad memories, according to breakthrough findings that may usher the way for the development of new depression and post-traumatic stress disorder therapies. […] Researchers found that individuals were still able to accurately recall the cause of the event even after they’ve been trained to forget the consequences and personal meaning associated with the memory. [Medical Daily]

Charles Darwin and Alan Turing, in their different ways, both homed in on the same idea: the existence of competence without comprehension. [The Atlantic]

Most people think perfection in bowling is a 300 game, but it isn’t. Any reasonably good recreational bowler can get lucky one night and roll 12 consecutive strikes. If you count all the bowling alleys all over America, somebody somewhere bowls a 300 every night. But only a human robot can roll three 300s in a row—36 straight strikes—for what’s called a “perfect series.” More than 95 million Americans go bowling, but, according to the United States Bowling Congress, there have been only 21 certified 900s since anyone started keeping track. […] There’s almost never a time when every decision you make is correct and every step is in the right direction. Life, like bowling, is full of complicating factors, unpredictable variables, plenty of times when there is no right answer. But Bill Fong had some experience with near-perfection prior to the night. [D]

The fork is a latecomer to the table. Knives are the descendants of sharpened hand axes—the oldest human tools. It is likely that the first spoons derived from whichever local objects were used to scoop up liquid. […] But the fork didn’t have a place at the Greek table, where people used spoons, knife points, and their hands. [Slate]