Triple-Decker Weekly, 24

At 12 or 13, we started taking buses to New York City and going to raves. I’d wear 60-inch wide jeans called Aura’s E, which was a brand by this girl in Long Island named Aura. I shaved my eyebrows completely off, pierced everything on my face, put platforms on my running sneakers… I’d work day and night in the mall upstate so that I could buy my rave tickets and take bus trips to get all the cool clothes in the city. I found out about everything from shops like Liquid Sky and Satellite Records––they would put flyers out and you had to call hotlines to find out all the rave info. [David Benjamin Sherry]

The death of an autoerotic asphyxiation fan ended up providing science with some valuable observations of what happens during choking. On Twitter recently, I’ve been highlighting some really bad ideas courtesy of the medical literature. From injecting vaseline into your own penis, to pumping compressed air up your rectum for a joke, people have tried it and they’ve ended up on PubMed as a result. [Neuroskeptic]

Consciousness is restricted to a subset of animals with relatively complex brains. The more scientists study animal behavior and brain anatomy, however, the more universal consciousness seems to be. A brain as complex as the human brain is definitely not necessary for consciousness. On July 7 this year, a group of neuroscientists convening at Cambridge University signed a document officially declaring that non-human animals, “including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses” are conscious. Humans are more than just conscious—they are also self-aware. Scientists differ on the difference between consciousness and self-awareness, but here is one common explanation: […] To be conscious is to think; to be self-aware is to realize that you are a thinking being and to think about your thoughts. […] Numerous neuroimaging studies have suggested that thinking about ourselves, recognizing images of ourselves and reflecting on our thoughts and feelings—that is, different forms self-awareness—all involve the cerebral cortex, the outermost, intricately wrinkled part of the brain. The fact that humans have a particularly large and wrinkly cerebral cortex relative to body size supposedly explains why we seem to be more self-aware than most other animals. [Scientific American]

The sorites paradox is a paradox that arises from vague predicates. The paradox of the heap is an example of this paradox which arises when one considers a heap of sand, from which grains are individually removed. Is it still a heap when only one grain remains? If not, when did it change from a heap to a non-heap? [Wikipedia]

Blackjack players who “count cards” keep track of cards that have already been played and use this knowledge to turn the probability of winning in their favor. Though casinos try to eject card counters or otherwise make their task more difficult, card counting is perfectly legal. So long as card counters rely on their own memory and computational skills, they have violated no laws and can make sizable profits. By contrast, if players use a “device” to help them count cards, like a calculator or smartphone, they have committed a serious crime. I consider two potential justifications for anti-device legislation and find both lacking. The first is that, unlike natural card counting, device-assisted card counting requires cognitive enhancement. It makes card counting less natural and is unfair to casinos and should therefore be prohibited. The second potential justification relies on the privacy of our thoughts. On this view, natural card counting is a kind of cheating that warrants punishment. We do not criminalize natural card counting, however, because such laws would interfere with our thought privacy. [Adam J. Kolber /SSRN]

The first goal was to halve the proportion of the world’s population living on a dollar a day by 2015. […] The target had actually been met in 2008, seven years ahead of schedule. This staggering achievement received no fanfare, perhaps because the miracle had not been created by Western governments but by the economic progress of China and India. [Telegraph]

I cope with the grief from the death of loved ones by contemplating the Cosmist possibility, described by many thinkers including Nikolai Fedorov, Hans Moravec and Frank Tipler, that future generations (or alien civilizations, or whatever) may develop technologies to resurrect the dead. A related idea is that our reality may be a “simulation” computed by entities in a higher-level reality, who may choose to copy those who die in our reality to another reality. Contemplating these possibilities is my way to cope with grief, I hope you will find your own way. [Turing Church]

In a series of four experiments Milkman found that dealing with uncertainty exhausts self-control, and thus makes it more likely you’ll choose a “want” option (i.e. behaviors that are hedonistic, irresponsible, or aimed at short-term gain) over a “should” option (i.e. behaviors aimed at long term-gain.) […] The study also hints at why habits are so important. If you get home from work and stop to think “will I go to the gym today?”, that uncertainty is already starting to sap your ability to control your gym-avoiding tendencies. But if you get home knowing you’ll go to the gym because you’ve gone on 23 consecutive Tuesdays, it will be easier to actually go. [peer-reviewed by my neurons]

Researchers have confirmed what many suspected – pop music over the last five decades has grown progressively more sad-sounding and emotionally ambiguous. They analyzed the tempo (fast or slow) and mode (major or minor) of the most popular 1,010 pop songs identified using year-end lists published by Billboard magazine in the USA from 1965 to 2009. […] The researchers found that the proportion of songs recorded in minor-mode has increased, doubling over the last fifty years. The proportion of slow tempo hits has also increased linearly, reaching a peak in the 90s. There’s also been a decrease in unambiguously happy-sounding songs and an increase in emotionally ambiguous songs. [BPS]

A low-calorie diet boosts health but does not prolong life, at least not in rhesus monkeys, scientists found in a new study into a long-held link between food restriction and longevity. Spanning 23 years, the research found monkeys that ate fewer calories than non-dieting counterparts were healthier but did not live any longer. Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) are a preferred choice for lab study, as they are long-lived primates like humans – their average lifespan in captivity is 27 years and the usual maximum is 40 years. The exceptionally long study, launched at the U.S. National Institute on Ageing (NIA) in Maryland in 1987, saw monkeys of different ages fed a diet 30% lower in calories than others that followed a ‘normal’, nutritious diet. [Cosmos]

Two traits that set humans apart from other primates—big brains and the ability to walk upright—could be at odds when it comes to childbirth. Big brains and the big heads that encase them are hard to push through the human birth canal, but a wider pelvis might compromise bipedal walking. Scientists have long posited that nature’s solution to this problem, which is known as the “obstetric dilemma,” was to shorten the duration of gestation so that babies are born before their heads get too big. As a result, human babies are relatively helpless and seemingly underdeveloped in terms of motor and cognitive ability compared to other primates. [Medical Xpress]

Phenomenology is a philosophical method for uncovering the structure of lived experience by describing what it is like from a first person perspective. Rather than attempting to prove a set of objective facts, phenomenology tracks the way that a meaningful experience of the world emerges for someone in the total situation of their Being-in-the-world. It’s not that facts are unimportant, but rather that they are not meaningful in themselves; they become meaningful when they are experienced by someone in relation to a wider context or horizon. What happens when that horizon shrinks to the space of a 6-by-9 cell? [NY Times]

Study finds gene that predicts happiness in women.

Gibbons on helium reveal soprano voice.

The Talmud as a Business Guide.

Clever Nigerian letter scammers found ways to adapt. These days, instead of just masquerading as monarchs, some also pose as wealthy foreign businessmen on dating websites. […] Now fraudsters who work the phone try to get you to call them. […] Timeshare owners who’ve been swindled of upfront fees by phony resellers are now being re-contacted by so-called “fraud recovery” specialists. […] In bank vestibules with several ATMs, crooks place “Out of Service” signs on non-tampered ATMs in order to get customers to use a neighboring ATM on which they already placed a skimmer. [The Saturday Evening Post]

If one day is not exactly 24 hours and is in fact 23 hours 56 mins, shouldn’t the error add up, and shouldn’t we see 12AM becoming noon at some point in time? [Quora]

Grigori Perelman is one of the greatest mathematicians of our time, a Russian genius who solved the Poincaré Conjecture, which plagued the brightest minds for a century. At the height of his fame, he refused a million-dollar award for his work. Then he disappeared. Our writer hunts him down on the streets of St. Petersburg. [Brett Forrest]

What are the most important examples of lost or forgotten knowledge? For example, as Matt Ridley states in The Rational Optimist, “nobody really knows how to use an Acheulean hand axe, and until recently nobody knew how to build a medieval siege catapult known as a trebuchet.” [Quora]

Can we now transmute base substances into gold?

In a story that could be the plot for a film, one of the world’s pioneering anthropologists has been found to have been a member of both the Nazi SS and the French resistance during the Second World War.

The burglar who uses taxis to collect him from break-ins.

People who have walked on the Moon.

I have given up.

For those who like to ride the horse in front of TV. [thanks Tim]


Depressed copywriter.