Triple-Decker Weekly, 25

photo by Valeria Vacca

Missing tourist in Iceland joins search for herself.

Five Ukrainian women, in an Ukrainian art museum. They are sleeping, or rather pretending to sleep, dressed up as Sleeping Beauty. Men come along and kiss them, on the lips, with each man allowed only one kiss. They have all signed legally binding contracts. If a woman responds to a kiss by opening her eyes and “waking,” she must marry the man. The man must marry the woman. […] There are five Sleeping Beauties total; each takes turns, sleeping on the raised white satin bed for two hours at a time. […] On September 5, the first Sleeping Beauty in Polataiko’s exhibition awoke to a kiss from another woman. Both of them were surprised. […] Now the Sleeping Beauty must wed her “prince.” […] Gay marriage is not allowed in the Ukraine, however, so these two women will have to wed in a European country that does allow for same-sex marriage. [Marginal Revolution | Hyperallergic]

Nowhere in the United States do you have the right to credibly contract for a lifetime marital partnership. Every state currently allows some form of “no fault” divorce – divorce not based on any wrongdoing of a party, but simply because the parties claim they don’t want to be married anymore. Even though the couple may “vow” to remain together until one of them dies, everyone knows these vows have no legal or real-world effect. The marital “contract” is not a contract at all. Imagine a regular legal contract in which either party could end the agreement by saying he didn’t like it anymore. [The View from Hell]

The United States has slid into eight recessions in the last fifty years. Each time, the Federal Reserve sought to revive economic activity by reducing interest rates (see chart below). However, since the end of the last recession in June 2009, the economy has continued to sputter even though short-term rates have remained near zero. The weak recovery has led some commentators to suggest that the Fed should push short-term rates even lower—below zero—so that borrowers receive, and creditors pay, interest. [Federal Reserve Bank of New York]

The tumor that appeared on a second scan. The guy in accounting who was secretly embezzling company funds. The situation may be different each time, but we hear ourselves say it over and over again: “I knew it all along.” The problem is that too often we actually didn’t know it all along, we only feel as though we did. The phenomenon, which researchers refer to as “hindsight bias,” is one of the most widely studied decision traps and has been documented in various domains, including medical diagnoses, accounting and auditing decisions, athletic competition, and political strategy. [ScienceDaily]

In general, talking about sex with your partner may improve sexual satisfaction. But new research suggests that during sex it’s better to shut up and switch to non-verbal communication of pleasure. [United Academics]

As noted in a previous posting, a number of studies have found that males outperform females on tests of general knowledge. The reasons for this are not yet clear. Women’s poorer test performance could be because they actually have acquired less knowledge than men, or it could be that they are not accessing all the knowledge they have. […] Sex differences in general knowledge favouring males that were identified in a number of studies have been attributed to differing interests between men and women rather than differences in ability. Another possibility that has not been explored in the research literature is that stereotype threat could have a detrimental effect on the performance of females in tests. […] For example, women who are reminded of their female identity perform more poorly on maths tests compared to a control group. [Eye on Psych]

The way that the visual centers of men and women’s brains works is different, finds new research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Biology of Sex Differences. Men have greater sensitivity to fine detail and rapidly moving stimuli, but women are better at discriminating between colors. [EurekAlert]

To be a ‘success’ in evolutionary terms, women need to have access to resources for raising offspring, and men need to have access to fertile females. Researchers have argued that women tend to prefer partners who have an ability to invest resources in their children (i.e., wealthy men), and men tend to prefer partners who appear fertile (i.e., young women) because evolutionary adaptations have programmed these preferences in our brains. But in the modern world, ‘success’ is not necessarily tied to offspring, so researchers […] hypothesized that the influence of evolutionary biases on mate choice would decline proportionally with nations’ gender parity, or the equality between men and women. […] They found that the gender difference in mate preferences predicted by evolutionary psychology models “is highest in gender-unequal societies, and smallest in the most gender-equal societies,” according to Zentner. [APS]

Author and mother Amy Sohn writes that moms in her affluent Brooklyn neighborhood are going through something called “the 40-year-old reversion.”

“I’ve always been interested in overdoses and addictions,” she says. […] “I’m obsessed with cocaine overdoses in British society. They call it the ‘white death.'” […] “I think my dust dealer’s in jail or something. Where’s my cellphone?” [Cat Marnell/NY Post]

I am collecting an “anthology” of accidents.

In Glaser’s study of prison and parole systems, he puts forth the well-known argument that “almost all criminals follow a zig-zag path,” such that most individual criminal careers are characterized by movements back and forth between periods of offending and nonoffending. Even the more serious offenders are not “persistently criminal.” Rather, they are “casually, intermittently, and transiently” engaging in crime. In the desistance literature, this has become a troubling issue: as a criminal career often includes stops and starts, desistance becomes difficult to study. Instead, some researchers have turned to the concept of “temporary desistance,” others to a distinction between “primary” and “secondary” desistance, whereas some have begun to explore the concept of “intermittency,” the latter of which is of interest in this article. [SAGE | PDF]

If any product or investment sounds as if it has lots of upside, it also has lots of risk. If you can disprove this, there is a Nobel Prize waiting for you. […] Legal documents are created to protect the preparer (and its firm), not you or yours: In the history of modern finance, no large legal document has worked against its drafters. [Barry Ritholtz]

Around 60,000 years ago, modern humans left Africa, the cradle of our species. As we spread across the face of the Earth, we discovered that we weren’t the first or the only humans to make that sojourn. From Central Asia to Europe, we met our distant cousins the Neanderthals, descendants of a 500,000 year old migration; further east were the Denisovans, ranging from Sibera to Southeast Asia. Although these other humans died out around 30,000 years ago, some comfort can be found in the knowledge that a part of them lives on in us. Genetic evidence uncovered in the past few years suggests that our migrating ancestors may have mated with these other humans during their encounters. Not everyone was convinced, though, launching an ongoing debate about whether the genetic similarity might not be due to common ancestry rather than inbreeding. [Inspiring Science]

Texas mayor killed in apparent donkey attack.

Kim Ramsey, a nurse from New Jersey, has hundreds of orgasms a day.

Designer £185 menswear brown paper bag sells out worldwide.

Gay couple sues United Continental over sex toy incident.

A pregnant rape victim in Turkey shot and decapitated her attacker then left his severed head in the square of her local village.

75% of homeless youth use at least one social network.

Are big banks criminal enterprises?

The justification for all this skimming and scamming is always the same: “everybody else is doing it.”

A recent study has shown not only that positive emotion from sales staff is contagious to a customer, but that a satisfied customer also improves the salesperson’s mood.

Having to make quick decisions helps witnesses identify the bad guy in a lineup.

When do we lie? When we’re short on time and long on reasons.

People drinking beer from curved glasses tend to drink it faster than those with straight glasses.

When Wallace Craig dissected the feeding behavior of doves, his experimental animal of choice, he discovered the existence of two distinct phases – an appetitive and a consummatory phase. He defined appetite as “a state of agitation”, which continues until food is presented, whereupon phase 2 begins. That’s the phase you and I call eating. It’s followed by a third phase of relative rest, which Craig called the state of satisfaction. […] When Craig published his paper in 1917 he described the behaviors of his doves as instinctive. In other words, being driven by some innate processes which require no conscious decision making nor any degree of intellect. Today we know a lot more about those “innate processes”, particularly that they are the result of a complex conversation between neurons and hormones playing out in the recesses of the animal brain. Not only do we know the chains of command running from brain centre to periphery we also know the hormones (at least some of them) by names, such as Neuropeptide Y (NPY) or Leptin. […] NPY is the most potent “orexigenic” peptide currently known. That’s science speak for appetite stimulating peptide. Now you also know what it means when I tell you that leptin’s effect is just the opposite, that is, anorexigenic, or appetite suppressant. Inject NPY into the right places of a rat’s brain and it will turn into a voracious eater. Give obese rats leptin, and they slim down. [Chronic Health]

A chemical in scorpion venom reduces the spread of brain tumor cells.

Redness enhances perceived aggression, dominance and attractiveness in men’s faces.

‘World-first’ bionic eye implanted in human patient.

Five Ways Science Can Make Something Invisible.

A ‘magic carpet’ which can immediately detect when someone has fallen and can help to predict mobility problems has been demonstrated by University of Manchester scientists.

Could it be that “doing nothing” is a healthy teenage behaviour? [PDF]

Talmon Marco and Igor Magazinik co-founded Viber just under two years ago. They run the business from Israel but have developed the Viber app in Belarus.

The Andreessen Horowitz portfolio includes such familiar names as Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest, Airbnb, Fab, Groupon, and Zynga.

Even with the 53 percent plunge in the stock price since the May 17 initial public offering, Facebook still trades at 33 times earnings over the next year, compared with 14 for Apple.

Quite naturally, when the Lehrer scandal first broke, the editors at Wired.com worried that his work for them was tainted as well. That’s where I came in.

Languages are continually changing, not just words but also grammar. A recent study examines how such changes happen. [Linguistic Society of America }

I often have to cut into the brain and it is something I hate doing. With a pair of short-wave diathermy forceps I coagulate a few millimetres of the brain’s surface, turning the living, glittering pia arachnoid – the transparent membrane that covers the brain – along with its minute and elegant blood vessels, into an ugly scab. With a pair of microscopic scissors I then cut the blood vessels and dig downwards with a fine sucker. I look down the operating microscope, feeling my way through the soft white substance of the brain, trying to find the tumour. [Henry Marsh/Granta]

Last fall I had myself tested for 320 chemicals I might have picked up from food, drink, the air I breathe, and the products that touch my skin—my own secret stash of compounds acquired by merely living. It includes older chemicals that I might have been exposed to decades ago, such as DDT and PCBs; pollutants like lead, mercury, and dioxins; newer pesticides and plastic ingredients; and the near-miraculous compounds that lurk just beneath the surface of modern life, making shampoos fragrant, pans nonstick, and fabrics water-resistant and fire-safe. The tests are too expensive for most individuals—National Geographic paid for mine, which would normally cost around $15,000—and only a few labs have the technical expertise to detect the trace amounts involved. I ran the tests to learn what substances build up in a typical American over a lifetime, and where they might come from. […] “In toxicology, dose is everything,” says Karl Rozman, a toxicologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center, “and these doses are too low to be dangerous.” […] Yet even though many health statistics have been improving over the past few decades, a few illnesses are rising mysteriously. From the early 1980s through the late 1990s, autism increased tenfold; from the early 1970s through the mid-1990s, one type of leukemia was up 62 percent, male birth defects doubled, and childhood brain cancer was up 40 percent. Some experts suspect a link to the man-made chemicals that pervade our food, water, and air. There’s little firm evidence. But over the years, one chemical after another that was thought to be harmless turned out otherwise once the facts were in. [National Geographic | Thanks Tim]

The bottom line about abortion is this. Do you trust women to make their own moral judgments? If you are anti-abortion, then no.

“Personality differences” between people from different countries may just be a reflection of cultural differences in the use of “extreme” language to describe people.

Ontological Nihilism is the radical-sounding thesis that there is nothing at all. Almost nobody believes it. But this does not make it philosophically uninterest- ing: we can come to better understand a proposition by studying its opposite. By better understanding what Ontological Nihilism is — and what problems beset it — we can better understand just what we say when we say that there are some things. [Jason Turner | PDF]

The haunting spectacle of crystal meth: A media-created mythology?

Why did Michael Jackson get surgery to turn white? There’s no such thing as “surgery to turn white.”

When Tarzan leaps from a swinging rope, when should he let go to jump furthest? The answer isn’t as simple as you might think.

Why is the sky blue?

Why is the sea salty and rivers and lakes aren’t?

My roommate turned a piece of a bowling alley into a dining room table.

Albert Einstein’s desk, photographed immediately after his death.

A coffin that washed up onto a front lawn due to Hurricane Isaac.

Melanie Griffith, Tippi Hedren’s daughter, and Togar, their pet lion.

Hello, is it brie you’re looking for?

Weapon system patented by Aleksandr Georgievich Semenov. Soldiers inside an armoured tank, under battle conditions, can dispose of their biological waste products in an unwasteful way: encasing those materials, together with explosives, in artillery shells that they then fire at the enemy. [Guardian]

Military bagel.