Triple-Decker Weekly, 28

Of most interest is how Disney trains its employees to deliver that happy feeling to its paying customers. […] Research suggests that Disney employees actively involved in surface acting are more likely to experience emotional exhaustion. [BPS]

Hospital removes ‘asparagus-sized’ eel from man’s bottom.

Castration had a huge effect on the lifespans of Korean men, according to an analysis of hundreds of years of eunuch “family” records. They lived up to 19 years longer than uncastrated men from the same social class and even outlived members of the royal family. The researchers believe the findings show male hormones shorten life expectancy. [BBC]

Large-scale surveys indicate that on average people spend more time sleeping than working. […] Negative effects of sleep deprivation are especially problematic in contemporary organizations, given recent research indicating that sleep has decreased at a rate of about 5 minutes per decade for the past three decades. A large-scale study indicates that 29.9% of Americans get less than 6 hours per day; for those in management and enterprises, 40.5% get less than 6 hours. Large- scale studies from Korea, Finland, Sweden, and England also indicate high proportions of people functioning on low quantities of sleep or poor sleep quality. Probably as a result of insufficient sleep, 29% of Americans report extreme sleepiness or falling asleep at work in the past month. Thus, across many countries, there is an abundance of employees who work after a short night of sleep or poor quality sleep. […] Organizational psychology researchers have recently begun to investigate this topic, highlighting effects of low sleep quantity and poor sleep quality on job satisfaction, unethical behavior, workplace deviance, lack of innovative thinking, and high risk of work injuries. [SAGE | PDF]

For a long time, I had been in a dark, painful mood, a mood that had steadily transitioned into my personality. When I felt anger, I felt it so intensely that it took over my whole body. I would go to the grocery store with a carefully composed list, walk through the aisles fuming, and then leave so furious that I completely forgot to buy any food. The anger—which could have been over anything from a fight with a friend to a political issue—often lasted for weeks. Also, I was tired—always, always bone-tired. I was so exhausted that it was a huge physical effort to sit at my desk and type, except for rare weeks of nonstop energy in which I came up with an idea, worked to make it happen, watched it happen, and then treated it like a toy I’d gotten bored with after several days. I could always get my paying work done, but anything outside of that was subject to my ever-fluctuating energy levels. My emotions seemed remote, flat, hard to discern, as if I were trying to see them through dirty glass. I couldn’t really feel anything, and what I could feel was bad. I pulled away from people. I was determined not to trust anyone. I was depressed, in other words, except for those strangely productive weeks and long, terrifying rushes of anger. […] I had been diagnosed in the past with depression and generalized anxiety disorder, both of which were common illnesses, and which I thought explained my problems. I would have been insulted if you’d suggested I had anything more serious. […] What the doctors at the hospital finally decided was that I had bipolar II disorder, which is a scary diagnosis. It has a high suicide rate and can be very painful and destructive to your life if you don’t get it treated. It basically means cycling between phases of overconfidence and recklessness (and/or anger), and then deep shame when you crash down into depression and see the mess you’ve made. [Rookie Mag]

Labs like mine are now developing 3-D assemblers (rather than printers) that can build structures in the same way as the ribosome. […] A key difference between existing 3-D printers and these assemblers is that the assemblers will be able to create complete functional systems in a single process. They will be able to integrate fixed and moving mechanical structures, sensors and actuators, and electronics. Even more important is what the assemblers don’t create: trash. Trash is a concept that applies only to materials that don’t contain enough information to be reusable. All the matter on the forest floor is recycled again and again. Likewise, a product assembled from digital materials need not be thrown out when it becomes obsolete. It can simply be disassembled and the parts reconstructed into something new. [Foreign Affairs]

Deisseroth is developing a remarkable way to switch brain cells off and on by exposing them to targeted green, yellow, or blue flashes. With that ability, he is learning how to regulate the flow of information in the brain. Deisseroth’s technique, known broadly as optogenetics, could bring new hope to his most desperate patients. In a series of provocative experiments, he has already cured the symptoms of psychiatric disease in mice. Optogenetics also shows promise for defeating drug addiction. […] For all its complexity, the brain in some ways is a surprisingly simple device. Neurons switch off and on, causing signals to stop or go. Using optogenetics, Deisseroth can do that switching himself. He inserts light-sensitive proteins into brain cells. Those proteins let him turn a set of cells on or off just by shining the right kind of laser beam at the cells. That in turn makes it possible to highlight the exact neural pathways involved in the various forms of psychiatric disease. A disruption of one particular pathway, for instance, might cause anxiety. [Discover]

Imagine a clock that will keep perfect time forever, even after the heat-death of the universe. This is the “wow” factor behind a device known as a “space-time crystal,” a four-dimensional crystal that has periodic structure in time as well as space. However, there are also practical and important scientific reasons for constructing a space-time crystal. With such a 4D crystal, scientists would have a new and more effective means by which to study how complex physical properties and behaviors emerge from the collective interactions of large numbers of individual particles, the so-called many-body problem of physics. A space-time crystal could also be used to study phenomena in the quantum world, such as entanglement, in which an action on one particle impacts another particle even if the two particles are separated by vast distances. [Berkeley Lab]

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have found traces of male DNA in women’s brains, which seems to come from cells from a baby boy crossing the blood-brain barrier during pregnancy. This is known as microchimerism, and according to the researchers, this is the first description of male microchimerism in the female human brain. [Genome Engineering]

The US Naval Surface Warfare Center has created an Android app that secretly records your environment and reconstructs it as a 3D virtual model for a malicious user to browse. [The Physics arXiv Blog]

The 2012 Ig Nobel Prize Winners […] Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller […] converting old Russian ammunition into new diamonds […] demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere — even in a dead salmon. [Improbable Research]

A new study shows how the behavior of dogs has been misunderstood for generations: in fact using misplaced ideas about dog behavior and training is likely to cause rather than cure unwanted behavior. […] Contrary to popular belief, aggressive dogs are NOT trying to assert their dominance over their canine or human “pack.” […] The researchers spent six months studying dogs freely interacting at a Dogs Trust rehoming centre, and reanalyzing data from studies of feral dogs, before concluding that individual relationships between dogs are learnt through experience rather than motivated by a desire to assert “dominance.” [ScienceDaily]

Multiple sources familiar with Apple’s thinking say the company felt it had no choice but to replace Google Maps with its own, because of a disagreement over a key feature: Voice-guided turn-by-turn driving directions. [All Things D]

Apple Aggressively Recruiting Ex-Google Maps Staff To Build Out iOS Maps

Behind every Google Map, there is a much more complex map that’s the key to your queries but hidden from your view.

Look at all these iPhone 5s flooding FedEx’s distribution center.

Apple once sued New York City (“the Big Apple”) over an apple-shaped logo.

The wealthiest 10% have gotten rich mainly by getting the bottom 90% into debt. And labor (“consumers”) try to escape from their financial squeeze by going even deeper into debt, to buy homes and status before their access price rises even further out of reach. But what is pushing up real estate and other prices is easy bank credit – that is, debt. So the debt expansion calls for yet more debt to keep the financial system solvent. This is not industrial capitalism as analyzed by the classical economists. It is something quite different. It is a regression to the ancient usury problem that destroyed Rome. [Michael Hudson]

Peter Turchin suggests, based on prior trends, that the US is in for a new period of political instability peaking around 2020. He finds that historically US instability has peaked about every fifty years. He also found this 50 years cycle in Roman and French history, but not in Chinese history. [Overcoming Bias]

Is the proposition “From nothing, nothing comes” analytic or synthetic?

It would be difficult to be strong at chess if you had a subnormal IQ, but you certainly don’t need an IQ of above average. I’m sure you could find very strong grandmasters with IQs around about the 100 mark, which is the average. […] What I have noticed in very strong players, though, is an extraordinary degree of concentration. You really do have to concentrate very hard for long periods. There is a very boring phrase for that, which is hard work. That’s often underestimated, while the idea of effortless genius is greatly overestimated. [Dominic Lawson/The Browser]

The Lancet has a wonderful article on how medicine has understood how strange objects have ended up in the body and how this has influenced our understanding of the body and behavior. The piece notes that cases where people have swallowed or inserted foreign bodies into themselves have been important for surgery and even anatomy – hair swallowers apparently provided useful “hair casts of the stomach.” [Mind Hacks]

How did people wake up on time before the invention of the alarm clock? Early man drank tons and tons of water if he needed to wake up before the sun. [Quora]

The bad photos have found their apotheosis on social media, where everybody is a photographer and where we have to suffer through each other’s “photography” the way our forebears endured terrible recitations of poetry after dinner. Behind this dispiriting stream of empty images is what Russians call poshlost: fake emotion, unearned nostalgia. According to Nabokov, poshlost “is not only the obviously trashy but mainly the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely clever, the falsely attractive.” [Teju Cole]

Haunted Houses is a long-term project in which I photographed and collected oral ghosts stories in over eighty haunted sites throughout the United States. [image gallery + listen to ghost stories | Alice Austen House Museum, Staten Island, NY until Dec. 30, 2012]

Air Sex World Championships

The soul-brother handshake. [Survival City Guide]