Triple-Decker Weekly, 57

Has anyone ever been killed by a falling piano?

As life has evolved, its complexity has increased exponentially, just like Moore’s law. Now geneticists have extrapolated this trend backwards and found that by this measure, life is older than the Earth itself. [The Physics arXiv Blog]

Researchers at the University of Leeds may have solved a key puzzle about how objects from space could have kindled life on Earth. While it is generally accepted that some important ingredients for life came from meteorites bombarding the early Earth, scientists have not been able to explain how that inanimate rock transformed into the building blocks of life. This new study shows how a chemical, similar to one now found in all living cells and vital for generating the energy that makes something alive, could have been created when meteorites containing phosphorus minerals landed in hot, acidic pools of liquids around volcanoes, which were likely to have been common across the early Earth. [University of Leeds]

Modern humans are estimated to be about 200,000 years old, but 99% of progress has occurred in the last 10,000 years. What were we doing before that? […] Low Population: Until about 10000 BCE, world population never exceeded 15 million and mostly was around 1 million. Urban World History The present population of the world is 7 billion and 1 million is comparable to the population of a medium size city. When you have just a couple of million people spread in this big wide world, there is little that humanity could collectively build. Even if we assume that early human being could be as productive as us, their civilization could produce less than 1/1000 of what our society could do. Life Expectancy: From that point until 20th century, we had a very low life expectancy (about 30 years). Imagine if we all died by the time we reached 30, how much could we learn from our parents and how much can we teach our kids. Given the low life expectancy of early humans, there was not much time to learn and teach. We just started randomly doing whatever we could to survive. [Quora]

What he found is that employers would rather call back someone with no relevant experience who’s only been out of work for a few months than someone with more relevant experience who’s been out of work for longer than six months. In other words, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have. It doesn’t matter why you lost your previous job — it could have been bad luck. If you’ve been out of work for more than six months, you’re essentially unemployable. [Washington Post]

From assembly line robots to ATMs and self-checkout terminals, each year intelligent machines take over more jobs formerly held by humans; and experts predict this trend will not stop anytime soon. […] “By 2015, robots should be able to assist teachers in the classroom. By 2018, they should be able to teach on their own, and this will cause many teachers to lose their jobs.” […] The ultimate tool to replace doctors could be the nanorobot, a tiny microscopic-size machine that can whiz through veins replacing aging and damaged cells with new youthful ones. This nanowonder with expected development time of mid-to-late 2030s could eliminate nearly all need for human doctors. […] Experts estimate by 2035, 50 million jobs will be lost to machines […] and by the end of the century, or possibly much sooner, all jobs will disappear. Some believe the final solution will take the form of a Basic Income Guarantee, made available as a fundamental right for everyone. […] America should create a $25,000 annual stipend for every U.S. adult, Brain says, which would be phased in over two-to-three decades. The payments could be paid for by ending welfare programs, taxing automated systems, adding a consumption tax, allowing ads on currency, and other creative ideas. [IEET]

Men can’t read women’s emotions, study confirms.

People who worry habitually about separation and abandonment – the “anxiously attached” – tend to be highly skilled at lie detection, an attribute that means they excel at poker.

How Can I Avoid Procrastination?

How does the public engage with the new knowledge that advances in neuroscience produces?

Do Dogs Try to Hide Theft of Food?

Did you know Disney created its own confetti called ‘Flutterfetti,’ which was actually engineered to ‘flutter’ in the air better? Or that the parks will pump out a vanilla scent on Main Street because the smell triggers fond memories? [The Credits]

Man convicted for stealing more than $376,000 worth of copy machine toner while employed by NYC law firm.

Hedge-fund manager John Paulson’s wager on gold wiped out almost $1 billion of his personal wealth in the past two trading days as the precious metal plummeted 13 percent. Paulson started the year with about $9.5 billion invested across his hedge funds, of which 85 percent was in gold share classes. [Businessweek]

Gold Sell-Off Biggest in 30 Years.

What Happened The Last Time We Saw Gold Drop Like This?

Why is gold plunging? The most important factor is that global inflation is falling, reducing gold’s value as a hedge against rising prices.

Did Goldman Sachs release a note encouraging clients to short gold right after receiving the Fed’s FOMC leak information, due to the leak itself?

Cocaine Caused Financial Crisis, Ex-UK Drug Czar Says. [Thanks GG]

Virtual Bitcoin Mining Is a Real-World Environmental Disaster.

Trader pleads guilty to making unauthorized purchase of nearly $1 billion in Apple shares.

Apple is said to be getting very close to nailing down streaming licensing agreements with Universal Music Group and Warner Music.

Nobody really understands why listening to music — which, unlike sex or food, has no intrinsic value — can trigger such profoundly rewarding experiences. Salimpoor and other neuroscientists are trying to figure it out with the help of brain scanners.

Using brainwaves for authentication, instead of passwords.

Facebook Charging $1 Million For New, Intrusive Video Ads That Will Run In Users News Feeds. TV-Like ads can be bought for four broad demographic swaths.

The US Congress has severely scaled back the Stock Act, the law to stop lawmakers and their staff from trading on insider information, in under-the-radar votes that have been sharply criticised by advocates of political transparency. The changes mean Congressional and White House staff members will not have to post details of their shareholdings online. They will also make online filing optional for the president, vice-president, members of Congress and congressional candidates. […] The Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge – or “Stock” – Act prohibited them from buying or selling stocks, commodities or futures based on non-public information they obtain during the course of their work. It also banned them from disseminating non-public information regarding pending legislation that could be used for investment purposes. […] Political watchdogs were dismayed. “Are we going to return to the days when public can use the internet to research everything except what their government is doing?” asked Lisa Rosenberg of the Sunlight Foundation, which monitors money in politics. [Financial Times]

The Federal Reserve said early Wednesday that it inadvertently e-mailed the minutes of its March policy meeting a day early to some congressional staffers and trade groups. Late this afternoon, the central bank released to reporters a list of more than 150 e-mail addresses that it says received the early e-mail on Tuesday afternoon. (The minutes had been scheduled for release a day later.) The list includes e-mail addresses for dozens of congressional staffers, along with contacts — many of them government-relations executives — at major banks, lobbying firms and trade groups. [WSJ]

We will provide the full list of people who manipulate and cheat the market shortly, but for now we are curious to see how the Fed will spin that EVERYONE got an advance notice of its minutes a day in advance without this becoming a material issue with the regulators, and just how many billions in hush money it will take to push this all under the rug. [Zero Hedge]

In psychology literature, “ask for the moon, settle for less” is known as the “door in the face” (DITF) technique. Unlike the “foot in the door” technique, in which the fulfillment of a small request makes people more likely to fulfill a large request, DITF uses an unreasonable request as a way of making somebody more likely to subsequently fulfill a more moderate request. The technique was first demonstrated by Robert Cialdini’s famous 1975 experiment in which students became more likely to volunteer for a single afternoon after first being asked to volunteer for an afternoon every week for two years. So, can research on DITF shed some light on why pursuing an assault weapons ban didn’t pan out? [peer-reviewed by my neurons]

Let’s say you ran one of the Fortune 10 companies. And for some reason, you wanted to ensure that this business would be hated by its customers, forever. What would you do? […] What I’d do is create a policy that makes it really hard for my company’s employees to ask questions of my company’s customers. I’d make it a struggle to collect feedback. In order to collect any form of feedback, I’d make it so that you had to first ask for permission from an underfunded and understaffed component of the central office of my corporation. Of course I’d also make it take at least six months to get this approval. That way, most of the people who wanted to ask my customers a question were immediately discouraged from doing so. […] I’d staff this office with economists and lawyers. […] Then, just to be especially perverse, what I’d do is encourage my company to use social media. I’d create policies around it, pushing my company to go online on Facebook and Twitter and stuff, and to have “authentic conversations” with our customers. I’d tell them that it was totally cool to use social media to informally do whatever they wanted, except to use that information to inform product or service decisions. This way, my employees will be completely cut off from their customers needs. And the only employees that actually make it to the customers are the people who know how to talk to the economists. That’ll make it so whatever inputs and outputs of my business are so incomprehensible that they’ll just create more frustration rather than solve problems. [And customers will] think they’re giving input to the company without that input actually making it anywhere useful. It’s a machievellian scenario that, sadly, I didn’t make up. This “corporate policy” is actually a law that makes your government act like this, and it’s nefariously named the “Paperwork Reduction Act.” It was the last bill signed into law by Jimmy Carter in 1980. [Information Diet]

A judge whose smartphone disrupted a hearing in his own courtroom has held himself in contempt and paid $25 for the infraction.

There are anecdotal reports that men who wear (Scottish) kilts have better sperm quality and better fertility. But how much is true?

In 1983 psychiatrist Giles Brindley demonstrated the first drug treatment for erectile dysfunction in a rather unique way. He took the drug and demonstrated his stiff wicket to the audience mid-way through his talk.

According to a meta-analysis published in the August edition of the Journal of Family Medicine, colon cleansing provides no known health benefits, only dangerous side effects including, in rare cases, death. [Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News] More: How to Make a Coffee Enema [both via Improbable]

“GB” is a 28 year old man with a curious condition: his optic nerves are in the wrong place. Most people have an optic chiasm, a crossroads where half of the signals from each eye cross over the midline, in such a way that each half of the brain gets information from one side of space. GB, however, was born with achiasma – the absence of this crossover. It’s an extremely rare disorder in humans, although it’s more common in some breeds of animals, such as Belgian sheepdogs. […] In the absence of a left-right crossover, all of the signals from GB’s left eye end up in his left visual cortex, and vice versa. But the question was, how does the brain make sense of it? Normally, remember, each half of the cortex corresponds to half our visual field. But in GB’s brain, each half has to cope with the whole visual field – twice as much space (even though it’s getting no more signals than normal.) [Neuroskeptic]

Struggling, trapped bed bugs are impaled by trichomes on several legs and are unable to free themselves. Scientists document how beans create a natural bedbug trap and, potentially, how it could be used to improve bedbug purging efforts.

Bears In Russia Are Addicted To Jet Fuel, Sniff It To Get High And Pass Out. [Thanks Erwin]

Traveller arrested smuggling live hummingbirds in his trousers.

Mexico City tries to get salt shakers off tables.

Pick up a pay phone anywhere in New York City this month and you will be transported back in time to a critical moment in New York history: 1993. [Thanks Tim]

James Joyce’s grandson describes image on official commemorative coin as an ‘insult,’ says coin fiasco is typical of Ireland’s treatment of his family.

1913: When Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud and Stalin all lived in Vienna.

Andy Warhol took the subject of homosexual obsession to the big screen [in 1965]. The film was “My Hustler.”

The Feminists: The future is distant 1992, and everything’s gone to hell in a handbasket since the female coup.

A man who apparently blew himself up with explosives was known to record video of his neighbors from his property, prompting calls to police from residents. [Thanks Tim]

Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

The revival of an extinct species is no longer a fantasy. But is it a good idea?

During an interview what’s an appropriate answer when asked “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

The 12 Best Very Small Agencies to Work For in Government.

What does the United States export?

Martin John Callanan used a very powerful 3D microscope to take 400-megapixel images of the lowest denomination coin from each of the world’s 166 active currencies.

11 very unusual elevators.

List of patents for machines that do not and, by their nature, cannot work as described.

?Turn Empty Water Bottles Into Alcohol Fueled Rockets?.

Central Park, top view.

Vacuum-Wrapped Tokyo Couples.

Fuck your frame cluster and bench tableau with a cactus on top.

image via Brad Feuerhelm