In 2005, Harry Frankfurt wrote a monograph entitled On Bullshit and this work received a flurry of attention. At its core, Frankfurt argues that while lying is a misrepresentation of the truth, bullshit is a misrepresentation of the self, and an indifference to truth, which in his mind is worse than lying. […] Bullshit is more dangerous to democracy than lying. Unlike a lie, bullshit is destructive of even concern for the truth. Thus, in politics, it creates conditions where it is easier to present a lie as truth, and indifference to truth in public discourse renders public discourse impotent or worse. Even more destructively, it infects thinking. The corruption of language is bad enough, but even worse is the corruption of thinking. This is Plato’s insight into the problem with rhetoric, where the weaker argument can defeat the stronger. [Paul Babbitt /SSRN]
Lying well is hard — but not in the way you might think. We usually look for nervousness as one of the signs of lying. Like the person is worried about getting caught. But that’s actually a weak predictor. Some people are so confident they don’t fear getting caught. Others are great at hiding it. Some get nervous when questioned so you get false positives. And others are lying to themselves — so they show no signs of deliberate deception. So lying isn’t necessarily hard in terms of stress. But it is hard in terms of “cognitive load.” What’s that mean? Lying is hard because it makes you think. You need to think up the lies. That’s extra work. Looking for signs of thinking hard can be a great strategy. [ Barking Up The Wrong Tree]
Subjective experience of time is just that—subjective. Even individual people, who can compare notes by talking to one another, cannot know for certain that their own experience coincides with that of others. But an objective measure which probably correlates with subjective experience does exist. It is called the critical flicker-fusion frequency, or CFF, and it is the lowest frequency at which a flickering light appears to be a constant source of illumination. It measures, in other words, how fast an animal’s eyes can refresh an image and thus process information. For people, the average CFF is 60 hertz (ie, 60 times a second). This is why the refresh-rate on a television screen is usually set at that value. Dogs have a CFF of 80Hz, which is probably why they do not seem to like watching television. To a dog a TV programme looks like a series of rapidly changing stills. Having the highest possible CFF would carry biological advantages, because it would allow faster reaction to threats and opportunities. Flies, which have a CFF of 250Hz, are notoriously difficult to swat. A rolled up newspaper that seems to a human to be moving rapidly appears to them to be travelling through treacle. [The Economist ]
Animals living in marine environments keep to their schedules with the aid of multiple independent—and, in at least some cases, interacting—internal clocks. […] Multiple clocks—not just the familiar, 24-hour circadian clock—might even be standard operating equipment in animals. [EurekAlert]
Hyperlink cinema uses cinematic devices such as flashbacks, interspersing scenes out of chronological order, split screens and voiceovers to create an interacting social network of storylines and characters across space and time. […]
Krems and Dunbar wondered if the social group sizes and properties of social networks in such films differ vastly from the real world or classic fiction. They set out to see if the films can side-step the natural cognitive constraints that limit the number and quality of social relationships people can generally manage. Previous studies showed for instance that conversation groups of more than four people easily fizzle out. Also, Dunbar and other researchers found that someone can only maintain a social network of a maximum of 150 people, which is further layered into 4 to 5 people (support group), 12 to 15 people (sympathy group), and 30 to 50 people (affinity group). [Springer]
How did human societies evolve from small groups, integrated by face-to-face cooperation, to huge anonymous societies of today, typically organized as states? Why is there so much variation in the ability of different human populations to construct viable states? […] An empire is only as strong as its people are altruistic towards each other. Essentially, the more they can act collectively, the stronger they can become. […] Turchin et al. argue that altruism appeared for one simple reason: warfare. […] Societies that have more collective solidarity can more easily conquer others and are less likely to be conquered themselves. This allows more altruistic cultures to spread. [Evolution and you | PNAS]
Sex and the City’s antepenultimate episode… […] This was the episode in which gauche, chain-smoking “Page Six” staple “Lexi Featherston” did some coke at a geriatric party, yelled, “This used to be the most exciting city in the world, and now it’s nothing but smoking near a fuckin’ open window,” and then took a header out said window. [Choire Sicha/NY Magazine]
There are now half a million people over 100, and the number is growing at 7 per cent a year. Why are there so few people over 115 years of age?
Study suggests men succumb to sexual temptations more than women — for example, cheating on a partner — because they experience strong sexual impulses, not because they have weak self-control.
A new system called Sedasys, made by Johnson & Johnson, would automate the sedation of many patients undergoing colon-cancer screenings called colonoscopies. That could take anesthesiologists out of the room, eliminating a big source of income for the doctors.
Medical experts have been powerless to stop the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and are increasingly desperate to develop novel drugs. But a new study finds that smarter use of current antibiotics could offer a solution.
We compare the productivity of Fields medalists (winners of the top mathematics prize) to that of similarly brilliant contenders. The two groups have similar publication rates until the award year, after which the winners’ productivity declines. [PDF]
The case of the disappearing teaspoons: 70 discreetly numbered teaspoons placed in tearooms around the institute and observed weekly over five months. 56 of the 70 teaspoons disappeared during the study. The rate of loss was not influenced by the teaspoons’ value.
Other websites have been an inspiration to us as we’ve built annotations. Soundcloud allows users to annotate audio; Gawker Media, images; and Medium, text. Rap Genius, originally focused on hip-hop lyrics, has recently expanded its mandate to letting people “annotate everything.” [Quartz]
A Mercedes sport utility vehicle stripped of its body panels and chassis sat on a platform like a cadaver on an autopsy table, components of its exhaust system arranged neatly on a cart for examination. GM engineers are tearing apart the competition. Literally.