16
Dec
11

Roundup – Island of Doctor Logan

Line O’ the Day:

Wolfman Rob: You’re putting me on, right? Your name’s not Jason. It’s Jamie Crandall.

Garrett: IT’S JASON GARRETT. OF THE HUNTING VALLEY GARRETTS.

Wolfman Rob: Huh. Wonder why I’ve always thought of you as Jamie Crandall. Must have been a name I saw in a Marmaduke strip or somethin’.

- Big Daddy Drew, Princeton Boy Has A Hard Time Mastering Timeoutgate [KSK]

Best of the Best:

Tweet Science [Joe Hagan on New York Magazine]

The problem starts, he says, with an empty box. The box is on a user’s Twitter home page, where the company’s signature timeline is supposed to crawl down, overflowing with 140-character bon mots, witty and interesting and profound. But when you sign up, there’s nothing in it. It’s like turning on the TV and being confronted with a test signal.

As it stands, Twitter’s interface has yet to mature beyond a chronology of tweets, from most recent to oldest, that necessarily drops people into the water without much context, forcing users to experience Twitter as a snapshot of comments and a somewhat random and not particularly useful list of “trending topics,” or to enter a search term in hopes that something pertinent or entertaining will emerge from the millions of tweets. “In general, a lot of what Twitter is is unstructured information,” an executive at Facebook tells me. This, in a sense, is a programming challenge.

Sons of the Revolution [Jon Lee Anderson on The New Yorker]

By the end of February, rebels had assumed control of a series of coastal cities throughout the east. Soon after, military units operating out of Qaddafi’s tribal stronghold of Surt, halfway along the coast toward Tripoli, began advancing on the “liberated” territory. They struck first in Brega, on March 2nd, and were repulsed after a day of combat in which about a dozen civilian volunteers from Benghazi were killed. Osama decided that he needed to do more: “I could see that this is war now, and it is necessary to help.” Since then, Osama had undergone a transformation. “Before I left Libya, there was nothing left for me here,” he said. “Now, when I see the sea, I smell a different air. I can see the sky, blue; I have never seen it so beautiful.” He said that his friends in Martinsville had appealed to him not to go to Libya. “I reminded them that Henry County was named after Patrick Henry—and remember what he said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death’? Well, that’s what we’re facing here. I’d like to see my country have some of the freedom that America has.” Osama’s eyes shone. “You know, my son Muhannad has showed me what it is to be a man. He woke me up.” On February 25th, a ship had evacuated American citizens to Malta. “I told him to go and join his mother in the States, but he said, ‘No, Dad, I must stay.’ He’s a great guy, a basketball player, you know. And a Boy Scout.”

The “Last Place Aversion” Paradox: The surprising psychology of the Occupy Wall Street protests [Ilyana Kuziemko and Michael I. Norton on Scientific American]

Support for redistribution, surprisingly enough, has plummeted during the recession. For years, the General Social Survey has asked individuals whether “government should reduce income differences between the rich and the poor.” Agreement with this statement dropped dramatically between 2008 and 2010, the two most recent years of data available.  Other surveys have shown similar results. What might explain this trend? First, the change is not driven by wealthy white Republicans reacting against President Obama’s agenda: the drop is if anything slightly larger among minorities, and Americans who self-identify as having below average income show the same decrease in support for redistribution as wealthier Americans. Our recent research suggests that, far from being surprised that many working-class individuals would oppose redistribution, we might actually expect their opposition to rise during times of turmoil – despite the fact that redistribution appears to be in their economic interest. Our work suggests that people exhibit a fundamental loathing for being near or in last place – what we call “last place aversion.” This fear can lead people near the bottom of the income distribution to oppose redistribution because it might allow people at the very bottom to catch up with them or even leapfrog past them.

Bias, Blindness and How We Truly Think [Daniel Kahneman professor of psychology emeritus at Princeton University and professor of psychology and public affairs emeritus at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work with Amos Tverksy on decision making via Bloomberg]

I am my remembering self, and the experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me.

In India, Whistle Blowers Pay with Their Lives [Mehul Srivastava and Andrew MacAskill on Bloomberg Businessweek]

According to 2008 field experiments by Leonid Peisakhin and Paul Pinto, then doctoral candidates at Yale University, filing an RTI request is almost as effective for slum dwellers as paying a bribe to get a new ration card sooner for food and cooking supplies. “This is the most important piece of legislation passed in post-independence India,” said Subhash Agrawal, an RTI activist who successfully campaigned to make Supreme Court judges’ and ministers’ assets public. “It is a tragedy that these people have died, but it is also a sign of how powerful a tool the law is.”

College Football Would Love It If You’d Waste Your Time Complaining About Bowl Matchups [Barry Petchesky on Deadspin]

The NCAA loves this. They want you to spend your energy hating the BCS or Jim Tressel or The U and forget that these things can be fixed cosmetically without altering the ideology that puts money earned by player into the pockets of their pimps. It’s almost as if college football knowingly designed a flawed system to distract us from the broken core. Every piece you see today railing against the bowl selections? That’s us, ignoring the forest to hack at a few trees.

Russian communists win support as Putin party fades [Alissa del Carbonnel on Reuters]

Not that the Communist Party’s doubling of its vote to about 20 percent presages any imminent assault on power. The memories of repression in the old communist Soviet Union, the labor camps and the “Red Terror” are still too fresh for many. But vote they did, if perhaps with gritted teeth. “With sadness I remember how I passionately vowed to my grandfather I would never vote for the Communists,” Yulia Serpikova, 27, a freelance location manager in the film industry, told Reuters. “It’s sad that with the ballot in hand I had to tick the box for them to vote against it all.”

Is Suburbia Doomed? Not So Fast. [Joel Kotkin via Forbes]

Generally speaking, aging boomers tended to move out of dense urban cores, and to a lesser extent, even the suburbs. If they moved anywhere, they were headed further out in metropolis towards the more rural area. Among cities the biggest beneficiaries have been low-density cities in the Southwest and southern locales such as Charlotte, Raleigh and Austin. What about the other big demographic, the millennials? Like previous generations of urbanists, the current crop mistake a totally understandable interest in cities among post-adolescents. Yet when the research firm Frank Magid asked millennials what made up their “ideal” locale, a strong plurality opted for suburbs — far more than was the case in earlier generations. Generational analysts Morley Winograd and Mike Hais note that older millennials — those now entering their 30s — are as interested in homeownership as previous generations. This works strongly in favor of suburbs since they tend to be more affordable and, for the most part, offer safer streets, better parks and schools.

‘Harry Potter and yoga are evil’, says Catholic Church exorcist [Nick Squires on The Telegraph]

Father Gabriele Amorth, who for years was the Vatican’s chief exorcist and claims to have cleansed hundreds of people of evil spirits, said yoga is Satanic because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and “all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation”. Reading JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books is no less dangerous, said the 86-year-old priest, who is the honorary president for life of the International Association of Exorcists, which he founded in 1990, and whose favourite film is the 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist…His views may seem extreme, but in fact reflect previous warnings by Pope Benedict XVI, when as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy. In 1999, six years before he succeeded John Paul II as Pope, he issued a document which warned Roman Catholics of the dangers of yoga, Zen, transcendental meditation and other ‘eastern’ practises. They could “degenerate into a cult of the body” that debases Christian prayer, the document said.

Mall Rats Can’t Bring About the Wealth of Nations [Caroline Baum on Bloomberg]

Besides, there is something fundamentally wrong with a culture that promotes spending as the key to health and wealth. A multidecade borrowing-and-spending binge whittled the U.S. savings rate from an average of 9.6 percent in the 1970s, to 8.6 percent in the 1980s, to 5.5 percent in the 1990s, to 3.3 percent in the 2000s. At one point during the housing bubble, the savings rate approached zero…The Federal Reserve is complicit, too, in discouraging saving by holding its benchmark rate close to zero and pledging to keep it there at least through mid-2013. Consumers aren’t getting paid to save. The rate they can earn on bank deposits is negative when adjusted for current or expected inflation. Therefore, they spend. High real rates induce consumers to forgo current spending and save…Even the stock market applauds more “consumption,” a synonym for spending I try to avoid. A former editor said the word made him think of people wasting away from tuberculosis, which happens to be Merriam-Webster’s first definition. It was enough to convince me. In the context of this column, however, the alternate definition seems appropriate: “the utilization of economic goods in the satisfaction of wants … resulting chiefly in their destruction, deterioration, or transformation.” “Destruction” should be a tip-off that whatever it is, it isn’t wealth.

Rampant porn if Saudi women allowed to drive: Report [QMI Agency via CNews]

If the only country in the world that still bans women from driving were to change its rules, there would be “a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce.” Within 10 years of the ban being lifted, the report claimed, there would be “no more virgins” in the country, according to the paper. Currently, women caught driving in the kingdom may be lashed as punishment.

What is the most scientific way to optimize your driving time? [Keith Veronese on io9]

Across car types, the ideal speed for one’s car is between 55 and 60 miles per hour. There will be slight variants based on the type of car (SUV vs. aerodynamic Sedan), but this speed is a good starting point across car types. For every 5 miles per hour over 60 mph, fuel efficiency decreases by approximately 8 percent, with this decrease in efficiency compounding with a further increase in velocity…Let’s say the speed limit is 70 mph (113 kph) and you have a 280 mile interstate journey ahead of you…For the sake of argument, let’s say your average speed over the trip is 78 mph (126 kph) – eight miles above the limit in most states. You just risked a ticket, probably spent the last 3.6 hours of your life stressed out and paranoid, and killed your car’s fuel efficiency to spend 24 extra minutes with your relatives – time that will likely be spent sitting in front of a television watching Storage Wars. You’re a winner (in the game of life)!

The Child Psychology of Sesame Street [Esther Inglis-Arkell on io9]

A bigger controversy was to come later. Snuffleupagus, a big hairy mammoth, started appearing to Big Bird, the show’s most iconic character. When Big Bird mentioned him to others, or called them over to meet him, the mammoth disappeared. This went on for quite some time, while a debate raged behind the scenes. Some psychologists insisted that it was natural for kids to have, and talk about, their imaginary friends and private lives. If people never saw ‘Snuffy,’ but they still accepted Big Bird, that would relax those kids. Others psychologists objected. Kids would not see the giant hairy elephant on the screen as imaginary. They would see it as real, and see other characters not believing Big Bird when he was telling them the truth. Children who had painful secrets, such as abuse or neglect, needed validation that what they saw was real and would be believed. Eventually, Snuffy was seen by others, and became part of the regular cast.

Paris exhibit reveals the unspeakable horrors of the Human Zoo [The Guardian via io9]

In 1906 a Congolese Mbuti pygmy named Ota Benga was caged and put on display at the monkey house in New York’s Bronx zoo to demonstrate “human evolution.” In the 1840s, a boy with a small skull was sold to P.T. Barnum. There, he would be called Zip and made to wear a fur suit and scream at the audience in a show called “What Is It?”

The Myth of Multiple Personality Disorder [Esther Inglis-Arkell on io9]

Sybil‘s influence on society cannot be overstated. Aside from the massive amount of money the disorder made for Hollywood, hospitals opened up entire wings to treat a sudden influx of multiple personality patients. Some patients came to doctors believing the disorder put a name to what they already felt, some wanted to make a buck on the book deal, some wanted attention and care. Not all the interest came from the patient’s end. Unscrupulous doctors went on the hunt for patients. Everyone wanted a multiple personality case to call their own. Then came the debunking of the book and the bane of any cultural phenomenon: lawsuits. In the early 1990s patients started suing doctors for using drugs and threats of abandonment to coerce more personalities into showing up for their sessions. Then patients, some of whom had spent years in hospitals, started suing for misdiagnoses. Money and fame went out the door and bankruptcy and infamy strolled in. No one wanted to diagnose anyone with multiple personalities anymore. It was in the mid-nineties that the name was changed to dissociative identity disorder.

NASA Confirms Discovery of the most Earth-like Planet Yet [NASA via io9]

Kepler-22b is a different story. Sure, the planet orbits about 15% closer to its star than Earth does to the Sun, but its star is also significantly cooler, dimmer, and smaller than ours. And while scientists have yet to determine K-22b’s composition — be it rocky, gaseous or liquid — they estimate that surface temperatures on K-22b average a very Earth-like 72-degrees Fahrenheit…NASA’s Kepler mission (which is charged with identifying Earth-like planets throughout the Milky Way galaxy) has certainly turned up habitable zone planet candidates in the past, but Kepler 22-b is the first of these candidates to be officially confirmed.

Jobs Report Shows Structural Unemployment Is the Real Problem [Zachary Karabell on The Daily Beast]

This is an employment crisis not of college-educated women (just read into the data compiled by the BLS every month) who have an unemployment rate of barely more than 4 percent and decent wages. This is a crisis of men who did not go to college, who do not have the tools and never acquired the skills—knowing how to learn—that are so needed today. They have the skills to build homes that aren’t being built and to man the factories of yesterday rather than the high-tech lines of today. No set of Washington policies enacted in the near term will fix that. What growth there is in economic life comes from highly efficient business, not robust demand for goods and services.

Bedbugs’ Rampant Incest Colonizes Entire Apartment Buildings, Study Finds [Bloomberg]

Bedbugs inbreed without ill effects, the researchers said, so even a single female bedbug can lead to a colony of the blood-sucking insects as a result of rampant incest. Three colonized buildings in North Carolina and New Jersey suggested the invasion started with only one or two insects. Another study traced 21 infestations from Maine to Floridaand found most began in a single room…Bedbugs were almost eliminated in the U.S. 60 years ago by the pesticide DDT. International travel probably aided a resurgence in the past 30 years, said Schal, also a study author. The research was presented today at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Philadelphia. While their bites cause itchy allergic reactions, they don’t spread disease. The number of infestations from the insects, which feed only on blood, has grown as much as 100-fold since 1990, said Rajeev Vaidyanathan, associate director of diseases from animals at SRI International, which is based in Menlo Park, California, in a statement.

How military spent $1TRILLION on weapons since 9/11… and bought far more M4 guns and Stryker tanks than intended [Mail Online]

But the report claimed 10 of the 14 most expensive weapons programmes have already received least 88 per cent of their projected financing. ‘I was surprised at how much they had already done,’ report author R. Russell Rumbaugh told the New York Times.  The Air Force and Navy received more money for weapons spending than the Army and Marines, he added. ‘There will always be debate over what forces and equipment our military should pursue, but we should not ignore significant advances,’ he wrote.

Curiously Strong Remains:

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