Archive for the 'linkdump' Category

What’s awesome this week: Let them eat dog food

May 15, 2009

1. How Torture Helped the Allies in WWII

Whatever role the bombings played in hastening Japan’s unconditional surrender, it was probably enhanced by the testimony of captured Air Force First Lieutenant Marcus McDilda. Though he initially professed to know nothing about the Manhattan Project or the atomic bomb that had been dropped on Hiroshima—because he didn’t—under torture he “confessed” that, contrary to Japanese hopes that the Americans could not possibly have produced more than a few, the United States had hundreds ready for deployment, with Tokyo and Kyoto next on the list of targets.


A distant Shaftoe relative, no doubt.


2. Can People Distinguish Pâté from Dog Food?


As seen on Colbert:

To prevent bias, Newman’s Own dog food was prepared with a food processor to have the texture and appearance of a liver mousse. In a double-blind test, subjects were presented with five unlabeled blended meat products, one of which was the prepared dog food. After ranking the samples on the basis of taste, subjects were challenged to identify which of the five was dog food.


One of the researchers keeps a blog, Blind Taste.


3. Rules for Time Travelers: #5 — Black holes are not time machines.

Sadly, if you fell into a black hole, it would not spit you out at some other time. It wouldn’t spit you out at all — it would gobble you up and grow slightly more corpulent in the process. If the black hole were big enough, you might not even notice when you crossed the point of no return defined by the event horizon. But once you got close to the center of the hole, tidal forces would tug at you — gently at first, but eventually tearing you apart. The technical term is spaghettification. Not a recommended strategy for would-be time adventurers.

4. Neuroeconomics has failed Americans in 5 key ways

The type of punditry I aspire to.

What is their promise? Very simple: Neuroeconomists promise that if investors, taxpayers and voters simply follow the advice of neuroeconomists, they’ll get rich. Your 401(k) and your retirement portfolios will prosper because neuroeconomics promises to make you “less irrational,” in control of your brain, and therefore, a successful investor.


Sorry, but that’ll never happen. Never. The human brain is, and always will be, irrational.

5. Free radicals after exercise are good, okay?

Forty men took part in a four-week training program. Half the group also received daily doses of Vitamins C and E. The researchers discovered that exercise on its own improves insulin sensitivity, which keeps diabetes at bay. But taking the vitamins erased that gain—findings that appear in the May 12th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 


6. The challenge of proving a negative: woman struck by meteorite



[T]he Hodges Meteorite […] blasted through the roof of a home in Sylacauga, Ala., in 1954. It bounced off a radio and hit Ann Elizabeth Hodges, badly bruising her hand and hip.


Being a baby is like being stoned (swine flu relief)

April 27, 2009

1. Inside the baby mind 

You know how when you’re stoned, all of a sudden, you can hear the refrigerator in the next room buzzing right in your ear?

While adults automatically block out irrelevant information, such as the hum of an air conditioner or the conversation of nearby strangers, babies take everything in: their reality arrives without a filter. … The hyperabundance of thoughts in the baby brain also reflects profound differences in the ways adults and babies pay attention to the world. … “This is the same ecstatic feeling that the Romantic poets were always writing about,” she says. “It’s seeing the world in a grain of sand.”

Odd that the Boston Globe wouldn’t bother to answer the reader’s most immediate question.


2. How Women Got Their Curves

Given the longstanding and widespread sexual repression of women in both Western and Eastern societies, it is not surprising that only recently has anorgasmia (failure to experience orgasm) been identified and treated. Nonetheless, the real biological mystery isn’t why some women don’t climax, but why some do….

Tyler Cowen

3. Best back-handed compliment (Ayn Rand) 

I can only report that The End of Poverty, narrated throughout by Martin Sheen, puts Ayn Rand back on the map as an accurate and indeed insightful cultural commentator.

Tyler Cowen

4. Psychology of self-castration

A large proportion (40%) of wannabes’ interest in castration was singularly of a fetishistic nature, and these men appeared to be at a relatively low risk of irreversible genital mutilation. … Nineteen percent of all wannabes have attempted self-castration, yet only 10% have sought medical assistance. 

David Dobbs

5. Snooty people HATE The Da Vinci Code

DVC was one of my finest Net Flix choices to date. And yet:

Salman Rushdie has called The Da Vinci Code “a book so bad that it makes bad books look good”, while the American grammarian Mark Lieberman has labelled Brown “one of the worst prose stylists in the history of literature”.

Maybe Salman should have waited for the movie, which by the way I bet Padma loooved.


6. Jedi cops in Glasgow

A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police confirmed: “At the time of the request, 10 (eight police officers and two police staff) had recorded their religion as Jedi.” … About 390,000 people listed their religion as Jedi in the 2001 Census for England and Wales. In Scotland the figure was a reported 14,000. 

Effect Measure

Things I kinda meant to blog about

April 23, 2009

1. Our obsession with climate change is killing off animals left and right

EU policies promoting a market for biofuels triggered the destruction of Indonesian rain forests in favor of palm plantations. Meanwhile, the forestry industry has argued that their monoculture plantations in Asia, Africa, and South America deserve credit as carbon sinks, but the data show that these biological deserts are actually spewing out carbon dioxide. […] Conservationists now have an apparent ally in the White House, so let’s tell him to slow down and get those forest protections in place before the carbon-conscious spill any more blood.

2. Global Warming, Thirsty Energy: 7 Dimensional Chess

Captures my ego-induced paralysis in the face of potential ecological catastrophe – and makes me think of Star Trek chess – a twofer:

Many of the new problems produced by human-induced global warming worsen each other. Trying to keep track of the interconnectedness is a little like trying to play — or even imagine — 7-dimensional chess.

For example, the growth of corn-ethanol biofuel has been shown to raise food prices … which in some places forces poor farmers cut down more forest … which releases more greenhouse CO2 into the air (about 20 percent of mankind’s annual carbon emissions are believed to come from deforestation) … [et cetera]

Where’s Brent Spiner when you need him?

3. One in ten computer gamers are ‘pathologically addicted’

The report found that poor school performance and a pathological addition to video games were strongly linked, but Dr Gentile warned that the research had not investigated which came first.

“It is certainly possible that pathological gaming causes poor school performance, and so forth, but it is equally likely that children who have trouble at school seek to play games to experience feelings of mastery, or that attention problems cause both poor school performance and an attraction to games,” he wrote in the findings, which will be published in the journal Psychological Science.

4. JG Ballard died

Although most famous for the autobiographical Empire of the Sun and the controversial Crash, Ballard also embraced technology, science and the environment as subjects for his writing and worked as an assistant editor on the Chemistry and Industry magazine.

Iain Sinclair, an author and friend of Ballard, said “He was one of the first to take up the whole idea of ecological catastrophe. He was fascinated by celebrity early on, the cult of the star and suicides of cars, motorways, edgelands of cities. All of these things he was one of the first to create almost a philosophy of.” (Daily Telegraph.)

Years ago I read The Crystal World, about some crystalline thing that grows out of control and consumes the world. It was unsettling. Then I tried reading Crash, about people who get off on car crashes, but it was too gross “adult” for me at the time. Then they made a movie about it – the one with James Spader, not the one where Matt Dillon feels up Thandie Newton.

5. Remembering the Past is Like Imagining the Future

From the physicist who brought you universes where time runs backward:

As it turns out, the way that the human brain goes about the task of “remembering the past” is actually very similar to how it goes about “imagining the future.” Deep down, these are activities with very different functions and outcomes — predicting the future is a lot less reliable, for one thing. But in both cases, the brain goes through more or less the same routine.

Update 4/23/09: I figured something like this was going on — Sean Carroll, the time physicist mentioned above, is writing a book. Congrats to him on its recent appearance on Amazon! Also: pre-order my book! Chapter 99 totally bites off Sean’s Sci Am article about time. I probably should have credited him. Oops! Sorry, Sean! 😦

Why must other people be cleverer than I?

April 19, 2009

Part one in what I’m sure will become an ongoing series.

1. Evolutionary psychology: the adaptive significance of semen flavor

I can think of only two ways to test this hypothesis, both of them impractical or impossible:

1.  If women gave birth through their stomachs, semen would taste great

2. Those males with genes giving them better-tasting semen will leave fewer offspring than other males.

2. These Bitches is This Bitch

An enthusiastic “writer” has recently found page view success through a front page Reddit appearance this weekend past. In between “posts” the author of “Fuck Yeah Cilantro” has found time to attack this “blog”. Anchor text: IN OTHER NEWS, THE WORLD IS FULL OF SHITHEADS brings you here. It is followed by the elaborating: “i would throw smallpox blankets on these bitches.”

Well, sorry to disappoint, but these bitches is this bitch. 

3. Judith Warner: Calling Kids ‘Gay’ Has Nothing To Do With Gays

[NY]Times internet family columnist Judith Warner has determined that when kids call other kids “gay” or “fag” they are actually enforcing outdated codes of masculinity, not actually accusing that kid of being a homosexual.

Right. Duh. Where the hell have you been? Oh, right, an old rich white lady liberal cocoon.

4. Depression, Neurogenesis and Herpes

The authors […] found that injections of gancyclovir devasasted the production of new neurones in the engineered mice. […] That’s not all that surprising.

However, they also found that gancyclovir treatment had no effect on the ability of 28 days treatment imipramine, an antidepressant, to affect the mice’s behaviour. (The measure of antidepressant action was the Tail Suspension Test). That’s a result, because a lot of people are interested in the theory that antidepressants work by boosting neurogenesis in the hippocampus. If that were true, blocking neurogenesis should also block the effects of antidepressants.

1) h/t @BoraZ;
2) h/t^nth @BoraZ;
3) Found this one myself. It was tough;
4) h/t Research Blogging – emphasis and links mine;
And now to go get cleverer.