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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Links - 25th April 2010

"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." - Douglas Adams


Refusing to apologise to a woman puts her at risk of a heart attack, scientists say
The phrasing of this story - especially the headline - is extremely interesting. In contrast, a story on reducing men's risk of a heart attack is not titled "Refusing to have sex with a man puts him at risk of a heart attack" but instead Having sex twice a week 'reduces chance of heart attack by half', even though the protective effect found is a lot stronger and more direct

Near-Death Experiences Linked to Oxygen Deprivation - "Not only are the symptoms of anoxia (oxygen deprivation) very similar to the symptoms of an NDE, but patients who had the highest concentrations of carbon dioxide in their blood reported significantly more NDEs than those with lower levels. In response to the stress of the heart attack, pain-killing endorphins are released, which can create elation and hallucinations. Several drugs have also been found to cause near-death or out-of-body experiences, including ketamine (a hallucinogen similar to PCP, used mainly as an anesthetic). Though many believe that near-death experiences provide evidence of life after death, the fact that they can be chemically induced suggests a natural—instead of supernatural—cause"

Kate Moss is No Role Model - "Critics have greatly exaggerated the influence that fashion models have over the public, and over young women in particular. In 2002, supermodel Naomi Campbell admitted to a drug habit. If girls were using Campbell as a model for behavior, surely knowing that their idol was a drug abuser spawned more users. Yet no spike in drug use among young women occurred following the revelation... One British study found that not only do young women not see fashion models as role models, they don't even see the fashion models' thin bodies as desirable. Researchers showed 901 young women a list of famous women and asked whose body they'd like to have. A curvy actress came out on top, while Kate Moss got only 14 percent of the votes. When young women were asked what they thought of fashion models specifically, the results are surprising. Instead of idolizing the fashion models, the vast majority of respondents responded negatively: most said they were too thin, and only 8 percent said the models were beautiful"
Meanwhile, he notes that Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory is being misapplied: Bandura's theory does not involve physical characteristics. Also, aping only happens if the role models are seen as similar to the observor - but young women don't idolise them.

All Women Worry About Getting Fat, Study Suggests

Hate-crime bills raise First Amendment concerns for some - "Gladwell, while condemning crimes motivated by hate or prejudice, expressed concern that tying charges to motives "enters the realm of how someone thinks or feels," thus violating a person's First Amendment right to free speech. "In a way to get rid of discrimination in society, we actually authorize or make legal another form of discrimination"... Tom McCoy, professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Law, cites two major problems with hate-crime laws. "The first problem is that, if you don't make crimes against any group a hate crime, you have a serious equal-protection problem," he said. "Secondly, although on their face they don't violate the First Amendment, often they show the intent of the actor by bringing into evidence what the actor has said or written. People end up being punished for what they say, which is very bothersome""

Heaven: A fool's paradise - "The heaven you think you're headed to – a reunion with your relatives in the light – is a very recent invention, only a little older than Goldman Sachs. Most of the believers in heaven across history would find it unrecognisable... Heaven is constantly shifting shape because it is a history of subconscious human longings. Show me your heaven, and I'll show you what's lacking in your life. The desert-dwellers who wrote the Bible and the Koran lived in thirst – so their heavens were forever running with rivers and fountains and springs. African-American slaves believed they were headed for a heaven where "the first would be last, and the last would be first" – so they would be the free men dominating white slaves. Today's Islamist suicide-bombers live in a society starved of sex, so their heaven is a 72-virgin gang-bang... even if you set aside the absence of even the tiniest thread of evidence, there is a great conceptual hole at the heart of heaven – one that has gnawed at even its fondest believers. After a while, wouldn't it be excruciatingly dull? Heaven is, in George Orwell's words, an attempt to "produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary". Take away the contrast, and heaven becomes hell"

Coding Horror: Why Can't Programmers.. Program? - "'199 out of 200 applicants for every programming job can't write code at all. I repeat: they can't write any code whatsoever.'

Everyone thinks they're hiring the top 1%. - "Just because you're hiring the top 0.5% of all applicants for a job, doesn't mean you're hiring the top 0.5% of all... many of the great people are never on the job market—that we are so aggressive about hiring summer interns. This may be the last time these kids ever show up on the open market"

Can Animals Be Gay? - "Given [Evolutionary] theory, the very existence of homosexual behavior in animals can feel a little like impenetrable nonsense... The difficulty of that challenge, more than any implicit or explicit homophobia, may be why past biologists skirted the subject... a single explanation of homosexual behavior in animals may not be possible, because thinking of “homosexual behavior in animals” as a single scientific subject might not make much sense... We are hard-wired to read all animal behavior as “some version of the way people do things” and animals as “blurred, imperfect copies of humans”... “There’s a lot of slop in the system — which,” she was sure to add, “is not the same as saying homosexuality is a mistake”... Many people who contacted Young after the publication of her first albatross paper assumed she was a lesbian. She is not... Young found the assumption offensive — not because she was being mistaken for gay, but because she was being mistaken for a bad scientist; these people seemed to presume that her research was compromised by a personal agenda... One e-mail message compared [someone who found a mutation in male fruit flies made them mount other males] with Dr. Josef Mengele, noting “the direct line that leads from studies like this to compulsory eradication of gay sexuality . . . whether [by] burnings at the stake or injections with chemical suppressants. You,” the writer added, “just placed a log on the pyre”"
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