One of the points I bring up in my Non-Libertarian FAQ is how difficult a problem it is to get trustworthy ratings of the trustworthiness of businesses from “self-regulation” type groups. People sometimes bring up the Better Business Bureau as a counterexample, but there are consistent rumors that it basically uses its rating system to extort businesses for money. This is starting to seem much more plausible after a disgruntled group of business owners got them to give an A- rating to terrorist group Hamas just by paying them the necessary fees.
There aren’t many occasions in which it’s acceptable to ask people in your town to dress up as Nazis, start shooting at citizens, and arrest the mayor and haul him off to a concentration camp. There are probably even fewer where it’s acceptable to paint local planes to look like Nazi bombers and fly them overhead, or declare a public ceremony renaming your main street Hitlerstrasse. But Winnipeg, Canada managed to make several million dollars off of it.
Yet another basic income guarantee experiment shows extremely positive results, this one in India.
Speaking of India, this series of pictures brings back the memories of my time traveling the Third World: Be Carefull: The Road Have A Problem
The Bronze Medal For Face-Palm-Ish Science Reporting goes to the Daily Mail for their article headlined “Women Are Born To Binge: Female Brains Are Biologically Programmed To Overeat”. Guess what species of animal the actual study was performed on? (hint: SQUEAK SQUEAK)
The Silver Medal goes to…also the Daily Mail, actually…for this article headlined “Children Brought Up By Two Parents Are More Intelligent – Because They Develop More Brain Cells – Boys Get Better Memories And Learning Ability – Girls Get Better Motor Co-ordination And Social Skills”. Once again, it would be worth mentioning that every single test subject in the experiment had a tail and an inordinate fondness for cheese.
The Gold Medal goes to…about 90% of the things I have seen about Jason Richwine, especially this article making the horrible “if something is a social construct, that’s kind of like saying it doesn’t exist and has no characteristics” argument. I kind of want to drag the author to Maine in the middle of winter in a bathing suit, on the grounds that going to California in the middle of winter in a bathing suit would be fine, and US states are just social constructs so they can’t possibly differ in temperature (AAAAAH STOP PROVING TOO MUCH!). Honorable exceptions to a few decent and thought-provoking people on all sides, including Erik Mesoy speaking for the rightists, Will Wilkinson speaking for the leftists, and Andrew Sullivan speaking for that dog and cat in the adorable Thanksgiving outfits.
Exciting medical news: antibiotics cure back pain in almost half of patients. This is really interesting for several reasons. First because it continues the trend of finding that conditions that superficially didn’t look like they involved infections actually do (for example ulcers) and infections are very treatable. Second because back pain is one of the biggest causes of morbidity in the First World, and if half those people could go back to work and engage in normal activities again it would be a huge deal. The guy in the article who says they deserve a Nobel Prize isn’t joking.
New item for the Biodeterminist’s Guide To Parenting: Flame retardants
This isn’t technically a news article, but I was pretty shocked to learn that only about 55%-60% of people who start a bachelor’s degree program at a four year college finish within 6 years. What are our colleges DOING?
The government just Streisand Effect-ed a gun. Wonderful. I have to say, although there is a part of me that likes Sticking It To The Man, that if people end up making quiet self-regulation of 3D printers impossible, this is less likely to result in the government shrugging and saying “Okay, I guess everyone can do whatever they want unmolested” and more likely to result in them just banning 3D printers or figuring out some way to limit it to a couple of big collusive companies that don’t do anything interesting.
William McGonagall is generally considered to be the worst English-language poet ever.
Of Mice and Markets. You’ve probably all seen this experiment, where people are willing to pay to keep lab animals alive but suddenly ignore that preference when dealing via a market. But this is YET ANOTHER REMINDER that no, markets don’t just naturally reflect our true preferences and promote perfectly rational behavior. Also another reminder that psychology researchers are really mean.
And now for something completely different: scientists who are going out of their way to avoid killing animals. There is now vegetarian meat, grown in a vat without harming animals. Now they just have to iron out that “$300,000 for one burger” issue.
I didn’t realize how parochial the element-naming process was until I read Wikipedia’s History of Astatine (SHUT UP I MANAGE MY TIME JUST FINE). The first team to claim to have synthesized it was a group in Alabama who named it “alabamium”. When their claim was disproven the next attempt came from chemists in Dhaka who proposed the name “dakin”. When their claim was also rejected, attention turned to a Swiss guy who named it “helvetium” and then an English-Swiss team with “anglo-helvetium”. Finally it was actually discovered by a team in Berkeley who gave it its current name of “astatine”, probably because Berkeley is so awesome already that naming an element after it too would just be rubbing it in everyone else’s face (this was actually before berkelium)
Ozy links me to this very good and balanced article on Monsanto in India. I wasn’t previously aware of the extent of the dishonesty of the attempt to link Indian farmers’ suicides to GM crops.
Sometimes NASA fills me with pride in humanity. Other times, not so much.