Mormons can often recognize other Mormons on sight, even in pictures stripped of any remotely plausible symbol of religious affiliation. Scientists confirm the phenomnenon and decide the most likely explanation is that Mormons are healthier and therefore have clearer skin.
China displays a model of their moon rover to celebrate its successful landing, with a picture of the Earth in the back. An astute Redditor notices that the Earth in the picture has a small mushroom cloud rising over Europe. Other Redditors speculate as to what’s going on.
Silicon Valley’s need for space is cramming young professionals together with the urban poor, with predictable results. The Right spins it as poor people being government-subsidized to take up valuable space. The Left spins it as colonialist carpetbagging oppressors coming in and trying to kick out the poor. The rest of us just complain that the whole thing is due to the Bay Area’s super-restrictive zoning regulations and if people were allowed to construct real buildings the whole problem would solve itself. Matt Yglesias gets fed up and suggests the whole shebang just pick up and move to Cleveland. Meanwhile, the usual suspects distribute flyers threatening violence against all privileged rich people who don’t “get the fuck out”. Hint from a Detroit area resident: this ends poorly.
Yesterday was Eastern Orthodox Christmas, and the Christmas season is always a good time for people to crack contraceptive jokes about how abstinence is 99.99% successful. But before citing made up numbers, be sure to check a study that suggests the real rate is closer to 99.5%.
There will soon be a (very impressive) science fiction museum in Washington DC with (among other things) lots of scale model spacecraft. It sounds kind of gimmicky, but at least it’s my kind of gimmick.
A while back I mentioned that African immigrants are the best-educated demographic group in the country, and someone asked whether their children regress to the mean. Tyler Cowen links to a study showing the answer is yes. Even worse, he cites another study showing that even the (abysmal) statistics on how well black Americans have been doing over the past few decades are confounded by the increasing number of (more successful) immigrants – meaning that however you think native-born African-Americans are doing, it’s probably worse than that. Study is notable because it claims there was large amounts of economic progress for blacks relative to whites from 1940 – 1980, whereas I have previously heard the exact opposite. Now I am confused.
Migraine headaches are very common, hard to treat, and a lot of the good drugs have side effects. Right now standard “lifestyle advice” is “make a diary of when your migraine headaches happen and see if there are easily predictable triggers”, which just annoys patients since there rarely are. Now a new study offers another big suggestion: stop chewing gum! “After a month without gum, 19 of the 30 patients reported that their headaches went away entirely and seven reported a decrease in the frequency and intensity of headaches. To test the results, 26 of them agreed to resume gum chewing for two weeks. All of them reported a return of their symptoms within days.” Thus far only tested on teenagers, but anxious to see if the same results apply to adults.
The author of the Anarchist Cookbook, the infamous treatise on making bombs and biological weapons, reinvented himself as an education expert, currently runs a teacher training center, and has requested (fruitlessly) that his work be taken off the market.
A simple, easy to understand diagram of the new health care system (h/t @admittedlyhuman). Compare to the chart of metabolic pathways. Since the one keeps getting more complex with time and the other stays pretty stable, it’s interesting to think that someday medical administration will be more complicated than medical research. As above, so below.
An anti-aging drug that “rolled back the key indicators of aging to make two-year-old mice appear six months old” will soon be entering human trials. The cost is $50,000 a day, but hopefully expected to improve.
Paul Ryan, the guy everyone made fun of during the last election, has reinvented himself as a radical anti-poverty crusader after being inspired by Pope Francis and a meeting with local ex-convicts. No, really.
In my Reactionary Philosophy In An Enormous Planet-Sized Nutshell post, I speculated on how quickly leftists would turn against immigration if immigrants tended to hold rightist beliefs. In proof that great minds think alike, Popehat tells the same story with a much cooler science fiction twist.
Did you know that Kerry Thornley, who wrote half the Principia Discordia under the pen name Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, was a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald’s before he assassinated Kennedy? Or that he later went paranoid and believed that Robert Anton Wilson was a CIA agent sent to spy on him? I so want this to be true.
Since we’ve been talking about “the spirit of the First Amendment” recently, here’s Bertrand Russell’s Ten Commandments For Living In A Healthy Democracy. I’m curious if anyone will admit to explicitly disagreeing with it.
It’s bad form to laugh at other countries’ culture-bound mental disorders, but puppy pregnancy syndrome, “a psychosomatic illness brought on by mass hysteria localized to villages in several states of India…[in which] people believe that shortly after being bitten by a dog puppies are conceived within their abdomen” is pretty adorable. At least until you get to the part where “It is believed that the victims will eventually die – especially men, who will give birth to their puppies through the penis”.
The science of predicting social trends with artificial societies. I find their corrupt bureaucrat model very interesting, since it answers otherwise confusing questions about why there is so little explicit corruption in some societies compared to others, and why the low-corruption societies so rarely relapse. Also a good review of Schelling’s work on how non-racist people can “accidentally” end up building segregated neighborhoods, and a diversion on the Anasazi I didn’t really understand.
“Everyone knows” Ronald Reagan made up the “welfare queen” in order to scare gullible conservatives. But like most things everyone knows, it’s not true. The search for Linda Taylor, the original welfare queen, reveals a larger-than-life criminal who changed identities at will, posed as everyone from a welfare recipient to a heart surgeon, kidnapped children, married up to eight people, may have committed murder, and either practiced or faked practicing voodoo as a witch doctor.
The book review for Something More Than Night begins: “The official description of Tregillis’ novel sounds intriguing enough: a Raymond Chandler-style murder mystery set in Thomas Aquinas’ version of Heaven. But the actual book is something quite a bit more ambitious”. h/t Leah Libresco.
More on the Oklahoma city hospital that just tells people up front what they charge and lets them pay with money. It all makes sense up until the point where the insurance companies are arraying themselves against his cost-saving measures. Why wouldn’t insurance companies want their patients to go to the lowest-cost hospital possible?
Instead of boycotting Phil Robinson about gay rights, how about we boycott the country that’s trying to punish homosexuality with life in prison? See my old post on the ethics of boycotts for why I can propose this consistently.
The Economist chooses a Country Of The Year: Earth’s Got Talent.
This Chinese condemnation of America turns out to be a veiled tribute to the US and backhanded criticism of China. Good for making you count blessings you never even knew you had.
The big problem in psychiatry is deciding which of many equally efficacious drugs to give a patient with a treatable disease. Most people respond to one or another of them, but not everyone responds to the same one, and you can waste months or even years treating someone with a drug that’s inferior for them personally. There is constantly this promise on the horizon of personalized medicine allowing genetic testing for drug response, and now some of that is finally starting to tentatively appear: two SNPs with a 93% sensitivity for predicting response to lithium in bipolar disorder.
A new survey on self-described libertarians: 6% support Obamacare, 26% support stronger environmental regulation, 30% oppose physician-assisted suicide, 31% want to make it harder to access Internet pornography, 41% want to make it harder to get abortions, 60% oppose same-sex marriage. Conclusion: pretty much anyone can call themselves a libertarian.
Some of my younger friends with unusual beliefs, lifestyles, or gender issues have had to stay in the closet lest their parents kick them out of the house and they become homeless. I was happy to see at least one group working on a partial solution. The Transgender Housing Network is a charity that tries to connect transgender people up in bad situations with others willing to house them. Part of me wants to say it’s a terrible idea from a safety point of view and will be sued to oblivion after the first incident, but then again, if Couchsurfer can work maybe this can too.
Reactionary publication Radish Magazine publishes the majority of their fascinating and hilariously-named 2013 Anti-Progress Report.
Atul Gawande gives his much more polished and prestigious opinions on what I have called the life cycle of medical ideas. Also, did you know that some clergy objected to anaesthetics during childbirth because God had decreed childbirth should be painful?
The Tumblr Argument Generator. Next step is to Sokal-hoax this to a prestigious humanities journal and see what happens.
The Washington Post points out that Economists Agree: Raising The Minimum Wage Reduces Poverty. The New York Times counters with an article saying that raising the minimum wage is a much less efficient way to reduce poverty than nearly anything else.
The biography of feudal-era Japanese judge Ooka Tadasuke contains some pretty impressive examples of historic virtue. Example: “When he [first became town judge, Ooka] found out that there was a long–standing boundary dispute between the farmers of the Yamada and Yoshimune fiefs. While it was obvious that the Yamada claim was the just one, no previous judge had been fool enough to irritate Yoshimune as he was very close to the shogun. However, Ōoka took up the case, and immediately settled it on its merits. Yoshimune was so impressed that when he became shogun five years later, he took the unusual action of promoting Ōoka over hundreds of other candidates to the important post of mayor of Edo.”
A rationalist community member and medical student hypothesizes that some spices are partial agonists of the capsaicin receptor – in other words, that eating certain moderately spicy things can decrease the spiciness of very spicy things. He decides to test this by eating the spiciest pepper in the world. Empiricism!