Meditating may decrease the need for sleep by about two hours a day. But you have to meditate about two hours a day to gain the benefits, so it all checks out.
A predictable yet surprising consequences of how we judge value relative to counterfactuals: Olympic bronze medalists are happier with the outcome than silver medalists. Bronze medalists were a hair away from not winning a medal at all; silver medalists were a hair away from getting gold.
I’ve previously blogged on how belief in Hell appears to make people more moral. Here’s a claim that it decreases subjective well-being and life satisfaction. Anecdotally, a lot of my psych patients are obsessed with the idea of Hell and find it really personally distressing on a more-than-intellectual level.
Dumb Starbucks tests the limits of parody law. I cannot believe this is a real thing.
Physicists Say Consciousness Is Like A State Of Matter, says an article that doesn’t really give good reasons why consciousness is like a state of matter. Included anyway for Tegmark interview and the discussion of Hopfield nets. I suspect dead end, but I’m happy to see any non-trivial non-ignore-the-hard-parts discussion of consciousness going on.
I keep seeing contrary studies about the advantages of single-sex education or lack thereof, but the latest is that single-sex education has no advantages over co-ed schools.
Singapore has one of the best education systems in the world. What do they do? Everything we are told to avoid: “rely heavily on textbooks, worksheets, worked examples and lots of drill and practice. They also strongly emphasise mastery of specific procedures and the ability to represent problems clearly, especially in mathematics. Classroom talk is teacher-dominated and generally avoids extended discussion…[they] make limited use of checking a student’s prior knowledge or communicating learning goals and achievement standards. In addition, while teachers monitor student learning and provide feedback and learning support to students, they largely do so in ways that focus on whether or not students know the right answer, rather than on their level of understanding.” I think there might be some value in drawing a thick bright line in the sand against educational fads, but man, they are literally old-school.
Another skirmish in the diet wars: people who drink skim or low-fat milk end up fatter than people who drink whole milk. Not sure how much prospective design adjusts for obvious confounder, but once you get sixteen studies that say the same thing I start being impressed.
Does clostridium perfringens cause multiple sclerosis? I think a lot of doctors expect to find infectious causes for a lot of seemingly-not-infectious diseases, but it’s always devilishly hard to prove. On the other hand, multiple sclerosis is this giant black hole where promising medical theories go to die.
Finally a Bitcoin prediction market.
Reddit on Penkovsky, the Soviet double agent who, when exposed, decided to go out with a bang by starting a nuclear war.
H/T nydwracu: Did McDonalds cause the decline of violence in America?
Still more skirmishes in the diet wars: 7 Foods That Were Supposed To Be Unhealthy But Aren’t. Kind of ties into a conversation I had on Facebook a little while back about whether it was crackpot or outrageous to say that nutrition science’s failures caused stupendous death and suffering. Some of these seem broadly correct – coconut oil and eggs, for example. Others I am very skeptical – like salt. But if someone wants to link me to good evidence exonerating salt, I’ll read it (and then go eat lots of French fries).
Hip Gadgets Aren’t Going To Solve Global Poverty, So Stop Making Them. I usually dislike people scoffing at people for trying to solve global poverty the wrong way, because xkcd. But here the author is himself trying to solve global poverty, explains exactly what the problem is, and gives good suggestions on how to make things better.
Pictures of ousted Ukranian leader Victor Yanukovich’s villa. Now I feel sad because I don’t have a frigate.
…but let’s not be too hard on him. Sure, he may have lived in opulence and plenty while his people suffered, but he eats simple bread just like the rest of us. Except his bread is made of solid gold.
During the Battle of Shiloh, some dying Civil War soldiers found their wound started to glow, then miraculously heal. The so-called Angel’s Glow has long been considered a superstition. Now scientists think they have found a rational basis for the story – nematodes and commensal bacteria
Since we’ve been talking rape statistics lately (NO I WILL NOT LINK TO THE POST, PLEASE JUST FORGET ABOUT IT ALREADY), here is an interesting case of rape statistics getting bogged down in – of all things – something like the Oxford comma.
If we want to save elephants, maybe we should farm them for ivory (h/t Paul Crowley). There’s a strong argument that legalizing any ivory would make the ivory trade much easier and so enable poachers of wild elephants. Then there’s the economic counterargument, that as long as ivory is banned that just makes it super-expensive and makes poaching really really lucrative. Probably should be considered alongside the bizarre and horrible story of endangered oryx ranching laws.
Tumblr (I would credit people, but I can’t figure out their quotation system) makes some interesting points about the phrase “you need psychiatric help”. Speaking from the other perspective, it is really intimidating when people come in expecting you to be able to solve everything with a single pill. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and other professionals are one weapon people can use to cope with mental illness, and they’re a powerful one that I would strongly suggest everyone consider, but they are not Super Magic Solution. So yes, tell people to get professional help. But also help them get friends, support, education, and healthy habits. Psychiatrists aren’t always great at helping people out with these, and even when they are they can only go a tiny part of the way.
Mental Floss: Russian travel tips for visiting America. Don’t talk about the magnetic storm!