To the list of people who met their spouses online, add ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who met his wife Sujidah al-Dulaimi on the Internet. Possibly related: ISIS runs a jihadi dating site. I’m going to say it – niche dating sites have gone too far.
Well, that turned sinister quickly. Menthol, which I had always just assumed was added to cigarettes to make them taste better, tweaks the brain to potentiate nicotine addiction.
You probably heard about the successful Orion launch last week. On Reddit’s “Explain Like I’m Five”: Was The Space Shuttle Really So Bad We Had To De-Evolve Back To Capsules?. A lot of great discussion, but the answer is pretty much “yes” – the space shuttle started off unambitious, turned into a monstrosity loaded down with compromises to tick off every stupid constraint Congress and the Pentagon put on it, and probably set space exploration back for a generation because it looked so cool that no one was willing to admit it was useless. Capsules are cheaper, safer, and more likely to go somewhere. That having been said, Orion has an uphill battle – its main proposed mission, going to an asteroid, requires a conjunction of lots of things that probably won’t pan out, and so nobody really knows what it’s for except saying we’ve got one.
Lest you get too depressed, remember you live in an age where a private company with thousands of employees, billions of dollars in revenue and a proven record of success is at this very moment working on a spaceship called the Mars Colonial Transporter, intended to carry at least a hundred colonists and several tons of freight to the Red Planet by 2030.
I have had it with Omega-3 fats. As bad as the field of nutrition in general is, the study of Omega-3 fats is the worst. One day they show amazing results, the next day a similar study comes out showing no results at all. Depending on what research you believe they are either the cure for all psychiatric illness, or they’ll do nothing except make your burps smell like fish (exception: the research showing they decrease aggression in institutionalized settings is pretty strong). Now the latest such study shows that Omega-3 fats have a ginormous effect in preventing the development of psychosis.
New accusations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “‘Every night they release wild pigs against us,’ the president was quoted as saying. ‘Why are they doing this?'”
Carcinization somehow gets stuck defending that cultural evolution is real, because apparently some people doubt this.
After wars that kill off a lot of (primarily male) soldiers, a greater proportion of the babies born are boys, almost as if Nature is trying to make up the deficit. A new review tries to piece together why.
China bans puns on the grounds that they may mislead children and defile cultural heritage. Language Log is on the story, and discusses the (extremely plausible) theory that this is part of a crackdown on people who use puns to get around censorship. Obligatory link to the Ten Mythical Creatures here. There’s no censor sensibility to the law, and it seems likely to cause Confucian and dis-Orientation among punks and pundits alike in its wonton disregard for personal freedom and attempts to bamboo-zle the public. It’s safe Tibet that dissidents who just Taipei single pun online will end up panda price and facing time in the punitentiary or even capital punishment – but those Hu support the government can Maoth off as much as they want and still wok free. I Canton derstand how people wouldn’t realize that this homophonbic bigotry raises a bunch of red flags. In the end, one Deng is clear: when puns are outlawed, only outlaws will have puns.
I’m having trouble finding a non-horrible link to this that doesn’t participate in the behavior it’s discussing, but let’s go with this one by bizpacreview. The New York Times publishes the name of the street where Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson lives despite about a zillion death threats against him, then refuses to take it down. Conservative activists respond by publicizing the home addresses of the reporters who published the story. Reporters demand the police protect them, thus completing the circle of irony. How about a compromise solution of STOP DOXXING PEOPLE.
People with schizophrenia have a wide range of impairment, from “totally unable to function independently” to “actually pretty functional”. Here’s a profile of a schizophrenic programmer working on creating God’s temple in the form of a really weird operating system. Gives a good feel for what the condition must feel like from the inside.
So apparently if you inject human glial cells into mouse brains, you end up with a much smarter mouse. This raises at least two questions: first, what does this tell us about the oft-neglected role of glial cells in intelligence? Second, if you inject the glial cells of a supergenius into the brain of a moderately intelligent person, does the moderately intelligent person become smarter? I’m asking for, uh, a friend. Yeah. A friend.
I’ve written a couple of times about the promise of minocycline for treating schizophrenia. @TheTenthTendril links me to a new meta-analysis of 330 people confirming efficacy of minocycline.
Recent study: Summer jobs decrease violent crime among disadvantaged youth almost by half, effect remains after one-year followup. Cost-effectiveness still difficult to determine.
I’ve never written anything about poker before, but two very interesting things happened at this year’s Poker World Series. First, two winners, including the grand champion, were members of Raising For Effective Giving, a group of poker players linked with the effective altruism movement who have promised to donate 2-3% of their winnings to effective charity. Given the $10 million prize, that’s $200,000 right there. Second, the winner credited part of his success to the nootropic CILTEP. I’m a bit surprised, because I’ve tried CILTEP and found it totally useless; it also got very mediocre ratings on my nootropics survey. Maybe it’s a matter of personal variation. But nootropics now officially pass the xkcd test.
This, on the other hand, is exactly my aesthetic: new computer system uses game theory to remove social barriers to reporting sexual assault
The smoldering rebellion thing in Ukraine is killing a lot of Russian troops, but how many exactly? With the Russian government pretending the whole thing doesn’t exist it’s hard to say, but some estimates already place the number higher than Soviet losses in Afghanistan or US losses in Iraq.
Excess Success For Psychology Articles In The Journal Science. If I understand this right, they’re saying that psychology articles in Science get positive results so often that even if their hypotheses were always true, they still should get fewer positive results simply because of the expected rate of false negatives. This suggests that something fishy is going on, which at this point should be pretty unsurprising for published psychology articles.
How Sociologists Made Themselves Irrelevant. I don’t know enough about sociology to have a strong opinion on the article, but I found interesting the descriptions of government programs. Moving To Opportunity, the program that moved poor families with children to nice neighborhoods? No effect on the kids’ futures (compare to the non-experimental neighborhood study in the last links roundup.) Building Strong Families, the program that gave parents counseling on how to keep their marriages together? Marriages fell apart exactly as quickly as everyone else’s. At some point we really need to get ourselves some better government programs. Which I guess is what the article is trying to tell us how to do.
Several readers sent me this article by Maradydd on the place of nerds in society, which I would have a lot more to say about if I had room left in my head for thoughts other than how frustrating I found the giant blocks of pictures inserted at random points throughout the web page. But other than that I think I approve.
The Conservative Case For Reforming The Police. Although I’m not sure how the conservative case for anything ended up on Slate. I hope the three conservatives who read it get inspired.
A while ago I praised the article/short story Libertarian Police Department as one of the funniest things I had ever read. I possibly have to take that back. I never would have imagined it possible, but this counter-story story in the Atlantic, Non-Libertarian Police Department, beats it by a mile and is even more worthy of your interest.
When Science Fiction Stopped Caring About The Future: “It’s no accident that the most ubiquitous, overwhelming sci-fi sub-genre around is the one that has the least to do with the future: superheroes. Much of the superhero genre, in fact, is devoted to the fantasy that [we can experience technological marvels] without the comfy old familiar world we know changing that much at all. Tony Stark invents new magical energy sources three times before breakfast, but he uses them mostly to punch Thunder-Gods in the head, rather than, say, to completely transform the world’s technology and economy. Aliens land on earth, and rather than conquering England with H. G. Wells or forming an utterly new human race through tentacle-sex gene splicing a la Octavia Butler, they perform minor acts of altruism while taking their shirts off to reveal the pecs of Henry Cavill. Superheroes are sci-fi wonders without consequences, the future resolutely flattened by today.”
You know how evidence showed that the minimum wage increased unemployment? And then evidence showed that it didn’t? Now evidence shows that it does again. If anyone ever studies the effects of the minimum wage on omega-3 fats, I don’t even want to know.
Another one of those timeless narrative motifs that recur across all ages and cultures: A Billionaire Dinosaur Forced Me Gay. The first review is my favorite.