Weekly Roundup 141: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web

Unfortunately infographics are causing the site to crash so I will have to suspend the infographic section for the time being.

Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

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Weekly Cartoons:

- via Deric Bownds @ MindBlog

-Via Glasbergen

MUST READ & WATCH (Please do this it will make you a better person I promise):

The network of global corporate control – via Cornell University Library - The structure of the control network of transnational corporations affects global market competition and financial stability. So far, only small national samples were studied and there was no appropriate methodology to assess control globally. We present the first investigation of the architecture of the international ownership network, along with the computation of the control held by each global player. We find that transnational corporations form a giant bow-tie structure and that a large portion of control flows to a small tightly-knit core of financial institutions. This core can be seen as an economic “super-entity” that raises new important issues both for researchers and policy makers.


PBS: Wealth Inequality for Dummies
– via Global Sociology-

A Crash Course in the Neuroscience of Human Motivation - via Less Wrong- How do we value things, and choose between options? Philosophers, economists, and psychologists have long tried to answer these questions. But human behavior continues to defy our most subtle models of it, and the algorithms producing our behavior remained hidden in a black box. But now, neuroscientists are directly measuring the neurons whose firing rates encode value and produce our choices. We know a lot more about the neuroscience of human motivation than you might think. Now we can peer directly into the black box of human motivation, and begin (dimly) to read our own source code.

The Calculus of Grit (Generalists, Specialists, Phil Tetlock and more) – via Ribbon Farm- I find myself feeling strangely uncomfortable when people call me a generalist and imagine that to be a compliment. My standard response is that I am actually an extremely narrow, hidebound specialist. I just look like a generalist because my path happens to cross many boundaries that are meaningful to others, but not to me. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know the degree to which I keep returning to the same few narrow themes.

Miguel’s Favorites:

Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? – via NYT- Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain. You start to resist any change, any potentially risky move — like releasing a prisoner who might commit a crime. So the fatigued judge on a parole board takes the easy way out, and the prisoner keeps doing time. Decision fatigue is the newest discovery involving a phenomenon called ego depletion, a term coined by the social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister in homage to a Freudian hypothesis. Freud speculated that the self, or ego, depended on mental activities involving the transfer of energy. He was vague about the details, though, and quite wrong about some of them (like his idea that artists “sublimate” sexual energy into their work, which would imply that adultery should be especially rare at artists’ colonies). Freud’s energy model of the self was generally ignored until the end of the century, when Baumeister began studying mental discipline in a series of experiments, first at Case Western and then at Florida State University.

Why we should use odds, all the time - via Rationally Speaking -The actual science of logic is conversant at present only with things either certain, impossible, or entirely doubtful, none of which (fortunately) we have to reason on. Therefore the true logic for this world is the calculus of Probabilities, which takes account of the magnitude of the probability which is, or ought to be, in a reasonable man’s mind.

The Secret Language Code-the hidden meaning of pronouns – via SCiAM- Are there hidden messages in your emails? Yes, and in everything you write or say, according to James Pennebaker, chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Pennebaker has been a leader in the computer analysis of texts for their psychological content. And in his new book, “The Secret Life of Pronouns,” he argues that how we use words like “I,” “she,” and “who” reveal secrets of our psychology. He spoke recently with Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.

The Elusive Big Idea - via NYT- They could penetrate the general culture and make celebrities out of thinkers — notably Albert Einstein, but also Reinhold Niebuhr, Daniel Bell, Betty Friedan, Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould, to name a few. The ideas themselves could even be made famous: for instance, for “the end of ideology,” “the medium is the message,” “the feminine mystique,” “the Big Bang theory,” “the end of history.” A big idea could capture the cover of Time — “Is God Dead?” — and intellectuals like Norman Mailer, William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal would even occasionally be invited to the couches of late-night talk shows. How long ago that was. If our ideas seem smaller nowadays, it’s not because we are dumber than our forebears but because we just don’t care as much about ideas as they did. In effect, we are living in an increasingly post-idea world — a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them, the Internet notwithstanding. Bold ideas are almost passé. It is no secret, especially here in America, that we live in a post-Enlightenment age in which rationality, science, evidence, logical argument and debate have lost the battle in many sectors, and perhaps even in society generally, to superstition, faith, opinion and orthodoxy. While we continue to make giant technological advances, we may be the first generation to have turned back the epochal clock — to have gone backward intellectually from advanced modes of thinking into old modes of belief. But post-Enlightenment and post-idea, while related, are not exactly the same.

Most Important Reads:


Brazil’s going bust….so says it’s fertility rate
- via National Geographic- That new Brazilian fertility rate is below the level at which a population replaces itself. It is lower than the two-children-per-woman fertility rate in the United States. In the largest nation in Latin America—a 191-million-person country where the Roman Catholic Church dominates, abortion is illegal (except in rare cases), and no official government policy has ever promoted birth control—family size has dropped so sharply and so insistently over the past five decades that the fertility rate graph looks like a playground slide.

On Economy, Raw Data Gets a Grain of Salt - via NYT- How can such an important number change so drastically? The answer in this case is surprisingly simple: the Bureau of Economic Analysis, charged with crunching the numbers, concluded that it had underestimated the value of vehicles sitting at dealerships and the nation’s spending on imported oil. More broadly, politicians and investors are placing a great deal of weight on a crude and rough estimate that has never been particularly reliable.

How the World Failed Haiti - via Rolling Stones – A year and a half after the island was reduced to rubble by an earthquake, the world’s unprecedented effort to rebuild it has turned into a disaster of good intentions

Is the classic business book “Good to Great” really any good? - via Bakadesuyo- The results show that the Good to Great firms had unexceptional performance when compared to other benchmark lists of firms, on an ex-ante or ex-post basis. From a management perspective, the advice that one might obtain from Good to Great should be carefully examined by managers before they implement it, only to find that great is not really so great.

Can Math Beat Financial Markets? Prob Not- via SciAm- Wall Street’s wild swings last week helped skew both retirement portfolios and mathematical models of the financial markets. After all, a standard Gaussian function—a bell curve—would predict that such extreme dips and rises would be exceedingly rare and not prone to following one after the other on succeeding days.


Cell Phones & Driving the end is near—meaning it will be illegal soon
- via Why We Make Mistakes- If you like doing stupid things like playing Russian roulette or talking on your cellphone while driving your car, go ahead and do it now. Why? Because soon it will be illegal (at least the cellphone and driving part).

Moody’s is in big trouble -via Paul Kedrosky – My name is William J. Harrington. I was employed by Moody’s Investors Services (“Moody’s) as an analyst in the Derivatives Group from June 1999 until my resignation in July 2010.

Can you judge someones personality via their belongings? - via Gosling- The authors articulate a model specifying links between (a) individuals and the physical environments they occupy and (b) the environments and observers’ impressions of the occupants. Two studies examined the basic phenomena underlying this model: Interobserver consensus, observer accuracy, cue utilization, and cue validity. Observer ratings based purely on offices or bedrooms were compared with self- and peer ratings of occupants and with physical features of the environments. Findings, which varied slightly across contexts and traits, suggest that (a) personal environments elicit similar impressions from independent observers, (b) observer impressions show some accuracy, (c) observers rely on valid cues in the rooms to form impressions of occupants, and (d) sex and race stereotypes partially mediate observer consensus and accuracy. Consensus and accuracy correlations were generally stronger than those found in zero-acquaintance research.

A hidden world, growing beyond control - via Washington Post- The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

George W. Obama? – via Toms Dispatch- Those first acts of that first shining full day in the Oval Office are now so forgotten, but on January 21, 2009, among other things, Barack Obama promised to return America to “the high moral ground,” and then signed a straightforward executive order “requiring that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility be closed within a year.” It was an open-and-shut case, so to speak, part of what CNN called “a clean break from the Bush administration.” On that same day, as part of that same break, the president signed an executive order and two presidential memoranda hailing a “new era of openness,” of sunshine and transparency in government. As the president put it, “Every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known.”

How personal websites and profiles reveal everything about your personality and its scientifically significant - via Gosling – This research examined the accuracy of personality impressions based on personal websites, a rapidly growing medium for self-expression, where identity claims are predominant. Eighty-nine websites were viewed by 11 observers, who rated the website authors’ personalities. The ratings were compared with an accuracy criterion (self- and informant reports) and with the authors’ ideal-self ratings. The websites elicited high levels of observer consensus and accuracy, and observers’ impressions were somewhat enhanced for Extraversion and Agreeableness. The accuracy correlations were comparable in magnitude to those found in other contexts of interpersonal perception and generally stronger than those found in zero-acquaintance contexts. These findings suggest that identity claims are used to convey valid information about personality.

Why It’s Good that the Internet Is Changing Our Brains – via Good- There’s nothing like an article about how the internet is changing our brains to really freak people out. Studies show our thought process is adapting to the constant influx of media. Google affects our memorization skills. And our reliance on smartphones has changed friendly debates forever. Whether we like it or not, the web is molding our minds. But what if that’s not such a big deal?

Crowdfunding Puts Money with Public Interest – via Miller McCune- Tired of the old system of state and institutional funding, many wanting to push a creative project or a pet cause are turning to crowdfunding.


The Man Who Almost Killed Hitler
- via Smithsonian – Beneath this unremarkable exterior, however, Elser did care—mostly about the way the Nazis and their policies were reducing ordinary Germans’ standard of living. The “economic miracle” that Hitler often boasted of had been achieved at considerable cost. Working hours were long and holidays few. Trade unions and political parties were dissolved or banned; wages were frozen. Meanwhile, members of the Nazi party enjoyed privileges not available to those who refused to join. Elser, who was noted as a perfectionist who took infinite care over his work, found it increasingly hard to make ends meet as real wages declined. Asked later to explain his decision to take on Hitler, he was blunt: “I considered that the situation in Germany could only be changed by the elimination of the current leadership.”

Your Law Firm Does Not Have Your Incentives - via Spencer Greenberg- If you hire a law firm, they are likely to bill you by the hour, which is a standard industry practice. If the work performed takes 100 hours rather than 50, you will pay them twice as much. This is reasonable from the law firm’s perspective since each one of their hours of work is about as valuable to them as every other one of their hours (holding the specific employees on the project constant). However, if we are justified in assuming that law firms are entities that can reasonably be modeled as profit maximizers, this arrangement can be problematic.

Widespread panic: Why math anxiety continues to multiply - via APS- One look at math word problems and many students cringe. Even worse, many elementary school teachers seem to have the same reaction. Math anxiety, a fear that first gained recognition as a feminist issue in the 1970s, remains a big problem that psychologists, educators, and parents are trying to crack. A negative emotional reaction to math or even the prospect of solving a problem that has to do with mathematics, math anxiety is now the topic of many books, research papers and seminars.

The Myth of Joyful Parenthood – via APS- Sure, the soccer uniforms, piano lessons and college tuition add up—but there is nothing like being a parent. Or so we tell ourselves, according to a study in the February issue of Psychological Science. When parents are faced with the financial costs of a child, they justify their investment by playing up parenthood’s emotional payoffs. Psychologists at the University of Waterloo in Ontario gave parents in the study a government report estimating that bringing up a child to age 18 costs more than $190,000. Then half the parents read an additional report about the financial help grown children pro -vide their parents. Those who read only about the high price tag were more likely to agree with statements idealizing the emotional benefits of parenthood, such as “There is nothing more rewarding in this life than raising a child.”

Brain Culture: How Neuroscience Became a Pop Culture Fixation – via Brain Pickings- Far from a mere motherboard, the brain has swollen into one of humanity’s greatest obsessions. We have been trying to visualize it since antiquity, we have written countless books about it, we’ve even enlisted it in our pop culture satire. The brain, in fact, has become a pop culture fixture in and of itself. That’s exactly what Davi Johnson Thornton explores in Brain Culture: Neuroscience and Popular Media — a fascinating account of the rhetoric and sociology of cognitive science, exploring our culture’s obsession with the brain and how we have elevated the vital organ into cultish status, mythologizing its functions and romanticizing the promise of its scientific study. The brain, it seems, has become a modern muse.

Decision Making/ Behavioral Economics/Psychology/ Risk/ Sciences:

Does “last-place aversion” explain why the poor like taxing the rich less than you would think?via Leadon Young

The Noble Lineage of Indecision – via Psychology Today- I’m presently reading The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand, a fascinating, Pulitzer Prize winning book about the development and influence of pragmatism–the only true homegrown American philosophy–beginning with the Civil War through to the Supreme Court decision that laid the foundation for modern free speech law.

Lucifer effect not just situational? Research is showing that awful acts involve enthusiasm, not just obedience - via Leadon Young

What Is Reasoning For? - via Overcoming Bias- People and institutions usually prefer to explain their behaviors in self-serving and self-flattering ways. For example, we usually explain human abilities to create and evaluate chains of reasoning in terms of truth – by reasoning we can better see what is true (including truths about what we want to do).

Human pheromones: wishful thinkingvia MindHacks- Slate has a fantastic article about the science of scents and why ‘attraction-boosting’ human pheromone products are selling nothing but myths.


What’s the best way to bet when you don’t know anything about the options?
- via Bakadesuyo- This ‘late’ money is found to increase efficiency and itself is the best prediction of the true win, place and show probability of a horse.


Do People Know How They Behave?
– via Gosling- Behavioral acts constitute the building blocks of interpersonal perception and the basis for inferences about personality traits. How reliably can observers code the acts individuals perform in a specific situation? How valid are retrospective self-reports of these acts? Participants interacted in a groupdiscussion task and then reported their act frequencies, which were later coded by observers from videotapes. For each act, observer-observer agreement, self-observer agreement, and self-enhancement bias were examined. Findings show that (a) agreement varied greatly across acts; (b) much of this variation was predictable from properties of the acts (observability, base rate, desirability, Big Five domain); (c) on average, self-reports were positively distorted; and (d) this was particularly true for narcissistic individuals. Discussion focuses on implications for research on acts, traits, social perception, and the act frequency approach.


The dark side of emotion in decision making.
– via MindBlog- Can dysfunction in neural systems subserving emotion lead, under certain circumstances, to more advantageous decisions? To answer this question, we investigated how individuals with substance dependence (ISD), patients with stable focal lesions in brain regions related to emotion (lesion patients), and normal participants (normal controls) made 20 rounds of investment decisions. Like lesion patients, ISD made more advantageous decisions and ultimately earned more money from their investments than the normal controls. When normal controls either won or lost money on an investment round, they adopted a conservative strategy and became more reluctant to invest on the subsequent round, suggesting that they were more affected than lesion patients and ISD by the outcomes of decisions made in the previous rounds.

Why We Can’t Take Expected Value Estimates Literally (Even When They’re Unbiased)- via Less Wrong- While some people feel that GiveWell puts too much emphasis on the measurable and quantifiable, there are others who go further than we do in quantification, and justify their giving (or other) decisions based on fully explicit expected-value formulas. The latter group tends to critique us – or at least disagree with us – based on our preference for strong evidence over high apparent “expected value,” and based on the heavy role of non-formalized intuition in our decisionmaking. This post is directed at the latter group.

How the Science of Attention is Changing Work and Education - via Brain Pickings- Much has been said about how the Internet is changing our brains and what this new culture of learning means for the future of education. While much of the dialogue has been doused in techno-dystopian alarmism, from Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, narrated by Orson Welles in the 1970s, to Nicholas Carr’s reductionist claims about attention in today’ digital age. But the truth about attention, as it relates to the intersection of technology and education, seems to be a lot more layered and complex — and, if Cathy Davidson, founder of Duke University’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, is right, a lot less worrisome. That’s precisely what Davidson illustrates in her new book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn — a fascinating meditation on how “attention blindness,” the peculiar phenomenon illustrated by Duke’s famous invisible gorilla experiment, has produced one of our culture’s greatest disconnects, the inability to reconcile the remarkable changes induced by the digital age with the conventions of yesteryear’s schools and workplaces.

Global Self-Esteem Across the Life Span - via Gosling- This study provides a comprehensive picture of age differences in self-esteem from age 9 to 90 years using cross-sectional data collected from 326,641 individuals over the Internet. Self-esteem levels were high in childhood, dropped during adolescence, rose gradually throughout adulthood, and declined sharply in old age. This trajectory generally held across gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and nationality (U.S. citizens vs. non-U.S. citizens). Overall, these findings support previous research, help clarify inconsistencies in the literature, and document new trends that require further investigation.

Boredom Can Fuel Hostility Toward Outsiders - via Miller McCune- New research explains how feelings of boredom can both strengthen solidarity within your in-group and heighten hostility toward outsiders.

Dynamic model of procrastination - via MPRA- Procrastination is the notorious tendency to postpone work for tomorrow. This paper presents a formal model of procrastination based on expectations and prospect theory, which differs signficantly from the prevalent model of O’Donoghue and Rabin. Subject is assumed to work on a task for distant reward which depends on the number of periods actually spent working, where the subject faces varying op- portunity costs of working each period before the deadline. In order to assess a hypothesis that procrastination is an evolved and stable habit, the model is rendered dynamic in that past decisions and circumstances affect the present. The model is first explored via qualitative analysis and simulations are performed to further reveal its functionality.

Empathy breeds altruism, unless a person feels they have low status. A brain-scan study with a lesson for riot-hit England - via BPS Research- In a defining image of the recent English riots, a man helped an injured youngster to his feet while an accomplice stole from the same victim’s bag. This sheer lack of empathy on the part of the perpetrators has shaken observers to their core. How could humans display such a lack of altruism toward their fellow man? A possible clue comes from a new brain imaging study that has examined links between the neural correlates of empathy, an act of altruism, and participants’ subjective sense of their social status. Among people who feel they have low status, the study finds, increased neural markers of empathy are actually related to reduced altruism. The researchers surmised this is because any feelings of empathy are quashed by a grudging sense of low status. This could be a kind of defence mechanism whereby self-interest dominates over empathy for others. A possible lesson is that by reversing people’s feelings of low status, through educational opportunities and other interventions, we all gain, by reinstating the usual link between empathy and altruism.

The bystander-effect: A meta-analytic review on bystander intervention in dangerous and non-dangerous emergencies. - via PsycNet- Research on bystander intervention has produced a great number of studies showing that the presence of other people in a critical situation reduces the likelihood that an individual will help. As the last systematic review of bystander research was published in 1981 and was not a quantitative meta-analysis in the modern sense, the present meta-analysis updates the knowledge about the bystander effect and its potential moderators. The present work (a) integrates the bystander literature from the 1960s to 2010, (b) provides statistical tests of potential moderators, and (c) presents new theoretical and empirical perspectives on the novel finding of non-negative bystander effects in certain dangerous emergencies as well as situations where bystanders are a source of physical support for the potentially intervening individual. In a fixed effects model, data from over 7,700 participants and 105 independent effect sizes revealed an overall effect size of g = –0.35. The bystander effect was attenuated when situations were perceived as dangerous (compared with non-dangerous), perpetrators were present (compared with non-present), and the costs of intervention were physical (compared with non-physical). This pattern of findings is consistent with the arousal-cost-reward model, which proposes that dangerous emergencies are recognized faster and more clearly as real emergencies, thereby inducing higher levels of arousal and hence more helping. We also identified situations where bystanders provide welcome physical support for the potentially intervening individual and thus reduce the bystander effect, such as when the bystanders were exclusively male, when they were naive rather than passive confederates or only virtually present persons, and when the bystanders were not strangers.

Business/ Entrepreneurship/Finance/ Investing:

Triumph of the Pessimists – via PsyfiTech- Given that markets are pursuing their favourite pastime of bouncing up and down like a manic depressive doing the Hokie Cokie on a Space Hopper, investors might be forgiven for wondering what they should do next. Fortunately the world is full of people offering sage advice. Unfortunately none of it is very useful, at least where 20:20 foresight is concerned. The underlying lesson is, perhaps, an odd one. We should invert the normal mindset of the average investor, who’s an inveterate, if rather foolish, optimist, and proceed on the basis that something is always about to go badly wrong. After all, it nearly always is.


Nouriel ‘Dr. Doom’ Roubini: ‘Karl Marx Was Right’
– via Finance professor “
Karl Marx had it right,” Roubini said in an interview with wsj.com. “At some point capitalism can self-destroy itself. That’s because you can not keep on shifting income from labor to capital without not having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand. We thought that markets work. They are not working. What’s individually rational…is a self-destructive process.

Nouriel Roubini Is Capitalism Doomed? – via Project Syndicate -The massive volatility and sharp equity-price correction now hitting global financial markets signal that most advanced economies are on the brink of a double-dip recession. A financial and economic crisis caused by too much private-sector debt and leverage led to a massive re-leveraging of the public sector in order to prevent Great Depression 2.0. But the subsequent recovery has been anemic and sub-par in most advanced economies given painful deleveraging. Now a combination of high oil and commodity prices, turmoil in the Middle East, Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, eurozone debt crises, and America’s fiscal problems (and now its rating downgrade) have led to a massive increase in risk aversion. Economically, the United States, the eurozone, the United Kingdom, and Japan are all idling. Even fast-growing emerging markets (China, emerging Asia, and Latin America), and export-oriented economies that rely on these markets (Germany and resource-rich Australia), are experiencing sharp slowdowns.

Innovations in the real economy thrive on modern financial markets - via Voxeu- Against the backdrop of noise about the damage financial markets can cause, this column focuses on the positives. It presents an analysis of innovation at 1,200 firms worldwide and finds that financial markets usually award a premium to innovative firms, though this premium differs across countries. Economies with more active financial markets have higher innovation – which may be a driver of faster productivity growth.


Coping with chaos — with false certainty
– via Physics of Finance-
I was looking today for a paper — allegedly published in Science earlier this year — reporting the results of a re-run of the famous Robert Axelrod open competition for algorithms playing the Prisoner’s Dilemma. In that competition, the simple TIT-FOR-TAT strategy — start out the first time cooperating, and then afterward do whatever your opponent did in the preceding round — won out easily over much more complex strategies. The twist on the new competition (as I’ve been told), is to allow copying strategies so players can explicitly mimic the behaviour of others they see doing well. Apparently, some very simple (mindless) copying strategies won this new competition, showing how blind copying can be a very effective strategy in competitive games.

Market psychology, high unemployment and rational bubbles - via Voxeu- One explanation for the 2007-09 global crisis is that consumers, markets, and politicians were gripped by “irrational exuberance” that led them to believe the record-high house prices and stock prices were sustainable. This column proposes a new explanation based on rational behaviour and microeconomic theory. It argues that however high stock prices rise, there is always an equilibrium in which they can rise further.

Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes? by Matt Taibibi- via RollingStones – By whitewashing the files of some of the nation’s worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – “18,000 … including Madoff,” as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history.

Cocaine Addicts Prefer Present Cash Over Future Coke - via Freakonomics- A new study by addiction and neuroscience researchers sheds new light on understanding how cocaine addicts make decisions, and how they value the drug against the immediate and delayed reward of other items, such as cash. The upshot is that addicts discount cocaine at a steeper rate than they do money, consistently choosing to have money now, rather than twice the value of cocaine later. Here’s how the experiment worked:

The Eclectic Mix:


Generation Fcked
– Via Longform- According to the Unicef report, which measured 40 indicators of quality of life – including the strength of relationships with friends and family, educational achievements and personal aspirations, and exposure to drinking, drug taking and other risky behavior – British children have the most miserable upbringing in the developed world. American children come next, second from the bottom.

The Dollar Store Economy: When Affluent Buyers Are Going to Dollar Stores – NYT- We are awakening to a dollar-store economy. For years the dollar store has not only made a market out of the detritus of a hyperproductive global manufacturing system, but it has also made it appealing — by making it amazingly cheap. Before the market meltdown of 2008 and the stagnant, jobless recovery that followed, the conventional wisdom about dollar stores — whether one of the three big corporate chains (Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree) or any of the smaller chains (like “99 Cents Only Stores”) or the world of independents — was that they appeal to only poor people. And while it’s true that low-wage earners still make up the core of dollar-store customers (42 percent earn $30,000 or less), what has turned this sector into a nearly recession-proof corner of the economy is a new customer base. “What’s driving the growth,” says James Russo, a vice president with the Nielsen Company, a consumer survey firm, “is affluent households.”

How do the unemployed spend their time - via Voxeu- When jobs are scarce, what else is there to do? This column looks at data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) and finds that roughly 30% to 40% of time not spent working is put towards increased “home” production, 30% of time is allocated to increased sleep time and increased television watching, while other leisure activities make up a further 20% of the foregone market work hours.


Why the American media hate and fear Ron Paul
– via Telegraph- Ron Paul seems to be media poison. He came within nine tenths of a percentage of winning Saturday’s Iowa straw poll, yet featured in hardly any of the political coverage. The result was strong enough to elevate the lady who placed first (Michele Bachmann) and eliminate the gentleman who came third (Tim Pawlenty). Yet, as comedian Jon Stewart has lamented, the media has actively ignored the poor fellow who ran second. In a particularly shoddy bit of reporting, CNN refused to cover Ron Paul’s speech in preference for footage of Sarah Palin. The show’s host told his roving reporter, “If you get video of Sarah Palin or a sound-bite from her, bring that back to us. You can hold the Ron Paul stuff.”

Rescuing Endangered Languages Means Saving Ideas – via Miller McCune- While saving the world’s threatened languages may seem informed more by nostalgia than need, federally funded researchers say each tongue may include unique concepts with practical value.


Nice Guys Never Win (Neither Do Mean Girls)
- via Freakonomics - For years, we’ve been hearing from fictional alpha males like Ari Gold and Gordon Gekko that nice guys finish last. Now, according to a collection of studies soon to be released in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, there appears to be some truth to the axiom. While nice guys don’t necessarily finish last, they rarely finish first. Researchers Beth A. Livingston of Cornell, Timothy A. Judge of Notre Dame, and Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario, show how “agreeableness” negatively affects monetary earnings. Moreover, their research shows that this “agreeable gap” is more pronounced in men than women, who still trail their male counterparts. Here’s a full version of the study.


Hunter-Gatherers Show Human Populations Are Hardwired for Density
– via SciAm-
It’s easy to arrive at that conclusion, in part because density is a hot topic these days. More than 50 percent of the world’s population now lives in cities—a fact repeated so often it’s almost a litany. But reciting that phrase doesn’t reveal the subtle effects implied by the drastic demographic shift. People migrating from the countryside face untold challenges wrought by density. Cities are complex places, fraught with crime, diseases, and pollution. Yet cities are also places of great dynamism, creativity, and productivity. Clearly, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks or else cities would have dissolved back into the landscape.

Why You Need to Take 50 Coffee Meetings – via Mark Suster- Anybody who has spent any time with me in person will be tired of this advice because I give it so frequently. It is a piece of actionable advice that if you put into practice starting next week will start paying dividends in the near future. There’s a direct correlation to your future success.


10 Calories in, 1 Calorie Out – The Energy We Spend on Food
- via SciAm
- In December, I attended Michael Pollan‘s lecture at the University of Texas’s Bass Concert Hall. My friend, Katie, had called me that morning to ask if I would be interested in joining her for the lecture – she knew that I had read three of Pollan’s books on food and had also found out that there were $10 student tickets to be had for the lecture. Long story short at 7:40pm I found myself zipping down Guadalupe with Katie for my first Bass Concert Hall event in my tenure at UT.

Study Shows Animals Starting to Move to Higher Latitudes, Elevations - via Freakonomics- A new study out of the University of York shows that animals are moving to higher latitudes and elevations as a result of global warming. The research, which is a meta-analysis of previous individual studies, finds that about 1,300 species are shifting habitat faster than had previously been assumed. But they’re not all moving toward cooler temperatures. The data are mostly skewed toward Europe and North America.


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