Weekly Roundup 180: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web!
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The Citizen'(s) Corner (Issues to Get Your Blood Boiling)
What Americans Earn : Planet Money : NPR – via financeprofessorblog.blogspot.com – Some takeaways: Almost one household out of every four (24.9 percent) makes less than $25,000 a year. About one in three households (30.1 percent) made between $50,000 and $100,000. One in five households (19.9 percent) made more than $100,000 a year.
“[Businesses] Only Want Temps” – via Mother Jones – It’s not a pretty formula, but it works. With 600 offices and a workforce of 400,000—more employees than Target or Home Depot—Labor Ready is the undisputed king of the blue-collar temp industry. Specializing in “tough-to-fill, high-turnover positions,” the company dispatches people to dig ditches, demolish buildings, remove debris, stock giant fulfillment warehouses—jobs that take their toll on a body. (See “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave.”) And business is booming. Labor Ready’s parent company, TrueBlue, saw its profits soar 55 percent last year, to $31 million, on $1.3 billion in sales. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that “employment services,” which includes temporary labor, will remain among the fastest growing sectors through 2020. TrueBlue CEO Steve Cooper, who took home nearly $2 million last year, predicts “a bright future ahead.”
Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math – via Rolling Stone – Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is
UN Should be Condemned for Silence on Myanmar – via Press TV – The latest reports show a worsening situation in Myanmar and that some 650 Rohingya Muslims have recently been killed and 80,000 displaced in clashes with authoritarian forces. An estimated 500,000 Myanmar refugees have fled across the border into Bangladesh since the 1990s and the Bangladeshi government has asked that Myanmar take them back.
A Psychological Explanation For How The 1% Wins In A Democracy – via Business Insider – The 99% seem to be pathetic at asserting their self interest. They have a huge majority, but are totally incompetent or unwilling to assert their preferences. What’s the matter with Kansas?
The Psychology of Inequality– via thesituationist.wordpress.com – Dr. Olson discusses recent research indicating that even young children (aged 3-5 years), have an understanding of social inequality. In her lab and others, researchers are finding astounding evidence that children routinely notice social inequality, they favor individuals and groups who are high in social status, and they often behave in ways that perpetuate inequalities between individuals and groups. Olson describes these results, their implications, and will describe other behaviors children engage in that might offset some of these biases to uphold or perpetuate the status quo.
Covert FBI Power to Obtain Phone Data Faces Rare Test – Jennifer Valentino-DeVries – News – via AllThingsD – Early last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent a secret letter to a phone company demanding that it turn over customer records for an investigation. The phone company then did something almost unheard of: It fought the letter in court.
Oil prices could be rigged by traders warns G20 report – via Commodities Briefing – A report commissioned by the G20 group of the world’s biggest economies has warned oil prices could be vulnerable to a Libor-style rigging scandal. According to the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), the current system of oil price reporting is “susceptible to manipulation or distortion.”
Benchmark prices are compiled by price reporting agencies. The biggest, Platts, says “there is absolutely no similarity” between Libor and oil
How London became the money-laundering capital of the world – via Ian Fraser – Speaking on the Marr Show on BBC One on March 23rd, the former Daily Telegraph editor and historian Max Hastings said a “senior central banker” recently told him that London is now considered to be the “money-laundering capital of the world”.
Google Ideas exploring how technology can address global troubles – via latimes.com – That might seem an unlikely pursuit, even for a company that has experimented with self-driving cars and alternative energy. But the two-day “Illicit Networks: Forces in Opposition” summit, which begins Tuesday in Los Angeles and aims to shine a light on the shadowy world of drug cartels, opium smugglers, money launderers, organ harvesters and human traffickers, is part of an ongoing effort to explore how technology can be used to address humanity’s most intractable problems.
BBC Two’s Documentary “The Men Who Made Us Fat” – via www.valueinvestingworld.com – You’ve probably already heard about Jacques Peretti’s BBC Two television documentary series “The Men Who Made Us Fat” airing in the UK over the past few weeks. But now the entire project is available to watch here in the United States in 15-minute increments via YouTube. This is WELL WORTH your time to watch and see exactly what has led us down this path to obesity and chronic disease in modern times.
The geoengineering double catastrophe – via www.overcomingbias.com – I recently attended the World Congress on Risk in Sydney, primarily to see some sessions on ‘global catastrophic risk’. There were some presentations on the ‘tail risk’ of climate change that made me think that I should take it more seriously as a catastrophic risk than I have over the last few years. Despite some promising signs to the contrary, I am pessimistic that we will have enough incentive to limit emissions individually, or be able to coordinate to limit emissions collectively. It looks as though we are on track to burn most of easily accessed oil and gas, and much of the coal. If we do continue with ‘business as usual’ then I am told to expect temperature increases of at least 4 degrees Celsius over the next 100-200 years.
Developing world’s secret offshore wealth ‘double external debt’ | Global development – via guardian.co.uk – Tax Justice Network research shows an estimated $7.3tn-$9.3tn of offshore wealth is held by developing world residents – double their countries’ $4tn external debt
The Foreclosure Crisis and Crime: Is Housing-Mortgage Stress Associated with Violent and Property Crime in U.S. Metropolitan Areas? – Jones – 2012 – Social Science Quarterly – via Wiley Online Library – The objective of this study was to determine if the housing-mortgage stress caused by the foreclosure crisis is associated with violent and property crime in U.S. metropolitan areas.
Poverty and Policy – via Chart Porn – Some slick programming in this annotated exploration of 50 years of poverty statistics. Tough I’m not a fan of the pie charts, per se, the rollover drill down is a nice idea. Be sure to click on the small “change year” to bring up a timeline slider that updates in real time.
The Eclectic Mix (Best of The Week):
Einstein’s Big Idea: E=mc² – via Open Culture – Einstein’s Big Idea, a film from the PBS Nova series, attempts to shed a little light on Albert Einstein’s equation by breaking it down into its component parts and telling a story behind the development of each one. Narrated by actor John Lithgow, the film is based on David Bodanis’s 2000 bestseller E=mc²: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation. It premiered in 2005, the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s Annus Mirabilis–the “miraculous year” when the 26-year-old patent clerk published five papers within a six-month period that would revolutionize 20th century physics. Among those five were Einstein’s paper outlining what later became known as the Special Theory of Relativity, and a short follow-up paper deriving his formula for the equivalence of mass and energy, which he first stated as m=E/c².
The MOOCs have landed! – via The Do It Yourself Scholar – It’s the newly trendy acronym for Massive Open Online Course – the kind of free online course on offer at startups Coursera and Udacity, and being planned at the Harvard-MIT consortium Edx. MOOCs differ from other free online courses by offering more opportunities to interact, either with tutor-like software or with other students. Some MOOCs also provide certificates of completion if you do the homework and exams.
Does Money Make Us Write Better? – via The New York Review of Books – Let’s talk about money. In his history of world art, E.H. Gombrich mentions a Renaissance artist whose uneven work was a puzzle, until art historians discovered some of his accounts and compared incomes with images: paid less he worked carelessly; well-remunerated he excelled. So, given the decreasing income of writers over recent years—one thinks of the sharp drop in payments for freelance journalism and again in advances for most novelists, partly to do with a stagnant market for books, partly to do with the liveliness and piracy of the Internet—are we to expect a corresponding falling off in the quality of what we read? Can the connection really be that simple? On the other hand, can any craft possibly be immune from a relationship with money?
The Situation of Success – via thesituationist.wordpress.com – He’s right about that last point; it is easy to forget. It’s also convenient, Lewis told Jeffrey Brown in a follow-up interview on PBS’ NewsHour. Most people would acknowledge that both luck and merit are important ingredients to success. It’s just that people often like to feel like they are the authors of their accomplishments and ignore everything and everyone else who played a role. “As they age, and succeed,” Lewis told the graduates, “people feel their success was somehow inevitable.”
Beehives and long-term thinking – via Blog of the Long Now – At the Harvard Business Review, Michael O’Malley describes some of the things he’s learned from his chosen hobby of beekeeping. By day, O’Malley is a consultant for large businesses trying to understand how recruiting, compensation, and training policies affect their employees’ choices (and how that affects the company as a whole). He points out that bees are highly adept organizational risk managers and that a focus on the long-term is a strength they’ve leveraged for “100 million years of productivity and growth.”
TED Talk: Decision Making -Sometimes it’s good to give up the driver’s seat – via Video on TED.com – Over the years, research has shown a counterintuitive fact about human nature: That sometimes, having too much choice makes us less happy. This may even be true when it comes to medical treatment. Baba Shiv shares a fascinating study that measures why choice opens the door to doubt, and suggests that ceding control — especially on life-or-death decisions — may be the best thing for us.
RSA Animate Power of Knowledge Networks in the Age of Infinite Connectivity – via Brain Pickings – Manuel Lima, founder of data visualization portal Visual Complexity, author of the indispensable information visualization bible of the same name, and one of the most intelligent people I know, recently gave an excellent talk on the power of networks at the RSA. Using examples that span from the Dewey Decimal System to Wikipedia, Manuel explores the evolving organization of knowledge and information, and the shift from hierarchical structures to distributed lateral networks.
Frontline: His Man in Macau: Inside the Investigation Into Sheldon Adelson’s Empire – via PBS – A decade ago gambling magnate and leading Republican donor Sheldon Adelson looked at a desolate spit of land in Macau and imagined a glittering strip of casinos, hotels and malls.
Designers on Top: MoMA’s Paola Antonelli on the Evolution of Design – via Brain Pickings – MoMA Senior Curator of Architecture and Design Paola Antonelli offers a sweeping look at the evolution of design over the past few decades, and the past few years in particular, illustrated with examples from her most recent MoMA show
J. Craig Venter: The Biological-digital Converter, Or, Biology At The Speed Of Light – via Edge – We can now send biology at the speed of light, and this is one of the implications of our work, which we recorded two years ago making the first synthetic life form. We completely synthesized the genetic code of a cell starting with a digital code in the computer—it’s the ultimate interface between computers and biology. The digital code and the genetic code have a lot in common; something Schrodinger pointed out in 1943, saying it could be something as simple as the Morse code. … Digital code, as you know, is a binary code, and ones and zeroes, and your genetic code is literally four-base code with ACGs and Ts. We can now readily convert in between the two, and we can define life at its most basic level. Things that were a mystery fifty, sixty, seventy years ago, we now understand completely.
Exploring The Dynamics of Disaster – via ihrrblog.org – Like many of the brilliant scientists I have been fortunate enough to have a conversation with, Sue shared some of her wisdom about the geological context of how hazards occur, including a great analogy for understanding how the flow of a river or the eruption of a volcano comes down to the physics of flow through ‘geologic nozzles’. Say you’re driving along a four-lane motorway and suddenly it narrows down to a two-lane bridge, if there isn’t much traffic nothing unusual happens because the cars can fit through the two lanes. But if the density of traffic grows large enough it clogs the nozzle and constricts the flow on the motorway, you see red lights coming toward you and in a volcano or river shock waves propagate back because the flow is constricted. The constriction controls the flow on that entire segment of the highway and the same thing happens with geysers, volcanic eruptions, river floods and other geologic events that can become hazards.
Decision Making, Psychology, & Behavioral Economics
The Optical Illusions of Dinner Plates and Eating Less – via The Atlantic – Plate selection may be the newest diet trend. If your food is the same color as your plate, you’ll eat more. Smaller plates also make us believe we’ve eaten more.
Wiring the Brain: The genetics of stupidity – via wiringthebrain.blogspot.fr – What if we’ve been thinking about the genetics of intelligence from completely the wrong angle? Intelligence (as indexed by IQ or the general intelligence factor “g”) is clearly highly heritable in humans – people who are more genetically similar are also more similar in this factor. (Genetic variance has been estimated as explaining ~75% of variance in g, depending on age and other factors). There must therefore be genetic variants in the population that affect intelligence – so far, so good. But the search for such variants has, at its heart, an implicit assumption: that these variants affect intelligence in a fairly specific way – that they will occur in genes “for intelligence”.
Why Do Patients Derogate Physicians Who Use a Computer – via Based Diagnostic Support System? – Negative perceptions of computerized decision aid use may not be a product of the need to seek external advice more generally but may instead be specific to the use of a nonhuman tool and may be associated with individual differences in locus of control. Together, these 3 studies may be used to guide education efforts for patients.
Prepared to wait? New research challenges the idea that we favour small rewards now over bigger later – via bps-research-digest.blogspot.com – Read’s team recognise that there is widespread evidence for myopic decision making – just think of the times you’ve vowed that your future self will eat healthy food, but when the choice is imminent you go for short-term flavour over long-term health. But they think there’s a big question mark over hyperbolic discounting per se as the explanation for these effects. More promising theories, Read and his colleagues believe, are “visceral arousal theory”, in which we’re motivated to prioritise our primary needs over longer term aims; and “temporal construal theory”, in which we represent distant events more abstractly in terms of superordinate (lofty) goals, whilst seeing the short-term more concretely, in terms of our more basic needs.If hyperbolic discounting is such a fundamental feature of human thinking, Read and his team conclude, then how come research on regret finds that most people rue, not their overindulgence, but their past failures to indulge?
Do extraverts get more bang for the buck? – via PsychNet– One of the most robust observations in personality and emotion research is the finding that extraverts are happier than introverts. Some theorists have attributed this to differential reactivity of the brain reward system, which is central to many biologically inspired models of extraversion. This affective-reactivity hypothesis, which suggests that extraverts should be more susceptible to the induction of positive affect, has so far received very mixed empirical support. In this article, we consider a more biologically plausible account of extraverts’ affective-reactivity. Over 5 experiments, we demonstrate that extraverts show greater affective-reactivity only in response to clearly appetitive stimuli and situations (e.g., where rewards are being pursued). Conversely, after merely pleasant stimuli and situations (without any reward-approach element), extraverts and introverts respond similarly. We also show that it is specifically activated affect (e.g., feelings of alertness), rather than pleasantly valenced affect (e.g., feelings of contentment), that characterizes the affective-reactivity of extraverts. Such reactions may potentially facilitate the reward-seeking behavior associated with extraversion, but they seem unlikely to explain the broadly happy disposition of extraverts.
Filing to Learn from Experience about Catastrophes: The Case of Hurricane Preparedness = via SpringerLink – Failing to learn from experience about catastrophes: The case of hurricane preparedness
How Ovulation leads women to perceive sexy cads as good dads – via PsychNet – Why do some women pursue relationships with men who are attractive, dominant, and charming but who do not want to be in relationships—the prototypical sexy cad? Previous research shows that women have an increased desire for such men when they are ovulating, but it is unclear why ovulating women would think it is wise to pursue men who may be unfaithful and could desert them. Using both college-age and community-based samples, in 3 studies we show that ovulating women perceive charismatic and physically attractive men, but not reliable and nice men, as more committed partners and more devoted future fathers. Ovulating women perceive that sexy cads would be good fathers to their own children but not to the children of other women. This ovulatory-induced perceptual shift is driven by women who experienced early onset of puberty. Taken together, the current research identifies a novel proximate reason why ovulating women pursue relationships with sexy cads, complementing existing research that identifies the ultimate, evolutionary reasons for this behavior.
Network Economics– via www.cepr.org – We provide an overview on networks in economics. We first look at the theoretical aspects of network economics using a game-theoretical approach. We derive some results on games on networks and network formation. We also study what happens when agents choose both links and actions. We then examine how these models can be used to address some applied and empirical-relevant questions by mainly focusing on labor-market networks and crime networks. We provide some empirical evidence on these two types of networks and address some policy implications of the models.
The Effect of Temporal Distance on Attitudes toward Imprecise Probabilities and Imprecise Outcomes– via Wiley – Many personal, managerial, and societal decisions involve uncertain or ambiguous consequences that will occur in the future. Yet, previous empirical research on ambiguity preferences has focused mainly on decisions with immediate outcomes. To close this gap in the literature, this paper examines ambiguity attitudes toward future prospects, particularly how they may differ from the attitudes toward comparable prospects in the present. On the basis of a recent paradigm, we first distinguish between two types of ambiguity: imprecise probabilities and imprecise outcomes. Then, in accordance with construal level theory, which shows that temporal distance increases the relative importance of outcomes over probabilities in evaluating prospects, we conjecture that temporal distance would moderate attitudes toward imprecise probabilities but amplify attitudes toward imprecise outcomes. Through a series of experiments, we demonstrate that when the prospects are in the future, individuals are less averse toward imprecise probabilities and more seeking toward imprecise outcomes. However, the effect is most prominent for prospects where both the probability and outcome dimensions are concurrently imprecise. The paper ends with a discussion on how dimension salience may have contributed to this result.
So near and yet so far: The mental representation of goal progress– via Pysch Net– In the present article, we explore whether people’s mental representation of progress level can function as a self-regulation mechanism that helps motivate continued effort in the pursuit. We propose that when individuals have just started pursuing a goal and have accumulated only limited progress, they exaggerate the achieved progress level in their mental representation to signal a higher chance of eventual goal attainment and thus elicit greater effort. In contrast, when people have made substantial progress and are approaching the goal attainment, they downplay the achieved progress in their mental representation to create greater perceived discrepancy, hence eliciting greater effort. Empirical evidence from 4 studies supported the hypothesis.
Trying to Resist Temptation? Think about God– via www.scientificamerican.com – The new science of self-control shows that religious themes can bolster willpower
Necessity is the mother of invention: Avoidance motivation stimulates creativity through cognitive effort– via PsychNet – Compared with approach motivation, avoidance motivation has often been related to reduced creativity because it evokes a relatively inflexible processing style. This finding seems inconsistent with the dual pathway to creativity model, which poses that both flexible and persistent processing styles can result in creative output. Reconciling these inconsistencies, the authors hypothesized that avoidance-motivated individuals are not unable to be creative, but they have to compensate for their inflexible processing style by effortful and controlled processing. Results of 5 experiments revealed that when individuals are avoidance motivated, they can be as creative as when they are approach motivated, but only when creativity is functional for goal achievement, motivating them to exert the extra effort (Experiments 1–4). The authors found that approach motivation was associated with cognitive flexibility and avoidance motivation with cognitive persistence (Experiment 1), that creative tasks are perceived to be more difficult by avoidance- than by approach-motivated individuals, and that avoidance-motivated individuals felt more depleted after creative performance (Experiment 2a, 2b, and 3). Finally, creative performance of avoidance-motivated individuals suffered more from a load on working memory (Study 4). The present results suggest that for people focusing on avoiding negative outcomes, creative performance is difficult and depleting, and they only pay these high cognitive costs when creativity helps achieving their goals.
Early Learning Shapes the Memory Networks for Arithmetic – via pss.sagepub.com – Language and math are intertwined during children’s learning of arithmetic concepts, but the importance of language in adult arithmetic processing is less clear. To determine whether early learning plays a critical role in the math-language connection in adults, we tested retrieval of simple multiplication in adult bilinguals who learned arithmetic in only one language. We measured electrophysiological and behavioral responses during correctness judgments for problems presented as digits or as number words in Spanish or English. Problems presented in the language in which participants learned arithmetic elicited larger, more graded, and qualitatively different brain responses than did problems presented in participants’ other language, and these responses more closely resembled responses for digits, even when participants’ other language was more dominant. These findings suggest that the memory networks for simple multiplication are established when arithmetic concepts are first learned and are independent of language dominance in adulthood.
Graphing every idea in history – via flowingdata.com – Brendan Griffen created a giant network of people, using every profile on Wikipedia that had an “influenced by” or “influences” field. Each node represents a person and is sized by the number of links going in and is colored by genre.
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