Weekly Roundup 179: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web!
Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!
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The Higgs Boson explained by PhD Comics – via flowingdata.com – Don’t know what the Higgs Boson is (or even how to pronounce it)? PhD Comics, my personal favorite, illustrated it in this short video a couple of months ago.
Charlie Rose Show: Brian Greene and Michael Tuts of Columbia on the discovery of the Higgs Boson – via www.valueinvestingworld.com – Charlie Rose Show: Brian Greene and Michael Tuts of Columbia on the discovery of the Higgs Boson
Sedentary behaviour and life expectancy in the USA: a cause-deleted life table analysis – via BMJ Open – The estimated gains in life expectancy in the US population were 2.00 years for reducing excessive sitting to <3 h/day and a gain of 1.38 years from reducing excessive television viewing to <2 h/day. The lower and upper limits from a sensitivity analysis that involved simultaneously varying the estimates of RR (using the upper and lower bounds of the 95% CI) and the prevalence of television viewing (±20%) were 1.39 and 2.69 years for sitting and 0.48 and 2.51 years for television viewing, respectively.
Investigation: Mitt Romney’s Offshore Accounts, Tax Loopholes, and Mysterious I.R.A. – via Vanity Fair – For all Mitt Romney’s touting of his business record, when it comes to his own money the Republican nominee is remarkably shy about disclosing numbers and investments. Nicholas Shaxson delves into the murky world of offshore finance, revealing loopholes that allow the very wealthy to skirt tax laws, and investigating just how much of Romney’s fortune (with $30 million in Bain Capital funds in the Cayman Islands alone?) looks pretty strange for a presidential candidate.
Who is ‘the 99%’? – via ihrrblog.org – One of the more powerful slogans adopted by the worldwide ‘Occupy’ movement has been the catchphrase ‘We are the 99%’. Inspired by Huxley’s above-quoted comments on the inequalities in society, the phrase was adopted by the Occupy movement to both criticise the extent to which power is concentrated in the hands of a powerful, wealthy minority and, simultaneously, to promote the idea that those involved in the Occupy movement are the true flag-bearers for the masses.
Timothy Noah Inequality In America– via www.edrants.com – The 1984 “Morning in America” ad, why the American public gets suckered into the American Dream panacea, the Kuznets curve, the decline of the bank teller, Obama’s 2012 State of the Union speech, closing the skills gap as the present Democratic position for increasing jobs, the WPA, high school graduation rate decline and skilled labor demand in the 1970s, universal early education, the high school movement, Richard Vedder’s notion of janitors with PhDs, college tuition being priced out of reach for the middle crisis, the 1% vs. the 99%, the American inability to grapple with income inequality, overseas jobs, Germany’s ability to hang onto its manufacturing sector, the decimation of the American labor movement, Alan Blinder’s ideas about an increase in skilled overseas jobs, the Lewis Powell memo, Bryce Harlow, Wal-Mart’s war upon unions, the dismal dregs of union culture in 2012, Occupy Wall Street and anti-activist regulations, Walter Reuther, the gender gap in higher education and with job income, decline of the male median income, closing the gender gap in income, sexism’s strange legacy, how women have exempted themselves from the great divergence, how immigration developments during the 20th century impacted 21st century labor, Paul Samuelson’s views on immigration, the benefits of unskilled labor, high school dropouts and declining wages, the recent Mexican immigration dropoff, checking up on Jim and Ann Marie Blentlinger, Bob Davis and David Wessel’s Prosperity, upward mobility and government jobs, the collapse of the US Postal Service, the brief benefits of computerization, being honest about the decline in upward mobility, and the expiration date of American exceptionalism.
Carl Sagan’s Reading List – via Brain Pickings – “Success,” concluded this 1942 anatomy of inspiration, “depends on sufficient knowledge of the special subject, and a variety of extraneous knowledge to produce new and original combinations of ideas.” Few are the heroes of modern history more “successful” and inspired than the great Carl Sagan, and his 1954 reading list, part of his papers recently acquired by the Library of Congress, speaks to precisely this blend of wide-angle, cross-disciplinary curiosity and focused, in-field expertise — and is balanced with a healthy approach to reading and “non-reading”, with some books read “in whole” and others “in part.”
Power Searching with Google – via The Do It Yourself Scholar – So, the folks at Google have a solution: a short online course entitled Power Searching with Google.
Our Big List of 500 Free Courses Featured by The Young Turks – via Open Culture – Yesterday, the team at The Young Turks University created a little video segment promoting our big list of 500 Free Online Courses from top universities. As they rightly explain, the list lets you download free courses from schools like Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, Harvard and UC Berkeley. And when you dive in, you’ll discover 55 courses in Philosophy, 50 in History, 50 in Computer Science, and 35 in Physics, plus lectures from famous intellectuals like Richard Feynman, Leo Strauss, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault and Richard Dawkins. Finally, you can usually access the courses from multiple sources — YouTube, iTunes or university web sites. So what are you waiting for? Dive right into the complete list here and start using your leisure time in a productive way.
Guide to MIT Open Courseware – via The Do It Yourself Scholar – Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been in the free online course business longer than just about everyone else. Its website is chock full of exciting riches, but navigating the site can be a challenge. While MIT groups the courses by subject area, it can be difficult to discern which courses offer more than bare-bones reading lists.
Son, never be in a rush to be a success! – via blog.videolectures.net – “I cant do it now, can you wait for four months? And many said “yes”. Then it went to eight months, twelve months, a year and a half, two years and up to three years for clients to wait. And what the extraordinary thing is; clients who waited a long period were the best clients!”
Scary?..Google X making a digital human brain? – via mindblog.dericbownds.net – In this vein, a recent article noting google’s efforts to model the human brain made me both excited, interested, and terrified at the same time. Google’s brain used an array of 16,000 processors to create a neural network with more than one billion connections, and presented it with 10 million digital images found in YouTube videos. Without any instructions or labels, it learned to detect faces, human bodies, and cats! This suggests that the human brain, which has at least a million times more connections than this model, could learn significant classes of stimuli with minimum genetic nudging other than instructions for making nerves cells whose connections can be shaped by the sensory input received.
Scientology’s Sea Org: An Escape Story for Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise – via The Daily Beast – Prior to that, I had led a relatively normal life with my family in London. My parents were Scientologists, but not in a zealous way. Then my mother decided to become more involved with the church, and we moved to Clearwater, Florida, where she joined a religious order called the Sea Organization. She signed a contract commiting herself to the group for a billion years—covering her future lives, as the church believes people are immortal. We settled into a compound with other families. The year was 1986. I remember it as the year I lost my freedom.
The Unimportance of Practically Everything – via Harvard Business Review – A friend of mine is the Executive Director for an organization with global reach. He is intelligent and driven, but constantly distracted. At any given time he will have Twitter, Gmail, Facebook and multiple IM conversations going. The majority of them are useful in some way. Yet, in the back of his mind, he knows there are more important deliverables to get to. But the days slip by and he finds himself working all weekend to catch up. Staying up Sunday night until the early hours of Monday morning has become his modus operandi. He told me, while checking his Blackberry again, that it results in having no social life. It’s so bad that he tried having his Executive Assistant pull all of the internet cables on his computer. But there were still too many ways to get online. When he was struggling to complete a particularly big project, his brother took away his Blackberry and left him at a motel with no internet access. Yet, even there, he still found a workaround within 10 minutes using his ancient Nokia phone to check his email. Eventually, after eight weeks of almost solitary confinement, he was able to get the project done.
NBA Players Forced to Save Toward Retirement for First Time – via Bloomberg – To combat the near epidemic problems of professional athletes going broke after failing to safe for tehir retirement, the new NBA agreement includes a forced saving plan:”Beginning next season, players also will surrender 5 percent to 10 percent of their salary for retirement. They automatically will be enrolled in the program and would have to opt-out to keep from participating in the plan, Klempner said.”
Can pie charts help you save? Yes and no, according to a study – via Mind Your Decisions – Researchers found that people were more motivated to save if the goal was depicted graphically. The experiment involved students who were presented a hypothetical situation of saving for a summer trip to Europe. Some students were told a dollar amount to save, and others were shown the same goal in a progress bar.
Dan Ariely Conscience+ App – via danariely.com – Conscience+ helps you make moral decisions by giving you a special switch. Flip the switch to “Good” and Conscience+ will help you do the right thing. Flip the switch to “Bad” and Conscience+ will help you justify immoral behavior. Of course, many of us have such a switch in our minds. My aim with this app is to teach us how flimsy our reasoning can be.
Introducing “in-attentional deafness” – via the noisy gorilla that’s missed – So, in the same way that tuning out the sight of the basketball players in black led most participants (in the classic research) to miss the sight of an unexpected black gorilla, tuning out the sound of the men’s conversation led most participants in this study to completely miss the sound of a male-voiced gorilla.
What Is Signaling, Really? – via Less Wrong – The most commonly used introduction to signaling, promoted both by Robin Hanson and in The Art of Strategy, starts with college degrees. Suppose, there are two kinds of people, smart people and stupid people; and suppose, with wild starry-eyed optimism, that the populace is split 50-50 between them. Smart people would add enough value to a company to be worth a $100,000 salary each year, but stupid people would only be worth $40,000. And employers, no matter how hard they try to come up with silly lateral-thinking interview questions like “How many ping-pong balls could fit in the Sistine Chapel?”, can’t tell the difference between them.
Nice guys finish last – via infoproc.blogspot.com – T. Byram Karasu, a psychiatrist at Albert Einstein/Montefiore Medical Center who treats wealthy clients, believes all very successful people share certain fundamental character traits. They have above-average intelligence, street smarts, and a high tolerance for anxiety. “They are sexual and aggressive,” he says. “They are also competitive with anyone and have no fear of confrontations; in fact, they thrive on them. And in contrast to their image, they are not extroverted. They become charmingly engaging when needed, but in their private world, they are private people.” They are, in the parlance, all business
Economics and Psychology Research on Peer Effects – via economicspsychologypolicy.blogspot.com – First, we find strong evidence for substantial peer effects of program participation in both workplace and family networks. Coworkers and brothers are 11 and 15 percentage points, respectively, more likely to take paternity leave if their peer father was induced to take up leave by the reform. Second, the most likely mechanism is information transmission about costs and benefits, including increased knowledge of how an employer will react. Third, there is essential heterogeneity in the size of the peer effect depending on the strength of ties between peers, highlighting the importance of duration, intensity, and frequency of social interactions. Fourth, the estimated peer effect gets amplified over time, with each subsequent birth exhibiting a snowball effect as the original peer father’s influence cascades through a firm. Our findings demonstrate that peer effects can lead to long-run equilibrium participation rates which are substantially higher than would otherwise be expected.
A Power-Law Model of Psychological Memory Strength in Short- and Long – via Term Recognition – A classic law of cognition is that forgetting curves are closely approximated by power functions. This law describes relations between different empirical dependent variables and the retention interval, and the precise form of the functional relation depends on the scale used to measure each variable. In the research reported here, we conducted a recognition task involving both short- and long-term probes. We discovered that formal memory-strength parameters from an exemplar-recognition model closely followed a power function of the lag between studied items and a test probe. The model accounted for rich sets of response time (RT) data at both individual-subject and individual-lag levels. Because memory strengths were derived from model fits to choices and RTs from individual trials, the psychological power law was independent of the scale used to summarize the forgetting functions. Alternative models that assumed different functional relations or posited a separate fixed-strength working memory store fared considerably worse than the power-law model did in predicting the data.
When You Indulge Due to Reasoning Not Lack of Willpower – via licensing: when you indulge through reason, not lack of willpower – The take-home finding? Both groups said their willpower levels felt the same, but the women who thought they’d worked harder tended to eat more of the naughty food. In the ten minutes available, they consumed an average of 26 grammes of more snack-food, which equated to 130 more calories. As well as feeling like they’d worked harder, they also said they felt more hungry, but this wasn’t correlated with the amount they ate. The researchers speculated that the feelings of hunger could have been a further form of self-licensing – “I’ve worked hard and I’m hungry”.
When Art, Apple and the Secret Service Collide: ‘People Staring at Computers’ – via Longform – How an art project led to a visit from the U.S. Secret Service.
Experimental Campaigns Pay Drivers to Avoid Rush-Hour Traffic – via NYTimes.com – London, Singapore, Stockholm and a few other cities around the world battle heavy traffic with a “congestion charge,” a stiff fee for driving in crowded areas at peak hours. But drivers generally hate the idea, and efforts to impose it in this country have failed.
Commute Times – via Chart Porn – Trulia now maps commute times in cities around the country.
A Woman Place- Best & Worst Places To Be A Woman – via Cool Infographics – An informative infographic called A Woman’s Place by Richard Johnson at the National Post. Very interesting analysis of some different ways to measure the best and worst places in the world to be a woman.