Thursday, November 29, 2007

Female voting consequences

John R. Lott Jr., author of the book Freedomnomics, writes in the Wash Times:
Studies show that women are generally more risk averse than men. Possibly, this is why they are more supportive of government programs to ensure against certain risks in life. ...

Even after accounting for a range of other factors — such as industrialization, urbanization, education and income — the impact of granting of women's suffrage on per-capita state government expenditures and revenue was startling. Per capita state government spending after accounting for inflation had been flat or falling during the 10 years before women began voting. But state governments started expanding the first year after women voted and continued growing until within 11 years real per capita spending had more than doubled. The increase in government spending and revenue started immediately after women started voting.
Everyone agrees that women should be allowed to vote, but Lott shows that women's suffrage has had a number of undesirable consequences.

Deep-voiced men father more kids

The NY Science Times reports:

Researchers have found that men with deeper voices have more children -- at least among the Hadza, a group of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania.

According to background information in an article published online for the Dec. 22 edition of Biology Letters, most women in Western societies find lower-pitched male voices more attractive, judging them healthier and more masculine. Meanwhile, men find higher-pitched voices more appealing.

The evolutionary reasons for reproductive success are difficult to discover in a society that uses modern birth control methods. The Hadza use no birth control and choose their own spouses; this makes them what the researchers call a “natural fertility population” where hypotheses about human reproductive success can be tested.

Researchers collected voice recordings (the Hadza speak Swahili) and reproductive histories from 49 men and 52 women to determine if voice pitch might affect the number of children.

After controlling for age, voice pitch was a highly accurate predictor of the number of children a man fathered, and those with deeper voices fathered significantly more. The researchers estimated that voice quality alone could account for 42 percent of the variance in men’s reproductive success. The quality of women’s voices was unrelated to how many children they had.

Maybe the women think that the men with the high-pitched voices are gay.

Update: Evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup says the handgrip is more important:
Gallup’s new research suggests that handgrip strength in men is directly connected with reproductive fitness.

People with high grip-strength scores are usually healthier than those with weak grips. "They live longer and recover faster from injury," Gallup says. "They have reduced disability, higher bone density and greater fat-free body mass." And in a study published this year, Gallup and his son Andrew -- at the time an undergraduate psychology major -- found that males with high grip-strength scores reported being more aggressive and dominant and had more masculine body types (broader shoulders, narrower hips). They also had "increased sexual opportunities," which resulted in an increased number of sexual partners, and younger ages of first sexual encounter.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

UK rape trial changes not working

The UK has to keep changing the rules in order to increase the rape conviction rate:
Legislation to stop rape complainants from being unfairly questioned about their sexual history in court is not working, a report has concluded. ...

It said there had been "no discernible effect" on reducing the number of failed prosecutions.

Data for 2004 shows the proportion of rape allegations that result in a conviction continues to fall, standing at 5.6% out of 14,000 reported offences.
That is an odd way to report the conviction rate. Many of those reported offenses were withdrawn or not prosecuted for various reasons. The UK govt just wants to boost conviction rates.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Earth's Moon is unusual

From a JPL news release:
New observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope suggest that moons like Earth's - that formed out of tremendous collisions - are uncommon in the universe, arising at most in only 5 to 10 percent of planetary systems. ...

Scientists believe the Moon arose about 30 to 50 million years after our Sun was born, and after our rocky planets had begun to take shape. A body as big as Mars is thought to have smacked into our infant Earth, breaking off a piece of its mantle. Some of the resulting debris fell into orbit around Earth, eventually coalescing into the moon we see today. The other moons in our solar system either formed simultaneously with their planet or were captured by their planet's gravity.
A lot of things about the Earth-Moon system are very unusual, and they may even be essential for life on Earth. I think that scientists overestimate the possibility of intelligent life on other planets.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Deadbeat dad avoids felony conviction

Michigan news:
A jury found a 36-year-old Eastpointe man not guilty of felony child support for late payments following a 2-day-trial in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Corey Flener wiped away tears after the jury delivered the verdict Thursday afternoon and said he felt relieved to have the burden of a potential felony conviction lifted. If convicted, he would have faced a sentence of up to four years in prison and a fine levied by Judge Tracey Yokich. ...

Flener still owes $60,000 but claims he was behind $45,000 in 2000 before he realized he owed any money because he was unaware his now ex-wife, Tammy, filed for divorce. The amount has climbed also because of accumulating interest.
These prosecutions are outrageous. It does no good to throw a man in jail, just because he cannot pay the interest on some dubious old debt to his ex-wife.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Child custody evaluations

NPR All Things Considered (afternoon radio news) had a segment (audio here) on how child custody evaluations are bogus, and ought to be abolished.

The host finished with
In other words, perhaps the best thing that parents can do is: Skip the child custody evaluation, sit down, and figure it out themselves.
No, that is not really the lesson here. The child custody evaluations are ordered by the court; parents almost never submit to them voluntarily. What we need is for the courts to stop ordering them.

Cops overreact to toddler's story

The Las Vegas Sun reports:
Authorities: Girl, 4, Invents Abduction

Santa Ana, Calif. (AP) - Deputies began a search and even questioned a man after a 4-year-old girl reported an attempted abduction before she admitted she made the whole thing up, a sheriff's spokesman said.

The girl said a man with spiked hair and a dragon tattoo approached her on a playground Tuesday and showed her a gun tucked in his waistband, sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said. Authorities dispatched eight police cars, a helicopter and a dozen armed officers to find the suspect and even interviewed a man with spiked hair during a four-hour hunt, he said.

But the child's story changed repeatedly during the day and she finally admitted to inventing the attempted kidnapping to get back at her mother, Amormino said. The mother had briefly left her daughter unsupervised in a gated playground in mobile home park where the family lives and the child was scared, he said.

Amormino said authorities were stunned that a child so young could provide such vivid details about something that didn't happen.

"In 28 years in law enforcement, I have never had a 4-year-old make up a story like this," he said Wednesday. "It says something about what television is doing to our children."

Investigators cannot charge the child, but may suggest that her parents get her counseling, Amormino said.
It would be better to send the cops into counseling. Children commonly make up stories.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Using Caller ID

Why is it that so few businesses use Caller ID? It is very annoying to call a business, and then have to orally give my phone number. Caller ID technology has been available for 20 years. It only costs about $2 per month. It saves a lot of time, mistakes, and lost numbers.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Successful blacks

Black Harvard prof Henry Louis Gates Jr writes in the NY Times:
I have been studying the family trees of 20 successful African-Americans, people in fields ranging from entertainment and sports (Oprah Winfrey, the track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee) to space travel and medicine (the astronaut Mae Jemison and Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon). And I’ve seen an astonishing pattern: 15 of the 20 descend from at least one line of former slaves who managed to obtain property by 1920 — a time when only 25 percent of all African-American families owned property.
Someone observed:
There's nothing "astonishing" [his word] about Gates's statistic. If we go back to great-grandparents (as Gates does in his Winfrey example), then four relevant families exist (by hypothesis) in 1920. At that time, according to Gates, 25% of black families owned property. The probability that "at least one" of the four relevant antecedent families held property in 1920 is thus 1.0 - (0.75 x 0.75 x 0.75 x 0.75) which is about 68%. Gates's sample of 20 yielded 75%.
He is correct. Gates's argument is bogus.

Executions save lives

The NY Times admits:
According to roughly a dozen recent studies, executions save lives. For each inmate put to death, the studies say, 3 to 18 murders are prevented.

The effect is most pronounced, according to some studies, in Texas and other states that execute condemned inmates relatively often and relatively quickly. ...

To economists, it is obvious that if the cost of an activity rises, the amount of the activity will drop. ... To many economists, then, it follows inexorably that there will be fewer murders as the likelihood of execution rises.
It is amazing how many otherwise intelligent people say that they are against the death penalty because it has been proved not to be a deterrent. In fact, nearly all the research for decades has shown that the death penalty is a deterrent.

There are other arguments against the death penalty, but people should realize that saving the life of a convicted murderer could result in some other innocent person getting murdered.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The NY Times reports:
Doctors cannot diagnose attention deficit or any other psychiatric disorder with imaging technology
I've met people who have told me that their kid has ADD or autism or dyslexia or something else, and that they are sure of it because of an MRI or some other brain scan. It is just not possible with current technology.

The main point of the article is to say that misbehaving kids are not doomed:
Kindergartners who interrupted the teacher, defied instructions and even picked fights were performing as well in reading and math as well-behaved children of the same abilities when they both reached fifth grade, the study found. ... The findings should also put to rest concerns that boys and girls who are restless, disruptive or withdrawn in kindergarten are bound to suffer academically. ...

About 80 percent of those with attention problems were taking or had taken stimulant drugs, and the researchers did not know the effect of the medications on brain development. Doctors consider stimulant drugs a reliable way to improve attention in the short term; the new study is not likely to change that attitude.
So your kid will do fine without the drugs, but your pediatrician will want to drug him anyway.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shapely women have smart kids

NewScientist reports:
Curvier women may have smart children because hip fat contains polyunsaturated fatty acids critical for the development of the fetus's brain.

Using data from the US National Center for Health Statistics, William Lassek at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and Steven Gaulin of the University of California, Santa Barbara, found a child's performance in cognition tests was linked to their mother's waist-hip ratio, a proxy for how much fat she stores on her hips.
The study authors claimed that they accounted for other factors, but I don't believe it. Men prefer women with small waist-hip ratios. So do women. So all they really found was that female success in one area is correlated with success in another area. Maybe these women are smarter or healthier, or marry smarter husbands, or have more money, or less likely to be drug addicts, or a lot of other things.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Gay jokes could be banned

A gay lawyer brags:
Yesterday the House passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The vote was 235-184, with 35 Republicans in favor and 25 Democrats against. It's the first time either house of Congress has ever passed a gay civil-rights bill.
The gay lobby has mixed opinions. In the UK, a similar law could make gay jokes illegal.

Once again, Congress is telling us to do what it won't do itself. Congress passed a law allowing the armed forces to discriminate based on homosexual activities.

If they are not trying to ban gay jokes, why don't they just put a clause in the law explicitly saying that the right to tell gay jokes is not being restricted?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New book on Duke rape case

Someone recommended this PBS interview:
Legal journalist Stuart Taylor discusses his new book, "Until Proven Innocent," which takes a deeper look at the controversy surrounding the Duke University Lacrosse team rape case.
Their innocence is old news. I named the accuser back in April 2006 because I had concluded that they were innocent.

I am sure that Taylor and K.C. Johnson do a fine job of documenting the innocence of the Duke lacrosse players, but I doubt that the book goes far enough in exposing the evil behind the prosecution.

Taylor places most of the blame on the "rogue District Attorney Mike Nifong". The blame should really go primarily to the justice system that is fundamentally tilted against anyone accused of a sex crime.

What saved the Duke boys was not the justice system, but modern technology. Without digital cameras, cell phones, ATMs, video surveillance, DNA tests, and bloggers, they would be in jail today. Even when they presented overwhelming evidence of their innocence to the judge, the judge still refused to dismiss the charges. It still took overwhelming public pressure, and documentation of mistakes by the accuser, police, and DA.

There are many others in jail today for sex crimes based only on flimsy evidence. The rules of evidence for sex crimes is very one-sided, and the public has no patience with accused sex offenders.

Disbarring Nifong was really a fluke. I bet that prosecutors in every state have done worse things, and nothing happened to them even when they got caught.

No, this is not just a story of a rogue prosecutor. It is the story of how hard it is in our society for anyone to prove himself innocent of a sex crime.

The difference myth

Here is some science news from the Boston Globe paper:
Scientists have turned up some intriguing findings of anatomical differences between the sexes.
You would think that would be obvious. The article goes on to argue that brain differences are either insignificant, or should be ignored anyway.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

From a UK Times column:
With increasing frequency, women in their twenties, thirties and forties take a pragmatic, postfeminist view that sex is something over which they have no need to negotiate. In the bedroom, there is no compromise. If a man has a higher sex drive than a woman, then he can sort himself out. If he wants to try something new and she can’t be bothered, tough luck to him. ...

Having researched my new book, as well as talked to thousands of men and women over the years, I now firmly believe that too many women see the sexual side of their lives as something to be claimed completely and utterly as their own. ...

Does she really want to take out the rubbish in the pouring rain? No, but partners in relationships do such things because they know that it makes the other happy. Sex should be seen in the same light.
More amusing is the feminist outrage to this. They don't believe that a woman should satisfy her husband, and they don't believe that men have greater sexual needs anyway.

More cell phone hype

The Google Android gPhone has become the move overhyped product since the Apple iPhone. Google brags that the big advantage will be its spyware capabilities:
Android does not differentiate between the phone's core applications and third-party applications. ...

With Android, a developer could build an application that enables users to view the location of their friends and be alerted when they are in the vicinity giving them a chance to connect.
This makes a lot of sense for Google. With the ability to spy on everything you are doing and everywhere you are going, it can sell more targeted ads. Soon your cell phone will light up with a Google ad that says, "You are a block from Macy's and your friend Jenny bought shoes there last week. Click here for a map and prices."

Meanwhile Time mag declared the Apple iPhone the Invention Of the Year. Time said that it was pretty, cool, and may someday be replaced with a product that is cheaper and more useful.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Krugman lies again

The lying Bush-hater Paul Krugman writes:
"My chance of surviving prostate cancer — and thank God I was cured of it — in the United States? Eighty-two percent," says Rudy Giuliani in a new radio ad attacking Democratic plans for universal health care. "My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England? Only 44 percent, under socialized medicine."

It would be a stunning comparison if it were true. But it isn’t. ...

Mr. Giuliani got his numbers from a recent article in City Journal, a publication of the conservative Manhattan Institute. The author gave no source for his numbers on five-year survival rates — the probability that someone diagnosed with prostate cancer would still be alive five years after the diagnosis. And they're just wrong.

You see, the actual survival rate in Britain is 74.4 percent. That still looks a bit lower than the U.S. rate, but the difference turns out to be mainly a statistical illusion. The details are technical, ...
So Krugman calls Guiliani a liar because he got a statistic from an article that does not cite its source. But Krugman does not cite a source for his 74.4% figure either.

On Krugman's blog, he cites this:
Five-year survival rates were 95 percent in the U.S. and 60 percent in the United Kingdom, which includes Britain, in 1993-1995, the most recent time period with data to compare, the group said.

Today, rates are higher -- 99 percent in the U.S. and an estimated 74 percent in the U.K.
Assuming that this is Krugman's source, he is falsely presenting the 74% figure for the UK as being comparable to Guiliani's 82% figure for the USA. It is not. Even by Krugman's own measures, USA prostate cancer survival rates are much higher than the UK's.

Study on risks of toddlers watching TV

USA Today reports:
Study: Educational TV for toddlers OK

CHICAGO (AP) — Arthur and Barney are OK for toddler TV-watching. But not Rugrats and certainly not Power Rangers, reports a new study of early TV-watching and future attention problems.

The research involved children younger than 3, so TV is mostly a no-no anyway, according to the experts. But if TV is allowed, it should be of the educational variety, the researchers said.

Every hour per day that kids under 3 watched violent child-oriented entertainment their risk doubled for attention problems five years later, the study found. Even non-violent kids' shows like Rugrats and The Flintstones carried a still substantial risk for attention problems, though slightly lower. ...

Previous research and news reports on TV's effects have tended to view television as a single entity, without regard to content. But "the reality is that it's not inherently good or bad. It really depends on what they watch," said Dr. Dimitri Christakis, who co-authored the study with researcher Frederick Zimmerman.
Also, WebMD reports:
Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, tells WebMD that a 3-year-old who watches TV for two hours a day "has a 20% increased risk for attention problems at age 7 compared with a child who doesn't watch any TV."

Christakis says that the risk increases as TV watching increases so that "for each additional hour of television watched, the risk is increased by almost 10%."
But that is not what the actual research article concluded:
RESULTS. Data were available for 184 boys and 146 girls at both time periods. Adjusting for baseline Behavioral Problem Index scores and age, parental education, maternal depression, and cognitive and emotional support, violent television programming was associated with an increased risk for antisocial behavior for boys but not for girls. Neither educational nor nonviolent programming was associated with increased risk for boys or girls.

CONCLUSIONS. Viewing of violent programming by preschool boys is associated with subsequent aggressive behavior. Modifying the content that is viewed by young children may be warranted.
So the news article says that nonviolent shows can be a problem, but the research says not. The news article says that TV leads to "attention problems such as difficulty concentrating, being easily distracted, impulsiveness, or restlessness." The research article says that TV leads to "aggressive behavior".

In my opinion, you should ignore all of this and just use common sense. This is an example of supposed experts giving opinions outside their expertise. Pediatricians are experts on child medicine, but have no expertise in TV watching.

If watching Rugrats is really correlated with later attention problems or aggressive behavior, then there are several possible explanations. Maybe kids who inherit an attention problem have parents who don't pay attention to what the kids watch on TV. Maybe kids who already have an attention problem are bored by Sesame Street and prefer the faster-paced shows like Rugrats. Maybe the kids with the aggressive behavior are the healthy ones, and it is the kids who did not watch Rugrats who are overly-docile and have the problem.

The Pediatricians officially recommend that no children under the age of two be allowed to watch TV. I don't agree, and I believe that some TV shows can be beneficial.

The Subjectivity of Wine

Jonah Lehrer reports on various experiments to prove that wine-tasting is subjective:
In 2001, Frederic Brochet, of the University of Bordeaux, conducted two separate and very mischievous experiments. In the first test, Brochet invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food coloring. But that didn't stop the experts from describing the "red" wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert praised its "jamminess," while another enjoyed its "crushed red fruit." Not a single one noticed it was actually a white wine.
The experts also cannot tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines, and can be fooled by just putting a fancy label on the bottle.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Nazi attempt to control tobacco

Devra Davis claims that there is some sort of conspiracy to suppress knowledge about cancer prevention, and writes:
During the Nazi era, the Germans tried and failed to enact stringent policies to control tobacco. Their conquerors, despite having full access to German research on tobacco, didn't even try.
Usually people cites the Nazis as an example govt overreaching. This is someone arguing that the Nazis did not go far enough to control the Germans.