Thursday, January 31, 2008

Watching football causes heart attacks

The Junkfood science blog writes:
The Super Bowl, and all spectator competitive sports, may be a thing of the past, in accordance with current public health policies. A new study has found such sporting events are associated with a 326% increase in cardiac emergencies among men and nearly a doubled risk among women. These are actual myocardial infarctions and cardiac arrhythmias, not surrogate endpoints for heart problems. For those with heart disease, the risks are twice those of people without a history of heart problems.
He argues that banning the Super Bowl makes about as much sense as banning transfats.

Vegetarianism proves to be perversion of nature

Pravda reports:
Vegetarians can be referred to as true fanatics. On the other hand, they are seriously misled in their beliefs. Practically nobody argues with them, since it is really difficult to convince a vegetarian of his or her self-deception. May be that is the reason why the vegetarian movement develops so actively around the globe and continues to recruit many new members. ...

Vegetarians, especially those of advanced age, usually face numerous health problems that are mainly caused with the shortage of animal protein. ...

Furthermore, cosmetologists say that a typical vegetarian has dry and fragile hair, dull eyes and unhealthy complexion. They can hardly stand criticism and have a low boiling point. They raise their voice, swing their arms and splutter when arguing. They are weak even in their logic. They exemplify their righteousness with the cow, a herbivorous animal, and say that nature originally made a human being as a vegetarian creature.
Pravda used to be a commie propaganda paper. I don't know what it is now.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Teachers: don't say mom and dad

The London UK Daily Mail reports:
Teachers should not assume that their pupils have a "mum and dad" under guidance aimed at tackling anti-gay bullying in schools.

It says primary pupils as young as four should be familiarised with the idea of same-sex couples to help combat homophobic attitudes. ...

When discussing marriage with secondary pupils, teachers should also educate pupils about civil partnerships and gay adoption rights. ...

Teachers should avoid telling boys to "be a man" ...

At the same time, schools should encourage gay role models ...

Next month is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month, where pupils learn about apparently gay figures from history including Leonardo da Vinci, Oscar Wilde and James Dean.
This means that usage of the word "gay" will be tightly policed. Certain usages will be promoted, while others will be punished.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Unusual killer mug shot

Here is a Penn. story:
Torres was driving on Turner Street Friday afternoon when he was pulled over by police and arrested. He was wearing a hooded sweartshirt with a skull-head pattern on it, pajama bottoms and fuzzy lion-faced slippers at the time. He was still wearing the get-up when he was arraigned after midnight at Lehigh County prison. ...

Police have not said how they came to suspect Torres in the shooting deaths of Carlos Collazo, 32, and Jorge Camacho, 36, both of Allentown. But in an affidavit filed in court, police said Torres told them that he and another man had been looking for Collazo and Camacho, and that Torres admitted to killing both.
The cops probably decided that Torres's appearance matched the profile of a murderer. Lock him up!

Prominent psychiatrist ordered to seek help

Psychiatrists commonly prescribe drugs to treat various anti-social behaviors, and downplay the adverse consequences. So what happens when a shrink deviates from the party line on drug treatments? She gets orders to see a shrink herself, in order to coerce her into adopting conforming opinions! From a major Australian newspaper:
Prominent psychiatrist ordered to seek help
Louise Hall Health Reporter
January 27, 2008

A PSYCHIATRIST known as a "hired gun" in court cases has been ordered into treatment by medical authorities after being accused of a dubious diagnosis.

Yolande Lucire has been reprimanded by the NSW Medical Board after its professional standards committee disagreed with a diagnosis she made in a medico-legal case and questioned her professionalism.

The eastern suburbs forensic psychiatrist is well-known in legal circles and her testimony in a criminal trial last year sparked a NSW judge to slam doctors for creating a generation of "Ritalin kids", who were now committing violent crimes.

Dr Lucire said she could not defend herself because of a non-disclosure order, but said the matter "did not relate to patient care". She can continue to practise. ...

The medical board took issue with her diagnosis of residual organic hallucinosis in a patient and she was ordered to see a board-approved senior psychiatrist "for the purpose of seeking and taking advice with a view to improving some aspects of her practice of medicine".
If the shrinks could have their way, anyone with an unorthodox view would be ordered into psychotherapy to be reeducated. And being unorthodox is only measured by the wacky standards of the shrinks, not society at large.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Books that make you dumb

Someone has cleverly used Facebook data to chart books that make you dumb. The idea is to get correlations between average college SAT and popular book preferences. The smart students are reading Lolita while the dumb ones read the Bible.

Friday, January 25, 2008

No sex in marriage

The UK Daily Mail reports:
Carrie Jones hasn't had sex with her husband Hal, a City banker, for the past four years. Nor does she want to. Sex is something she can no longer summon the effort to endure - with the man she married, at least.

She admits she stays in her sexless relationship for the sake of her children, aged nine and 11, and will remain celibate until the day they are grown up and she feels able to leave. At which point, she confesses, she will probably abandon her husband and begin a sexual odyssey to find the satisfaction that eludes her. ...

So convinced is Carrie that her experience of sex in marriage - initially pleasant, dwindling to nothing at all after having children - is a universal one that she has just written a book, under an assumed name, highlighting the disappointment of her sex life. ...

So what of her sexual history? It seems that Carrie wasn't always this uninterested in sex. She admits to having 23 lovers before she married.

"Ten were proper boyfriends," she recalls. "I regretted having sex with six of them, loved three of them but only one of the 23 ever gave me an orgasm.

"As I entered my thirties, it was obvious my sex life had a recurring, rather depressing pattern: intense desire to begin with followed, if the relationship survived long enough, by a slow winding down into indifference.
There is a woman with a serious attitude problem. She needs treatment, not a book tour.

Recidivism rates

A WSJ columnist reports:
Meanwhile, the existing research raises tough questions about the relative danger child molesters pose to society. Their likelihood of being convicted for a crime after release is much lower than average for all criminals released from prison, and even for all sex offenders, at least in the short term, as measured by a Bureau of Justice Statistics study and others.
A lot of people assume that sex offenders can never be cured, and child molesters must be locked up for life because they have the highest recidivism rates of all crimes. I think that we have some public policies based on some bad data.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Male ego is larger than IQ

From an interview of a London psychology prof:
NEWSWEEK: Many studies show that men score slightly higher in IQ tests. Is this significant?
Adrian Furnham: Universally, men tend to score higher on certain specialized skills, such as spatial awareness. In the real world, that means they might be better at reading maps or navigating. Women score higher in terms of language development and emotional intelligence. But most experts agree there is no real, important overall difference when it comes to gender and intelligence.

But women think they aren't as smart as men?
That's the conundrum. What I study is "perceived intelligence," essentially how smart people think they are. I analyzed 30 international studies, and what I found was that women, across the world, tend to underplay their intelligence, while men overstate it.

So do most men think they're Albert Einstein?
There certainly is a greater male ego. It's what we call the male hubris and female humility effect. Men are more confident about their IQ. These studies show that on average, women underestimate their IQ scores by about five points while men overestimate their own IQs. Since these studies were international in scope, the results were essentially the same whether women were from Argentina, America, Britain, Japan or Zimbabwe. Another factor affecting perception may be distribution of IQ ... Although [men and women] are on average the same, the people at the very top and the very bottom of the IQ bell curve are more likely to be men. That is a pattern that we see in the university setting, with men either being at the very top of the class or at the bottom.

Do women tend to think that men are smarter than they are?
Surprisingly, [both] men and women perceive men being smarter across generations. Both sexes believe that their fathers are smarter than their mothers and grandfathers are more intelligent than their grandmothers.
It would indeed be surprising if people all over the world are so wrong about
their own parents.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mexican guppies sexually harass other fish

NewScientist reports:
Male guppies may sexually harass females of another fish species to prevent them from reproducing, researchers suggest. They believe the guppies -- which have invaded Mexican rivers and lakes -- are using sex as a way of suppressing one native fish population. ...

Guppies, originally from Trinidad, invaded Mexican waters in the 1950s. ...

They put male and female guppies in aquariums with female skiffia and found that no matter how many female guppies were around, male guppies would try to copulate with females of both species.

Their advances were unsuccessful, but Valero and her colleagues believe that the attempts at sex might be harming the female skiffia. ...

The two species have very different ways of reproducing. Skiffia sex is consensual -- males have no extending reproductive organ so the only way for their sperm to reach the females' eggs is for the two animals to line up their genital openings.

Sexual harassment

Guppy sex is more violent. Males have a hooked genital organ known as a gonopodium, which they insert into the females.
The article goes on to say that American minks have been sexually harassing European minks.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I just watched the new movie Juno. Critics raved about it as a feel-good comedy that is blazingly truthful. Warning: spoilers below.

The movie is about a 16-year-old pregnant girl who struggles with her options. It was okay, but I am a little disturbed about the raves. The title character Juno seduces a classmate and dumps him. She likes him but doesn't give him any say about what to do about the pregnancy. She only considers dating him after she has a jealous fit. She finds adoptive parents based on the most superficial factors, and rejects helpful advice. An ultrasound technician makes a minor comment praising Juno for finding adoptive parents, and we are expected to cheer as the technician gets verbally abused for it. Juno helps to bust up the marriage of the adoptive parents. The adoptive mother turns out to be a nut-case, but she gets the baby anyway.

The writer, Diablo Cody, is a woman who seems to be promoting some sort of feminist message that men should have no say in anything connected to babies. Juno refuses to listen to her father and to the father of her baby. The adoptive mother refuses to listen to what her husband has to say about the adoption, the baby's name, or the house preparations. Both Juno and the adoptive mother are portrayed as women who only need a man to help make the baby, and who can then casually discard the man.

The actress that played Juno, Ellen Page, was also the protagonist in Hard Candy. She also got wide praise for that movie, but I thought that she was creepier than the pedophiles. These are sick movies, and I am disturbed by the raves that they have gotten.

Response to Jonathan: I don't think that the movie Juno is anti-man. The men in the movie are more likable and sympathetic than the women. But the movie is strongly against men having any say about kids. That message is in almost every scene.

Yes, Juno consulted her boyfriend and parents. And then she proceeded to ignore them and insist on making all the decisions by herself. The boy should have met the adoptive parents and signed off on the adoption. The baby is his child also, and he has rights. The parents should have made their own determination regarding whether the adoptive parents were suitable.

I don't blame the 16-year-old Juno for breaking up the marriage of Mark and Vanessa. Juno is just a dumb kid. My objection is to the movie's potrayal of Juno as having done the good and responsible thing. It is clear from the start that Vanessa wants a kid much more than she wants to keep her husband, and that the kid will ruin their marriage. Vanessa was marginalizing Mark by ignoring him, confining his music to one room of the house, and refusing his input on baby names and house preparations. When the kid arrives, Mark will be completely extraneous. If she were really such a good mother, then she would have been figuring out how to get her husband more invested in the baby, instead of figuring out ways to shut him out. Maybe Juno isn't smart enough to see what is happening, but the adoption did destroy the marriage. Also, Juno insists on flirting with Mark even after her parents warn her of the dangers. And finally, Juno condemns her own baby to a fatherless life.

Update: Juno just got Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Actress, Director, and Original Screenplay.

College smokes out student with an opinion

The NY Times reports this about an unnamed university that requires its students to write anonymous evaluations of their professors:
On one evaluation, a student made derogatory comments about a professor’s sexual orientation. The university hired a handwriting expert to confirm the identity of the culprit so punishment could be administered. The university claims the student broke the code of conduct, ...

The handwriting expert confirmed the identity of the student, who was given a formal reprimand and was required to write an essay on how his remarks can affect the gay community, to write a letter of apology to the professor and to meet with a dean of students to discuss enrolling in a program meant to teach tolerance.
I think that the university has a problem tolerating anonymous comments. I have received inappropriate anonymous comments, but it never occurred to me that a university might track down the student and punish him for expressing his opinion.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Law of unintended consequences

The Freakonomics guys write (with comments on their blog):
So does this mean that every law designed to help endangered animals, poor people and the disabled is bound to fail? Of course not. But with a government that is regularly begged for relief — these days, from mortgage woes, health-care costs and tax burdens — and with every presidential hopeful making daily promises to address these woes, it might be worth encouraging the winning candidate to think twice (or even 8 or 10 times) before rushing off to do good. Because if there is any law more powerful than the ones constructed in a place like Washington, it is the law of unintended consequences.
That is true, but there ought to be a better name for this law. The first example was how the Americans With Disabilities Act [ADA] sometimes causes discrimination against disabled folks. I'd be willing to bet that when Congress debated the ADA, there were people who openly and loudly explained that it would cause exactly the sort of problems that are described in the article. There were probably even amendments offered to mitigate these consequences. It appears to me that Congress really did intend those bad consequences.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Back seat sex research

Sex research seems to have very low standards. USA Today reports:
Bisexuality among women isn't just a phase, according to new research that followed 79 non-heterosexual women for a decade and found that bisexual women continue to be attracted to both sexes over time.

Being bisexual is a distinct orientation, not a temporary stage, says the study by Lisa Diamond, an associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah. It is being published next week in the January issue of Developmental Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association. ...

Diamond suggests that most women "possess the capacity to experience sexual desires for both sexes, under the right circumstances."
So she talked to 79 non-hetersexual women, and then jumped to conclusions about most women. There was not even a control group.
The study also debunks the stereotype that bisexual women aren't able to commit to monogamous relationships because they're always thinking about desire for the other gender.
So how did she determine that these women were still bisexual, if they were committed to monogamous relationships?
"Women's sexuality in general has taken a back seat in terms of research overall."
This academic research sounds about as valid as my personal back-seat sex research on women.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Impersonating the police

M. Carolina news:
The man asked for assistance in locating an item in the store, and, as the cashier helped him, he told her he was an officer with the Marion Police Department, said the document. ...

Melton was taken into custody in Rutherford County last week and charged with impersonating an officer. He was released on a written promise to appear in court.

"Melton admitted that he had told employees that he was an officer," the release stated. "When asked why, Melton said that he did it to impress the ladies. Melton said that he did not know it was a crime and that he thought it sounded better than telling the ladies that he was a plumber. Melton said that he thought it would help him get the ladies to date him."
Is there some list of lies that are approved for impressing the ladies?

I realize that it has to be illegal to make an arrest under false pretenses, or to somehow falsely coerce people under color of police authority, but this guy sounds harmless to me. Does he really have to tell the ladies that he is a plumber?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mohammedan terrorist convicted

British Muslim computer geek, son of diplomat, revealed as al Qaeda's top cyber terrorist
A computer nerd from Shepherd's Bush, West London, became al Qaeda's top internet agent, it can be revealed today.

Younes Tsouli, 23, an IT student at a London college, used his top-floor flat in W12 to help Islamist extremists wage a propaganda war against the West.

Under the name Irhabi 007 — combining the James Bond reference with the Arabic for terrorist — he worked with al Qaeda leaders in Iraq and came up with a way to convert often gruesome videos into a form that could be put onto the Web.

Lawmaker wants to castrate trucks

Virginia news:
State lawmaker Lionel Spruill introduced a bill Tuesday to ban displaying rubber replicas of male genitalia on vehicles, calling it a safety issue because it could distract other drivers.
Our precious American freedoms are disappearing, one by one.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Higher wine prices boost drinking pleasure

Reuters reports:
STANFORD, California (Reuters) - The more wine costs, the more people enjoy it, regardless of how it tastes, a study by California researchers has found.

Researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology found that because people expect wines that cost more to be of higher quality, they trick themselves into believing the wines provide a more pleasurable experience than less expensive ones.

Their study, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that expectations of quality trigger activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain that registers pleasure. This happens even though the part of our brain that interprets taste is not affected.

While many studies have looked at how marketing affects behavior, this is the first to show that it has a direct effect on the brain.
I am not surprised. People like fancy wines for reasons other than taste.

Wacky Frisco intruder story

A Texan is apt to draw a gun if there is a strange intruder in the house in the middle of the night. Here is what can happen in San Francisco:
The new year kicked off memorably for Donald Burnette and his wife, Deborah Martin, when they were awakened by the sound of someone kicking in the back door of their third-story apartment in San Francisco's Upper Haight about 1 a.m. Jan. 1.

Standing in the kitchen of the Stanyan Street flat was a vision out of a sci-fi comic book: a guy in his early 20s whose body, boots and gloves were studded with spikes, some more than an inch long.
The story gets weirder after that. Calling 911 was no help, and the couple had find some cops changing a flat tire down the street to kick the weirdo out of their apartment.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Roger Clemens should get more respect

The NY Times writes this about MLB pitcher Roger Clemens:
Accused by his former personal trainer of taking steroids for several years, Clemens has found his reputation as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history splintering by the day. He has embarked on a furious and, some say, debatable public relations effort with the spin of his tightest slider. ...

If Clemens is telling the truth about never having taken steroids, Langberg and other experts said, he is failing to leave that impression — and instead leaving himself open to public and legal consequences. His contentions that injections he received were merely of the painkiller lidocaine and the vitamin B12 have not rung plausibly with the public, they said, despite his emotion. ...

Langberg and Marina Ein, a crisis-management consultant based in Washington, said they would have strongly advised against Clemens’s appearing on “60 Minutes” last Sunday and holding a long news conference the next day. They tell their clients to assert their innocence, outrage and commitment to fight the charges under oath only in a brief written statement, rather than in the more uncontrollable forums in which Clemens lost his cool.
In other words, Clemens is being found guilty in the court of public opinion because he did not hire the right PR firm.

Three of the greatest baseball players that I have ever seen are Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens. All had long and illustrious careers that should have made them heroes. They share the most impressive records.

And yet they have all been disgraced by innuendo from colleages and associates who have double-crossed them. I am not convinced that any of them are guilty of anything. Considering their many years of outstanding service to baseball, I think that they should be given the benefit of the doubt. They haven't been. Too many people regard them as guilty until proven innocent. MLB is a disgrace for how they have treated their very best and most loyal stars.

In Clemens's case, the accusation just comes from one guy who used it to get more favorable treatment from federal prosecutors. The case looks weak to me. I think that it is unamerican to treat him like a guilty man, even if his PR strategy is not the best.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hollywood mathematicians

A WSJ blog says:
"I think you could make a movie about a mathematician who is not psychotic or schizophrenic," said Ken Keeler, a PhD in applied math who has written for "Futurama" and "The Simpsons." John Nash, the Nobel Prize winner who was played by Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind," is the latter, and his mental illness served as the bulk of that film's drama, rather than his mathematical innovations.

"Numb3rs," the popular CBS show about a mathematician who helps federal investigators crack cases, would appear to be an exception. But Mr. Keeler notes that even Charlie Eppes, the hero of the show played by David Krumholtz, "is not normal."
Numb3rs portrays math about as well as it can for the audience. Yes, it is exaggerated and simplified, but so is everything else on TV.

Eppes is not normal, but he is not a lunatic like most of the Hollywood mathematicians. Good Will Hunting (1997) and Pi (1998) present particular negative images of mathematicians.