Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fat is good for you

Men's Health magazine reports:

What if Bad Fat is Actually Good for You?

For decades, Americans have been told that saturated fat clogs arteries and causes heart disease. But there's just one problem: No one's ever proved it
The article traces efforts since 1953 to prove that eating saturated fats causes heart disease. I suspect that millions of people have died younger because of this bad advice.

Smarter ladies have worse sex

The UK Sun newspaper reports:
BRAINY babes find it harder to have an orgasm – because they are too busy thinking, a study claims.

The German survey found that the more educated a woman was, the less likely it was that she would be satisfied by sex.

In the study 62 per cent of women who had completed their education said they often had problems achieving orgasm.

Only 38 per cent of women with a lower educational qualification said they had such problems.

The study conducted by a German lifestyle website surveyed over 2,000 women between the ages of 18 and 49.
I always thought that the brainy women are able to complete their education because they have fewer sexual distractions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Detecting liars by facial expressions

Here is some new mindreading research:
How can we tell who’s lying, who’s not? New research out of Stephen Porter’s Forensic Psychology Lab at Dalhousie University determines the face will betray the deceiver’s true emotion, but not in the stereotypical ways we think. It’s not the shifty eyes or sweaty brow or an elongated nose (à la Pinocchio) the lie detector should look for. Instead, other elements of a liar’s face will give them away – “cracking” briefly and allowing displays of true emotion to leak on to the face. In fact, when Porter and his team analyzed White’s plea frame by frame, they found hints of anger and disgust in his face, not noticed by most of the supportive public.
Others have reported similar results. I am not sure if I believe it or not.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Why we have lousy math teachers

The left-wing San Jose Mercury News newspaper has this editorial:
California faces a shortage of math and science teachers, ...

Paying these teachers more makes sense under the law of supply and demand. College graduates with math and science majors can choose from many lines of work - accountant, researcher, financial analyst - more lucrative than teaching. And if they do want to teach, they gravitate toward higher-performing schools.

But what would seem an obvious solution in the private sector is prohibited in K-12 schools in California. Under a standard union contract, teachers in all subjects must be paid on the same salary scale. ...

The CTA believes that all teachers, like assembly-line workers, should be paid the same wage. It argues that a "two-tier pay structure" will "corrode the morale and overall effectiveness of all the teachers at the site." That view ignores the needs of struggling children and the competition in the job market for math and science majors.
The result is that we have overpaid teachers who do not know how to teach math and science.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

New definition of rape

News from Baltimore MD:
The state's highest court ruled yesterday that a man can be charged with rape if he ignores a woman's calls to stop - even if she had previously consented to sex.

With this expansion of the legal definition of rape, Maryland joins seven other states whose courts have determined that a woman can revoke her consent after intercourse begins. ...

The victim testified in Montgomery County court that she agreed to sex "as long as he stops when I tell him to." As he began, she told him to stop because he was hurting her, but he kept going for five or 10 seconds, she said.
When a boy is a victim of statutory rape, he gets punished by a special tax that makes him pay 25% of his income to the state for the next 18 years:
A 12-year-old kid has sex with 16-year-old girl ..., the girl gets pregnant, goes on welfare, and the state welfare agency sues the father (now 13 years old) for reimbursement of the welfare money paid to the girl.

The Supreme Court of Kansas upheld the judgment against the 13-year-old kid. The Court wrote that the State's interest in requiring minor parents to support their children overrode its interest in protecting juveniles from their improvident acts, even when such acts might include criminal activity. ... many states have followed this decision.
These laws seem crazy to me. The next time that you hear that some guy is paying child support, remember that he might have been a statutory rape victim. The next time you hear some man is a rape, remember that his only crime may have been that he took five seconds to do what the girl asked.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Reason to fear the outside world

ABC News reports:
Bruce Perry, a child psychologist, testified that the traditional foster care system could be destructive to children taken from the sect's ranch. But he also testified that the children could be at risk if they are returned to the ranch.

Perry said the raid of the compound is a "very unique situation" and that the foster care system would be "destructive" to the children. ...

"So much of what they do out there is wonderful. But there is a part of what they do that is very destructive," Perry testified. He said he wished the sect's leaders wouldn't teach their children to be so fearful of the outside world.
After 416 kids were seized, I'd say that their fears were well-grounded.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Letting rich people use their money

Freakonomics blogger Daniel Hamermesh writes:
On the demand side, however, allowing people to bid for organs seems repugnant to me. (I do not want livers — except perhaps foie gras — on eBay!) Ethically, it seems wrong to let richer people move to the front of queues for scarce organs (to let the market implicitly value their lives more than those of poorer people).
Wrong? The rich people move to the front of every other line. I think that it is a little strange when people say that rich people can use their wealth to buy almost all goods and services, but not certain others.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Decisions take time

Here is some new mindreading research:
In a study published Sunday in Nature Neuroscience, researchers using brain scanners could predict people's decisions seven seconds before the test subjects were even aware of making them. ...

Haynes updated a classic experiment by the late Benjamin Libet, who showed that a brain region involved in coordinating motor activity fired a fraction of a second before test subjects chose to push a button. Later studies supported Libet's theory that subconscious activity preceded and determined conscious choice -- but none found such a vast gap between a decision and the experience of making it as Haynes' study has.

In the seven seconds before Haynes' test subjects chose to push a button, activity shifted in their frontopolar cortex, a brain region associated with high-level planning. Soon afterwards, activity moved to the parietal cortex, a region of sensory integration. Haynes' team monitored these shifting neural patterns using a functional MRI machine. ...

Hallett doubts that free will exists as a separate, independent force.
This is consistent with previous research, but it does not cast any doubt on free will. It just shows that it takes a few seconds to make a conscious decision.

I have noticed this myself while riding my bike. If I see a hazard in the road, I can slam on the brakes as fast as my reaction time will allow. Reaction time is usually a tenth of a second or so. But if I see something interesting on the side of the road and have to make a deliberate decision on whether to stop, then the decision takes a few seconds. I can only make a decision faster than a second if I had already prepared a programmed response.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Reading faces for lust

Here is some new UK mindreading research:
A new study by U.K. researchers found that you can tell just by looking at someone’s face whether they’re interested in casual sex or long-term commitment. ...

Both men and women who participated in the study thought that the more attractive women would be interested in something short-term, and they were right ...

If you’re more attractive, people might expect you to have more partners. And more often than not, we fulfill those expectations people have of us. ...

Because of the effect those expectations have on our behavior, our first impressions about people turn out to be right, says Keating.

“Physical appearance cues tell us more about people than we’re even consciously aware of,” Keating says. “So in fact, we do judge a book by its cover. And the funny thing is, it often works for us.”
There is no unconscious assessments or mindreading. I think that people are conscious of who is attractive and who is not.

Boys Will Be Boys, Even Among Monkeys

The Discovery Channel reports:
The notion that children's taste in toys might somehow be genetically determined has long been disparaged by psychologists -- pooh-poohed as unscientific, sexist or both.

But a study by researchers in the United States suggests that when it comes to choosing between trucks and cuddly stuffed animals, chromosomes could make a difference. ...

So a team of scientists led by Kim Wallen of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia decided to offer typical "male" and "female" toys to rhesus monkeys to see if preferences aligned with sex.

Much to their surprise, they did. The 11 male monkeys headed straight for the wheeled toys, such as dump trucks, leaving the plush toys more-or-less unmolested. The 23 females were more curious, and played with both.

"They are not subject to advertising. They are not subject to parental encouragement, they are not subject to peer chastisement," said Wallen.
This should not be a surprise to anyone with small kids.

Monday, April 07, 2008

CD is digital

The NY Times reports:
People with a history of buying alternative rock music on Amazon, for example, may find the site pitching them the new R.E.M. album, “Accelerate,” in both CD and digital form.
Both? Anything in CD form is also in digital form. All CDs are digital.