hemispheric seating

British Psych. SocietyOur bodies appear symmetrical on the outside, but our brains are lop-sided. For example, the brain is better at controlling one hand than the other.

And right-handers prefer to sit to the right at the movies.

By sitting to the right of the screen, the film is predominantly processed by the right-hemisphere and the suggestion is that, without realizing it, right-handers are choosing to sit in an optimal position for their brain to digest the movie.

And see here. We trigger our ‘brain bias’ in other ways too:

This new research comes after a past study showed that adults with a more artistic, less analytic thinking style (associated with the right hemisphere) were more likely to sit on the right-hand side of the classroom; and another that showed people are more likely to exhibit the left side of their face (controlled by the right hemisphere) when asked to express emotion in a family photo, but to show their right profile when asked to pose as a scientist.

marriage warrior

Sara Libby:

Karl Rove, the architect behind using gay marriage as a wedge issue to drive the Christian right to the polls, has just gotten a divorce in Texas, ending his 24-year marriage.

No one should really be surprised by the hypocrisy.

extensive financial resources

Doug Glanville……in the athletes’ world, relationships can get crafted around their whims:

It is amazing how easy it is, if you are not careful and grounded, to start seeing women as another accessory in your life.

But it isn’t rooted in good practices; it’s more like, “flash your badge and they will come.”

selling unreasoning

Dana Blankenhorn:

Is gravity real? The reporter asks the question, and finds one person who will say it’s not, at which point it becomes an open question.

Conservatives have learned to use this laziness to create hosts of false controversies, destroying good people and good ideas because reporters are afraid to call a lie a lie.

Death panels are a lie. Obama’s Kenyan roots are a lie. The tea party’s charges are lies.

FDR, No FearWhen large political movements are built on lies, reporters do not have a duty to give them equal time. They have a duty to call them out.

They have a duty to call the liars liars, and to stop using them as sources, to exile them from their newsrooms. Instead these self-created assholes are called upon again-and-again.

It has gone on too long.

ignirance income

Teabaggers=Suckers

The political action committee behind the Tea Party Express paid almost two thirds of its spending on the Republican consulting firm that created the PAC in the first place.

Of $1.33 million, a total of $857,122 went to Sacramento-based Tea Party organizers.

instinct to attack

Levi Johnston, in a sworn statement:

I know that public scrutiny will simplify this matter and act as a check against anyone’s need to be overly vindictive, aggressive or malicious, not that Bristol would ever be that way, nor that I would.

But her mother is powerful, politically ambitious and has a reputation for being extremely vindictive.

So, I think a public case might go a long way in reducing Sarah Palin’s instinct to attack.

Johnston said he didn’t want to hurt or embarrass his son — or Bristol. He thinks Sarah Palin, not Bristol, is acting with “sheer malice”.

industrial bacteria

The overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to a plague of drug-resistant infections that killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year – more than prostate and breast cancer combined.

Nuts.

America’s farmers give their pigs, cows and chickens about 8 percent more antibiotics each year… 13 percent of the antibiotics administered on farms last year were fed to healthy animals to make them grow faster.

Antibiotics also save as much as 30 percent in feed costs among young swine.

Sloppy. Sloppy. Sloppy.

quite simple really

Mark Thoma:

Honest and transparent are not adjectives that come easily to mind when looking at our modern financial system and events over the last decade.

This issue is in fact the lynch pin to modern capitalism.

Business interests are dominant in Washington, and these powerful interests will do what they can to resist constraints on their behavior no matter what lessons the rest of us may have learned from their actions in the past.

scams in all 50 states

More than $16.5 billion disappeared like smoke in 2009.

  1. The FBI opened more than 2,100 securities fraud investigations in 2009, up from 1,750 in 2008. The FBI also had 651 agents working in 2009 on high-yield investment fraud cases, which include Ponzis, compared with 429 last year.
  2. The SEC this year issued 82 per cent more restraining orders against Ponzi schemes and other securities fraud cases this year than in 2008, and it opened about six per cent more investigations. Ponzi scheme investigations now make up 21 per cent of the SEC’s enforcement workload, compared with 17 per cent in 2008 and nine per cent in 2005.
  3. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed 31 civil actions in Ponzi cases this year, more than twice the 2008 amount.

More than 150 Ponzi, or pyramid, schemes collapsed in 2009, compared with about 40 in 2008.

grip glucose

University of Alabama:

Calorie-intake restriction can benefit longevity and help prevent diseases like cancer linked to aging.

Restricting consumption of glucose, the most common dietary sugar, can extend the life of healthy human-lung cells and speed the death of precancerous human-lung cells, reducing cancer’s spread and growth rate.

unseen inner us

The basic makeup of inner life varies substantially from person to person.

Psychologists have many ways to get inside our heads: they can give us questionnaires, track our eyes, time how long we take to respond to cues and measure the blood flow to our brains.

But how close can these methods get to the texture of our inner lives?

Dr. Russel Hurlburt:

My research says that there are a lot of people who don’t ever naturally form images, and then there are other people who form very florid, high-fidelity, Technicolor, moving images.

Some people have inner lives dominated by speech, body sensations or emotions, and yet others by ‘unsymbolized thinking’ that can take the form of wordless questions such as, “Should I have the ham sandwich or the roast beef?”

Inner speakers tend to be more confident, for example, and those who think in pictures tend to have trouble empathizing with others.

Maybe it’s a defensive maneuver on my part, but my rationale is that I don’t want to infect myself with some theory about how the world is. I would like to see the way the world is without having a theory about it.

bigger, much bigger

supervolcano beneath YellowstoneYou know that supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park?

It descends 500 miles below the town of Wisdom, Montana. travels an inch a year to the northeast, and possibly reaches all the way to the Earth’s core.

It’s tilted because the Earth’s mantle is moving. Like smoke in the wind, the hot material is caught in an eastward mantle “breeze” that moves two inches a year.

Yellowstone blows about every 650,000 years. There’s been three giant eruptions – two million years, 1.3 million and 640,000 years ago – plus many eruptions much bigger than Mount St. Helens. The next event would bury much of the West in ash.

Readable article at Jackson Hole News and another at The Salt Lake Tribune. National Geographic offers a virtual dive down Yellowstone’s plume. Hat tip to MIT Science Tracker

Interview: Professor Robert Smith at NPR.

Abstract: “Geodynamics of the Yellowstone hotspot and mantle plume: Seismic and GPS imaging, kinematics, and mantle flow”

the gates are high

“It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.” – Oscar Wilde

The Economist: Three hundred million niches.

America is a uniquely attractive place to live: a lifestyle superpower.

Because America is so big and diverse, immigrants have an incredible array of choices. The proportion of Americans who are foreign-born, at 13%, is higher than the rich-country average of 8.4%. In absolute terms, the gulf is much wider. America’s foreign-born population of 38m is nearly four times larger than those of Russia or Germany, the nearest contenders. It dwarfs the number of migrants in Japan (below 2m) or China (under 1m). The recession has dramatically slowed the influx of immigrants and prompted quite a few to move back to Mexico. But the economy will eventually recover and the influx will resume.

Economic growth depends on productivity, and the most productive people are often the most mobile. A quarter of America’s engineering and technology firms founded between 1995 and 2005 had an immigrant founder…

Kedrosky and Feld, Wall Street Journal:

Foreign-born residents made up just 12.5% of the U.S. population in 2008. But nearly 40% of technology company founders and 52% of founders of companies in Silicon Valley.

The U.S. remains one of the most attractive countries for entrepreneurs. It has a culture of risk taking, capital formation, and an economic dynamism that is the envy of the world. This gives us a competitive edge that we should not let slip through our fingers.

Who is coming to America?

innocence shattered

Growing Up bin Laden Of course, there were warning signs: Osama banned fridges and air-conditioning. Jokes and toys were forbidden. Omar’s childhood was marked by regular beatings and survivalist training; the army of ruffians and retainers who called his father “Prince”; and that mullah who had given his father an entire mountain in Tora Bora.

Omar bin Laden – fourth son turned peace-loving refusenik of Osama – is reliant on the good graces of a number of easily offended people. The person he can afford to offend, doing so with intelligence and insight, is his father.

prudential restraints

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director, International Monetary Fund:

In the annals of economic crises then, where do we find ourselves?

Indeed, the work needed to build a more robust, stable, and safe global financial system has only just begun.

Remember, economic stability lays the groundwork for peace, while peace is a necessary precondition for trade and sustained economic growth.

What needs to be done? Global economic governance, including at the IMF, must be reformed to reflect the realities of the current era, and global financial-sector supervision and regulation need to be strengthened.

how rich bankers fought

Simon Johnson:

The details will turn your stomach. The arrogance, lack of self-awareness, and overweening pride are astonishing.

They won:

The Wall Street executives kept their jobs, their bonuses and their pensions; they benefited from unprecedented rule changes and unlimited monetary and fiscal support; and their firms became even bigger and more dangerous to the economic health of society.

globs of gas

carbon dioxide around the worldNASA’s AIRS project… the transport of carbon dioxide around the world… the data have shown that, contrary to prior assumptions, carbon dioxide is not well mixed in the troposphere, but is rather “lumpy.”

AIRS data reveal a never-before-seen belt of carbon dioxide that circles the globe. More carbon dioxide is emitted in the heavily populated northern hemisphere than in the southern. As a result, the south is a recipient, or sink, for carbon dioxide from the north.

Several graphics and animations help bring ‘feel’ to the numbers.

church drop

Gallup Christmas Poll:

The number who believe religion is out of date and has no answers for today’s problems has jumped to 29%.

The number with no religious preference has grown from a level of around 8% to 13%.

The number for whom religion is not very important has climbed from just over 10% to 19%.

Most of these changes occurred during the Bush years, since 2000.

internet pictured

the Internet, Chris Harrison“It is the largest thing we have ever built, and we have assembled it from transistors—the smallest things we know how to make.

“It is a chrysalis we are forming around the planet…a table where we sit to gossip, a suq where we buy and sell; a shadowy corner for planning mischief; a library holding the entire world’s information; a friend, a game, a matchmaker, a psychiatrist, an erotic dream, a babysitter, a teacher, a spy….

The best and worst and most ordinary of us reflected—and perhaps distorted—in a silvery fog of bits.” via humorzo

go measure

Conservatives are a bunch of Hummer-driving, meat-eating, gun-toting, hard-drinking, Bible-thumping, black-and-white- thinking, fist-pounding, shoe-stomping, morally hypocritical blowhards.

Liberals are a bunch of hybrid-driving, tofu-eating, tree-hugging, whale-saving, sandal-wearing, bottled-water-drinking, ACLU-supporting, flip-flopping, wishy-washy, namby-pamby bed wetters.

Jonathan Haidt and his University of Virginia colleague Jesse Graham surveyed the moral opinions of more than 110,000 people from dozens of countries and have found why liberals and conservatives differ.

Liberals can feel the pain of others, giving rise to the virtues of kindness, gentleness and nurturance, a reciprocal altruism, fairness, a sense of justice.

Conservatives tend toward tribalism, patriotism, authority, respect, tradition, hierarchical social structures, and disgust related to disease and contamination of bodily purity.

Deric Bownds suggests you can take the survey yourself.

chemical altruism

How do human beings decide when to be selfish or selfless?

The Center for Neuroeconomics Studies:

We gave testosterone to 25 men who then became 27% less generous towards strangers….

We also found that men with elevated testosterone were more likely to use their own money punish those who were ungenerous toward them.

We conclude that elevated testosterone causes men to behave antisocially.