Over the last few weeks, some newsgroups have been full of tales of war and battle fleets, of billions dying in the clash of species. To all such—and those living more peaceably around them—we say look out on the universe. It does not care, and even with all our science there are some disasters that we can not avert. All evil and good is petty before Nature. Personally, we take comfort from this, that there is a universe to admire that cannot be twisted to villainy or good, but which simply is. –Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon The Deep (Zones of Thought)
Ten Thousand, via XKCD
A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior Behavioral economics and the closely related field of behavioral finance couple scientific research on the psychology of decision making with economic theory to better understand what motivates investors, employees, and consumers…We will examine topics such as how emotion rather than cognition determines economic decisions, “irrational” patterns of thinking about money and investments, how expectations shape perceptions, economic and psychological analyses of dishonesty…and how social and financial incentives combine to motivate labor by everyday workers and CEOs alike. (Dan Ariely)
The Art of Conversation: Timeless, Timely Do’s and Don’ts from 1866 The true aim of politeness, is to make those with whom you associate as well satisfied with themselves as possible. … Politeness is a sort of social benevolence, which avoids wounding the pride, or shocking the prejudices of those around you.
Richard Feynman Lectures In this series, Feynman looks at the mysterious forces that make ordinary things happen and, in doing so, answers questions about why rubber bands are stretchy, why tennis balls can’t bounce forever and what you’re really seeing when you look in the mirror. (Richard Feynman)
Assessing the Quality of Controlled Clinical Trials The quality of controlled trials is of obvious relevance to systematic reviews. If the “raw material” is flawed then the conclusions of systematic reviews cannot be trusted. Many reviewers formally assess the quality of primary trials by following the recommendations of the Cochrane Collaboration and other experts. However, the methodology for both the assessment of quality and its incorporation into systematic reviews and meta-analysis are a matter of ongoing debate. In this article we discuss the concept of study quality and the methods used to assess quality. (Peter Jüni, Douglas G Altman, Matthias Egger)
Illusory Causation and Illusory Correlation: Two Epistemological Accounts Illusory causation and illusory correlation, two phenomena which have been observed both in object perception and in person perception, are discussed together with various explanations for these effects. It is proposed that the perception of salient stimuli as causal may reflect the way in which the perceiver picks up information about the environment and that the perception of salient stimuli as correlated may reflect the perceiver’s attunement to particular environmental invariants. Research evidence consistent with these propositions is reviewed, and research which would more directly test them is suggested. (Leslie Zebrowitz McArthur)
The Complicated History of Simple Scientific Facts Changes in theories are never overnight revolutions, nor do theories remain unaltered for long. Instead, acceptance of a theory is a matter of consensus, achieved over many years of work. No matter how ugly a theory, no matter how unpalatable its consequences, experimental and observational evidence is the final arbiter. This, in the end, is why we do experiments.
Supertracker: My Food. My Fitness. My Health Get your personalized nutrition and physical activity plan. Track your foods and physical activities to see how they stack up. Get tips and support to help you make healthier choices and plan ahead.
Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds Every age has its peculiar folly; some scheme, project, or phantasy into which it plunges, spurred on either by the love of gain, the necessity of excitement, or the mere force of imitation. Failing in these, it has some madness, to which it is goaded by political or religious causes, or both combined. Every one of these causes influenced the Crusades, and conspired to render them the most extraordinary instance upon record of the extent to which popular enthusiasm can be carried. (Charles Mackay)
Experimental Research on Just-World Theory: Problems, Developments, and Future Challenges A motorist runs over a picketer—a socially concerned mother and respected local citizen— demonstrating on behalf of local port workers: Angry observers demand harsh punishment for the driver. A beloved public figure is the victim of a fatal car accident that occurs while her car is being chased by the paparazzi: The public expresses outrage and demands new laws to curtail the ability of the press to invade a person’s private life… The victims of the terrible outcomes described above were seen by many who were exposed to the event as undeserving of their fates and, thus, as victims of injustice…However, other reactions to these events were far less sympathetic toward the victims. (Carolyn L. Hafer, Laurent Begue)
Physicist Richard Feynman explains the scientific and unscientific methods of understanding nature.
Oxytocin Increases Trust in Humans Trust pervades human societies. Trust is indispensable in friendship, love, families and organizations, and plays a key role in economic exchange and politics. In the absence of trust among trading partners, market transactions break down. In the absence of trust in a country’s institutions and leaders, political legitimacy breaks down. Much recent evidence indicates that trust contributes to economic, political and social success. Little is known, however, about the biological basis of trust among humans. Here we show that intranasal administration of oxytocin, a neuropeptide that plays a key role in social attachment and affiliation in non-human mammals, causes a substantial increase in trust among humans, thereby greatly increasing the benefits from social interactions.
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