There are two opposite ways of living life. One is as an upstanding citizen: not cutting too many corners, reporting all income to the IRS, tithing to churches from all of the major religions, not offending too many people. It's the risk-averse Ned Flanders method. On the opposite pole is living wholly and entirely on the edge...
Chuck and I and our producer Jeri got to do something really cool recently; we created our first spoken-word album out of thin air. One day, no spoken-word album; a couple weeks later -- poof! -- there's an SYSK spoken-word album on the economy and economics. What's cool about the spoken-word album label is that there's a Grammy category for such things. I'm just saying.
I've always viewed spoken-word albums as the kind of thing that's put out by guys who wear heavy wool cardigans with suede elbow patches -- as uncomfortably mellow as those gents in the recent Burger King commercials for their mushroom-and-Swiss burgers. True, Chuck wore one of those sweaters a lot while we recorded, and I would be lying if I said I didn't eat mushroom-and-Swiss burgers until I couldn't move without assistance, but listening to the Super Stuffed Guide now it's clear that this had little impact on the final result.
A big thank you to SYSK listener Ani (pronounced ah-nee) over in Madrid for sending us a link to a recent Economist article on a University of Essex study that found an optimistic outlook may be genetic.
For the most part humans tend to maintain an optimism bias; an unfounded belief (at least as far as the law of averages goes) that things will pan out well for us. There are also those among us who truly excel at irrationally processing the positive and patently ignoring the negative; we commonly refer to them as optimists.
Irrationality irks scientists like nothing else can, and so, of course, they've set about trying to get to the bottom of why optimists see things the way they do. Using our friend the Wonder Machine, New York University researchers conducting a 2007 study found that the area of the brain associated with clinical depression in humans activates differently in the skulls of optimists.
Every year, adventurers brave the elements and attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Yet dangers abound, and more than a hundred bodies litter the mountain. Listen in and learn more about Mount Everest in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
The Guardian's science writer, Ben Goldacre, who also runs the Bad Science blog across the pond, recently posted about a disgraced anesthesiologist from Massachusetts named Dr. Scott S. Rueben. Few things evoke Goldacre's vitriol more than fraudulent scientists -- his post on Reuben is titled "Scumbag."
The Wall Street Journal reports that between 1996 and 2008 Reuben published 21 medical studies on pharmaceutical painkillers, including Vioxx and Celebrex. Dr. Reuben was, until very recently, the chief of acute pain at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, so when he published his studies, people listened. The problem is that Reuben allegedly made up much of the data he cited in the studies to suit his conclusions.
Precisely why he would have done this appears to have been a matter of money. A financial link between Reuben and Pfizer, maker of Bextra, on which Reuben published favorable studies, has been found.
This news story from the BBC last week tells us about a new anti-terror ad campaign being waged in England. Posters in Manchester and London urge citizens to be suspicious and report anything they think might be untoward. One such poster has a photo of some chemicals containers in a trash bin, with these words across the bottom - "These chemicals won't be used in a bomb because a neighbour (sic) reported the dumped containers to the Anti-Terrorism Hotline." Another shows a street scene and reads "A bomb won't go off because weeks before, a shopper reported someone for studying the CCTV cameras. Don't rely on others: if you suspect it, report it." You get the idea.
This is a bit of a mixed bag. While it's necessary for citizens to be vigilant, this seems slightly skewed toward fear-based tactics and could lead to a certain level of paranoia and hysteria...
There's a peace conference taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa this week with a notable no-show -- the Dalai Lama. CNN.com reports that South Africa has denied a visa for the Dalai to pay a visit to the country. The conference is supposed to showcase South Africa's place in the world as a champion of human rights as they prepare to host the 2011 World Cup, but this move probably won't reinforce that notion.
The South African government claims that the Dalai's presence will put the focus of the conference squarely on China and the human rights violations taking place in Tibet. It should be mentioned that South Africa does a fair amount of trading with China, so you can draw your own conclusions there. All of the invited Nobel Peace Prize laureates have now dropped out of the conference in protest, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Does this episode seem strangely familiar? If so, you might be experiencing déjà vu, a topic that scientists are beginning to study seriously. Discover the myriad theories about how déjà vu works in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
Eeaaarrrrrly this morning, I perused search terms in Google to see what was going down this March 24. I found that the most searched term was "children's immortality." At about 11 p.m. last night the term shot up like a rocket; Google indicated its status as "Hotness: On Fire." It's a fairly curiosity-piquing combination of words and I clicked on one of the links. It was bizarre indeed what I found.
Taking-over-internet-search.com would likely be around 100 pages of printed paper if it weren't in the form of one long, rambling scroll of a page with the same virtually incoherent layout of a Church of the Subgenius publication. At the top of the page, where "Hello, World!" would have once been, was an indictment against Google, implying the company actively thwarts Children's Interneted Physical Immortality Education Rights by manipulating search results.
Occasionally I'll dive into some of these "this day in history" Web sites just to see what famous event took place that day. Today, I checked out history.com and learned that the phrase "OK" just turned 170 years old. "OK" is one of those odd phrases - it's not exactly a word, it's not exactly a sentence. It's two letters smashed together and it means a variety of things.
If someone asks how you're doing and you respond with an "OK" it can mean a few things depending on how you say it. A cheery "OK" could mean that things are looking up. A dour "OK" means that you could be better. It can also be both a question and an answer. Question - "I'm going to the store to get some milk, OK?" Answer - "OK." There probably aren't two more versatile letters in the English language.
Anybody familiar with me can tell you that I love me some cannibalism. I'm fascinated by the concept of eating another person and the psychological fortitude that consumption must entail.
I'm also intrigued by the possibility that cannibalism ever existed in ritual form; that the idea that Amazonian or New Guinean tribes feasting on hapless missionaries bound by rope and dropped in a huge metal kettle over a fire is as patently ridiculous as the cartoon portrayal of cannibals with bones through their noses.
Back in 1980, anthropologist William Arens made waves in the academic community when he suggested in his book, "The Man-Eating Myth," that all accounts of ritual cannibalism were fabrications by outsiders who sought to subjugate a foreign culture. (What better way to make a culture appear less than human?)...
A big thank you goes to podcast fan and super-talented comic strip artist Greg Williams of the Tampa Tribune for making our week with this. Greg was kind enough to render us as comic strip personalities using a segment from our "Junk Mail" podcast and we couldn't be more pleased. So very cool!
The comic is currently running today in the online edition of the Tribune. Check out Greg's other work while you're there - it's all very creative and fun stuff.
So without further ado...
Josh and I are always much tougher on ourselves than anyone else could be in regards to the show, but this week we were both pretty pleased with our podcasting efforts. Tuesday's "Microexpressions" and yesterday's "Can Anger be a Good Thing?" were both chock full of Stuff You Should Know goodness, if you ask me. My favorite shows are typically loaded with interesting facts and studies and plenty of personal anecdotes.
We don't tell each other these stories beforehand and the usually occur on the fly, so when Josh spins a great yarn it's new to me as well as you all. Having said that -- microexpressions. These are very small, but significant gestures someone makes in conversation. They can either give you away as a liar or reinforce that you're telling the truth, as well as saying a host of things about your mood and temperament. Really fascinating stuff.
Back in the day, about 3.2 million years ago, an upright hominid of the Australopithecus afarensis variety, wandered around Ethiopia. Who knows what she did -- pick berries and wrestle gazelles and the like is probably a pretty good bet. She was just trying to make her way in the big, wide, comparatively empty world...
I came an interesting little tidbit yesterday on CNN.com. A cafe owner in Kettering, Ohio has a new pricing policy -- pay what you feel like the meal is worth. It sounds crazy, but his business is actually thriving with the new policy and he's in a position where he may even have to hire more employees to help meet demand. His Bulgarian wife gave him the idea based on similar practices in some European cafes.
If you think that folks might take advantage and pay a penny for a $10 meal, you'll be pleased to learn that it's not going down that way. Turns out customers have a hard time looking the owner in the eye and telling him his food isn't worth much. So far he figured he's breaking even with some people paying a little more and some a little less than he'd normally charge.
Thanks to the Obscure Store and Reading Room for posting a link to an article in the Danbury (Conn.) News-Times about a kindergarten teacher who had the cuffs slapped on her after she forced a five-year-old to eat the lunch he threw away in a garbage can. The 67-year-old teacher was arrested on a risking injury to a minor beef and will be arraigned on Monday.
I'm of two minds on this. There's a significant part of me that is dying to begin a sentence with, "Back in my day..."
Back in my day, we had nuns, and we survived them. The nun who taught my second grade class at Our Lady of Perpetual Help had a habit of going through our desks while we were outside reenacting Star Wars during recess. The kid with the messiest desk got a surprise when we all returned.
Time Magazine is running a great article at the moment called "10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now." Items two through nine are pretty interesting, but what caught my eye was what stood tall in the number one position -- your job may be your biggest asset right now.
The author of the piece, Barbara Kiviat, makes an excellent point about how things are now compared to just a couple of years ago. In 2007, it's doubtful that anyone would have listed their job as their number one asset. Your career was just a means to get other assets, even if it meant borrowing beyond your means to get them.
Our friends over at Xenophilia posted an article from BBC about a recent spate of murders of albinos in Burundi and Tanzania. Between the two countries, at least 50 African albinos have been murdered in the last couple of months.
The concentration of albino populations in some African nations is nearly 20 times that of the United States, and despite the political and social successes of some...