Friday, 5 January 2018

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Fake News and Pizzagate

In Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal Amanda Robb examines the "web of conspiracy theorists, Russian operatives, Trump campaigners and Twitter bots who manufactured the 'news' that Hillary Clinton ran a pizza-restaurant child-sex ring".

Monday, 20 November 2017

Human's seem to want to have control over potential gains and losses, rather than delegating

In Are you a control freak or a delegator? Personality quiz Ben Ambridge reports on research showing that most people want to make their own decisions, even if they know it will cost them more.

This is based on the paper The intrinsic value of choice: The propensity to under-delegate in the face of potential gains and losses by Sebastian Bobadilla-Suarez, Cass R. Sunstein and Tali Sharot. Here's the abstract:
Human beings are often faced with a pervasive problem: whether to make their own decision or to delegate the decision task to someone else. Here, we test whether people are inclined to forgo monetary rewards in order to retain agency when faced with choices that could lead to losses and gains. In a simple choice task, we show that participants choose to pay in order to control their own payoff more than they should if they were to maximize monetary rewards and minimize monetary losses. This tendency cannot be explained by participants’ overconfidence in their own ability, as their perceived ability was elicited and accounted for. Nor can the results be explained by lack of information. Rather, the results seem to reflect an intrinsic value for choice, which emerges in the domain of both gains and of losses. Moreover, our data indicate that participants are aware that they are making suboptimal choices in the normative sense, but do so anyway, presumably for psychological gains.


Saturday, 7 October 2017

World's Best Chocolate Cake?

In Is this chocolate cake recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's baking cookbook Sweet the world's best? Yotam Ottolenghi provides an interesting chocolate cake recipe from Helen Goh.

Globalisation vs Tribalism

In Lure of globalisation battles our instinctive tribalism Ross Gittins cites the book Choosing Openness by Dr Andrew Leigh in arguing that we tend to have a distrust of outsiders because for most of human history people have lived in small groups of up to 150 people.
Drawing on the work of British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, he argues that "for most of history, humans lived in groups of about 150 people" – a figure known as "Dunbar's number".

Such groups were big enough for some specialisation, but small enough for everyone to know and trust everyone else. People were born, mated, hunted and died within their small community.
However, many of us now live in much large communities.
But while hunkering down in the face of difference might have been a useful evolutionary strategy in the past, the growth of cities changed the equation, Leigh argues.

Cities are bound together by not by familial relationships, but by rules and norms of acceptable behaviour.

For hundreds of years, the most productive cities have been those that welcome visitors. In a primitive tribe, a dislike of difference can keep you alive. In a city, it's likely to just make you poorer.

"In this sense, a distrust of diversity is a bit like wisdom teeth – an evolutionary vestige that once helped us grind up plants, but now are more likely to take us on a trip to the dentist's chair."
Gittins and Leigh argue that the some populist politicians stoke our natural distrust of outsiders for political gain.
In a seminal study of the politics of hatred, the Harvard authority on urban economics Edward Glaeser noted that the key to building a powerful coalition around hate is to focus voters' anger on an "out group" that is sufficiently large to be taken seriously as a threat, but too small to be electorally decisive.
They argue that one of the four main drivers of the growth of populism is inequality.
First, slow growth in living standards when the proceeds of economic growth haven't been shared.

"In societies where prosperity is broadly shared, a cosmopolitan outlook steadily replaces traditional values of religion, deference to authority, and an exclusive focus on the security of our family and tribe," he says.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Which foods should be eat of we want to live a long life?

In Which foods can help you live longer? Paula Goodyer reports that long life is just as much about what we eat as our genes.
There is no foolproof recipe for making it to 100 years old and beyond but there are strong clues from longevity hot spots such as the Mediterranean regions of France and Italy, parts of Spain, Nicoya, in Costa Rica, and Okinawa, in Japan. These are all places with high numbers of long-lived people, according to Dr Preston Estep, director of gerontology at the Harvard Personal Genome Project

They do not always eat the same food but their diets have much in common – a lot of plant food, moderate amounts of fish but not so much meat and added sugar, says Estep, whose book, The Mindspan Diet, looks at the eating habits of people who not only live longer but also have lower rates of dementia. Their fat intake varies, but where diets are high in fat it is usually mono-unsaturated fat – the kind found in olive oil, for example. And when they raise a glass, it is usually with meals and in moderation.
So eat mostly vegetables, with plenty of legumes.

Have the benefits of standing desks been oversold

In How the media oversold standing desks as a fix for inactivity at work Catriona Bonfiglioli and Josephine Chau report that articles in the media about the danger of sitting did not accurately reflect the reality of the report they were based on.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese Recipes

Three vegetarian spaghetti bolognese recipes:

BBC goodfood: Vegetarian spaghetti bolognese

Vegie Num Num: Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese

Jamie Oliver: Veggie Spaghetti Bolognese

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The making of Dylann Roof

A powerful piece of writing by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah: A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof.
“What are you?” a member of the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston asked at the trial of the white man who killed eight of her fellow black parishioners and their pastor. “What kind of subhuman miscreant could commit such evil?... What happened to you, Dylann?”
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah spent months in South Carolina searching for an answer to those questions—speaking with Roof’s mother, father, friends, former teachers, and victims’ family members, all in an effort to unlock what went into creating one of the coldest killers of our time.

Monday, 28 August 2017

The rise of the alt-right

In If you want to know how the alt-right upended American politics, read Kill All Normies Sean Illing interviews Irish academic and author Angela Nagle on her book Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right.

The GOP and Authoritarianism

Jonathan Chait on how The GOP’s Age of Authoritarianism Has Only Just Begun. Note this was written before Trump won the US election.

Wayne Swan on the blindness of affluence

Wayne Swan writes about The blindness of affluence and the need for a more inclusive form of prosperity.

The three party system

John Quiggin explains The three party system.
Looking at the way politics has evolved over the past 25 years or so, in the English-speaking world and beyond, I have developed an analysis which is certainly not original, but which I haven’t seen set down in exactly the way I would like. Here’s the shorter version:

There are three major political forces in contemporary politics in developed countries: tribalism, neoliberalism and leftism (defined in more detail below). Until recently, the party system involved competition between different versions of neoliberalism. Since the Global Financial Crisis, neoliberals have remained in power almost everywhere, but can no longer command the electoral support needed to marginalise both tribalists and leftists at the same time. So, we are seeing the emergence of a three-party system, which is inherently unstable because of the Condorcet problem and for other reasons.

Why aren't people protesting against gerrymandering?

Brian Klaas poses the question Gerrymandering is the biggest obstacle to genuine democracy in the United States. So why is no one protesting?

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Life in North Korea

In Fear, loneliness, and duty — an American journalist on daily life in North Korea Sean Illing interviews the author of the 2014 book Without You, There Is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea’s Elite, Suki Kim about living in North Korea.

Are carbs really the problem?

In We’ve long blamed carbs for making us fat. What if that's wrong? Julia Belluz writes about a study that casts doubt on carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis, the theory that
... suggests that a diet heavy in carbohydrates (especially refined grains and sugars) leads to weight gain because of a specific mechanism: Carbs drive up insulin in the body, causing the body to hold on to fat and suppress calorie burn.