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 in 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.

The top 100 solutions to climate change

In A new book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising. David Roberts interviews Paul Hawken about Hawken's book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.
Unlike most popular books on climate change, it is not a polemic or a collection of anecdotes and exhortations. In fact, with the exception of a few thoughtful essays scattered throughout, it’s basically a reference book: a list of solutions, ranked by potential carbon impact, each with cost estimates and a short description. A set of scenarios show the cumulative potential.
...
The number one solution, in terms of potential impact? A combination of educating girls and family planning, which together could reduce 120 gigatons of CO2-equivalent by 2050 — more than on- and offshore wind power combined (99 GT).
...
Also sitting atop the list, with an impact that dwarfs any single energy source: refrigerant management. (Don’t hear much about that, do you? Here’s a great Brad Plumer piece on it.)

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Most of the 2016 USA election results were pretty typical

In Why did the 2016 election look so much like the 2012 election? Ezra Klein reports on work shoing that most voters in the USA vote according to partisan identity, not policies or candidates.
A few months ago, I stopped by Larry Bartels’s office at Vanderbilt University. Bartels, alongside Christopher Achen, is the author of Democracy for Realists, which I’d become a bit obsessed with. The book argues that decades of social science evidence has shattered the idealistic case made for how voters in democracies act, and the reality is that “even the most informed voters typically make choices not on the basis of policy preferences or ideology, but on the basis of who they are — their social identities.”
I sat down with Bartels shortly after the 2016 election, and I had a dozen ideas for how his book helped explain the unusual results. But he wasn’t buying my premise. To him, the election looked pretty typical.
The Democratic candidate won 89 percent of Democratic voters, and the Republican candidate won 90 percent of Republican voters. The Democrat won minorities, women, and the young; the Republican won whites, men, and the old. The Democrat won a few percentage points more of the two-party vote than the Republican, just as had happened four years before, and four years before that. If you had known nothing about the candidates or conditions in the 2016 election but had been asked to predict the results, these might well have been the results you’d predicted. So what was there to explain?

Monday, 24 July 2017

The limits of human compassion

In A psychologist explains the limits of human compassion Brian Resnick interviews Paul Slovic on "psychic numbing". It seems our levels of concern appears to be inversely proportional to the number of victims. That's why we ignore mass atrocities but give when there's only a single individual victim (e.g. a child with cancer). Unfortunately, an individual is worth more than the sum of a group.

The interview explores several topics:
  • There is no constant value for a human life
  • We’re compelled to help individuals. But the world’s problems are too large to be solved one person at a time
  • Psychic numbing begins when the number of victims increases from one to two
  • Three factors keep people and politicians from intervening in humanitarian crises
  • We might be able to build machines more moral than humans
  • Even partial solutions save whole lives