Random links

‘Who is this Robert Smith?’: A quiet billionaire makes some noise with $20 million gift to the African American museum
From an earlier profile of a billionaire recently in the news for paying off the student loan of a whole class: "At least three to seven times a year, he says, he is stopped by police as he drives himself to the airport in Texas. The officers run his tags and check his license. He’s told he was speeding or changed lanes without signaling. The officers send him off, often without a ticket. ... But Smith never worries about missing his flight. His private plane won’t leave without him."
Unpopular speech in a cold climate
"a world in which lawyers are afraid to defend people against a certain kind of accusation is a world in which those accusations can never really be verified, where guilty verdicts bear the whiff of a sham."
We asked ambassadors where they eat when they’re homesick. We did not expect Taco Bell and Ikea.
I was amused.
Social learning and the demise of costly cooperation in humans
"We found that: (i) social information never increased cooperation and usually led to decreased cooperation; (ii) cooperation was lowest when individuals could observe how successful individuals behaved; and (iii) cooperation declined because individuals preferred to copy successful individuals, who cooperated less, rather than copy common behaviours." See also Transparency can reinforce the norm that most people are engaging in corrupt behaviours

Banning teaching about Arabic numerals and the Big Bang Theory

I'd heard of the polling data that'd showed most American wanted to ban teaching students about Arabic numerals, but I was somewhat amused (via Snopes) to learn that the same survey company also polled people on their support for teaching the Big Bang Theory in a slightly different guise:

Kahneman on climate change

On NPR's Hidden Brain

VEDANTAM: ... You've actually called climate change, in some ways, sort of a perfect storm of the ways in which our minds are not equipped to deal with certain kinds of threats.

KAHNEMAN: I mean, it's really - if you were to design a problem that the mind is not equipped to deal with, you know, climate change would fit the bill. It's distance. It's abstract. It's contested. And it doesn't make - it doesn't take much. If it's contested, it's 50/50, you know, for many people immediately. You know, you don't ask, what do most scientists do? Which side of the National Academy of Sciences - that's not the way it works. You know, some people say this, other people say that. And if I don't want to believe in it, I don't have to believe in it.

So it's - I'm really - well, I'm pessimistic in general. But I'm pessimistic in particular about the ability of democracies to deal with a threat like that effectively. If there were a comet hurtling down toward us - you know, an event that would be predictable - within a day, we'd mobilize. So it's not even that it's distant in time. If it was going to affect our children, we'd mobilize. But this is too abstract, possible, contested. It's very different. We can't - we're not doing it, in fact.

On a suggested approach:

So the only way would be to create social pressure. So, for me, it would be a milestone if you manage to take influential evangelists, preachers, to adopt the idea of global warming and to preach it. That would change things. It's not going to happen by presenting more evidence. That, I think, is clear.

Random links

The whisper room: Moderates on Twitter are losing their voice
"Michael Kearney, an assistant professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, found that while partisan users form highly partisan social networks on Twitter, moderate users – or those less politically engaged – continue to avoid politics, potentially creating an important void on social media. “We are not necessarily getting farther and farther apart – it’s just the people in the middle are becoming more quiet and withdrawn,” Kearney said. “If you fail to consider all the people in the middle who do not care about politics as much, it seems like there is a more clear division when there is not, so social media might be artificially creating this sense that we are becoming more polarized.”"
Descriptive Representation and the Political Engagement of Women
"most evidence of the effects of descriptive representation on women's empowerment is drawn from surveys from the 1980s and 1990s. I update these studies" The results of her updating? "Considering political engagement, I find little evidence that women are more politically interested or participatory when residing in places with more female officeholders or candidates. Women's political presence as candidates and officeholders does not uniquely encourage other women to engage in political life."
The Shady Link Between Sunscreen and Your Health
On balance has advice to avoid sun exposure done more harm than good? Still the case that "All the experts agree that sunburns—especially those suffered during childhood and adolescence—are particularly bad" though.


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