Thursday, 17 November 2011

Women do not synchronise periods

Super-quick one today, as I am not particularly qualified to speak on this topic, but Kate Clancy is - contrary to popular superstition, women in close proximity for extended periods do not synchronise menstrual cycles.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

PETA are prolific animal murderers

So one story has been making the rounds a lot recently - that PETA have used Mario (of Super Mario Brothers fame) as a publicity pawn, accusing him of being an evil animal killer on the basis of his use of the tanooki suit. To be honest, I don't really have a problem with this particular publicity campaign - it's a tongue-in-cheek way of raising the profile of the Chinese fur industry, which is clearly an awful thing and I entirely agree that it should be excised from the planet, even if their campaign is rather shrill and attention-seeking.

The point of this post is to point out a different fact - PETA is one of the leading animal euthanasia organisations. In 2009, they murdered 2,301 animals, and managed to get a whole 8 adopted. This was not a statistical fluke - over recent years, the trend to animal killings within PETA has been on the increase. If PETA were an animal palliative care organisation, there would be nothing wrong with this. But it is not. In fact, it funds violent direct action groups, and even attacks those who make it a policy not to put animals down. The reason for the latter? Some animals at "no-kill" shelters will have to be euthanised anyway due to overpopulation. Staggering. Consequently, this is the purest of all crimes - straightout hypocrisy.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Piracy and Entertainment: An Overture

For some time I have been gathering material for a series of articles on the economic status of the entertainment industry and the effects of piracy, which it uses to justify ludicrously extra-judicial powers in Western nations. As an overture, a couple of juicy bits of evidence that the entertainment industry is still ludicrously rich:

1. Those industries related to copyright materials (i.e. the entertainmen sector in total) beat the average performance during the recession, despite supposedly being both luxuries and under fire from copyright infringement.

2. The biggest winner of this year's executive pay competition was not an oil magnate. They were not a tech guru, or a shipping tycoon. They were the CEO of Viacom, one of the copyright corporations at the forefront of trying to break YouTube.

In later posts, I will be dealing with the music and film sectors individually (and possibly other sectors if I get up the necessary motivation).

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

More on the science of being wrong

Following on from a couple of posts ago, here's further articles on the gentle art of being wrong about everything.

First up a lovely column from Christie Aschwanden on the personal side of being wrong. Short version: we as individuals think of ourselves as independent, intelligent people, and when confronted with somebody saying we are wrong, rather than weigh up the arguments we intuitively take it as an attack as it contradicts our view of ourselves.

In not-dissimilar footsteps, Cracked on 5 logical fallacies that make people wrong (often when they think they're right). Click through for details, but as a list:

5. We're Not Programmed to Seek "Truth," We're Programmed to "Win"

4. Our Brains Don't Understand Probability

3. We Think Everyone's Out to Get Us

2. We're Hard-Wired to Have a Double Standard (i.e. when it happens to us it's because of external circumstances, when somebody else does it it's because they are bad)

1. Facts Don't Change Our Minds

Nothing massively new here, but a good roundup, and I particularly liked item 3 - the idea that we think people will screw us over much more than they actually will, but we rarely find out our mistake. The corollary of this is that we have experiences where we are surprised our trust is broken when we expected it to be kept, but rarely have experiences where we are surprised our trust is kept when we expected it to be broken (because we usually walk away from those situations before they happen). Perhaps the cumulative effect is part of the reason older people are generally more conservative - that's pure speculation on my part, though.

All in all, good stuff about being wrong. I'm sure I fall foul of this stuff all the time, but I'm lucky enough to be a scientist, and hence being proved wrong is part of the job - in fact, I usually prove myself wrong on a regular basis. Just within this blog, I was completely wrong in what I though about streetlights.

Weight loss roundup

Another quick one, an Australian colleague has forwarded a series of articles from his homeland on the myths and truths of weight loss. Mostly fairly general stuff, not attacking too many of the specifics, but good general information with a few handy citations. I was particularly pleased to see it tackling high street weight loss scam products, and that all diets work initially but plateau off and become useless by 6 months to a year, even if they are strictly followed (which rarely happens because, after all, they aren't actually achieving anything anymore):

For decades, a high proportion of doctors and dietitians worked on the incorrect assumption that cutting 2100 kJ (about 500 calories) of energy intake every day would result in steady weight loss of about half a kilogram a week.

But this assumption ignores adjustments in the body that take place in response to any change in weight.

What actually happens is that the body’s composition and metabolic rate change after the initial loss of weight, and this leads to a plateau in weight loss.

Read the entire series

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Meta-post: somebody else's book on why you are wrong

Very quick shout-out to a book I haven't yet read, but tackles a subject close to my heart - why everybody is wrong, but why everybody believes they are right and that everybody else is wrong. Yes, I grasp the irony, I would like to make it clear that I know that I'm wrong all the time as well.

Reblogging the boingboing post on this, your attention is drawn to the following excerpt:

I can see right through that politician’s lies. People are such sheep. People are so stupid. People will believe anything. I prefer to lead, not follow.

Have you ever thought like this? Would it blow your mind to know everyone thinks this?

If everyone thinks they aren’t gullible and can’t be swayed by advertising, political rhetoric, or charismatic con artists, then someone must be deluding themselves. Sometimes it’s you.

Read all about it