Archive for July 2011

#  Optimal Philanthropy →

July 30th, 2011 at 21:24 // In Worth Knowing 

Ever get the feeling that you’re doing less for charity than you should? LessWrong is here to help. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in here if you’re looking to give more to charity (or get more for charity), but this is the one that most struck me:

Subjects in the time-ask-first condition were the most generous, donating $5.85 of their $10, compared to $4.42 for those in the no-ask condition and $3.07 for those in the money-ask-first condition. Subjects in the time-ask-first condition also volunteered the most (7% gave time, averaging 6.5 hours), compared to those in the money-ask-first condition and the no-ask condition (1.6% each).

People asked to give time were more generous than those asked to give only money, or nothing at all. This strikes me as a simple anchoring effect, though the author speculates otherwise. Time is more expensive than money, so you’re effectively asking them to give a lot, which we know makes people more likely to give a little more generously.

#  Mandela’s Legacy →

July 26th, 2011 at 16:45 // In Worth Reading 

The thought-provoking line “biographies are the best self-help books” came into my river as I was trying to decide what to do with this good, but not particularly topical, celebration of Nelson Mandela. If only for the above reason, and because I’ve lately seen too much like Christopher Hitchens taking Gandhi down a few pegs, I think this is worth some attention.

It certainly seems reasonable to argue that there’s more lasting wisdom in this paragraph than in the average self-help book:

What the experience of prison did was elevate Mandela to a higher political plain, setting him apart from the great mass of ordinarily brave, ordinarily principled freedom fighters within his country and beyond. He learned that succumbing to the vengeful passions brought fleeting joys at the cost of lasting benefits; he learned, through studying his jailers closely, that black and white people had far more in common, at bottom, than they had points of difference; he learned that forgiveness and generosity and, above all, respect were weapons of political persuasion as powerful as any gun.

(via The Browser)

#  Depression Treatment Effectiveness →

July 25th, 2011 at 14:07 // In Worth Seeing 

I feel like I’ve seen this chart before, but I know I never linked it. And since depression seems to be a popular topic (on this blog) right now, I think you should give it a look.

(via Justin Wehr, who likes the many charts of this style that Cure Together has made)

#  The Hermione Granger Series →

July 23rd, 2011 at 15:15 // In Worth Considering 

A fun and interesting reimagining of the potential that existed within the Harry Potter books for something more clever and innovative (and dare I venture, much less profitable).

And [all her hard work] pays off. Hermione saves the day, over and over; in every book, there is a moment where her classmates need to be saved, and they need a plan that is going to save them, and they inevitably turn to Hermione, “the brightest witch of her age.” Hermione always comes through; she has the plans, she saves them all. That’s why her name is on the cover of every book.

(via kottke)

#  Revisiting Brain Crack →

July 19th, 2011 at 20:12 // In Worth Watching 

Ze Frank revisits what was probably my favorite episode from “the show”. He shares some interesting and related ideas, like this:

From those experiences I came up with a dictum that I try and use as often as possible. “Execute as quickly and faithfully as possible.” What I like about this is the “quickly” and “faithfully” pull in opposite directions. The first reminds you to act without delay and the second tells you to try not to cut corners.

#  Body as Biome →

July 18th, 2011 at 12:56 // In Worth Reading 

There’s been a growing consensus over the last decade that we’ve significantly underestimated the importance all the critters that naturally call our bodies home. This piece by Michael Tennesen does a good job highlighting what we’ve been learning and what it means. This was new to me:

In an effort to develop techniques to counter [the growing ranks of antibacterial resistant bacteria in poultry], U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists introduced what they call a “competitive exclusion culture” of 29 different bacterial species into farm-raised chickens as part of their diet and then exposed them to salmonella. They found that chickens exposed to the bacterial culture had 99 percent less salmonella colonization than unexposed chickens.

(via The Browser)

#  Palestine After the Arab Spring →

July 17th, 2011 at 20:01 // In Worth Knowing 

You remember that thing I said about how much I love those deep, long country profiles in the book reviews? Still do.

Adam Shatz’s piece on Palestine is not short, but it’s a better portrait of what it’s like there now than you’d get from decades of news-watching.

#  The Age of Mechanical Reproduction →

July 16th, 2011 at 9:59 // In Worth Reading 

Paul Ford can write.

#  Israel’s Pathology →

July 14th, 2011 at 19:35 // In Worth Knowing 

This is the second piece I’ve read this week from The Browser (first; via) essentially making the same reasonable-sounding point about that most broken of “first world” countries.

There is a mental disorder called “paranoia vera”. Patients adopt a crazy assumption – e.g. “everybody hates me” – and then build an elaborate structure around it. Every bit of information which seems to support it is eagerly absorbed, every item that contradicts it is suppressed. Everything is interpreted so as to reinforce the initial assumption. The pattern is strictly logical – indeed, the more complete and the more logical the structure, the more serious is the disease.

(The typesetting on this page is atrocious. I recommend Readable if you don’t have a good system in place to deal with this problem.)

#  A Defense of Antidepressants →

July 13th, 2011 at 6:03 // In Worth Considering 

In the interest of being as fair and balanced as Fox News, a response aimed rather squarely at those anti-psychiatry articles I linked that Marcia Engall published in the NYRB last month. His basic claim:

Antidepressants work — ordinarily well, on a par with other medications doctors prescribe. Yes, certain researchers have questioned their efficacy in particular areas — sometimes, I believe, on the basis of shaky data. And yet, the notion that they aren’t effective in general is influencing treatment.

UPDATE (13 Jul 2011): Since I promised Fox News levels of balance, here’s John Horgan’s argument against Kramer’s essay. (via 3qd)