Archive for February 2012
This piece got a reasonable amount of attention around the idea of its title that you don’t need to sleep for eight hours, but I found the far more interesting component of it to be the research into how people used to sleep in the past, and how it’s changed. This was all new to me:
A doctor’s manual from 16th Century France even advised couples that the best time to conceive was not at the end of a long day’s labour but “after the first sleep”, when “they have more enjoyment” and “do it better”.
Ekirch found that references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th Century. This started among the urban upper classes in northern Europe and over the course of the next 200 years filtered down to the rest of Western society.
While I still feel like there’s little likelihood it will come to pass, I enjoyed accompanying Megan McArdle on a trip to consider how learning would be different in an environment where no one spent time at traditional college campuses.
Tenured academics has worked a great scam. They’ve managed to monetize peoples’ affection for regional football teams, and their desire for a work credential, and then somehow diverted that money into paying academics to work on whatever they want, for the rest of their lives, without any oversight by the football fans or the employers.
(via Mark Larson’s more of what i like)
There are a lot of non-legitimate reasons to dislike Wikipedia, but the one Timothy Messer-Kruse calls out is the only one I think worthy of anyone’s time:
“Explain to me, then, how a ‘minority’ source with facts on its side would ever appear against a wrong ‘majority’ one?” I asked the Wiki-gatekeeper. He responded, “You’re more than welcome to discuss reliable sources here, that’s what the talk page is for. However, you might want to have a quick look at Wikipedia’s civility policy.”
It’s fair to point out that all encyclopedia’s tend to defer to consensus over truth, but it’s a thing that’s hard to remember as you use them. (An because I know about and it’s recent, I’ll note that this is very similar to the point John Siracusa made in this podcast episode.)
(via Arts & Letters Daily)
I’ve been more than a little taken with this basic idea ever since I saw The Game, but I think Aaron Swartz is onto something with this thought:
Billions of dollars are spent making and watching people explore mysterious tunnels, chase down alleys, and fly as if by magic, but there’s hardly a single opportunity to actually do any of these things.
I liked Reihan Salam’s argument in favor of private equity firms like the arm of Bain Capital Mitt Romney spent many years running. I certainly don’t agree with everything he says, but given the amount of aggressively negative things that are likely to be heard about that field until November, I think it’s important to actually listen to a competent defense. I liked this point:
Private-equity firms have taken the process of turning around failing businesses and made it into an industrial process. The hostile reaction to this industrialization of corporate cost-cutting evokes the revolt of the Luddites, the 19th-century textile artisans who sabotaged the mechanical looms that threatened their familiar way of life.
(via The Browser)
I really like Derek Guy’s beginner’s guide to the important factors to consider when buying clothes. Put This On is a great fashion blog for anyone who doesn’t much care about clothes, but this post is exceptional.
There may be be some who argue about the seriousness of the problem, but I think after reading this piece no one would be able to contest with a clear conscience that there is one. I can’t shake the feeling that the basic premise of this provocative essay is sound:
America’s prison system is a moral catastrophe. The eerie sense of security that prevails on the streets of lower Manhattan obscures, and depends upon, a system of state-sponsored suffering as vicious and widespread as any in human history. Dismantling the system of American gulags, and holding accountable those responsible for their operation, presents the most urgent humanitarian imperative of our time.
That isn’t the truly provocative part of Cristopher Glazek’s thesis, but it’s the part that you need to hear. The other half’s more in the “mind-blowing and interesting to consider” category.
(via The Browser)
By all accounts I’ve seen Charles Murray’s new book is important. David Brooks offers a pretty succinct summary of why:
His story starts in 1963. There was a gap between rich and poor then, but it wasn’t that big. A house in an upper-crust suburb cost only twice as much as the average new American home. The tippy-top luxury car, the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, cost about $47,000 in 2010 dollars. That’s pricey, but nowhere near the price of the top luxury cars today.
L. Alan Sroufe’s argument against medicating children is good. But it also contains the most succinct takedown of the entire psycho-pharmechological complex I can imagine:
Thus, only one question is asked: are there aspects of brain functioning associated with childhood attention problems? The answer is always yes. Overlooked is the very real possibility that both the brain anomalies and the A.D.D. result from experience.
(via The Browser)
Alternate title: Why Humans Would Lose the Robot Wars
Seriously, these things are impressive. Like, scary impressive. The presentation style is dry, but the last few demonstrations are awesome. (And again, a little disturbing.)