Archive for June 2014
Having studied them pretty casually over the last few years — did you know squirrels bark? — I wasn’t really shocked that a scientist has found that squirrels definitely are able to differentiate among human behaviors:
Squirrels “can tell if a human is looking at them,” or if a person behaves in an unusual way, Bateman found. Squirrels were 40 percent more likely to scoot if Bateman focused his attention on them. And 90 percent of the squirrels leapt away if the scientist left the sidewalk to stalk them across the grass. “They don’t get scared by humans all the time,” he explains. But they always seem to pay close attention to what people do. Bateman published his results June 12 in the Journal of Zoology.
(via Virginia Hughes’s Gray Matters Newsletter)
I dare you to watch this entire video. It’s neat, I promise:
Really interesting little chart from the US Census Bureau: the mean center of population as calculated on every decennial census. As I stepped through, I kept wait for it to drift back to the east a bit. Maybe in a few more hundred years…
Wait But Why explores with an admirable depth the answers that have so far been posited for the Fermi Paradox, which they summarize as:
Some people stick with the traditional, feeling struck by the epic beauty or blown away by the insane scale of the universe. Personally, I go for the old “existential meltdown followed by acting weird for the next half hour.” But everyone feels something.
Physicist Enrico Fermi felt something too—”Where is everybody?”
If you’ve worked in shipping or (retail) logistics, you’ve probably have seen a blue pallet. They’re so much luxuriously better than a traditional ones whose quality is all over the map. I’d always wondered their story, this explains all the drama that surrounds these CHEP pallets quite well:
CHEP doesn’t sell pallets; it rents them. This means that, in contrast to the world of whitewood, where a pallet may change ownership many times, CHEP maintains control of its pallets throughout their lives. But the company’s experience operating what is known in the industry as a “closed pool” didn’t translate easily into the American context, where supply chains were longer, more complex, and geographically dispersed.
As the story goes onto detail, much chaos has ensued because of this reality of American shipping.
David Mendoza put together a pretty awesome series of charts of how effective the introduction of the measles vaccine was in stopping new cases across the United States. This one really requires no introduction:
A really interesting and worthy book review of the awkward tension that exists — and is highlighted in William Easterly’s new book — about how the huge western economic development industry seems to have a big soft spot for freedom-hating autocrats.
In 2013, Melinda Gates, on the eve of a trip to Ethiopia, described it as one of her favorite countries. “I always enjoy visiting Ethiopia,” she declared, “because I see inspirational stories and concrete leadership from the government and community health workers reaching the hardest to reach and making change.” Easterly quotes a 2013 report by Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative praising the Ethiopian government’s “strong, accountable leadership in implementing the plan.”
Strong, certainly; accountable, certainly not. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2014 country report, “Ethiopia’s ambitious development schemes, funded from domestic revenue sources and foreign assistance, sometimes displace indigenous communities without appropriate consultation or any compensation.” And after describing in detail the government’s imprisonment of nonviolent opposition leaders and journalists, and denial of the right to assembly, among many other violations of human rights, the report notes that while Ethiopia receives donor assistance of almost $4 billion a year.
If you follow my sensible science skepticism tag, you’ll understand why on this I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise:
This raised a question: If all the latest cutting-edge scientific research says that outdated barbell movements have to be updated with core stability tricks and then integrated into super-short high-intensity muscle-confusion routines, how come none of that did much for me, while the same five lifts repeated for a year caused profound structural changes to my body?
The answer, it turns out, is that there are no cutting-edge scientific studies.
Also of note on this topic: I recently posted a little essay I consider quite relevant to this piece. It’s called “Simple But Not Easy”, give it a look.
A piece I didn’t quite love by recognized myself in more than I’d like. This quote, especially, rang true (emphasis mine):
We have outsourced our opinions to this loop of data that will allow us to hold steady at a dinner party, though while you and I are ostensibly talking about “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” what we are actually doing, since neither of us has seen it, is comparing social media feeds. Does anyone anywhere ever admit that he or she is completely lost in the conversation? No. We nod and say, “I’ve heard the name,” or “It sounds very familiar,” which usually means we are totally unfamiliar with the subject at hand.
Brian Krebs offers a neat, detailed, and kind of horrific, peek into the world of stolen credit card data. The vocabulary list is a great run-down of what things matter inside:
BINs: Short for “Bank Identification Number,” this is the first six digits of any debit or credit credit cards, and it uniquely identifies the financial institution that issued the card. BINs are the primary method that card shops use to index wares for sale, and all buyers have their favorite BINs with which they’ve found success in the past. There are tens of thousands of BINs in use today, and few people legitimately employed in the banking industry have comprehensive BIN lists (which most banks consider proprietary). For that, you typically need to turn to the professional card shops, which track BIN usage quite closely.
I had no idea.