Archive for the ‘Worth Knowing’ category
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)
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.
The FIFA World Cup’s going on now, and I learned something I didn’t know as a result:
“From this point onwards the two versions of football were distinguished by reference to their longer titles, Rugby Football and Association Football (named after the Football Association),” Szymanski writes. “The rugby football game was shortened to ‘rugger,’” while “the association football game was, plausibly, shortened to ‘soccer.’”
Both sports fragmented yet again as they spread around the world. The colloquialism “soccer” caught on in the United States in the first decade of the twentieth century, in part to distinguish the game from American football, a hybrid of Association Football and Rugby Football. (Countries that tend to use the word “soccer” nowadays—Australia, for example—usually have another sport called “football.”)
There are reasons people are suspicious of the stock market, and a new study seems to be a good reason to be hesitant. Insider trading, which is illegal in the US, is actually common:
A quarter of all public company deals may involve some kind of insider trading, according to the study by two professors at the Stern School of Business at New York University and one professor from McGill University. The study, perhaps the most detailed and exhaustive of its kind, examined hundreds of transactions from 1996 through the end of 2012.
I’d been vaguely familiar with this history, but the extant of the phenomenon and the details of this article presents were new to me.
Eager to identify talented individuals to train as computer programmers, employers relied on aptitude tests to make hiring decisions. With their focus on mathematical puzzle-solving, the tests may have favored men, who were more likely to take math classes in school. More critically, the tests were widely compromised and their answers were available for study through all-male networks such as college fraternities and Elks lodges.
According to Ensmenger, a second type of test, the personality profile, was even more slanted to male applicants. Based on a series of preference questions, these tests sought to indentify job applicants who were the ideal programming “type.” According to test developers, successful programmers had most of the same personality traits as other white-collar professionals. The important distinction, however, was that programmers displayed “disinterest in people” and that they disliked “activities involving close personal interaction.”
I’d not been super aware of the controversy around quite possibly my favorite prayer of all time — here’s my essay from 2007 about it — but I was vaguely aware there was one. So when I stumbled across this little piece, where the originator of the controversy makes pretty explicit that he’s taken back his position, I was interested. I’ll save you the (interesting but not revelatory) detail, here’s his conclusion:
During the past five years, I have continued to research the genesis of the Serenity Prayer using the same kind of powerful databases of historical newspapers and books that I used to collect my initial eight pre-1943 occurrences. The list of eight has grown to several times that number. I have recently found five versions of the prayer from 1932 and 1933, the earliest of which I believe establishes to a high degree of confidence that Reinhold Niebuhr did originate the Serenity Prayer.
(Because professing love for a prayer might make one wonder, I was raised Catholic but would probably say today that I’m an atheist with strong Buddhist leanings. Not that Buddhism, as I see it, means anything about one’s belief in God.)
I’m not generally a fan of text interviews — you lose all brevity of well-composed prose and gain only portability of text — but I love this topic and found the conversational tone effective. Joshua Rathman interviews the woman who coined the term “privilege,” Peggy McIntosh, in the sociological context:
I came to this dawning realization: niceness has nothing to do with it. These are nice men. But they’re very good students of what they’ve been taught, which is that men make knowledge. And I realized this is why we were oppressive to work with—because, in parallel fashion, Ihad been taught that whites make knowledge.
This is when you came up with the forty-six examples of white privilege?
I asked myself, On a daily basis, what do I have that I didn’t earn? It was like a prayer. The first one I thought of was: I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
There are pretty charts, and a nice post, but really this piece from Vox is about one thing you may have already suspect:
Two big reasons — prosecution has become more efficient, and prison sentences have lengthened