Archive for the ‘The Browser’ tag

#  Tips for Healthy Science Skepticism →

November 27th, 2013 at 10:25 // In Worth Reading 

It’s a bit of an old saw here by now, but I think there’s a lot of “science”, especially as reported to popular culture that’s utterly bogus. In the guise of helping politicians, the Nature blog has a good piece about how to be intelligently skeptical of scientific claims. This is “publication bias” looms large in my mind:

Because studies that report ‘statistically significant’ results are more likely to be written up and published, the scientific literature tends to give an exaggerated picture of the magnitude of problems or the effectiveness of solutions.

The list does go much deeper, too. Here’s a harder issue I’d nearly forgotten about (my last experience with sample size significance is nearing a decade ago):

Effect size matters. Small responses are less likely to be detected. A study with many replicates might result in a statistically significant result but have a small effect size (and so, perhaps, be unimportant). The importance of an effect size is a biological, physical or social question, and not a statistical one. In the 1990s, the editor of the US journal Epidemiology asked authors to stop using statistical significance in submitted manuscripts because authors were routinely misinterpreting the meaning of significance tests, resulting in ineffective or misguided recommendations for public-health policy.

(via The Browser)

#  Gladwell’s Fairy Tales →

November 23rd, 2013 at 17:20 // In Worth Reading 

Malcolm Gladwell seems to have ever more detractors, but his success and appeal is undeniable. I appreciated John Gray’s explanation of that appeal, most strongly manifest in his latest book:

Pretending to present daringly counterintuitive views to his readers, he actually strengthens the hold on them of a view of things that they have long taken for granted. This is, perhaps, the essence of the genre that Gladwell has pioneered: while reinforcing beliefs that everyone avows, he evokes in the reader a satisfying sensation of intellectual non-conformity.

(via The Browser)

#  Object Lessons →

September 14th, 2013 at 16:25 // In Worth Knowing 

I was rather charmed with this piece about jet bridges, a small piece of everyday technology I’d never given a second thought. (Found it via The Browser, which you shouldn’t ignore.) But I was even more charmed to realize that it was part of a project from that The Atlantic, a book publisher, and a few educational institutions.

#  How to Change Cultures →

July 24th, 2013 at 15:46 // In Worth Reading 

The always-worth-reading Atul Gawande has a new piece in the New Yorker about his role in working to improve practices around childbirth world wide and what it (and some more historical anecdotes) have to tell us about how you really change the world. The whole piece is good, but this part felt most notable to me:

Besides, neither penalties nor incentives achieve what we’re really after: a system and a culture where X is what people do, day in and day out, even when no one is watching. “You must” rewards mere compliance. Getting to “X is what we do” means establishing X as the norm. And that’s what we want: for skin-to-skin warming, hand washing, and all the other lifesaving practices of childbirth to be, quite simply, the norm.

(via The Browser)

#  Principles for Responsible Media Moguls →

July 21st, 2013 at 18:29 // In Worth Considering 

As I’ve been publishing more consistently, mostly on Frozen Toothpaste and the Press Up blog, I’ve been giving more thought to how and what I want to publish. So this very relevant collection of questions about these very choices from Seth Godin caught my attention. The one I like most:

Who, precisely, are you trying to please? They don’t offer a Pulitzer for most of what we do, so if not the judges, then who?

(via The Browser, who in March broke my hard-won ability to link to their posting of any piece of media)

#  Shackleton’s Medical Kit →

October 23rd, 2012 at 11:44 // In Worth Reading 

Gavin Francis’s piece on his experience being the only doctor in all of Antartica touches elegantly on the increasingly specialization and safety that have become so crucial and prominent to progress in the last hundred years that frequently forget about them.

I asked around Halley, trying to understand how scientists there were unravelling the mysteries of Antarctica. I wanted to find a way to contribute the way my predecessors did. Halley concentrates on atmospheric science, with big-budget projects examining the solar wind, clean air chemistry, the ozone hole, the earth’s magnetic field. But my medical training towards the end of the twentieth century had been so narrow there was little that I could add. It is not only medicine that has become super-specialised over the last hundred years; the sciences have done the same.

(via The Browser)

#  Happiness is a Glass Half Empty →

June 21st, 2012 at 16:58 // In Worth Reading 

Have I told you how much I love Oliver Burkeman? Because it’s a lot. In this excerpt from his latest book, he says so many sensible things that people rarely do about life, failure, contentment, and consumer goods innovations.

The water-visualisers experienced a significant reduction in their energy levels, as measured by blood pressure. Far from becoming more motivated to hydrate themselves, people responded to positive visualisation by relaxing. They seemed, subconsciously, to have confused imagining success with having already achieved it.

(via The Browser, which I also love)

#  The Concentrated Hell of American Prisons →

February 5th, 2012 at 17:29 // In Worth Considering 

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)

#  Past Imperfect →

February 2nd, 2012 at 12:58 // In Worth Knowing 

The Smithsonian magazine’s Past Imperfect blog is just about perfect. Little bits of history well-told and well-documented. There’s a bit of an American and popular bent, but it doesn’t make it less awesome.

I found this because The Browser’s linked to multiple stories from it (which were all interesting, but didn’t exactly stand alone). Just today they linked to this one, which might have been able to stand alone, but then you might not have noticed how good its holder is.

#  Drones, Democracy, and War →

January 28th, 2012 at 7:18 // In Worth Considering 

Peter W. Singer, not the famous Australian utilitarian philosopher, considers some of the ramifications of the seemingly risk-free war the United States is carrying out in Pakistan.

And now we possess a technology that removes the last political barriers to war. The strongest appeal of unmanned systems is that we don’t have to send someone’s son or daughter into harm’s way. But when politicians can avoid the political consequences of the condolence letter — and the impact that military casualties have on voters and on the news media — they no longer treat the previously weighty matters of war and peace the same way.

(via The Browser)

#  Let the Robot Drive →

January 27th, 2012 at 7:18 // In Worth Knowing 

Tom Vanderbilt has an enjoyable piece in Wired about the convergence between Google’s famous driverless car, and the progress toward a similar goal being made by traditional automakers. He spends some time, as well, considering the legal wasteland that exists around these technologies. The crucial point though:

[As we ride, Google’s driver-less] Prius begins to seem like the Platonic ideal of a driver, against which all others fall short. It can think faster than any mortal driver. It can attend to more information, react more quickly to emergencies, and keep track of more complicated routes. It never panics. It never gets angry. It never even blinks. In short, it is better than human in just about every way.

(via The Browser)

#  The Salaried Bourgeoisie →

January 15th, 2012 at 9:11 // In Worth Knowing 

I enjoy occasional dips into the field of Marxist cultural analysis, but I know it’s not for everyone. If you like it too, or are just interested to try some, this piece by Slavoj Žižek highlights many of the best things that those theories can contribute to out modern understanding of the world. A sample:

If the old capitalism ideally involved an entrepreneur who invested (his own or borrowed) money into production that he organised and ran and then reaped the profit, a new ideal type is emerging today: no longer the entrepreneur who owns his company, but the expert manager (or a managerial board presided over by a CEO) who runs a company owned by banks (also run by managers who don’t own the bank) or dispersed investors. In this new ideal type of capitalism, the old bourgeoisie, rendered non-functional, is refunctionalised as salaried management: the new bourgeoisie gets wages, and even if they own part of their company, they earn stocks as part of their remuneration for their work (‘bonuses’ for their ‘success’).

(via The Browser)

#  The Nature of Fantasy →

December 1st, 2011 at 10:54 // In Worth Reading 

There are many great parts of Adam Gopnik’s essay about Lord of the Rings, Eragon, and Twilight, but this is the one that struck me the most:

The tedious normalcy of the “Twilight” books is what gives them their shiver; this is not so much the life that a teen-age girl would wish to have but the one that she already has, rearranged with heightened symbols. Your life could be like this; seen properly, from inside, it is like this.

(via The Browser)

#  Why We Laugh →

November 26th, 2011 at 9:08 // In Worth Considering 

An interesting theory about the evolutionary value of humor:

The initial emotional response to any discovery of error in your understanding of the world has got to be “uh oh.” But in humor, the brain doesn’t just discover a false inference, it almost simultaneously recovers and corrects itself. It gets the joke. The pleasure of the punch line is enhanced by that split second of negativity just before the resolution.

I’m not sure I completely buy this theory, but I did think about it a lot while watching a two-and-half year old cousin laugh on Thanksgiving. Though in that context the theory that came to my mind is its value as a primitive form of communication and in-group bonding.

(via The Browser)

#  Shakespeare the Gangster →

November 15th, 2011 at 14:21 // In Worth Knowing 

An interesting piece that touches on both the systemic problems that plague Shakespeare scholarship, and one of the more reasonably and novel theories about Sharespeare: that he was deeply involved in the criminal world that almost certainly surrounded his theatre.

It also raises another potential argument for the “Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare” folks. Perhaps the man was a simple street tough who scared the plays’s true author off from claiming their work. Unlikely, but interesting to contemplate.

(via The Browser)

#  Cargill: A Primer →

November 3rd, 2011 at 14:48 // In Worth Knowing 

You may or may not know anything about Cargill, but chance are good that you regularly ingest something they touch. Famously the largest private company in the world, and rather secretive too, they’re a favorite of conspiracy theorists. This story skips most of the scare mongering, but is a very worthy introduction to the company for the uninitiated. The most interesting part of the story (to me), begins here:

“As far as how our corporate strategy works,” says Conway, “we don’t say, ‘We think the world’s going to look like this, let’s define our strategy for that world.’ We say, ‘We don’t know what the world’s going to look like. We need a strategy or a set of strategies that can be successful almost irrespective of what the world looks like.’” Which helps explain how Cargill got into the cocoa business in Vietnam.

(via The Browser)

#  How I Do Via Links

November 1st, 2011 at 16:22 // In Housekeeping 

After I spent nearly 20 minutes looking for where I’d gotten the story I linked yesterday, I got to thinking about the somewhat arbitrary need I feel to attribute my sources. I thought some readers might be interested in it, so this is a brief exegesis of that need and an explanation of how to facilitate it.

The primary reason I care is ego. I don’t want someone coming here, stealing all my links and acting as though my time spent in curation was valueless. And so similarly, I refuse to do this to others. Even when more than half my links seem to have come from one site (today it’s The Browser, there was a time it was kottke, a time it was brijit (what was that?), and time’s it’s been other stuff I don’t remember), I’d rather you know how awesome that site is in deciding what’s valuable on the internet than that you think I’m really hardworking and great at finding stuff. (While I might like for that to be true, it’s not.)

Secondarily, I want to facilitate your finding good things on the internet, not impede it. And the single best thing I can do to help you find cool things is to disclose where I find cool things. If you want more stuff like the stuff I post here, you could do a lot worse than following along a five of the sites I attribute links to.

Now, more important than why I do it is how to do it. For me, 99% of what I read comes from four streams, so if I forget where I got something — which is true about half the time — I look at those four places. Google Reader, Twitter, Hacker News, and reddit all have serviceable search functions, so anytime I forget I just need to do 10ish searches I should be able to attribute where I got something. (Google Reader searches for URLs rarely work, so one must account for the various ways an article may have been described. The reason yesterday took 20 minutes is that I was incorrectly confident about where it came from.)

Because it’s funny, and popped into my head while typing this, I’ll wrap up with part of an old tweet from the ur-link-blogger, Jason Kottke:

As Woodsy Owl would say: give a shit, via it.

PS: If you haven’t been to an single-entry page on this site in a while, they’ve got a better looking box of recommended actions for what to do beyond a single entry. More articles, a better looking tag list, and more accurate recommendations (though I’m still not fully satisfied with those). I made the box myself, it’s also on Frozen Toothpaste.

#  A Diplomatic Trip to Equatorial Guinea →

October 28th, 2011 at 19:22 // In Worth Knowing 

The two basic values of this piece are: (1) showing what an utterly appalling farce international relations can be, and (2) giving some view into a country you very likely know almost nothing about. It’s also an amusing and well-told story.

(via The Browser)