March 31 Link Roundup

The double standard that saved Obamacare – apparently people only pay attention when straight cis white men are affected, with historical examples.

Magazines like Cosmopolitan and Ladies Home Journal ran articles by men telling women to pop pills to make their depression evaporate. Women hosted dinner parties where they plopped Miltown in their martinis, and Cartier jewelers sold a bracelet that doubled as a holder for a Miltown pill.

Another essay on what happens to the last member of a species, with pondering on the nature of being. Read it in concert with Elizabeth Kolbert’s Recall of the Wild.

Having your children sleep alone is strongly associated with capitalism, suburbia, and excessive space. I’ve often advocated sleeping separately to friends who find themselves in couples with incompatible sleep habits, but this is only because we spend 30-odd years learning how we best sleep individually. Perhaps if we grew up sleeping communally we wouldn’t have so many problems – I wonder how strongly our idea of individual circadian rhythms is influenced by this.

A fascinating story of a hand transplant. (CN: lots of privilege.) I recently attended a lecture by Ross Reynolds, a researcher exploring the aesthetics of prosthetics; I wonder why Koch and his doctor, Kobi Azari, decided to go down the transplant route instead of prosthetics as he did for his leg.

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March 24 Link Roundup

Are chins what make us human? I’m a fan of spandrels; I like to remind people that evolution isn’t perfect, it’s “meh, guess this works long enough to keep you breeding.” Or, as my colleague Ella Al-Shamahi remarks in her comedy, “the chin is the penis of the face.”

Maybe it’s about sex, then? Men typically have bigger chins than women, and stronger chins are often equated with attractiveness. Perhaps the chin is a sexual ornament, the human equivalent of a stag’s antlers or a peacock’s tail.

Here are some ancient Chinese sex toys. Thanks, internet! (The link is SFW depending on where you work.)

Another article on underground psychedelic therapy in the US, mostly focusing on MDMA. I attended a lecture recently on “The LSD Psychotherapists”, presenting first-person perspectives from therapists working legally within the EU, showing promising responses for a variety of conditions.

“Sometimes the medicine can stabilize someone in a difficult situation. Sometimes it stirs up madness, so they can process that. Some people feel rejuvenated and ready to go back into their lives, but other people feel frazzled, spent, fragmented. I’ve had a few people say, ‘That shattered who I thought I was.’ ”

John Hawks has some criticism about the Neanderthal oral microbiome study, including potential contamination, “sloppy genome assembly”, and unmapped genomes of possible food species.

Pregnant asylum seekers in the UK are often sent letters demanding payment, making them too afraid of deportation to seek prenatal care. This is illegal. If you know/work with anyone seeking asylum, refer them to this document.

March 17 Link Roundup

Neanderthals and humans may have been making out! OK, maybe not, but they share bacteria from the oral microbiome that can be transferred through food sharing, parental care, and kissing. This could be more evidence that Neanderthals and humans could have fallen in love, but considering that not very many cultures kiss romantically, possibly not!

Your computer’s not safe. Your smartphone’s not safe. Your TV’s not safe. Protect your devices from hacking and snooping!

The documents published by WikiLeaks disclosed that a tool called Weeping Angel puts the target TV in a “fake off” mode. Then, with the owner believing the TV is turned off, the set secretly records conversations in the room and sends them over the internet to a C.I.A. server computer.

Here’s a good retrospective on Jose Mujica, Uruguay’s dream president who didn’t accomplish what his voters wanted. It really muses on how stuff doesn’t get done in politics, and the dangers of hope.

One of my teaching colleagues is an expert in trash in modern fiction. Read the interview about her recent book here. Oh, the chats we’ve had about garbology!

So these avant-gardists and descendants of the avant-garde deploy waste in a sustained attack on consumerism, the stultifying nature of the nine-to-five day, social inequality, and ecological devastation… Often, it’s framed in a reproachful way, as exemplified by the famous scene in Don DeLillo’s White Noise (1986), when Jack Gladney gazes upon a used tampon stuffed in a banana peel and asks: ‘[Is] this the dark underside of consumer consciousness?’

I’d love to read this book about cephalopod intelligence. There was a great study a few years ago testing octopus puzzle-solving abilities. The octopodes were given a set of nested Perspex puzzle boxes with a prey animal in the center. Two octopodes opened all three puzzle boxes to get to the prey; the third opened the outer two boxes but couldn’t solve the innermost box, so crushed it until it snapped.

octo

An octopus near Madagascar. Photograph: Gabriel Barathieu; image courtesy The Guardian.

The Whanganui River in New Zealand has been granted the same rights as a human, since the the Maori view it as an ancestor. This means that anyone mistreating the river can be prosecuted as if they had harmed a person.

 

March 3 Link Roundup

There is no evidence that stents work, yet doctors keep installing them. The article brings up one of my favorite studies, which compares outcomes of real knee surgery to sham knee surgery. Surprise! The outcomes are the same – the idea that the knee has been repaired works just as well as actually scraping at the cartilage, showing wither the power of the mind or the ineffectiveness of the surgical technique.

Are you worried about internet privacy, but don’t know how to set up a secure email? This article explains it all. Perhaps you’ll sit back in your chair, reeling with the sudden realization that any number of individuals can know where you live and work and who you talk to. Have fun! Encrypt your life now!

Research into rescuers in genocide situations shows interesting psychological traits.

“We looked and we only saw brothers here. You could not think about killing this person, because he was a brother, someone who would have rescued you too, if you needed help.”

On a lighter note, here’s an excerpt from a biography of David Bowie on how he came out.

Finally, check out these 18 turkeys circling round a dead cat in what appears to be (but isn’t, because anthropomorphizing) a bizarre ritual.