Archive for February 18th, 2009

Framing the Energy Issue

| February 18, 2009 | 5 Replies
Framing the Energy Issue

Do you remember Dubya’s “Clear Skies Initiative”? It was an plan to relax air pollution standards. His “Healthy Forests Initiative” was a timber industry clear-cutting plan.

I recently saw an ad for EnergyTomorrow.org. As near as I can tell, it follows Sarah Palin’s policy of “Drill, drill, drill!”. Apparently, long term energy security depends on using up our petroleum reserves as quickly as possible. And moreover to direct its use as fuel, rather than conserving it for producing plastics and fertilizer.

I suppose that they mean “tomorrow” in the sense of as soon as possible. But the ad and the site is framed to look “green”. As if.

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North Dakota House says any human fertilized egg is a person

| February 18, 2009 | 5 Replies
North Dakota House says any human fertilized egg is a person

North Dakota’s House of Representatives has passed a bill declaring that every fertilized egg has all the same rights of a baby. If passed, this bill would mean that any abortion is the equivalent of murder. Here’s the wording of the bill, from Yahoo News:

The bill declares that “any organism with the genome of homo sapiens” is a person protected by rights granted by the North Dakota Constitution and state laws.

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The Happiness Project says: live better by deceiving your kids.

| February 18, 2009 | 6 Replies
The Happiness Project says: live better by deceiving your kids.

I usually like the online magazine Slate. I listen to many of Slate’s podcasts, read several of the site’s posts a week, and peruse their author-run blogs on occasion, too. The site isn’t perfect, but I usually carry some respect for the site’s authors and its generally thoughtful, funny content. Exceptions being boneheaded pursuits like their recent attempt to track down the evolutionary origins of Facebook’s 25 Things meme (Hint to Slate: that trend dates back to the years before Facebook, the golden days of Livejournal).

But for all of Slate’s occasionally out-of-touch, misguided posts, nothing beats The Happiness Project. Authored by ex-lawyer and non-Slate author Gretchen Rubin, it’s a recent addition to Slate’s blog roll, and not truly a “part” of Slate itself. I still hold Slate somewhat responsible for sharing the drivel that the blog spews. I’ll give you a pretty representative taste: Five Ways to Outsmart Your 3-Year Old.

Let’s take Way #1. Gretchen writes:

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Another well-deserved attack on rationality

| February 18, 2009 | Reply
Another well-deserved attack on rationality

Why do we do the things we do? Why did you propose that woman, for instance? Or why did you accept a job offer from that man? The January 29, 2009 edition of Nature (available online only to subscribers) takes a look at this question in an article by Mark Buchanan titled “Secret Signals: Are People’s Interactions Driven by a Primitive, Not Linguistic Type of Communication?”

Scientists have determined that there is a second channel of human communication that (often) acts in parallel with our rational thinking and verbal communication. It’s difficult to pin down power and scope of this non-linguistic ability, however. Recently, computer scientist Alex Pentland has started using wearable electronic devices in order to study our ability to communicate using non-linguistic behavior. It is Pentland’s aim to try to assist organizations to make better use of their personnel based upon this ubiquitous and powerful hidden communication.

Many people resist the idea that many of our choices are not determined by “conscious intentions and deliberate choices.” It’s time to stop resisting, however. For example, our behavior is highly determined by our social context rather than our innate “character.” On this topic I’ve often recommended an excellent book titled The Person and the Situation, by Lee Ross and Richard Nisbett. See also, this earlier DI post titled “Laughing at not funny things, and the limits of introspection.”

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