Recent Articles

Eric Barker tethers happiness and better use of attention

| March 22, 2015 | Reply

How do happy people stay happy? Eric Barker reports on an important technique: By deploying attention in more effective ways.

Your happiness is determined by how you allocate your attention. What you attend to drives your behavior and it determines your happiness. Attention is the glue that holds your life together… The scarcity of attentional resources means that you must consider how you can make and facilitate better decisions about what to pay attention to and in what ways. If you are not as happy as you could be, then you must be misallocating your attention… So changing behavior and enhancing happiness is as much about withdrawing attention from the negative as it is about attending to the positive.

Read More

Lee Camp comments on the way the U.S. fails to support college education

| March 22, 2015 | 1 Reply

Lee Camp comments on the way the U.S. fails to support college education. Spot on. Then he skewer Obama by reference to 1994 Cheney. Excellent.

Read More

On coming out as an atheist

| March 20, 2015 | Reply

Wendy Thomas Russell came out as an atheist flu years ago and has found it to be a positive experience. “I can candidly say that, for me personally, being “out” has been one of the most surprisingly gratifying choices I’ve ever made.” Here are her four main reasons:

1. It turns out I really enjoy shattering people’s assumptions.
2. I like religious people more now.
3. I’m setting a great example for my child.
4. I’m opening the door for others.

Read More

War on Drugs: An economic analysis

| March 19, 2015 | Reply

The War on Drugs is terrible for taxpayers and users, because it treats a medical problem as though it were a criminal problem, filling our expensive prisons with millions of non-violent persons, and making violent persons out of non-violent persons. Yet we carry on with this “war.” This article by Benjamin Powell focuses on an economic analysis of the “War,” discussing the many other counterproductive aspects of the war. Here is an excerpt:

Prohibition also creates more problems for non-users. Because it increases the cost for addicts to support their habit, many resort to stealing in order to get their needed high. In a study of the U.S. drug war on Latin America, economist David R. Henderson estimated that if the same mark-ups applied to cocaine as to coffee, which would be roughly accurate with cocaine legalization, then cocaine’s price in the United States would fall by about 97%.[12] If cocaine and other narcotics lost the price premium caused by the drug war, few, if any, addicts would need to resort to crime to afford their habit.

On the supply side of the market, the drug business is violent precisely because it is illegal. Illegal businesses can’t settle disputes in court, so they do so through violence. If drugs were legalized, drug suppliers could settle disputes by turning to courts and arbitrators. One reason that large dealer networks and organized crime outcompete smaller dealers is that they can partially provide their own internal dispute resolution.

When alcohol was prohibited in the early twentieth century, violent criminal gangs catered to the nation’s thirst for alcohol. When Prohibition ended, normal businesses returned to the market and violence subsided.

Economist Jeffery Miron found that both alcohol prohibition and drug prohibition enforcement efforts have increased the homicide rate in the United States. He estimates that the homicide rate is 25-75 percent higher due to prohibition.[13] In short, the violence associated with drugs, both by users to support their habit and by gangs supplying the drugs, is a product of prohibition rather than a rationale for prohibition.

These costs, taken together with the above supply and demand analysis, indicate that the very concerns that animate drug prohibitionists—the harm to users and the violence in society—should cause them to oppose drug prohibition.

Read More

The power of hugs.

| March 18, 2015 | Reply

As reported in Scientific American:

“New research out of Carnegie Mellon indicates that feeling connected to others, especially through physical touch, protects us from stress-induced sickness. This research adds to a large amount of evidence for the positive influence of social support on health.”

Read More

Don’t attempt to become more beautiful.

| March 18, 2015 | Reply

Don’t attempt to become more beautiful, because it will backfire and make you anxious. This especially happens to women according to a new study. This is contrary to what happens when you aspire to become more intelligence.

Researchers at Oklahoma State University found that women with malleable beliefs about beauty—for instance, believing they could become more beautiful with effort—had a higher risk for appearance-related anxiety and were more likely to base their self-worth on their looks, as compared with those who have fixed beauty beliefs. They were also more likely to express interest in cosmetic surgery. The effects were not found among men.

Whether a malleable belief is beneficial or not may depend on how realistic the pursuit is. Beauty ideals typically presented in media images—young, thin and photoshopped to be flawless—are unattainable for most women.

Read More

Why copyright laws don’t actually protect many content owners

| March 18, 2015 | Reply

Sad story here by Alex Wild, nature photographer, who has been a constant victim of infringement despite the existence of copyright laws. How overwhelming is his battle?

For a concise idea of what could go wrong, let me indulge in a list of recent venues where commercial interests have used my work without permission, payment, or even a simple credit:

Billboards, YouTube commercials, pesticide spray labels, website banners, exterminator trucks, t-shirts, iPhone cases, stickers, company logos, eBook covers, trading cards, board games, video game graphics, children’s books, novel covers, app graphics, alt-med dietary supplement labels, press releases, pest control advertisements, crowdfunding promo videos, coupons, fliers, newspaper articles, postage stamps, advertisements for pet ants (yes, that’s a thing), canned food packaging, ant bait product labels, stock photography libraries, and greeting cards.

Yesterday evening, while Googling insect references in popular culture, I discovered that a small Caribbean island helped itself to a photograph I took in 2008. My photo shows a slave-raiding ant, a fascinating species that survives as a parasite on the labor of other ants. But the image had been imprinted on the back of a commemorative one-cent piece. Perhaps symbolically, this is one cent more than I received for my part in bringing the coin to the public.

Read More

Unsurprising new study: homeopathy does not work

| March 14, 2015 | Reply

Here is yet more proof that homeopathy does not work.

Read More

Is NASA’s launch site at risk to go underwater? Science Denying Senator Ted Cruz doesn’t want to know.

| March 13, 2015 | Reply

This is what you get when you empower climate change deniers. Ted Cruz wants NASA to quit gathering data regarding threats to the Earth’s climate. Here’s how NASA Administrator Bolden responded to Cruz:

We can’t go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don’t know it – and that’s understanding our environment. As Senator Nelson said, it is absolutely critical that we understand Earth’s environment because this is the only place that we have to live.

Read More