‘We all have darkness and light within us, and we are in control of neither.’ —Fiona Neill

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A mezuzah is a small case affixed to the doorframe of each room in Jewish homes and workplaces which contains a tiny scroll of parchment inscribed with a prayer. It is customary for religious Jews to touch the mezuzah every time they pass through a door and kiss the fingers that touched it. However, kissing the mezuzah has also become customary for many secular Jews who think of the mezuzah as a good luck charm.

In view of a recent revelation that kissing the mezuzah entails a health hazard, the present paper inquires whether it also has some observable benefit. In an experiment conducted among non-religious mezuzah-kissing economics and business students confronted with a logic-problem exam, some were allowed to kiss the mezuzah before taking the exam, whereas the others were asked not to do so or could not do so because it had been removed from the room doorframe. The experiment revealed that participants who did not kiss the mezuzah performed worse than those who kissed it, and that the stronger is one’s belief in the mezuzah’s luck-enhancing properties, the better he performs when he kisses it but the worse he performs when he does not.

{ Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization | Continue reading }

[Taylor is pretending the coffee he and Bill are drinking is champagne] I propose a toast

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There’s been a ton of news recently about how awesome coffee can be for many aspects of your health – heart disease, longevity, depression, Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s.  The scientific data has been so strong that the nation’s top nutrition panel recommended earlier this year that people might even want to consider drinking a bit more.

Now comes a sobering report.

In a study evaluating 1,445 people, scientists found that consistently drinking one to two cups of coffee each day is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) — a precursor to dementia and Alzheimer’s — compared to those who never or rarely consumed coffee. That supports previous work, published in 2010, that showed that caffeine may have a neuroprotective effect.

The surprise was that participants who increased their consumption over time saw their risk of mild cognitive impairment shoot up significantly. Those who went from one cup to more than one cup had twice the rate of MCI as those who reduced their drinking to less than one cup and 1.5 times the rate of MCI as those who continued to drink one cup a day.

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

watercolor and gouache on paper { Sam Francis, Black and So On, 1958 }

‘Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’ —T.S. Eliot

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We meta-analyzed the effects of sexual media, violent media, sexual ads, and violent ads on the advertising outcomes of brand memory, brand attitudes, and buying intentions. The meta-analysis included 53 experiments involving 8,489 participants.

Analyses found that brands advertised in violent media content were remembered less often, evaluated less favorably, and less likely to be purchased than brands advertised in nonviolent, nonsexual media. Brands advertised using sexual ads were evaluated less favorably than brands advertised using nonviolent, nonsexual ads. There were no significant effects of sexual media on memory or buying intentions. There were no significant effects of sexual or violent ads on memory or buying intentions.

As intensity of sexual ad content increased, memory, attitudes, and buying intentions decreased.

When media content and ad content were congruent (e.g., violent ad in a violent program), memory improved and buying intentions increased.

Violence and sex never helped and often hurt ad effectiveness.

{ Psychological Bulletin/American Psychological Association | PDF }

related { Allegation that ad-serving companies deliberately slow down web pages to maximise profit }

Adding up is the essence of democracy

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We present participants with coherent and incoherent narratives

When presented to coherent narratives participants remember plots

When presented to incoherent narratives participants remember facts

Plot formation modulate activity in the Default Mode Network of the brain

{ NeuroImage | Continue reading }

‘Saints live in flames; wise men, next to them.’ –Cioran

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New research finds that sarcasm is far more nuanced, and actually offers some important, overlooked psychological and organizational benefits.

“To create or decode sarcasm, both the expressers and recipients of sarcasm need to overcome the contradiction (i.e., psychological distance) between the literal and actual meanings of the sarcastic expressions. This is a process that activates and is facilitated by abstraction, which in turn promotes creative thinking” […]

“Those in the sarcasm conditions subsequently performed better on creativity tasks than those in the sincere conditions or the control condition. This suggests that sarcasm has the potential to catalyze creativity in everyone. That being said, although not the focus of our research, it is possible that naturally creative people are also more likely to use sarcasm, making it an outcome instead of [a] cause in this relationship.” […]

“While most previous research seems to suggest that sarcasm is detrimental to effective communication because it is perceived to be more contemptuous than sincerity, we found that, unlike sarcasm between parties who distrust each other, sarcasm between individuals who share a trusting relationship does not generate more contempt than sincerity”

{ Harvard Gazette | Continue reading }

art { Broomberg & Chanarin }

How do we know for sure than dinosaurs weren’t always skeletons?

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Two options for dealing with climate change — reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a global agreement, and geoengineering proposals such as injecting sulfur into the stratosphere — tend to dominate current thinking. But there is a “third way” that is almost entirely neglected in political negotiations and public debate. It involves capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it or using it to create things we need.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

Every day, the same, again

6.jpgWhy Britain has secret “ghost trains”?

We don’t look like we think we look, study

How rudeness spreads like a contagion

Why does “schizophrenia” persist?

Semen has controlling power over female genes and behaviour

Fat should be considered the sixth taste, study

Sleep not just protects memories against forgetting, it also makes them more accessible

Thousands of Apps Secretly Run Ads That Users Can’t See Advertisers lose $895 million per year to invisible fraud within mobile apps

Gmail messages can now self-destruct

More data has been created and stored since the turn of the millennium than in the entire history of humanity

Russia’s lost punks [via Nils Runeberg]

Each house owns at least one black Indian cobra. None of the serpents are defanged but children play with them as if they were toys.

A night in Japan’s robot hotel

Meet a man who has been dating a crowdsourced Internet girlfriend for the last three months

You live and you learn

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The “hygiene hypothesis” […] suggests that people in developed countries are growing up way too clean because of a variety of trends, including the use of hand sanitizers and detergents, and spending too little time around animals.

As a result, children don’t tend to be exposed to as many bacteria and other microorganisms, and maybe that deprives their immune system of the chance to be trained to recognize microbial friend from foe.

That may make the immune system more likely to misfire and overreact in a way that leads to allergies, eczema and asthma, Hesselmar says. […]

In their latest research, the researchers took a look at how people wash their dishes. […] In families who said they mostly wash dishes by hand, significantly fewer children had eczema, and somewhat fewer had either asthma or hay fever, compared to kids from families who let machines wash their dishes.

{ NPR | Continue reading }

photo { Daria Zhemkova photographed by Mario Kroes }

Every day, the same, again

25.jpgRestaurant food not much healthier than fast food

The Four Types of Drunks, According to Science.

Effect of climate and seasonality on depressed mood among twitter users

Eyelashes divert airflow to protect the eye and the ideal eyelash length is about one third the width of an eye. And that goes for 22 different animals, not just humans

Passionate kissing is not a human universal

Getting to know her before asking her out could make you seem more attractive, suggests research

The sex life of the American teenager is apparently far less busy than it was in generations past

The case of man left with 90 minute memory and feeling that it is the same day every day

A password cracker that steals bitcoins from your brain

CrossFit mascot is a homicidal-looking shirtless monstrosity called Pukie the Clown. Thirty days in a gay CrossFit cult

Meet the Man Who Flies Around the World for Free

Rotterdam could be first to pave its streets with recycled plastic bottles, a surface claimed to be greener, quicker to lay and more reliable than asphalt

3D Printed Guided Missiles are Now a Reality

Neighborhood Nuisance Sound Effects

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack

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By definition, exponential growth means the thing that comes next will be equal in importance to everything that came before. […]

this exponential growth has given us terrible habits. One of them is to discount the present.

{ Idle Worlds | Continue reading }

At what point does CPR become necrophilia?

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Dr. Jack Berdy has just introduced “Pokertox,” a program of Botox and facial fillers designed to enhance a player’s “poker face,” their ability to hide any sign of facial emotion that might tip off other card players on whether they have a good or bad hand.

{ Huffington Post | Continue reading | Thanks Tim }

photo { Broomberg & Chanarin }

Prettimaid tints may try their taunts

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{ Women Who Dye Their (Armpit) Hair | NY Times | Photo by Ruth Fremson }