Fuck your white horse and a carriage


Advertising is ubiquitous in modern life. Yet might it be harmful to the happiness of nations? This paper blends longitudinal data on advertising with large-scale surveys on citizens’ well-being. The analysis uses information on approximately 1 million randomly sampled European citizens across 27 nations over 3 decades. We show that increases in national advertising expenditure are followed by significant declines in levels of life satisfaction.

{ University of Warwick | PDF }

photo { Joel Meyerowitz, New York City, 1968 }

you see the Benz on dubs


if we asked our listeners […] what do you think you do on your face when you express anger? Everybody can give you something and it will be pretty much accurate. And the reason is because all of us have seen it. […] if you ask a blind person, “Hey, show me what you look like when you’re angry or when you’re sad,” you’ll get something that’s close but you don’t get the exact facial muscle movements that occur when those emotions occur spontaneously. However, when it occurs spontaneously, the exact facial muscle movements are exactly the same. So blind individuals produce them spontaneously but don’t produce exactly the same thing when you ask them to pose whereas sighted people do. 

{ David Matsumoto/APA | Continue reading }

photo { Audrey Hepburn photographed by Richard Avedon on the set of Funny Face, 1956 | Richard Avedon was hired as visual consultant for Funny Face, directed by Stanley Donen. Shot partly in France, the film is loosely based on Avedon’s career as a fashion photographer in Paris. }

Killin’ anything that moves 1-2, 1-2, 1-2


The vast majority of life on Earth depends, either directly or indirectly, on photosynthesis for its energy. And photosynthesis depends on an enzyme called RuBisCO, which uses carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to build sugars. So, by extension, RuBisCO may be the most important catalyst on the planet.

Unfortunately, RuBisCO is, well, terrible at its job. It might not be obvious based on the plant growth around us, but the enzyme is not especially efficient at catalyzing the carbon dioxide reaction. And, worse still, it often uses oxygen instead. This produces a useless byproduct that, if allowed to build up, will eventually shut down photosynthesis entirely. It’s estimated that crops such as wheat and rice lose anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of their growth potential due to this byproduct.

While plants have evolved ways of dealing with this byproduct, they’re not especially efficient. So a group of researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana decided to step in and engineer a better way. The result? In field tests, the engineered plants grew up to 40 percent more mass than ones that relied on the normal pathways.

photo { Ars Technica }

photo { Joel Meyerowitz, Florida, 1970 }

‘And above all, away with the body, this wretched idée fixe of the senses.’ –Nietzsche


We present a new tool that provides a means to measure the psychological and cultural distance between two societies and create a distance scale with any population as the point of comparison. Since psychological data is dominated by samples drawn from the United States or other WEIRD nations, this tool provides a “WEIRD scale.” […]

Decades of psychological research designed to uncover truths about human psychology may have instead uncovered truths about a thin slice of our species – those who live in Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic (WEIRD) nations. […]

Just how psychologically different are the nations of the world compared to each other and to the over-scrutinized United States? Many hard drives have been filled with the ways in which China and Japan differ from the United States and Canada, but just how psychologically distant is the culture of China from Japan, the United States from Canada, or Azerbaijan from Zambia? Here we introduce a robust method for quantifying this distance. […]

[We compared] the cultural differences between regions of the four largest populations—China, India, United States and European Union. These analyses reveal that the cultural differences between regions of the overscrutinized United States are considerably smaller than the European Union, China, or India. […]

The Far East has always held a certain exoticism, which may have driven a generation of cultural psychologists to document the many ways in which East Asian societies differ from the West. However, the most extensively researched East Asian nations aren’t anywhere near the extreme on the WEIRD scale and some are barely halfway. Moreover, there is considerable diversity within China, let alone between China, Japan, and Hong Kong. This diversity has been exploited by other researchers, for example, showing the role of agriculture on individualism and collectivism, but nowhere the levels performed within the United States, where we know state by state differences in psychological differences such as tightness-looseness. […]

Relatively little attention has been paid to the Middle East and Africa both by the World Values Survey and the psychological sciences. However, given the relative cultural distance to the United States and Africa’s large genetic, linguistic, and likely cultural variation, we have every reason to suspect the WEIRD scale will continue to stretch as we map out these psychological terra incognita. These regions, as well as other underrepresented regions, such as the South Pacific, may in fact hold a treasure trove of findings for the next wave of cultural psychologists.

{ SSRN | PDF }

The Knight Antonius Block: I want knowledge!…


Study provides insight into the neurobiology of dying. Investigators performed continuous patient monitoring following Do Not Resuscitate - Comfort Care orders in patients with devastating brain injury to investigate the mechanisms and timing of events in the brain and the circulation during the dying process.

{ ScienceDaily | Continue reading }

Oxygen deprivation results in brain injury. For years, researchers have been studying the underlying processes in animals: within 20 to 40 seconds, the brain enters an ‘energy-saving mode’ - it becomes electrically inactive, and all interneuronal communication ceases. Within a few minutes, the brain’s fuel reserves have become depleted that maintain the uneven distribution of ions between the inside and outside of nerve cells, and the ion gradients start to break down. This breakdown takes the form of a massive wave of electrochemical energy release in the form of heat, which is known as ’spreading depolarization’. More vividly described as a ‘brain tsunami’, this energy loss spreads through the cortex and other areas of the brain, triggering pathophysiological cascades which gradually poison the nerve cells. Importantly, this wave remains reversible up to a certain point in time: nerve cells will recover fully if circulation is restored before this point is reached. However, if circulation remains disrupted, the cells will die. Until now, recordings of electrical brain activity obtained from human subjects have been of limited applicability, and experts have been divided as to the transferability of results from animal-based research. […]

“We were able to show that terminal spreading depolarization is similar in humans and animals. Unfortunately, the research community has been ignoring this essential process of central nervous system injury for decades, all because of the mistaken assumption that it does not occur in humans,” explains Prof. Dreier.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

paint on plaster { Eduardo Paolozzi, Targets, 1948 }

How can you face your problem if your problem is your face


From 1936-1972, approximately 50,000 lobotomies were performed in the US. The majority of these occurred during the “lobotomy boom” which occurred in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Curiously, the lobotomy’s popularity coincided with a consensus within the medical community that it was ineffective. […]

Physician Walter Freeman performed approximately 10% of all US lobotomies during his medical career (El-Hai 2005). Although the procedure was widely used, it swiftly fell out of favor when the FDA approved the first antipsychotic drug in 1954. […]

In this paper, we propose the lobotomy’s popularity and longevity in the US was the result of the incentives generated by the institutional structure of mental health provision. Primarily, we note that funding for public mental hospitals and asylums were provided by state and federal governments on a very low per capita basis. This served to constrained revenues. Lobotomized patients were easier to manage (their brain damage often made them docile), and the procedure was comparatively cheaper than other treatment methods. These factors, in conjunction with little incentive to effectively treat patients provided by bureaucratic oversight, motivated physicians to perform cost and conflict minimizing treatment.

In contrast, physicians operating in private mental hospitals and asylums were funded by the patients, their caregivers, or through philanthropic donations. […] [L]obotomy was less used in private mental hospitals.

{ North Dakota State University Public Choice & Private Enterprise Research Paper Series | Continue reading }

acrylic, oil, oilstick and paper collage on three hinged wooden panels { Jean-Michel Basquiat, Self-Portrait, 1981 }

Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies.


The ship of Theseus is a thought experiment that raises the question of whether a ship that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object.

Suppose that the famous ship sailed by the hero Theseus in a great battle has been kept in a harbour as a museum piece. As the years go by some of the wooden parts begin to rot and are replaced by new ones. After a century or so, all of the parts have been replaced. Is the “restored” ship still the same object as the original?

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Does the Human Body Really Replace Itself Every 7 Years?

Recent research has confirmed that different tissues in the body replace cells at different rates, and some tissues never replace cells. So the statement that we replace every cell in the body every seven years or every ten years is wrong. […]

Neurons in the cerebral cortex are never replaced.

Fat cells are replaced at the rate of about 10% per year in adults. […]

Cardiomyocyte cells [muscle cells of the heart] are replaced at a reducing rate as we age. At age 25, about 1% of cells are replaced every year. Replacement slows gradually to about 0.5% at age 70. Even in people who have lived a very long life, less than half of the cardiomyocyte cells have been replaced. Those that aren’t replaced have been there since birth.

{ Ask a Naturalist | Continue reading }

Your lungs are six weeks old - and your taste buds just ten days! […]

Liver cells only have a life span of around 150 days. […] “I can take 70 per cent of a person’s liver away in an operation and around 90 per cent of it will grow back within two months,” explains David Lloyd, consultant liver surgeon at Leicester Royal Infirmary. […]

Your eyes are one of the few body parts that don’t really change during your life. The only part that is constantly being renewed is the cornea, the transparent top layer.

{ Daily Mail | Continue reading }

A collection of the replacement rates of different cells in our body:



We note that hair elongates at about 1 cm per month while fingernails grow at about 0.3 cm per month, which is about the same speed as the continental spreading in plate tectonics that increases the distance between North America and Europe.

{ Cell Biology by the Numbers | Continue reading }

For decades, scientists believed that neurogenesis—the creation of new neurons—whirs along nicely in the brains of embryos and infants, but grinds to a halt by adulthood. But from the 1980s onward, this dogma started to falter. Researchers showed that neurogenesis does occur in the brains of various adult animals, and eventually found signs of newly formed neurons in the adult human brain. Hundreds of these cells are supposedly added every day to the hippocampus—a comma-shaped structure involved in learning and memory. The concept of adult neurogenesis is now so widely accepted that you can find diets and exercise regimens that purportedly boost it.

The trouble is: This stream of fresh neurons might not actually exist.

In a new study, and one of the biggest yet, a team led by Arturo Alvarez-Buylla at the University of California at San Francisco completely failed to find any trace of young neurons in dozens of hippocampus samples, collected from adult humans.

{ The Atlantic, March 2018 | Continue reading }

People as old as 79 may still generate new brain cells, US researchers said Thursday. […] Using autopsied brain samples from 28 people who died suddenly between the ages of 14-79, researchers looked at “newly formed neurons and the state of blood vessels within the entire human hippocampus soon after death.” […]

A study last month led by Arturo Alvarez-Buylla of the University of California in San Francisco found the opposite, however.

{ Medical Express, April 2018 | Continue reading }

The generation of cells in the human body has been difficult to study, and our understanding of cell turnover is limited. Testing of nuclear weapons resulted in a dramatic global increase in the levels of the isotope 14C in the atmosphere, followed by an exponential decrease after 1963.

We show that the level of 14C in genomic DNA closely parallels atmospheric levels and can be used to establish the time point when the DNA was synthesized and cells were born. We use this strategy to determine the age of cells in the cortex of the adult human brain and show that whereas nonneuronal cells are exchanged, occipital neurons are as old as the individual, supporting the view that postnatal neurogenesis does not take place in this region.

{ Cell | PDF }

If the cells of our skin are replaced regularly, why do scars and tattoos persist indefinitely?

The cells in the superficial or upper layers of skin, known as the epidermis, are constantly replacing themselves. This process of renewal is basically exfoliation (shedding) of the epidermis. But the deeper layers of skin, called the dermis, do not go through this cellular turnover and so do not replace themselves. Thus, foreign bodies, such as tattoo dyes, implanted in the dermis will remain.

{ Scientific American | PDF }

inkjet and acrylic on canvas { imp kerr (b.1980), not confirmed as alive, 59th st, nyc, 1977, 2018 }

6′50 for a O, blink, a kilo is out the door


On Friday, representatives of more than 60 nations, gathered in Versailles, France, approved a new definition for the kilogram.

Since the 19th century, scientists have based their definition of the fundamental unit of mass on a physical object — a shining platinum iridium cylinder stored in a locked vault in the bowels of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sevres, France. A kilogram was equal to the heft of this aging hunk of metal, and this cylinder, by definition, weighed exactly a kilogram. If the cylinder changed, even a little bit, then the entire global system of measurement had to change, too.

With Friday’s vote, scientists redefined the kilogram for the 21st century by tying it to a fundamental feature of the universe — a small, strange figure from quantum physics known as Planck’s constant, which describes the smallest possible unit of energy. […]

Though the newly defined kilogram won’t affect your bathroom scale, it will have practical applications in research and industries that depend on meticulous measurement. […]

The kilogram prototype, known as “Le Grand K,” was made by humans and is subject to all our limitations. It is inaccessible — the safe containing the cylinder can be opened only by three custodians carrying three separate keys, an event that has happened fewer than a dozen times in the object’s 139-year history. And it is inconsistent — when Le Grand K was examined in the 1980s, it weighed several micrograms less than it was supposed to. This meant that anyone who made products based on the standards had to reissue their weights. Manufacturers were furious. Lawmakers were called. Metrologists, people who study measurements, were accused of incompetence.

So, in a 2014 meeting at the BIPM, the metrology community resolved to redefine the kilogram. 

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

On April 7, 1795, the gram was decreed in France to be “the absolute weight of a volume of pure water equal to the cube of the hundredth part of the metre, and at the temperature of melting ice.”

Since trade and commerce typically involve items significantly more massive than one gram, and since a mass standard made of water would be inconvenient and unstable, the regulation of commerce necessitated the manufacture of a practical realization of the water-based definition of mass. Accordingly, a provisional mass standard was made as a single-piece, metallic artifact one thousand times as massive as the gram—the kilogram.

At the same time, work was commissioned to precisely determine the mass of a cubic decimetre (one litre) of water. Although the decreed definition of the kilogram specified water at 0 °C—its highly stable temperature point—the French chemist Louis Lefèvre-Gineau and the Italian naturalist Giovanni Fabbroni after several years of research chose to redefine the standard in 1799 to water’s most stable density point: the temperature at which water reaches maximum density, which was measured at the time as 4 °C. They concluded that one cubic decimetre of water at its maximum density was equal to 99.9265% of the target mass of the provisional kilogram standard made four years earlier.

That same year, 1799, an all-platinum kilogram prototype was fabricated with the objective that it would equal, as close as was scientifically feasible for the day, the mass of one cubic decimetre of water at 4 °C. The prototype was presented to the Archives of the Republic in June and on December 10, 1799, the prototype was formally ratified as the kilogramme des Archives (Kilogram of the Archives) and the kilogram was defined as being equal to its mass.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Only three countries—Burma (Myanmar), Liberia, and the US—have not adopted the International System of Units as their official system of weights and measures.

{ Mental Floss | Continue reading }

“Bergman burned down our home,” said Eric W. Ohlsson, a retired doctor, referring to a scene from the 1968 film “Shame,” in which a barn was used as a flaming prop


Try this experiment: Pick a famous movie—Casablanca, say—and summarize the plot in one sentence. Is that plot you just described the thing you remember most about it? Doubtful. Narrative is a necessary cement, but it disappears from memory.

{ Peter Greenaway | Continue reading }

“I almost always remember where I was and I remember the book itself. I remember the physical object,” says Paul, the editor of The New York Times Book Review, who reads, it is fair to say, a lot of books. “I remember the edition; I remember the cover; I usually remember where I bought it, or who gave it to me. What I don’t remember—and it’s terrible—is everything else.” […] “Memory generally has a very intrinsic limitation,” says Faria Sana, an assistant professor of psychology at Athabasca University, in Canada. “It’s essentially a bottleneck.” The “forgetting curve,” as it’s called, is steepest during the first 24 hours after you learn something. Exactly how much you forget, percentage-wise, varies, but unless you review the material, much of it slips down the drain after the first day, with more to follow in the days after, leaving you with a fraction of what you took in.

{ The Atlantic | Continue reading }

The avocado is overcado


Brooklyn-based blockchain software technology startup and Ethereum development studio ConsenSys has acquired asteroid mining company Planetary Resources, Inc. through an asset-purchase agreement. […]

ConsenSys is a production studio that creates enterprises in a wide range of business areas based on the Etherium platform for cryptocurrency and other blockchain applications. It has spawned 50 ventures, or “spokes,” including an online poker site, a legal services site and a “transmedia universe integrated with blockchain technology” called Cellarius. […]

Planetary Resources was founded in its present form in 2012, with initial backing from billionaires including Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, Ross Perot Jr. and Charles Simonyi. Its original mission was to identify and mine near-Earth asteroids for valuable resources, ranging from water that could be converted into rocket fuel to platinum-group metals that could conceivably be sent back to Earth.

Over the course of six years, the venture raised tens of millions of dollars and explored other potential revenue streams, including space telescope manufacturing, space selfies and an Earth-observation constellation called Ceres. […] But an anticipated funding round failed to come together, leading to a wave of staff cutbacks.

{ GeekWire | Continue reading }

related { Cryptocurrency Pump-and-Dump Schemes }

photo { Model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, 1936 }

If everything that exists has a place, place too will have a place, and so on ad infinitum


The Principia Mathematica (PM) is a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics written by Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell and published in 1910, 1912, and 1913.

was an attempt to describe a set of axioms and inference rules in symbolic logic from which all mathematical truths could in principle be proven.

PM has long been known for its typographical complexity. Famously, several hundred pages of PM precede the proof of the validity of the proposition 1+1=2.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

“The Pleasure Principle” is an “independent woman” anthem about love gone wrong built around a dance beat


Previous studies have shown that male attractiveness can be enhanced by manipulation of status through, for example, the medium of costume. The present study experimentally manipulated status by seating the same target model (male and female matched for attractiveness) expressing identical facial expressions and posture in either a ‘high status’ (Silver Bentley Continental GT) or a ‘neutral status’ (Red Ford Fiesta ST) motor-car. […]

Results showed that the male target model was rated as significantly more attractive on a rating scale of 1–10 when presented to female participants in the high compared to the neutral status context. Males were not influenced by status manipulation, as there was no significant difference between attractiveness ratings for the female seated in the high compared to the neutral condition.

{ The British Psychological Society | PDF }

unrelated { Sweden plans to make sex toys safer because so many people get them stuck in their rectum }