The author of “Crime and Punishment” had a love-hate relationship with the true-crime obsessions of his era.

I just finished Oliver Sacks’ excellent Everything in Its Place. In it, he mentioned as an aside that the Ginkgo biloba tree is hundreds of millions of years old, and its phenotype has been practically frozen since then – a living fossil.

Of course, this is the same tree that grows ぎんなん (Ginkgo nuts), an East Asian delicacy found in many dishes, 茶碗蒸し (Chawanmushi) for example.

Ginkgo has been around so long, it predates the dinosaurs! And we still eat it! How cool is that. This got me thinking – what are the oldest food we consume today?

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You know that scene in the movie, A Beautiful Mind, where John Nash is studying pigeons “hoping to extract an algorithm to define their movement”? Well, it appears we’ve found that algorithm, and it defines the movement of humans too. Furthermore, it provides us with a new lens for understanding psychological phenomena.

In getting to this algorithm, one key insight is to realize that the dopamine circuit—which simultaneously controls movement, motivation, and encoding reward prediction errors in humans and other vertebrates—serves the same role as the chemotaxis circuit in bacteria, and is algorithmically equivalent as well. 

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Does explicitly acknowledging bias make us less likely to make biased decisions? A new study examining how people justify decisions based on biased data finds that this is not necessarily the case.

Known as the “King of Spices”, pepper is the most important spice traded internationally.

Pepper was one the earliest commodities that was traded between the orient and Europe. In medieval times, pepper frequently changed hands as rent, dowry and tax. “Peppercorn rent” may today mean something trivial or next-to-nothing but in the middle ages, pepper was the preferred currency, prized by the wealthy. The history of medieval Europe throws up further evidence of the influence pepper had in the trading community. Pepper traders even had their own vernacular names i.e., ‘Pepperer’ in England, “Pfeffersacke” in Germany and “Poivrier” in France.

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Follow the Daoist way – reclaim your life and happiness by letting go of the need to produce, strive or serve a purpose…

Gentrifiers bulldozed Karachi’s iconic market years ago, but the violence unleashed in that moment never stopped.

Capitalism’s critics in politics, academia, and the media—pointing to a growing array of economic, environmental, social, and health problems—are blaming the wrong perpetrator, according to an Academy of Management Perspectives article.

The real culprit? Cronyism.

Jan 10

Every pet owner knows that animals love to play, but laughter seems reserved for humans, a few apes, and maybe a few birds good at mimicking humans and apes. As it turns out, according to a new article published in the journal Bioacoustics, laughter has been “documented in at least 65 species,” Jessica Wolf writes at UCLA Newsroom. “That list includes a variety of primates, domestic cows and dogs, foxes, seals, and mongooses, as well as three bird species, including parakeets and Australian magpies.” This is a far cry from just a few years ago when apes and rats were the “only known animals to get the giggles,” as Liz Langley wrote at National Geographic in 2015.

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In 1629, the Batavia, a ship of the Dutch East India Company, met disaster off the coast of Australia. A new analysis of the shipwreck’s tree rings uncovers how such vessels were built to advance European colonialism.

In July 2019, construction workers renovating a pond at a golf course in Tetney, England, stumbled onto a 4,000-year-old wooden coffin. Now, reports BBC News, the Bronze Age relic is set to go on display at the Collection Museum in Lincoln after undergoing extensive preservation work.

Per a statement from the University of Sheffield, the half-ton sarcophagus contained human remains, an ax and plants used as a bed for the deceased. Made from the hollowed-out trunk of an oak tree, it was buried beneath a gravel mound—a practice typically reserved for elite members of Bronze Age society. The coffin measures around ten feet long and three feet wide.

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Propaganda is most impactful when people don’t think it’s propaganda, and most decisive when it’s censorship you never knew happened. When we imagine that the U.S. military only occasionally and slightly influences U.S. movies, we are extremely badly deceived. The actual impact is on thousands of movies made, and thousands of others never made. And television shows of every variety. The military guests and celebrations of the U.S. military on game shows and cooking shows are no more spontaneous or civilian in origin than the ceremonies glorifying members of the U.S. military at professional sports games — ceremonies that have been paid for and choreographed by U.S. tax dollars and the U.S. military. The “entertainment” content carefully shaped by the “entertainment” offices of the Pentagon and the CIA doesn’t just insidiously prepare people to react differently to news about war and peace in the world. To a huge extent it substitutes a different reality for people who learn very little actual news about the world at all.

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Between 1935 and 1949, many North American children (and adults) got their introduction to cryptography through encrypted messages broadcast at the ends of episodes of two popular radio adventure serial programs: Little Orphan Annie and Captain Midnight. Dedicated listeners could join Radio Orphan Annie’s Secret Society or (later) Captain Midnight’s Secret Squadron, whereupon they would be sent a decoder that would allow them to decrypt each week’s messages (generally a clue about what would happen in the next episode).

Orphan Annie (and her Secret Society members) fought crime, battled pirates, solved mysteries, and had other typical American pre-adolescent adventures. Captain Midnight (with his Secret Squadron) used his aviation prowess to perform daring rescues and emergency transports, and, with the outbreak of WWII, was commissioned by the government to lead secret missions behind enemy lines.

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A rational person, according to traditional economic models, is someone who considers all relevant information when reasoning, reaching a decision or making a judgment. In this sense, rationality allows for optimal decision-making. Yet humans are so frequently irrational that this aspect of our nature is taught in introductory psychology courses and used in marketing to turn a profit. The human brain is bounded by limited computing power. It is impossible for people to compute all the scenarios, weigh all the options, and integrate all the available information, especially given limited time to make decisions. So we tend to use cognitive shortcuts (also called heuristics) to filter incoming information. Human irrationality can be seen as partly a byproduct of these shortcuts and other filters – which can include past experience, context, emotions and intuitions.

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In 1967, a woman was admitted to Baltimore City Hospital, complaining about shortness of breath, chest pains, nausea, and dizziness. She was 22-years-old. She hadn’t had health problems until just over a month earlier. Now she was extremely anxious, hyperventilating, sweating and nearly fainting.

After two weeks, she finally confided to the doctor what she believed was wrong with her. By then, she only had a few days to solve it. As it happened, the woman had been born on Friday the 13th in Florida’s Okefenokee Swamp. The midwife who’d delivered her had also delivered two other children that day. She told the girls’ parents that all three children had been hexed. The first girl would die before her sixteenth birthday. The second would die before her twenty-first. The third—the woman in this hospital—would die before she turned twenty-three.

As it happened, the first girl was killed in a car accident on the day before her sixteenth birthday. The second girl made it to her twenty-first birthday. She thought the spell was broken, so she went out to celebrate, but at the bar a fight broke out, a gun went off, and she was also killed.

This left the third woman convinced, beyond all doubt, that she would die as the woman had foretold.

Then, on the day before her 23rd birthday, she did.

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Random things that are interesting.

Created on Aug 31, 2020
By @gurlic