In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal, they don’t group numbers by three decimals like we do, but by two. That is, while we have thousand (1,000), million (1,000,000), billion (1,000,000,000), etc., they have lakh (1,00,000), crore (1,00,00,000), etc. Sometimes there are two decimals between each comma, sometimes three. Somebody with 10 million rupees would have 1 crore rupees, or 1,00,00,000 rupees. I had assumed that three decimals was universal, and that language followed accordingly, but in retrospect there’s no reason why that should be so. →
A team spanning three universities has published a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finding that people who claim to be straight, but have a strong attraction to people of the same sex, tend to be hostile towards gays because gays remind them of their own repressed tendencies. Those subjects’ parents tended towards authoritarian, and held similarly strong anti-gay views. The purpose of the study was to investigate the cause of the routine discovery that people with strongly anti-gay views are closested and gay themselves. →
- Sunlight Foundation: Use the Net!
Both Sen. Jim Webb and Mark Warner are still filing campaign finance reports with the FEC on paper. They've presumably each got small staffs who do all of their data collection and number crunching on computers, only to them print out their campaign finance reporters, snail-mail them to the FEC, who have to scan them in and key them in again. The result is a huge waste of federal dollars and a significant delay in making those reports public. The rest of the world—including every last member of the House of Representatives—long ago moved to electronic filing. What's the deal with Webb and Warner?
- PhysOrg: Study shows voter turnout can be increased with simple word change
This small-scale study found a substantial increase in voter turnout by asking people to be a "voter," rather than to "vote." No doubt this logic will be put to work on a larger scale within the next couple of election cycles, and that demonstrate whether this theory stands up or not.
- BusinessJournalism.org: When visualizing numbers gets ridiculous
A journalism pet peeve of mine is when reporters provide numbers without context. "The state spent $34.4B last year." Is that a lot? How did that compare to the prior year, or ten years prior? Or they'll put "$1M" next to "$1B." That's not helpful—use the same unit for comparison, listing "$1M" and "$1,000M." But some have gone too far the other way, providing meaningless visualizations. "That's enough dollar bills to stretch to the moon and back." What is the reader to do with this knowledge? Better to just use numbers to express numbers, and let their context provide context.
- Chris Frashure: Virgil Goode Running for President?
Remember when Goode was a Democrat? Remember when he was an independent? Remember when he was a Republican? Well, now he's a member of the Constitution Party, and he wants to run for president. This should be hilarious.
- ThinkProgress: Herman Cain Pledges Not To Sign Any Bill Longer Than Three Pages
What a dope. His own restaurant's menu is too long to pass his test. I'll warrant this man's never read a bill in his life—he just pulled an arbitrary length out of his ass. Government is complicated. It's hard to run a country. Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying or a fool.
- UChicago News: Psychologist shows why we “choke” under pressure – and how to avoid it
"In one study, researchers gave standardized tests to black and white students, both before and after President Obama was elected. Black test takers performed worse than white test takers before the election. Immediately after Obama's election, however, blacks' performance improved so much that their scores were nearly equal with whites. When black students can overcome the worries brought on by stereotypes, because they see someone like President Obama who directly counters myths about racial variation in intelligence, their performance improves." Whoa.
- New York: How Not to Talk to Your Kids
Po Bronson summarizes research on self-esteem, praise, and children. Kids who are praised for their intelligence freeze when faced with tasks beyond their intelligence. But kids who are praised for their effort quickly learn to relish challenges, and their learning improves accordingly. I was definitely in the latter group, as a kid—years of having teachers praise me for being smart (for which I deserved zero credit) left me with no idea of how to handle assignments that I couldn't just breeze through. I'll take persistence over smarts any day.
- Public Policy Polling: Electoral Consequences of the Rapture
PPP took a presidential poll to determine what the result of the 2012 presidential election would be if all of the people who believe that they're going to be raptured were raptured last week. In short, Barack Obama does very, very well.
- Physorg: Electron is surprisingly round, say scientists following 10 year study
If an electron were blown up as wide as the solar system, it would be spherical to the width of a hair. That's very, very round.
- Public Policy Polling: A deeper look at the birthers
A 2009 "birther" poll of North Carolina residents found that 6% believe that Hawaii is not part of the United States, while 4% just aren't sure. That's one in ten North Carolinians who are not aware of one of the most fundmental facts of our nation.
- St. Petersburg Times: Can a complete novice become a golf pro with 10,000 hours of practice?
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in "Outliers" that it takes 10,000 hours of experience to become great at something. This 31-year-old is giving it a whirl, intending to spend 10,000 hours playing golf—a game in which he has no interest or abilities—over the next six years, with the intention of becoming a professional golfer with a permanent spot on the PGA Tour. He's 1,400 hours and one year into this grand experiment.
- Willamette Week: 9 Things The Rich Don’t Want You To Know About Taxes
The effective tax rate on the 400 wealthiest Americans is 16.6%. The top 1%? They pay 23%. Remember John Paulson, the hedge-fund manager who made $9,000,000,000 by betting against the housing market? He paid exactly $0 in taxes on that. That's because hedge-fund managers don't have to pay any income taxes—congress exempts them. That must be nice for them.
- Washington Post: Hampton Roads lawyer David McCormick to seek 2012 GOP Senate nomination
Some random guy is running for the Republican nomination for Webb's seat. In his announcement, he compared himself to George Washington.
- New York Times: The Threatening Scent of Fertile Women
Men in stable, long-term relationships rank women as less attractive when they're ovulating than when they're not. It's part of "relationship maintenance," a defensive mechanism to prevent themselves (ourselves) from straying.
- PolitiFact Virginia: Gov. Bob McDonnell says Virginia road bids are the lowest in a generation
They're not. In fact, they cost twice as much as they did a generation ago, meaning that McDonnell's claim is the opposite of the truth.
- Richmond Times-Dispatch: Senate panel refuses to hear illegal immigration bills
I'm just making a note of this for future reference: Del. Lingamfelter says that when a subcommittee recommends killing a bill, and the committee subsequently strikes that bill from the docket, then they are "hiding, shirking their duty, when they should actually vote on the bills." So noted, Delegate.
This is a very clever simulation of what it's like to be a member of the working poor. It's worth spending at least a few minutes with this. It's like "Jones in the Fast Lane," that great old Sierra game, only you have no realistic chance of improving your lot in life.
- The Oregonian: Rep. David Wu’s staff confronted him over concerns about his mental health
This is the story how Congressman David Wu (D-OR) lost his mind. Shortly before last November's election, his entire campaign staff quit, convinced that he was mentally ill. He was reelected anyway. It's pretty clear that his staff was right. Now Portlanders are represented by this guy.
- DFW NBC: Armed Agent Slips Past DFW Body Scanner
An undercover TSA agent was able to get through a full-body scanner with a handgun not once, not twice, but as many times as she wanted.
- New York Times: 30 Steps To Better Government
Amidst all of the flowery rhetoric about making government more efficient, this op-ed by Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro seems wonderfully concrete. He describes some of the GAO's successes thus far, and where they see improvement is necessary. Auditing oil and gas leases seems promising. Right now, we expect corporations to self-report how much of our oil and gas they've extracted from our land, on which they pay royalties. And—shocker—the numbers seem awfully low.
- New York Times: Secrets of a Mind-Gamer
Joshua Foer volunteers for an experiment—he, an average guy, will try to improve his memory sufficiently to compete in memory competitions, performing such tasks as memorizing the order of a deck of cards in just a few minutes, recalling pages of random words, or lists of binary digits. The conclusion is astounding.
- The Atlantic: Maybe This Nir Rosen Person Should Reconsider Tweeting
This journalist made a series of jokes about the attack and molestation of CBS News reporter Lara Logan, and is rightly being lambasted by Salon, The Atlantic, and even People magazine. (He lost his position at NYU today as a result.) He's trying to play this off as just a one-time mistake in judgement but, having encountered him professionally last year, I can confirm that he is, in fact, a horrible, thoughtless human being, and that this behavior is just Nir Rosen being Nir Rosen. It's wickedly satisfying to see him get his comeuppance.