Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 19th, 2008

Long legs are sexy

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If they’re not too long:

Long legs

Taller people are generally perceived to be more attractive. However, Boguslaw Pawlowski and Piotr Sorokowski at the University of Wroclaw in Poland wanted to investigate whether relative leg lengths affected such perceptions.

They asked 218 male and female volunteers to rate the attractiveness of seven male and seven female images, altered so that they were the same height but with leg lengths that varied 5, 10 and 15 per cent from the Polish national norm. The researchers also measured the volunteers’ proportions.

Regardless of their own build, the viewers preferred legs that were 5 per cent longer than average (marked red in diagram, below). Next best were normal-length legs, or ones that were 10 per cent longer (marked blue).

“Long legs are signalling health,” says Pawlowski. He points out that short legs are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes in both sexes, and with higher triglyceride levels – linked to atherosclerosis, heart disease and strokes – and insulin resistance in men. Although his study was limited to Polish people, he suspects each culture would prefer leg length slightly longer than the community norm (Evolution and Human Behaviour, DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2007.09.002).

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 2:03 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Stupidity in science

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Science and sex bias:

Women are more likely to have their research published if the referees who peer review their work are unaware of their gender, a new study suggests.

It has long been suspected that “single-blind” peer review – in which reviewers know a researcher’s identity but not vice versa – can lead to bias. Gender, nationality and nepotism have also been identified as biasing factors in the application process for research fellowships.

Some suggest that double-blind peer review, in which neither side knows the other’s identity, would be a fairer system. To find out if this is true, Amber Budden at the University of Toronto in Canada and her colleagues looked at the gender of the authors of papers accepted by Behavioural Ecology before and after it switched to double-blind peer review in 2001.

In the four years following the switch, 8 per cent more female authors had papers published compared to the previous four years (Trends in Ecology and Evolution, DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2007.07.008). While Budden accepts that there may be other explanations, she believes the findings should provoke wider discussion about the advantages of double-blind peer review.

“There is no reason why all journals should not move to double-blind peer review,” adds Terry Marsh of UK lobbying group Women into Science, Engineering and Construction.

Sex bias is stupid, double-blind peer review is smart. What will scientists do?

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Both North and South Poles losing ice

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New Scientist:

Until recently, conflicting results have meant estimates of ice loss at the poles vary widely. Now an international team has used satellite data and climate modelling to show that, in the decade ending in 2006, annual ice loss from West Antarctica increased by 59 per cent while losses from the Antarctic Peninsula leapt by 140 per cent (Nature Geoscience, DOI: 10.1038/ngeo102). These results tie in nicely with recent results obtained by other methods, bringing consensus over ice loss a bit closer.

Also this week, a separate team used glacier and meteorological data in Greenland to show that local warming since 1990 has resulted in the most severe melting in 50 years (Journal of Climate, DOI: 10.1175/2007/JCLI1964.1).

What will James Inhofe say?

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 1:58 pm

Posted in Global warming

Romney & lobbyists

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Mitt Romney has claimed that he has no ties or obligations to lobbyists. He’s lying:

Former Bay State Gov. Mitt Romney, who has cast himself as a Washington outsider and blasted his opponents’ ties to lobbyists, has more than a dozen federally registered lobbyists raising money for him and several others advising his campaign, records show.At a Nashua event the day before the New Hampshire primary, Romney said, “I don’t have years and years of favors to repay, lobbyists who have raised all sorts of money for me.”

But at least 13 lobbyists work as so-called bundlers – those responsible for prodding deep-pocketed donors and generating vast sums of money for the candidate – according to records compiled by nonprofit Washington watchdog Public Citizen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Clever recruiting technique

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Games:

Brazilian engineer Fernando Pinto Saliba had never considered a career in the beauty industry before he enrolled at Coppead Graduate School of Business in Rio de Janeiro. But while there, he saw students flocking to play e-Strat Challenge, an online game sponsored by cosmetics group L’Oréal that lets students manage a simulated beauty products organization. Saliba signed up, and in 2005 he and two classmates won, beating 2,000 teams from 125 countries. When L’Oréal offered him a job, he happily accepted.

Games such as e-Strat and Brandstorm, designed for marketing students, give L’Oréal a reputation as a savvy recruiter in fast-growing emerging markets. In addition to the games, which attract more than 50,000 students each year, the company has bankrolled scholarships and endowed chairs at some 200 universities worldwide. And in the crucial Chinese market, a program called Career Insiders invited 120 students last year to visit L’Oréal’s mainland facilities and meet company managers. “When you visit universities in China, they all know L’Oréal,” says Denis Morisset, a professor at French B-school Essec.

Of L’Oréal’s four recruiting games, the most popular is e-Strat, which has students make decisions on everything from retail strategy to research and development spending. As students play online, a computer tracks their decisions and awards points for moves that increase their simulated company’s market value. After winning local contests, finalists travel to Paris, giving L’Oréal executives a firsthand chance to see how they perform under pressure.

While other multinationals sponsor business games, none draws as many participants as does L’Oréal. The games have attracted a flood of players from Asia and Latin America, two regions where the $22.6 billion company needs managers. Only 4 of the 10 best teams in e-Strat and Brandstorm were from Europe last year, while the rest came from places such as Brazil, Indonesia, and Turkey.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Encouraging whistleblowers

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It’s important to encourage and protect whistleblowers—they’re the ones who expose the wrongdoing. Business Week:

whistleblowers

Employees lead the pack in corporate whistleblowing, accounting for 19% of those reporting fraud. But they suffer for it, despite Sarbanes-Oxley protections, say researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Toronto. Some 82% of those who uncovered fraud from 1996 to 2004 said they were penalized—ostracized, demoted, or pressured to quit, for instance. So how can society urge more workers to come forward? Offer cash rewards, say professors Adair Morse and Luigi Zingales at Chicago and Alexander Dyck at Toronto. Their model: the federal False Claims Act, which gives whistleblowers 15% to 30% of any damages recovered in cases where the government is defrauded. The law should cover all corporate fraud, they say, because it has spurred employee whistleblowing without increasing frivolous suits. Their research showed that nearly 50% of health-care fraud cases (many of which involve cheating Uncle Sam) were initiated by corporate workers. “They still lose their jobs,” Morse says, “but at least they’re paid to go into retirement.”

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 11:49 am

It’s okay if it’s fiction

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From Business Week, guys are weird:

They may say they hate chick flicks, but men can enjoy stories about sacrifice, love, and empowerment, a new study shows. The key, say three marketing professors in February’s Journal of Consumer Research, is keeping the story unreal. The researchers had undergrads read adaptations of poignant stories by O. Henry and others, presenting them as TV scripts. Males showed more empathy and involvement when told the tales weren’t true. Men “need to know beyond a doubt that it’s fiction,” says Jennifer Argo of the University of Alberta School of Business, one of the study’s authors. Exiting reality, she says, “is an excuse to relax gender stereotypes”—and emote. Women preferred true stories. The study’s advice to entertainment marketers: Emphasizing that a weepie is fictional may bring in more males. And get a few real men to cry.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 11:44 am

Posted in Daily life

Britain outpacing US lately

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Business Week:

Chalk one up for Queen and country. For the first time since 1885, Britain’s standard of living, measured by per capita gross domestic product, is poised to overtake that of the U.S. British GDP per head will hit $46,088 this year, compared with $45,598 in America, predicts Adrian Cooper, managing director of financial consultants Oxford Economics. Thank the pound’s strength against the dollar for about 75% of Britain’s advance, Cooper says.

But economic reforms, including looser rules on hiring and firing workers and the creation of an independent central bank, were also helping to close the gap in the past decade, well before the greenback began losing serious ground to sterling. And, Cooper adds, lower corporate taxes are giving Britain’s financial and business sectors a boost. The U.S. still tops Britain when it comes to purchasing power, another measure of prosperity.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 11:42 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Susannah McCorkle

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Susannah McCorkle was a fine jazz singer who recorded quite a few albums, including various songbooks. She was also a linguist who considered becoming an interpreter. She put those skills to occasional use later in translating song lyrics.

She was also a writer, publishing fiction and non-fiction in various magazines, including the New York Times Magazine.

She suffered from bi-polar disorder, and when she was 55 she leaped to her death from her Manhattan high-rise apartment. But she left a very fine legacy of her music. A biography of her, Haunted Heart, by Linda Dahl, is available in both hardbound and softbound editions.

Unfortunately, YouTube currently has only one video of Susannah McCorkle, and the sound on that is not very good. But the interview section lets you see her talking and realize how charming she was. When the interview opens (mid-way), they are discussing Billie Holiday.

Amazon has many CDs by Susannah McCorkle. I encourage you to try a few.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 10:00 am

Posted in Jazz

Huckabee is scary…

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Well, so are Mitt Romney, John McCain, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giulani, and Ron Paul—all for different reasons. The GOP candidates were more or less picked to cast a political horror movie. But Huckabee is special, as Joe Conason explains:

Behind the happy, healthy, guitar-strumming campaign style that has so besotted the national press corps, Mike Huckabee looks like something considerably less charming — a zealous proponent of the “biblical” reformation of every aspect of American society.

If that sounds too extreme and aggressive to describe the smiling Huck — who introduced himself to the country as “a conservative, but I’m not angry about it” — then consider how he explained his urge to revamp the nation’s founding document. At a public forum on the eve of the Michigan primary, while mocking Republican opponents who don’t want to append a “marriage amendment” or a “life amendment” to the Constitution, he said: “I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that’s what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards.”

That outburst appalled many Republicans, who heard those words as an assault on traditional conservative and libertarian values. The next day on National Review Online, Republican speechwriter and strategist Lisa Schiffren complained: “Mike Huckabee is going to force those of us who have wanted more religion in the town square to reexamine the merits of strict separation of church and state. He is the best advertisement ever for the ACLU.”

But those offending phrases may have had even deeper significance. Not so long ago, he attributed his rising political fortunes, after many experts had written off his campaign, to the hand of the Almighty. “There’s only one explanation for it, and it’s not a human one,” he said. “It’s the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people, and that’s the only way that our campaign could be doing what it’s doing … That’s honestly why it’s happening.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 9:49 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Use cannabis in moderation

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For best results:

That, at least, is the consensus of a new paper in Neuropharmacology:

There is a general consensus that the effects of cannabinoid agonists on anxiety seem to be biphasic, with low doses being anxiolytic and high doses ineffective or possibly anxiogenic. Besides the behavioural effects of cannabinoids on anxiety, very few papers have dealt with the neuroanatomical sites of these effects. We investigated the effect on rat anxiety behavior of local administration of THC in the prefrontal cortex, basolateral amygdala and ventral hippocampus, brain regions belonging to the emotional circuit and containing high levels of CB1 receptors. THC microinjected at low doses in the prefrontal cortex (10 μg) and ventral hippocampus (5 μg) induced in rats an anxiolytic-like response tested in the elevated plus-maze, whilst higher doses lost the anxiolytic effect and even seemed to switch into an anxiogenic profile. Low THC doses (1 μg) in the basolateral amygdala produced an anxiogenic-like response whereas higher doses were ineffective.

In other words, a good high works in the prefrontal cortex and ventral hippocampus while a bad high turns on the amygdala. As most pot smokers eventually discover, there is a fine pharmacological line between comic relaxation and vague paranoia. I’ve written about weed and anxiety before:

Despite the fact marijuana was first cultivated almost 10,000 years ago, modern medicine has yet to find a pharmaceutical equal. No other substance melts away our fears with such slick efficiency. But that may soon change. A cadre of neuroscientists is now using the natural potency of pot—its active ingredient is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—as the possible basis for a next generation anti-anxiety pill.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 9:33 am

Yummy: cheesy bread

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Great photos for this recipe:

  • 8 oz shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped green onion (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp sour cream (optional)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup, 4 ounces), softened to the point of being slightly melted
  • 1 to 2 loaves of French or Italian bread (I used Ciabatta), depending on the size of the loaves
1 In a large bowl, mix together the cheeses and the green onion. Stir in the mayonnaise and sour cream. In a separate small bowl blend the butter and garlic until smooth. Add the butter mixture to the cheese mixture.

2 Preheat broiler. Slice loaf of bread in half horizontally, lay crust side down. Spread cheese mixture over the bread. Place under the broiler until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.

3 Remove from broiler and let sit for 5 minutes until cool enough to handle. Slice the bread with a bread knife. Serve.

Makes 30 to 40 slices.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 9:15 am

Posted in Food, Recipes

The state of the press: bad

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Glenn Greenwald uses Joe Klein as an example of how low the press has sunk and, worse, how low our expectations have come. Good column, which concludes:

The complete degradation of our political discourse really achieved full expression back in the 1990s. Even now, when one goes back and reads television transcripts and columns from the 1990s, it is difficult to avoid a sense of real revulsion — the hours and hours and hours spent by people like Russert and Klein breathlessly obsessing on Bill Clinton’s sex life and the most mundane of “scandals,” all at the expense of anything meaningful.

And the same exact people responsible for the media’s complete abdication regarding the Bush administration were responsible then, too, employing the same vapid though filthy tactics. I am sure that Klein can find instances where he questioned whether the Lewinsky scandal had spun out of control beyond its real importance, but the notion that he was some sort of iconoclast attempting to impede the media’s feeding frenzy is patently false. He, and virtually every other media star of the time, was right in the thick of it, milking it for all it was worth. And Klein himself wrote the seminal piece all the way back in 1994, pioneering the theoretical justification for the media’s sleazy fishing expeditions.

Klein’s desire to disassociate himself with it all (like his desire to disguise himself as a war opponent) may be understandable, but the fact that he obviously feels comfortable achieving that goal through outright, demonstrable falsehoods — knowing full well that it will have no repercussions — is a fairly compelling sign of what is and is not required to remain a member of good standing in our establishment press corps. Why would people like this ever be bothered in the slightest when our highest political officials lie to defend themselves and conceal their own wrongdoing?

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 9:11 am

Posted in Media

Making hydrogen

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Hydrogen fuel cells would offer promise if we had a cheap source of hydrogen readily available. This may help:

Auto companies love to tout hydrogen as the clean burning fuel of the future. Unfortunately, while it may be green on the way out — actually producing the hydrogen gas (or liquid) is an extremely energy-intensive process that produces 9.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of hydrogen. That’s not quite the closed loop clean-energy system often envisioned.

There are some intriguing solutions – the latest of which comes from a new startup called Nanoptek. According to the company, they have come up with a “low-cost, durable titania electrode that can split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.” CNET helps put this into laymans terms for the rest of us:

“Sunlight hits the electrode, and the electrode splits the light into a positive charge (called a hole) and an electron. Before the two charges can rejoin, the electron gets captured by the electrode and then is exploited to split water. Silicon solar cells operate on the same principle.”

Apparently, a space 50 feet by 50 feet on a sunny roof could provide enough surface area for a Nanoptek hydrogen generator. This in turn would provide enough hydrogen to meet the demands of a family of four. Granted, this is all very much in the experimental stages — but it’s worth knowing that we’re moving towards this fuel source with full-on research on how to produce it cheaply and cleanly.

Nanoptek has raised $4.7 million in funding to move onto the next stage of development. We’ll be watching closely to see if what they come up with shakes the industry further.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 9:07 am

You’re now part plastic

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Not good. (References at the link. And after reading this, perhaps you’d like to watch this little video again.)

A federal government study now reports that bisphenol A (BPA)—the building block of one of the most widely used plastics—laces the bodies of the vast majority of U.S. residents young and old.

Manufacturers link BPA molecules into long chains, called polymers, to make polycarbonate plastics. All of those clear, brittle plastics used in baby bottles, food ware, and small kitchen appliances (like food-processor bowls) are made from polycarbonates. BPA-based resins also line the interiors of most food, beer, and soft-drink cans. With use and heating, polycarbonates can break down, leaching BPA into the materials they contact. Such as foods.

And that could be bad if what happens in laboratory animals also happens in people, because studies in rodents show that BPA can trigger a host of harmful changes, from reproductive havoc to impaired blood-sugar control and obesity (SN: 9/29/07, p. 202).

For the new study, scientists analyzed urine from some 2,500 people who had been recruited between 2003 and 2004 for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Roughly 92 percent of the individuals hosted measurable amounts of BPA, according to a report in the January Environmental Health Perspectives. It’s the first study to measure the pollutant in a representative cross-section of the U.S. population.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 9:03 am

Those Dutch!

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Check out Hema’s product page—wait for it to load, then watch. NSFW: sound.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 9:00 am

Posted in Business

Good Old Mr. Taylor

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I used TOBS Mr. Taylor’s shaving cream with the Simpsons Duke 3 Best brush: fine fragrance, fine lather. Then the Merkur Futur loaded with (I believe) a Treet Blue Special blade—at any rate, a very smooth shave. And TOBS Mr. Taylor’s aftershave. Good start to the weekend.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2008 at 8:56 am

Posted in Shaving

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