Later On

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

Archive for July 24th, 2008

Scientific testing of food-shaped items

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

David Allen on getting things done

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I discovered David Allen through James Fallows, who has long admired him. So I was particularly pleased to stumble upon David Allen’s talk at Google:

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 3:05 pm

Posted in Daily life

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No gender difference in math performance

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Good news:

We’ve all heard it. Many of us in fact believe it. Girls just aren’t as good at math as boys. But is it true? After sifting through mountains of data – including SAT results and math scores from 7 million students who were tested in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act – a team of scientists says the answer is no. Whether they looked at average performance, the scores of the most gifted children or students’ ability to solve complex math problems, girls measured up to boys.

“There just aren’t gender differences anymore in math performance,” says University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde, the study’s leader. “So parents and teachers need to revise their thoughts about this.”

The UW-Madison and University of California, Berkeley, researchers report their findings in the July 25 issue of Science.

Though girls take just as many advanced high school math courses today as boys, and women earn 48 percent of all mathematics bachelor’s degrees, the stereotype persists that girls struggle with math, says Hyde. Not only do many parents and teachers believe this, but scholars also use it to explain the dearth of female mathematicians, engineers and physicists at the highest levels.

Cultural beliefs like this are “incredibly influential,” she says, making it critical to question them. “Because if your mom or your teacher thinks you can’t do math, that can have a big impact on your math self concept.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Porter Goss & ethics?

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David Kurtz:

Former CIA Director Porter Goss has been appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) as co-chairman of the new Office of Congressional Ethics.

Late Update: For those who may not recall, Goss’ disastrous run as CIA chief ended with his abrupt resignation in 2006, shortly after the FBI raided the home and office the then-No. 3 at CIA, Dusty Foggo, who was later indicted as part of the Brent Wilkes/Duke Cunningham corruption scandal.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 2:39 pm

Posted in Congress

Obama’s speech in Berlin

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Via TalkingPointsMemo:

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

Reasons to investigate U.S. war crimes now

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Jeremy Brecher & Brendan Smith lay out the reasons war crimes should be investigated now:

Retired General Antonio Taguba, the officer who led the Army’s investigation into Abu Ghraib, recently wrote in the preface to the new report, Broken laws, Broken Lives:

“There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”Should those who ordered war crimes be held to account? With the conclusion of the Bush regime approaching, many people are dubious, even those horrified by Administration actions. They fear a long, divisive ordeal that could tear the country apart. They note that such division could make it far harder for the country to address the many other crises it is facing. They see the upcoming elections as a better way to set the country on a new path.

Many Democrats in particular are proposing to let bygones be bygones and move on to confront the problems of the future, rather than dwelling on the past. The Democratic leadership sees rising gas prices, foreclosures, and health care costs, as well as widespread dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, as playing in their favor. Why risk it all by playing the war crimes blame game? Perhaps some Democratic leaders are also concerned that their own role in enabling or even encouraging war crimes might be exposed.

Meanwhile, the evidence confirming not only a deliberate policy of torture, but of conspiring in an illegal war of aggression and conducting a criminal occupation, continues to pile ever higher. Bush’s own press secretary Scott McClelland has revealed in his book, What Happened, how deliberately the public was misled to foment the attack on Iraq. Philippe Sands’ new book, Torture Team, has shown how the top legal and political leadership fought for a policy of torture–circumventing and misleading top military officials to do so. Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side, reveals that a secret report by the Red Cross–given to the CIA and shared with President Bush and Condoleezza Rice–found that US interrogation methods are “categorically” torture and that the “abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the US government in jeopardy of being prosecuted.”

Despite the reluctance to open what many see as a can of worms, there are fresh moves on many fronts to hold top US officials accountable for war crimes.

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 2:21 pm

Possible solution for CO2 from making concrete

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Tyler Hamilton reports some good news:

A Canadian company says that it has developed a way for makers of precast concrete products to take all the carbon-dioxide emissions from their factories, as well as neighboring industrial facilities, and store them in the products that they produce by exposing those products to carbon-dioxide-rich flue gases during the curing process. Industry experts say that the technology is unproven but holds great potential if it works.

Concrete accounts for more than 5 percent of human-caused carbon-dioxide emissions annually, mostly because cement, the active ingredient in concrete, is made by baking limestone and clay powders under intense heat that is generally produced by the burning of fossil fuels. Making finished concrete products–by mixing cement with water, sand, and gravel–creates additional emissions because heat and steam are often used to accelerate the curing process.

But Robert Niven, founder of Halifax-based Carbon Sense Solutions, says that his company’s process would actually allow precast concrete to store carbon dioxide. The company takes advantage of a natural process; carbon dioxide is already reabsorbed in concrete products over hundreds of years from natural chemical reactions. Freshly mixed concrete is exposed to a stream of carbon-dioxide-rich flue gas, rapidly speeding up the reactions between the gas and the calcium-containing minerals in cement (which represents about 10 to 15 percent of the concrete’s volume). The technology also virtually eliminates the need for heat or steam, saving energy and emissions.

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 2:12 pm

Republicans block effort to subpoena global warming documents

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James Gerstenzang in the LA Times:

Senate Republicans blocked a new effort to obtain Bush administration documents on global warming — and did so today by doing nothing.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is already looking into whether higher-ups in the administration — and perhaps someone in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office — tried to squelch a finding that global warming would harm the nation’s welfare.

And the Bush administration has tried to turn aside the committee’s efforts to subpoena the EPA administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, and another official as it tries to find out whether the Bush administration’s  refusal to let California implement a tailpipe emissions law was based on politics rather than on science and law.

Today, the Senate Environment Committee sought to subpoena EPA papers that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the committee, said had concluded that “the welfare of the American people is endangered if steps are not taken to avoid the ravages of unchecked global warming.” She read them under an agreement that blocks wider distribution.

According to excerpts the committee released, the December, 2007, EPA document said that in the agency’s judgment, “the elevated, combined atmospheric concentrations of the six greenhouse gases are reasonably anticipated to endanger public welfare.”

Why did Johnson conclude that the nation’s welfare would be hurt? Because, the document states, the sea level will continue to rise, exacerbating “storm surge flooding and shoreline erosion; heat waves will be more intense and last longer, wildfires will worsen, and water resources will be strained.”

Bottom line: More greenhouse gases will make life worse in the United States.

Boxer’s effort to get broader access to the report, however, was turned aside. It takes two Republicans to join the majority Democrats to issue a subpoena.

None showed up.

Our colleague Richard Simon reports, however, that Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the committee, issued a press release calling Boxer’s efforts “a political exercise that is intended to score more political points to help keep this issue of alleged administration interference alive in the press as long as possible.”

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Global warming, GOP

How making decisions tires your brain

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On Amir explains in the Scientific American:

The human mind is a remarkable device. Nevertheless, it is not without limits. Recently, a growing body of research has focused on a particular mental limitation, which has to do with our ability to use a mental trait known as executive function. When you focus on a specific task for an extended period of time or choose to eat a salad instead of a piece of cake, you are flexing your executive function muscles. Both thought processes require conscious effort-you have to resist the temptation to let your mind wander or to indulge in the sweet dessert. It turns out, however, that use of executive function—a talent we all rely on throughout the day—draws upon a single resource of limited capacity in the brain. When this resource is exhausted by one activity, our mental capacity may be severely hindered in another, seemingly unrelated activity. (See here and here.)

Imagine, for a moment, that you are facing a very difficult decision about which of two job offers to accept. One position offers good pay and job security, but is pretty mundane, whereas the other job is really interesting and offers reasonable pay, but has questionable job security. Clearly you can go about resolving this dilemma in many ways. Few people, however, would say that your decision should be affected or influenced by whether or not you resisted the urge to eat cookies prior to contemplating the job offers. A decade of psychology research suggests otherwise. Unrelated activities that tax the executive function have important lingering effects, and may disrupt your ability to make such an important decision. In other words, you might choose the wrong job because you didn’t eat a cookie.

But what types of actions exhaust executive function and affect subsequent decision-making?

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

A cream concoction for berries

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From Mark Bittman:

Strawberries With Swedish Cream
Yield 4 to 6 servings Time 10 minutes

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Sugar or honey to taste
  • 1 tablespoon any liqueur, like Cointreau or amaretto (optional)
  • 1 quart strawberries, washed, hulled, and left whole

1. Whip the sweet cream until it holds soft peaks, then fold it into the sour cream; add sugar to taste and liqueur if you like.

2. Put the berries in four to six bowls or stemmed glasses and top with the cream.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 11:20 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Google supports the Aptera

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Google Aptera

Google Aptera

From Ecotality Life:

Green automaker Aptera Motors is benefitting from Google’s green investment division with the recent gift of $2.75 million. The move comes from the search engine giant’s RechargeIT, a philanthropic investment and research program aimed to expedite the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles.

Aptera is planning on launching their all-electric $30,000 vehicle this coming October. Initial tests show the Jetsons-style aerodynamics giving drivers an amazing 230MPG. You can check out a guided tour of the vehicle in a video here.

In addition to the automaker, Google also gave $2.75 million to ActaCell, a battery company that hopes to help make electric cars both cheap and safe. Their main focus right now is on lithium-ion technology — as well as improving the life cycle of the batteries and the cost. The company hopes to commercialize their tech sometime in 2010.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 11:16 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Global warming

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Why people buy lottery tickets

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Interesting:

Although state lotteries, on average, return just 53 cents for every dollar spent on a ticket, people continue to pour money into them — especially low-income people, who spend a larger percentage of their incomes on lottery tickets than do the wealthier segments of society. A new Carnegie Mellon University study sheds light on the reasons why low-income lottery players eagerly invest in a product that provides poor returns.

In the study, published in the July issue of the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, participants who were made to feel subjectively poor bought nearly twice as many lottery tickets as a comparison group that was made to feel subjectively more affluent. The Carnegie Mellon findings point to poverty’s central role in people’s decisions to buy lottery tickets.

“Some poor people see playing the lottery as their best opportunity for improving their financial situations, albeit wrongly so,” said the study’s lead author Emily Haisley, a doctoral student in the Department of Organizational Behavior and Theory at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. “The hope of getting out of poverty encourages people to continue to buy tickets, even though their chances of stumbling upon a life-changing windfall are nearly impossibly slim and buying lottery tickets in fact exacerbates the very poverty that purchasers are hoping to escape.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 11:07 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Dissolving CoQ10 in water—and why

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Interesting:

If Bruce Lipshutz has his way, you may soon be buying bottles of water brimming with the life-sustaining coenzyme CoQ10 at your local Costco.

Lipshutz, a professor of chemistry at UC Santa Barbara, is the principal author of an upcoming review, “Transition Metal Catalyzed Cross-Couplings Going Green: in Water at Room Temperature,” which will be published in Aldrichimica Acta in September. In it, Lipshutz and post-doctoral researcher Subir Ghorai discuss how recent advances in chemistry can be used to solubilize otherwise naturally insoluble compounds like CoQ10 into water.

Never heard of CoQ10? Lipshutz says you’re not alone. “If you don’t know anything about it,” Lipshutz said during a recent interview, “that’s not surprising to me. Much of the public hasn’t heard of it.” But he’s on a mission to correct what he views as a major oversight. “In a sense, I’m just a messenger. People need to not only know about CoQ10, they need to take it.”

Like vitamin C, CoQ10 is a compound that’s vital to our survival. It’s a coenzyme that our cells synthesize, albeit in 21 steps, and it’s in every cell. This contrasts with a vitamin, such as vitamin C, which is not made by the body. Both CoQ10 and vitamin C are “compounds of evolution,” Lipshutz said. “Everybody accepts the importance of vitamin C. The reason the public does not fully appreciate it is that there’s no Linus Pauling for CoQ10. There is no champion.”

Pauling, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, was also an advocate for greater consumption of vitamin C. “CoQ is not really in that category of public awareness yet,” Lipshutz said.

While the body produces its own CoQ10, that production decreases with age. “Nature gave us, through 2.5 billion years of evolution, a number of fundamental anti-aging, free-radical scavengers that helped us to survive, on average, only to about 40 years of age, until modern medicine came along,” Lipshutz said.

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 11:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

Best advice on money

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40 non-impoverished people share the best advice they ever got regarding money.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 11:01 am

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

Yet another reason I like California

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This is heartening:

It’s been a banner week for environmental policy as the California Building Standards Commission recently broke news of the nation’s first statewide green building code. The measure mandates significant improvements in energy efficiency and water consumption in all new construction throughout the state. The announcement was fore-grounded by April’s ambitious LA green building law and comes hot on the heels of Al Gore’s historic appeal last week for a carbon-free US energy policy.

The unanimously approved measure will update California’s current building code to address a variety of goals including reducing water usage in residential and commercial structures by 20% and cutting water used in landscaping by 50%. Hopefully this will encourage the widespread proliferation of techniques such as rainwater harvesting, drought resistant landscaping, and graywater reuse.

The new code also aims to cut…

More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 10:59 am

Improving our schools

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Very good, albeit depressing, post by Kevin Drum on the central problem in improving urban schools. By all means, click the link and read the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 10:40 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Al-Jazeera reports

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This is quite interesting. Via Spencer Ackerman and the Washington Independent.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 10:09 am

Posted in Election, Media

Tips on being happy

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The Web seems to abound with tips on how to be happy—which perhaps suggest that many, many people are not happy. (I’m pretty happy, myself.) These tips seem better than most.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 10:02 am

Posted in Daily life

Good tips on cheap lodging when you do travel

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If you decide to brave the TSA or pay the gasoline prices (if you drive), maybe you can save some on lodging when you get there. Here are some good tips.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 9:59 am

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

Why travel is now terrible

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2008 at 9:50 am

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