Showing posts from March, 2018

Is the Easter Egg an Environmental Hazard?

It's getting hard to find anything that isn't a flat-out unintended environmental disaster.  Now Easter Eggs.  Next, Santa's reindeer will be busted for a particularly disgusting aerial discharge - without the proper waste disposal permits.

When will it end?

Here' the story.  I'm going out to drown my sorrow in chocolate schnapps.
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Is your Easter egg bad for the environment?
A recent study by researchers at The University of Manchester and published in the journal Food Research International has looked at the carbon footprint of chocolate and its other environmental impacts. It has done this by assessing the impacts of ingredients, manufacturing processes, packaging and waste.
The study estimates that the UK chocolate industry produces about 2.1m tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHG) a year. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of the whole population of a city as large as Belfast. It also found that it takes around 1000 litres of water to produce just …

As English Spreads It Gains Vocabulary But Becomes Grammatically Simpler

The idea that English is becoming grammatically simpler as it spreads makes sense; as does English gaining in vocabulary as it borrows words and meanings from the many other languages with which it mingles.

So here's the story on this research.
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What happens to language as populations grow? It simplifies, say researchers
Languages have an intriguing paradox. Languages with lots of speakers, such as English and Mandarin, have large vocabularies with relatively simple grammar. Yet the opposite is also true: Languages with fewer speakers have fewer words but complex grammars.
Why does the size of a population of speakers have opposite effects on vocabulary and grammar?

Through computer simulations, a Cornell University cognitive scientist and his colleagues have shown that ease of learning may explain the paradox. Their work suggests that language, and other aspects of culture, may become simpler as our world becomes more interconnected.

Their study was published in the Pro…

Good Grades Help You Get the Job? Not if You're a Woman.

Given all they must fight. who'd be a woman?  According to this study, you bust your ass getting good grades, even graduating with honors. . . and academic success is held against you in the job and career market.

This despite the facts.  Research clearly shows that businesses with women in leadership positions are less likely to fail or to be lead aimlessly into bankruptcy.  Businesses with women in leadership positions are more profitable with fewer problems.  That businesses with women in leadership positions live longer.

Yet despite this, a woman can't win, no matter what she does.

It's not just a glass ceiling, it's a glass box, trapping you on all sides.

Personally, I'd be more than a little annoyed.

Me, I'd be absolutely cross-eyed angry.

Ladies, it's time you took over this silly sexist society.  (Excuse the alliteration.  Poor form, but so fulfilling to write. Like all men, I'm totally into cheap thrills.)

Yes, men are pigs, and as a pig, I me…

Music Makes Kids Smarter. So Does Art.

I've always liked the simple headline.  Music makes kids smarter.  So does art.

Straight forward, easy to grasp.

And true.

A reason why there must be art and music taught in our schools.
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Music lessons improve children's cognitive skills and academic performance
Cognitive skills developed from music lessons appear to transfer to unrelated subjects, leading to improved academic performance
The first large-scale, longitudinal study adapted into the regular school curriculum finds that structured music lessons significantly enhance children's cognitive abilities -- including language-based reasoning, short-term memory, planning and inhibition -- leading to improved academic performance. Visual arts lessons were also found to significantly improve children's visual and spatial memory.
Published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, the research is the first large-scale, longitudinal study to be adapted into the regular school curriculum. Visual arts lessons were also found…

All human language skews to happy words.: The Pollyanna Hypothesis

F-bombs notwithstanding,  all languages skew toward happiness: Universal human bias for positive words
"Vermont currently has the happiest signal, while Louisiana has the saddest. And the latest data puts Boulder, CO, in the number one spot for happiness, while Racine, WI, is at the bottom."
In 1969, two psychologists at the University of Illinois proposed what they called the Pollyanna Hypothesis -- the idea that there is a universal human tendency to use positive words more frequently than negative ones. "Put even more simply," they wrote, "humans tend to look on (and talk about) the bright side of life." It was a speculation that has provoked debate ever since.
Now a team of scientists at the University of Vermont and The MITRE Corporation have applied a Big Data approach -- using a massive data set of many billions of words, based on actual usage, rather than "expert" opinion -- to confirm the 1960s guess.

Movie subtitles in Arabic, Twitter feeds…

Turning Failure to Success by Writing. It Works.


Women Introduce New Pottery to Baltic Region 5,000 Years Ago

It seems that it is mostly men who receive credit for innovation.  Scientists assume the first stone tools were made by men.  The first farmers were men.  The first fishers were men.  Women were gatherers and caretakers in the ancient hunter gatherer societies.  Were they?

Seriously, were they?

How does anyone know?

Was testosterone found rubbed into the surface of a 500,000 year old hand ax indicating it was made by a man?

It could have been a woman watching the kids take a nap in camp while the men were out scavenging dead meat who invented the first hand ax or spear point.  It could have been a woman who wove the first basket.  It could have been a woman who painted the first bison on the wall of a cave.  (You know how men are about decorating the home.  It's a struggle.)

We simply don't know.  And there is no way of knowing, either.

This is why this bit of research is refreshing.

Women are being given credit for a major cultural innovation.  Please note that the lead rese…

Suffer Back Pain? You're Not Alone.

Yes, this research focuses on the effects of back pain in Britain, but the problem is certainly global.  I've had more than a few back issues (resolved with physical therapy fortunately) and nearly everyone I know or am related to has had disabling episodes.  My aunt, who was quite the athlete, has suffered a lifetime of back pain. 

We're not alone in back pain.

Now imagine a protagonist with recurring back pain, say, that impedes the efforts of that man or woman from stopping a crime or preventing a war or simply accomplishing a goal.  A story we could all relate to?

Here's the story.
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Global burden of low back pain
"Our current treatment approaches are failing to reduce the burden of back pain disability. . ."
Low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting an estimated 540 million people at any one time. Yet, a new Series of papers to be published in The Lancet highlights the extent to which the condition is mistreated, often a…

Sixty is the New Fifty: Age-shaming in America.

Credit: © freefly / Fotolia
The original title of this research study issued by the University of Southern California was:  Is 60 the New 50? Examining Changes in Biological Age Over the Past Two Decades.  It was changed by someone to a more accurate form.

Well, at the risk of being a wet blanket, seventy is seventy, twenty is twenty, and there is no way for them to be anything other than what they are.

A "sixty is the new fifty" headline is an advertising slogan designed to make people feel guilty about acting their age in an effort to sell them products, services, foods or medicines they really don't need or want.  Shame on the researchers at USC for mislabeling their research.

Saying sixty is the new fifty implies that I must live a certain way when I'm sixty or something is wrong with me.  Right, and I should exhibit a certain body composition with the right hair cut, wearing the right clothes and drive the right car or something is wrong with me.  Get real.  Who…

How Male/Female Stereotypes Are Changing - And They Are

It is important for any writer to stay current with how our society and culture is changing, and how we perceive those changes.
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US children now draw female scientists more than ever
Change suggests children's stereotypes linking science with men have weakened over time
When drawing scientists, US children now depict female scientists more often than ever, according to new research, which analyzed five decades of 'Draw-A-Scientist' studies conducted since the 1960s. This change suggests that children's stereotypes linking science with men have weakened over time, said the researchers, consistent with more women becoming scientists and children's media depicting more female scientists on television shows, magazines and other media.
"Given this change in stereotypes, girls in recent years might now develop interests in science more freely than before," said study lead author David Miller, a psychology Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern. "Prior stu…

Children Care About Their Reputations - As Young as Five Years Old

Don't know about you.  But I find people fascinating.  As in, really? 

People do that? 

Sacre' merde, they do?

Who'd a thunk?

So now a study reveals that people as young as five years old are aware of having a reputation.  And caring about it.

I've always been an odd man out when it comes to reputation.  I simply am not aware of what people think of me, and never have. It's not that I don't care, I do care.  Quite a bit.  I just don't think about it.  Example:  My friends were surprised when I recently started shaving my head again. I had shaved my head for some years, but let it grow back in about three years ago.   I just shaved it because, and this is the truth, not because I was trying to change my image.  No, I was out of shampoo.  They laughed when I told them that, which surprised me.  I wasn't making a joke.  Understand the difference?  But normal people, which is a broad, ill-defined concept, tend to be aware of their reputations.

(I have no c…

Teenagers more likely to plead guilty to crimes they didn't commit

The implication here is quite clear: Law enforcement must be aware that teenagers are more likely to plead guilty to crimes, though it may not be clear to them why.  This research suggests what should be an obvious reason.  Immaturity and a lack of understanding of the consequences of a guilty plea.

For writers, this suggests both non-fiction and fiction stories, or at least it should.
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Teenagers more likely to plead guilty to crimes they didn't commit
Teenagers are more likely to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit because they are less able to make mature decisions, new research shows.  Experts have called for major changes to the criminal justice system after finding innocent younger people are far more likely admit to offences, even when innocent, than adults.
Those who carried out the study say teenagers should not be allowed to make deals where they face a lesser charge in return for pleading guilty. The study suggests young people are more likely to be enti…

Trade, Technology & Innovation Far Older Than Thought

The story of our development is fascinating.  How did an upright walking ape with a brain smaller than a ripe orange wandering around East Africa some 6.5 million years ago survive, let alone so dramatically and unpredictably?  There were times in the not too distant past only a few hundred humans existed, yet here we are, tremendously successfully while actively endangering our own survival by our very biological success. Every one of the eight billion are descended of two individuals, who might be described as  genetic Eve and genetic Adam*.
The full story of homo sapiens is far more dramatic and action filled than anything dreamt of by the most creative of writers.  Our history is the ultimate story arc that has yet to come to a denouement, though throughout history so many have predicted endings dire and disastrous.
There is no doubt that the Earth will continue to exist whether we survive as a species or not.  The current predictions of climatic doom are a challenge equal to any…