Wednesday: Hoo Ha’s, Xenophobes, House Hunters, Male Egos, and Aliens, oh my!Posted: June 20, 2012
This marks the first time in more than 20 years that a Nobel Prize has been given to a physician who specializes in all that stuff downstairs. Committee members praised Lazoff for helping to stem the frightening epidemic, which last year killed more women than ta-ta and derriere cancer combined.
- Election 2012 newsbit: Obamelot surrogate Caroline Kennedy scheduled to campaign in NH next week. According to Politico blogger Alexander Burns:
The Kennedy name doesn’t have the reach it used to, but New England’s lone presidential swing state (along with the Massachusetts Senate race) may fall within that orbit, and in any case it’s not like the president has a line of surrogates stretching out the door.
- The National Review adds another xenophobe to its payroll [ThinkProgress]. Are we really surprised? Here’s a sample of this lunatic’s commentary:
In a 2006 article, Yerushalmi lamented in the inability to engage in “a discussion of Islam as an evil religion, or of blacks as the most murderous of peoples (at least in New York City), or of illegal immigrants as deserving of no rights” without being labeled a racist. He also wrote that the American founders were on to something when they limited the vote to white men. “There is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote.”
- Why It Matters That House Hunters Is Fake [Slate's Double X]…here’s the portion of interest:
So what’s the problem? By now, the onus is on the viewer to consume all “reality television” with a chuckle and a grain of salt. The genre’s underlying appeal is often rooted in its escapist, aspirational qualities (or, at other end of the spectrum, its indulgence of our basest schadenfreude). But House Hunters was always much more about showing us an attainable reality than a fantasy. The show (and its many iterations), in which people just like us (juggling budgets, worried about school districts, pulled between city and suburb), go shopping for the best home their money can buy, not only glorifies the dream of home ownership, but makes it seem achievable. (If that IT guy and his elementary school teacher wife can successfully get out of their dingy apartment and into a new home with the requisite granite countertops, “marriage-saving” double vanities, and bedroom-sized walk-in closets, so can I!) This plays right into our inexplicably unwavering attachment to home ownership: Despite the collapse of the housing market, polling continues to demonstrate that we regard owning a home as the cornerstone of the American Dream—a perception that undoubtedly played a role in the home-buying craze prior to the bubble’s burst.
Showing houses that aren’t even for sale at prices divined by its producers, House Hunters is presenting dangerous misinformation about the home-buying process and deleting all of the accompanying complications and consequences. It’s turned what is actually a messy, frustrating, often dead-end process into a seamless (and perhaps necessary) path toward fulfillment. What’s more, it seems likely that viewers use the prices, locations, and home criteria discussed on the show as barometers for their own house hunts because the information is presented as fact. No, House Hunters does not explicitly condone selling one’s soul for a white picket fence, and other HGTV shows like My First Place and Property Virgins do delve into money and home-inspection woes from time to time. But doesn’t HGTV have some obligation to portray the housing market as it is, or, at the very least, offer a pronounced disclaimer about the producers’ creative and logistical liberties?
Maybe they could fix this whole mess and wipe the slate clean with a good old fashioned “where are they now” episode, showing us the truth after those mortgage payments start taking a toll.
- To paraphrase SciAm, The social construct of ‘the male ego’ lends itself to immorality:
One of the most notable risk factors for ethical laxity is one that all of the above offenders share: Being a man. A number of studies demonstrate that men have lower moral standards than women, at least in competitive contexts. For example, men are more likely than women to minimize the consequences of moral misconduct, to adopt ethically questionable tactics in strategic endeavors, and to engage in greater deceit. This pattern is particularly pronounced in arenas in which success has (at least historically) been viewed as a sign of male vigor and competence, and where loss signifies weakness, impotence, or cowardice (e.g., a business negotiation or a chess match). When men must use strategy or cunning to prove or defend their masculinity, they are willing to compromise moral standards to assert dominance.
Shall we blame it on testosterone, the Y chromosome, or other genetic differences? The current evidence doesn’t point in that direction. Instead, a recent series of studies by Laura Kray and Michael Haselhuhn suggests that the root of this pattern may be more socio-cultural in nature, as men – at least in American culture – seem motivated to protect and defend their masculinity.
- While I was on the plane reading my copy of the Economist this past weekend (yes, Dr. Dakinikat, you’ve rubbed off on me in a serious way!), I came across this fun little piece of intrigue:
The search for alien life
Twinkle, twinkle, little planet
An undervalued optical trick may help to find life in other solar systems
Jun 9th 2012 | from the print edition
MOST astronomical telescopes employ reflection to focus starlight. A concave mirror creates an image from this light using a design pioneered in the 17th century, by Sir Isaac Newton. Those telescopes that do not employ reflection use refraction. They have a system of lenses, an idea first used to look at the stars by Galileo.
But there is a third way to focus light. A century and a half after Newton, and more than two after Galileo, a Frenchman called Augustin-Jean Fresnel worked out that you can do it using diffraction. A set of concentric rings, alternately transparent and opaque, will scatter and spread light waves in a manner that causes them to reinforce each other some distance away, and thus form an image. The rings are known as a zone plate. And Fresnel’s countryman, Laurent Koechlin, of the Midi-Pyrénées observatory, thinks zone plates are the way to find out if there is life on other planets.
Seeing oxygen in another planet’s atmosphere would be a giveaway of biological activity because the gas is so reactive that it needs to be continuously renewed. That would almost certainly mean something akin to photosynthesis was going on, for no known non-biological process can produce oxygen from common materials in sufficient quantity. Looking at such an atmosphere, though, is tricky. Stars are so much brighter than the planets which orbit them that their light overwhelms the small amount reflected from a planet’s surface. And this is where Fresnel comes in.
Read the rest! It’s fascinating.
Well, that’s it for me… Your turn, Sky Dancers! Have a wonderful Wednesday.