Thursday, July 29, 2010

Being a Moose Must Suck

Putting aside the problems of not being able to enjoy things like television and the internet, you'd have to spend cold winters outside and worry about getting killed by hunters or inattentive drivers. And then you'd have to be constantly eating to support yourself, considering that moose can weigh around 1,000 pounds. Now imagine what it would be like if you had arthritis. Ugly, right?

It looks like scientists at Michigan Tech are also thinking about what it would be like to be a moose. Unsurprisingly, they also think it would suck, but for different reasons. They're worrying about osteoarthritis.

I can see that. I can only imagine how bad joint pain is when you weigh ten times as much. That's a lot of stress to put on bones. According to them, malnutrition early in life leads to the bone and joint problems later, so I guess their next project should research how they can get moose to eat healthier.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Firewater? Really?

It's always important to examine prejudices to see if there's any truth to them, or if it's just mean-spirited people spreading rumors. Like the idea of Indians and their firewater. Let's face it, that assertion in this day and age is just naked bigotry.

So the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services keeps records on this sort of thing. Actually, their subdivision, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) tracks it, and then releases their data. According to a survey the released in June, American Indians and Alaska Natives had a lower rate of alcohol usage than the national average. Mind you, that's past month alcohol usage.

It's a mixed result. Although the past month usage is lower than the national average, the rate of binge alcohol and illicit drug use is higher than the national average, with one in eight American Indian or Alaska Native adults seeking treatment at a speciality facility for alcohol or drug use. Make of that what you will.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Surprise! Marketers will sell you out!

You've got bigger problems than privacy violations if you needed to be told that marketers want as much of your personally identifying information as they can get their hands on. Strangely enough, the consumers providing that information would rather not give them carte blanche to track their myriad personal details. Who would have guessed?

A UMass Amherst study shows that marketers and consumers have differing expectations of "privacy." I'm not surprised. Most of the consumers would rather choose or control what information that marketers had access to. Most marketers didn't expect consumers to be bothered by the fact that they were harvesting as much data as they could get their hands on.

I don't understand why marketers don't get this, especially after the backlash generated by so many embarrassing incidents. Google took a hit by pre-emptively connecting people through Google Buzz. Blizzard provoked fan outrage by trying to get everyone in their forums to post using real names. I can respect the fact that they want to grab as much information as they can to increase their sales, but I wish they'd be honest about their motivations instead of lying to us (and possibly themselves) about how they just want to use this information to make our lives better.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010


You're screwed, for several reasons, according to the University of New Hampshire.

First, you've got to deal with a lot of punks joining the workforce. The recent crop of graduates is "entitlement minded," and I'm sure you can guess what that means. They think they deserve preferential treatement, are less likely to enjoy their job, and freely take credit for other people's successes while denying responsibility for any shortcomings. You know, kind of like the contributors to Brazen Careerist.

Once these entitlement-minded workers hit your workplace, they are going to be frustrated on the job and likely to abuse co-workers. That's right, if they don't have an objective view of their relative worth and their contributions, they end up feeling slighted on the job. Or, as Professor Paul Harvey puts it, they respond poorly to "perceived inequities in the rewards received by co-workers to whom psychologically entitled employees feel superior.” This surly attitude leads to lashing out, including workplace abuse like rumor mongering, ignoring promises, and slinging insults. So you've got that to look forward to.

The best part of all? When supervisors try to communicate with these entitled employees, the entitled workers end up feeling more frustrated, not less.

What I would like to see is how this study correlates with the one from University of Toronto that showed how women working for a female supervisor are more distressed. Does this have anything to do with the way that different genders view entitlement? I'm sure Penelope Trunk would have something to say about it.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Weed, but not Marijuana

Weed science. Sorry, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, Cornell University is only studying that unwanted crap that grows in your garden, but at least they're taking it to the next level. It's part of their horticulture department.

Cornell is so stoked about studying weeds that in two weeks, they're holding a contest. This "world series of weeds" is supposed to cater to those with "a special interest in weed science" (again: no stoners). The contest involves four categories: identifying weeds, identifying herbicides, calibrating sprayers, and solving farm problems. A whopping 105 students have already registered!

Does anyone else think that this level of specialization is funny? I bust on soil scientists a lot, but the whole field seems kind of nuts. Making your living by studying dirt?

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Another Way to Screw Up Your Kids

Look out, world! Another scientific study has been published to tell you something you already knew! That's right, the Cornell College of Human Ecology has announced that playing favorites with your children will make them depressed adults.

I will concede that the study had an interesting finding: even the favored children end up with problems. I'm not overflowing with sympathy for them, but they have to put up with the pressure of their parents' expectations, and they end up shouldering the resentment of their less-favored siblings. So even the winners end up losers when parents play favorites.

The sad thing is that some parents don't even realize that they're treating their children unequally. 30% of mothers surveyed said that they treated their children equally, while only 15% of children felt equally treated. That's right, you can cause lasting emotional damage without even trying! Hooray?

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Profits or Predators Don't Matter, We're All Doomed

I don't think this study will change much in the long run, but it turns out that we might not properly understand what drives the commercial fishing industry. The currently accepted theory is that fishermen use a "top down" approach, starting with predators at the top of the food chain (notably tuna and halibut). Once fishing reduces their population and catches dwindle, fishermen move further down the food chain pulling in the fish those predators used to eat until those numbers dwindle, and so on.

According to the University of Washington, it turns out that our motivations may be more economic than evolutionary. Commercial fisheries are (understandably) motivated to catch whatever fish is the most profitable. This means that governments can influence conservation efforts and maintain sustainable levels of fishing by setting price controls on seafood.

Will it work, though? I'm pessimistic. Governments are going to be motivated by what is politically popular, and I don't think it would be possible to arrange for the kind of national cooperation required to have a lasting effect on ocean populations. We should all cultivate a taste for jellyfish, since they're the only thing that has managed to thrive thanks to our efforts.

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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