'Exposure and quackery'

December 14th, 2013

An amazing list of actual reasons for admission into the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum from the late 1800s.

"Masturbation for 30 years" and "Suppressed masturbation"? The ideal was to find a happy medium, presumably. Also, to try not to succumb to "Excitement as officer."1

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

  1. Whatever that was…

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Oxytocin and Zombies

October 24th, 2012

Oxytocin and the Zombie Apocalypse:

If you've been watching AMC's riveting series about zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead, then you're probably into blood and guts like me. You might also be watching because you're interested in the moral dilemmas that the characters face during each twist and turn of fate. As the misfortune adds up and the body count rises, some of the most honest and trustworthy people must do some pretty terrible things all in the name of survival! […]

When I was watching the opening to season 3 this week, I couldn't help but think about how much the zombie apocalypse genre of television and cinema can teach us about oxytocin. That's right, we can learn more about the mislabeled "cuddle hormone" by thinking about both the benevolent and terrible things that people do in the name of survival. […]

[Via The Morning News]

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August 11th, 2011

Robert Benchley on How to Get Things Done:

The secret of my incredible energy and efficiency in getting work done is a simple one. I have based it very deliberately on a well-known psychological principle and have refined it so that it is now almost too refined. I shall have to begin coarsening it up again pretty soon.

The psychological principle is this: anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.

[Via Kevan Davis]

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April 17th, 2011

In 1962, Michel Siffre had an idea:

In 1962, you were just twenty-three years old. What made you decide to live underground in complete isolation for sixty-three days?

You have to understand, I was a geologist by training. In 1961, we discovered an underground glacier in the Alps, about seventy kilometers from Nice. At first, my idea was to prepare a geological expedition, and to spend about fifteen days underground studying the glacier, but a couple of months later, I said to myself, "Well, fifteen days is not enough. I shall see nothing." So, I decided to stay two months. And then this idea came to me – this idea that became the idea of my life. I decided to live like an animal, without a watch, in the dark, without knowing the time.

Instead of studying caves, you ended up studying time.

Yes, I invented a simple scientific protocol. I put a team at the entrance of the cave. I decided I would call them when I woke up, when I ate, and just before I went to sleep. My team didn't have the right to call me, so that I wouldn't have any idea what time it was on the outside. Without knowing it, I had created the field of human chronobiology. […]

[Via longform.org]

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Portability first

October 18th, 2010

There's an App for that…

Doug Wilson takes his smartphone everywhere.

When the 28-year-old wakes up, he snatches the phone from the nightstand to read Twitter feeds and Facebook messages before he gets out of bed.

[… At night] access to this on-all-the-time gizmo is arguably more important than ever. First, there's the dog. Wilson uses his phone's LED camera flash to guide his steps as he takes Lucy, a bichon frise, outside. "I live in Arkansas, so I don't want to step on a snake or anything," he said.

Then there's his wife, Ashlee, whom he accidentally impregnated one evening after forgetting to look at an iPod app that explains the details of the rhythm method.

"That's how we got pregnant," he said, "because I lost my [iPod Touch]."

While the couple from Russellville, Arkansas, are now thrilled about their expected baby girl, Doug Wilson said the slip-up was yet another reminder that his phone should be turned on, in his hand, ready to accept alerts — all the time.

To my mind, concentrating on the fact that the smartphone is connected to the internet – and thus constantly pulling in new, distracting snippets of information – is missing the real issue. The arrival of the smartphone as a mass market phenomenon is just making visible the very same phenomenon that users of PDAs have observed for a decade or two: many of us have been heavily – excessively? – reliant on our 'outboard brain' for some time now. I may not use my Palm T|X online,1 but it nonetheless holds an awful lot of information that I rely on every single day, be it notes or appointments or reminders or to do lists or spreadsheets or shopping lists or e-books or any number of other types of data. I suspect that 20 years ago you could have found similar articles about the rise of the Filofax.

The key factor here isn't the connectivity of the device, it's the portability and convenience of always having this information to hand. It's been a long time since I bothered to use calendar/to do list/address book software on my various desktop computers, because it's far more important to me that the data always be at hand wherever I am than it is that it be available online or on my desktop computer.2

[Via The Awl]

  1. It can do WiFi and has a somewhat basic web browser, but I don't often make use of it.
  2. I do sync data in both directions, as well as grab a nightly backup of the data on my PDA, but in reality the syncing is all about having a fallback position in the event that my PDA was lost or broken, rather than because I'd ever seriously consider trying to organise my life using my desktop machine.

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A stroke of insight

August 11th, 2008

Jill Bolte Taylor's My stroke of insight was linked to all over the web when it was published a few months ago, but I only got round to listening to it today.

Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness –- shut down one by one.

Her account of how she felt as the two halves of her brain effectively took turns at the wheel is utterly fascinating: if you haven't heard or seen it, I strongly suggest that you rectify that omission right now.

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April 5th, 2008

Joe Kissell on Instant Messaging for Introverts:

From time to time, someone I know asks me an ordinary and reasonable question: "What's your iChat (or Skype) ID?" My usual reply is to give them the information along with a big disclaimer: I'm almost never logged in. In fact, let me be completely honest and say I thoroughly dislike instant messaging (IM) except in a few specific situations. For months, I've been thinking about why this is – both the technological and psychological aspects – along with whether it somehow exposes a fundamental character flaw, and whether it's something I should attempt to change. […]

My work doesn't require me to use IM, so I'm at least spared the problems of arranging IM sessions with colleagues that Kissell describes. I do have IM accounts on ICQ, AIM and Yahoo!, but prior to my firing up Adium five minutes ago1 I don't think I've launched an IM program in about two years.

My personality type (which is similar to Kissell's) isn't the sole reason for my failing to adopt IM,2 but it clearly played a part. In the unlikely event that I find myself having to use IM for work, I'll have to remember some of his tips for making IM work for introverts.

[Via dsandler]

  1. To a) remind myself of which IM networks I had accounts with, and b) check whether any of them had been disabled for lack of use.
  2. The fact that even now, more than a decade on from Mirabilis releasing ICQ back in 1996, there are still several mutually incompatible major IM networks is ludicrous. Thank heavens an open email standard was out there before the internet became a big business.