Discover magazine explores whether or not the ability to teach makes humans a unique species:
If you’re a college student reading this during a lecture because your professor is boring you out of your mind, you may not consider teaching a very big deal. But when you consider everything that goes into one person teaching another, it’s a remarkable behavior. Consider what it takes for you to teach a child how to tie her laces, or write her name in cursive, or skip a stone. She has to watch you do the action and store a representation of that action in her brain. She also needs to listen to you, to understand why a twist of the fingers or the flick of a wrist is important to the procedure. You, the teacher, have to watch her try it, recognize when she gets it wrong, and explain how to do it right. Just as importantly, you have to help the child understand why learning a particular action matters–so that she won’t cut her foot, so that she could throw a stone across the pond, and so on.
Fascinating analysis by Willy Staley:
Fast food involves both hideously violent economies of scale and sad, sad end users who volunteer to be taken advantage of. What makes the McRib different from this everyday horror is that a) McDonald’s is huge to the point that it’s more useful to think of it as a company trading in commodities than it is to think of it as a chain of restaurants b) it is made of pork, which makes it a unique product in the QSR world and c) it is only available sometimes, but refuses to go away entirely.
The NYTimes, on the search for an injury-free way of running:
We were once the greatest endurance runners on earth. We didn’t have fangs, claws, strength or speed, but the springiness of our legs and our unrivaled ability to cool our bodies by sweating rather than panting enabled humans to chase prey until it dropped from heat exhaustion. Some speculate that collaboration on such hunts led to language, then shared technology. Running arguably made us the masters of the world.
So how did one of our greatest strengths become such a liability? “The data suggests up to 79 percent of all runners are injured every year,” says Stephen Messier, the director of the J. B. Snow Biomechanics Laboratory at Wake Forest University. “What’s more, those figures have been consistent since the 1970s.” Messier is currently 11 months into a study for the U.S. Army and estimates that 40 percent of his 200 subjects will be hurt within a year. “It’s become a serious public health crisis.”
Does the Kindle weigh more when it’s loaded with books? A fascinating answer from the NYTimes:
“In principle, the answer is yes,” said John D. Kubiatowicz, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley.
“However,” he said, “the amount is very small, on the order of an atogram,” or 10–18 grams. “This amount is effectively unmeasurable,” he went on, since even the most sensitive scales have a resolution of only 10–9 grams. Further, it is only about one hundred-millionth as much as the estimated fluctuation from charging and discharging the device’s battery. A Kindle, for example, uses flash memory, composed of special transistors, one per stored bit, which use trapped electrons to distinguish between a digital 1 and a 0.
It used to be that standing desks were thought of as the solution to that age old problem of not allowing our sedentary lifestyles to kill us slowly. But now, new research from Cornell reveals that the best solution is somewhere in between (via Gruber):
Sit to do computer work. Sit using a height-adjustable, downward titling keyboard tray for the best work posture, then every 20 minutes stand for 2 minutes AND MOVE. The absolute time isn’t critical but about every 20-30 minutes take a posture break and move for a couple of minutes. Simply standing is insufficient. Movement is important to get blood circulation through the muscles. Research shows that you don’t need to do vigorous exercise (e.g. jumping jacks) to get the benefits, just walking around is sufficient. So build in a pattern of creating greater movement variety in the workplace (e.g. walk to a printer, water fountain, stand for a meeting, take the stairs, walk around the floor, park a bit further away from the building each day).
A saddening story from the NYTimes about the projected damage that Bachmann’s vaccine statements may cause:
[T]he harm to public health may have already been done. When politicians or celebrities raise alarms about vaccines, even false alarms, vaccination rates drop.
“These things always set you back about three years, which is exactly what we can’t afford,” said Dr. Rodney E. Willoughby, a professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a member of the committee on infectious diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics.