How much sleep is best?

So, we’ve been hearing for years about how 8 hours of sleep (or maybe 7-9) is best.  Now, a lot of researchers are actually arguing that about 7 is truly optimal and that it goes downhill from there.  WSJ:

Several sleep studies have found that seven hours is the optimal amount of sleep—not eight, as was long believed—when it comes to certain cognitive and health markers, although many doctors question that conclusion.

Other recent research has shown that skimping on a full night’s sleep, even by 20 minutes, impairs performance and memory the next day. And getting too much sleep—not just too little of it—is associated with health problems including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease and with higher rates of death, studies show.

“The lowest mortality and morbidity is with seven hours,” said Shawn Youngstedt, a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University Phoenix. “Eight hours or more has consistently been shown to be hazardous,” says Dr. Youngstedt, who researches the effects of oversleeping…

Getting the right amount of sleep is important in being alert the next day, and several recent studies have found an association between getting seven hours of sleep and optimal cognitive performance.

study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience last year used data from users of the cognitive-training website Lumosity. Researchers looked at the self-reported sleeping habits of about 160,000 users who took spatial-memory and matching tests and about 127,000 users who took an arithmetic test. They found that cognitive performance increased as people got more sleep, reaching a peak at seven hours before starting to decline.

After seven hours, “increasing sleep was not any more beneficial,” said Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham…

Now, here’s the part I simply don’t buy…

Experts say people should be able to figure out their optimal amount of sleep in a trial of three days to a week, ideally while on vacation. Don’t use an alarm clock. Go to sleep when you get tired. Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol. And stay off electronic devices a couple of hours before going to bed. During the trial, track your sleep with a diary or a device that records your actual sleep time. If you feel refreshed and awake during the day, you’ve probably discovered your optimal sleep time.

I don’t know about you, but left to my own devices, I never wake up after only 7 hours feeling nicely refreshed.  It is always 8+ if not 9.  And anecdotally, I don’t think I’m particularly unusual in that.  That said, I used to always aim for 8, but after Sarah was born I found I was seemingly getting by just fine with 7, so that’s been my minimum goal ever since.  Maybe my cognitive performance suffers on those days I get to sleep in, but it sure feels good (and heck, I’ve got some cognitive performance to spare :-) ).

Meanwhile, Wired writes about “sleep drunkenness”

Oversleeping feels so much like a hangover that scientists call it sleep drunkenness. But, unlike the brute force neurological damage caused by alcohol, your misguided attempt to stock up on rest makes you feel sluggish by confusing the part of your brain that controls your body’s daily cycle…

When you sleep too much, you’re throwing off that biological clock, and it starts telling the cells a different story than what they’re actually experiencing, inducing a sense of fatigue. You might be crawling out of bed at 11am, but your cells started using their energy cycle at seven. This is similar to how jet lag works

If everything’s just fine with your sleep zone but you still can’t get under the eight hour mark, you might need to go see a doctor. It could be a symptom of narcolepsy, which makes it hard for your body to regulate fatigue and makes you sleep in more.

Oh, give me a break.  Now they want people who sleep 8.5 hours a night to actually go their doctor over the issue?!  Just not buying it.

And, while I’m at it, I’m going to combine what was going to be a separate post about kids and sleep.  Basically, we need to have our children appreciate the value of sleep:

We tell children why it’s important to eat their vegetables. We tell them why they need to get outside and run around. But how often do we parents tell children why it’s important to sleep? “Time for bed!” is usually the end of it, or maybe “You’ll be tired tomorrow.” No wonder children regard sleep as vaguely punitive, an enforced period of dull isolation in a darkened room. But of course sleep is so much more, and maybe we ought to try telling children that…

There is evidence that educating children about the importance of sleep leads them to sleep more. Two studies conducted with seventh graders, for example, found that after participating in a “sleep smart” program, they went to bed earlier and slept longer on weeknights.

I was particularly intrigued by this because of what I’ve seen in my oldest son.  Years ago I told him about the research finding that chronically sleeping too little can impact the cognitive performance of children by as much as two grade levels.  I told him that not enough sleep might cause his 5th grade brain to function like that of a 3rd grader.  Damn, we he sold on it.  I never have to tell him to go to bed earlier.   In fact, on occasion I have to convince him that it is okay to stay up late on occasion for special events.  I love the degree that he has internalized the importance of good sleep.  I guess now I just have to worry about him wanting more than 7 hours when he is an adult :-).

Photo of the day

Love this photo of the Caribbean from the International Space Station.  More here:

From the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, flying some 225 nautical miles above the Caribbean Sea in the early morning hours of July 15, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman photographed this north-looking panorama that includes parts of Cuba, the Bahamas and Florida, and even runs into several other areas in the southeastern U.S. The long stretch of lights to the left of center frame gives the shape of Miami.

Image Credit: NASA

Unhappy marriages, daughters, and causality

So, there’s been an interesting finding out there– families with daughters are more likely to suffer a divorce.  The obvious conclusion was that something about having a daughter was a marital stressor leading to divorce.  Not so fast, though.  It’s much more complicated and much more interesting than that.  From TNR;

Scientists have known since the 1970s that couples with firstborn daughters are slightly more likely to get divorced than couples with firstborn sons, and they’ve traditionally assumed that the blame lay with the baby girls themselves. But new research calls this decades-old finding into question, suggesting that a couple in an unhappy marriage is actually more likely to produce a daughter than a son…

It’s well-established that girls and women have lower mortality rates than men at every stage of life, from birth to death, and epidemiological evidence suggests they’re hardier before birth, too. Hamoudi and Nobles argue that female embryos may actually be more likely to survive the sub-optimal conditions in the womb of a woman stressed out by an unhappy marriage. “

So, rather than daughters being the cause of an unhappy marriage, rather, it is a symptom of an unhappy marriage.   Finally, though, as interesting as this may be, we’re talking about a pretty small effect:

In any given eight-month period, the risk of divorce for a couple whose first-born child is male is about 1.5 to 2 percent; if the first-born is female, the risk climbs to 1.6 to 2.1 percentthe sex of the baby would be playing a role in about one in a thousand divorces.


Quick hits (part II)

1) My favorite use for “big data”?  Baby name analysis.  Here’s a cool analysis of trendy baby names, i.e., names that burned bright, but for a short period.  Here’s to you Ashley, Linda, Jason, and Mark.

2) I did not know that almond milk has become a thing among hipsters.  I am a regular soy milk drinker because I simply like it’s taste better than low-fat milk and it has a similar health profile.  I’ve never used almond milk because, despite almonds being full of protein, almond milk is strangely devoid of it.

A single ounce (28 grams) of almonds—nutrition info here—contains six grams of protein (about an egg’s worth), along with three grams of fiber (a medium banana) and 12 grams of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (half an avocado). According to its label, an eight-ounce serving of Califia almond milk offers just one gram each of protein and fiber, and five grams of fat. A bottle of Califia delivers six eight-ounce servings, meaning that a handful of almonds contains as much protein as the mighty jug of this hot-selling beverage.

What this tells you is that the almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds.

3) Very thorough look at what the research on bed-sharing with you baby does and does not tell us.  I think a very telling point is that the research groups together those who do it haphazardly with those who do it on purpose and these are very different groups.  All of our children slept in our bed some as infants because when you are breast feeding in the middle of the night, that’s just way easier.

4) Nice to see Weird Al getting so much love with his new videos.  This post makes a case for “Smells like Nirvana” as his finest work.  Nice post  I’m pretty partial to Amish Paradise, myself:

5) I hate tipping.  I’m a reasonable tipper, but I totally object to the concept of it for most all cases.  And I am right to, writes Brandon Ambrosino in Vox.  There was also a nice Freakonomics podcast last year on just how foolish the practice really is.

6) I love Yahoo Tech (formerly NYT) Technology writer David Pogue.  It’s pretty amusing the silly question people write to him with, as he explains in this video.  The best part is I found out about Let Me Google that for You.  So need to use this site with my students.

7) Loved this video on how dark matter forms the invisible structure of the universe.

8) I kind of like how Vox has taken to debunking popular myths/misconceptions about social science and such.  Here, they render the Myers-Briggs (i.e,. I’m an ESTJ) harmless.  Not new, though– Gladwell wrote about these same problems a decade ago.  In a similar vein, they nicely summarize the long-existing evidence that sugar does not make kids hyper.

9) How becoming a father changes your brain.

10) I think the idea of “bandwith poverty” is really important.  Excellent NPR story on the matter.  It is really cognitively demanding to be poor.

11) Want to learn better?  Test, test, test (or quiz, quiz, quiz).

12) No, it will never become law, but I love the idea of this legislation that simply says that abortion clinics should simply be regulated in the same way as all other clinics that provide outpatient medical services.

13) 50 state-themed lego dioramas.  Awesome.

14) The secret of effective motivation.

15) Yet more evidence that if you really want less teen pregnancy and less abortion, you should want more free/low-priced IUD’s.



Super-Mega Quick hits

Sure, I’m at the beach, but quick hits will not be denied!  (In fact, it’s extra long as a direct result)  There’s a ton, but I didn’t feel like breaking them up this week.  Sorry.  Enjoy…

1) Krugman on conservative delusions about inflation.  It really is pretty amazing how these continue.

2) Challenges universities face from a professor’s point of view.

3) Loved this essay in the Atlantic on how all the mothers in animated movies are dead.  Or at least essentially out of the picture.  A notable exception– The Incredibles, one of the best animated films in the past decade (and a favorite of all the Greene kids and parents).

4) Nice Brenday Nyhan in the Upshot.  When beliefs and facts collide, beliefs win.  Though, not for me and my enlightened and scientifically-minded readers :-).

5) Apparently, this is the year of 42 year old women.  It just so happens I’m married to one.

6) Kristof on just one more sad story of wronful imprisonment.  I’m going to be reading this guy’s book.

7) Three psychological findings I wish I’d known in high school.  Indeed.

8) I so loved classic rock when I was a teenager.  I thought I was much too cool for the rock of the times.  Of course, now that’s “classic rock” too.  538 with a look by the numbers.

9) Nice Economist piece on the myth of the omnipotent presidency and the damage that the myth does.

10) Yahoo Tech presents 15 entertaining novelty twitter accounts.  Some of these really are awesome.

11) Fascinating story on the last days of Diane Rehm’s husband and how we starved/dehydrated himself to death (he had advanced Parkinson’s).

12) Back before youtube there was jibjab.  This land is your land was a revelation.

13) Okay, turns out that whole how to/not to praise children thing really is getting complicated.  Still, I think it is clear that it is a good idea not to over-praise nor praise excessively for innate abilities.

14) Nice Salon piece on how NC”s new Republican-led voter disenfranchisement laws really are the most evil in the country.

15) I was fascinated by this Atlantic piece on how the “crossover” has taken over the new car market.  I had no idea.  Of course, my cars are from 1998 and 2000.  Really interesting on the history of cars versus minivans versus SUV’s, etc.

16) When I first read about the Kentucky State Senator and the temperature on Mars, I figured he couldn’t really be that dumb.  Turns out he’s not.  But still pretty damn stupid.  I’m sorry, Democratic state legislators just don’t come this dumb.

17) Pope Francis, radical environmentalist.

18) There was going to be a Seinfeld episodes about guns, but the cast nixed it when they were already rehearsing.

19) It is just too easy to be declared a suspicious person by the US Government.  With all sorts of bad consequences.

20) How coffee fueled the Civil War.  My sense is that stimulant drugs have fueled soldiers whenever and wherever they have been available.

21) You all know about my love for apples.  Turns out, I’ve really got to get my wife to start eating more.

Practice (and good genes) make perfect

I read a terrific book this past spring that I meant to blog about at least a half dozen times.  A quick check of the archives, though, finds that I failed to do so.  So, even though it’s beach vacation week, The Sports Gene by David Epstein gets its due.  I was inspired by a Vox post (shared by DJC on FB) that emphasizes just how little of success is explained by practice:

Over the past 20 years or so, some psychologists have been arguing for an appealing idea about expertise and success: they’re hugely dependent on putting in lots of practice time. This idea is a nice one, because it suggests that successful people earned their expertise, and that many people have a shot at becoming successful if they work hard enough. It gained especially wide attention through a rule it inspired in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: that to become really, really good at something, you have to intensely practice at it for around 10,000 hours, the “10,000-hour rule.” But this is an area of active dispute among psychologists — and over the years, dozens of studies have collected hard data on the link between practice and top performance in all sorts of fields. A new statistical analysis of 88 of these studies comes to the exact opposite conclusion: success mostly reflects other factors (probably things like innate talent and opportunity) rather than hours and hours of practice.

Of course practice matters, all else being equal.  But all else isn’t equal as simply looking at an NBA or NFL roster will tell you.  In fact, my favorite factoid from Epstein’s book is that literally only two players in the entire NBA have an armspan to height ratio of less than 1.o.  (One of them being Duke great JJ Reddick).   The average adult male is about 1.01; the average NBA player is 1.06 (Josh Levin has a nice piece building off Epstein’s book).  That’s just genes.  No amount of practice in the world is going to make you 6’5″ or give you freakishly long arms. As mentioned in the Vox post, a lot of people just get the 10,000 hour thing wrong (and I think go far beyond what Gladwell intended when he popularized the notion– here’s Gladwell in response to Epstein’s book).

All this soccer has had me thinking about a book I read last year, The Numbers Game which purports to be a Moneyball of soccer.  It’s pretty good, but I couldn’t believe it when the authors basically said, well, yeah, all these Premier League and La Liga players put in their 10,000 hours and that’s that.  Seriously?  Genes, anybody.

The Sports Gene has all sorts of good stuff about body type, training, gender, race (!), etc., but what really stuck with me was the idea of baseline versus trainability.  Some people have genes for an amazing good baseline, i.e., could run a 5 minute mile with little training.  Other people of good genes for high trainability, i.e., maybe start at a 7 minute mile, but respond very well to training and end up at 4 minute miles in far less than 10,000 hours.  Obviously, the truly elite in most sports have the genes for both.  But it is important to recognize that they are separate things (nicely discussed by the author on Fresh Air).

In fact, when Evan wanted to give up soccer after 3 seasons this past spring, I had to admit that he was simply lacking in trainability at the sport.  Other kids had clearly progressed significantly more with roughly the same amount of practice.  If he still loved it, of course, we’d stick with it.  But I wasn’t going to make him play soccer just because I love to coach it.

Evan’s failed efforts as a soccer player, though, had me thinking about trainability.  And one area where my children should have high trainability is music.  My mom was a piano teacher and terrific musician; my dad an all-state clarinetist.  I was pretty good piano player and percussionist myself and Kim was an all-district clarinetists.  The kids ought to be able to play some damn music.  Well, Evan’s been playing piano for 4 weeks now and I don’t really have a lot to compare him to, but I’d say his musical trainability is pretty high– sure puts his soccer trainability to shame.

Wow, that’s a heck of a long blog post for being at the beach.  The least you could to is put The Sports Gene in your reading queue.

More quick hits

As promised…

1) I really wanted to give this its own post, as I so agree with Josh Levin here, but in truth, I’m just not going to get around to it.  Short version: it is asinine to blame a soccer player for one particular mistake that, by happenstance leads to a goal, when literally dozens of similar mistakes happen thoughout a game that don’t lead to a goal.

If you get on me for that one play, Bradley is saying, then you have to blame me for every other little slip-up that could’ve led to a Portuguese goal. Sports punditry, though, is fueled by ex post facto logic: Identify the game’s most important play, and then work backward to deduce who screwed up in the seconds before it happened…

For journalists and commenters, harsh criticism of Bradley represents a willingness to offer the unvarnished truth, matter-of-fact observations that we all need to hear. In reality, the sports blame game does the exact opposite. It’s a quest for a conversation-stopping answer when there are no easy answers to be found.

2) So, no thing can travel faster than the speed of light.  But the expansion of space itself can.  Freaky!  And nice visual explanation here:

3) That led me to this awesome webpage that explains the end of everything (i.e., the sun, the earth, the galaxy, the universe, etc.).

4) TNR’s Eric Garcia on how paid leave for new mothers and fathers is working great in California.  Just like it does in the rest of the developed world– minus the other 49 US states.

5) You know I love me some This American Life.  Interesting NYT story about how they are leaving their distributor to try and go it alone the public radio world.  Of course, if anybody can, TAL can.

6) For some reason, made me think of last Sunday’s wonderful Doonesbury.

7) Great summary piece on how the NC GOP legislature has so quickly taken this state so far backward.

8) Loved this Onion headline that perfectly captured my mother’s experience most summers:

Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties In Closer Proximity To Ocean

9) After reading yet another piece about how sitting is slowly killing me, I decided to do something about it.  I’m pretty sure the best evidence suggests that all you really need to do is make sure you get your muscles moving a few times an hour.  I decided to install this little app on my desktop to have me get up every 20 minutes.  So far I love it.

10) Great piece by a couple of law professors in Slate that really breaks down what is so wrong and so aggressive about the Hobby Lobby decision.


Physical attractiveness of athletes

Kim and I have both noted that there’s a lot of very attractive men participating in the World Cup.  This is most likely quite true and no accident.  Here’s some evidence from cycling:

IT IS unfair, but true, that beautiful people are more successful than ugly ones. Data indicate that this rule applies in both business and politics—and biological theory suggests the underlying reason is that beauty is an indicator of good genes and good health. How that reason translates into success, though, is more questionable. It could be that the pretty and handsome get a helping hand from their colleagues, bosses (and, in the case of politicians, voters) which is denied to the plain and the unseemly. Or it could be that beautiful people’s underlying qualities mean they really are better, on average, at doing things.

One way to disentangle these explanations is to look at a field of endeavour which is about as close as it is possible to get to a true meritocracy: professional sport. Though favouritism here might put you in the team, it will never land you on the winner’s podium. Erik Postma, of the University of Zurich, has therefore done just that, using long-distance cycling as his example. His results, just published in Biology Letters, suggest that good looks really do reflect underlying fitness, in both the athletic and the biological senses.

Dr Postma recruited 816 volunteers (72% women; 28% men) as judges in a beauty competition. He also assembled a collection of 80 mugshots of participants in the 2012 Tour de France…

Both sexes agreed on who was good-looking and who was not, though women tended to give those at the top of the list higher marks than men did—especially if the women in question were undergoing natural menstrual cycles. (Women on the pill gave assessments closer to those of men.) Overall, on the five-point scale Dr Postma used, the top 10% of cyclists in the race were reckoned 25% more attractive than the bottom 10%.

So there’s probably some real science behind this list.

Or that the Croatian soccer coach looks a lot like Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Hobby Lobby omnibus

Wow, if ever we need any proof that key Supreme Court decisions are entirely political, this is up there with Bush v. Gore.  I won’t pretend that there is not politics in the dissent, but I sure find the legal reasoning in the dissent far more persuasive.  Lots of good stuff on the matter, here’s some of my favorites.

1) Amy Davidson:

To start with, who else is off the hook, or will be? What other companies can ignore which other laws on what real or dreamed-up religious grounds? That is something the majority decision in Hobby Lobby leaves shockingly undefined. Ginsburg called it “a decision of startling breadth,” one that could allow for-profit corporations to “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” Alito, in his opinion, denies this; so does Anthony Kennedy, in a concurrence. But neither does so persuasively: their reassurance about the protections against what Ginsburg calls “the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce” come down to, in Alito’s case, shrugs about how nothing alarming has shown up on the Court’s docket yet and, in Kennedy’s, the belief that everyone will be sensible about this.

Just because the majority opinion says their opinion is narrow, does not actually make it so.  The logic/reasoning behind it is not narrow at all and undoubtedly opens up a pandora’s box of religious-based discrimination.  Also this:

Nor is science much of a constraint. Hobby Lobby is really asserting two religious beliefs: that abortion is immoral and that the kinds of contraception it doesn’t want to pay for are, in fact, a form of abortion, even though the scientific evidence says they are not. The majority defers to both of these beliefs.

2) Jeffrey Toobin excellently lays out how the Roberts court has a history of making “narrow” decisions that later become a key precedent for much broader decisions:

The Hobby Lobby decision follows the same pattern. Again, Justice Alito’s opinion (for the same five-to-four majority) expressed its ruling in narrow terms. Alito asserted that the case concerned only a single “closely held” private company whose owners had religious objections to providing certain forms of birth control. According to the court, federal law required that those wishes be honored.

But, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent, there is almost no limitation on the logic of the majority’s view. Almost any closely held companies—which make up a substantial chunk of the American economy—can now claim a religious orientation, and they can now seek to excuse themselves from all sorts of obligations, including honoring certain anti-discrimination laws. And after today’s “narrow” rulings, those cases will come.

There’s simply no reason to think Hobby Lobby will be the end of this.

3) Rick Hasen on when the Court shows deference to Congress:

Near the end of Justice Alito’s majority opinion in the Hobby Lobby case today, he writes that it is not the Court’s job to question the “wisdom” of Congress in using the compelling interest test in RFRA, but the Court applies that RFRA test strongly, and in a way which shows the Court apparently giving great deference to Congress’s judgment about how to balance the government’s interest in generally applicable laws with the accommodations of religious freedoms. It reminded me of Justice Scalia’s pleas in Windsor last term for deference to Congress on the need for the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Court has shown no such deference when it comes to the need for campaign finance regulation or to protect the voting rights of racial minorities and others. The Roberts Court has overturned or limited every campaign finance law it has examined (aside from disclosure laws). It has struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. How much deference did Congress get in those cases? None.

Well when is Congress wise and entitled to deference? When the Court agrees with Congress’s approach. Let’s call that “faux deference,” to go with the “faux-nanimity” of the rest of the term.

Exactly.  Absurd on its face.  The SC Justices question the wisdom of Congress all the time.  But only overrules that “wisdom” when it personally degrees.

4) Kevin Drum is no legal scholar but makes a good case that it really is all about abortion:

Alito takes pains to make it clear that his opinion shouldn’t be considered precedent for anything except the narrowly specific issue at hand: whether contraceptives that some people consider abortifacients can be excluded from health plans.

I think it’s important to recognize what Alito is saying here. Basically, he’s making the case that abortion is unique as a religious issue. If you object to anything else on a religious basis, you’re probably out of luck. But if you object to abortion on religious grounds, you will be given every possible consideration. Even if your objection is only related to abortion in the most tenuous imaginable way—as it is here, where IUDs are considered to be abortifacients for highly idiosyncratic doctrinal reasons—it will be treated with the utmost deference.

This is not a ruling that upholds religious liberty. It is a ruling that specifically enshrines opposition to abortion as the most important religious liberty in America.

5) Emily Bazelon makes a good case that this really is about sex:

As the Institutes of Medicine spelled out in a report for the Department of Health and Human Services, preventing unwanted pregnancies is of undeniable benefit to women.

The majority’s refusal to recognize that fact, full stop, proves a point Linda Greenhouse made in the New York Times last fall: This case is about sex. Or more specifically, it’s a rear-guard action by the religious right to block the government from “putting its thumb on the scale in favor of birth control, of sex without consequences.” Read the article Linda points to by Helen Alvaré, a law professor and longtime adviser to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Or read theseamazing quotes from some of the religious groups that swooped in on Hobby Lobby’s side. These people and ideas won today.

6) Of course, the fact that whether your IUD is covered or not (and it damn well should be– safe and effective contraception) is up to your employer just speaks to the absurdity of our employer-based health care system.  Paul Waldman on the matter.  And if you’ve got a few minutes to listen, Mike Pesca’s “spiel” on this (from his great new podcast, The Gist) is spot-on terrific satire.

7) And lastly, the 8 best lines from Ginsberg’s dissent.

8) I think most of these are quite good arguments.  That said, Slate also has Eric Posner make the case that this case was rightly decided.  I think he too easily looks over the gaping holes in Alito’s legal arguments, but he makes some good points and it’s worth considering the view from a far more reasoned conservative mind.

Quick hits

Lots of time spent watching World Cup means less time blogging and more quick hits.  Here goes:

1) Speaking of the World Cup, I enjoyed this interactive feature on the club teams of players.   What happened with the Uruguayan player who lost consciousness and was allowed back on the field was unconscionable.  Led me to an interesting story of Tyler Twellman, an American who had his career ended by concussions.   On a light note, enjoyed this Telegraph critique/ranking of World Cup uniforms.

2) Enjoyed this piece in the Nation telling liberals to stop looking for intellectually honest conservatives.

3) Scientific ideas that people get wrong.

4) Every time I drive on the 6-lane (3 in each direction) interstate 95 between Richmond, VA and Springfield, VA, I think, this is insane.  There’s 8 lanes between Durham and Burlington, NC.  I’m quite convinced they need to add more lanes and it would be a good thing.  This Wired article says I’m wrong.  Build more lanes and more traffic just fills them up before you know it.  I don’t doubt that is generally true, but I think traffic in NoVa is already pretty maxed out and that this would really help.

5) Derek Thomspon on why audiences hate hard news.

6) My wife asked me why China, with all its people, is not good at soccer.  Fortunately, I had read this Economist article on the very topic just a few hours before.

7) Why we call soccer “soccer” here in the US (and Australia– love the Socceroos).

8) Andrew Sullivan lets loose on the crazy fever swamp of nonsense that is Fox News.

9) Bill Ayers on the “hard choices” college administrators make.

10) Six things Michael Mann (hockey stick graph) wants you to know about scientists and climate change.

11) Among the best short pieces I’ve read on teaching critical and creative thinking.  I’m going to be using a bunch of these ideas in the future and sharing with the teaching grad students I supervise.

12) Okay, don’t expect you to read beyond the abstract (couldn’t find a nice blog summary), but maybe swing voters who change their minds during an election are basically a myth.

13) It seems are legal system is ever more about sticking it to poor people.  Another sorry example (though, wear your seat belt, damn it).

14) How Led Zeppelin invented modern rock.

15) Oh my, this satirical ad about throwing a “first moon” party is just brilliant and hilarious.

16) Advice on sex to sons before heading off to college.

17) Regardless of what one things of the name Redskins, Jonathan Turley makes a compelling case that the patent office well overstepped its bounds.

18) Don’t know that I agree with everything in this education reform rant, but it’s a helluva rant:

We did this by swallowing the obscene notion that schools and colleges are businesses and children are consumers.

We did this by believing in the infallibility of free enterprise, by pretending America is a meritocracy, and by ignoring the pernicious effects of unrelenting racism…

We did this by demeaning the teaching profession.

We did this by allowing poverty and despair to shatter families.

We did this by blaming these families for the poverty and despair we inflicted on them…

We did this by failing to properly fund schools, making them dependent on shrinking property taxes and by shifting the costs of federal mandates to resource-strapped states and local communities.


Microbiome and malnutrition

Here’s some more fascinating micriobiome news I just could not resist sharing.  It seems that a key feature in malnutrition is a deficient micriobiome.  Basically, if you are malnourished and have a deficient microbiome, even once you have proper nutrition your healthy bacteria don’t really catch up and these kids stay permanently behind in a number of key developmental metrics.  The potential solution– address not just the nutrition intake, but the microbiome as well.

From National Geographic:

The current treatment for malnourishment doesn’t help the child’s system catch up to normal maturity, which may explain why formerly malnourished children still suffer from short height, immune problems, and intellectual delays, said Jeffrey I. Gordon, who studies the gut microbiome at Washington University in St. Louis and who led the research.

“There’s something lacking in our current approach to treatment,” said Gordon, who suspects the children may need to eat therapeutic foods for longer and/or get supplements of probiotics, or beneficial microorganisms, to catch up. “We need to think of food as interacting with this microbial organ.” (See our Future of Food series.)…

To conduct the new study, Gordon and his team collected monthly fecal samples from 50 healthy Bangladeshi children for the first two years of their lives. From those children, they found that a combination of 24 species could be used to predict the maturity of a child’s microbial ecosystem.

When these healthy children had diarrhea, their microbial systems regressed but quickly bounced back, the research showed.

The researchers then examined fecal samples from 64 infants and toddlers hospitalized for malnutrition and diarrhea. The children received antibiotics and therapeutic foods for a week or two and then their families were taught how to better support their nutrition.

But these children, who had an immature balance of microbes to begin with, only got a little maturity bounce at the beginning, then remained far behind their peers, Gordon said.

“Food alone wasn’t able to repair the maturity,” he said.

As for me, I’m still anxiously awaiting results on the health of my microbiome (though I feel pretty damn confident about it)

Quick hits

Sorry for the bad blogging of late.  Traveled out of town to my nephew’s HS graduation.  Here’s some overdue quick hits:

1) Great, Lawrence Lessig essay on campaign finance.  This is going right into my Campaigns & Elections syllabus.

2) Enjoyed this Slate blog post on the messages we send to young girls about how the dress with the fingertip rule, etc.

3) Paul Waldman on right-wing rhetoric and right-wing terrorism.  Good stuff, though, I suspect that crazy people will always find some larger ideology to cling to in order to self justify and self -aggrandize.  Right-wing nuttery is just particularly easy to grab onto now.

4) Think being an ER physician will get you good care in the ER?  Think again.

5) Really enjoyed this Grantland guide to watching the World Cup.

6) Delaware shows the way on how to get more smart, but poor, kids into college.

7) George Will wrote an extremely misguided column on sexual violence on campus.  One of the better responses I read.

8) It’s really just dumb to specialize your child in one particular sport at a young age.

9) Love this Dan Kois first-person account of trying to spend a month without sitting.

10) In NC, military leaders have taken to defending the Common Core.  Alas, our legislators would rather listen to the modern day know-nothings (i.e., the Tea Party).

11) The hidden genius of traffic lights.

12) Rob Christensen on how the libertarian strain of conservativism has taken over NC.

Tens of thousands of North Carolinians are being hurt by the actions of the legislature – whether being denied health insurance or unemployment insurance, or losing their jobs in the schools, or their earned income tax credits. They are being harmed by ideas put forth by economic thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman and sold by national groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and locally by the John Locke Foundation. The theory, of course, is that the changes will lead to a more productive economy that will float all boats.

The reality, as we and Christensen know, is that of course it will not.

13) There’s a proposed bill in Missouri to allow police to shoot people (supposedly justifiably) and keep it a secret!.  What could go wrong with that?

14) I read Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World way back when it was new.  Good stuff.  Brainpickings excerpts Sagan’s baloney detection kit.  It’s really, really good.

15) I’ve come across one female soccer coach  (and she was just a sub) in my years of coaching the Blasters.  That seems wrong, but heck, they are boys.  Alas, it does not appear things will change much when I start coaching Sarah’s team in a few years (yes, she damn well better play soccer).

16) I’m pretty sure I’ve linked before to this great Slate story and summary of the crazy, crazy, crazy modern-day Salem Witch Trials that overtook this country in the 80’s and 90’s.  I’m actually glad I was not more aware of these cases at the time as the absurdity and injustice would have driven me crazy.  Alas, here’s a sad case of a surely innocent man still languishing in prison 27 years later here in NC.

17) Speaking of injustice, while driving back from the aforementioned graduation, I listened to this terrific This American Life account (it’s a classic from 9 years ago) of a wrongfully-imprisoned man with my son.  He was shocked and incredulous that this could happen.  Alas, all too common.  Also a good occasion for me to give him some helpful advice, like, never, never submit to a police interview without a lawyer.


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