Mmmmm, bugs!

William Saletan has quite the interesting entry today on how we can solve the global food crisis– eat more bugs!  Apparently, there's quite a bit to recommend this approach:

Consider the nutritional value of the humble cricket: Each 100 grams
of dehydrated tissue has 1,550 milligrams of iron, 340 milligrams of
calcium, and 25 milligrams of zinc — three minerals often lacking in
the diets of third-world countries. If you're ever lost in the woods,
three crickets a day will meet your iron needs. Compared to beef or
pork, bugs deliver more minerals and healthier fats.

Bugs are also more energy-efficient. Crickets deliver twice as much
edible tissue as pigs and almost six times as much as steers based on
the same food input. And that's not counting their superior rate of
reproduction. One scholar calculates that overall, they're 20 times
more efficient than steers.

That global food crisis you've been reading about? No problem. An
Asian expert reports that in Thailand, each family can raise crickets
independently on a tiny parcel of land. In a pair of villages, 400
families are cranking out 10 metric tons of crickets during the peak
season….

You say bugs are gross? Why? Is it the exoskeleton? The appendages? The
weird eyes? Guess what: You already eat animals with these
characteristics. They're called crustaceans. Shrimp, crabs, lobsters —
they're arthropods, just like crickets. They're also scavengers, which
means their diets are as filthy as any bug's.

Given that I studiously avoid shellfish (I like to claim that I'm kosher) this argument did not really work on me.  I'm just going to have to stick with burgers, pizza, and global food shortages.

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Send the innocent to jail?

So, oddly enough I was doing some political science research recently.  I was using the 2006 General Social Survey.  The GSS asks hundreds of the same questions every couple years and adds in interesting series of questions for particular studies.  I thought I'd check out what was new in 2006.  I was intrigued by the following question: “All systems of justice make mistakes, but which do you think is worse? To convict an innocent person or to let an guilty person go free?”  Much to my dismay, nearly 30% (28% to be precise) of this random sample of the American public apparently believe that it is better to send an innocent person to prison than to let a guilty person get away with a crime.  Sure, this is a minority, but to me, this was a shockingly high minority.  A fundamental pillar of the American justice system is that we do all we can to keep innocent people out of prison, hence, “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  To me (and I would hope most persons) it is shockingly worse to send an innocent person to prison.  Yet, for many Americans not so.  Presumably this helps explain why we do end up with so many innocent persons in prison

I tried to make myself feel better by speculating that this morally deficient 28% of Americans was all Republicans.  Nope.  While there is definitely a partisan skew to the data, it is actually pretty small.  30% of Republicans support this view in contrast to 23% of Democrats.  Should I feel like procrastinating from the actual goals of my research further, I am curious to see what other variables help explain this viewpoint.

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