Girls and Boys Preference for Pink

In a recent child development study, on gender-based preferences, there is new evidence that girls develop a preference for pink at about age 2, and while their prefernce may fade somewhat by age 5, the aversion to pink by boys stays steady  between ages 2 and 5.

The study, by Lobue and Deloache in the Brittish Journal of Developmental Psychology , casts doubt on recent speculation that the preference has to do with an innate preference for louder colors, like pink. Indeed if there was such an innate preference we would likely see it reflected sooner.

In the study, toddlers indicated their preference by a paired choice of otherwise identical items, differing only in color. While this choice seems to overlap with a developmental phase that includes verbalization of some ability to distinguish genders verbally, it is still a long way from showing that these changes reflect acculturation.

The study did not look at a preference for blue, a preference that has not been shown to be very robust.

An interesting approach would be to control for language development, and look at the children of parents who themselves have differing views of gender equality, to see if these results are independent of these two factors.

Arab Spring and the End of the War On Terror

In much of the middle east, a new wave of freedom is sweeping the area and bringing with it a new sense of power to the people. This is very good news, to the extent it continues, for those of us who would like to see terror become irrelevant.

Terror is a strategy or tool, not an ideology, although some ideologies embrace it. It is accepted and needed by the masses when the average person feels helpless, powerless, and is compelled to be submissive. Where otherwise strong men are marginalized and made to feel weak, they turn to guerilla tactics. Always have, always will.

It is no coincidence that, until now, terrorism has found fertile ground in the Middle East. After Israel won a couple wars and occupied the West Bank, the Arab world had little recent events to take pride in — and within their own countries — they had no power or influence. Whether their tyrants were secular or religious, Sunni or Shiite, the average man (or woman) had no say in issues that mattered in their lives.

If you wanted to make an impact, or be a local hero, there often were no obvious places to sign up, other than various terrorist groups.

So now we know that, with the assistance of social media, especially Facebook and twitter, it is possible for everyman to have an impact. I look forward to the time when terrorism is an anachronism, and we learn once again that the pen is mightier than the sword.

Or should I say the mouse is mightier than the IED or maybe the cell phone is mightier than the
terror cell.

Nuclear Meltdown? Precarious Impact of Earthquakes on Nuclear Power

There is danger of a core meltdown at the nuclear power plants damaged by the Tsunami in Japan. Two of the reactors (unit 1 and unit 3) have exploded due to a buildup of Hydrogen, when the cooling system proved inadequate. If the fuel rods melt and form a molten-lava like substance that escapes the containers,
a meltdown in Unit 2 is especially a concern, if reports out of Japan are to be believed.

We could rest a little easier if Japan had a record of candid reports when it comes to nuclear emission problems. In the past they have been found to be less than candid. Can we believe them? They said that the emissions so far have been in safe amounts, but the US military did not get that memo, and when they detected dangerous amounts, they moved the fleet, and hosed down the exposed sailors.

Stephanie Cooke, nuclear expert, speaking on the Jenk Yugar show on MSNBC, said today there are “multiple things to consider.” Evacuation of the site would mean the rest of the site would be at risk. She also noted the risk from the venting that is currently going on.

In a best case scenario, Unit 2 will not explode or melt down. The sea water being used to cool these rods in all three units will be stored safely and not released accidentally or intentionally. In the worst case scenario, a meltdown will go beyond the containers and then poison much of Northern Japan, and the water and air downstream and downwind.

USA Nuclear Power Folly

The USA has 104 nuclear power plants, more than any other country, and many of these plants are near to population centers. Several of the GE plants in New England have a construction design similar to those now teetering in Japan. Some reactors in the Midwest, California, and SC are on earthquake fault lines in the USA.

The majority of the US youth do not even remember Three Mile Island, but it scarred enough of us, that there was a moratorium on building new plants for several decades. There has been relatively little improvement in design saftey since. Instead recent efforts in design have been dedicated to making cheap, almost bic lighter disposable reactors that would crumple in an earthquake.

Nuclear Power Disaster in the USA?

In a natural disaster in the US, nuclear power becomes a distraction or a danger, and certainly not an asset. The units in San Clemente, California are in danger. The Seabrook and Pilgrim plants in the NE are at risk. We do not have backup on the grid to cool down nuclear reactors anywhere for more than 4 hours.

The cost economically to the USA of nuclear power is more pervasive than this implies. NO one has a clue on how to store the waste. The decision by the Obama administration, to build more of these plants, even if they were safe, would most likely be at the expense of the only safe forms of alternative energy- wind and solar. With the deep sea drilling catastraphe last year and now this wake up call, you would think that the politicians would reorient with regards to nuclear power, and start to move in the direction of Brazil, China, and many other countries, who take the lead on these technologies, while the USA takes the role of reluctant follower rather than trailblazing leader.

I Don’t Have Anything To Say

Today, but at least for now I have the freedom to say or not say what I like.  With the Wiki Leak clampdown on freedom of the press I hope the internet does not morph into one big mouthpiece for coprorations… this highlights for me the net neutrality issues that have surfaced lately.

Somebody should be writing some scholarly articles about how Chinese dissidents could circumvent crackdowns, it may have world wide applicability soon, it seems.  I can’t believe that governments are extraditing an interpol fugitive because his condom broke and he is a boor. If that were grounds, most US diplomats would be subject to extradition.

Published in: on December 12, 2010 at 10:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Lennon, the Kennedys and MLK

Ever notice that all the crazed assassins seem to go for those who are the dreamers? It is as if they are trying to kill off hope, in order to justify thier own miserable lives. I cant think of one American politician or celebrity who was shot because they were angry, condescending, corrupt, or working against our best interests.

I guess that makes most politicians feel safe. Its only if you provide some type of positive, or inspirational message that someone tries to snuff the messenger..I realize many people think that at least a couple of these deaths were a conspiracy, and I would not rule that out. After all big money is never pleased with messages that empower the little guy. But I think it has more to do with the mindset of the killer, how they cannot abide by something like real hope.

Delaying the Retirement Age

Protests in France against changing the retirement age, from 60 to 62 have so far not succeeded in derailing the legislation. Indeed the senate in France voted to move forward with these changes. Like America, France has a divided government, and while the conservatives do not have to deal with filibusters, the shutdowns of the street protests, organized by labor and other groups with more progressive leanings, put the U.S. Tea Party movement to shame.

The tea party riff-raff here can be impolite and their extremists make accusations that are alternatively wacky, dumb or bigoted, by they do not rally the working class. To think of these people as populist, when most of their money comes from billionaires, is the height of absurdity.

Their goals, for the most part, seem to be to win seats at the table, so they can be in charge. That is politics not populism. If the Republicans take over the US senate as well as the house, they will then be the  “government”  that the tea party has begun to protest, when Democrats run it.  Then there will be some real populists in the opposition, and progressive populists may make things a little less comfortable for the wall street banks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see marches against foreclosure,  and some real protests akin to the 60’s.

Our  government in the US is broke, but not for the reasons the Tea Party harps on. It is because we did not heed Eisenhower’s warning about the military industrial complex, and have let defense contractors, banks, and insurance companies purchase unprecedented power, and neither political party has an interest in stopping them.

Ms. Smith Goes to Washington

On this day in 1939, the movie Mr Smith Goes to Washington, starring James Stewart and directed by Frank Capra premiered. In the current climate, all the tea party women and their immitators  plan to make it Ms. (or perhaps they would insist Mrs.) Smith instead, when they talk us into sending them to Washington. The original movie was fiction, and I have to say the real world has never produced a real life version, although Paul Wellstone, the Minnesotta senator who died in a plane crash, came close.

The current crop of Republican women are making the news, and making noise like they are just plain folk. Whether it be Sarah Palin’s winks, or the mantra “I am you,” by Christine Samantha O’Donnell, they seem to think that they are  not politicians.  Bull. They are more like politicians than they are citizens. The witch can’t seem to pay her taxes, something she shares with tea party Governor candidate NIcki Haley of South Carolina.  That’s kind of normal, I guess, but not something that would inspire me to vote for them, and certainly not something a good citizen like Mr. Smith would have tried.

How many of us have had the opportuity or inclination to run for the senate and lose, then run again, like Ms. O’Donnell? Or to participate on Bill Maher TV roundtable discussions, when, like Christine, we were too young to even drop out of school? And why would she (falsely) claim she went to Princeton if she is such a plain (Palin?) Jane…. What kind of work has she actually held?  Has there ever been dirt under her fingernails?

If these tea party witches  think they are more normal, well maybe they are, when compared to Meg Whitman and Carly (Send all the jobs abroad) Fiorino, who both bring all the money they could squeeze out of the working folks to their quest to be liked by the majority of the less well-heeled voters in California.  Are we really going to have government by auction?

I like the idea of a citizen politician. If I ever see one, I will gladly give them some money and my vote.  But none of these celebrity tea party candidates seem to have any credible claim to being normal.

Published in: on October 17, 2010 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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I Guess Cannes and Nice Can Wait

Well, they passed health care, so I guess I can put off moving overseas. Greece may be having a hard time but I bet there are some bargains there right now, if I was looking to buy a house.

Our health care may not be the best in the world but it sure is the most expensive. I think I would rather recuperate on the Riviera or somewhere tropical.

Published in: on March 31, 2010 at 6:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The smell of fear is real, claim scientists

The smell of fear is real, according to a recent account of an experiment, but the finding that fear is contagious because of smell, may lead to weapons of mass disgust. The study, funded by the US Defence Department, might eventually have implications for military and crowd control applications.

Research of this type looks at pheremones, defined by Wikipedia as a “chemical that triggers a natural behavioral response” in others. The assumption is that we emit telltale chemical signals in our aroma and that others sense it and act accordingly.

In addition to fear pheromones, other scents that cue our behavior are far more prevalent than we believe. Recent studies suggest that our nose gives us all kinds of “social” cues, and we follow them without realizing it. For one thing, women who share the same residence may be prone to synchronize their menstrual cycles, and the cues they are using are likely olfactory. Also, mothers can recognize their child by their unique smell (without realizing they rely on it) and there is evidence that there is real chemistry in our decisions about who we think is “hot.”

In the most recent and very interesting DARPA funded research on pheromones is about the smell of fear. Researchers at Stony Brook University have found that when we sweat, while we are in a state of fear, then those within a wiffing range of us can pick up on our fear.

In a study of 40 newbie sky divers, their underarm sweat later triggered, in a second group, a reaction in the area of the brain associated with fear. While they were not aware of being afraid, such a lack of awareness, while raising questions about what really happened, proves little, while raising some questions.

People rarely report any awareness of the effects of pheromones. For example, in another study by Denise Chen, subjects reacted to fear pheromones behaviorally, but again without actual awareness.

I have to say I am spooked by the fact that the defense department is getting a leg up (so to speak) on us, trying to learn how to control us with smells we don’t know are impacting us. At least with WMD, we can imagine we could see it coming.

Science in a Post-Bush World

As a psychologist who is also a scientist/researcher I have been impatient with my Government and it’s contempt for science in the past 8 years. While some of the areas in which science was attcked effected me, like you, on a personal level (eg. global warming) there also was a professional impact, whether through draconian budget priorities or the corportaization of the FDA and other relevannt regulating bodies. The Follwing article is relevant reading:

What Science in a Post Bush World Will Look Like

After eight years of brawls with the Bush administration on issues including climate change, stem cell research and health care, scientists across the country aren’t just hungry for change they can believe in, but science they can trust. The underlying issue that has sparked outrage is Bush’s politicization of the scientific discipline.

read more | digg story

Published in: on November 7, 2008 at 12:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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