ddhr.org | 2014 | 04 (13) about | archives | comments | rss

Rainbows aren't real Tue, Apr 29, 2014
Filmmaker Sergio Toporek is credited with the following quote: 
The existence of the rainbow depends on the conical photoreceptors in your eyes; to animals without cones, the rainbow does not exist. So you don't just look at a rainbow, you create it.
It's part of a larger quote often titled "We Originated in the Belly of a Star" and often attributed to no one.  Or NASA.  It's confusing. 

As Alotta Hooey discusses, it's only partly true.  It's true that human eyeballs have photoreceptors that allow us to see in color, while many animals can see fewer colors or none at all.  So they would still see a rainbow, but it would be gray. 

However, it's not true that we create rainbows.  Rainbows happen because of light, refraction, and observation angle.  But it raises an interesting idea, related to the observer's paradox, which is the "phenomena where the observation of an event or experiment is influenced by the presence of the observer/investigator".  You can only see a rainbow under a certain set of circumstances.  Stand in the wrong spot, and it's not there.  Try to reach the end, and you'll never get there.  So the presence of a rainbow has a lot to do with the location of the observer, which is almost like the observer creates it. #science

Alcohol vs. marijuana Mon, Apr 28, 2014
Freakonomics did an interesting podcast about alcohol and marijuana, and specifically which is more dangerous.  The general view of economists is that alcohol has an enormous societal cost by way of addiction, drunk driving, and crime, while marijuana doesn't.  It's an interesting thought experiment to consider which would be accepted and which would be outlawed if we had no knowledge about them and they were discovered tomorrow. 

I think one flaw in the discussion, which was acknowledged, is that our present view of marijuana is skewed because of our current system of laws and our related lack of evidence.  We have plenty of evidence about the positives and negatives of alcohol, but marijuana is still an illegal drug for much of the world, so not only is there not much acceptance, there's downright criminal punishment. 

The idea of alcohol and societal cost is a little foreign to me, not because I can't see the societal cost, but because the vast majority of people I know don't contribute to that cost because they consume alcohol responsibly.  If anything, alcohol has a positive societal cost for me, because I enjoy it, and because the money I spend on it is adding to the economy.  That sounds like a justification, and it is, but it's true. 

One economist's opinion was that, all things being equal, if we discovered marijuana and alcohol tomorrow, marijuana would be legalized and alcohol would be outlawed.  I have trouble envisioning this, largely because of the delivery mechanisms.  Alcohol is a liquid that goes straight from container to mouth; marijuana is typically smoked.  I can't imagine smoking marijuana with dinner in place of wine, partly because smoke and food don't really mix, but also because of our society's stigma towards smoking in general.  Mix it into a tea, and then we'd really have something. #science

Mr. Coffee and Mrs. Tea Fri, Apr 25, 2014
Consumerist said this funny thing about Mrs. Tea, the automatic tea brewing machine made by the same company that makes the Mr. Coffee automatic coffee maker: 
Branding-wise, it isn't clear who Mrs. Tea is. Was "Tea" her last name at birth, and when she married Mr. Coffee, she chose to keep her original last name? Is she Mr. Coffee's sister, who married a Mr. Tea (not Mr. T) and then went into the family business?
Calling it Mr. Tea would've been the better choice.  Why make tea into a feminine thing? #products

Bill Maher on cat pictures Tue, Apr 22, 2014
"Before people who post photos of their cat on Reddit, Facebook, or any other site do it again, they must consider this:  People have seen cats before." - Real Time 3/28/14

Venus day vs. year Tue, Apr 22, 2014
The amount of time it takes Venus to complete a rotation about its axis is longer than the amount of time it takes to complete an orbit around the sun, i.e. a Venusian day is longer than a year. #science

Infinity tattoo Wed, Apr 16, 2014
A guy who works at the local pizza place has an infinity symbol tattooed on his forearm.  It's a cool tattoo, but it's in a terrible spot.  Your lower arm can be moved around in such a way to make any orientation seem like the "right" orientation.  So if this guy keeps his arm down at his side, his infinity tattoo looks fine.  But when his elbow is bent, his tattoo is an eight.  That's poor foresight. #lifestyle

Perpetual failure Tue, Apr 15, 2014
Lately at work I've been working on solving a complicated problem that's really just a series of smaller complicated problems.  I work at it all day, every day.  But when I go home at the end of the day, if I still haven't solved the main problem, it means I've effectively accomplished nothing.  Sure, I might've solved some small problems throughout the day, so my end-of-day status is slightly different from my start-of-day status.  But overall, if the main task isn't complete, my job isn't complete.  It's a cycle of perpetual failure. #psychology

We were girls Fri, Apr 11, 2014
Today I learned everyone starts life as a female:  "Whatever your sex, everyone starts off as a woman in the womb."  Sort of via Inquiring Minds. #science

Vet variety Tue, Apr 08, 2014
It's astounding to me that you can bring an animal -- pretty much any animal -- to a vet and expect a reasonable degree of veterinary knowledge.  Human doctors specialize in one species.  Vets specialize in entire classes of organisms.  If a vet can deal with a parrot, a rabbit, and a turtle on the same day, that covers pretty much half the animal kingdom. #nature

Acknowledgement Mon, Apr 07, 2014
I've been having an issue recently with people not acknowledging what I say before they respond, often with either a solution, a criticism, or a one-up.  I was telling some co-workers about a problem I've been having at work, and their responses were "Ha ha, you'll figure it out" and "That's how those things go."  While these statements may be true and perhaps even the "correct" response, I felt like the one thing that was missing was an acknowledgement that what I've been doing is difficult work and that the lack of success sucks.  I guess what I'm looking for is empathy, not a pep talk. 

A similar thing happened a while ago when I was trying to express my outrage about the government furlough.  I realize complaining isn't the pinnacle of human conversation.  But at the same time, I feel that a well-formed rational argument is at least worth an acknowledgement.  Instead, I got a lot of "It's not as bad as [x]" and "Obama is a cactus." 

The funny thing is, I'm not a "feely" person.  I've been told I don't express my feelings, and I don't express them well, and I don't express them enough.  So here I am, expressing my feelings, and all I get is non-validation.  I was under the impression that a fundamental component of human communication is acknowledging what other people say, as are listening to what other people say and responding appropriately.  Acknowledgement is validation, and without it, conversation is mostly one-sided. #sociology

← olderpage 1 of 2