Monday, May 30, 2005

Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman

This book was cited in the bibliography of a few of the other health related books, and it was endorsed by Stephen Pinker (one of my literary heroes). If you read it, you might find it astonishing ;)

In a study of 178 nuns started in 1932, "90% of the most cheerful quartile was alive at age 85 vs. 34% of the least cheerful quartile. Similarly, 54% of the most cheerful was alive at age 94, as opposed to 11% of the least cheerful." p4

In a study of 141 senior class college photos, all but 3 women were smiling. Of these, only about 1/2 were exhibiting a true smile "Duchenne smile". "Astonishingly, 'Duchenne' women were more likely to be married, to stay married, and to experience more personal well being over the next 30 years. Those indicators of happiness were predicted by a mere crinkling of eyes." p5

An experiment on 682 colonscopy patients "were randomly assigned 1 extra minute at the end [of the colonscopy exam]... A stationary colonscope provides a less uncomfortable final minute that what went before, but it does add one extra minute of discomfort. The added minute means, that this group gets more total pain. But because their experience ends relatively well, however, their memory of the episode is much rosier, and they are more willing to undergo the procedure again." p7 So if you're going to do something painful to someone, make sure to end it on a happy note.

A Mayo Clinic study of 839 patients who took a routine psychological exam as well as phsyical tests including a test of optimism yielded the following "Of these patients 200 had died by 2000, and optimists had 19% greater longevity... living 19% longer is comparable to the longer lives of the happy nuns." p10

"Not all of us become helpless after being presented with insolvable problems or inescapable pain. 1 out 3 never gives up, no matter what we do. Moreover 1 out of 8 is helpless to begin with - it does not take any experience with uncontrollability at all to make them give up." p23

"Depressed students were very accurate, both when they had control and when they did not. The nondepressed were accurate when they had control, but even when they were helpless they still judged that they had 35% control [when they had none!]. The depressed people were sadder but wiser. " p33 The good news is you were right. The bad news is that you have no control and therefore you should be utterly depressed.

"Happy people remember more good events than actually happened, and they forget more of the bad events. Depressed people in contrast are accurate about both." p37 If you're a defense attorney, you should make sure to ask prospective witnesses if they're on prozac or not.

"Choose your venue and design your mood to fit the task at hand: tasks that require critical thinking - doing income taxes, studying for an exam, dealing with rejection, etc. should be carried out when you are uptight, sad or out of sorts; it will make your decisions more acute... In contrast, any number of life tasks that call for creative, generous and tolerant thinking should be carried out in a setting that will buoy your mood." p39

"After controlling for age, income, education, weight, smoking, drinking, and disease, researchers found that happy people were 1/2 as likely to die, and 1/2 as likely to become disabled. [based upon a study of 2282 people aged 65 or older]" p40

"Not only do happy people endure pain better and take more health and safety precautions when threatened, but positive emotions undo negative emotions... [In an experiment where subjects watched a film of a person dangling over a precipice, the actor loses his grip and nearly falls to his sure death] the heart rate of the subjects goes through the roof. Right after watching this, they are shown 1 of 4 further films: 'waves', which induce contentment; 'puppy' which induces amusement; 'sticks' which induces no emotion; 'cry' which induces sadness. 'Puppy' and 'wave' both bring the heart rate way down, while 'cry' makes the high heart rate go even higher." p41

"A systematic study of 22 people of won major lotteries found that they reverted to their baseline level of happiness over time, winding up no happier than 22 controls... Even individuals who became paraplegic quickly begin to adapt... within 8 weeks they report more net positive emotion than negative. Within a few years, they wind up only slightly less happy on average than controls. These findings fit the idea that we each have a personal set range for our level of positive/negative emotion, and this range may represent the inherited aspect of overall happiness." p48

"Good things and high achievements, studies have shown, have astonishingly little power to raise happiness more than transiently: In less than 3 months, major events (such as being fired/promoted) lose their impact on happiness levels; Rich people are, on average, only slightly happier than poor people; Physical attractiveness does not have much effect at all on happiness; Objective physical health [being in great shape w/o disease] is barely correlated with happiness." p49 Does 'What have you done for me lately?' ring a bell?

"If you want to lastingly raise your level of happiness by changing the external circumstances of your life, you should do the following in order:
1. Live in a wealthy democracy, not in an impoverished dictatorship (strong effect)
2. Get married (robust effect, but perhaps not casual)
3. Acquire a rich social network (robust effect, but perhaps not casual)
4. Avoid negative events and negative emotion (only a moderate effect)
5. Get religion (a moderate effect)
However you needn't bother to do the following:
1. Make more money
2. Stay healthy
3. Get as much education as possible
4. Change your race (ie. become white)
5. Move to a sunnier climate" p61

"255 medical students [from Duke] took a personality test that measured overt hostility. As physicians 25 years later, the angriest had roughly 5 times as much heart disease as the least angriest... In experimental studies, when male students bottle up their anger, blood pressure goes down, and it goes up if they decide to express their feelings... Time urgency, competitiveness, and the suppression of anger do not seem to play a role in Type A people getting more heart disease." p69 Don't blow your top, you goddamned $#%#)!!!! Or it will eventually kill you. Holding in your feelings is actually the better course no matter what your wife tells you.

"Try to find the optimal spacing that keeps habituation at bay... Take one mouthful of ice cream, then wait 30 seconds. If you no longer crave the second mouthful, throw it down the drain. If you still want it, have a second, but wait again before the third." p106 Yeah, right. I'd like to see any of you throw a perfectly good bowl of Haagen Daz down the drain.

"After 3 years of study, the novice monk arrives at the dwelling of the his teacher. He enters the room bursting with ideas about the knotty issues of Buddhist metaphysics, and well-prepared for the deep questions that await him in his examination.
'I have but one question' his teacher intones.
'I am ready, master' he replies.
'In the doorway, were the flowers to the left or to the right of teh umbrella?'
The novice retires, abashed, for 3 more years of study." p109 The section heading was Mindfulness.

"In a study of 250 high flow teenagers, and 250 low flow teenagers (low flow teenagers are 'mall' kids that hang out and watch lots of TV, high flow kids have hobbies, play sports, and spend time on homework), the high flow kids did better on every measure of psychological well-being save one: the high flow kids think their low flow peers are having more fun... Later in life, the high flow kids are the ones who make it to college, who have deeper social ties, and whose later lives are more successful." p117

"A Houston man earned a succint lesson in gun safety when be played Russian roulette with a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol... [Can you see the problem here yet? I'll give you second to be mindful grasshopper.]
He apparently did not realize that a semiautomatic pistol, unlike a revolver, automatically always inserts a cartridge into the firing chamber when the gun is cocked. His chance of winning a round of Russian roulette was zero, as he quickly discoverd." p139 What do you expect? He was from Houston.

"When adjusted for sociodemographics, lawyers suffer depression at a rate 360% higher than employed persons generally. Lawyers also suffer from alcoholism and illegal drug use at rates far higher than non-lawyers. The divorce rate among lawyers, especially women, is higher than among other professionals." p177 Have you hugged your lawyer today? You really should.

"Children who live with both biological parents repeat grades at only 1/3 the rate of children in other parenting arrangements, and they are treated for emotional disorders at 1/4 the rate." p188

"Optimism helps marriage. When your partner does something that displeases you, try hard to find a credible temporary and local explanation for it: 'He's tired','He had a hangover' as opposed to 'He's a grouch', 'He's an alcoholic'. When your spouse does something admirable, amplify it with plausible explanations that are permanent: 'She's brilliant' as opposed to 'What a lucky day she had'." p202

"Punishment, making an undesirable event contingent on an unwanted action, turns out to be highly effective in eliminating unwanted behavior, and literally 100s of experiments now demonstrate this... Punishment fails frequently because the safety and danger signals are often unclear to the child. Make sure he knows exactly what action he is being punished for." p220

"Having chores as a child is one of the only early predictors of positive mental health later in life [from Harvard cohort studies I outlined in Vaillant's book]" p225 So saddle those kids with chores, and punish them when they don't do them. They'll thank you later in life. Plus you have science on your side.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Racing the Antelope: What animals can teach us about running and life by Bernd Heinrich

A book for runners by a runner. This guy is a bit nuts about his running, but he's a scientist and a skeptic about nutrition, stretching/warm up, training, etc. He bases his diet and training regimen on what he's learned from the other super endurance athletes on the planet; the migrating birds and insects, the fastest antelopes, the water frugal camel, etc.
If you're not into running, my annotations should suffice to sate your curiosity. If you're a runner, you'll enjoy the whole book. Happy trails.3 stars.

Here's the reason why you should always warm up before vigorous exercise. "Cooled muscles unload oxygen more slowly from the blood, reducing the capacity for high rates of power output." p20

How exactly does the oxygen move from the hemoglobin in your blood to the muscles cells that need it? "Myoglobin is within the muscle fibers (cells), and by oxygen there even more easily than hemoglobin binds oxygen in the blood, it removes oxygen from the blood and makes it available to teh cell's metabolic pathways." p66 As an aside, slow twitch muscle has lots of myoglobin, but fast twitch muscle doesn't. Myoglobin makes meat red or dark when cooked. White meat (especially in poultry) has very little myoglobin. Chickens use their breast muscle for brief flight attempts so they have fast twitch muscles there. Ducks on the other hand fly long distances, and their breast meat is quite dark.

"Distance runner's leg muscles contain predominantly - 79 to 95% - slow twitch muscles vs. 50% in the avg individual and about 25% for elite sprinters. " p67

"Bees regurgiate their stomach contents from the mouth and spread liquid all over themselves with their forefeet [to cool themselves down via evaporation - analogous to sweating]." p101 And you thought sweat was stinky and disgusting, imagine if on a hot day we had to vomit all over ourselves to keep our cool. Could it possibly get any grosser than that? But of course! Never underestimate biology. "Storks defecate runny feces down their legs. The blood in the bird's legs is cooled by the evaporation, which reduces overall body temperature by as much as 2 degress celsius." p102

"Geese fly over the summit of Mt. Everest (reaching altitudes over 30,000 feet!)... where the air is only 1/3 that at sea level." p113 Birds have lungs that are nothing like ours. It takes them two full breaths to move air completely in/out of their lungs, allowing them to get twice the exposure.

Pronghorn antelope can reach speeds of 61 mph and cover 7 miles in 10 minutes (p119). But the ultimate endurance athelete is actually the camel. Here are some fun facts on the dromedary ultra-marathoner par excellence:

Top speed is only 10 mph - compared to a racehorse of 35 mph, but a camel can cover 100 miles in 16 hours - a racehorse only goes 1.5 miles in 2.5 minutes. p135 "In a 1 day race between a horse and a camel over a 176 km course, the horse barely won. The next day the camel just kept on going like normal. The horse died." p135

"The advantage of carrying the fat on the back, rather than evenly distributed all over the body, is that it leaves the belly and other shaded areas less insulated and thus more available for heat loss from the body core... The fatty lump serves, like our head hair, as a heat shield from the sun in middle of the day, so that less water needs to be lost by sweating." p138 "A shorn camel lost 50% more water [from sweating] than a fully furred one." p141 So the hump doesn't actually store water, but it helps save water none the less.

"We're near death if we lose water equal to about 12% of our body weight, but camels can survive body water loss of 40%. After being dehydrated, a camel can ingest upto 25% of it body weight in one drinking bout... Camels can rehydrate even when drinking brackish or salty water that dehydrate us since we'd expend water to flush out the ingested salts. In contrast the camel's powerful kidneys can make urine twice as concentrated as sea water, allowing them to get rid of much waste using little water." p140

Dehydrated camels can allow their body temperature to fluctuate by nearly 12 degrees F (93 to 105) with little ill effect. If their skin temperature rises above 113F, they must sweat to prevent overheating."Our own body temperature dips 2-3 F below normal at night" p 141

Why would we evole bipedalism when it is less energetically efficient that quadripedalism? "Bipedal posture [vs. quadripedal posture] experienced 60% less direct solar radiation. In addition, in that posture the body is better situated to take advantage of breezes for convective cooling." p166

Why would our bodies care so much about the overheating? "Takeovers [stealing a carcass from other scavengers or hunters] would have been difficult at night [for our ancestors], and it would been easiest in the middle of the day when the predator had retired into the shade, leaving carcasses untended or at least less vigorously defended." p167

What was the rush all about? Why couldn't we take our time in the mid-day sun to reach the carcasses? "Traveling fast and long would have been a great premium for getting to predator-killed carcasses before the competitors [think vultures, jackals] devoured it." p168

"By about 2 to 3 million years ago, the bipedal plains hominids already had a leg and foot structure almost identical to our own." p169 It is around this period that there is evidence of our ancestors transforming from scavengers to predators.

Sweating is a uniquely human characteristic. "We don't need a sweating response to outrun predators, because that requires relatively short, fast sprinting, where accumulating a heat load is, like a lactic acid load, acceptable. What we do need sweating for is to sustain running in the heat of the day - the time when most predators retire into the shade."p174
"On a continuous run of 60 miles on a moderate to cool day, an ultramarathoner may lose nearly 20 pounds of water by sweating alone." p174 That's about 9lbs for a marathon, or about 1 lb or 16 oz per 3 miles.

"Bushmen of southern Africa were well known for being able to run down swift prey, including wildebeests and zebra, provided they could hunt in the heat of the day. The Tarahumara of northern Mexico chase down deer till the animals are exhausted... The Paiutes and Navajo were reported to do the same with pronghorn antelopes. Australian Aborigines chase down kangaroos, but only by forcing them to reach lethal body temperatures." Distance running in the heat of the day is in our blood the world over!

What was a typical day like for our African ancestors? Perhaps today's bushmen can offer us a glimpse. "Often they travel 30 Km per day (19 miles), come home with nothing, and by next morning are off again... They carry no food or water with them, because that hinders their ability to travel. They might follow a wounded giraffe for five days." p180 Thank goodness we have Safeway.

Why boys love to play sports and girls love the athletes that do. "Could the origin of our dances, like our athletic games that provide worthless ribbons, medals, and trophies, be symbolic activities that show off our capacities [for being good hunters in the eyes of potential mates]?"

"For most animals continuously available food translates to never being fat because there is then no need for fat, but advantages to being thin... Fasting is a danger signal that says 'Food is getting scarce - stock up if you possibly can.' Thus I predict that when trying to lose fat, a very gradual decreased caloric intake will not allow the body to notice that it is fasting." p203 "Dieting can reduce metabolic rate by as much as 45%, making one weak, sluggish, and slow, while reducing weight only slightly." I have been doing exercising more and eating slightly less for 3 months now (March 2005 till May), and I've lost 15 lbs of fat and only fat since my strength with weights has stayed constant.

Hey fatso, blame it on your parents, grandparents and their parents. "Humans like bears and birds are obviously also capable of laying up fat stores, which suggests that our ancestors very likely experienced times when food was abundant, followed by times when food was scarce... Further, our ability to fatten at any time tells us tht those who survived to be our ancestors were capable of fattening when opportunity arose. " p204

How many guys have heard this question? 'Why does ice cream always go to my butt and thighs?' Well here's the answer you've been waiting to tell. "In human history, women were either pregnant or lactating virtually continuously... In a world of often limited resources, fatness was associated with fertility, and most likely considered sexy. In females, the distribution of fat might have evolved to accentuate its presence, so that it could be shown off." p204

"Lifting 1 oz of extra foot weight 1 inch higher than necessary [while running a marathon] would be quivalent to lifting a 390 lb weight a distance of 1 foot." p226 Thats why you should run with the lightest shoes, no socks, and why some runners prefer running barefoot.

"Suppose a 150 lb runner goes up-down only 3 inches with each step; then over the course of a marathon he will have lifted his 150 lb body mass a distance of about 1 mile." p227

"Some think that you are given a specifc number of heartbeats per lifetime, and they would not rather use up their quota by running [or exercising]. Running may increase your heart rate up to 120 to 140 beats per minute from a normal 60, after a few months of training, the resting heart rate for the other 23 hours of the day may greatly decrease. "p234 Let's say you run 1 hour a day at 120 beats/min, yielding 7200 beats for the workout, but this drops your rest rate to 45 beats per minute from 60. Total beats per day while exercising is 7,200 + 23 hours x 60 minutes x 45 beats or 69,300. If sedentary, you have 60 beats per minute x 60 minutes x 24 hours = 86,400. So if this theory is true, you would live 20% longer by exercising vigorously every day to lower your heart rate.

"Many animal studies, from mice to monkeys [and now people based upon the Okinawa study], show that reduction in caloric intake increases health and longetivity, then maybe the relevant variable is caloric deficit, and so exercise, by reducing caloric excess, should do the same as caloric reduction." p236 Can I have my cake and run with it too? I've always wondered that if the theory caloric reduction is based upon assumptions of oxidative exposure, why exercise doesn't accelerate aging and detoriration. Maybe it has nothing to do with oxidation (or the power of anti-oxidants to save you), but simply a slow down of overall metabolic processes because the body is in a perpetual state of perceived famine.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan

UPDATED on 5/23. Interesting quick read on the other urban creature that has lived harmoniously with us for 1000s of years.

Publishers Weekly: In this excellent narrative, Sullivan uses the brown rat as the vehicle for a labyrinthine history of the Big Apple. After pointing out a host of facts about rats that are sure to make you start itching ("if you are in New York... you are within close proximity to one or more rats having sex"), Sullivan quickly focuses in on the rat's seemingly inexhaustible number of connections to mankind. Observing a group of rats in a New York City alley, just blocks from a preâ€"September 11 World Trade Center, leads Sullivan into a timeless world that has more twists than Manhattan's rat-friendly underbelly. Conversations and field studies with "pest control technicians" spirit him back to 1960s Harlem, when rat infestations played a part in the Civil Rights movement and the creation of tenants' organizations. Researching the names of the streets and landmarks near the rats' homes, Sullivan is led even deeper into the city's history till he is back to the 19th century, when the real gangs of New York were the packs of rats that overran the city's bustling docks. Like any true New Yorker, Sullivan is able to convey simultaneously the feelings of disgust and awe that most city dwellers have for the scurrying masses that live among them. These feelings, coupled with his ability to literally and figuratively insert himself into the company of his hairy neighbors, help to personalize the myriad of topicsâ€"urban renewal, labor strikes, congressional bills, disease control, September 11-that rats have nosed their way into over the years. This book is a must pickup for every city dweller, even if you'll feel like you need to wash your hands when you put it down.

"Rats often bit young children and infants on the face because of the smell of food residues on the children. Many of the approximately 50,000 people bitten by rats every year are children." p6

"When it gnaws, a flap of skin plugs the space behind its incisors... Hence, indigestible material - concrete or steel - shavings don't go down the rats throat and kill it." p7

"It terms of hardness, the brown rat's teeth are stronger than aluminum, copper, lead and iron. They are comparable to steel... Rats can exert a biting pressure of up to 7000 lbs/sqin." p7

"By one estimate, 26% of electric cable breaks and 18% of all phone/cable disruptions are caused by rats... as many as 25% of all fires of unknown origin are rat-caused." p7

"Their skeletons collapse and they can squeeze into a hole as small as 3/4 inch wide." p8

"Male and female rats may have sex 20 times a day... A female rat can become pregnant immediately after giving birth... One pair of rats has the potential of 15,000 descendants in a year [however most rats don't make it]."p11

"The end of rat fights did not come until the next inexpensive crowd-pleasing sporting event was finally embraced by the growing number of inner city residents in New York and all over America: Baseball." p85

"When plague arrived in Honolulu [circa 1900], the officials were so intent on saving the city that they considered burning it down and ended up burning much of Chinatown. The outbreak of plague in Hawaii is sometimes called the 2nd worst disaster in the history of state after the bombing of Pearl Harbor." p155

"There are more rodents currently infected with the plague in N. America than there were in Europe at the time of the Black Death, though modern rodents infected (prairie dogs for example) tend to live in areas less populated with humans..." p162

"To simulate the spread of anthrax over large populations, the government used microbes that were similar to anthrax but thought [at the time] to be harmless. In April 1950, 2 navy ships sprayed the residents of Newport News, Hamption and Norfolk, VA with Bacillus globigii. Similar sprayings were made in the SF Bay - area residents were exposed to clouds of the microbes... In NYC, the military released Bacillus globigii on the subways... Neither the public nor Congress knew about it. The results are still classified." p178-9

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Okinawa Diet Plan: Discover how the world's longest lived and healthiest people eat to stay slim by Brad Willcox MD

This is the book based upon the 25 year landmark scientific study that has proved that caloric restriction in humans does increase longevity. Unfortunately the results are not heartening for most of us. We need to learn to eat a lot less than we do today. That means 25% to 40% less per day. Bon appetit!

"Okinawa, in fact, has the highest concentration of centenarians worldwide... including the world's oldest living citizen [116 at the time of printing]." p2

"When you consider that the US counts only 10 centenarians per 100,000, while Okinawa has 40, you begin to see the significance of these numbers." p2

"American men gain an average of 22 lbs between the ages of 20 & 60 ...women average a 12 lb gain... Okinawans actually lost about 5 lbs during those years, consistent with the fact that older people require fewer calories." p7

"The science behind caloric restriction and its ability to help keep the body slim, healthy, and youthful is fascinating. The most plausible theoretical mechanism is a reduction in the production of cell damaging free radicals, which are generated primarily by metabolizing food for energy - if you eat less food, you generate fewer free radicals. Lower free radical production in turn minimizes potential damage to cellular machinery, such as DNA and mitochondria, which ultimately results in slower aging... From the standpoint of evolutionary theory, it's been proposed that limiting calories kicks into play an 'adaptive response' the same kind animals use when faced by episodic periods of food shortage in the wild. They simply shift their allocation of energy from growth and reproduction to maintenance and repair and thus survive the period of deprivation, becoming even stronger in the process." p9-10 But then exercise should be very harmful to you because of the increased energy burn?

"Americans eat about 2100 calories per day, which amounts to about 2lbs of food. Okinawans... eat only about 1600 calories per day, but their food weighed about 2.5lbs. The Okinawans were in fact eating more food but consuming fewer calories." p13

"Studies from England, Netherlands and the US hav all come to the same conclusion. People eat abotu 2 to 3 lbs of food daily [irregardless of the caloric content]." p14 Our bodies measure volume, and were not capable of counting calories.

"Americans eat an average of 27 teaspoons of sugar per day per person." p15

"Throught most of human history, food was scarce, and it required a great deal of physical energy to acquire it. Those who ate the most calories staved off famine and had the energy to reproduce... As a result, we are hard wired to prefer calorie-rich diets that are high in fat and sugar." p 16

"Fat cells produce estrogen. In fact, after menopause, body fat becomes the major source of a woman's estrogen. That's why estrogen dependent cancers, such as endometrial and breast cancer are more common in obese women." p19

Could it simply be genes? "The difference between traditional Okinawans and Brazillian emigrated Okinawans are truly impressive. Almost every cause of death goes up dramatically. Perhaps more alarming is that they lose 17 years of life expectancy... Genes aren't the answer. The most likely explanation for the health discrepancy is diet." p 22

"A daily energy imbalance [consuming as little as 15 calories more than you burn] would increase your weight by 40 to 50 lbs during your adulthood... If daily caloric intake exceeds output by only 100 calories per day, ... this caloric excess would cause a yearly gain of about 10 lbs." p 26-7

"When your body's energy balance is tuned just below its set point (ie. you eat slightly less than you require), your body has to defend that set point against being underweight. This allows you to tap into those tremendous calorie restriction benefits - slower aging and much lower disease risk... In other words, it fine tunes your body so it will be able to last a very long time under harsh conditions." p27 This is why exercise is critical and beneficial despite the energy burn. Even though exercise increases your caloric intake (exposing you to more harmful antioxidants), if you burn more than you ingest, your body goes into a state where it fights off antioxidation much more effectively, despite the increased energy production.

"One group got 3 meals a day, the other got 17 smaller meals spread through the day. The results showed that the 17 meal group had an impressive decrease in blood sugar (4%), insulin (28%), and LDL (13%)... Bottom line: It's better to have small meals throughout the day than to stuff yourself at 2 or 3 huge meals." p114

Freakanomics by Steven J. Levitt

Interesting, hilarious and thought provoking all at once. There's a little bit too much self promotion; I can't tell you how many times you hear that Levitt was awarded some award for being the best economist under 40, or how amazingly different he is. I think the book and its anecdotes suffice to establish his credentials w/o the harping. That aside, the book is a light ride with a dose of heavy content here and there. It makes an unbashed plug for another book that I highly recommend (especially to parents of young children), The Blank Slate by Stephen Pinker. I won't give everything away, but I think you'll find the chapter on names uproariously funny. Enjoy - 4 stars!

Separating correlation from causation. Don't mix the two up like this russian did. "Consider the folktale of the czar who learned that the most disease ridden province in his empire was also the province with the most doctors. His solution? He promptly ordered all of the doctors shot dead." p10

"Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work - whereas economics represents how it actually does work." p13 More reason why I was also an economics major.

"An analysis of the entire Chicago [school district standardized test] data reveals evidence of teacher cheating in more than 200 classrooms per year, roughly 5% of the total." p34
"Among N. Carloina teachers, some 35% of the respondents said they had witnessed their colleagues cheating in some fashion..." p34

Never sell a brand new car until after its 1st birthday "The day that a car is driven off the lot is teh worst day in its life, for it instantly loses as much as a quarter of its value... Why? Because the only person who might logically want to resell a brand-new car is someone who found the car to be a lemon. So even if teh car isn't a lemon, potential buyer assumes that it is... the seller is punished for this assumed information. And if the car is a lemon? The seller would do well to wait a year to sell it. By then the suspicion lemonness will have faded... and the lemon can blend in with perfectly good year old cars" p67

"Women's rights advocates have hyped the incidence of sexual assualt, claiming that 1 in 3 women will in their lifetime be a victim of of rape or attempted rape. The actual figure is more like 1 in 8." p 92

"For men [survey's] suggest a 1 in 40 incidence, rather than the 1 in 9 incidence cited by advocates." p216

"You stand a greater chance of dying while dealing crack in a Chicago housing project [1 in 4 chance per year] than you do while sitting on death row in Texas [1 in 20 chance per year]." p104

"In a given year, there is one drowing of a child for every 11,000 pools in the US. Meanwhile there is 1 child killed for every 1 million guns. " A child is roughly 100 times more likely to die in a pool than from a gunshot. Of course, fencing off a pool will drastically lower the odds, at least that's what the fencing salesperson told us.

"The per-hour death rate of driving vs. flying is about equal."p151 Of course the FAA and airlines will never state that. Instead they inflate their statistics by using a metric called 'passenger air miles', that multiplies the number of passengers by the number of miles flown and compares that to the number of auto passengers times the number of miles driven. Most auto trips are less than an hour, and typically have fewer than 2 passengers. Thus a 1 hour plane ride with over 200 people travelling 600 miles will inflate the safety number by a factor of 1000!

"Research into twins separated at birth, had already concluded that genes alone are responsible for perhaps 50% of a child's personality and abilities." p154

"Another famous study... which followed 245 babies put up for adoption and found virtually no correlation between the child's personality traits and those of this adopted parents." p154

"These nature vs. nurture discrepancies were addressed in a 1998 book... 'The Nurture Assumption' was in effect an attack on obsessive parenting." p154 My next book to read!

"Students who choose to opt out [choose to enroll into another school within a district that allows open enrollment with a lottery] tend to be smarter and more academically motivated to begin with. But statistically they gained no academic benefit by changing schools. And is it true that the students left behind in the neighborhood schools suffered. No; they continued to test at about the same levels as before the supposed brain drain." p159 So then, it's not the school, it's really the student, but then again it's not the student, it's really his genes.

"A child with alot of books in his home tends to test higher than a child with no books... But regular reading to a child doesn't affect test scores... The data don't say that books in the house cause high test scores; it says that the two are correlated. How should this correlation be interpreted? Here's a likely theory: most parents who buy a lot of children's books tend to be smart and well educated to begin with. A book is in fact less a cause of intelligence than an indicator." p163, 173 Unbelievable! It's all in the damn genes! You can save your cash and stop buying all of those now proven to be useless books.

"Despite conventional wisdom, watching TV apparently does not turn a child's brain to mush. Nor, however, does using a computer at home turn a child into Einstein: the data show no correlation between computer use and school test scores." p172 Throw out the PC and fire up the boob tube!

"Adopted children test relatively poorly in school; any influence the adoptive parents might exert is is seemingly outweighed by the force of genetics. But the parents were not powerless forever. By the time adopted children became adults, they had veered sharply from the destiny that IQ alone might have predicted. Compared to similar children who were not put up for adoption, the adoptees were far more likely to attend college, to have a well paid job, and to wait until they were out of their teens before getting married. It was the influence of the adopted parents." p176 So parents are useful after all, albeit slightly and only after the kids have flown the nest by which time they can credibly claim any achievements soley as their own.

Friday, May 13, 2005

2004 Must Read List

Blank Slate by Stephen Pinker
How the Mind Works by Stephen Pinker

Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg

Journey of Man

Agile Gene by Matt Ridley

Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

Survival Game by David Barash

Skeletons on the Zahara

Endurance: Ernest Shackleton's story of survival

Life of Pi

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

Globalization and its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz

Where is Everyboby by Webb

Profiting in Bull and Bear Markets by George Dagnino

Yes! You can time the Markets by Ben Stein

Cadillac Desert by Marc

Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins