Last King of Scotland, Upside Down

very good: The Last King of Scotland

bad: Upside Down (nice music, visuals. bad writing and acting. oh look, writer-director!)

Life as a Dog, Guffman, Guardians

very good: My Life as a Dog
good: Waiting for Guffman
ok: Rise of the Guardians

Bone Broth Has (Some) Lead

bones are known to sequester the heavy metal lead, contamination with which is widespread throughout the modern environment. Such sequestered lead can then be mobilised from the bones …  broth made from skin and cartilage [of already cooked chicken] and chicken-bone broth, were both found to have markedly high lead concentrations, of 9.5 and 7.01 μg L−1


Caveat: this is only 10x the amount in their tap water. I’m not sure if this is enough to matter, but small amounts of lead hurt IQ detectably (on a population level)

Seven Psychos, Sinister

good: Seven Psychopaths

pretty good: Sinister

Chronic 6hr/night Sleep -> Incompetence

“chronic restriction of sleep to 6 h or less per night produced cognitive performance deficits equivalent to up to 2 nights of total sleep deprivation.” [4hrs/night after 7 days, or 6hrs/night after 14 days, is about the same as skipping a night’s sleep, as far as your competence goes - but not your sleepiness]


Subjective sleepiness doesn’t track impairment. In other words, you can feel the same sorta-tired constantly for a few weeks while your performance keeps getting worse.

The study looks at restricted sleep over a 2 week period. The quantity that predicts impairment best isn’t “sleep debt” with respect to an ideal 8hr/night target, but rather “extra hours awake, cumulative” (so if you steal an extra 2hr/day for 10 days, by the end you’re as impaired as at the end of a 36hr stretch of wakefulness - because normally you’re awake 16hrs). The “sleep debt from 8hr/night”, depending on how you calculate it, at the end of 36hr awake, would probably be considered only (36hr*(8hr/24hr))=12hr, or more optimistically, (16hr awake, should have slept 8hr, but slept 0hr, 16hr awake, should have slept another 4/3 hr, but slept 0hr, awake 4hr, for a total of 36hr awake, 9.333 hr debt). 

See also Tononi’s hypothesis (paper)

(via gwern)

Apartment, Don’t Look Now

decent: The Apartment (1960) - thoughtfully overacted, Don’t Look Now - overrated

Django, Anna Karenina

very good: Django Unchained

decent: Anna Karenina (nice Tchaikovsky, strong opening act)

Robot & Frank

delightful: Robot & Frank


good: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (potent caricature)

House of Cards, Rayon Vert, Funny Games

very good: House of Cards, Funny Games (1997) (director of Amour - but less boring this time)

good: Le Rayon Vert (some lingering images - it’s growing on me)

‘IKEA Effect’ (Loving the Crappy Furniture That You Assembled)

People who assembled IKEA furniture themselves will pay more for the assembled object than for the same, pre-assembled (80 cents instead of 50 cents). Why? People value their time spent and can’t escape the sunk-cost fallacy? Consistency? (“I wouldn’t have assembled it if it weren’t worth assembling” - though they were paid to participate).
When you perform unskilled labor, do you value your time at the price of unskilled labor? 

Does this hold for more valuable objects?


Shall We Dansu

very good: Shall We Dance (1996) - the U.S. version (gere + j-lo) was an awful idea, missing some japanese cultural dance-is-perverted tension

Men Impressing Women

Some male college kids were mentally slowed (took longer to do something) by about 20% after talking to, or in anticipation of being observed by, a female (sight unseen), compared to the same interaction with a male instead. Female students performed the same whether the interaction was mixed-sex or same-sex.

This suggests that men are either distracted by anticipation or evaluation of encounters with women, or expend (hold in reserve) mental energy in - trying to make a good impression? Being attractive? Partial unconscious sexual fugue? The cognitive task has an error/time tradeoff. Were the men in the slowed state merely being more conservative in a way that wasn’t optimal for their combined score, or were they operating at lower capacity?

via Seth Roberts

(small sample of college kids paid with beer money, performance measurement was objective and automatic, so double-blind shouldn’t matter)

Silver Linings, Hitcher, Amour

pretty good: Silver Linings Playbook, The Hitcher (1986)

dull: Amour (2012) - powerfully moving in a few moments, but carpet bombs you with boredom. if you loved Gerry or Elephant you might like this.

The Unknown Woman, Life of Pi

good: The Unknown Woman

boring: Life of Pi (the book was fine, though)

Tease Me, Placebo

Proof that placebo effect is strongest when you’re told you *might* be getting real medicine peaking at somewhere around 3/4 chance of thinking you’ll get the non-placebo. Being told you’re definitely getting real medicine is no better than being told that you have a 1/4 chance of the real thing.

Likely the same cause as the greater reinforcement effect of intermittent random rewards. It seems that the ambiguous interpretation of “maybe the drug doesn’t work, or maybe I got the placebo - I hope I got the real medication!” inspires more hope than “hm, I haven’t noticed much difference. does this drug even work?”

Lidstone et al (2010) took some patients with Parkinson’s Disease, which is associated with low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Then they told them they mightgive them medications that would raise their dopamine. In fact, they told the patients that they had a 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100% of receiving this medication; otherwise they would receive a placebo.

In fact this was all a total lie; everyone got the placebo. Then they pumped everyone’s blood full of radioactive chemicals and stuck them into a PET scanner, which measured the amount of dopamine released in their brains. They found that the higher the probability of receiving real medication, the higher the amount of dopamine released (trend did not reach significance) except in the 100% case, where dopamine was lowest of all. These are pretty weird results.

via (link has other, larger, more powerful studies; this is just the most amusing one)

(increased dopamine probably also feeds back by improving the placebo effect itself; if you ran this study with a medication supposed to improve some other factor, you might find that dopamine is also increased as part of the placebo mechanism)

Kawaii (Cute) Narrows Focus

I’d hold off on this conclusion: “for future applications, cute objects may be used as an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work.” But it seems that being primed by a cute photo increases focus (which isn’t always good):

Performance improved more after viewing cute images (15.7±2.2% improvement) than after viewing less cute images (1.4±2.1% improvement). Viewing images of pleasant foods was ineffective in improving performance (1.2±2.1%). In the third experiment, participants performed a global–local letter task after viewing images of baby animals, adult animals, and neutral objects. In general, global features were processed faster than local features. However, this global precedence effect was reduced after viewing cute images.


the evidence that cute-arousal makes local processing faster and global processing slower skirts the edge of significance (N=48), but if you ignore the confidence intervals, it looks like there’s a small effect:


Claims From Research on Programming

Some claims with empirical studies behind them from a talk by Greg Wilson:
  • (working?) lines of code written per time is the same for high and low level languages
  • 25% increase in size of program description = doubling of program size (interactions?)
  • code review is worth doing; almost all the benefit comes from the first review. (Cohen 2006)
  • most people don’t find anything useful when continuing to read code past the first hour. (Cohen 2006).
  • (post-compile?) 60-90% of bugs can be found before first execution by reading code. this beats writing unit tests (although those can be re-run to detect future regressions, at least)
  • the rate of review that finds bugs in that hour (maximum) is a few hundred lines max
  • telling people that programming ability is mostly talent/genetic based vs. telling them it relies on practice: both men and women do worse - not trying as hard when they hit an obstacle?
  • physical distance: being near or cross-country (or even +9 hours) doesn’t impact (released) bug rate
  • distance in org chart: collaboration between programmers far apart in org tree means higher bug rate (I don’t think this implies that if you give two groups of people an identical task starting from scratch, then a different org chart will change things much; rather, I guess that the tasks that rope together different-domain software teams’ expertise and/or systems are inherently harder)
  • no code metric as of 2001 predicts bugs; all the benefit comes from code size of a program (more code -> more bugs)
  • anchoring (or perhaps the subservient desire to not disappoint by seeming incompetent) applies strongly to implementation time estimates no matter how experienced the programmer or low-authority (“I know nothing about software but I think this should take about … 3 weeks … 20 weeks”)
  • bugs that are fixed later in development are more expensive (by what measure?) than those caught earlier (because the cheap ones are easy to spot?)
(disclaimer: most studies of software programming productivity are not blind controlled studies, are mere correlations, use an undergrad population, and/or have data consisting of fewer than 100 person-hours)

Jogging Reduces Overeating (Walking Doesn’t)

Your body “knows” it has consumed X calories earlier in the day and has less appetite, if you jog regularly, but not if you just walk.

(jogging can be hard on joints especially for people who aren’t in good shape, but perhaps other intense exercise will do as well)


Low Cholesterol Kills

Prestigious U.S. medicine (which is often fantastic) is wrongly advises low fat high carb diets, overtreats moderately high blood pressure, overprescribes NSAIDs and antibiotics, overtests for breast cancer, underprescribes sunlight and vitamin D, and, it seems, kills people by lowering their cholesterol w/ dangerous statins.

The low-cholesterol state doctors try to keep us in is actually associated with the most death (though this could merely be that old and dying people are made to lower their cholesterol, and if young people lowered it they would be fine or even healthier)

A 2011 study from Norway, based on 500,000 person-years of observation, found drastically different results. For both men and women, the lowest levels of total cholesterol (below 5.0 mmol/L) were associated with the most death. For men, the best level was intermediate — what the Mayo Clinic calls “borderline high”. For women, the safest levels were the highest.

If high cholesterol causes heart disease, as we are so often told, the pattern for women makes no sense. For a long time, experts have told us to limit egg consumption because eggs are high in cholesterol. However,  a new study shows that egg consumption has no association with heart disease risk.


(Kyle says in comments that they only correlate with high/low total serum cholesterol, when doctors more frequently measure LDL and HDL rather than total - so it’s possible that the more precise modern medical recommendation isn’t so badly wrong - though the study authors claim it probably is, citing that 75% of Norwegians are LDL,HDL,etc scored as at risk of heart disease and needing treatment, presumably diet+exercise+statins; 75% is probably has too high a false positive rate for such an extreme intervention).