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Category Archives: Top Fives

Things we believe, despite mountains of data disproving them

by Kristy

Birthers believe that Obama wasn’t born in the US, Creationists believe in a divine story of why humans walk the Earth, conspiracy theorists conspire, psuedoscientific claims abound, alien watchers scope the skies, and people spend fortunes on psychic chat lines.  Why do we want to believe so badly, that we ignore the convincing evidence to the contrary?  Sure, this is a controversial topic, and my list could be a top 500 instead of a top 5, but here we go…

Top things we believe, despite mountains of data disproving them:

1. Psychics, Aura readers, Reiki practitioners and the like.  The most troubling aspect of these beliefs is the money they cost.  All these treatments are expensive (as are any “medical” treatments that may accompany them – see #5 below), and despite centuries trying to prove that the supernatural is super natural, there is not an inch of data to support it.  The most outrageous claim?  Psychic water, of course.  One interesting aspect of these examples is the phenomenon where people cling even tighter to beliefs when they are challenged, or when their doubts are raised.

2. Where are we in the solar system?  As the film “A Private Universe” uniquely displays, many intelligent children can’t wrap their minds around the solar system, how seasons occur, and what causes an eclipse. Is it a failure of the educational system?  A short-circuit in our cognition?  Or is it exemplary of our willingness to believe what is comfortable and easy, instead of what is real?

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5 Criteria for Play

by Kristy

All just fun and games.

We’ve all heard about dolphins romping in the wake of a boat, we’ve seen squirrels seem to chase each other in a game of tag – but when is animal play really playing?

Biopsychologist Gordon Burghardt has decided on these 5 criteria:

BURGHARDT’S FIVE CRITERIA FOR PLAY

1- Play is not fully functional in the form or context in which it is expressed.
2- Play is spontaneous, voluntary, and/or pleasurable, and is likely done for its own sake.
3- Play is incomplete, exaggerated, or precocious.
4- Play is repeated but not in exactly the same way every time, as are more serious behaviors.
5- Play is initiated when animals are well fed, healthy, and free from acute or chronic stressors.

 

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Things We’re Tyrannical About – May 2011

by Kristy and Kristen

Kristy is Tyrannical About:

1. Pig-themed pub nights: Whether drinking Sow’s Ear wine from Brooksville, ME or Porkslap beer, the best pub game has to be Pass the Pigs.  The dice are 2 pigs, and the goal is to get your roll just right so the pigs land in compromising positions (each with different point values).  Endless fun.

Go ahead, put a BIRD on it, Portland!

2. Portlandia.  There are far too few of these hilarious shows on IFC right now. I want more.  And everywhere I go, I just want to PUT A BIRD ON IT. (This is also a great replacement for those sorely missing Flight of the Concords, like I am.)

3. The Three Cups of Tea controversy.  It started with a 60-minutes expose (and yes, I DVR this show, can’t get enough Andy Rooney – Kristen does the best impression of him, BTW), followed by Krakauer’s ‘brochure’ on the new byliner website, and Mortenson’s friend Kristof’s NYTimes opinion piece defending him.  As someone who relished this book, supported the cause, and spread the word on both, I must get to the bottom of this – what are the accusations and are they worth getting so upset that I donate my book to charity and ignore Pennies for Peace?

Update: the lawsuit

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Batty about Bats – but even Batman can’t save them from White Nose

By Kristy

A white fungus is currently killing most of the bat population across the Eastern US.  Nobody understands why, or how, and there is uncertainty as to how this will affect our ecosystem.

For five years of my Ph.D., during 7 months out of the year, I would occasionally drive an hour from Boston to capture wild-caught bats at a barn on a rural farm.  A harp trap was set-up at the mouth of the barn, to catch the bats at ‘emergence’, or the time at dawn or dusk when these insectivorous bats arouse in order to feed on bugs.

When autumn approached and the bats were preparing for hibernation, they would migrate to caves in Vermont, and I would also drive there for 2 nights of bat-catching at dark, cold, mountain caves.  This meant carrying the trap up the mountain, along with our supplies and the bat hotel (the small wooden cubbies that house the bats in the close-quarters they prefer).

The flying devil, Myotis lucifugus

These bats are Myotis lucifugus, or little brown bats, named for their Lucifer-style devil ears.  Actually, the bats are quite adorable, quite smart, and are more closely related to humans than most other model research species.  They roost in these barns in maternal colonies, with only very few young males.  In the fall, the bats mate and then store sperm all through the winter, only fertilizing a single egg when spring comes.  This period of hibernation during the winter is extremely energy-intensive, requiring deposition of new fat stores, and making the seasonal hibernating bat a fascinating example of beneficial obesity in the animal kingdom.

Needless to say, I am fascinated by and adore all bats.

Not all people share this feeling.  Sure, Batman is a hero, but usually bats are the scary winged creatures of nightmares and horror movies.  My own husband ran to the car, rolled up the windows, and locked the doors, when I tried to get him to touch one of the bats I was holding at the barn one summer.

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(Real) Stupid Questions Asked at the Grocery Store

by Anonymous

** These inane questions have really been asked at a grocery store

1. Where is the champagne opener?

2. Do you have any aluminum foil without aluminum?

3. Are these pasteurized* eggs? (*this was a misinterpretation of pasture-raised eggs)

4. This dish soap is organic, right?

5. Do you open all the boxes in the store? (asked to an employee opening boxes, and follow-up question was regarding a product across the store)

 

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Hey, Baby Boomers: We R’nt Entitled, We R Stupid!

Alls I needs to know is this city is delicious. News shmews!

by Kristen

I tire of my parents’ generation (the “Younger Boomers,” born between 1955-1964) telling my generation (the “Millennials,” born between 1977-1992) that we have a sense of entitlement about free online content, especially in regard to the New York Times paywall. It makes my generation sound cheap and stupid, and I would like to argue that we are mainly the latter. Based on how we spend time on the internet and what we are interested in, we were never going to buy the digital NYT. I care about my mom, a journalist, and about the decline of engaging content online, yet I think her generation has some misconceptions about mine. I am not enthusiastic about this argument, but regardless: We don’t buy the NYT mainly because we are moronic, not because we have a sense of internet entitlement.

1. Fancy City Newspaper Say Wha?
The NYT wants you to believe that the majority of readers are young. In 2009, they reported their readership’s largest age group as 25 to 54. But once you unclump the ages and make 25 to 35 a separate category (and therefore about 16% of readership), the largest readership is actually ages 50+ (at about 37%). The Pew Research Center found only 17% of the population reads a national newspaper like the NYT. That means my generation’s interest makes up 16% of that 17%. I’m no mathemagician, but that isn’t a lot of Millennials. The point is, the majority of us weren’t reading it anyway, and we certainly aren’t going to start with the paywall.

Scoreboard: Entitlement= 0, Stupidity= 1

2. If by “News” you mean “Weather”
The #1 news subject we are looking for online? At 81%: the weather. We literally only care about the world around us, in so much as it is made up of air at a certain temperature and humidity which allows us to continue to play video games and mouth breathe.

Scoreboard: Entitlement= 0, Stupidity= 2

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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Kristen, Pop Culture, Top Fives

 

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The Unintentional Soundtrack to My Life

by Kristen

There is music that immediately makes me feel like a kid (TMNT theme), songs I inexplicably know all the words to (Reading Rainbow), and soundtracks that pinpoint the moment I was no longer a child (Dirty Dancing). For me, those lists could be endless, but there are a few tunes that  are so deeply engrained in my subconscious that they play in my head as if part of my life’s soundtrack. I would chose very different music to accent my days, I want to stress that, but these are the tunes I involuntarily hear:

1. The Jurassic Park Theme
When the movie came out in 1993, I saw it in the theater four times. It blew my 13-year-old mind and made me feel like anything was possible. (I’d like to say this is the movie that inspired me to be a scientist, but really it was the 1995 hit featuring infectious diseases and Rene Russo, Outbreak. I’m not kidding.)  Many years later when I moved out to Sapelo Island, full of wild animals and draped in Spanish moss, I felt like I was on a different planet. As I drove my golf cart from the ferry dock to my trailer, I used to hum Jurassic Park‘s theme song. Again, I’m not kidding. MY DOG’S NAME IS T REX. This movie changed my life.

2. The Imperial March
Whenever anyone of authority walks down a hallway, this song plays in my head. I hear it when I’m in a hurry at the grocery store, plowing
through aisles and trying not to give the Vader Force Choke to people in my way. The Imperial March was the only ringtone I ever purchased, mostly because I thought it was funny to say, “Excuse me, that’s my mom calling.” Turns out, not everyone finds that funny. I honestly meant no harm by it and I find her lack of faith disturbing.

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2 Comments

Posted by on April 24, 2011 in Kristen, Pop Culture, Top Fives

 

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