Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Really, Just a Few Tabs

Before they pile up too far, let's clear 'em out now.

Mother Jones reports (with every bit of detail possible, it seemed) on how BPA-free plastics may have just as many estrogenic properties as the ones they were supposed to safely replace. And that the same scientists who fronted for the tobacco companies are now "researching" for the plastics industry. Gaaaahhhhh.

Researchers at the University of Delaware have developed a catalyst that can electrochemically convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide then can be used to develop useful chemicals.

My new crush Matt Bruenig shows how the class envy argument doesn't work, even for conservatives, who in the 1950s used to argue for relative income equality. "Referring to anger over distributive inequality as envy already implicitly assumes that such anger is wholly without merit and unjustified, but without actually making an argument to that effect. It takes the legitimately contested question of the justness of extreme inequality, assumes without any discussion that it is just, and then accuses those who think otherwise not only of being wrong but of actually being captured by vice and moral deficiencies."

Steve Novella, writing at Science-Based Medicine, examines the recent findings about the effects of pro-vaccination messages on anti-vaccination parents. Turns out, people are less than convinced, and in fact, become less likely to say they would vaccinate a hypothetical future child:

The situation reminds me of the parable of the sun and the wind who decided to compete to see who could get a man to remove his coat. The wind tried to blow the coat off, but the harder it blew the harder the man held onto his coat. The sun then had its turn – it simply shined down on the man until he became warm and took off the coat.

In public messaging, we have to be more like the sun than the wind. A successful campaign would get people to want to engage in the healthier behavior, and perhaps even think it was their idea all along. Yes, this is psychological manipulation (just like all politics, by the way). Rational people have a knee-jerk negative reaction to the notion of such manipulation. We want to live in a world where giving people information is enough for them to make rational decisions, but that is not the world in which we live.

One approach, therefore, is benign psychological manipulation – making the healthy choice seem more desirable. One such approach is called social norming. This approach essentially leverages peer-pressure by telling people that most people do not engage in unhealthy behaviors, or do engage in healthy behaviors. It would therefore have been interesting if the above survey had a fifth group who were simply told – “most parents protect their children from infectious diseases by vaccinating them.” This is not deceptive, it is entirely true, but it is selected to coerce with positive peer pressure.
I have a lot of warm thoughts about the so-called sharing economy, but I also believe that organizing is the only way workers get justice from most employers in a capitalist system. All those interns "sharing" their labor are getting screwed. This piece on how the sharing economy undermines workers makes a lot of good points, which I imagine I will want to return to again and again.

How to analyze false claims about charter schools, via Diane Ravitch.

What does a sustainable future actually look like? And how can we figure it out? With reference to a 2013 novel called The World We Made by Jonathan Porritt, in which the main character looks back from 2050 to describe how his sustainable world came about. Sounds like I have to get ahold of a copy of that! (From Ensia)

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