I rest my case: Facebook’s appeal to the truly stupid

When I wrote here recently about the strange phenomenon of Facebook’s popularity with the self-absorbed (Why Narcissists Love Facebook), not even I could have guessed the apparent scope of the eye-popping stupidity and utter lack of judgement that some Facebook users are actually capable of openly demonstrating.

During several hours of the shocking Stanley Cup riots in downtown Vancouver, for example, a signature feature of the live television news coverage was the sea of bystanders with arms raised capturing countless images of violence, arson and looting via their cell phone cameras. And when the Vancouver Police Department asked the next morning for help in identifying the thugs who had terrorized their beautiful city, the response from outraged Vancouverites was immediate.

Here’s the unbelievable part, however: not only did bystanders send in their cell phone photos of rioters at work, many of the rioters themselves posted incriminating evidence on their own Facebook pages. Continue reading

Dr. Ben Goldacre’s rapid-fire story of the ‘Nocebo Effect’

You know, of course, about the placebo effect, in which patients report positive results from taking a mere sugar pill.  Turns out there is also something called a nocebo effect, too.  This is defined as a negative placebo effect. It happens, for example, when patients take medications and actually experience adverse side effects unrelated to any specific pharmacological action of the drug. The nocebo effect is associated with a person’s prior expectations of adverse effects from the treatment. In other words, if we expect a treatment to hurt us, cause harm, or make us feel sick – it likely will.

The U.K.’s bright and brainy Dr. Ben Goldacre of Bad Science describes this phenomenon in this short but entertaining presentation from last year’s irreverent Nerdstock tour (“Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People).   Continue reading

What do Justin Bieber and birth control pills have in common?

According to research published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, over half a century of widespread use of the oral contraceptive pill may well have changed the preferences of young women away from masculine-looking men to those with more feminine features.

Need an illustration of this?  Consider that baby face of the wildly popular Canadian singer Justin BieberContinue reading

Amazing (and strange) examples of placebo miracle effects

Join science broadcaster Daniel Keogh (aka Australia’s Professor Funk and host of the ABC series The Stupid Species: Why Everyone – Except You – Is An Idiot) as he leads us on this short and enlightening exploration of the many strange effects of placebos (and nocebos).  Watch his 3-minute video.  See also: Dr. Ben Goldacre’s Rapid-Fire Story of the ‘Nocebo Effect’


Dr. Dude – world’s first PhD in snowboarding

When Neil Elliot, an avid snowboarder in the drop-dead-gorgeous Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia, first came across the boarder’s term, soul riding, he was intrigued. Elliot is also an ordained minister at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in the town of Trail. He told the local Trail Daily Times that six years ago, he decided to fashion his doctoral degree around the overt spiritual connotations of soul riding. Already holding a master’s degree in theology and Islamic studies, Elliot decided to undertake his doctorate in the sociology of religion at Kingston University in London, England. For his PhD thesis, he interviewed 35 boarders from the U.K. and Canada.

“It’s the first PhD in snowboarding at all, so it’s pretty unique. It gave me an excuse to get out and participate in a sport I love, and it provided me with a framework to examine human spirituality.”  Continue reading

How to survive piano practice – the Tiger Mother way

Amy Chua with Lulu and Sophia

Daily piano practice was one of the few excuses that could get me or my sister Cathy out of our after-dinner dishwashing duties when we were little girls. I hated taking piano lessons, those endless scales, arpeggios, piano recitals. But after four years of battles with my mother over my Royal Conservatory of Music studies, she finally let me quit.

Had my mother been more like Amy Chua, the Yale law prof and controversial author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, she would never have allowed me to give up playing the piano just because I didn’t enjoy it. Chua’s Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior essay about raising her two daughters, Lulu and Sophia, attracted worldwide attention, much of it downright hostile, when it was published recently in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s part of what caused all that fuss, in Chua’s own words:  Continue reading