November 2006

Idea killers: ways to stop ideas

by Limbic on November 23, 2006

Scott Berkum’s list

Mostly these are used as thought inhibitors: they don’t require any thought to say. They’re used as flinch negative responses, dismissing without explanation. Unlike real critical thinking, which offers a path (e.g if you can overcome x, y and z we’ll consider it) idea killers are lazy dead ends.

Idea Killers

  • We tried that already
  • That never works
  • Would you like a pony?
  • Looks like ass
  • You’re fired
  • We will actively work against you
  • (Laughter)
  • Not in our budget
  • Not an interesting problem
  • We don’t have time
  • Execs will never go for it
  • Out of scope
  • But its the law
  • Too blue sky / Holy grail
  • This train is on fire
  • Wont make enough $$
  • Not in our business
  • Its Non performant (engineering)
  • What are you on?
  • Can we get someone with a brain in here?
  • That isn’t what people want
  • No response at all

What are others you’ve heard?

(Via Berkun blog.)


Britain’s looming insurgency

by Limbic on November 20, 2006

A brilliant post from Westhawk analyses a recent speech by the Director General of MI5.

Westhawk: Britain’s looming insurgency

Last week, the world’s media focused its attention on the mid-term election in the United States and the return of the Democratic Party to power in America’s legislature. However, history may record the more important news occurring on Thursday at Queen Mary’s College in London.

There, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, Director General of Britain‚Äôs Security Service, popularly known as ‚ÄúMI5,‚Äù gave a very rare speech about Britain‚Äôs, indeed the West‚Äôs, gravest security crisis. The purpose of the speech was to reveal the scope of the threat to Britain‚Äôs peace….


I never finish anyth

by Limbic on November 20, 2006

ThinkGeek :: I Never Finish Anyth T-shirt for those with Project Termination Syndrome.


Amazing Soviet buildings

by Limbic on November 19, 2006

From  English Russia come these wonderful images of Soviet architecture.

Palace of Marriage, Tblisi, Georgia (built 70’s)

Hotel “Friendship”, Ukraine

“State Department for Traffic”, Tblisi, Georgia (built 1975)

“Palace of Soviets” built in Kaliningrad city, Russia in 1975

Technological Institute in Minsk, Belarus (built 1981)


Click image for source

[NOTE: The photographer is trying to find out what this means. If you know please comment at his blog here]


From EurekAlert:

Is it a good idea to swim with sharks? Is it smart to drink a bottle of Drano? What about setting your hair on fire — is that a good thing to do?

People of all ages are able to give the correct answer (it’s “no,” in case you were wondering) to each of these questions. But adolescents take just a little bit longer (about 170 milliseconds longer, to be exact) to arrive at the right answer than adults do. That split second may contain a world of insight into how adolescents tick — and how they tick differently from adults.

A major new report by Valerie F. Reyna (Cornell) and Frank Farley (Temple University), “Risk and Rationality in Adolescent Decision Making,” in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, summarizes the present state of psychological science research on decision making, on why adolescents make the (sometimes bad) decisions they make, and on how interventions may be better designed to steer young people toward better choices.

It is often believed that adolescents think they are immortal, just plain invulnerable to life’s slings and arrows. This notion is often used to explain why young people are liable to drive fast, have unprotected sex, smoke, or take drugs — risks that adults are somewhat more likely to shy away from.

Research shows that adolescents do exhibit an optimistic bias — that is, a tendency to underestimate their own risks relative to their peers. But this bias turns out to be no more prevalent in adolescents than in grownups; adults commit the very same fallacy in their reasoning. And actually, studies on perception of risks by children, adolescents, and adults show that young people tend to overestimate their risks for a range of hazards (including car accidents and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS), both in absolute terms (i.e., as compared with actual risks) and relative to adults. Their estimation of vulnerability declines rather than increases with age.

So why do adolescents take risks? Decision research answers this with another counterintuitive finding: Adolescents make the risky judgments they do because they are actually, in some ways, more rational than adults. Grownups tend to quickly and intuitively grasp that certain risks (e.g., drunk driving, unprotected sex, and most anything involving sharks) are just too great to be worth thinking about, so they don’t proceed down the “slippery slope” of actually calculating the odds. Adolescents, on the other hand, actually take the time to weigh risks and benefits — possibly deciding that the latter outweigh the former.

So adolescents engage in just the sort of calculations — trading off risks against benefits — that economists wish that all people would make. But economists notwithstanding, research is showing more and more that a faster, more intuitive, less strictly “rational” form of reasoning that comes with increased experience can often be more effective. Mature or experienced decision makers (e.g., experienced vs. less experience physicians) rely more on fuzzy reasoning, processing situations and problems as “gists” rather than weighing multiple factors and evidence. This leads to better decisions, not only in everyday life but also in places like emergency rooms where the speed and quality of risky decisions are critical.

These counterintuitive conclusions about the decision-making processes of young people have major implications for how to intervene to help steer them in the right direction. For example, interventions aimed at reducing smoking or unprotected sex in young people by presenting accurate risk data on lung-cancer and HIV may actually backfire if young people overestimate their risks anyway. Instead, interventions should focus on facilitating the development of mature, gist-based thinking in which dangerous risks are categorically avoided rather than weighed in a rational, deliberative way.

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Borat uses a Serbian song in his film

by Limbic on November 16, 2006

“Few times during the Borat movie you can hear a great song Ederlezi by Goran Bregovic. It was first used in a movie Dom za vesanje (Time of the Gypsies), directed by Emir Kusturica.”

(From Nudography (NSFW))

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A.Word.A.Day — hoi polloi

by Limbic on November 16, 2006

A.Word.A.Day has a lovely line about pedantry in today’s dispatch:

hoi polloi (hoi puh-LOI) noun

The common people, the masses.

[From Greek hoi polloi (the many).]

The phrase is often mistakenly used to refer to the elite or the snobbish, quite opposite of what it really means. That usage arises probably from the first part sounding similar to “high” or from confusion with the term hoity toity.

The term often appears as “the hoi polloi”. Some pedants object to that construction, claiming “the” is already part of the term. If you find such people, tell them to go study gebra and drink cohol.

-Anu Garg (garg

“Fans were delighted to see their heroes riding with the hoi polloi.” Tom Parfitt; Spartak in Subway Sprint; Guardian (London, UK); Nov 1, 2006.


Seeing the Unseen

by Limbic on November 15, 2006

Click image for larger version

Wonderful post from Bill at Eject!Eject!Eject called “Seeing the Unseen”:

We live in a sea of information, an Information Age: and yet, it has been almost half a millennia since mankind has been so unwilling or unable to use critical thinking to separate the intellectual wheat from so…much…chaff! Critical Thinking — the ability to analyze data, determine it’s usefulness and fidelity, to learn how to assess reliability, question methodology, weigh expertise and all the rest -– is in shockingly short supply these days. It’s not just a shame; it’s an epidemic, it is a fatal metastasizing disease in a democracy where information is used by the public to make the decisions that steer the ship of state. For the ability to think critically allows us to see the unseen; to find the truth behind the falsehood, as well as the falsehood behind the truth.

Today, it seems that legions of people – growing legions – are falling victims to ideas and beliefs that on the face of it are patently false…things that are so clearly and obviously nuts that you really have to wonder what deep, mighty engine of emotional need could possibly drive a brain so deep into a hole. Seriously now, there are millions and millions of people on this planet who will torture logic and reason to mind-bending extremes in order to believe monumentally ridiculous “theories”… theories drawn from an emotional need so warped and debased that you are catapulted beyond anger and disbelief directly into pathos and the desire to call 911 before these people hurt themselves.

So perhaps we could take a walk through Fantasy Island armed only with a shotgun of logic and a few fact-filled shells and see what intellectual tumors we may safely blow into atoms. Time is short! So let’s start with the easy stuff and work our way up to the Lord God King Mack-Daddy falsehood of our age. MORE

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Did Neanderthals Breed With Early Humans?

by Limbic on November 14, 2006

From American Scientist E-Newsletter:

In a report published in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, geneticists from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of Chicago reported that Neandertals may have interbred with modern humans, conferring an advantageous gene that regulates brain size during development.

The Chicago Sun-Times asserted that report was “sure to stir controversy” and quoted lead researcher Bruce Lahn claiming “definitive genetic evidence” that interbreeding might have occurred.

But Reuters pointed out that the evidence was indirect and noted an important clarification: “By no means do these findings constitute definitive proof that a Neanderthal was the source” of the allele, Lahn said, though he did say it was “one of the best candidates.”

The New York Times took the most nuanced view: It considered the opinions of other biologists (they support Lahn’s conclusions) and noted that two related reports are forthcoming. So does the Times think interbreeding took place? “Probably yes, though not often.”