Monday Miscellany: Addiction, Affirmative Consent, Anecdata

Fractal from Frax
Fractal from Frax

1. Frax is a program (iOS only, sadly) for playing with and creating incredible fractals.

2. I went to the Secular Solstice in NYC last year, and it was one of the best things all winter. I’ve been to a number of humanistic celebrations, and all of them seemed light on the ‘we are part of a thing that is larger than us’ aspect and far more focused on some intellectual lecture. I like lectures! But I can find those nearly anywhere, and I can’t find a sense of communal togetherness easily. Solstice did that for me for the first time in many years. Here’s the Kickstarter for this year’s.

3. Important science news about anecdata.

4. Also in screwball science: the contest to hide Bob Dylan lyrics in scientific publications.

5. Related to #4: Order of the Occult Hand.

6. More thoughtful article than usual on the vaccine debates. Title, of course, remains as off-putting as ever.

On the pro-vaccine side — and not everyone does this but I saw it enough for it to make me really uncomfortable — is a tendency to accuse people who are wary of vaccination of being stupid and not understanding science. For most people who are hesitant about vaccination, a lot more is going on. I talked to lots of people who are vaccine-hesitant, and I actually was one myself until I got further into this project, and most of them actually are in my demographic: so well-educated people with advanced degrees, who are upper middle-class and have read quite a bit on the subject.

So not only is it reductive, I think it’s also wrong. I think if we’re really concerned about stopping falling vaccination rates, we also need to be concerned about the actual reasons why those rates are falling, and not just write it off to stupidity.

7. Dan Kahan’s been running a series on psychology surrounding rape (particularly date rape) and public discussion on rape.

In a mock jury experiment based on an actual rape prosecution, the likelihood subjects would vote to convict a male college student who had intercourse with a female student who he admitted was continually saying “no” was 58% among the large, nationally representative sample.

That probability did not vary significantly (in statistical or practical terms) regardless of whether the subjects were instructed to apply the traditional common law definition of rape (“sexual intercourse by force or threat of force without”); a “strict liability” alternative that eliminated the“reasonable mistake of fact defense”; or a reform standard, in use in multiple states, that both eliminates the “force or threat” element and the mistake of fact defense and in addition uses an “affirmative consent” standard (“words or overt actions indicating a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse”).

8. I failed to put this in the last link roundup, but two friends got married, Scott wrote a toast, and the vows were lovely. I offer you my favorite part (besides the part where two wonderful people were wed)

If you have reservations, the time to say so was in January of 2013, when Hannah and Michael sent out an email asking if anyone had pessimistic expectations about their proposal, or wished to air any dark secrets, or cared to advise them against this course of action.

They found nothing more dissuasive than statistical conservatism, in reply to that email or in their relationship since then. And in spite of the specter of statistical conservatism, they have chosen to invite you here to witness their commitment to each other.

The statistics may at first glance be sobering, but they could have been worse. We find ourselves members of a species that does love at all, and can do it well, and can, under the right conditions, do it for a lifetime – longer-term experiments are still waiting to be tried. We are neither entities who find close intimacy alien and undesirable, nor easily-pairbonded creatures who mate for life as a matter of routine, effortlessly. To have a tie to another person like this one is precious and worth celebrating.

9. LARP-ing on the Oregon Trail. (h/t Leah Libresco)

On a sunny Saturday last week, I found myself pushing a 200 pound man on an ancient kiddie wagon with two missing wheels up a hill with about a 40 percent incline while he shouted out facts about how to preserve meat. The sun beat down on us as we maneuvered him from a shady spot next to a historic wooden mill in Salem, Oregon, to the steps of the Pleasant Grove Church, an 1848 sanctuary for travelers who survived the Oregon Trail.

For me, it was a digital flashback of sorts: “You have killed a bison, but you can only carry 200 pounds of meat with you.”

Sound familiar? If you grew up in the 80’s, you might remember the line. It’s from the Oregon Trail—a beloved computer game that, on this particular Saturday, I was playing again. Only this time it wasn’t on the computer, it was in real life.

10. Addiction modeled as a developmental or learning disability? Hunnhhh. I was skeptical, but found the research surprisingly comprehensive. (Regular article, research article)


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