Monday Miscellany: Superheroes, Social Surveys, Sketches

1. Ex Machina is a strange movie to me already, because the trailer is quotes I see on my facebook feed regularly, interspersed with action scenes. On the other hand, this Easter egg is pretty great.

2. The list of inventors killed by their own inventions is disconcertingly long.

3. The conflict between wanting to use donated organs and end-of-life care, told through one donor with ALS.

The more difficult issue relates to his other organs. W.B.’s prognosis is poor: his doctors indicate that in the near future, he will no longer be able to breathe for himself, and will need a tracheostomy and a ventilator to live. At this point, some ALS patients forgo further life support and succumb to their disease. But there is currently no way to end one’s life in this manner without jeopardizing one’s organs and, with them, the chance to save other lives.

Organ transplantation is still relatively new. When the first successful kidney transplant (between identical twins) was performed, in 1954, the procedure was quite radical; the surgeon, Joseph Murray, would win a Nobel Prize for his work. Transplantation of kidneys from deceased donors had limited success until the early 1980s, when a new drug, cyclosporine, made it easier to suppress recipients’ immune systems.

From the earliest days of transplantation, surgeons subscribed to an informal ethical norm known as the “dead-donor rule,” holding that organ procurement should not cause a donor’s death. In practice, this meant waiting until patients were by all measures completely dead—no heartbeat, no blood pressure, no respiration—to remove any vital organs. Unfortunately, few organs were still transplantable by this point, and those that were transplanted tended to have poor outcomes by today’s standards.

4. There was a study on gay canvassers, claiming that just a ten minute conversation with someone who was gay could change people’s minds significantly in favor of equality/acceptance. Yeah, probably not. Fake data. In practice, I’m not very doubtful that exposure to people who are in subgroups increases acceptance of those subgroups, however, it almost definitely doesn’t work as quickly as claimed.

5. On chocolate, health, and why you should read more than one study. Also I completely object to the claim that bitter chocolate tastes bad and would like to bring Wicked Dark to everyone’s attention.

6. Learning about the General Social Survey, a massive dataset on American demographics and sociology, was easily the best thing I got out of Stats For Psychology in undergraduate. I learned to search/use the information on the Berkeley site, but there’s also the GSS Data Explorer, which I hadn’t seen before. Luke has a tutorial series starting here.

7. How accurately can you draw the relationship between parental income and college attendance? The NYT will let you give it a whirl. I am very firmly in favor of more calibration testing for real-world relationships between variables.

8. Exploring the ethics of using children in psychology research.

9. Superheroes should double-up per identity.

10. There is not only one correct way to die. Counterpoint to the Sandra Bem article I posted in the last link roundup.

Stuff I read this week:

Kushiel’s Avatar/Kushiel’s Chosen, Jacqueline Carey

A Small Corner of Hell, Ana Politkovskaya

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