Can a playground be too safe? - NYTimes

Researchers are questioning the value of safety-first playgrounds. Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone.

“Paradoxically,” the psychologists write, “we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology.”

Is there anything good about men?

Consider this question: What percent of our ancestors were women?

It’s not a trick question, and it’s not 50%. True, about half the people who ever lived were women, but that’s not the question. We’re asking about all the people who ever lived who have a descendant living today. Or, put another way, yes, every baby has both a mother and a father, but some of those parents had multiple children.

Recent research using DNA analysis answered this question about two years ago. Today’s human population is descended from twice as many women as men.

I think this difference is the single most underappreciated fact about gender. To get that kind of difference, you had to have something like, throughout the entire history of the human race, maybe 80% of women but only 40% of men reproduced.

I think I've shared this before, but it's interesting the second time through too.

Restaurant eating is rising: the pros and the cons – Harvard Magazine

The danger as cooking becomes glamorized--producing rock-star chefs and glitzy television series--is that, just as with restaurant meals, cooking will be turned into another form of theatrical entertainment. Contemporary food television sets a different goal from its forebears. The earlier generation of cooking programs was instructional, attempting to teach viewers the skill, Willoughby says. Furthermore, "Julia Child is very unintimidating. She drops things, forgets things, she makes mistakes, and tells you it will all come out OK. But today, most of food television is not instructional. Viewers are just watching a talented chef cook, and getting a vicarious experience of cooking. It's like a celebrity reality show. These are professional chefs doing things in the kitchen that you cannot do--and that's not what home cooking is about."

Spectacularly entertaining gourmet shows can thus become an enemy of home cooking by implicitly suggesting that "everything has to be perfect," Willoughby declares. "Then people start feeling that they are unable to cook well--so they're not going to cook at all. People have become very intimidated by cooking, and they shouldn't be. If you publish a recipe with a mistake in it, you very rarely get letters saying, 'You screwed up this recipe.' What you get are letters saying, 'I made a mistake somehow when I made this--can you tell me what I did wrong?' Today there's a supposition on most people's part that they don't know how to cook, and therefore it's their mistake."

What Paddington Bear tells us about German vs British manners

Are Germans ruder than the British? Are Britons more dishonest than Germans? Fortunately, we don't have to rely on blind prejudice for answers. Serious academic research has been done on both sides of the North Sea.

There are Britons in Berlin who get taken aback by the directness of Germans. And there are Germans who get really annoyed when Britons (and Americans), in an effort to appear friendly, say things they don't really mean. Some Germans call this "lying".

So, what do the experts say on the matter?

(Apparently I'm part German.)

Why privacy matters even if you have nothing to hide

Privacy is often threatened not by a single egregious act but by the slow accretion of a series of relatively minor acts. In this respect, privacy problems resemble certain environmental harms, which occur over time through a series of small acts by different actors. Although society is more likely to respond to a major oil spill, gradual pollution by a multitude of actors often creates worse problems.

Are you good at propositional calculus? How about at making Bobby eat his brussels sprouts?

In the world of propositional calculus, there's absolutely no difference between a rule about traveling to Boston by plane and a rule about eating vegetables to get dessert. But in our brains, there's an enormous difference: the first is a arbitrary rule about the world, and the second is a rule of social exchange. It's of the form "If you take Benefit B, you must first satisfy Requirement R."

Our brains are optimized to detect cheaters in a social exchange.

Generation Why? — Zadie Smith

Finally, it’s the idea of Facebook that disappoints. If it were a genuinely interesting interface, built for these genuinely different 2.0 kids to live in, well, that would be something. It’s not that. It’s the wild west of the Internet tamed to fit the suburban fantasies of a suburban soul. Lanier:

These designs came together very recently, and there’s a haphazard, accidental quality to them. Resist the easy grooves they guide you into. If you love a medium made of software, there’s a danger that you will become entrapped in someone else’s recent careless thoughts. Struggle against that!

Shouldn’t we struggle against Facebook? Everything in it is reduced to the size of its founder. Blue, because it turns out Zuckerberg is red-green color-blind. “Blue is the richest color for me—I can see all of blue.” Poking, because that’s what shy boys do to girls they are scared to talk to. Preoccupied with personal trivia, because Mark Zuckerberg thinks the exchange of personal trivia is what “friendship” is. A Mark Zuckerberg Production indeed! We were going to live online. It was going to be extraordinary. Yet what kind of living is this? Step back from your Facebook Wall for a moment: Doesn’t it, suddenly, look a little ridiculous? Your life in this format?