debunking

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“A body of men, holding themselves accountable to nobody, ought not to be trusted by any body.” —Thomas Paine 1737-1809

“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.” —Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler’s fictional detective, via @duncan_stuart

Big Think: Why highly intelligent people suffer from more mental and physical disorders

The researchers point out that highly intelligent people have tendencies for “intellectual overexcitabilites” and a hyper-reactivity of the central nervous system. On the one hand, this gives people with high IQ heightened awareness that helps their creative and artistic work. In fact, the field of cognitive ability recognizes one aspect of highly intelligent people to be “a broader and deeper capacity to comprehend their surroundings.”

This hyper-reactivity, however, can also lead to deeper depressions and poor mental health. This turns out to be particularly true for poets, novelists and people with high verbal intelligence. Their intense emotional response to the environment increases tendencies for rumination and worry, both of which predict depression and anxiety disorders.

Heightened psychological responses can affect immunity, write the researchers. People with overexcitabilites may have strong reactions to seemingly harmless external stimuli like an annoying clothing tag or a sound. This reaction may turn into low level chronic stress and launch an inappropriate immune response.

National Geographic: To build cities of the future via @BrentToderian

Driving’s too cheap, housing’s too expensive,” said Michael Manville, an urban planner at UCLA. People have to pay to ride transit, but not to drive the freeway or to park in most places. Meanwhile, an affordable-housing crisis brought on by gentrification and citizen resistance to multifamily housing pushes low-income people, the ones most likely to ride public transit, to the fringes of the metropolis, where public transit is sparse.

Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet by @ShellenbergerMD

As a result, the climate scientist James Hanson and a colleague found that nuclear plants have actually saved nearly two million lives to date that would have been lost to air pollution.

Thanks to its energy density, nuclear plants require far less land than renewables. Even in sunny California, a solar farm requires 450 times more land to produce the same amount of energy as a nuclear plant.

Energy-dense nuclear requires far less in the way of materials, and produces far less in the way of waste compared to energy-dilute solar and wind.

A single Coke can’s worth of uranium provides all of the energy that the most gluttonous American or Australian lifestyle requires. At the end of the process, the high-level radioactive waste that nuclear plants produce is the very same Coke can of (used) uranium fuel. The reason nuclear is the best energy from an environmental perspective is because it produces so little waste and none enters the environment as pollution.

All of the waste fuel from 45 years of the Swiss nuclear program can fit, in canisters, on a basketball court-like warehouse, where like all spent nuclear fuel, it has never hurt a fly.

By contrast, solar panels require 17 times more materials in the form of cement, glass, concrete, and steel than do nuclear plants, and create over 200 times more waste.

Debunking the Capitalist Cowboy via @CharlesHGreen

Schumpeter’s third wife, Romaine Elizabeth Boody, whom he married in 1937, advised him on how to promote his ideas over those of his archrival, John Maynard Keynes, who advocated for government intervention and regulation. A respected economist in her own right, Boody urged Schumpeter to make his claims bigger and to coin his own term—“creative destruction”—which he did in his 1942 masterpiece Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. In that volume, Schumpeter boldly declared that creative destruction defined capitalism itself: “This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism,” he wrote. “It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in.” Here is the punch line: because the maverick entrepreneur is “the pivot on which everything turns,” he should be given free rein to act and not be hampered by regulation. Schumpeter’s ideal of the rogue entrepreneur conferred glamour on his own libertarian conservative views.

Image by Tom Wolfson

“So long as there isn’t the same freedom of movement for people as there is for data, for goods and for capital, we will not have an actual planetary labour market (nor either will we solve the persistent problems of poverty and inequity, but that’s a separate issue) … we will not in fact see equity of working conditions if people are trapped within labour-unfriendly borders.”Stephen Downes

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