Thirty Three Things (v. 70)

1. How the digital age is destroying us by ruining our ability to concentrate

Chronic distraction, from which we all now suffer, kills you more slowly. Meyer says there is evidence that people in chronically distracted jobs are, in early middle age, appearing with the same symptoms of burn-out as air traffic controllers. They might have stress-related diseases, even irreversible brain damage. But the damage is not caused by overwork, it’s caused by multiple distracted work. One American study found that interruptions take up 2.1 hours of the average knowledge worker’s day. This, it was estimated, cost the US economy $588 billion a year. Yet the rabidly multitasking distractee is seen as some kind of social and economic ideal.


2. Michael Wyly, a retired Marine Colonel, on professionalism:

It was during the European Renaissance that the professional class emerged and defined itself. It was during the Renaissance that the birthright nobility began to give way to a society led by persons respected for their merits — for what they did instead of who they were. Each profession had standards for entry, they professed something, and their study of it was daily, continual and life-long. They served their society. Medicine, law, the clergy and military leadership became during the 15th and 16th centuries — and still stand as — the classically defined professions. When we speak of a professional ball player or a professional musician, we are corrupting the term, for it means far more than getting a paycheck for what you do. A profession must be applied for and joined after being accepted, and its moral standards are as important as its philosophy.

(HT: Acton Institute PowerBlog)


3. World’s youth more religious than reputed (except in Europe)

Worldwide, more than four out of five young adults (85 percent) are religious and almost half (44 percent) are deeply religious. Only 13 percent have no appreciation for God or faith in general.

However, there are large differences between individual countries and among the various denominations. Whereas young adults in Islamic states and developing countries in particular are deeply religious, young Christians in Europe especially are comparatively unreligious. For example, 80 percent of all young Protestants outside of Europe are deeply religious and 18 percent are religious, compared to just seven percent of young Protestants in Europe who are deeply religious, and 25 percent can only be classified as nominal members of their church.

It is a similar picture with young Catholics. Although the proportion of deeply religious Catholics in Europe is 25 percent, outside Europe this figure is 68 percent. Only a third of young people in Eastern Europe and Russia have been christened, and most young people have no connection at all to faith and the Church. Only 13 percent are deeply religious.


4. If physical theories were women:

0. Newtonian gravity is your high-school girlfriend. As your first encounter with physics, she’s amazing. You will never forget Newtonian gravity, even if you’re not in touch very much anymore.

1. Electrodynamics is your college girlfriend. Pretty complex, you probably won’t date long enough to really understand her.


5. Cassettes still a multi-million dollar industry… in prison

[W]ho is buying Paris’ cassettes? America’s 2.3 million prisoners. Which brings us to the second advantage of tape over compact disc: a tape can’t be broken apart and used as a shiv. Prisoners are allowed to have them. 60% of Paris’ business is in cassette tapes.

Paris’ excited conclusion: “[By selling cassette tapes] I have dodged every conventional bullet that has hit most music retailers,” Paris says. “I don’t have to worry about downloading, legal or illegally. The beauty of it is that prisoners don’t have Internet access and never will.”


6. See yourself, know yourself?

Other researchers have determined that mirrors can subtly affect human behavior, often in surprisingly positive ways. Subjects tested in a room with a mirror have been found to work harder, to be more helpful and to be less inclined to cheat, compared with control groups performing the same exercises in nonmirrored settings. Reporting in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, C. Neil Macrae, Galen V. Bodenhausen and Alan B. Milne found that people in a room with a mirror were comparatively less likely to judge others based on social stereotypes about, for example, sex, race or religion.

“When people are made to be self-aware, they are likelier to stop and think about what they are doing,” Dr. Bodenhausen said. “A byproduct of that awareness may be a shift away from acting on autopilot toward more desirable ways of behaving.” Physical self-reflection, in other words, encourages philosophical self-reflection, a crash course in the Socratic notion that you cannot know or appreciate others until you know yourself.


7. Writing advice from Zadie Smith

When you finish your novel, if money is not a desperate priority, if you do not need to sell it at once or be published that very second – put it in a drawer. For as long as you can manage. A year of more is ideal – but even three months will do. Step away from the vehicle. The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat backstage with a line of novelists at some festival, all of us with red pens in hand, frantically editing our published novels into fit form so that we might go on stage and read from them. It’s an unfortunate thing, but it turns out that the perfect state of mind to edit your novel is two years after it’s published, ten minutes before you go on stage at a literary festival. At that moment every redundant phrase, each show-off, pointless metaphor, all of the pieces of dead wood, stupidity, vanity, and tedium are distressingly obvious to you.


8. Volunteering Notes — The Fresh Air Fund, which has provided free summer vacations to New York City children from disadvantaged communities since 1877, is in need of host families. Unless all prospective host families are screened and vetted by the end of July these 200 children may miss out on an invaluable experience


9. Philanthropy Notes — The Gerard Health Foundation recently unveiled a new award called Life Prizes – up to $600,000 will be given to up to six leaders who have succeeded in awakening the conscience of America to uphold and preserve the sanctity of human life. Philanthropist Raymond B. Ruddy is giving this inaugural award in honor of his parents, in an effort to encourage and inspire a new generation of leaders in the pro-life movement. The nomination progress is beginning this week.


10. How Much Does It Cost You in Wages if You “Sound Black?”

Fascinating new research by my University of Chicago colleague, Jeffrey Grogger, compares the wages of people who “sound black” when they talk to those who do not.

His main finding: blacks who “sound black” earn salaries that are 10 percent lower than blacks who do not “sound black,” even after controlling for measures of intelligence, experience in the work force, and other factors that influence how much people earn. (For what it is worth, whites who “sound black” earn 6 percent lower than other whites.)


11. Graph of the Week

song chart memes
more graph humor and song chart memes


12. 26 Important Comic Books


13. Apollo Astronaut Ed Mitchell claims that aliens exist, but NASA covers them up:

Former Apollo 14 moonwalker Edgar Mitchell claimed, in a recent radio interview, that not only have aliens been visiting the Earth for the past sixty years since the Roswell incident, but that Earth governments are aware of this fact and are covering it up.

Mitchell claims that sources at NASA, the military, and the intelligence community have described these aliens as, ‘little people who look strange to us.’ The aliens have a small body frame, a large head, and large eyes as has been traditionally depicted in popular films and television.


14. Reality Show Supercut: “I’m Not Here to Make Friends”


15. Weird News of the Week: Teen Dressed As Bus Driver, Returned Buses At End Of Day

According to Miami-Dade police, Harris would take the buses from several Miami-Dade Transit bus depots in the county and drive the buses on their routes, picking up and dropping off passengers along the way. He would then return the buses at the end of the day.

Police said Harris didn’t raise any suspicion because he was dressed like a Miami-Dade Transit employee. Police said he also didn’t steal any bus fare.

(HT: Boing Boing)


16. Why is it So Hard to Wake Up in the Morning?

It’s not necessarily laziness that makes people hit the “snooze” button in the morning. Most likely, your body clock is mismatched with the demands of your life.

Your clock is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a part of the brain that controls the body’s biological rhythms. But, says Jean Matheson, a sleep-disorders specialist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, these preset natural rhythms often don’t align with daily realities–work or school start times cannot be adjusted to fit a person’s sleep schedule. People who have trouble crawling out of bed probably have an inner clock set to late wake-up and sleep times, a condition known as phase delay.

(HT: Lifehacker)


17. Genius Junk Food: 6 Snacks That Are Actually Good For You


18. Timewaster of the Week: Hedgehog Launch (HT:


19. The Arithmetical Atheism Argument, or, The Magic of Misdirection


20. How the Febreze marketing campaign reduced disease in Ghana


21. The 20 Healthiest Foods for Under $1 (HT: The Presurfer)


22. Top 10 Modern Life Survival Skills


23. 100 Places to Go for Good Answers Online (HT: The Presurfer)


24. 30 Most Incredible Abstract Satellite Images of Earth


25. LOLCat of the Week

more cat pictures


26. 50 Places to Find Your Favorite Downloadable TV Shows (HT: The Presurfer )


27. 10 Richest People of All Time and How They Made Their Fortunes


28. Today’s youth have inflated egos

In what they describe as “the most comprehensive examination to date” of this issue, American researchers, led by Jean Twenge at San Diego State University, have tested these two possible explanations by trawling published and unpublished data on self-reported undergraduate narcissism, dating from the late 1970s to the present day.

The researchers focused only on studies that collected data using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, which requires respondents to choose between 40 forced-choice alternatives, such as: “I can live my life anyway I want to” vs. “People can’t always live their lives in terms of what they want”. The search uncovered 85 samples, involving 16,475 university students.

The data showed today’s youth really are more egotistical than in previous eras. Levels of self-reported narcissism were found to have risen year on year from the late 70’s to today, with the effect that two thirds of contemporary students scored above the narcissistic average for students tested in the years 1979-1985.


29. Tattoos, body piercings and self-harm – is there a link?

Some people say cutting their skin brings them relief from emotional pain – an act usually referred to as self-harm. Others enjoy having their body pierced with metal and their skin inscribed with permanent ink. Is there a link between these acts? According to the German psychologists Aglaja Stirn and Andreas Hinz, in some cases there might well be.


30. Athletes benefit from being perfectionist

To the researchers’ surprise, the students who showed the most improvement over the course of the training (four series of seven attempts) were those who reported high levels of both striving for perfection and negative reactions to imperfection. They speculated that perhaps the students who strove for perfection, but who were then unconcerned by whether they achieved that perfection or not, had less motivation to do well in training than the students who reported having both forms of perfectionism.


31. Is a vivid imagination at the heart of OCD?

Nadine Keen and colleagues have made an initial attempt to plug this gap in the literature, by testing whether there is an association between the ability of people with OCD to imagine a given feared scenario and their subsequent worry and belief that that scenario will actually occur.

Seventeen men and thirteen women with OCD were presented with the beginnings and endings of various feared scenarios. For example, they were to imagine being served a meal in a restaurant by a waitress who they knew had just visited the toilet. They were then to imagine waking up the next morning feeling ill. Their task was to fill in the middle part of the story. The participants were presented with stories that were more or less relevant to their particular variety of OCD (e.g. hoarding or contamination-based), as well as control stories that had positive endings.


32. Tough Choices: How Making Decisions Tires Your Brain

Recently, a growing body of research has focused on a particular mental limitation, which has to do with our ability to use a mental trait known as executive function. When you focus on a specific task for an extended period of time or choose to eat a salad instead of a piece of cake, you are flexing your executive function muscles. Both thought processes require conscious effort-you have to resist the temptation to let your mind wander or to indulge in the sweet dessert. It turns out, however, that use of executive function–a talent we all rely on throughout the day–draws upon a single resource of limited capacity in the brain. When this resource is exhausted by one activity, our mental capacity may be severely hindered in another, seemingly unrelated activity.

(HT: Boing Boing)


33. Western Spaghetti

Published by

Joe Carter

Joe Carter founded Evangelical Outpost in 2005. He is the web editor for First Things and an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. A fifteen-year Marine Corps veteran, he previously served as the managing editor for the online magazine Culture11 and The East Texas Tribune. Joe has also served as the Director of Research and Rapid Response for the Mike Huckabee for President campaign and as a director of communications for both the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and Family Research Council. He is the co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicaton.

  • Tom Gilson

    Joe, I appreciate the link (#19), which appears to have been intended to go here, but has some corrupted coding; or maybe you were intending it to go to another website, since this post is not about Febreze or Ghana.
    (Please feel free to delete this comment after you’ve dealt with it.)

  • Mark Petzold

    Link #20 appears to be broken as well. I think you want this link . Interesting article. I hope my html works.

  • Bonnie

    #1 — “Chronic distraction” — this is what mothers of infants and young children, especially those that are fussier/more active/less settled sleep-wise, go through 24/7. And then they are expected to keep up with the rest of life too.
    And people who haven’t been through this or otherwise don’t understand it wonder why these mothers seem loopy! Irreversible brain damage?!?! Oh please, say it isn’t so!

  • Patrick

    “World’s youth more religious than reputed (except in Europe)”
    This statement I believe is only true (particularly in the United States) if you seriously redefine “religious.” Numerous studies have shown that U.S. teenages are almost completely inept when it comes to the basic theology of Christianity. So while they have some desire for a deeper “spirituality,” they’re hardly studying Christianity.

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