Zero Sum
How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress. — Neils Bohr
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Posted Aug 28th, 2008 by ravi    / Permalink /

File this under awesome generalisations:

Face-Off: East vs. West — Zelkowitz 2008 (820): 3 — ScienceNOW


The eye-tracker confirmed that Westerners tend to dart from the eyes to the mouth and back again. Conversely, the East Asian students fixated on central points in the face, which the researchers believe enables them to view all its information at once, they report today in PLoS ONE. Both groups scored about the same on the recognition and categorization tasks, showing their methods were equally effective in identifying faces, Caldara notes. “In this difference, there is still something common and universal.”

Richard Nisbett, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, says the findings fit with other research on culture and visual perception. Speaking broadly, says Nisbett, people in East Asian cultures tend to prize collectivism and harmony above the individuality valued in Western cultures. These social values are so powerful, he says, that they may influence a trait biologists previously thought was hard-wired in our species.

Posted Aug 22nd, 2008 by ravi    / Permalink /

This post is the first in a series of ruminations that fall under the title offered (“Science and the public”).

An article in the New York Times brings up the fallout from recent resistance to vaccination:

Measles Cases Grow in Number, and Officials Blame Parents’ Fear of Autism –

More people had measles infections in the first seven months of this year than during any comparable period since 1996, and public health officials blamed growing numbers of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

Rather typically, the issue is immediately cast as a confrontation between two warring camps:

The language has changed, but the message is the same. Infectious disease prevention is to be feared. It is against the natural order of things. Instead of “vaccines are against God’s will”, it’s now “vaccines are against Nature’s will.” They’re “unnatural”, not “green”. In the old vernacular, interfering with God’s will could lead to “bad things”, like flood, famine, or other divine punishment. In the new language, it leads to “autism”.

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Posted Aug 22nd, 2008 by ravi    / Permalink /

Jon Stewart mocks the media’s “3am” cliche, as well as the verbal dance required from the US administration in criticising Russia’s action in Georgia.

Posted Aug 16th, 2008 by ravi    / Permalink /

With regard to the recent unsuccessful culmination of the WTO talks in Geneva, there are, as can be expected, alternate accounts on the causes and culprits. The International Herald Tribune quotes French opinion that blame lies with India and China:

France’s agriculture minister said Wednesday that “big emerging countries” were to blame for the collapse of World Trade Organization talks on opening up the global economy.

Meanwhile, the Hindu Business Line writes:

The United States is to be solely blamed for the flopped WTO mini-Ministerial talks as it was not ready to “sew up a deal” in view of the impending presidential elections and it is unlikely that the Doha Development Round will conclude before 201 1-12, a trade expert said today.

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