Welcome to the Hurt Your Brain internet playlist from October 31, 2016. It’s a collection of podcasts, videos, and other links for people who love to learn online and are fascinated by the world. Click here to get playlists emailed to you as they come out.
Best thing I learned this week: It’s been known that if you hold a penny to the sky, hidden behind that tiny obstructed view are thousands of galaxies. With new data, it’s now believed that already impossible-to-fathom number is only 10% of what’s actually there.
Data Analyst – Half Hour Intern Sep 22 52 min
Learned: why understanding data–causation vs correlation, behavioral economics, p-values, and all that kind of good stuff can lead to a better understanding of the world and to a lucrative career as a consultant.
Thoughts: Most people might get sleepy by even reading the words “data analyst”, but this was actually a really interesting interview. Guest Dr John Johnson had tons of examples to illustrate why being comfortable with data is important. My favorite is Gerber’s claim of “Recommended by 4 out of 5 Pediatricians”. The claim should really say, “of Pediatricians who say they recommend a brand, and they shared who that brand is, 80% chose Gerber”. It doesn’t sound as good to say “less than 10% of surveyed Pediatricians actively recommend Gerber”.
Quote: “Potential for abuse continues to be there, so it’s important to be vigilant and smart about it, but I think on net, more data is probably better for us.”
How Venezuela Imploded – Planet Money Oct 21, 21 min
Learned: that Venezuela made terrible, bull headed economic decisions with their oil money which is directly responsible to the disaster they are facing.
Thoughts: I’ve heard people use Venezuela as a poster child for why socialism is a bad idea. This episode doesn’t really address this directly, but it does address that regardless of how your government is structured, policy decisions can have tremendous long term impacts. There are some stories shared within the episode that are truly sad around the situations in hospitals and local businesses.
Quote: “Countries like Norway and Saudi Arabia had been saving their oil money – not Venezuela, though.”
Space Trash, Space Treasure – 99% Invisible Oct 25, 20 min
Learned: about the increasing problem we face with the amount of junk floating in orbit.
Thoughts: This is a problem I’ve heard a lot about, but leave it to 99pi to make it more interesting than most and to introduce me to the concept of a space archeologist, who looks at the things orbiting in space as cultural artifacts.
Quotes: “It’s quite likely that, you know, when it’s accessible and an affordable thing to do, people will go into space, and maybe stay at some fancy orbital hotel. And the two things we know from what’s happened already that they will want to do, is take a lot of photographs, and have sex.”
From the archives:
Montreal Screwjob – Radiolab Feb 2015, 36 min
Learned: how to not roll my eyes at the argument that professional wrestling could be considered an art form.
Thoughts: This episode was recommended by a reader and I was not disappointed. I don’t watch pro wrestling but this sure as hell made me appreciate its value. This story revolves around a very real breaking from the script that forever changed where the truth lies in this world.
Magic Eye: The optical illusion, explained – Vox Oct 21, 9 min
Learned: the interesting history of where Magic Eye came from and how it works.
Thoughts: I could never see these damn things! My older brother would look at one for .2 seconds and casually say, “oh that’s a cool 3D shark’ or “nice Eiffel Tower”, and I would stare at the colorful lines for like 10 minutes, and nothing. The clip from Mallrats that this video shows perfectly describes my frustrations. Even more frustrating is that this video explains that most people really are capable of seeing the hidden images, it’s just difficult for some to train their eyes to look at it correctly. I still can’t do it even with this fantastic explainer!
Rules for Rulers – CGP Grey Oct 24, 19 min
Learned: how politics and power within government really works at the largest scale.
Thoughts: CGP Grey videos are typically around 5 minutes, so I was surprised to see this one clocking in at almost 20 minutes. It’s a summary of The Dictator’s Handbook, which is now on my reading list. This video and the book are basically a cynical update to The Prince, with a breakdown of how a hypothetical ruler views the world.
Quote: “Thus, we live in a world where the best, smartest democracies are stable, the worst, richest dictatorships are stable, and in between, is a valley of revolution.”
Hubble’s latest breakthrough reveals trillions of unknown galaxies in the Universe – Starts With a Bang (on Medium)
Learned: How astronomers estimated the amount of galaxies there are and why this now needs to be dramatically increased.
Thoughts: This story was all over science publications, but this post on Medium does a great job walking through how astronomers make these estimations. Truly mind boggling and amazing stuff.
Quote: “This last image, consisting of a region of space barely a thousandth of a square degree on the sky — so small it would take thirty-two-million of them to fill the entire sky — contains a whopping 5,500 galaxies, the most distant of which have had their light traveling towards us for some 13 billion years, or more than 90% the present age of the Universe”
That’s all for this week!