Reverse what you know of flossing, and then reverse it again
Welcome to the Hurt Your Brain internet playlist from August 7, 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.
Surprisingly Awesome #17.5 Untangling Flossgate 2016, Aug 5, 10 min Learn about: what the actual deal is with flossing. Surprisingly Awesome had the unfortunate timing of releasing a flossing episode right before the world decided that flossing is unproven, and this short episode puts the whole flossing "controversy" into context. Quote 1: "So this article that was widely circulated on social media that we got hit with a bunch of times, it's not actually about whether flossing is good or bad for you, it's about whether the government is advising you to floss or not." Quote 2: "So we can't come out and say, 'yes we know with scientific proof that flossing is great for you'. We don't know that. We also don't know that it's not and that's not because it's unknowable, it's because nobody has spent the money and time to figure it out." Radiolab From Tree to Shining Tree, July 30, 33 min Learn about: the embarrassingly named wood wide web, a fairly new discovery that has turned our understanding of forest ecosystems upside down. Without tiny fungi, called mycorrhiza, intertwined with and connected to surrounding root systems, trees and most plants would not be able to exist as we know them. Quote: "What she discovered is, that all these trees, all these trees that were of totally different species, were sharing their food underground. Like, if you put food into one tree over here, it would end up in another tree maybe 30 feet away over there, and then a third tree over here, and then a fourth tree over there, and then a fifth tree over there, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh; all in all, it turns out one tree was connected to 47 other trees all around it, it was like a huge network." For more: Have you ever wondered how tall trees actually get water to the top? Me either, but if you sit and think of a few guesses, you'll probably be wrong. After listening to the above Radiolab episode and watching Veritasium's The Most Amazing Things About Trees, you might feel as I did. "I thought trees were simple, I know nothing!" The Skeptics Guide to the Universe #577, Jul 30, 95 min Learn about: what science has to say about race. This conversation starts at 47:25 and goes until about minute 113. Most conversations about race revolve around the social and historical aspects of it. What about from a scientific standpoint, with ideologies and human morality removed? Well of course it's still pretty complicated, and host Dr Steven Novella does a great job walking us through what is worth knowing. Quote 1: "The medical profession completely ignores this entire argument and practices as if race is biologically real. And in fact, if you do not take into consideration the race of your patient when you prescribe certain drugs, you are literally guilty of malpractice." Quote 2: "What's fascinating about this topic is that it's really complicated, it's different than what most people think naively, and there's enough information there that you can make whatever argument you want to make." Quote 3: "You can be against racism and privilege and the historical oppression of groups without feeling that you need to have a scientific opinion about the distribution of genetics in the human population."
Scientists not the Science Ep 33: Are Scientists Like Comedians?–Stuart Goldsmith, Jul 25, 34 min Learn about: how scientists and comedians share a surprising amount of overlap. This will be interesting for anyone who is a fan of both worlds. Quote: "We can all do the things that we love, we can all do them for a hobby while doing something more reliable that makes more money, definitely, but we don't want to, we want to follow our passions, so there are definitely similarities." Ryan Holiday Ryan Holiday is the author or several books, including The Obstacle is the Way, and the new Ego is the Enemy. I can't recommend his books, because I haven't read them, but if you want to learn about stoicism, writing, and why it's important to check your ego, I can absolutely recommend the below interviews. They are different in content and are overall great discussions. The Knowledge Project Ryan Holiday on Reading, What it means to be a Stoic, and How to Take Notes, May 15, 45 min Econ Talk Ryan Holiday on Ego is the Enemy, Jul 18, 66 min
Kurzgesagt–In a Nutshell Death From Space–Gamma-Ray Bursts Explained, Jul 31, 7 min Learn about: what gamma ray bursts are and why they are the most powerful long distance weapons in the universe. If you keep a running list of doomsday scenarios that keep you up at night, GRB's should be right up there with the Yellowstone super volcano exploding or a repeat of the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs. Quote: "But since gamma rays travel at the speed of light, we won't know when it's heading our way until it arrives. So there could already be a GRB on it's way to kill us all, and won't know it until it hits us, and we're dead." Minute Physics Hitting the Sun is HARD, Jul 19, 3 min Learn about: one more way that intuition is a terrible companion to the nature of reality. The joked about concept of sending all of our trash to the Sun is much more complicated than it appears, mainly because of the Earth's orbital speed. Quote: "Let me say that again, it takes less acceleration to get to other stars than it does to get to our own sun. CRAZY, but it get's weirder."
Scientific American Israel Proves the Desalination Era is Here Learn about: how turning salt water into fresh water is much more doable than in the past and could give countries in the Middle East something to peacefully partner on. Quote: "Desalination used to be an expensive energy hog, but the kind of advanced technologies being employed at Sorek have been a game changer. Water produced by desalination costs just a third of what it did in the 1990s. Sorek can produce a thousand liters of drinking water for 58 cents. Israeli households pay about US$30 a month for their water — similar to households in most U.S. cities, and far less than Las Vegas (US$47) or Los Angeles (US$58)." The NY Times This is Your Life, Brought to you by Private Equity Learn about: what private equity is and how since the financial crisis, it has been creeping into our everyday lives. This is unique interactive article that is short and sweet. Quote: "Private equity firms are essentially savvy bargain hunters. They make money by buying up businesses they consider to be underperforming, looking to maximize profits and eventually sell them off." Reddit in /r/changemyview CMV I would rather vote for a third party candidate that is closer to my political standings than to vote for the "lesser of two evils". Change my view, or CMV, is one of my favorite subreddits. Someone states their position on something and their reasoning for it, and other redditors argue against them to change their mind. There are lots of interesting discussions within this thread and in true Reddit fashion, it somehow remains somewhat civilized, even being a political topic. One of the main comments mentions the first past the post voting system that most countries go by. Check out this CGP Grey video that explains what that means. That's all for this week! Connect with me @erikthejones on twitter and if you've learned anything interesting, please forward this link to any curious natured friends or family so they can subscribe. Many thanks!