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Stay strong

August 7, 2018

US News and World Report has a good article explaining the reasoning that strength training can increases lifespan. It references a 15 year cohort study from the Penn State College of Medicine published two years back (cite), but not a study last year from the University of Sydney using Scottish data, showing similar results (cite). That study found a 23% reduction in all-cause mortality and a 31% reduction in cancer mortality. Emmanuel Stamatakis, lead author, emphasizes that strength training is not restricted to the use of weights and machines:

Many people are intimidated by gyms, the costs or the culture they promote, so it’s great to know that anyone can do classic exercises like triceps dips, sit-ups, push-ups or lunges in their own home or local park and potentially reap the same health benefits.

Both of those studies suffer the problem that they were observational, this being a rather difficult thing to examine otherwise. The certain benefit of strength training, of course, is that one gets and stays stronger, which makes other activities easier and more pleasant.

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The land of the scared

August 6, 2018

An American visiting Europe may be struck by the freedom that young people enjoy there. Pre-teens freely travel city streets by foot or bike, between school and home, running errands, or having fun. Teenagers traveling alone are common on the trains. Sixteen year-olds may meet their friends after school for a beer or wine, that being legal in Belgium, Spain, and quite a few other EU nations.

In contrast, Kim Brooks describes how the US in recent decades has developed a culture, backed by some law, that treats children as so helpless and in so much danger from the community around them that they need constant parental supervision. Readers from the EU and from Japan remarked on America’s exceptionalism in that.

Cranes, puffins, and climate change

August 3, 2018

The Washington Post tells the story of Walnut, a white-naped crane who imprinted on humans, and Chris Crowe, the bird keeper who keeps her happy.

Puffin populations continue to decline.

Joseph Grinnel was one of those amazing naturalists who spent years of hard work gathering a variety of information about birds and other vertebrates in the west. A century or more past, when that required considerable physical effort. Because of that, biologists today can look at how animal behavior has changed, in response to changing climate. I am not at all surprised that birds exhibit behavioral flexibility in ways previously not known. When you’re living in the rough, you adapt to conditions as you can. Even if you’re a bird.

Social engineering

August 2, 2018

The Modeling Religion Project concludes that there are four factors that determine secularization in a society:

the team found that people tend to secularize when four factors are present: existential security (you have enough money and food), personal freedom (you’re free to choose whether to believe or not), pluralism (you have a welcoming attitude to diversity), and education (you’ve got some training in the sciences and humanities). If even one of these factors is absent, the whole secularization process slows down. This, they believe, is why the U.S. is secularizing at a slower rate than Western and Northern Europe.

I suspect the model has more restricted domain than they realize, so there are other factors not surfaced. It nonetheless may be valid for the societies that interest us, to wit, present ones.

That article worries that such projects may be viewed and damned as social engineering. The simple truth, of course, is that every political engagement is an exercise in social engineering. Bannon wants to spread his style of fascism to Europe. That is social engineering. Ugly, not because it is social engineering, but because the ideology advanced is brutal.

It’s your party, you can cry if you want to…

July 30, 2018

Long-time conservative writer George Will is encouraging his readers to vote the Democratic ticket this fall. Former Republican Governor Christine Whitman wants her fellow Republicans to demand Trump’s resignation. Conservative analyst Max Boot misses Obama. Conservative pundit Joe Scarborough delivers his own GOP delenda est. Republican Congressman and former CIA analyst Will Hurd accuses Trump of being under Putin’s thumb. Republican operative Steve Schmidt tweeted an angry resignation from the party for which he worked so hard. Conservative columnists David Brooks and Charlie Sykes have consistently opposed Trump on conservative grounds. Even Fox News has had to take notice of the number of conservatives opposing Trump. Jennifer Rubin thinks Trump has reached a tipping point.

I think Rubin is optimistic. The common characteristic to all those conservatives is that they feel blind-sided. Trump remains extremely popular among the Republican base. Not one of those named above has a good understanding of how a neo-fascist movement managed to grow uncontrolled in what they thought was their tidy home. We might welcome their decency, at fleeing when they saw the rise of political leaders who are deceitful and nativist and authoritarian and brutal. But I can’t credit their vision, until they come to grips with how it was they helped give birth to that. For most of them, that is quite a long journey, before they see some light. As with this nation, I fear.

QM and GR

July 26, 2018

Ethan Siegel elegantly describes the tension between the two great theories of modern physics, using the double-slit experiment.

Immigration hurdles

July 25, 2018

It turns out Anne Frank’s father twice applied for immigration to the US. Many reading that will wonder why the US didn’t do what now seems obvious, opening the doors to refugees fleeing Europe at the dawn of WW II. Many observing current politics will point out the obvious: xenophobia and America-firstism is exactly why. People think they would have done better then. Even when they cannot bring themselves to do better now.

Every time the Trump administration deports an undocumented immigrant who is working and raising a family, it hurts our nation every bit as much as if he had done the same to an American citizen. In that story, the deported woman’s mother-in-law learns to understand why she should not have voted for Trump.

Not even long-time citizens are safe. The Miami Herald takes a look at the increased scrutiny and citizenship revocation brought to bear on naturalized citizens, including some who have live in the US for decades.