Ancient Movie Killer Uncovering Nate Silver Tricks

Tricks Foods Play by Janet Raloff (ScienceNews): A calorie is not a calorie, it seems. After all, a crucial part of why you eat is the conscious feeling of hunger. And depending on what you eat, that feeling of hunger can be manipulated by different foods. It seems that linoleic acid, a major constituent of soybean oil (but less so in canola oil and olive oil) is particularly good at doing this and may be a big part of the US obesity problem. In contrast, that sensation of sweetness you feel when you drink a diet coke? Your gut gets information about that sensation from your mouth, and when the diet coke gets there and there’s no calories in it, the gut feels ripped off, and tells your brain not to trust sweetness. Which means you consume more.

Why Your Four-Year-Old Is As Smart As Nate Silver by Alison Gopnik (Slate): Turns out that part of why infants are so good at learning stuff is that they seem to use the same Bayesian modelling that Nate Silver’s fancy models basically use. Oddly enough, I remember paying attention to the 1993 election in Australia as an 11-year-old, when Keating beat Hewson, and it seeming very obvious to me that Keating was going to win, though the news reporters were making it seem like it would be a very close call. But I don’t think I have that ability to tell who’ll win now - I have too many horses in the race in a way that I didn’t when I was 11. 

The Truck Stop Killer by Vanessa Veselka (GQ): Veselka was a teenage runaway, and once had a scary experience where a trucker she was hitch-hiking with pulled a knife on her and told her about the Laughing Death society. Eventually she ran from the truck and quite possibly saved her life. Years later, she wonders, ‘who was that man?’ Was it actually Robert Ben Rhoades, the serial killer? How much can she trust her memories?

Much Ado About Acting by Jessica Love (American Scholar): Actors do something amazing, really - they remember vast swathes of dialogue. I mean, I have trouble remembering phone numbers, so that’s pretty good, right! So how do they do it? Mostly by context and motivation and not trying too hard, apparently.

Uncovering The Truth Behind The Myth Of Pancho Villa, Movie Star by Mike Dash (Past Imperfect): One movie star who didn’t have dialogue to remember was Pancho Villa, one of the main figures in the Mexican civil war. Back in the day, the Hollywood film industry was producing newsreels, and legend has it that they paid Villa so he would conduct his battles during the day when there was better lighting for the cameras. So was that true, Dash asks? (Well, sort of…)

Ancient Fears: The Return Of The Flood Saga by Avi Sternberg (The New Yorker): It’s probably the most typical New Yorker article ever; inspired by the flooding of bits of New York, they look at the old myths of flooding (and no, the Noah one in the Old Testament wasn’t the oldest). What did they represent and what did they mean? (I’m very partial, personally, to the idea that the flood myths are a memory of end of the last Ice Age. I mean, 10000 years ago most of the area between Britain and Scandinavia was above water. There must be many memories around the world of the seasides where people lived being flooded, and people needing to go to higher ground).

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