Unspeakable Things: Sex Lies and RevolutionWorldCat•LibraryThing•Google Books•BookFinder
I liked this book. It was messy, and deeply compassionate, and very sad, and not exactly hopeful. Because in the end, what can I do, what can you do? The whole world is changing, needs to change, but we can’t do much about it either way. And in the meantime, we all suffer, men and women and girls and boys alike. The writing style is informal and vulgar, which I have noticed turned some people off. I think it was a calculated decision. How else can she get you to look beyond what society tells you is proper?
Penny focuses on the lies society is currently telling us about men and women and how we interact. She then follows those lies to their impact on our behavior, on how incredibly difficult it becomes to interact with another human when society has told you they aren’t human. And it’s true both ways. Society tells men that women are empty vessels waiting to be filled and it tells men that women are animalistic balls of rage that will destroy them for disagreeing with a single thing they say. Only that latter thing really does happen, so it’s not exactly equivalent.
Modern do-it-all superwomen are so knackered and seething that they have started backing stacks of silly little biscuits and flouncing around in retro 1950s-print dresses as if doing so might bring back the days when you still had to do the shopping, the cooking, and the squeezing out of babies, but if you were very lucky and very pretty you might be able to persuade a man to cover the finances, because the further away from it some of us get the better that option is starting to look.
Since “freedom and equality” seems to mean that women get to work paid jobs while also doing all of the work they used to do, it is starting to look like a pretty raw deal. But the point is, the revolution isn’t finished, we have more work to do, and we should get back to work.
Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of ThingsWorldCat•LibraryThing•Google Books•BookFinder
The future looks like a black slab of glass. We disappear more and more into our one object to replace them all, when we could instead be using technology to augment the objects we currently use. For example, the pill cap that vibrates and glows to remind you to take your medicine. An umbrella that flashes when it’s raining, so you remember to take it. A trash can that reorders things as you throw them out. If you don’t want it to reorder, just kick it. The fact that I can recall these examples days after I finished the book speaks to their power, to their emotional appeal. I want to live in a world filled with objects that make my life easier.
It must be because I am growing old, but I find myself just as concerned about the dangers as excited about the possibilities. Benign surveillance is rarely benign. The salt shaker that tells you the nutritional information of the food you’re eating suddenly seems less harmless when it’s employer mandated in order to qualify for health insurance. And even when it isn’t mandatory, the companies that offer us these services make money by gathering information about us and using it to manipulate us. I don’t remember him mentioning it, but I would also be concerned about the data from these devices being used in law enforcement, especially before it’s well understood. “Desdemona, your heart rate and galvanic skin response monitor indicates you were extremely nervous at the time of the crime, and it indicates you are extremely nervous right now. What are you hiding?”
But I knew all that. What I didn’t know before reading this book was how exciting the possibilities really are. Technology has the power to enchant our lives, to give us the superpowers we’ve always wanted: Telepathy, teleportation, perfect recall. And while I will probably remain a bit nervous about diving forward into the future, I am excited to see how technology enriches our lives.
Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal ImpactWorldCat•LibraryThing•Google Books•BookFinder
I have read a lot of body language books in my day. Being a scientist, I have been resistant to leaving things like body language up to chance. I hate the idea that there’s a whole ‘nother conversation going on and I’m not in on it. So I read body language books. But my hatred of oversimplification usually ends up negating anything I would have gained from these books, because apparently what sells body language books is “Do these three exact motions and you will get promoted.” Why those things? Why do you assume I am looking for a promotion? Do I really want to be promoted by people who will be duped by me changing three things that have nothing to do with my job? Maybe I should reevaluate my whole life.
The point is, this book is different. Morgan takes you through the research, what the science says happens non-verbally among groups, and then discusses how you can take advantage of that research. Not only that, he doesn’t mention “power postures” even once, and isn’t interested in tricking people. As far as body language goes, it is an expression of emotion. Most of the books in this area focus on changing the body language without really investigating the emotion, and if they do, they imply that by changing the language you’ll change the emotion. Morgan would rather you bring your body language into alignment with your emotion, and then people aren’t getting conflicting messages from you which would lead to distrust.
The other really good thing about this book is that it actually had information I hadn’t heard before. Part of the reason I read so fast is because I have read so much that all I really need to do is find the 10-20 sentences of new information in any book I read. This one had more than that. There’s the obligatory chapter on your body language, one on reading other people’s body language, then it dives deep into interesting territory: Which part of your vocal range and what kind of tonal quality inspires people to follow you, what makes a compelling story (again, which makes people follow you), and how to welcome and use the subconscious signals you receive from other people’s body language.
Keeping track of what’s going on in the world suddenly seems more interesting than studying. Here are some links to some news articles that seem interesting this week.
This Russian Soundsystem Turns Radiation Into Ambient Music – It doesn’t exactly sound good but boy is it interesting. I love the idea of turning signals from the environment into sound.
Thunderstorms can generate powerful radiation – Turns out that thunderstorms emit pulses of gamma radiation and no one exactly knows why. Not that anyone knows much about thunderstorms in the first place. Very interesting.
Tracking the Fukushima radioactivity plume across the Pacific – In case you stopped panicking about Fukushima lately, 2.1 years later, there are detectable levels of Cesium-134 off the Pacific coast. I just want to point out that detectable levels are far, far, far below dangerous ones. If you’d like another reassuring take, Stay Calm, But Radiation From Fukushima Has Crossed The Ocean To North America. Here’s one more reassurring take: Don’t panic! Fukushima radiation just hit the West Coast. I am very pleased by non-nuclear people telling the public not to worry. Of course the truth is that the danger posed to the West Coast by any radiation present is precisely zero by any reasonable measure of risk. And the risk of global warming is huge. So.
And there is an upside to the radiation plume from Fukushima, as well. Turns out scientists at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography are using the tiny bits of Cesium to track the ocean currents and test the validity of their models. This is important work and a good way to make use of the radioactivity that is currently terrifying everyone for no good reason.
Hultgren plan would study low-dose radiation effects – Because the effects of radiation are random and probabilistic in nature, it’s very difficult to figure out what happens at low doses. Okay, so you got a dose of 500 mrem (1/10 the occupational limit per year) above background one time and you get cancer. What were the chances you were going to get cancer anyway? Well, pretty high. How likely is it that your cancer was caused by your dose? The fact is, it’s almost impossible to tell. For years, the radiation community has estimated risk in an exceptionally conservative way. Since there is no way to tell, we assume the worst. That has some downsides. First of all, it terrifies people, and second, it tends to make things much more expensive than they maybe should be. So I’m glad there is some funding to actually study what happens at low doses.
Nuclear Navy father honored – The Navy is naming a sub after Admiral Rickover. It is really hard to overstate his contribution to the nuclear power industry. Thanks to him, there has never been a reactor accident on a navy vessel. And his methods have been just as influential in the civilian sector.
Nuclear Power Turns To Salt – Oak Ridge National Laboratory is partnering with a Canadian company (Terrestrial Energy Inc) to build a new Integral Molten Salt Reactor. IMSR is a small breeder, designed to have lower operating costs than traditional nuclear and to be deployed to far-flung locations and basically left alone until the fuel needs to be changed out 7 years later. This is super great, and I wish them the best of luck and science.
State plan would help nuclear plants by punishing carbon-based providers – Illinois is thinking about ways to help their nuclear plants stay open. I think discouraging carbon producers is in general a good idea, and letting nuclear plants close is mostly a bad idea. I hope some good comes of this.
Regulators, Palisades at odds over how much radiation workers were exposed to last year – Dose calculations are pretty complicated. In this case, the NRC is disagreeing with the way dose calculations were made during a special project. The workers were not wearing enough dosimeters in the right places, and the regulators believe the calculations were done incorrectly. Nobody is saying that the workers were overexposed, however it is important that calculations in general be accurate. In fact, such accuracy is central to the safety culture we work so hard to maintain in the radiation industry.
Nuke plant reports 2-month oil leak into Lake Michigan – This is very frustrating. First of all, the leak was small and there is no chance the oil is radioactive. But it is frustrating because nuclear plants already have such a bad reputation, the last thing they need is more bad press.
Presented without comment because it’s just too depressing.