Links May 2009

An interesting opinion post in the NY Times describes the research on early education and how it can affect IQ [1]. Among other things children from poor families who are adopted into upper middle-class families tend to end up with higher IQ scores. The article notes that half the population in 1917 would be regarded as mentally retarded by today’s standards – finally we have an explanation for WW1!

Two Dominos employees tarnish the brand’s image with a prank video on Youtube [2]. The next obvious step is for activists to seek jobs at such companies for the purpose of influencing companies. The animal rights protesters outside KFC stores haven’t achieved much, but if they worked for KFC and made some nasty videos they would really encourage a change of action. I predict that chain stores will be spending a lot more on security and background checks for their employees in the near future.

Cory Doctorow has written an amusing article titled “Big Entertainment Wants to Party Like It’s 1996” about how the entertainment industry is killing itself by conducting back-room negotiations about new copyright laws [3].

Nate Silver gave a TED talk about racism in elections [4]. The most interesting point was demonstrating statistically that people who don’t meet people of other races tend to be more racist. It seems to me that the use of the X-Face: header in email and the use of HackerGotchi in Planets can help reduce the level of racism on the Internet.

Cory Doctorow writes about his Geeky writing [5]. His idea for an organised system for donating books to libraries will hopefully be fully implemented soon – it should be easy to do and the incremental costs will decrease as the scope increases.

Cory Doctorow writes about the perverse laws that protect criticism of copyright works but stifle praise [6]. In a similar note he has documented a plan for trademark and copyright holders to allow fans to create derivitive works while preserving the original rights AND sharing the profits [7]. So if Cory’s idea became popular someone who wanted to create some art work based on a Coke bottle (which is trademarked) could pay the Coca-Cola company a reasonable rate, include an appropriate disclaimer, and things would work out well for everyone. Also this would allow small artists to develop new products that could be used by the large companies (I’m sure that anyone who legally released an artwork that turned out to be an effective advert for Coke would receive a lucrative job offer).

Bruce Schneier’s blog has an interesting article about the poor quality of software used for breath alcohol detectors [8]. It’s a great concern that innocent people are being punished due to bad software, but it’s only a small part of the problems with the legal system.

Mary Roach gave a TED talk “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Orgasm [9]. Not as insightful as the usual TED talk, but strange and interesting.

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