Birds on Radar

Those expanding rings are birds detected by radar as they leave the roost in the morning. Gorgeous.

Ego Depletion and Decision Fatigue

New John Tierney piece in NYT Magazine on ego depletion and decision fatigue, or why you get exhausted thinking things through and made bad decisions.

We have no way of knowing how much our ancestors exercised self-control in the days before BlackBerrys and social psychologists, but it seems likely that many of them were under less ego-depleting strain. When there were fewer decisions, there was less decision fatigue. Today we feel overwhelmed because there are so many choices. Your body may have dutifully reported to work on time, but your mind can escape at any instant. A typical computer user looks at more than three dozen Web sites a day and gets fatigued by the continual decision making — whether to keep working on a project, check out TMZ, follow a link to YouTube or buy something on Amazon. You can do enough damage in a 10-minute online shopping spree to wreck your budget for the rest of the year.

The cumulative effect of these temptations and decisions isn’t intuitively obvious. Virtually no one has a gut-level sense of just how tiring it is to decide. Big decisions, small decisions, they all add up. Choosing what to have for breakfast, where to go on vacation, whom to hire, how much to spend — these all deplete willpower, and there’s no telltale symptom of when that willpower is low. It’s not like getting winded or hitting the wall during a marathon. Ego depletion manifests itself not as one feeling but rather as a propensity to experience everything more intensely. When the brain’s regulatory powers weaken, frustrations seem more irritating than usual. Impulses to eat, drink, spend and say stupid things feel more powerful (and alcohol causes self-control to decline further). Like those dogs in the experiment, ego-depleted humans become more likely to get into needless fights over turf. In making decisions, they take illogical shortcuts and tend to favor short-term gains and delayed costs. Like the depleted parole judges, they become inclined to take the safer, easier option even when that option hurts someone else.

“Good decision making is not a trait of the person, in the sense that it’s always there,” Baumeister says. “It’s a state that fluctuates.” His studies show that people with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives so as to conserve willpower. They don’t schedule endless back-to-back meetings. They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices. Instead of deciding every morning whether or not to force themselves to exercise, they set up regular appointments to work out with a friend. Instead of counting on willpower to remain robust all day, they conserve it so that it’s available for emergencies and important decisions.

via Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? – NYTimes.com.

The Case Against Crunches

The case against doing crunches:

No one needs to perform hundreds or even dozens of crunches, said Brad Schoenfeld, a professor of exercise science at Lehman College in the Bronx and an author of a newly published review article about core exercises titled “To Crunch or Not to Crunch.” And while everyone needs some basic minimum of core strength — getting up out of a chair requires a certain amount of core strength; serving a tennis ball requires more – “six or eight crunches would be plenty,” he said, “and only a few times a week.”

It’s also important you perform them correctly, Dr. McGill said. “Don’t flatten your back into the ground,” he said. Instead, place your hands, palm down, beneath your lower back to lessen pressure on the spine. Bend your knees, and “pretend that your head and shoulders are resting on a bathroom scale,” he said. Lift them only enough to send the imaginary scale’s reading to zero. “You don’t need to crunch up very much” to achieve the desired workload on the abdominal muscles, he said.

Or forgo the crunches altogether. “Personally, I do not believe that it is necessary to specifically train the core,” said Thomas Nesser, an associate professor of exercise science at Indiana State and senior author of the study about core stability and performance. In most instances, if you “train for your sport, core strength will develop,” he said, and it will be the right amount and type of core strength for that sport.

via Phys Ed: The Science of Sit-Ups and Core Training – NYTimes.com.

Charlie Rose – An Hour with Warren Buffett

Charlie Rose – An Hour with Warren Buffett – YouTube.

Twitter Digest: 2011-08-16

Television Kills You, Slowly

From a new study: Every hour of TV you watch after age 25 reduces your life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. Granted, it feels like longer.

Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis

Abstract

BackgroundProlonged television TV viewing time is unfavourably associated with mortality outcomes, particularly for cardiovascular disease, but the impact on life expectancy has not been quantified. The authors estimate the extent to which TV viewing time reduces life expectancy in Australia, 2008.

Methods The authors constructed a life table model that incorporates a previously reported mortality risk associated with TV time. Data were from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, a national population-based observational survey that started in 1999–2000. The authors modelled impacts of changes in population average TV viewing time on life expectancy at birth.

Results The amount of TV viewed in Australia in 2008 reduced life expectancy at birth by 1.8 years 95% uncertainty interval UI: 8.4 days to 3.7 years for men and 1.5 years 95% UI: 6.8 days to 3.1 years for women. Compared with persons who watch no TV, those who spend a lifetime average of 6 h/day watching TV can expect to live 4.8 years 95% UI: 11 days to 10.4 years less. On average, every single hour of TV viewed after the age of 25 reduces the viewers life expectancy by 21.8 95% UI: 0.3–44.7 min. This study is limited by the low precision with which the relationship between TV viewing time and mortality is currently known.

Conclusions TV viewing time may be associated with a loss of life that is comparable to other major chronic disease risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.

via Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis — Veerman et al. — British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The Trouble with the Trouble With Probability

More here.

Twitter Digest: 2011-08-15

  • The network of global corporate control: The rich control ever more(r) than you thought – http://t.co/acneePE ->
  • "All that's left is 27D, near the back" is in-flight indistinguishable from "Line on the left — one cross each". ->
  • Wise words: Keep your MBA chained http://t.co/30iK3Ok ->
  • Google/Mot break fee is, at $2.5-billion, among largest in %ge terms in tech history – http://t.co/szywHIm /via @rakeshlobster ->
  • Yeesh. Linkbait & hindsight bullshit about Google's actions today – http://t.co/atw6BuB ->

WSJ Interviewee Mixed Metaphor Award

Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a mixed metaphor prizwinner:

“I’m sure there were some wealthy families who were drinking the Bernanke Kool-aid and got burned,” he said. “But I don’t know many families in that boat.

via Wealthy Americans Shun Risky Investments – WSJ.com.

Twitter Digest: 2011-08-14