Research on abstinence-only sex education

Pediatrician and medical school professor Dr Aaron Carroll summarizes (in eight minutes) the research on abstinence-only versus comprehensive sex education:


Link: https://youtu.be/0BkFQ0oUncE

The title at the top of the window above -- "The Evidence for Abstinence-Only Sex Education Is Scant" -- is potentially misleading. There is in fact a great deal of research on the subject, so what the title is meant to convey is that there is not much evidence supporting the use of the abstinence-only over comprehensive sex education. What the research shows is that

  • Abstinence-only is better than nothing at reducing teen sexual activity, but
  • Comprehensive sex education is better at reducing teen sexual activity. In addition, it has better outcomes by multiple other measures as well.

These results are even stronger when considering the best studies, those that make use of randomized controlled trials. RCTs are more reliable because they reduce the chance that the outcome is the result of some confounding variable, such as parental influence.

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A few thoughts on dealing with mass murder

As I don't have to tell you, the first and last days of October saw multiple people murdered in attacks in Las Vegas and New York. The one in New York was carried out by a fanatic radicalized over the Internet by the self-declared "Islamic State." ISIL/ISIS/IS/Daesh or whatever you want to call the group at one point controlled a fair amount of territory in Iraq and Syria but today is near total defeat on the ground. Encouraging individual terrorist attacks suggests its own capabilities are limited.

The motive of the shooter in Las Vegas remains a mystery, though there's no evidence it was political. It might have been a deranged quest for fame. For that matter, terrorists in general are after fame for themselves or their causes.

It's very difficult to prevent these sorts of attacks. The one in New York made use of a truck, and there have been other cases of vehicles employed to run down innocent people in Nice France, Charlottesville Virginia, and Chapel Hill North Carolina among other places.

We can perhaps do something to reduce deaths in mass shootings by limiting magazine capacity and restricting the sale of devices that turn semiautomatic weapons into something closer to a machine gun. There are more of these gizmos on the market than you might imagine, including bump stocks, hellfire triggers, and rotating trigger actuators, with prices as low as $40. The New Yorker website has a good article with animated illustrations, though some might quibble with a few of the technical details. (For example, Gatling guns are characterized more by a rotating assembly of multiple barrels than by a crank-operated firing mechanism.)

However, it's also worth noting that only a tiny fraction of deaths from firearms (about 2 percent) or vehicles (probably an even smaller percentage) involve mass killings or terrorist acts. There's an October 23 article by Ben Hallman on the Columbia Journalism Review website about press coverage of firearms-related news that's worth reading. Mistakes are common, from the technically trivial (such as referring to magazines as "clips") to the seriously substantive (for example, claiming that fully automatic firearms are banned in the U.S. when in reality tens of thousands are legally in private hands; try Googling for "how to buy a machine gun" -- you basically need a background check, approval from your local sheriff, and a pretty good amount of money).

Finally, it's hard to ignore Donald Trump's very different responses to the Las Vegas and New York attacks. In the 48 hours after the attack in Las Vegas President Trump produced only two tweets, both of them the sort of thing you'd expect from a president. (The first was "My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!") The New York attack, which killed far fewer people, provoked a barrage of tweets, many of them overheated and poorly thought out, including ridiculing the American justice system. Yesterday The Washington Post published a very good summary of Trump's very different reactions to the two incidents. (See also CNN's timeline of his responses to both incidents and GQ's piece about Trump's inconsistent calls for the death penalty.) Trump suggested he might send the murdered to Guantanamo for a military trial, but apparently someone pointed out to him what should be a well-known fact, namely that prosecutions of terrorism suspects in civilian courts have in practice produced surer, quicker, and often more severe punishment, because the next day he reversed himself.

(As USA Today noted, one or more of Trump's tweets about the New York attack might even end up helping the accused in court.)

At the conservative National Review David French wrote an article October 12 titled "Trump’s Tweets Are Damaging the Republican Character," and this was before the latest examples.

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Pranks: Rahat's Saw puppet sequel plus a magic carpet in the city

Once again I demonstrate that I'm easily amused...

First, Rahat returns to the drive-thru yet again with the second outing of the puppet from the Saw movies (who surely gets hungry for fast food once in a while):


Link: https://youtu.be/-z3qz9FdCG0

(Rahat's previous Saw puppet prank can be viewed here, and for more Rahat see these posts or Rahat's YouTube channel for the full set.)

Next, a prank for once not featuring Rahat: Aladdin flies his magic carpet over the streets of New York at an altitude of a few centimeters:


Link: https://youtu.be/lqlrru1V69E

and also visits San Francisco:


Link: https://youtu.be/7qUJHAS7I5Y

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Mario and Fafa discuss why time travel stinks

From 4 1/2 year in the past (appropriately enough), a Glove & Boots video about time travel:


Link: https://youtu.be/75nBenOWul0

I've long been a fan of Glove & Boots, so I was distressed to learn that their views and revenues have been falling recently for unclear reasons, causing them to suspend posting for a while. Here's their explanatory video:


Link: https://youtu.be/pADmml8Z1Bc

Their main channel is here with a lot of material worth seeing. You might also be interested in their gaming channel where they offer hilarious running commentary while playing video games. My own previous posts on Glove & Boots can be found here.

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Hatsune Miku

How did I not know about this before?

Just over ten years ago the Japanese company Crypton Future Media released computer software that can be used to generate a female singing voice, originally in Japanese and later in English and Chinese as well. A fairly straightforward user interface lets you enter words and music for the virtual singer (derived from digitally manipulated samples of voice actress Saki Fujita) to perform.

The product makes use of Yamaha's Vocaloid technology, which had already been used to create other artificial singers, but Crypton cleverly gave their version a name (Hatsune Miku, which I'm told means something like "first voice from the future" in Japanese) and a cartoon drawing of her created by manga artist Kei Garō. Hatsune Miku was originally marketed to professional musicians and music producers, but she soon attracted a lot of amateur composers and large number of fans around the world. Free animation software called MikuMikuDance (often shortened to just MMD) and later MikuMikuMoving (MMM) made it possible to create music videos that were no doubt a major factor in her rapidly growing popularity. (For more history, see the Wikipedia article.)

Here's an example, the first Hatsune Miku song I listened to, and a fairly catchy one:


Link: https://youtu.be/qmf9JkedPR8

When a recording star gets popular, fans naturally want to attend a live concert. You might think this would be a problem for a computer-generated singer, but take a look at this performance in Tokyo, with Hatsune Miku on stage accompanied by human musicians. She's appeared around the world before huge cheering audiences.


Link: https://youtu.be/uHj-F0VS1Nc

By the way, lots of sources (including the Wikipedia article about her) erroneously call her appearance above a "projection hologram" out of a misconception about what "hologram" means. Holograms can be used to create three-dimensional images, but in general 3D images aren't holograms, and what you see above appears to be a straightforward 2K or 4K video image projected onto a thin transparent screen made of a fabric such as that used for sheer curtains. The same basic technique can be used for home Halloween decorations. See, for example, this family of products. (I'm not sponsored by them or endorsing them; I just found the link by Googling in order to illustrate the simple but effective technology involved.)

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World artists recreate world sites in miniature in Times Square

A relatively new attraction in New York's Times Square is Gulliver's Gate, something like a huge model train set the size of a football field reproducing famous locations around the world in 1:87 scale. It includes the city's own Grand Central Terminal (in cross-section, so you can see the various levels), the Panama Canal, the Taj Mahal, the Roman Coliseum, the pyramids at Giza, Rio's Copacabana beach, an erupting South American volcano, Stonehenge, and a good deal more, about a hundred locations in all, with moving trains, trucks, ships, balloons, cable cars, and so on and even some scenes from movies, all created by a team of 600 artists from eight countries.

If you like, you can even get yourself scanned and turned into a 3D-printed figure to be added to one of the locations, possibly one with special meaning for you.


Link: https://youtu.be/5hVx59NA6aU

There's a 360-degree tour on the PBS website here. If your browser supports it, here's a link to the 360 video on YouTube:


Link: https://youtu.be/K4-TBhs3v34

You can also find it by searching YouTube for "360 video: An up-close view of one miniature world's tiny tourist destinations". This is likely to work particularly well in the YouTube app on most smart phones.

(Which reminds me: I recently picked up a virtual reality headset for a smart phone for $15 at a CVS drugstore. They had it next to the pharmacy department, possibly in case you get motion sickness.)

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The U.S. team actually will compete for the World Cup

In a Mexican restaurant the other night I saw the U.S. soccer team fall to Trinidad y Tobago and thus get eliminated from next year's World Cup competition. (It said it on the screen: "EE UU eliminado.")

Except that this isn't quite true. The U.S. will be in contention for the world cup and given the team's history has a shot at winning. But it might be a team you forgot about. Stephen Colbert clears matters up below (after talking a bit about American football), and while he makes jokes, or course, what he says is quite true.


Link: https://youtu.be/D11GogBlKn4

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All you need to know about investing (or most of it anyway)

This eight-minute clip from PBS NewsHour does a pretty good job of synopsizing when people need to know about investing:


Link: https://youtu.be/JdUKhgW1gOo

An even shorter version would be to invest as much as you can in a tax-sheltered retirement or college savings account, preferably one offered through your employer if available. Roth IRAs are a good choice for retirement accounts. The best thing to hold in the account is usually a low-cost index fund that invests in a broadly diversified set of investments, such as a target retirement fund. Especially if you invest outside a retirement account, an exchange-traded fund (ETF) is usually a good choice and can have tax advantages.

Besides long-term investing you should have short-term savings, ideally enough to live on for six months or more, plus a down payment if you're hoping to buy a house. Pay off credit cards. Otherwise you're just giving away money to a bank. Borrow money only to buy a reasonably safe asset such as a house or a (not too expensive) car you need to get around.

Actually, there's more to it than that, including how to avoid scams, including from your seemingly friendly bank. The advice in the video is good, but you ought to spend a little time reading about personal finance from mainstream authors. Just be sure to avoid get-rich-quick schemes like the "Trump University" scam.

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