Archive for March 4th, 2011

A drug called "Charlie Sheen"

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | March 4, 2011 1:31 pm

Everyone seems to be speculating about Charlie Sheen. The media paints things any way they want, and as a blogger, admittedly, with this post I add to the hullabaloo. But I’d like to contribute something to the conversation. I’ve seen Dr. Drew describing Sheen’s unusual behavior as possibly “drug induced,” bipolar, and/or manic. Meanwhile, he has reportedly tested negative for drugs and Neil DeGrasse Tyson recently tweeted:

Now I don’t know Charlie Sheen and cannot imagine what his lifestyle is really like. The media’s portrayal is assuredly not the full story.

That said, I suspect he may have more dopamine receptors dotting the tips of his nerve cells than the average man. Dopamine is a powerful chemical associated with craving, desire, and stimulation of pleasure-pathway nerves in the brain. As I explain in my book, research suggests that a high number may predispose us to sexual promiscuity or addictive behavior.

Should this be the case, then Sheen would be–as he describes–literally on a drug called “Charlie Sheen.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Media and Science
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Is the Planet Warming? New research suggests the answer could depend on wording

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | March 4, 2011 12:00 pm

Taeggan Goddard over at Political Wire sent over this interesting piece on research out of The University of Michigan. A new study found that the language used to describe our warming planet may influence listeners’ reactions.

According to research by Schuldt, Konrath, and Schwarz, Republicans are less likely to say that global climate change is real when it’s referred to as “global warming” (44.0%) instead of “climate change” (60.2%). Meanwhile, word choice does not seem to matter for Democrats. The investigators observed the partisan divide dropped from 42.9 percentage points when they used “global warming” to 26.2 percentage points when they used “climate change.”

In other words, language matters tremendously and the outcome of polls can be highly dependent upon it.

On Not Persuading the Unpersuadable

By Chris Mooney | March 4, 2011 10:19 am

James Hrynyshyn has a new post up entitled “Why it’s hard to change a climate denier’s mind.” He uses it to channel the insights of Simon Donner, who argues that throughout the history of, like, all of humanity, people have considered themselves powerless to influence the climate. So why would that suddenly change?

I don’t doubt that this is a factor. However, it isn’t a partisan one; it suggests incredulity about human-induced climate change should be equally distributed across the populace.

Yet we know this isn’t the case. We know Republicans are much less accepting of climate science, and the idea that global warming is a problem, than Democrats and Independents.

We also know that those with “egalitarian” and “communitarian” value dispositions are much more concerned (and accepting of the science) than those with “individualist” or “hierarchical” value systems. For more on this, listen to my podcast with Dan Kahan.

So: I’m afraid I’m sticking with the view that partisanship and values, rather than anything hardwired about how we understand climate and weather, is the driver here. (At least in the U.S. context. I would guess that if you had a populace that wasn’t politically polarized, the factor Donner is highlighting might then come to the fore.)

P.S.: If you want to see some unpersuadables, check out this thread.

The Science of Mardi Gras

By Chris Mooney | March 4, 2011 8:30 am

I’m in New Orleans this week, doing some writing and also attending…Mardi Gras. I just saw my first parade, Muses, last night.

Which inspired the joking title of this blog post. For fun, I Googled the phrase “the science of mardi gras” to see what turned up. All I got was a bizarre reference to a pretty unscientific comment by Anderson Cooper:

It’s a very public event, of course, but there’s something intensely personal about the throwing of the beads. You make eye contact with someone, toss them a necklace. They say thank you, and you roll on. The only beads people want are the ones they catch themselves. I find that very telling. The beads that fall on the ground are rarely picked up. They lack the personal connection, the bond has been broken.

That’s not my experience of Mardi Gras. My experience is that the good beads are fought for, and kids scavenge on the ground for whatever isn’t caught. If a bead is still lying on the ground it’s because it’s broken.

What’s more, as a look at the “science of mardi gras” this is pretty lame. A real science of Mardi Gras might examine, say, the strange and artificial economy that gets created for a short span of time. In this economy, completely worthless beads suddenly come to have a temporary but real value–especially if they’re plastic pearls–even as more “scarce” throws, like coconuts, spears, etc, are valued still higher. (Of course, the ones really making money are the people selling beads by the “gross”–a bag of 144 individual ones–for more than $ 20, just so they can be thrown off of floats.)

There would also be a lot of studies of alcohol’s effects on group behavior. So–Mardi Gras’s “science” very much awaits.


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