Consumption Week 18

My notes from some of the media I consumed this week.

  • Toroidal propellers are more efficient and quieter, can be used for aircraft and watercraft. Currently more expensive so not commonplace… yet.

  • The authors of the studies concluded that exposing a group of people to weak conspiracy theories could fortify their psychological immune systems against stronger ones, just like a vaccine. A recent systematic review of all the known methods used to reduce beliefs in conspiracy theories found that this “vaccination” approach was the most effective.
  • If people were always unsure whether what they were seeing was art or advertisement, sincere or satire, they would become more vigilant.



  • The United States and China are on the brink of war and are beyond the ability to talk.
  • There is a general belief that the Americans are more strongly pushing their values and approaches (e.g., democracy, capitalism, and to some extent Christianity) than the Chinese are pushing theirs. It is often said by leaders in other countries that the Americans are trying to control them and draw them into war in a more heavy-handed way than the Chinese are doing. The Chinese point out that this way of dealing with other countries is consistent with their thousands of years old tradition of following a tribute system type of international relations (i.e., a symbiotic relationship between a stronger and a weaker power that benefits both and doesn’t seek to ideologically or politically control the lesser power). They find this more practical than what one leader called a “Mediterranean-based control approach” that is typical in the Western countries.

  • Neural cross wiring is ubiquitous in the animal kingdom — even the neural connections in lowly nematode worms are wired with left-right reversal across the animal’s midline.
  • Mapping 3D space onto a 2D plane in the brain seems to explain why our nervous system is cross-wired: Counterintuitive as it may seem, directing nerve fibers across the midline is the topologically simplest way to avoid errors.
  • Since left and right depend on a frame of reference, people frequently confuse the letters “d” and “b,” and “p” and “q,” but they rarely confuse “q” and “d.” In the first two cases, the identical shapes are flipped along the vertical axis (swapping left and right), and in the second, they are flipped along the horizontal axis (swapping up and down). As bilaterally symmetrical creatures we never mistake up and down, because those directions are always the same, regardless of viewpoint, but left and right are relative to an object.


  • Tsimane brains lose about 2.3 percent of their volume per decade, compared with around 2.8 percent for the Moseten and about 3.5 percent for industrialized populations. For septuagenarians and older, the difference nearly doubled.
  • In industrialized populations, brain volume usually drops with increasing body mass index and non-HDL (so-called “bad”) cholesterol. But Tsimane and Moseten brain volumes largely increased with rising BMI and cholesterol.

  • JG: So weird. Worth the 30s watch.