Really Good Shit: A Reading List

Gauge how crappy you are feeling by your initial response to the subject matter. Then read on for some exceptionally interesting material – if you have the guts for it.

Longreads

As the Japanese children’s book author Tarō Gomi once wrote: everyone poops. But we don’t talk about this openly or often enough. In fact, talking and reading about poop might make you want to hold your nose — but it’ll also open your eyes. Here are eight pieces about shit, from a DIY mixture a woman used to treat her life-threatening infection, to prehistoric poo that brings us one step closer to understanding the origins of life after the dinosaur age.

“The Magic Poop Potion” (Lina Zeldovich, Narratively)

Suffering from a recurring intestinal infection called C. diff, Catherine Duff decided to take matters into her own hands. Using healthy stool from her husband, they concocted an unconventional cocktail — using a plastic enema, blender, and a cheese cloth — which he then transferred into her. This procedure, known as fecal microbiota transplant (FMT), saved her life. Duff advocated for FMT as a viable treatment…

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Gut instinct (or the last 5%)

Firstly, if you are confident that gut instinct is BS, save your time. This note will seem like nonsense to you. Stop reading now or read Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” if you have a year to spare.

Alright, so here we go. Decisions.

We should – if we are smart and human – be frequently wrestling with doubt or pros/cons type argument in our heads.

Sometimes a decision feels wrong (in our gut). In this case it is not a bad idea to try and chase down why the feeling is there in the first place.

Most of the time we let such feelings operate on us unrestrained. Unconsciously letting them drive a quick action randomly or crushing them reflexively. This results in unfortunate behavior most of the time. There might be times of course where the spontaneous toggling of mental mistakes work out fine purely by chance – but the odds aren’t easily calculated.

A more conscious approach starts with recognizing and describing the gut instinct – probably the toughest thing for many of us to do. This needs patience, practice and self-awareness, among many other things.

The follow up, after identifying this “gut-instinct”, now broken-down with incidence rate stats:
50% – you resolve it consciously in 30 seconds or so one way/another
25% – resolution might take a couple of minutes of careful thinking
15% – you write it down and think about it over several hours with additional research (related content from other people)
5% – you might need to also talk to objective people you trust over several days to resolve

The last 5% – Ahh, the moments that shape our lives. These tough choices define us. Anyone giving you quick answers to these doubts should be quickly ignored. These are the choices that can take months, years or decades to figure out. They leave our lives to form in their wake.

Now a personal corollary to the above is that when I go too many days without recognizing the last 5% clearly I am probably screwing up in a number of unknowable ways.

PS: I thought a bit more than a minute before posting this note to the blog

If you don’t use it you lose it

Google makes it so much easier for me to find those annoying facts that are distant in my mind. Seems like I am therefore less inclined to develop that mental faculty? Do we know the consequences of not “stretching” our brain connections and recall ability?

Some content on the topic:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-internet-has-become-the-external-hard-drive-for-our-memories/?page=1

Cognitive self-esteem was significantly higher for those who had just used the Internet to search for answers … using Google gives people the sense that the Internet has become part of their own cognitive tool set …We are simply merging the self with something greater, forming a transactive partnership not just with other humans but with an information source more powerful than any the world has ever seen.

http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xge-0000070.pdf

http://news.columbia.edu/googlememory

http://www.roughtype.com/?p=1503

http://www.wsj.com/articles/automation-makes-us-dumb-1416589342

When it comes to the computerization of knowledge work, writes John Lee of the University of Iowa, “a less-automated approach, which places the automation in the role of critiquing the operator, has met with much more success” than the typical practice of supplanting human judgment with machine calculations. The best decision-support systems provide professionals with “alternative interpretations, hypotheses, or choices.”

http://pss.sagepub.com/content/25/2/396

If participants took a photo of each object as a whole, they remembered fewer objects and remembered fewer details about the objects and the objects’ locations in the museum than if they instead only observed the objects and did not photograph them.

Dark matter?

Cosmologists have produced an enormous map of the distribution of dark matter in our Universe, tracing the invisible substance by monitoring its gravitational effects on light.

Dark matter is about five times more abundant than the matter we can see. Although invisible, its presence can be detected because it curves space-time.

The detailed distribution of dark matter has been traced across a large area of sky: yellow and red represent dense regions of dark matter and the black circles represent galaxy clusters. Credit: Dark Energy Survey

Sounds exciting but I am still not sure why.

1. Physicists mapped unstuff they call Dark matter using a 570 megapixel digital camera (~10X the camera on the rumored Chinese smart phone called Oppo)

2. Shouldn’t they at least try to explain why this *matters*? No one I know seems to care