Skeptikai Notices (July25) – Japan, psychology, news

Japan

Fukushima Plant ‘Successfully Stabilized,’ 131 Days After Tsunami – Finally, plugging the reactors at the battered Fukushima Power Plant is no longer a goal. I mentioned last month that they had started implementing a promising new water system, which works by decontaminating radioactive water while cooling the reactors. Now, TEPCO may achieve a cold shutdown within six months. This is great news, but it’s still important to remember that cleanup efforts will continue for years. The damage from the tsunami seems like it went on forever. In fact, recent research has found that in places like Miyako, the tsunami reached 40.4 meters.

Workers at Fukushima plant report harsh conditions – It seems like a lot of workers being recruited to the power plants are, however, not satisfied with their employment. Cramped sleeping quarters, inadequate meals, not receiving the amount of money advertised, etc. It’s a travesty that these workers are being taken advantage of, but it seems that many of them feel guilty to speak out and complain, since the devastated areas have lost so much. Regardless, too many workers have been overexposed to the allowable limits of radiation, and Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has warned TEPCO to keep the dosage down.

Romanian woman thrives as geisha – It seems like it was just yesterday when I wrote about the Australian who dishonourably left the geisha world, known as the “first Western geisha.” Now, a Romanian has taken the spotlight, and seems to be less interested in self-promotion than the last one.

Why Japanese follow you on Twitter – I’d like to see this kind of survey for other countries. Regardless, the top 5 reasons among 1000+ respondents are (in order of biggest reason): The tweeter has similar hobbies, cheers the follower up, uses rich expressions, has the latest info on topics that interest the follower, and uses words elegantly. In contrast, Japanese people generally stop following people for the tweeter using excessive aggression, “shifty tweets” (not sure what that means), drama-queen-like tweets, soliciting membership to something the follower is already affiliated with, and excessive sexual references.

Psychology

Happiness is based on wife being slimmer than husband, according to study – The study finding that marriages work better when the wife is slimmer than the husband made the rounds last week. On top of the fact that many experts are saying this is bogus, I find it odd that they put so much of the onus on the woman. Maybe the study should have been called “Happiness is based on husband being fatter than wife.” Now it sounds kinda crazy, doesn’t it?

Poor memory? Blame Google – NO! This is bullshit. Sorry, but I’m going to be blunt. A study showed then when people think they will later be able to access information on Google, they remembered things less than those items which were so easily accessible via search engines. This has been recently dubbed the “Google effect.” I love the research, and the intentions weren’t to bash search engines or anything like that, but people have been taking this story and spinning it like crazy, some saying that Google is “destroying our memories.” A much better analysis of the Google effect can be found here, in a great article entitled: Poor memory? Blame evolution, not Google.

How much deception is there in social psychology? – A hell of a lot! Deception is necessary in many experiments in order to scientifically control for specific variables. This article shows the research behind the research.

Liars can’t completely suppress facial expressions – A new report – Speaking of deceit, it seems that there may be no such thing as the perfect liar; just degrees of skill.

News

News International phone hacking scandal – I wouldn’t normally cite a simple Wikipedia page… but this is anything but simple. With almost 200 citations already, this is probably the quickest and most concise way to get the the full story. In short, the very old newspaper “News of the World” was caught having hacked into regular bystanders’ cellphones, even hindering in criminal investigations. This has become a huge storm in the news world, and now everyone is wondering “is there anyone else doing this?”

Did North Korea fake a flood disaster picture to draw foreign aid? – Did I mention that I hate North Korea? Not North Koreans, per say, but the people in power. You know, the ones you hear about (because regular people aren’t really allowed to leave… so we don’t hear much about them). If you follow me on Twitter, you probably have heard me say it already. This time, they tried to get money by photoshopping a flood image that looks so bad, I could probably make it look more realistic using Microsoft Paint.

Norway killer ‘the devil incarnate’: Putin spokesman – By now you have probably heard about the domestic terrorism that happened in Norway, when a madman set off a bomb and went on a shooting spree, killing or injuring hundreds. This is just a reminder that even the best and safest places in the world are not immune to the ticking time-bombs that exist unbeknownst to the ordinary people that surround them.

PM says Israeli spy allegations wrong – There was a rumor from New Zealand’s Southland Times that a number of Israeli’s affected by the Christchurch earthquakes in February were found to be spies, considering at least one had been found with five different passports. After an investigation, Prime Minister John Key has publicly stated that the men are neither spies nor did anyone possess five passports.

Study Finds that News of Osama Bin Laden’s Death Led Americans to Be More Fearful of Muslims – “Americans found Muslims living in the United States more threatening after bin Laden’s death, positive perceptions of Muslims plummeted, and those surveyed were less likely to oppose restrictions on Muslim Americans’ civil liberties.” So how are American Muslims who opposed him supposed to express their discontent with his death? It’s not easy now that his death is making it harder for them. But if they complain, it means they’re complaining about the death of America’s most wanted. Indeed, it’s not easy being Muslim in America.

Death toll continues to rise in high-speed train accident in China; three officials fired – A train has recently crashed, leaving hundreds injured and many dead. It hasn’t been a particularly happy news week.

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