Sobre mim, somente minhas ideias.
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Transcendental Meditation Pseudoscience

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Transcendental-meditationIt’s fun to run into such a wonderful example of pure pseudoscience. Let’s deconstruct this one: Field Effects of Consciousness and Reduction in U.S. Urban Murder Rates: Evaluation of a Prospective Quasi-Experiment. This study comes from the Maharishi University of Management.

The idea here (which, let’s be clear, is a tenet of religious faith, not a scientific theory) is that consciousness is a field, and that there is a universal field of consciousness of which we are all a part. When individuals engage in transcendental meditation (TM) they are not only affecting their own consciousness, they are affecting the entire field.

The point of this and other similar TM studies is to confirm the belief (they are not testing the belief) that if enough people put good vibrations into the universal field of consciousness, society in general will benefit. How many is enough? Well apparently they have an answer for that. It is the square root of 1% of the population. Why? Because math.

That is such an excellent example of pseudoscience, having the trappings of science without the real essence of science. Look, they use numbers and everything. Apparently there isn’t a dose-response effect, there is a threshold effect, and once you get over the magic threshold the effect kicks in. That threshold has a simple mathematical formula, the square root of 1%. There is no established theoretical reason for this, but it sounds nice, having more in common with a magic ritual than a scientific process.

This is what they claim to have done with the experiment: The tracked the murder rate in the 206 largest US cities where FBI murder statistics were available. They then compared the baseline period from 2002-2006 with the intervention period from a 2007-2010. The intervention period was when the, “Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi group exceeded 1,725 participants beginning in January 2007.” So they claim that murder rates were increasing and then when participant #1725 (because 1724 was not enough) signed up, the rate started to drop.

What is really funny is the blatant frequentist nonsense they spout in the press release. They claim:

“They calculated that the probability that the reduced trend in murder rates could simply be due to chance was 1 in 10 million million.”

So they think the probability that the murder rate declined from 2007 to 2010 was one in a trillion. Right.

This study screams p-hacking and assuming causation from correlation. The authors should take a look at spurious correlations website. There are countless trends in any variable you want to look at in society, and you can find countless correlations if you look. That does not mean there is a causal relationship.

If you look at the FBI statistics there has been a general downward trend in homicides since 1991 (hey, maybe vaccines are decreasing homicides). Like all long term trends, there are likely to be ups and downs over shorter periods. The trend leveled off a bit in the early 2000’s and then resumed the previous downward trend.

There is no consensus on what is causing this downward trend in crime and homicides in the last 25 years. No one societal factor explains the trend. That is why it is also laughable that the study authors claim that no other factor explains the drop in homicides during their study period, as if this lends support to their TM hypothesis.

This study, and other similar studies touted by the authors, is entirely worthless. They are simply taking credit for general trends in society. TM has been around since the 1950s, and became popular in the US in the 1970’s. Despite TM’s popularity, the 1970s was the beginning of a two decade historic increase in crime and murder rates. They should take credit for that also.

It’s interesting that the authors call their study a “quasi-experiment” which is a sort-of admission that it is not a real experiment. There is no real control. They cannot control for how many people are using TM at any time (so how do they know their magic 1,725 figure is reliable). This is like prayer studies – how do you know people who are not part of the study aren’t praying for the subject?

Also, how do they define “society.” Does Canada count? Does the universal consciousness field obey political boundaries. Should they include the population of Canada in their square root of 1% calculation, or include Canadian crime statistics (which did not follow the same trend)? What about Mexico – does language matter? Perhaps they can use east and west of the Mississippi as a control. Or can they go state by state?

That’s the problem with studying magic. There are no real rules. This raises p-hacking to a new level, because you can arbitrarily make up whatever variables or thresholds you want. Essentially all they are doing in this and the other studies they tout is cherry picking favorable trends.

They then do useless frequentist statistics to make it seem “statistically significant,” but they are crunching the numbers as if this were a clean experiment and not just looking at societal trends. The numbers ultimately mean nothing because there is no real control group.

Applying numbers to magic does not make it science.

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aylons
163 days ago
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Campinas, Sao Paulo
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Uber aceitará dinheiro em SP na próxima semana

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O aplicativo de viagens Uber irá começar a aceitar a partir da próxima semana, sem data definida, pagamento em dinheiro para os usuários de São Paulo. Até o momento, os deslocamentos só podem ser pagos com cartão de crédito. Os aplicativos dos usuários já cadastrados vão migrar para o novo modelo de cobrança aos poucos, […]
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aylons
423 days ago
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Campinas, Sao Paulo
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our boss will fire us if we don’t sign up to be a liver donor for his brother

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A reader writes:

I have a situation that is so out there I almost wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t happening to me. The company I work at has three branches and around 100 employees. The owner of the company has a brother who needs a liver transplant. Two weeks ago, a company-wide memo went out that all employees would be required to undergo testing to see if they were a suitable liver donor for the owners brother. No exceptions.

Last week at the branch the owner works out of most of the time, his assistant went around to schedule days off for everyone so they could go get tested. People who declined were let go. One of these people was born with liver disease and therefore ineligible to donate. She had a doctor’s note. Other people also had medical reasons as well and some were just uncomfortable with the request and didn’t want to do it. One was pregnant. They were still terminated. My employer’s assistant has said that because our employment is at will, he can legally fire us.

I’m in remission from cancer. I’m ineligible to donate and any kind of surgery would put a major strain on my system. Even if I was healthy, I would still object to possibly being forced into donating an organ just to keep my job. Soon they will be scheduling people’s days off for testing at my branch.

I know this situation is nuts, but I don’t know what to do. I know I could just go for the testing and then be declined, but I don’t think I should have to do that. I’ve had enough with hospitals. Other coworkers who don’t have medical conditions are afraid they won’t be declined because they will be a match. I’m looking for another job but in the meantime I don’t know what to do and I and many of my coworkers are really stressed out.

What the actual F.

He’s firing people who don’t want to sign up to donate part of their liver?

Your boss is both an absolute loon and an incredible jerk.

He’s also not very smart, since doctors won’t accept organ donations from people who aren’t willingly and happily volunteering, so all of this ridiculousness will be for nothing.

But let’s talk legality. I showed your letter to employment attorney Bryan Cavanaugh and asked him to weigh in. He says:

This employer is violating the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). The ADA’s purpose is broader than just protecting individuals with disabilities from unlawful discrimination and requiring employers to offer individuals with disabilities reasonable accommodations to perform the essential functions of their jobs. The ADA also prohibits employers from requiring employees to submit to medical examinations and medical inquiries, unless those medical examinations and medical inquiries are job-related and consistent with business necessity.

In this case, the employer’s requirement to undergo a medical examination (and presumably to undergo further medical procedures if the employee is a good match) has nothing to do with the business. It has nothing to do with the operations of the company and the employees’ ability to perform their jobs. Therefore, the employer is violating the federal ADA (and probably other state and local laws) by requiring employees to undergo this testing (which is not job-related and not consistent with business necessity) and by terminating the employment of those who refuse.

So to our ongoing list of your boss’s characteristics, which currently includes loon, jerk, and not smart, you can add law-breaker.

As for what to do, you could have a lawyer explain this to your employer on your behalf, and/or file a complaint with the EEOC, the federal agency that enforces the ADA. (Note that you have to file it within 180 days from the violation.)

But I’d also start job searching. Even if this gets quickly settled, you’re working with someone who has such a skewed idea of the employment relationship that he thinks he has say over your internal organs. Get out get out get out.

Note: This situation is so outrageous that it occurred to me to wonder whether the letter is real or not. At this point, I’ve received so many credible stories of outrageous behavior by employers that I’m willing to believe it and I’m treating it as genuine (and the letter-writer included a note to me outside the letter here that makes me think it’s real), but the reality is that I have no way of knowing. Letter-writer, assuming you are real, take this as a measure of how messed up the situation is. Commenters, I’m requesting that we not get derailed by debates about veracity. Thanks!

our boss will fire us if we don’t sign up to be a liver donor for his brother was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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aylons
508 days ago
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Campinas, Sao Paulo
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509 days ago
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2 public comments
skittone
509 days ago
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Woah. Definitely the worst boss of 2016. No contest.
RedSonja
509 days ago
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Honestly, this wouldn't surprise me all that much.

I'm an Anti-Braker

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I’m an Anti-Braker

Guys, I wanted to let you know about a personal decision I recently made. I don’t really feel like discussing it, but I want to put my position out there. Please be respectful. This is a really long post, but please read the whole thing.

I’m taking the brakes off my car. This isn’t a rash decision, so please listen up.

A few weeks ago I saw a car accident - two people went through an intersection at the same time. Both slammed on their brakes at the same time and collided. Fortunately no one was seriously injured.

But then it occurred to me - if they had just gone through the intersection, they wouldn’t have collided. The brakes CAUSED the accident!

So, I decided to do my own research and what I found was *staggering*: Hundreds of people every year are seriously injured by unnecessary braking. One time, I was driving in the snow and I just lightly tapped my brakes and it caused my car to COMPLETELY LOSE CONTROL. My brakes could have very easily gotten me killed. Even more astoundingly is how often brake pads will warp and distort rotors, causing bumpy rides and squeaky wheels.

And you know what? I also found that decades ago brakes weren’t even used! People would control their vehicle’s speed with downshifting and engine braking. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but back when engine braking was used there were almost no automotive fatalities. There were NEVER brake caused car accidents.

After doing some more digging, I found a nefarious plot - Mechanics: The very people who we trust to work on and care for our cars - get PAID to install and change brakes! You might THINK they care about our safety, or our cars - but they’re just in it for the $49.99 brake pad installations.

So I talked to my Mechanic about taking the brakes off my car and I was disgusted by how poorly he treated me. He accused me of being ignorant, when I was the one that looked up how much rotational torque brakes can put on your rotors. He didn’t even know how much torque a rotor can take before being warped!!! He said “rotors are designed to be compressed, that it isn’t actually a problem” just completely dismissing me.

Then he had the NERVE to say that my personal choice had consequences, that I would affect everyone around me. Well I’ve had it with him, I’m looking for a new mechanic. The problem is that so many mechanics are bought and paid by the automotive industry that ALL of them are insistent about my car having brakes. Most of them won’t even look at my car for other reasons, saying that a brakeless car could cause damage to their shop and other cars. What a bunch of bullshit, they just don’t like those who believe in alternative braking techniques.

Now of course big government is getting involved, saying that I *MUST* have brakes. That this isn’t just about me, and that I could hurt people. What happened to personal freedom? What happened to liberty?

So all I’m saying is, do your research. Don’t just listen to the NTSB and big automotive. I made a personal decision for my family, we just said no to brakes. We’ll be using natural remedies like Gravity, and putting our feet on the ground to stop. After all, if that was good enough for me when I was on my bike as a kid, it’s good enough for my children in my car.

Please keep the comments respectful!
Legal Disclaimer: This post is satire and is not to be taken literally. Do not alter your motor vehicle without assistance or violate local laws or statues. I am not a mechanic and should not be considered a valid source of information for automotive inquiries. 

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aylons
953 days ago
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Campinas, Sao Paulo
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954 days ago
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cdunwoodie
946 days ago
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This is a pretty great analogy.
Cincinnati, Ohio
MotherHydra
951 days ago
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Good read.
Space City, USA
denubis
953 days ago
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heh.
Sydney, Australia
Courtney
953 days ago
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Not that making fun of antivaxxers will convince them, but this is a good analogy
Portland, OR
awilchak
954 days ago
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Don't let the neoliberal "brakist" hegemony tell you what to do!
Brooklyn, New York
Mrfusion2k
955 days ago
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I could never do this...
Charleston, SC

Amazon and Hachette resolve dispute with multi-year agreement

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On Thursday morning

Amazon and Hachette, the fourth largest book publisher in the US, announced Thursday that they had come to a private agreement ending their months-long dispute over e-book prices.

The terms of the deal are not known, but the New York Times reports that Hachette will be able to set prices on its books, following a similar deal between Amazon and Simon & Schuster. In a news alert that Amazon sent to Ars via e-mail, the company said the agreement "will take effect early in 2015. Hachette will have responsibility for setting consumer prices of its e-books and will also benefit from better terms when it delivers lower prices for readers."

"Amazon and Hachette will immediately resume normal trading, and Hachette books will be prominently featured in promotions," Amazon specified.

Read 4 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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aylons
1040 days ago
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Campinas, Sao Paulo
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