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On Ask Polly: Help, I'm The Loneliest Person In The World!

@Lcanon She didn't say she can't communicate socially in general though, most likely she can with the "2-3 close friends" she mentioned. I'm pretty terrible at making small talk with strangers myself, but I have good relationships with a few friends and my long-term girlfriend (and we live together), and I don't think my problem with small talk is that I "don't know enough about human communication" (there's a big difference between being able to passively understand the nuances of a conversation and being able to contribute to it; think of someone who has a good appreciation for music but can't play or sing at all).

Posted on November 6, 2013 at 7:52 pm 0

On I'm Gonna Take A Pass On Russell Brand's Bloody Revolution

This whole post seems to be attacking a weird strawman version of Russell Brand who wants an "ideologically pure society", but that doesn't really come through in the interview at all. I'm sure Brand would be fine with the existence of a vocal minority of people who don't believe in cutting carbon emissions, say, as long as the actual laws in place ensured that emissions would in fact be cut (and similarly for whatever other policies he would favor).

Posted on October 28, 2013 at 7:28 pm 1

On Critics Who Explain Things

@Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston But ironic quote marks are also condescending quote marks, as in, "women's fiction, as if". For example, if I were to say 'Well, if we're talking "accuracy"' to you, it would mean I was condescending to you, yes? This is a convention widely understood. It's disingenuous of you to decide he didn't mean it that way in this contest. Why not just say women's fiction, no quote marks?

One possible way of interpreting that line is that Giraldi was using the ironic/condescending quote marks because he was trying to mock the concept of "women's fiction" as a separate genre, not mocking the concept that women can write quality fiction. If that's the case, he was being condescending to people who un-ironically use the term "women's fiction", not to women fiction-writers. You could make the argument that the term ghettoizes female authors or encourages us to think that women as a group are "naturally" drawn to read and write certain specific kinds of fiction.

Posted on August 23, 2012 at 5:23 pm 0

On A Tale Of Two Tennis Shirts

@sigerson Maybe it was supposed to be this? (edits in italics)

"There are a lot of brand loyalists like Paul, and the continued popularity of Fred Perry shirts among the likes of contemporary skinheads, from “The Modfather” Paul Weller to the Pitchfork-approved Danish hardcore band Iceage, is an idiosyncratic factoid that Malcolm Gladwell could write a New Yorker article about."

Posted on June 26, 2012 at 11:50 am 0

On Terrible Parenting Creating A Generation Of Screen Addicts

@skahammer That "parents who check and constantly use smartphones" quote doesn't seem to have any connection to the rest of the article, which is just about the idea that parents need to keep their kids from spending too much time in front of screens, not that what the parents do on their own time will influence the kids to imitate them. It's not clear if the psychologist in question even said something like this, or if this is just typical tabloid reporting by the Daily Mail. In fact there's a fair amount of research based on adopted children that suggests that short of abuse parenting doesn't really influence kids much at all, and that the similarities between parents and kids are almost entirely due to shared genes rather than parenting style--see the article at www.gladwell.com/1998/1998_08_17_a_harris.htm or Judith Rich Harris' book "The Nurture Assumption"

Posted on May 23, 2012 at 10:31 am 0

On Dumb Questions I’ve Had For Science

@Freelance_Physicist Good point, but I had thought you were saying the speeds would need to be equal with your comment "it takes as much rocket power to leave the Solar System as it does to fall into the Sun", was I taking you too literally? 67,000 miles per hour is about 29.95 km/sec, still less than the escape velocity for the Sun's gravity at the distance of Earth's orbit according to the chart I linked to, 42.1 km/sec. Of course traveling away from the Earth will bleed off some speed due to Earth's gravity so you may need to start with an even higher speed. Then again, realistically you can use gravitational assists from other planets to help with both escaping the Solar system (as with Voyager, which used Jupiter and Saturn's gravity to increase its speed) and with crashing into the Sun (as with this planned mission to send a probe into the Sun, which will use repeated flybys of Venus to build up speed), so if you take that into account it would reduce the needed initial speed.

Posted on May 9, 2012 at 8:18 am 0

On Dumb Questions I’ve Had For Science

@Freelance_Physicist The sun is a million times larger than the Earth. You could toss the entire Earth into the Sun and nothing much would happen (to the Sun, that is). The real problem is that it takes as much rocket power to leave the Solar System as it does to fall into the Sun.

How do you figure? If you have enough rocket power to achieve escape velocity from the Earth, and your trajectory is aimed straight at the Sun, won't gravity pull you the rest of the way into the Sun? Whereas to escape the Solar System you'd need to achieve the escape velocity for the Sun's gravity at the radius of Earth's orbit, which is higher than the escape velocity for the Earth at the Earth's surface according to the chart here.

Posted on May 9, 2012 at 1:05 am 0

On Dumb Questions I’ve Had For Science

@riotnrrd Also, if it's possible to send objects or signals faster than light, then it should also be possible to send objects or signals backwards in time, unless the theory of relativity is thrown out the window--see the tachyonic antitelephone for details. So that's a fairly good reason to bet that it isn't possible.

Posted on May 8, 2012 at 11:30 pm 0

On Dumb Questions I’ve Had For Science

@riotnrrd As a clarification, your signal would be red-shifted (and so it would seem slowed down) if you were heading away from the Earth, but if you were heading back towards the Earth, your signal would be blue-shifted and you would sound all chipmunkey.

Posted on May 8, 2012 at 11:25 pm 1

On Americans Starting To Be All, "Wait, What's Going On With The Weather?"

it is only an online poll

Doesn't that basically make it 100% bullshit as far as assessing the opinion of the American public in general? The group of people who view and respond to a given online poll isn't at all representative of the overall population, and people often try to game online polls by publicizing them in some forum where they know most people will share their opinion.

Posted on April 18, 2012 at 1:27 pm 0