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If what I.Q. tests measure is immutable and innate, why do scores constantly improve?

Books: None of the Above: Books: The New Yorker

One Saturday in November of 1984, James Flynn, a social scientist at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, received a large package in the mail. It was from a colleague in Utrecht, and it contained the results of I.Q. tests given to two generations of Dutch eighteen-year-olds. When Flynn looked through the data, he found something puzzling. The Dutch eighteen-year-olds from the nineteen-eighties scored better than those who took the same tests in the nineteen-fifties—and not just slightly better, much better.

Curious, Flynn sent out some letters. He collected intelligence-test results from Europe, from North America, from Asia, and from the developing world, until he had data for almost thirty countries. In every case, the story was pretty much the same. I.Q.s around the world appeared to be rising by 0.3 points per year, or three points per decade, for as far back as the tests had been administered. For some reason, human beings seemed to be getting smarter.

Flynn has been writing about the implications of his findings—now known as the Flynn effect—for almost twenty-five years. His books consist of a series of plainly stated statistical observations, in support of deceptively modest conclusions, and the evidence in support of his original observation is now so overwhelming that the Flynn effect has moved from theory to fact. What remains uncertain is how to make sense of the Flynn effect. If an American born in the nineteen-thirties has an I.Q. of 100, the Flynn effect says that his children will have I.Q.s of 108, and his grandchildren I.Q.s of close to 120—more than a standard deviation higher. If we work in the opposite direction, the typical teen-ager of today, with an I.Q. of 100, would have had grandparents with average I.Q.s of 82—seemingly below the threshold necessary to graduate from high school. And, if we go back even farther, the Flynn effect puts the average I.Q.s of the schoolchildren of 1900 at around 70, which is to suggest, bizarrely, that a century ago the United States was populated largely by people who today would be considered mentally retarded.

Contractor finds fortune in homeowner's walls, tries to claim it for himself

Contractor, homeowner at odds over fortune found in bathroom walls - cleveland.com

There is no way this stands up in court. yes, there is an old pre-revolutionary law about this. But there is also tons of more recent precedent that says the homeowner gets to keep the dough.

As he was ripping plaster from bathroom-wall studs, Kitts found bundles of bills totaling $182,000 wrapped in pre-World War II Plain Dealer news pages and tucked into boxes. The money is in such good condition, and some of the bills are so rare and collectible, that one currency appraiser valued the treasure at up to $500,000, Kitts said.

The walls from which Kitts pulled the money aren't his walls. The house isn't his house. Nobody knows for certain whose money it is.

Yet Kitts claims it as his own. He and his lawyer have dusted off an obscure, centuries-old legal doctrine called "treasure trove" - a common-law finders-keepers provision - that they believe gives him top claim to the wealth.

December 12, 2007

Library Timeline

library_mofo: Library Timeline

David Sedaris: “Fuck you, Sloppy Nobody, for making me turn my head.”

Reflections: Journey Into Night: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

There are only two classes on the airline I normally take between France and the United States—coach and something they call Business Elite. The first time I sat there, I was flown to America and back for a book tour. “Really,” I kept insisting, “there’s no need.” I found the whole “first-to-board” business a little embarrassing, but then they brought me a bowl of hot nuts and I began to soften. Pampering takes some getting used to. A flight attendant addresses me as “Mr. Sedaris,” and I feel sorry that she’s forced to memorize my name rather than, say, her granddaughter’s cell-phone number. On this particular airline, though, they do it in such a way that it seems perfectly natural, or at least it does after a time.

“May I bring you a drink to go with those warm nuts, Mr. Sedaris?” the woman looking after me asked—this as the people in coach were still boarding. The looks they gave me as they passed were the looks I give when the door of a limousine opens. You always expect to see a movie star, or, at the very least, someone better dressed than you, but time and time again it’s just a sloppy nobody. Thus the look, which translates to “Fuck you, Sloppy Nobody, for making me turn my head.”

On all my subsequent flights, the Business Elite section was a solid unit, but on this particular plane it was divided into two sections: four rows up front and two in the back. The flight attendant assured everyone in my section that although we were technically in the back, we shouldn’t think of it as the back. We had the same rights and privileges as the passengers ahead of us. Yet still they were ahead of us, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that they’d been somehow favored.

Skidmark! Wal-Mart drops pre-teen whore panties

Win! for feministing! Yay Feministing readers! The gross "Who needs...