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This is the laziest defence of letting kids play football I have ever seen

KIDS SHOULD PLAY DANGEROUS SPORTS BECAUSE KIDS SHOULD PLAY DANGEROUS SPORTS! Teamwork! Character! Tough! Guys, a law student wrote this drivel. Why parents should let their kids play dangerous sports - The Week
The most recent and extreme example of the dangers of our sporting culture comes from the world of extreme snowmobiling. On Thursday, a 25-year-old Texan called Caleb Moore died from injuries sustained when his snowmobile came crashing down on his head after one of his tricks went horribly wrong during his run in the Snowmobile FreeStyle competition in the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo. Moore suffered his injuries after he attempted to do a backflip on his snowmobile. He came up short and the skis on the front of his snowmobile caught the lip of the landing area, sending Moore flying over the handlebars. When Moore hit the snow, his 450-pound snowmobile came crashing down on his head, causing injuries that ultimately lead to his death. The death was the first to occur in the X-Games' 18-year history, which is something of a miracle given the activities involved. The injury that led to Moore's death was broadcast live on ESPN. This is only the latest in a long list of recent episodes illustrating the undeniable fact that the sports we love are killing the athletes we worship for playing them. For example, San Diego Chargers legend Junior Seau shot himself in the chest — allowing his brain to be preserved and studied. Researchers concluded that Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of chronic brain damage that is increasingly becoming a side effect of being an NFL football player. The list of dangerous sports goes on and on — hockey, soccer, rugby, skiing, snowboarding, baseball. And these realizations have given rise to a debate at dinner tables and in living rooms across the United States: Should children play sports, like football, that are demonstrably dangerous, and that have long-lasting health consequences? Indeed, no less a figure than Barack Obama recently told The New Republic, "If I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football." But children should absolutely be allowed to play such sports. Parental fear threatens to deprive many young people of the lessons of organized athletics — lessons they cannot learn anywhere else.

January 28, 2013

Violence is a contagious meme

Well this is absolutely fascinating. Schneier on Security: Violence as a Contagious Disease
Intuitively we understand that people surrounded by violence are more likely to be violent themselves. This isn't just some nebulous phenomenon, argue Slutkin and his colleagues, but a dynamic that can be rigorously quantified and understood. According to their theory, exposure to violence is conceptually similar to exposure to, say, cholera or tuberculosis. Acts of violence are the germs. Instead of wracking intestines or lungs, they lodge in the brain. When people, in particular children and young adults whose brains are extremely plastic, repeatedly experience or witness violence, their neurological function is altered. Cognitive pathways involving anger are more easily activated. Victimized people also interpret reality through perceptual filters in which violence seems normal and threats are enhanced. People in this state of mind are more likely to behave violently. Instead of through a cough, the disease spreads through fights, rapes, killings, suicides, perhaps even media, the researchers argue. [...] Not everybody becomes infected, of course. As with an infectious disease, circumstance is key. Social circumstance, especially individual or community isolation �-- people who feel there’s no way out for them, or disconnected from social norms �-- is what ultimately allows violence to spread readily, just as water sources fouled by sewage exacerbate cholera outbreaks. At a macroscopic population level, these interactions produce geographic patterns of violence that sometimes resemble maps of disease epidemics. There are clusters, hotspots, epicenters. Isolated acts of violence are followed by others, which are followed by still more, and so on. There are telltale incidence patterns formed as an initial wave of cases recedes, then is followed by successive waves that result from infected individuals reaching new, susceptible populations. "The epidemiology of this is very clear when you look at the math," said Slutkin. "The density maps of shootings in Kansas City or New York or Detroit look like cholera case maps from Bangladesh."

January 17, 2013

Today's Tumblr: WTF, Evolution?

Making fun of how dumb so many animals look, thanks to evolution. WTF, Evolution?
This pelican looks like a urinal. Go home, evolution, you are drunk.