Search Results for “npr.org”

November 1, 2015

Nudge Theory

urinal fly

Nudge theory is a concept in behavioral economics which argues that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions promoting non-forced compliance can influence the motives, incentives, and decision making of groups and individuals, at least as effectively – if not more effectively – than direct instruction, legislation, or enforcement. The theory came to prominence with a 2008 book, ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ by behavioral economists Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein.

They defined a ‘nudge’ as: ‘any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.’ One of nudges’ most frequently cited examples is the etching of the image of a housefly into the men’s room urinals at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, which is intended to ‘improve the aim.’

 

June 3, 2015

Grit

how children succeed

Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment, and serves as a driving force in achievement realization. Commonly associated concepts within the field of psychology include ‘perseverance,’ ‘hardiness,’ ‘resilience,’ ‘ambition,’ ‘need for achievement,’ and ‘conscientiousness.’ These constructs can be conceptualized as individual differences related to the accomplishment of work rather than latent ability.

This distinction was brought into focus in 1907 when American psychologist William James challenged the field to further investigate how certain individuals are capable of accessing richer trait reservoirs enabling them to accomplish more than the average person, but the construct dates back at least to Victorian polymath Francis Galton, and the ideals of persistence and tenacity have been understood as a virtue at least since Aristotle. Although the last decade has seen a noticeable increase in research focused on achievement-oriented traits, there continues to be difficulty in aligning specific traits and outcomes.

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May 16, 2015

Flip-flops

flip flop flap

Flip-flops (also called thongs, jandals, pluggers, go-aheads, slaps, slides, step-ins, chankla or a variety of other names throughout the world) are a type of open-toed sandal typically worn in casual situations. They consist of a flat sole held loosely on the foot by a Y-shaped strap that passes between the first and second toes and around either side of the foot. They may also be held to the foot with a single strap over the top of the foot rather than a thong. The name is an onomatopoeia for the sound that is made when the sole slaps the ground while walking in flip-flops.

This style of footwear has been worn by the people of many cultures throughout the world, originating as early as the ancient Egyptians. The modern flip-flop descends from the Japanese zōri, which were popularized in the US after WWII by soldiers returning from the Pacific theater. They are common summer footwear for both genders, and some varieties have even found their way into more formal attire, despite criticism.

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May 13, 2015

Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve

pappy

Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve is the flagship brand of bourbon whiskey owned by the ‘Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery’ company (which does not actually own or operate a distillery, but rather has it produced under a contract with another company). It is distilled and bottled by the Sazerac Company at its Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. It is often regarded as one of the finest bourbons in the world, and is rare to find on the market due to its very low production and high demand. The product has a cult-like following. Famous chefs such as Anthony Bourdain and David Chang have favored the product.

‘Food Republic’ reported that Chef John Currence said: ‘There’s Pappy Van Winkle, then there’s everything else.’ Bourbon aficionados have shown up in droves to get a small chance in a lottery to purchase some. It has been called ‘the bourbon everyone wants but no one can get.’ A writer for ‘The Wall Street Journal’ said ‘You could call it bourbon, or you could call it a $5,000 bottle of liquified, barrel-aged unobtanium.’ Jen Doll wrote in ‘The Wire,’ ‘It’s an age-old dilemma (supply and demand) leading to an age-old marketing dream (a product that can’t be kept on the shelves … money in the pockets … bourbon in the bourbon snifters).’

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April 20, 2015

Turnspit Dog

turnspit by Sarina Nihei

In medieval and early modern kitchens, the spit was the preferred way of cooking meat in a large household. A servant known as the ‘spit boy’ or ‘spit jack’ sat near the spit turning the metal rod slowly to cook the food evenly. Mechanical turnspits (‘roasting jacks’) were later invented and were first powered by dogs on treadmills (and then by steam power and mechanical clockwork mechanisms, and presently by electric motors). The Turnspit Dog was a short-legged, long-bodied dog bred to run on a wheel, called a ‘turnspit’ or ‘dog wheel.’

It is mentioned in ‘Of English Dogs’ in 1576 under the name ‘Turnespete.’ English naturalist William Bingley’s ‘Memoirs of British Quadrupeds’ (1809) also talks of a dog employed to help chefs, known as the ‘Kitchen Dog,’ the ‘Cooking Dog,’ the ‘Underdog,’ and the ‘Vernepator.’ In Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus’ 18th century classification of dogs it is listed as ‘Canis vertigus’ (‘spinning dog’). The breed was lost since it was considered to be such a lowly and common dog that no record was effectively kept of it. Some sources consider the Turnspit a kind of Glen of Imaal Terrier, others make it a relative of the Welsh Corgi.

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April 16, 2015

Mosquito Alarm

buzz off

teen buzz

‘The Mosquito’ or Mosquito alarm is an electronic device used to deter loitering by young people by emitting sound at high frequency that older people have lost the ability to hear. It has two frequency settings, one of approximately 17.4 kHz that can generally be heard only by young people, and another at 8 kHz that can be heard by most people. The maximum potential output sound pressure level is stated by the manufacturer to be 108 decibels. The range of the sound is 140 feet with the sound baffle, and 200 feet without. 

The sound can typically only be heard by people below 25 years of age, as the ability to hear high frequencies deteriorates with age (a phenomenon known as presbycusis). Crafty teenagers turned the sounds into a mobile phone ringtone, which could not be heard by older teachers if the phone rang during a class. Mobile phone speakers are capable of producing frequencies above 20 kHz. This ringtone became informally known as ‘Teen Buzz’ or ‘the Mosquito ringtone’ and has since been sold commercially.

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February 5, 2013

Pax Americana

world police

american imperialism

Pax Americana (Latin: ‘American Peace’) is a term applied to the historical concept of relative peace in the Western Hemisphere and later the Western world resulting from the preponderance of power enjoyed by the United States beginning around the start of the 20th century. Although the term finds its primary utility in the later half of the 20th century, it has been used in various places and eras, such as the post-Civil War era in North America and globally during the time between the World Wars.

Pax Americana is primarily used in its modern connotations to refer to the peace established after the end of World War II in 1945. In this modern sense, it has come to indicate the military and economic position of the United States in relation to other nations. The term derives from and is inspired by the Pax Romana of the Roman Empire, the Pax Britannica of the British Empire, and the Pax Mongolica of the Mongol Empire.

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July 3, 2012

Derecho

derecho

A derecho [deh-rey-cho] is a widespread and damaging group of severe thunderstorms which often represent with rapid forward speeds. They have a distinct appearance on radars, known as bow echos (after an archer’s bow). The common definition of the word is: a thunderstorm complex that produces a damaging wind swath of at least 240 miles, featuring a concentrated area of convectively induced wind gusts exceeding 58 mph. Some studies add further criteria, such as a requirement that no more than two or three hours separate any two successive wind reports.

Unlike other thunderstorms, which typically can be heard in the distance when approaching, a derecho seems to strike suddenly. Within minutes, extremely high winds can arise, strong enough to knock over highway signs and topple large trees. These winds are accompanied by spraying rain and frequent lightning from all directions. It is dangerous to drive under these conditions, especially at night, because of blowing debris and obstructed roadways. A derecho moves through quickly, but can do much damage in a short period of time.

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October 19, 2011

Birth Control Glasses

bcg

Birth control glasses, officially called GI glasses, are eyeglasses issued by the American military to its service members. At one time they were officially designated as ‘Regulation Prescription Glasses,’ or RPGs. This was commonly said to mean ‘Rape Prevention Glasses’ due to their unstylish appearance. The glasses are relatively thick frames made of brown translucent plastic, with a thin metal wire extending down the center of each of the earpieces. The shape of the corrective lenses is nearly rectangular, with rounded edges, and a slight diagonal angle adjacent to the integrated nose pieces. This design reflects a specification for durability at the lowest possible cost. There are two designs available for female and male soldiers who require prescription eye wear.

They are large enough to provide a wide field of vision, but can be so large as to interfere with peripheral vision or the sights of a rifle under certain circumstances. As well as being waterproof, they are also impact resistant and satisfy many eye protection requirements. GI glasses are issued at government expense to new recruits at recruit training or Officer Candidate Schools in the United States military. When entering recruit training, service members may wear civilian glasses until government-issued ones are assigned, including but not limited to the BCG. Contact lenses are never permissible for these exercises. After recruit training, soldiers are permitted to wear civilian glasses provided they are conservative in design and color. The military offers annual replacements for those who qualify, and personnel may request the government issued glasses in addition to several varieties of more attractive eyewear, in clear and tinted lenses, as well as prescription gas mask inserts and inserts for government-funded ballistic eyewear.

April 5, 2011

Pure O

triggered

Purely Obsessional Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (Pure O) is a lesser-known form or manifestation of OCD. There are usually no observable compulsions (checking, counting, hand-washing, etc.). While ritualizing and neutralizing behaviors do take place, they are almost entirely in the form of excessive mental rumination. The nature and type of Purely Obsessional OCD varies greatly, but the central theme for all sufferers is the emergence of a disturbing intrusive thought or question, an unwanted/inappropriate mental image, or a frightening impulse that causes the person extreme anxiety because it is antithetical to closely-held religious beliefs, morals, or societal mores.

Neurotypicals instinctively respond to bizarre intrusive thoughts or impulses as insignificant and part of a normal variance in the human mind. Someone with Purely Obsessional OCD will respond with profound alarm followed by an intense attempt to neutralize the thought or avoid having it again. The person begins to ask themselves constantly ‘Am I really capable of something like that?’ or ‘Could that really happen?’ or ‘Is that really me?’ (even though they usually realize that their fear is irrational, which causes them further distress) and put tremendous effort into escaping or resolving the unwanted thought. They then end up in a vicious cycle of mentally searching for reassurance and trying to get a definitive answer.