Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The joys of research

Not so much from the Department of the Bleeding Obvious - more the Quite Well-Known:
"Do Green Products Make Us Better People is published in the latest edition of the journal Psychological Science. Its authors, Canadian psychologists Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, argue that people who wear what they call the "halo of green consumerism" are less likely to be kind to others, and more likely to cheat and steal. "Virtuous acts can license subsequent asocial and unethical behaviours," they write."
You can observe this on a daily basis. Cyclists, not content with having lanes painted everywhere to accommodate their perversion, routinely feel free to jump lights or board the pavement whenever tedious interventions like the Highway Code interfere with their path of righteousness. My own view is that the lycra-wearing freaks should either pay road tax or face being hosed off the streets.

But the all-too-human feeling that do-goodism in one area of a person's life more than compensates for being something of an asshole the rest of the time has been noted before. I once read a particularly interesting, albeit unverifiable, argument from Neal Ascherson suggesting that it was Albert Schweitzer that provided the modern pattern for people like Bob Geldof: not only did good works excuse obnoxious behaviour - the latter came to be seen as somehow intrinsic to the former.

In other news, apparently the average Briton thinks 'middle age' begins at 35 and ends at 58. It seems people at the end of this inexplicably long scale get a bit defensive about this - but unless they think they're going to live to be 116, I can't see any good reason for this. My own response to anyone accusing me of having a mid-life crisis is that I have absolutely no intention, or indeed likelihood, of living beyond 88.

Finally, from the Department of Way Too Much Time on Their Hands. Scientists: working on a cure for cancer? There are more pressing concerns:
"As pubs stocked up with extra supplies of the black stuff in preparation for Ireland's national celebrations on Wednesday, scientists offered an explanation for why the famous Irish brew behaves so oddly.

Pour just about any other pint of beer, and the bubbles can be seen to obey the normal laws of physics. Filled with buoyant gas, they rise to the surface and form a frothy head.

But Guinness, in the best Irish tradition, does things differently. The bubbles in a freshly poured pint appear to be cascading down the side of the glass - yet the creamy top which is the drink's trademark remains.

Members of the Royal Society of Chemistry set out to investigate the puzzle over the course of one lunchtime."
They did this over lunch? That's one long lunch. But it was in preparation for St Paddy's Day after all. Are you Irish? I wish you happy St Patrick's Day. And if you're one of the fake Irish we have so many of in sunny Glasgow, happy mawkish Celtic sentimentality day to you too. Enjoy. I'm staying in.

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