alan ruben, flickr

According to National Geographic, Nemo can change into a girl:

Many reef fish have the ability to change from one sex to another. Most, such as wrasses and parrotfish, change from female to male. But the clownfish is one of the few known to change from male to female: If a dominant female dies, the dominant male will become the dominant female, and the largest remaining juvenile will assume the role of dominant male. No one has yet identified the hormones responsible for this sexual plasticity. “It’s a really good adaptive strategy to make sure the species is perpetuated,” Allen says. “There will always be a breeding pair at any given anemone.”

From—a website known more for fart jokes than serious analysis—here’s an article that’s actually quite insightful:  a readable synopsis of five quirks of human reasoning that make us wrong more often than we think.  In case you don’t like to read more than a paragraph, here they are: (1) motivated reasoning: humans reason to win arguments, not to discover truth; (2) probability blindness: we’re just not wired to understand randomness and chance; (3) paranoid bias: we’re too quick to assume that other people are out to get us; (4) fundamental attribution error: we’re hard-wired to employ double standards, assuming that our own foibles are caused by uncontrollable circumstances (“I couldn’t finish my homework because my car broke down!”) while others’ are signs of inherent weakness (“Clark’s just too disorganized to meet a deadline.”) (5) confirmation bias: we treat facts that confirm our opinions as the gospel truth; yet when facts clash with our opinions, we simply disregard them!  It’s fun to spot yourself making these sorts of mistakes. Try it at home, kids! Collect all 5!

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  • Miller-McCune magazine argues that Cash for Clunkers was a clunker.

    [T]he program didn’t give much of [a] boost to the auto industry – or the larger economy – beyond concentrating several months of car-buying demand into the program’s brief lifespan… Among all of the cars bought in the U.S. in July and August, the average fuel economy was only 0.65 miles per gallon better than it would have been among newly purchased cars had the program never existed.

    I was never particularly enamored of Cash for Clunkers. Yet in contrast to the “confirmation bias” problem that Cracked describes, I found this analysis somewhat unconvincing!  The Clunkers program was first and foremost a Keynesian stimulus: its goal was mostly to inject cash into the economy, and secondarily to help car companies stave off bankruptcy for a few months. The fact that it had any environmental benefit at all was just gravy!  Of course, there’s a valid and robust debate about whether a Keynesian stimulus was actually a good idea, or whether we should have let the car companies simply go straight into receivership. But whining about the high cost per avoided ton of CO2 misses the point entirely.

    Autoblog, a popular blog on the car industry, is running a piece about the end of America’s love affair with the car. The article focuses on young people who don’t really aspire to car ownership—in contrast with the Boomers, who couldn’t wait to hit the road. The decline in driving among younger Americans is incontrovertible, and it’s often portrayed as a shift in culture: the cool kids like iPads more than Corvettes. That may be true. But as I argue here, simple economics may explain what’s really behind any cultural shift: driving is expensive, and a lot of young people have neither jobs nor money. (It’s easy to “prefer” gadgets to cars when you’ve only got money for gadgets.) Still, the habits that young folks are forming now could very well last for a lifetime.


    Five videos this week:

    Stunning NASA footage of Earth, from low orbit.

    Jefferson Smith, arguably Cascadia’s best orator, preaches on democracy.

    An intriguing campaign for 20-mile-per-hour speed limits in residential zones in England is captured artfully by our friends at Streetfilms.

    A short film on how cow manure is bringing together a mess of problems in northern Washington state and combining them into a bouquet of solutions.

    And finally, two young women paddling their canoe filmed a chance encounter with a “murmuration” of starlings. Beautiful!


    Don’t want your parents moving in with you? Check out this Economic Opportunity Institute rap video, starring some pretty happening grandparents who bust a move to encourage Congress to embrace reasonable measures for making sure aging Americans’ hard earned Social Security investments are there for them in retirement.

    This is both encouraging and heartwarming. Cheap, astoundingly simple, low-tech, solar-powered lights—made from recycled water bottles—keep families in the Philippines from having to turn on electric lights in their dark, window-less homes on hot summer days. (H/T SBF via JCM).

    A must-read new report about what taxes big American corporations actually pay—if any at all. (Local corps Boeing and Paccar paid zero taxes in 2008-2010.)

    Eric dP:

    Today I have mandatory reading for Washington residents only: the governor’s budget reduction alternatives. Start with the health services cuts, the social and human services cuts, and the education cuts. This is not a joke. You can spare 15 minutes of your life to click on those links and read about the damage the state budget will inflict on the poorest and weakest among us. Then consider taking a moment to read Matthew chapter 25, verses 31-46 as you ponder the fact that the state legislature will be convening in less than four weeks to begin stripping away fundamental protections for low income children, seniors in poverty, and the disabled. Then you should click here or click here (or here).

    Eric H:

    UPS is hiring 49 bike riders in Portland to help out with holiday deliveries.

    Plus, some cool photos of the Denny Hill regrade in Seattle.

    A last minute addition (h/t to Sarah Mirk), what’s the secret to a long, healthy life?