Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

Here’s some color footage of London in the 1920s

For comparison: Bill Brandt’s photos of London from 1974 (more here)

More old color film: New York City in 1939

38 foreign words we could use in English

Why so few French kids have ADHD

Following a scary mammogram experience, a GE researcher is working on the development of high-resolution MRI technology

Using 3-D printing to make a dress

The trouble with taxonomies

7 thoughts on “Worthwhile Reading & Viewing”

  1. The taxonomy post makes good points but doesn’t go far enough. It’s good to be skeptical about labels. People read too much into them or use them to impute meanings that may not be there. A person I know who was treated for cancer told me afterwards: “I’m in remission”. What does that mean? Remission sounds like a process but all it really means is that there are no obvious symptoms. It doesn’t tell you whether the disease will come back. Naming isn’t explaining.

    All of this comes back to metaphors. Being too quick or careless in naming something may contribute to flawed analysis. What does it mean to say that a behavior with a genetic component is “hard wired” — that’s it’s inevitable? unchangeable? that you can change someone’s behavior by resoldering some wires in his head? Who knows. When people start arguing semantics it’s often a sign that they are reading too much into the terms.

  2. I am certainly no expert on adhd but consider most of it a fad and lazy parenting. There I said it.

    None of this coddling and medication existed when I was growing up. To me it is similar to the recent (last decade) fads of gluten problems, peanut allergies, etc. Heck they practically slathered me in peanut butter when I entered primary school.

    I am sure that some kids have adhd and that there are some people out there that have gluten issues. Just not on the scale that we are seeing. I think these conditions are being used as crutches or excuses for not living a regular healthy lifestyle.

    When in France I see every person walking down the street with a loaf of bread in hand. Gluten much?

  3. Jonathan, re taxonomy: More than 50 years ago, C S Lewis said the following about his protagonist, a sociologist, in the novel That Hideous Strength:

    “..his education had had the curious effect of making things that he read and wrote more real to him than the things he saw. Statistics about agricultural laboureres were the substance: any real ditcher, ploughman, or farmer’s boy, was the shadow…he had a great reluctance, in his work, to ever use such words as “man” or “woman.” He preferred to write about “vocational groups,” “elements,” “classes,” and “populations”: for, in his own way, he believed as firmly as any mystic in the superior reality of the things that are not seen.”

    This kind of reification of abstractions is a major plague of our era, and not only among academics–although it is among them it generally runs most rampant. But in general, it is a result of extensive formal education unmodulated by sufficient natural curiosity and actual experience. The taxonomy is taken as something real and concrete, rather than as a tentative and sometimes helpful way of looking at things.

  4. The trouble with taxonomies..
    When I was an undergrad, I worked for a year as an aide in a psych hospital. As an aide, I wasn’t so much concerned with taxonomies as I was with responding in an appropriate and helpful manner to whatever patients said and did.

    One of the psychiatrists gave us a helpful guide for writing shift notes which also acted as a useful framework for dealing with patients. 1) Describe patient behavior; 2) What were the dynamics behind patient behavior? 3)Describe your response.

    After my year of working as an aide, I took an Abnormal Psychology course. The course dealt almost entirely with a detailed taxonomy of abnormal psychology. My conclusion was while such a taxonomy might be useful, and might be valid, my knowing the taxonomy in intimate detail would in no way have helped in performing my job as an aide. The two minute instruction in writing shift notes was much more helpful than that semester course would have been.

    Some knowledge of the taxonomy was useful. For example, we occasionally had Alzheimer’s patients for short stays. Knowing the characteristics of such patients prompted us to respond appropriately- in a gentle,humorous manner.

  5. Personally, I think Psychiatrists and Psychologists are well-meaning charlatans. The Rosenhan Study On Being Sane in Insane Places demonstrated that psychiatric institutions are unable to make the most basic determination of the “profession” – that of distinguishing the sane from the insane.

    Rosenhan got seven people with no history of mental illness admitted to different psychiatric hospitals across the United State. The subjects of the test initially claimed to be hearing voices but then acted normally after admission. Each of them was diagnosed with either schizophrenia or manic-depressive psychosis and kept for 19 days on average. Not a single psychiatrist ever noticed that these were normal people and all of them were discharged with a diagnosis of “schizophrenia in remission” – a career-ending stigma for most people.

  6. ADHD does exist, although the accuracy of diagnoses are obviously up for debate.


    There’s a genetic link and there may be an evolutionary reason for it


    “Additionally, greater rates of migration have been associated with higher prevalence of the 7R allele (Chen et al., 1999), and research studying worldwide prevalence of the 7R allele has demonstrated its highest prevalence in groups who underwent the most long distance migrations (Chang et al., 1996). This finding relates to the modern population of colonized lands.”

    France may be benefiting not so much from their enlightened self control but from their historical and cultural position in the development of civilizations.

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