Best. Anti-Smoking. Campaign. Ever.
I'm convinced that human beings are far less rational, coherent, consistent and aware in their daily decisions than they are supposed to be. This means we're out of synch with the founding assumptions of our markets, electoral systems and other important institutions. But this doesn't mean I want to throw in the towel and give up on the achievements of our ancestors' faith in reason. I just think that faith needs to engage with all the evidence of the past few decades about how people really make their choices in life. For example, people in public health have known for a long time that simply telling people the facts about smoking ought to be enough to make them quit. It's not, which means the rationalist assumption (I tell you the facts about smoking and health, you calculate your interest in staying alive, and quit) must be replaced by a different approach. Which will be…what? It may well be that this alternative (or alternatives) won't be found in some new grand comprehensive theory but rather by piecemeal experimentation. Which brings me to this beautifully post-rational video.
This little clip was obviously made by people who take the facts of human irrationality as a given, and made clever use of those facts to get people to change their behavior in a way that promotes public health. We know, for instance, that people in general are pretty well-informed on the hazards of smoking, but that this information doesn't motivate smokers enough to quit. We also know that people aren't terribly coherent. Many smokers can tell you everything that's wrong with tobacco even as they're puffing away. And we know that people are highly susceptible to social circumstances—that we're highly motivated to make sure others think well of us. Finally, it's well established too that face-to-face relationships move people to act where disembodied knowledge does not.
So here's how this campaign pushes all the buttons: The people who made this video find people puffing away in public places, and send a small child to approach them. The child has an unlit cigarette. He or she asks for a light.
The aftermath is fascinating. The smokers, sometimes gesturing with their cigarettes, refuse. They explain why cigarettes are a terrible habit, why the child mustn't smoke, what awful effects tobacco has on the body. And then the kid hands over a brochure that says, well, says, um, if it's bad for me…
It's pretty fascinating to watch people's motives crash into one another right before our eyes. They want to enjoy their smoke, and protect the child and appear responsible and show they're knowledgable. These folks are forced into a situation that, normally, we're all skilled at avoiding: The plain fact of the human mind's incoherence and inconsistency.
Which is all very entertaining, but for a public-health campaign, the bottom line is: did this work?
I don't know enough about the video to feel sure (I'm guessing from the script at the end that this is a Thai project—can any reader help me out?). But for what it's worth the video says almost all the smokers took the anti-smoking brochure and most all of them threw away their burning cigarette. It also says calls to a quit-smoking help line went up 40 percent, but it's impossible to know what that says about the intervention without knowing more about the scale of this experiment and that phone line. Whatever the practical results, the sight of people confronting their own minds is pretty fascinating.
Thanks to Gloria Origgi for the link.
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Scientists discover the inner workings of an effect that will lead to a new generation of devices.
- Researchers discover a method of extracting previously unavailable information from superconductors.
- The study builds on a 19th-century discovery by physicist Edward Hall.
- The research promises to lead to a new generation of semiconductor materials and devices.
Credit: Gunawan/Nature magazine
The number of people with dementia is expected to triple by 2060.
The images and our best computer models don't agree.
A trio of intriguing galaxy clusters<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzNDA0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTkzNzUyOH0.0IRzkzvKsmPEHV-v1dqM1JIPhgE2W-UHx0COuB0qQnA/img.jpg?width=980" id="d69be" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2d2664d9174369e0a06540cb3a3a9079" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The three galaxy clusters imaged for the study
Mapping dark matter<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d904b585c806752f261e1215014691a6"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fO0jO_a9uLA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The assumption has been that the greater the lensing effect, the higher the concentration of dark matter.</p><p>As scientists analyzed the clusters' large-scale lensing — the massive arc and elongation visual effects produced by dark matter — they noticed areas of smaller-scale lensing within that larger distortion. The scientists interpret these as concentrations of dark matter within individual galaxies inside the clusters.</p><p>The researchers used spectrographic data from the VLT to determine the mass of these smaller lenses. <a href="https://www.oas.inaf.it/en/user/pietro.bergamini/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Pietro Bergamini</a> of the INAF-Observatory of Astrophysics and Space Science in Bologna, Italy explains, "The speed of the stars gave us an estimate of each individual galaxy's mass, including the amount of dark matter." The leader of the spectrographic aspect of the study was <a href="http://docente.unife.it/docenti-en/piero.rosati1/curriculum?set_language=en" target="_blank">Piero Rosati</a> of the Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy who recalls, "the data from Hubble and the VLT provided excellent synergy. We were able to associate the galaxies with each cluster and estimate their distances." </p><p>This work allowed the team to develop a thoroughly calibrated, high-resolution map of dark matter concentrations throughout the three clusters.</p>
But the models say...<p>However, when the researchers compared their map to the concentrations of dark matter computer models predicted for galaxies bearing the same general characteristics, something was <em>way</em> off. Some small-scale areas of the map had 10 times the amount of lensing — and presumably 10 times the amount of dark matter — than the model predicted.</p><p>"The results of these analyses further demonstrate how observations and numerical simulations go hand in hand," notes one team member, <a href="https://nena12276.wixsite.com/elenarasia" target="_blank">Elena Rasia</a> of the INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Trieste, Italy. Another, <a href="http://adlibitum.oats.inaf.it/borgani/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Stefano Borgani</a> of the Università degli Studi di Trieste, Italy, adds that "with advanced cosmological simulations, we can match the quality of observations analyzed in our paper, permitting detailed comparisons like never before."</p><p>"We have done a lot of testing of the data in this study," Meneghetti says, "and we are sure that this mismatch indicates that some physical ingredient is missing either from the simulations or from our understanding of the nature of dark matter." <a href="https://physics.yale.edu/people/priyamvada-natarajan" target="_blank">Priyamvada Natarajan</a> of Yale University in Connecticut agrees: "There's a feature of the real Universe that we are simply not capturing in our current theoretical models."</p><p>Given that any theory in science lasts only until a better one comes along, Natarajan views the discrepancy as an opportunity, saying, "this could signal a gap in our current understanding of the nature of dark matter and its properties, as these exquisite data have permitted us to probe the detailed distribution of dark matter on the smallest scales."</p><p>At this point, it's unclear exactly what the conflict signifies. Do these smaller areas have unexpectedly high concentrations of dark matter? Or can dark matter, under certain currently unknown conditions, produce a tenfold increase in lensing beyond what we've been expecting, breaking the assumption that more lensing means more dark matter?</p><p>Obviously, the scientific community has barely begun to understand this mystery.</p>
Scientists have found evidence of hot springs near sites where ancient hominids settled, long before the control of fire.