Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
31% of U.S. voters think a second Civil War is likely
A recent poll shows a third of Americans think another civil war is likely. How worried should we be?
The United States is as divided as it has been in decades. 55% of Americans think the country is less united today than it was when Trump took office and 13% of Americans have ended a friendship over political issues. Our disunity extends to where we decide to live, with many areas of the country becoming ever more politically homogeneous.
While you can question if the country was ever really united, there is little doubt that between significant partisan disagreement on fundamental moral issues and our increasing hostility towards members of the other side that the country is in a precarious spot.
It might not be surprising then that when Rasmussen Polling asked people “How likely is that the United States will experience a second civil war sometime in the next five years?” 31% of respondents said they thought it was likely with 11% saying it was very likely.
The same poll found that 59% of Americans are concerned about violence from those who oppose Trump’s policies and that 53% of people fear those who dislike how the media portrays the president will also resort to violence.
It isn't even across all demographics, however. 37% of Democrats polled said that a new civil war was likely, making them slightly more concerned than Republicans (32%) or non-affiliated (26%) respondents. The pollsters also state that “Women and those under 40 are more worried about a possible civil war than men and older voters are.” The data also suggests that white Americans are less concerned than Americans of other races about violence breaking out.
How accurate is this polling data?
Rasmussen Reports is one of the more prestigious American polling companies. It has been rather accurate over its history, with only a few minor slip-ups here and there. There is no reason to think this data is inaccurate.
However, it is often criticized for having a skewed methodology and conservative bias. Nate Silver of Five Thirty-Eight has pointed out that most of the population is unlikely ever to be contacted by Rasmussen because of their methods, which include only calling landline telephones. This is why they are also assumed by the Five Thirty-Eight crew of having a slight Republican sampling bias when comparing polls.
Others, such as Jonathan Chait, have pointed out that the wording of some questions Rasmussen asks naturally incline the person polled to answer as though they were a conservative. Since how questions are worded can influence how people will answer, this is an important critique.
What are the experts saying?
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has mused that while a second civil war isn’t likely, an attempt to impeach Trump would probably lead to serious social unrest.
Iowa Congressman Steve King, however, suggested that “America is heading in the direction of another Harper's Ferry. After that comes Ft. Sumter" on his twitter feed. It does seem that even if a second civil war isn’t too likely, there is an agreement that an increase in unrest is probable.
So, should I try to move to Australia now or what?
In many ways, this belief has the traits of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you really think that violence by the other side is imminent you are going to act accordingly. As history shows us, this can often include preemptive acts of violence.
Such actions can make the situation spiral out of control in a hurry. The mere fact that so many people think this is a possibility might make the event more likely.
On the other hand, things looked a bit more precarious in the lead up to the Civil War than they do now. Political violence in Kansas over the slavery question lead to open warfare and made national headlines for years before Lincoln’s election. In 1856, A southern Congressman beat a Northern Senator with a cane on the Senate floor over his objections to slavery. Two years after that a brawl took place in the House over similar issues.
It got worse during the election of 1860. The runner-up was Southern Democratic candidate John Breckinridge, who was known to be sympathetic to secessionist ideas and later served as the Confederate Secretary of War. Even before the votes were cast, General Winfield Scott advised President James Buchannan that at least seven states would secede if Lincoln won and that the army should be deployed.
All of this took place within living memory of the Nullification Crisis, which nearly ended in civil war itself.
While we are currently enduring an era of increased political violence, none of the events mentioned above have modern equivalents. Likewise, while states like Texas, California, and South Carolina have toyed with the possibility of secession in response to government policies they don’t like, this is mostly grandstanding and none of them have taken any practical action towards this end.
We also tend to mock the people who say that this is likely.
Alex Jones, an influential conspiracy theorist, predicted that members of the Democratic Party would start a civil war on July 4th, 2018. Twitter, as expected, has made a rather funny joke of his insane rating. A whole meme has appeared with people describing their second civil war experiences in the style of letters from the 1860’s. Others made fun of Jones’ prediction, by complaining that they didn’t get an invite.
It should also be remembered that just because people think something is likely doesn’t mean it will come to pass. After all, many people thought a war against the Soviet Union was going to happen at some point. While the poll results above seem high, they are similar to the ones seen ten years ago when Obama was president. It might be the case that some people just always worry about large outbreaks of violence.
America is clearly divided right now. Our ever-decaying political discourse and strained institutions have led a plurality of Americans to think warfare is imminent. While this may be hysteria, the fact that so many people think we have gotten to that point is problematic in itself. Historically, the future has been hard to predict and these sentiments might be proven correct or dismissed next week.
In the meantime, trying to prevent a war through empathy might be a good path to take.
Welcome to the world's newest motorsport: manned multicopter races that exceed speeds of 100 mph.
- Airspeeder is a company that aims to put on high-speed races featuring electric flying vehicles.
- The so-called Speeders are able to fly at speeds of up to 120 mph.
- The motorsport aims to help advance the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) sector, which could usher in the age of air taxis.
Airspeeder, the world's newest motorsport, is set to debut its first race in 2021.
What can you expect to see? Something like a mix between Red Bull's air racing and the pod-racing scenes from "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" — manned electric cars flying close together in the desert at 120 mph, nose-diving off cliffs, and racing over lakes, all while hopefully avoiding collisions.
Airspeeder calls its vehicles flying electric cars, but it's probably easier to think of the wheelless multicopters as car-sized drones. Powered by electric batteries, the carbon-fiber craft use eight propellers to fly, and the tiltable motors are designed to allow pilots to navigate through the course's pylons at high speeds.
To prevent crashes, Airspeeder is working with the companies Acronis and Teknov8 to develop "high-speed collision avoidance" systems for its Speeders.
"As they compete, Speeders will utilise cutting-edge LiDAR and Machine Vision technology to ensure close but safe racing, with defined and digitally governed no-fly areas surrounding spectators and officials," Airspeeder wrote in a blog post.
Beyond motorsports, Airspeeder hopes to help advance the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) sector. This sector is where companies like Uber, Hyundai, and Airbus are working to develop air taxis, which could someday take the ridesharing industry into the skies. By 2040, the autonomous urban aircraft industry could be worth $1.5 trillion, according to a 2019 report from Morgan Stanley.
Still, many technical and regulatory hurdles remain. Matt Pearson, Airspeeder's founder and CEO, thinks the futuristic motorsport will help to not only speed up that process, but also pave the way for self-driving cars.
"Even with autonomous vehicles on the ground, it's a difficult thing to get right because computers have to make decisions very fast," Airspeeder's founder and CEO, Matt Pearson, told GQ." But in a racing environment, you have a pretty controlled course and you have the ability to make all the vehicles cooperate with each other. You have a whole load of vehicles talking to each other, so if there's an incident or a pilot slows down or there's a traffic jam on the course they're all aware of each other. This is something we think will revolutionise autonomous vehicles on the ground. It's technology that will make flying cars a reality in our cities in the future."
Airspeeder has yet to announce a date for the first race, but Pearson said he hopes to put on three races over the first season. The company is developing two courses: one in California's Mojave Desert, and one near Coober Pedy in South Australia.
The way you speak might reveal a lot about you, such as your willingness to engage in casual sex.
- A new study finds a deeper voice is associated with self-reported extraversion, dominance, and casual sex.
- It was the first study on the topic to objectively measure voice pitch.
- The authors suggest that hormones like testosterone might explain their findings.
We make snap decisions about other people based on information that we can gather quickly. One of the many ways that we do this is by making bold conclusions about other people's personalities based on their voices alone. Various studies demonstrate that people associate a deep voice with dominance, but those with higher pitched voices are perceived as nervous or neurotic. Popular culture seems to agree with and reinforce these stereotypes.
Are these perceptions accurate? Maybe. A new study by an international team of researchers with the goal of more accurately determining what our voices reveal about us has demonstrated that there is some connection between how we sound and who we think we are.
The voice-personality connection
Lead author Dr. Julia Stern of the University of Göttingen explained:
"Even if we just hear someone's voice without any visual clues — for instance on the phone — we know pretty soon whether we're talking to a man, a woman, a child, or an older person. We can pick up on whether the person sounds interested, friendly, sad, nervous, or whether they have an attractive voice. We also start to make assumptions about trust and dominance. The first step was to investigate whether voices are, indeed, related to people's personality."
The study included data from 2,000 people from four countries involved in eleven previous independent studies focused on other questions. Each of these studies involved some kind of self-reporting of personality traits and vocal recordings. The recordings were analyzed with Praat, software that determined the frequencies of the participants' speaking voices.
The study is the largest ever conducted on the topic and the first to use an objective measure of pitch rather than subjective rankings such as "high pitched" or "deep." Each participant's vocal pitch was then compared to the self-reported personality data they provided.
The findings associated self-reported levels of dominant tendencies, extroversion, and increased interest in and acceptance of sociosexuality (casual sex or sex outside of a relationship) with a lower pitched voice. This was true for men and women of any age. The findings were in line with the previous, less robust studies on the subject.
Other stereotypes, like if a higher pitched voice hints at neuroticism, openness to new experiences, or agreeableness, were impossible to determine with the data at hand.
Voice isn't everything
It should be remembered that the personality traits that this study associates with vocal pitch are self-reported, so there are some serious limitations. For instance, it is entirely possible that vocal pitch is associated with thinking you're extroverted when you actually aren't. Furthermore, all four countries in the study are WEIRD, so the findings probably cannot be universalized.
Additionally, there are plenty of examples of people for whom the voice-personality link doesn't apply. For example, Teddy Roosevelt, an extremely extroverted, dominating man, had a fairly high pitched voice.
The authors do speculate that there could be a connection between testosterone levels in men, their vocal pitch, and their perceived level of dominance that would be supported by previous studies. However, they have no hypothesis explaining why that same relationship exists for women.
The authors suggest that further studies in this area could focus on finding a possible physical connection between these traits and vocal pitch and to determine if they hold for traits which are not self-reported.
Who needs steroids when you have the placebo effect?
- A study suggests that the effectiveness of sports drinks may depend in part on their color.
- Runners who rinsed with a pink liquid ran better than those who consumed the same but colorless drink.
- Improvement in their performance is likely due to a placebo effect.
The "placebo effect" is real. It's the name for a strange phenomenon that most notably occurs during clinical trials. People who are given an inactive substance, like a sugar pill, often experience the same therapeutic benefit as those who are given actual medicine. It's not their imagination — it really happens. (Even better, recent research suggests that therapeutic benefits occur even when the person knows that they were given a placebo.)
Now, a new study from the University of Westminster (UOW) Centre for Nutraceuticals in London and published in Frontiers in Nutrition suggests that the placebo effect may explain yet another phenomenon: Athletic performance.
The research showed that treadmill runners who rinsed their mouths with a pink liquid increased their performance over runners who swished with exactly the same liquid but without the coloring. Why pink? The color is generally linked to sweetness, and the researchers wondered if that association would subconsciously trick the runners into an expectation of more carbohydrates and thus energy.
Author Sanjoy Deb explains:
"The influence of color on athletic performance has received interest previously, from its effect on a sportsperson's kit to its impact on testosterone and muscular power. Similarly, the role of color in gastronomy has received widespread interest, with research published on how visual cues or color can affect subsequent flavor perception when eating and drinking."
Running for science
Credit: Ryan De Hamer / Unsplash
For the study, the researchers recruited ten healthy adults — six men, four women. All were regular exercisers, with an average age of 30. The participants were told that they would be testing the relative benefits of two commercial sports drinks after watching a brief video explaining the value of such beverages. Previous research found that mid-exercise rinsing with such drinks can reduce the perceived intensity of exercise.
The drinks consisted of 0.12 grams of sucralose dissolved in 500 mL of plain water — an artificially sweetened rinse low in calories. The liquids contained no other additives common to sports drinks such as caffeine. The pink version had non-caloric coloring added but was otherwise identical.
After a 12-minute warmup phase of jogging followed by running, the athletes ran at a difficult pace for 30 minutes, rinsing with their drinks as they ran. Following a brief cool-down, they were interviewed to capture their impressions of the exercise session. (Each runner tested both drinks.)
The researchers found that when the volunteers used the pink rinse, they ran an average of 212 meters farther and 4.4 percent faster. They also enjoyed the exercise more.
Deb said, "The findings from our study combine the art of gastronomy with performance nutrition, as adding a pink colorant to an artificially sweetened solution not only enhanced the perception of sweetness, but also enhanced feelings of pleasure, self-selected running speed, and distance covered during a run."
The researchers also plan to dig deeper into the phenomenon by investigating the possibility that the pinkness of the beverage is somehow directly activating the brain's reward areas.