Why we hate lawyers

According to this story, a lawyer is suing his dry-cleaner for $65 million because they lost his pants. The original cost is only $10.50. The lawyer says he "deserves millions for the damages he suffered by not getting his pants back, for his litigation costs, for mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort".


Pay gap between men and women

Our generation is the witness to America’s first woman secretary of state, Madeleine Albright; the first woman speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and possible first female president if Hillary Clinton gets her wish. Although the equality gap once placed between women is slowly disappearing, the equal pay issue is still elusive, according to a recent study.
The study shows women on average, even in the same fields of work, make only 80% of the salaries their male counterparts earn just one year after college. After 10 years, women earn only 69% of what men earn.


World's oldest college graduate, CEO

Kansas (US) resident Nola Ochs will break a Guinness World Record when she graduates from Fort Hays State University next month, at the age of 95. Her 21-year-old granddaughter will graduate with her. What is her plan with that degree ? "I am going to seek employment on a cruise ship as a storyteller," She said.

At age 106, Jack Weil (Denver,US) still goes to work every day at Rockmount Ranch Wear, the western clothing apparel company he founded in 1946. He is believed to be the world's oldest CEO. Company's cowboy shirts have been on shopping list of many celebrities (Ronald Reagan, Elvis Presley, 'Brokeback Mountain' movie crew, to name a few).


Increase in obesity linked to wealth reduction

I found an interesting, but a bit old research news (Economics and Human Biology, July 2005) - overweight Americans who lose a lot of weight also tend to build more wealth as they drop the pounds. The study used data involving about 7,300 people who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.
The results showed that a 1 unit increase in a young person's body mass index score (BMI) was associated with a $1,300 or 8% reduction in wealth. But the changes varied dramatically by ethnicity and gender. For example, white women who dropped their BMI score by 10 points saw a wealth increase of $11,880. White men saw an increase of $12,720 for a similar drop, while black women increased wealth by $4,480.
The data in this study can't tell us whether a person's wealth affects obesity, or whether obesity affects wealth. However, researchers thought it is more likely that weight influences wealth. One possible explanation, which I believe is true, would be that overweight and obese people (particularly white women) are discriminated against in the workforce, and don't earn as much money as normal weight people.


You don't have to be smart to be rich

Here is a good news for the rest of us - it doesn't take a rocket scientist to make a lot of money, according to a new research. This nationwide study (published in Intelligence) in found that people of below average intelligence were, overall, just about as wealthy as those in similar circumstances but with higher scores on an IQ test.
Firstly, this study confirmed data discovered by other scholars that show people with higher IQ scores tend to earn higher incomes. In this study, each point increase in IQ scores was associated with $202 to $616 more income per year. This means the average income difference between a person with an IQ score in the normal range (100) and someone in the top 2% of society (130) is currently between $6,000 and $18,500 a year.
But when it came to total wealth and the likelihood of financial difficulties, people of below average and average intelligence did just fine when compared with the super-intelligent. The study could find no strong relationship between total wealth and intelligence.
How could high-IQ people, on average, earn higher incomes but still not have more wealth than others? Researchers suggests that high-IQ people are not saving and investing as much as others. For example, among the smartest people, those with IQ scores above 125, 6% of them have maxed out their credit cards and 11% occasionally miss payments, whereas those with an IQ of 75 and below, 7.7% have maxed out their credit cards.
The lesson learned ? IQ is not a factor for explaining wealth. I think wealth has lot to do with people's emotional intelligence. Universities Professors tend to be very smart people, but I recall when looking at university parking lots, there were very few Professors having Rolls Royces, Porsches or other very expensive cars. Instead I saw them driving old, low-value vehicles.


Women's preferences in interracial dating

After a study of more than 400 graduate and professional students who participated in speed dating sessions at Columbia University, The researchers concluded that "women of all races exhibit strong same race preferences, while men of no race exhibit a statistically significant same race preference".
The researchers found that most women speed daters said yes (meaning they’d like to see a man again after the four-minute speed date) less often to men of another race than they did to men of their own race. Here’s how much less interested they were in the other races by numbers, as compared with their enthusiasm for men of their own race:

African-American women said yes about 30% less often to Hispanic men; about 45% less often to white men; about 65% less often to Asian men;
White women said yes about 30% less often to black or Hispanic men, and about 65% less often to Asian men.
Hispanic women said yes about 20% less often to black or white men, and 50% less often to Asian men.
Asian women didn’t discriminate much by race (except for showing a very slight preference for Asian men over black or Hispanic men).

The result is definitely not encouraging for the Asian male. Given women’s strong preference for tall/taller men, and Asian men are, on average, shorter than other men, here comes their dis- favorable numbers.


Placebo effect is wide spread

Do you know how much benefit of anti-depressant drugs is contributed to the placebo effect ? According an earlier study (Jun 1998), it is 75%.
Recently, two Harvard scientists reported experimental results which support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect.


Funny numbers on T-shirts

I found (from www.cafepress.com) following funny numbers printed on T-shirts. Enjoy!



Does abstinence education work ?

Researchers studied four abstinence education programs, randomly assigning 2,057 adolescents to either participate in the program or not participate, and tracking these teens for up to six years. They found that kids who participated in abstinence education programs were no less likely than the control group to have sex in the following years. Slightly less than half of each group remained abstinent to the reevaluation, and 56% of abstinence education participants had been abstinent for the last 12 months, as opposed to 55% of the control group. The difference was not statistically significant. The average age of first intercourse (for those who reported intercourse) was 14.9 years for both groups. Abstinence education participants were also no more likely to have unprotected sex than kids who didn't go through the programs.
What can I say? Education is one thing, environment is another, and human nature is a different matter.


The more you pay, the less the fun of buying ?

I copied above graph from Seth Godin's blog. He called this 'Joy/cash curve', and explains:
"It seems that for many products, the more you pay, the less fun the buying is. (Not the shopping, the buying). It used to be true at the bottom end of the scale too - the less you pay, the less fun".
We can all argue what the shape of this curve should be in our real life, but the essence of the message is the same. In his blog, Seth can always find the chemistry between human nature and marketing from everyday experience, which most of us don't see them through at all.


Do women work more than men do ?

All wives, universally, believe they work more hours than their husbands do. Common sense tells us women work more than men do. However, if you take a scientific look at this, as 3 economists (Michael Burda of Humboldt University in Berlin, Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas, and Philippe Weil of the Free University of Brussels) did in their research on 25 countries (rich and poor), the answer to the title question is, on average, a sounding NO.
Researches divided daily 24 hours into four broad activities: "market work" that is, work for pay, typically outside the house; "homework," including housework and child care; "tertiary time," including sleep, eating, and other biological necessities that people can do only for themselves; and the time left over, which is leisure.
Throughout the world, men spend more time on market work, while women spend more time on homework. In the United States and other rich countries, men average 5.2 hours of market work a day and 2.7 hours of homework each day, while women average 3.4 hours of market work and 4.5 hours of homework per day. Adding these up, men work an average of 7.9 hours per day, while women work an average of, well, 7.9 hours per day.
Two more interesting findings from the same research report:
1) although men in many rich countries do not work less than women, they do enjoy about 20 to 30 minutes more leisure per day because they spend less time on sleep and other biological necessities. Men spend almost all of this additional leisure time watching television.
2) while men and women spend about the same time working in rich countries, women do work more than men in poor countries, and the gap widens as countries get poorer. It appears better educated husbands in rich countries are more willing to help their wives.


Gender ratios in US - number of men declining

Human biology has always ensured that male births outnumber female ones by about 5%. It’s been long expected that for every 100 girls born, there will be about 105 boys. This balances out the higher death rate among male fetuses and infants.
A recent study done by Dr. Devra Lee Davis, a professor of epidemiology (at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health) has found the proportion of boys in US dropped from 105.5 per 100 girls in 1970 to 104.6 in 2001. The changes over last 30 years may seem small, but the researchers suspect they are one manifestation of paternal exposure to environmental toxins, such as certain pesticides, heavy metals, solvents or dioxins.
According to 2005 World Health Organization figures (see below), there are 73.4 million more men than women in China and India; but in US, women outnumber men by 5 millions, which could be the accumulative result of gender ratios imbalance at birth.
Gender Ratios


The Caffeinated Nation

I have 2 kids, age 12 and 8. My general rule is not letting them drink anything contains caffeine, in fear of caffeine may interfere with children's neurological development. But if the current national trend continue, I may have to relax the rule a bit pretty soon. According to an article published in http://www.usnews.com/ (4/23/2007), in the past 3 years alone, the number of 18-to-24-year-olds who drink coffee daily has doubled, from 16% to 32%. In order to keep up with their java-fired schedule, many young people drink not only coffee, but also other energy drinks with several times the buzz of can of Coke.

Energy drinks like Red Bull and Cocaine is now a $3.5 billion-a-year industry in US. Starbucks, once considered a gourmet's treat, now boast 9,401 stores in US, and has focused growth on economically struggling neighborhoods.

According to the same article, although scientist have never studied how caffeine affects growing bodies and brains, many research done on adults are sending out good news.

For example, Harvard researchers found in 2005 that drinking 6 cups of coffee or more daily cut the risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 50% in men, and 30% in women. One study of 80,000 women showed that those who who drank more than 2 or 3 cups of coffee daily reduced their risk of suicide over 10 yeas by 1/3 - we can all drink (one cup coffee) to that news!

By the way, any reader interested in the caffeinated doughnuts, bagel and lip balm?


Numbers of the day - 2006 tax return

Today is the last day, in US, to file your 2006 tax return. It was Benjamin Franklin who said in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes, and it becomes harder for being a taxpayer nowadays.
According to The National Taxpayers Union, an advocacy group, average taxpayer spent 24.2 hours in record keeping, boning up on tax law and preparing their 2006 returns, with average cost of $207. In total, 3.18 billion hours in US were spent on individual tax preparations.
Corporations spent an estimated $156.5 billion working on their taxes, that is 44% of the $354 billion in corporate income taxes the U.S. collected last year.


Why girls go out with hot jerks ?

I can tell you few stories of young women more attracted to men who treat them poorly, don't spend money on them, etc., while nice guys finish last.

About 60% of the women said they would prefer to have sex with hot jerks (or cads) when considering a brief affair, according to the study conducted by Dr. Daniel Kruger, a social psychologist at the Univ. of Michigan, Institute for Social Research (ISR). His research paper was published in Current Research in Social Psychology, 11, 39-50, 2005. (Download the PDF here).

From evolutionary psychology point of view, Dr. Kruger believe above number imply that "the cad versus dad distinction is intuitive to women and remains a key element of contemporary mating strategies". Even though cads aren't good bets to stick around and help raise children, the genes that make men successful cads (dominant, brave) will be passed along to their sons, who will "increase their mothers' eventual reproductive success" by providing numerous grandchildren.

Using comman language, I think cad is cad because his genes are so good, so much in demand, that women are willing to mate with him knowing that he might not stick around. Same reason why a Dad is a Dad. He knows if based solely on looks (proxy for gene competition), he will lose to the Cad. So, he must compensate for his 'lower quality' genes by investing more resources in the female and offspring.


Yes, honey, I can fix that ...

According to a report from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during 1991-2005, the annual consumer nail-gun injuries have increased approximately 200%. In 2005, hospital emergency departments treated nail-gun injuries were approximately 300% higher than in 1991. Note that for professional construction or repair workers, the injury number remained steady during the same period.
This increase likely corresponds to an increase in availability during the 1990s of inexpensive pneumatic nail guns and air compressors (used to power the nail guns) in home hardware stores, along with the US housing boom in the same time.
Next time when you hear "yes, honey, I can fix that", please include the potential medical cost in the budget.


America's obesity epidemic continues

According to this study, severe obesity has increased 300% in last 5 years in the U.S. The prevalence of overweight has increased by a 25%, obesity has increased by 50%, and severe obesity has increased by 75%. Education and weight-loss surgery have failed to stop the trend.
However we must not blame all above on fat people's weak will or our poor education efforts. A new DNA analysis of nearly 40,000 white Europeans identified a gene that raises a person's risk of obesity by 30% if he has one copy of the gene, and by 67% if he has two copies. Weight differences linked to the gene appear as early as age of 7.


Spirituality influences health

We all know physical and emotional health are connected. A new survey, published in the April 9 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, found the majority of American doctors think that religion and spirituality play an important role in influencing patients' health.
The majority of U.S. doctors -- 56% -- believes religion and spirituality had a significant influence on health. A minority of doctors -- 7% -- believes that religion and spirituality can have a negative influence: sometimes, these beliefs can lead patients to refuse or not go along with medically recommended therapies.
Most doctors don't believe that religion has an influence on hard medical outcomes -- like heart attacks, infections, etcetera. The influence mostly helps patients cope with illness and gives them a positive state of mind.


Business numbers - heard from local radio station

1) Overall, the shop-lifting in US is costing almost 1.5% of total retail business revenue. In some part of US, it is organized crime. No wonder many companies are joining force, adapting new technology (such as RFID), and building national/regional shop-lifting monitor database.

2) Marketing new products is hard. On average, 85% of new products launched didn't pay off.


Feet and shoes are biggest turn-ons

According to a study recently published in the International Journal of Impotence Research, feet and the objects associated with them are the most common fetishes.
Among sexual preferences for body parts, feet and toes were the most popular, with 47% of those sampled preferring them. They also found when it came to objects associated with the body, shoes, boots and other footwear scored total of 64%. Of people with fetishes, 33% preferred a specific body part, and 30% liked objects or features often associated with a body part. The researchers looked at 381 online discussion groups and targeted at least 5000 users to get their large sample of fetishists. While the well-known foot fetish was indeed the most common, the researchers uncovered tons of users with more obscure interests such as hearing aids (150 people), coats (9% percent of the body-related-object category), and navels (3% of the body part category). So if you have a fetish you think is totally bizarre, you're probably right. But science indicates there are plenty of people just as wacky.
"In everyday usage, fetish refers to sexually arousing stimuli that would not meet psychiatric criteria for a diagnosis of fetishism. In many cases, they may simply enhance sexual interest or satisfaction rather than being necessary for it," say the researchers.
I recall Madonna once claimed "shoes are better than sex because they last longer". She didn't pick shoes for no reason.


Do doctors over-diagnose patients ?

When I wrote do we all need mental health care? earlier, I doubt the cited number was too high. My observation tells me that some health professionals tend to over-diagnose people, and over-estimate the number people need their treatments.
According to this study, many people who diagnosed with depression actually don't really have it, they're just grappling with normal troubles such as divorce, breakup, job loss, or death of a pet. The data suggest "previous estimates of the number of Americans who suffer depression at least once during their lives - more than 30 million - are about 25% too high".
For many people, sadness is normal part of life; we can often heal ourselves with just behavioral changes.

Joshua Bell play in a subway station

The Washington Post published an article about an experiment they did: they had Joshua Bell, one of the best violinists in the world, to play incognito outside a D.C. Metro subway station. They wanted to see if without the PR, anybody would stop to listen, and notice the masterful play. The musician did not play popular tunes whose familiarity alone might have drawn interest. He played masterpieces in a good acoustical environment.
The result was? hardly anybody stopped to listen. People tossed him $32.17 for his 43 minutes of playing.


The bigger his house, the worse the CEO

In a recent research paper, two finance professors (David Yermack of New York University and Crocker Liu of Arizona State ) identified the primary residences of 488 CEOs of the (US) S&P 500 Companies, and demonstrated that there is a relationship between CEO home-buying behavior and their company's stock performance.

The mean residence of a CEO was 6,145 square feet, 12 rooms, 5.37 acres of land, and a market value of $3.1 million. In 2005, the stocks of companies whose CEOs lived in larger homes (i.e., above the average for all CEOs) returned, on average, 3.35% less than companies whose CEOs lived in below-average homes. And the CEOs who lived in the biggest homes (at least 10,000 square feet or over 10 acres) underperformed their peers who inhabited more modest homes by 6.9%, on average.

Two professors also looked at stock returns for 164 companies whose CEOs bought new homes after becoming CEO. They found a significantly negative stock performance following the acquisition of very large homes by company CEOs on the order of 1.25% performance lag per month.

The explanation for the relationship may be complex, but soon, somebody could use this information when deciding which stock to own.

In retrospect, may be we all should sell Microsoft significantly underperforming stock in 2000, when we knew Bill Gates moved into his gargantuan home in the late 1990s.


Our wandering mind

Some days I felt guilty because of frequent mind-wandering at work, so I find following numbers are quite comforting:
Dr. Michael Kane, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, recently sampled the thoughts of students at eight random times a day for a week. He found that on average, they were not thinking about what they were doing 30% of the time.
For some students it was between 80% and 90% of the time. Out of the 126 participants, only one denied any mind-wandering at the sampled moments. Prior work has also turned up average rates of 30% to 40% in everyday life.
It appears our mind are weired to wander. "Mind wandering is not objectively good or bad. It depends on the context in which it occurs", Dr. Kane said. Mind wandering may enable us to do multi-tasking and creative thinking. Life usually doesn't demand our full attention after all.


Breast enlargement enlarge self-esteem, sexuality

Here are some numbers explaining why breast augmentation has become the most common cosmetic plastic surgery in the U.S. According to a study conducted by University of Florida nursing professor Cynthia Figueroa, women who undergo breast augmentation tend to have higher self-esteem and better feelings about their sexuality after the surgery. The researcher studied 84 women who underwent the surgery by measuring their self-esteem and sexuality before and 2-3 months after the procedure. On average, self esteem increased by about 13%, and sexual function increased by about 11%, with substantial average increases in sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction.


Do we all need mental health care ?

According to Dr. Erick Messias, a psychiatrist at the Medical College of Georgia and lead author of a study published in the March issue of Psychiatric Services, nearly 30% of the general population needs mental health care, while only 1/3 of them receive it. The two largest groups in need of care are people in need of treatment for alcohol dependence (14%) and major depression (11%).

So for every 100 people who read this post, although most will claim they are being fine, 30 people actually should to seek mental health care from psychiatrists/psychologists/social workers/occupational therapists.