LINKS 04.21.18


Tyler Cowen: Why are Americans so loud?

I can think of a few hypotheses:

1. At least originally, Americans had much more space than did Europeans, and this is still true to some degree. That induce norms of loudness, which have to some extent persisted.

2. America is a nation of immigrants, with English-language proficiency of varying quality, including historically. For whatever reason, good or bad, we tend to shout a bit when the listener is not fluent in our language.

3. Taleb has suggested that higher status people shout less, talk in more hushed tones, and are more likely to whisper, to grab the attention of the crowd. Perhaps America has fewer high status people to set social norms. Or perhaps our high status people derive status from their wealth, and feel the need to emit fewer cultural signals, just as wealthy Americans often dress more poorly or eat a worse diet than European elites.

4. Characters on TV speak more loudly, and Americans watch more TV and admire and mimic it more.

5. Americans command a broader personal space, keeping a greater distance, and thus they have to speak more loudly to each other (and they feel Italians are intrusive with respect to how close they stand).

6. Loudness is perhaps a byproduct of individualism.

7. American culture values “forthrightness and self-confidence.” Plus maybe it’s a regional thing?


The story of a giant ocean-cleaning machine:

The system uses a giant floating tube–the first one will be 2,000 feet long–made of a durable plastic called HDPE, which can float in the water, flexible enough to bend with the waves, but rigid enough to form a U-shaped barrier to stop the plastic floating on the ocean’s surface. A strong nylon screen, attached underneath, will catch some of plastic below the surface, but because it isn’t a net, won’t catch marine life. Large anchors, floating in still water hundreds of feet below the surface, will help steady the device so it moves in the current more slowly than the plastic, making it possible to scoop up the plastic that’s collected in front of the device.


Composer/songwriter Tyondai Braxton on his new project “Telekinesis”:

A titanic composition for 87 musicians, Telekenesis took two years to write…So what does Telekinesis sound like? “There’s a lot of awe and beauty and frustration in this piece – it sounds like a tug of war,” Braxton says over coffee near his studio in Brooklyn. “It can be exciting, confusing, can envelop you, terrify you. It’s intense. It’s not polite.”


Have the Bajau people of Southeast Asia genetically evolved to be great divers?

Most people can hold their breath underwater for a few seconds, some for a few minutes. But a group of people called the Bajau takes free diving to the extreme, staying underwater for as long as 13 minutes at depths of around 200 feet. These nomadic people live in waters winding through the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, where they dive to hunt for fish or search for natural elements that can be used in crafts.


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