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August 30, 2004

BehindTheMedspeak: Do music lessons increase IQ?


Yes, says E. Glenn Schallenberg of the University of Toronto.

In a paper just published in the journal Psychological Science, he reports that 144 6-year-olds were divided into four groups: those who received keyboard lessons, voice lessons, drama lessons, or no lessons.

Children receiving the keyboard and voice lessons showed gains in IQ of 7 and 6 points, respectively.

Kids receiving drama lessons improved 5 points.

And the ones left alone to just be kids? They improved 4 points.

Now, wait a minute.

You're telling me that the conclusion of this study is that music lessons increase IQ?

What a crock.

No wonder the term "junk science" exists.

The trouble is, that's what most of the science reported in daily newspapers is.

Sure, Schallenberg and his research team used all kinds of fancy-shmancy statistical tests to show that the difference between 4, 5, 6, and 7 IQ points was statistically significant and therefore supported their conclusion.

But I'm here to tell you, as one who used to massage data just this way until it squeaked and said "enough," if you do enough statistical tests enough different ways, eventually anything can be proved.

Why do you think Disraeli's epigram, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics," is so beloved in the research community?

Here's Shankar Vedantam's story about the new study, which appeared in this morning's Washington Post.


Music Lessons and Kids' IQ

Music lessons trigger increases in the IQs of 6-year-old children, according to one of the most thorough studies on the subject.

Although previous research had hinted that musical training was associated with better literacy, math and spatial skills, much of it had compared children getting music lessons only with those getting none, leaving open the questions of whether children getting the lessons had certain family advantages to begin with, and of whether the improvements were the result of music specifically or just the result of structured, extracurricular training in an artistic skill.

A new study by E. Glenn Schallenberg at the University of Toronto addressed these questions by recruiting 144 6-year-olds into four groups: those receiving voice lessons, keyboard lessons, drama lessons and no lessons. (Kids in the last group were given free keyboard lessons after the study was completed.)

Children receiving the voice and keyboard lessons showed small but clear improvements on IQ tests, gaining an average of six and seven IQ points, respectively.

Children receiving drama lessons had an increase of five points, while the children getting no lessons had an improvement of four points.

In a paper published in the current issue of Psychological Science, Schallenberg concludes that musical training in particular was responsible for the extra IQ points.

However, Schallenberg's study also revealed a unique advantage gained by the drama group: The young actors showed improvements in social skills that were not evident in the other groups.

August 30, 2004 at 09:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack



The best website on the planet for everything U.S. Supreme Court-related.

August 30, 2004 at 06:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Aquapac - take your phone surfing


Aquapac makes waterproof bags for cell phones, PDAs, cameras, pagers, and what-have-you.

The company guarantees its bags to be 100% waterproof, totally submersible, and dust and sand-proof.

From the website:

Use your phone normally in the case; sound and signal pass right through the case material

Airtight seal means your phone will float safely if you drop it in water

Made of tough flexible vinyl with a foam-padded rear for extra comfort and protection

Supplied with detachable, adjustable neckcord and carabiner


Andrea Sachs reviewed Aquapac's camera and phone bags in today's Washington Post; here's what she wrote:

    When we submerged our camera, we failed to completely seal the top and a puddle formed. However, once securely closed, we could even snap pictures underwater through the clear window.

    As for our cell phone, talking through the padded case was like chatting through a dense bed of seaweed.

I don't know; I suppose you might be alone at the beach and not want to leave your cell phone in your shoe while you go swimming, so perhaps this line of products might be useful.

On the other hand, why not just leave your phone and assorted electronics at home or in your car while you hit the sand?

You'll survive.

August 30, 2004 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

China Rising


Saturday's New York Times front-page story by Jane Perlez, the first of a three-part series on China's rapidly increasing power and influence in the Asia-Pacific region as it begins to flex its economic, diplomatic, and cultural muscle, was superb.

But it was really, really long: I would guess perhaps, oh, 2,500-3,000 words, about 10-12 typed pages.

I read every one of them, and you can too, here, if you like.

But if you'd prefer the short version, click on the excellent graphic up top that accompanied the article.

It's got everything you need to know about the force reshaping the East.

The dark arrows represent the total value of China's imports and exports in 1990; the light arrows the same variables in 2003.

Prediction: the arrows for 2013 will cover all the white in the map.

I say again: learn Chinese.


1.3 billion people can't be wrong.

August 30, 2004 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The best soy sauce available in the U.S.


It's Eden Selected Shoyu Soy Sauce, imported from Japan.

$4.74 for a 20 oz. bottle here, or you can try Whole Foods or your local Crunchy Granola Birkenstock/Earth Shoes-Worn-Here yoga-boga food store.

It's not just my opinion re: the quality of this sauce: Cook's Illustrated magazine, the only unbiased ratings source for things food-related (they don't accept advertising), said so.

For its January-February 2000 issue, Cook's had 15 tasters evaluate a dozen brands of soy sauce.

The sauces were first given a dipping test, served with plain rice and tofu.

Second, they were stir-fried with chicken and a small amount of sugar, garlic, and ginger.

The singular soy, the only one of the 12 to achieve Cook's coveted "Highly Recommended" rating, was Eden Selected Shoyu, for its "toasty, caramel-y, and complex balance of flavors.

Eden is made in Japan, where it is brewed indoors in cedar vats for three years.

Kikkoman, the one you probably use,


was rated "Recommended - with reservations."

Wrote Cook's about soy sauce:

"In a dipping sauce it can provide a quick, bright flavor that dances off the food it touches. In a braise, its presence might be more surreptitious, an underbelly of flavor nuances.

When it is good, the flavor of soy sauce should resonate the way sound does from a gong struck by a padded hammer."

August 30, 2004 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Siemens 65 series cellphones can cause hearing damage


How is it possible for a product like this to ever get out on the market?

I mean, the fact that the Siemens SL65 and related cellphones produce a piercingly loud and shrill disconnection melody that automatically goes off when the battery's low can hardly have gone unnoticed during testing.


Now the company says "The melody could possibly start to play loudly and in some extreme cases, this volume could lead to hearing damage."

T-Mobile and Vodaphone removed the affected handsets from their stores last week after the Siemens announcement.

Here's the story as reported by Bloomberg News Saturday.

Siemens Says Cellphone Flaw May Hurt Users and Its Profit

Siemens, the world's fourth-largest maker of mobile phones, said Friday that a software flaw that can create a piercing ring in its newest phone models might hurt earnings in its handset division.

Siemens on Thursday recommended that users of its 65 series handsets disable a disconnection melody that plays when the phones are about to switch off because the battery is low.

The melody, the company said, "could possibly start to play loudly'' and "in some extreme cases, this volume could lead to hearing damage.''

T-Mobile International and the Vodafone Group are among operators that removed the Siemens 65 series handsets from shops in Germany on Thursday after the warning that the excessively loud disconnection melody might cause hearing damage.

The phones affected by the software malfunction include the SL65, which features a sliding dial.

Siemens shipped new software to operators for testing and said the malfunction would be fixed in coming weeks.

The company, which started selling the series this month, was counting on the new phones to help reach a profit at the unit after a $106 million operating loss in the three months through June.

Siemens said Friday that it could not confirm its forecast that the phone unit would post an operating profit in the quarter ending in September.

"It can have an impact on our results,'' Florian Kreutz, a Siemens Mobile spokesman, said in a phone interview.

Service providers are "already testing the software.''

It is too early to estimate the cost of repairs, he said.

T-Mobile and MMO2 said they expected the handsets to be back in their stores in September.

Vodafone, the world's largest cellular operator, removed the 65 series phones from its 1,400 self-managed and franchised shops in Germany on Thursday, said Jens Kürten, a Vodafone spokesman.

Siemens's American depository receipts closed at $68.34, up 2 cents.

August 30, 2004 at 06:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Whatever is not conscious will be experienced as fate' - Carl Jung


When I read this yesterday in the Washington Post Book Review, where it was noted to be the epigraph to Craig Nova's new novel, "Cruisers," I stopped reading.

I couldn't quite get the meaning of what Jung was expressing.

Was he saying that everything that happens to us without our conscious intent is thus an accident?

That we should simply accept the very limited field of action we have in determining our direction and outcome?

Or was he making things easy for us, saying that the sum of our conscious acts and everything else is always unity, totality, one, regardless of the shifting proportions of will and fate within the zero-sum equation/game he calls life?

August 30, 2004 at 03:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

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