One Smart Dude

Who would have thought that ketchup appeals to toddlers because it provides familiarity when trying new foods and tantalizes all five taste sensations: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. This little factoid was written about in the most recent book that I completed, What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell. I have read several Malcolm Gladwell books and find the man extremely interesting. Gladwell can take a boring subject like hair dye and connect it to history, sociology, and psychology in a way that you would never expect. What the Dog Saw is a compilation of 19 writings from The New Yorker which touch on so many categories it is extremely hard to speak about all of them. One of the articles was about John Rock, the inventor of the “Pill” in the 1950’s, and how he designed it to have a 7 day placebo because he still wanted women to have periods and make the process as natural as possible. This push for naturalness was based on his desire to appeal to the Catholic Church. Gladwell digs deeper and actually cites research that shows women in native cultures, on average, only have 100 periods in their lifetime compared to modern-westernized women who average 400 periods in their lifetime (due to age of first menarche, total number of pregnancies, and breastfeeding length). The increase in periods in the modern age is connected with the increases in breast and reproductive related cancers. This is due to the fact that each cycle causes an onslaught of hormones that cause cell division-increasing chances of mutation and something going wrong. My question is whether women should take a contraceptive that limits periods to only a few times per year to model a more natural frequency (100 vs 400 periods in a lifetime)? 

Another essay concerned the problem of homelessness and how we should go about fixing it. Research shows that the homeless cost the system quite a bit of money because of their dependency on shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, and most of all emergency healthcare services. It was found that it would be cheaper to give the homeless an apartment for free and try to get them back on their feet which would decrease their usage of the aforementioned services. This is currently being done in several US cities but is fraught with controversy. Why do homeless people get free housing when there are hard working Americans struggling to pay their rent? Why would we keep paying for housing if they show no desire to stop their addictions? In the end, whether the homeless deserve the housing or not, it is a decision based on simple economics-a person on the street drains taxpayers dollars more than a person living in a stable, albeit free, apartment setting. 

Some other tidbits of information I learned are as follows: you can buy “Put Options” that bet against the stock market’s success, mammograms are extremely hard to interpret, driving fatalities would decrease if we switched which side of the rode we drove on every 5 years, plagiarism is acceptable in music but not in writing, criminal profiling is essentially worthless, and pit bulls are not inherently dangerous to humans. If you like to know more about these points then read the book. I think all Gladwell books are great because he thinks about things in a different way than most people. My mind has been thoroughly expanded thanks to this quirky-looking man. 

Summed up learning sentence:

The ordinary can be quite extraordinary and surface-level understanding is almost never adequate. 

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