Humanities Language Media Podcasts

Are you using “steep learning curve” wrong?

Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics podcast episode pointed out that using the term “steep learning curve” to describe something that is difficult to master is incorrect. I’ve been guilty of this and now notice I’m not the only one. Within a day or so, I heard another person on a different podcast use the term incorrectly.

From the transcript:

Stephen Dubner is interviewing Scott Lilienfeld, a professor of psychology at Emory University.

DUBNER: And the last one we’ll do right now is “steep learning curve.”

LILIENFELD: A lot of people will say, “Oh, I started on a new job where I was having to do something new. And this job has a really steep learning curve.” In fact they’re getting it backward. A steep learning curve is easy. Because a steep learning curve means —

DUBNER: You learn a lot in a hurry, right?

LILIENFELD: Not slowly.

DUBNER: When I read that in your paper I thought, “Oh my goodness, that’s really interesting that we’ve all got it backwards.” But then I quickly rationalized and said, “Well, I guess what I always assumed was that the steepness was on the axis referring to difficulty somehow,” right? And that if a task is particularly difficult, then that’s the steepness, and that’s the curve I’m on. So really, when we encounter something that’s really difficult, and we’re having a hard time mastering it, we should say we’re on a very shallow —

LILIENFELD: A very shallow learning curve, that’s right. I think when people say, “This task has a steep learning curve,” what they mean is, “Man, I feel like I’m going up like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill and going up a very steep mountain!” But in fact if something has a steep learning curve, that means that it’s acquired very quickly.

Listen to the episode here.

Humanities SOI Blog

Stand Up To Prevent Drowning

geralt / Pixabay
In episode one of the Undisclosed podcast about the case of State v. Pamela Lanier, drowning expert John Fletemeyer states that in 40 to 50 percent of open water drownings the water is not over the victims head. Fletemeyer advises rescue workers to yell at drowning victims to just “stand up!”

Another interesting statistic from this website, is that 80% of drowning victims in the United States are male.

Entertainment Government Humanities Media SOI Blog

Copyright Law Weirdness

I’m a big proponent of limited copyright law. I think copyright should have a limited time limit, after which time the work or IP falls into the public domain to be used freely. Currently copyright seems to go on forever. As ranted about by CGP Grey here.

But recently, I discovered that terrestrial or over the air broadcasters only paid the song writers and publishers for playing recorded music. The ones performing the song don’t get anything when their record is played. A loophole the broadcasters have consistently lobbied for.

For instance:
“When you hear Counting Crows’ recording of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ on the radio in the US, Joni Mitchell – the composer of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – is compensated through BMI. But Counting Crows receive nothing for this performance.”

More can be found in this article:
Public Performance Right for Sound Recordings

Everyday Things Humanities

7 Billion People

The world’s population today is about 7 Billion. Sounds like a lot. Is that too many people for this planet? What if all 7 Billion people stood in one place shoulder to shoulder, would it fill up a whole country? a state? Really, only one large city, Los Angeles, CA to be exact. Just 500 square miles.

History Humanities

US Amount Spent on Alcohol has not changed in 30 years.

NPR’s money blog ran an interesting graphic about how Americans spend their booze money compared with 30 years ago. The average spent has not changed, about one dollar of every 100. But what’s changed is where it’s bought and what type.

NPR Money Blog

Art Humanities

Great Acapella cover of the song Africa

Every once in a while you come across something creative and unique and this is one of those times:

Books Humanities

10,000 Hours to become a Master

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” he states research suggests that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something. He relates how well know “masters” put in the extra practice time to help them make it to the top. And they did not achieve that place until they had first accomplished at least 10,000 hours. Which is roughly three hours a day for ten years.

History Humanities

Skid Row origins

The term “skid row” takes its name from the run-down saloons and boarding houses near the skid roads of western logging camps.

Source – Modern Marvels Episode: Logging Tech

A skid road was a corduroy road made of logs, used to skid or drag felled trees through the woods or bog to the saw mill.

Entertainment History Humanities Science Technology

Subliminal Advertising was a hoax

According to Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media ecology at New York University, the original revelation of subliminal advertising effects was a hoax.

In 1957, an enterprising marketing researcher named James Vicary announced to a breathless world that he had conducted an experiment in a movie theater in Fort Lee, New Jersey during screenings of the William Holden picture, Picnic. Vicary claimed that what he had done was to flash subliminal inducements during the screening of the film telling people to drink Coca Cola or to eat popcorn. His claim was that those subliminal flashes had actually increased sales of those items at the concession stand in the theater by some 38 percent.

This announcement took the country by [LAUGHING] storm. People basically freaked out over it. The networks swore they would never engage in practices like this. The New York State Senate passed a law against this kind of thing. Aldous Huxley appeared on The Mike Wallace Show [LAUGHS] and referred to it as something far worse than anything he’d imagined in Brave New World. It was quite a to do.

And the irony is that it turned out that Vicary had made the whole thing up.

Books Humanities Random Thoughts

Robert A. Heinlein Quote

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough For Love