News and Features

Awesome social science reads: #TDOPicks of the Week

Editor’s Note: This Sunday we bring you #TDOPicks – our picks for the best social science features we’ve found on the Internet this week. We feature a variety of content aimed at both the layman and the social science professional. Tell us what you’re reading or watching by tweeting @theDailyOpium with #TDOPicks or posting links on our Facebook page.

To bring #TDOPicks in line with our evolving new posting schedule, the next installment of #TDOPicks will now go live on Fridays starting May 31, 2013.

“The modern history of swearing: where all the dirtiest words come from,” Melissa Mohr, Salon.

Ever wonder where your favorite curse words in English come from and how they came about? Find out where in this colorful excerpt from “Holy Shit: a Brief History of Swearing!” (Warning: explicit language!)

“One final example will have to suffice: in 1894, a New York man murdered an acquaintance partly because the acquaintance wouldn’t stop calling him ‘cock-sucker.’ It’s not clear who started the bad blood originally, but the deceased escalated things by ordering drinks for a group of men but excluding his murderer with the words ‘Treat them five and leave that cock-sucker out.’ He then smacked the defendant on the nose and called him ‘cock-sucker’ several more times. When at one point the defendant didn’t have enough money to pay for another drink, the deceased also butted in with ‘Let him stick it up his ass.’ Eventually the defendant left the bar, came back with the gun, and shot the man who had repeatedly called him ‘cock-sucker.'”

“You need phosphorus to live – and we’re running out,” Tom Philpott, Mother Jones.

Phosphates and nitrates are among the most important resources in the world today. Fertilizers help an feed a constantly growing world population on dwindling strips of arable land. This article from Mother Jones discusses the consequences of a potential “peak Phosphorus” including starvation for billions and a shift of global power in a favor of another unstable despotic monarchy.

“We are all Princes, Paupers, and Part of the Human Family,” Veronique Greenwood, Nautilus.

An quick and easy introduction to the genealogist’s case that we could all be related:

“Chances are, if you have a famous ancestor far enough back that finding out about them is a surprise, you share them with a small city of other people. And the farther back you go, the truer that is. In 2004, statistician Joseph Chang, computer scientist Douglas Rohde, and writer Steve Olson used a computer model of human genetics to show that anyone who was alive 2,000-3,000 years ago is either the ancestor of everyone who’s now alive, or no one at all.”

“The Optimist’s Case for Yemen,” Jeff Gedmin, Foreign Policy.

Meet Tawakkol Karman, the Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize advocate. Could she be a major force for change in a rapidly-changing country on the edge of chaos? Check out this profile:

“Karman’s entirely self-taught English is broken, but clear and colloquial. She’s even picked up the expression “look” to begin sentences where she wants to push a point. When I ask Karman about her penchant for fashionable hijabs, she laughs and responds, ‘Look, I used to wear the full burqa until 2005 or so!'”

“Advice for graduates from two sociologists,” Lisa Wade and Gwen Sharp, Sociological Images.

Not your run of the mill post-graduation advice: the main authors of the wildly popular sociology blog Sociological Images let you in on some sociological secrets to living life after college. Even if you haven’t been in a college classroom for years, this is still worth reading:

College graduates are often told: “follow your passion,” do “what you love,” what you were “meant to do,” or “make your dreams come true.”  Two-thirds think they’re going find a job that allows them to change the world, half within five years.  Yikes.

This sets young people up to fail. The truth is that the vast majority of us will not be employed in a job that is both our lifelong passion and a world-changer; that’s just not the way our global economy is. So it’s ok to set your sights just a tad below occupational ecstasy.  Just find a job that you like.  Use that job to help you have a full life with lots of good things and pleasure and helping others and stuff.  A great life is pretty good, even if it’s not perfect.