Friday, April 17, 2009

Weird (musical?) instrument

I heard on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me about this early pre-cursor to the Muppaphone . . .the Pig Organ. From
The Pig Organ was another such combination of Louis' two loves. 17th-century writer Nathaniel Wanley describes it better than I ever could: "The Abbot of Baigne, a man of great wit, and who had the art of inventing new musical instruments, being in the service of Louis XI, king of France, was ordered by that prince to get him a concert of swine's voices, thinking it impossible. The abbot was not surprised, but asked for money for the performance, which was immediately delivered him; and he wrought a thing as singular as ever was seen. For out of a great number of hogs, of several ages, which he got together, and placed under a tent or pavillion, covered with velvet, before which he had a table of wood, painted, with a certain number of hogs, he made an organical instrument, and as he played upon the said keys, with little spikes which pricked the hogs he made them cry in such order and consonance, as highly delighted the king and all his company." In the mid-19th century, this idea was resurrected by the inventor of the so-called Porco-Forte instrument, which pinched the tails of pigs to elicit their squeals.
I still like the Muppaphone better.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Can money buy happiness?

I'm giving a talk on happiness this week, so I've been immersed in the research on causes and correlates of happiness (as well as measurement issues and a host of other topics). This field is often quite complex. For example, the research on the relationship between income and happiness has found that:
  • Within nation, there is a very slight correlation between income and happiness, which is only significant at the lower levels of income (that is, the very poor are at greater risk of unhappiness).
  • Across nations, there is a fairly substantial correlation between the GDP of the nation and the average happiness of its citizens -- wealthier nations have happier individuals, on average.
  • Although there have been substantial increases in affluence within nations historically, this has not resulted in increases in happiness -- that is, although there is higher average affluence in the United States today than in the 1940s, Americans are not happier, on average.
  • Individual increases in income are not consistently related to increased happiness. Getting a raise at work may result in a brief increase in happiness, but it is generally temporary (the person drifts back to their previous level of happiness). Studies of lottery winners find that they report a slightly higher level of happiness, but also considerable difficulty and unhappiness as well.
  • Those who value materialist goals over other (non-materialist) values are less happy later in life.
So, looking at all this data, does money bring happiness? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New book and wonderful sweetie = happiness

I came home covered in existential angst, only to find that Q had pre-ordered the paperback of Charlaine Harris' latest Sookie Stackhouse novel for me. Existential crisis temporarily averted. And I love that Q knows me so well and loves me so dearly. He rocks my world.

I really should wait to start reading the book until after my midterm grades are in, though.