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The art of ignorance

Blind businessman making plans (Credit: Olly via Fotolia)Agnotology is a term that is likely unfamiliar to most of us (it was to me until this morning). It comes from the Greek words agnoia (ignorance) and ontologia (ontology). It was coined by Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford, to describe the "deliberate propagation of ignorance" and is one of the most prevalent forces in business and politics today.

But, as the BBC's Georgina Kenyon describes, Proctor's study was first inspired by a secret memo from the tobacco industry that was released in 1979. The memo, called the Smoking and Health Proposal, was written a decade earlier by the Brown & Williamson tobacco company and one of its most interesting parts was the recommendations for how to effectively market tobacco. Its authors noted that "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the mind of the general public."

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New Year Resolutions: are we lying to ourselves?

People cheer as the Times Square New Year's Eve ball is lit and raised (Credit: Ian Wallace)New Year's resolutions are like lottery tickets: they require little buy-in, offer great expectations, and often end in failure. When the Powerball jackpot is high, everyone is buying tickets and the excitement in the air is palpable. When the New Year's ball floats high above Times Square, the crowd clamors to watch the ball drop and to share their lottery ticket numbers (resolutions). And a few hours after the ball drops, people stagger home from Times Square, leaving a confetti mess—much like my emotional state after I fail to lose five pounds, learn a new language, and take up cooking something besides a PB&J.

Resolutions are not a new phenomenon. For ages past, women and men alike have been setting goals and muttering under their breath, "New year, new me." According to a Marist poll, weight loss is the top priority when it comes to resolutions (twelve percent). This is followed by getting a better job (ten percent), which jumped five percentage points from last year. Unfortunately, US News and World Report finds that by the second week of February, some eighty percent of those resolutions will have fallen by the wayside along with confetti from New Years.

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An atheist's approach to Christmas

A woman with stripped socks sitting in a chair by the fireplace and her lit and decorated Christmas tree (Credit: Konstiantyn via Fotolia)In a recent article for CNN, Todd Leopold asks the question "How do atheists celebrate Christmas?" Perhaps it should not come as a surprise that he found that most atheists have a very similar Christmas to everyone else. The only real difference in most cases is that they don't go to church on Christmas Eve. Beyond that, the trees, traditions, and most everything else so commonly associated with the holiday are pretty much par for the course.

Hemant Mehta, a blogger for The Friendly Atheist, sums up this reality well when he says "Christians don't own December. Even if Christmas as a Christian holiday didn't exist right now, I think there would be plenty of reason that it makes sense to take a couple weeks off at the end of the year…This is a nice way to just relax and spend time with your family. If it coincides with the majority's religious holiday, great."

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250 McDonald's drive-thru customers 'pay it forward'

McDonalds french fries alongside a Big Mac and another unidentified sandwich at a McDonalds in London (Credit: AP/PA Wire/Steve Parsons)Marisabel Figueroa probably started her shift at the Lakeland, Florida McDonalds where she works expecting that day to be like any other. However, one woman's generosity set off a chain reaction that, several hours later, would leave her saying that she'd "never experienced something like that before." It all started when Torie Keene decided to pay for the order of the car behind her and specifically asked Figueroa to tell the driver Merry Christmas, rather than Happy Holidays, when she delivered the news of the free meal.

As the cashier described, when the other driver was told that her meal had been paid for, she was so grateful that she decided to do the same for the driver behind her. The pattern continued for almost the entirety of Figueroa's six-hour shift, as some 250 customers decided to "pay it forward."

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Can you hear me now? Etiquette for texting

A woman texting as people walk slower while texting on their mobile phones to try to avoid accidents, according to new research, November 19, 2014 (Credit: AP Images/Lauren Hurley)Children and cell phones are an ever-present reminder of the problems often encountered in communication. With children, the refrain "If I have to tell you one more time" is often followed by "Listen to me." Cell phones, on the other hand, give the illusion of convenience until you enter into an exchange in which you find yourself repeating "Can you hear me now?" What you hear is not always what is said, and what someone said is not always what you hear. But when children and cell phones come together, going over your data may be the least of your problems.

In a study conducted by psychologists from Binghamton University, participants were found to be significantly more likely to view period-punctuated texts less genuine than unpunctuated texts. The more you punctuate, the less real you are.

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