The 11 Most Annoying Things on Facebook

There are a number of things on Facebook that just rub me the wrong way. Here’s a list.

1. The Plea to stop unwanted requests.
Let me tell you how this works: those requests are automatic. When you play a game, it will generally try to spam your entire friends list so that it can propagate itself. There’s a simple way around this: go to your privacy settings and block the offending app. To think that someone will read your plea, make a note of it, and specifically opt you out the next time actually makes you sound more stupid than the very person you’ve been getting unsolicited requests from. But it does make you look like you are above these silly games, because hey, you’re on Facebook for the important, serious stuff. And it’ll also get you likes from other clueless recipients.

2. The Redundant Link
When you post a YouTube video, you first insert the URL in the box, and then Facebook creates a preview of that. That’s when you should remove the original YouTube link you just pasted, and either add your comment or leave it blank. I see so-called social media experts routinely making this mistake. This applies to any link type. It just looks ugly.

3. The Autolike
That’s just not allowed.

4. Vaguebooking
Urban Dictionary defines this as «An intentionally vague Facebook status update, that prompts friends to ask what’s going on, or is possibly a cry for help». You shouldn’t do it.

5. The Countdown

This is a variation on vaguebooking. It’s a very cheesy way of fishing for attention.

6. Addressing people who just gave you a like
This is the Facebook equivalent of calling someone back after they texted you. It’s intrusive. Plus it makes you look really dumb once the second like comes in, because then no one will know who the hell you’re talking to. And it slashes the chances of that person giving you a like in the future, fearing you’ll take the opportunity to start an unwanted conversation again.

7. Putting up fake cool places as your hometown

Judging by Facebook, New York City has a population of approximately 60 million.

8. Your newborn as a profile pic

There’s just no stopping people from forcing down your throat the fact that they can reproduce. Yet it’s probably less creepy than creating a whole new profile for the infant altogether.

9. The Reflex Selfie

This was cool for about 5 seconds the first time someone ever did it. Now it’s incredibly lame: if you’re a photographer, that’s a pretty desperate way of advertising that. If you’re not, then it’s probably a self-involved way of showing you’re artistic. What it really shows is that you own a reflex camera and you want to hide your face.

10. The shared profile
That’s so annoying even Facebook doesn’t like it. So they have launched a new ‘couples’ page, presumably to mitigate the problem. I don’t really know what that is, but you can look it up here.

11. The Feminist Support Group

Here’s how this works: some perfectly normal, average looking woman (possibly past her prime age-wise) posts a vaguely sexy looking picture of herself, often a selfie. At which point a good portion of her female friends feel obliged to comment on how gorgeous she looks. Often by using typically masculine remarks. The unwritten rule is that you should then do the same as the occasion arises. It’s a cheap way of distributing some hollow, feel-good compliments. You can tell when this dynamic is in effect because not a single guy either likes or comments.

Do you have any Facebook pet peeves?

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Do You Have to be Mad to be a Scientist?

Great Scott!

“Doc” Brown, from Back to the Future, is peculiar among fictional scientists, because he’s not a villain. A survey of about about 1,000 horror films released between 1930 and 1980 reveals that in about a third of the movies, the bad guy is a mad scientist. And while scientific research produces about 40 percent of the threats, scientists are heroes in just one every ten films. But even though Doc is an outlier in intent, he still looks the part: his appearance is modeled after the most famous scientist of all time.

That’s wonderful, right? The greatest genius of them all showing you his quirky side. Nearly everyone will be able to tell you that this is Albert Einstein: good luck having people recognize any other scientist from a photograph. That’s because Einstein is obviously very famous, but also because this photograph conforms beautifully to the stereotype of the mad scientist. This other picture of him is not quite as popular:

But this is the guy you want! He’s the one who came up with the theory of Special Relativity and discovered the photoelectric effect, for which he got a Nobel Prize: both accomplishments came in 1905, when Einstein was 26 years old, working at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern, Switzerland. Take a look at good old Charles Darwin, here:

He’s 65 in this iconic photograph, looking like an old sage. Which is probably what you expect him to look like, because we’re somehow primed to associate science with long, white beards. When he boarded the HMS Beagle and started a voyage that would take him around the world and inspire the theory of evolution, he looked more like this:

He was just 22. And he had already become a celebrity in scientific circles by 1836, at the age of 25. So much for the old man that looks like Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings.

James Maxwell, probably the greatest physicist of all time after Newton and Einstein (who kept a photograph of him in his study), wrote an essay about the nature of Saturn’s rings in 1859, aged 28, which remained our best understanding of the problem until the Voyager flybys in the 1980s. He produced his seminal contributions to electromagnetism before he turned 30. Edison and Tesla laid the foundations for their War of Currents in their early 30s. And beloved physicist Richard Feynman developed his Feynman Diagrams, which he would use to formulate the theories that won him a Nobel Prize, in his late 20s.

You get the gist of it. Great science comes from young people. But we’re stuck with this ridiculous stereotype of a hoary old man with goggles and smoking flasks. The scientific community is well aware of the problem. Nobel laureate Harry Kroto goes as far as calling the iconic old Einstein “an imposter”, in a brilliant presentation during which he raises this very point. A group of researchers even published a paper, called Breaking down the stereotypes of science by recruiting young scientists, to suggest that the stereotype should be fought by engaging kids in science at an early age.
They write, «If you ask the average ten year old in America what a scientist looks like, they almost always describe an older man with crazy white hair and a lab coat. Students are often repeatedly confronted with stereotypes of science and scientists via television, cartoon, and comic book characters as well as uninformed adults or peers».

Up until 1905, over 60 percent of Nobel laureates had completed their prize-winning work before turning 40, and about 20 percent did it before 30. But by 2000, things had changed: less than 20 percent of winners in physics were rewarded for research concluded before they were 40, and in chemistry the percentage dropped to nearly zero. There are of course many factors at work here, including the fact that it now takes longer to complete your academic training compared to a century ago. But it doesn’t help that the young are forced to perceive science as something that must be in the hands of the old (and crazy).

In 2005, an Australian physician named Barry Marshall won the Nobel Prize for medicine: he discovered that ulcers, forever thought to be the work of stress, food, and acid, were actually caused by bacteria, so they could easily be cured with antibiotics. But when he first proposed the idea in 1982, at the age of 31, he was a young doctor from Perth (not the scientific center of the world by any means) trying to overturn a long-standing principle of medical doctrine: he was ridiculed and no scientific journal accepted to publish his study. So he had to ingest the bacteria himself to prove that he was right.

Stereotypes are very sticky, and this one seems to work particularly well. Einstein used to say, «A person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so». While this may be debatable today, it is essential to engage young people earlier on and get rid of this mad scientist crap. Even at the cost of no longer being allowed to say: «Great Scott!».

The Snooze Dilemma

Waking up is hard to do.

So, to snooze or not to snooze? Well, it turns out that snoozing, like many enjoyable things in life, is critically bad for you. And you shouldn’t do it. Here’s why.

First of all, waking up is hard because your body goes through a series of changes. While you sleep, temperature, heart rate and blood pressure all decrease, and you get high on serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter that explains why your bed feels so much cozier in the morning than at night. If you align yourself properly with your circadian rhythm, by waking up at roughly the same time every day, your body knows. And in the hour before alarm time, it starts to drag you out of that pit by warming up your metabolism. This is an ideal situation, and explains why you sometimes open your eyes just minutes before your designated wake up time. If, nevertheless, you’re still sleepy and hit the snooze button, this gets in the way of that natural reboot process, creating a chemical imbalance in your body, which is now pumping dopamine, the antagonist of serotonin. The end result is a befuddled mess. On the other hand, if you’re not getting enough sleep in the first place and you’re off your natural rhythm, snoozing might become irresistible. But in this case, you risk falling back into deep sleep, only to be ripped out of it nine minutes later. That works against every natural process evolution has devised to ease you out of sleep, and wreaks havoc with your metabolism. Also, it generally prompts you to just snooze again. And again.

In other words, snooze time is never good. Unfortunately, when you need to make that assessment you’re a groggy half-human who’d kill for sleep. But snoozing is not always a snap judgment: some people construct elaborate snooze routines with multiple alarms that start up to an hour before their actual wake up time, thinking that’s the only way they can make it out of bed. Instead, they just subject themselves to an hour of useless, fragmented sleep that does nothing to soothe their bodies.

But wait, why is snooze time traditionally fixed at exactly nine minutes? Apparently it has to do with standardized gears inside alarm clocks in the 1950s: the snooze cog had to fit with existing ones and it could be set at either 9 or 10 minutes. The choice fell on 9, because 10 minutes was thought to be enough to “fall back into deep sleep”.
Another explanation that I like better has to do with cheap electronic components: with a 9 minute snooze, a digital alarm clock only has to “watch” the last digit to know when to go off again. This allows for simpler circuitry to be devoted to the function, and ultimately makes the clock cheaper to make.

Resisting the temptation to snooze is not easy. It’s an interesting problem because it creates a conflict between your present self (“I want to wake up on time tomorrow”) and your future self (“I want to sleep right now”), a staple of behavioral economics. So, alarm clock manufacturers have learned about this and sell an array of devices that nudge you into waking up. The Clocky alarm, for example, lets you snooze once, and then literally comes to life, jumps off your nightstand, and finds a place to hide, all the while blasting an ear-ripping alarm sound. You’re then forced to go find it and switch it off.
The Puzzle alarm is even more taxing on your fragile, unstable cognitive functions: the moment it goes off, it explodes a jigsaw puzzle and won’t stop until you have correctly solved it. But honestly, I don’t think anyone actually wants to incorporate a ridiculous-looking, self-hiding alarm into their lifestyle: a week into using it your rational, present self will just go ‘what the hell’ and give up. By then you’ll either have learned the lesson or gone back to snoozing.

Still, the best anti-snooze alarm of all is, hands down, the SnuzNLuz. It gets you on your toes by making donations to political causes you hate, every time you hit the button.

Alas, it doesn’t really exist. It has a product page at Thinkgeek.com, but it’s nothing more than an April Fool’s prank. But, ThinkGeek has turned joke products into reality before, so you never know.

Perhaps the SnuzNLuz has taken a cue from Stickk, a website that encourages you to commit to a goal by setting up a financial stake. No wonder, it was founded by a group of Yale economists and it capitalizes on the fact that we are all instinctively loss averse.
If you want to commit to going the gym regularly, for example, you can set up a weekly attendance goal and create a contract; whenever you fail to report in, Stickk will send some of your money to an anti-charity of your choice (options include the NRA, the Pro-Choice Foundation, and the Manchester United Fan Club).

So, what should you do? At the risk of sounding obnoxious, you should really try to get enough sleep in the first place: chronic sleep deprivation is one of the worst things you can do to your body, as it impairs your cognitive functions, your memory and your learning abilities. And you should never snooze anyway, not even when you’d sell your soul for five more minutes. How? By understanding that under no circumstances, and in absolutely no way, snoozing is going to make your day any better. Yes, you’ll get that brief, blissful feeling of being wrapped into the sheets again, but you’ll pay the price. We’re not good at resisting temptation, even when we know that doing so will pay off, but it’s never too late too learn. People who can delay gratification do better in life.
You might just start by learning not to snooze.

The Plastic Brain of Taxi Drivers

What’s special about London taxi drivers? They have enlarged brains.

They’re not mutants. If you want to become a cabbie in London, you have to undergo a daunting test called The Knowledge. To pass, you must be able to plot the shortest route between any two of the city’s 25,000 streets, and point out any relevant landmark along the way (there are about 20,000 in all). Preparing for this mind-boggling endeavor takes three to four years, spent mostly driving around in a scooter with a map placed on the handlebars – remember that if you spot one in the city, it makes for a good story.

Fewer than 35 percent of applicants are granted a license, not surprisingly. What’s surprising is that London cabbies are responsible for disproving one of the longest-standing foundations of neuroscience: that the brain, unlike other organs, stops growing shortly after childhood and is incapable of spawning new neurons. A study conducted on 79 training cabbies had them undergo an MRI scan after three years of learning London topography. Their posterior hippocampus, an area of the brain involved with spatial navigation, was found to have acquired additional grey matter: it was, on average, 7 percent larger than before the training.

This phenomenon, the brain’s ability to rearrange itself and change its physical structure, is called neuroplasticity. It’s one of many reminders of how little we know about the human brain. Recent research from Sweden shows that this growth is linked to specific types of activity. This time, MRI scanners were used on interpreters learning a new language from scratch and comparing them to cognitive science students: while organs in the control group remained unchanged, over just three months the interpreters showed growth in the hippocampus (again) and in the cerebral cortex, which is quite understandably involved with language. This confirms previous research that revealed how bilingual children have superior brain functionality in some areas, and how being bilingual can delay the onset of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.

It seems you can teach an old dog new tricks. But when it comes to the brain, not everything has a tangible effect. What about those Brain Training games, then? Nintendo and other companies maintain that by playing them regularly you can “keep your brain young”, citing dubious research. It’s a good marketing effort and by no means the worse kind of manipulation of science, but sadly it is not true. Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons dismiss the issue in their brilliant book, The Invisible Gorilla: «If you think that doing Sudoku will keep your mind sharp and help you avoid misplacing your keys or forgetting to take your medicine, you’re likely succumbing to the illusion of potential. Unfortunately, people who do more crosswords decline mentally at the same rate as those who do fewer crosswords. Practice improves specific skills, not general abilities».

In other words, what you get by playing Brain Training is that you get better at Brain Training. But there is a very easy way to improve your mental abilities, and it’s got nothing to do with puzzles. It’s called exercise. Engaging in physical activity increases production of a protein that keeps nerve cells healthy, giving you better mental skills. This has been proven by different studies on humans and rats, as you can read in this New York Times article, opened by a very odd illustration.

For both rodents and men, walking or running for just a few hours a week improves cognitive functions and, of course, physical fitness. And people who exercise actually have larger brains in later life. On the other hand, data reveals that sitting for more than three hours a day can shorten your life span by as much as two years. So, say goodbye to “Dr Kawashima” and get out of that chair. Your brain will be grateful.

The Paradox of Pleasure

Which would make you a happier person, winning the lottery or being in a car crash that leaves you paraplegic?

The answer to this apparently illogical question is, well, neither. Studies show that people who go through these radically different life experiences tend to revert, over time, to their previous level of satisfaction. Winning the lottery will send you to cloud nine for a while, but in a couple of months you’ll be back to where you started, no matter what you do with the money. Even more interestingly, ending up in a wheelchair will destroy you morale in the short run, but over the same amount of time you will again fall back to roughly the same happiness level as before the accident (psychologists call this your set point).

This rather disconcerting trait of human nature is called Hedonic Adaptation, and it was first studied in the 1970s, analyzing precisely the effects of lottery wins and debilitating accidents. Humans have an amazing ability to adjust to the hardships of life: that’s how people carry on after devastating losses and terrible misfortunes. On a more philosophical level, this also means that single life events, no matter how bad or good, do not necessarily alter our existence and might lead to very unexpected consequences. Winston Churchill, writing in his biography, remarked on this: «One must never forget when misfortunes come that it is quite possible they are saving one from something much worse; or that when you make some great mistake, it may very easily serve you better than the best-advised decision. Life is a whole, and luck is a whole, and no part of them can be separated from the rest».

This explains why people who go through terrible illnesses or other life-threatening events often sport a renewed outlook on life (think of how many times Michael J. Fox remarked that his life has been so much better since he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease), but it also carries a few unwanted side-effects. It makes it really hard to find happiness, for instance: just like you get used to the bad stuff, you make quick work of the good things as well. This is the Hedonic Treadmill, a perilous exercise that takes the fitness away from your mood. Think of the last time you bought a brand new car: how long did it take before the excitement of driving it wore off? Don Draper put it best in an episode of Mad Men: «What is happiness? It’s just a moment before you need more happiness».

We’re not very good at understanding how we derive pleasure from things. For example, when you’re doing something you hate, like filling out tax forms, you’re always happy to take a break. But when you’re having a good time, you don’t want to interrupt it: nobody wants to get out of the hot tub to pick up the phone. But it turns out we’re dead wrong: separating yourself from a dreaded task makes coming back to it a lot harder, and gets you through the painful process of starting it again. But getting back to something good reignites the pleasure, leaving you with a greater overall satisfaction that cancels out the annoyance of the interruption.

It gets worse. You might think that when evaluating an experience, like a vacation, you rationally weigh all factors and take everything into account. In fact, we tend to judge experiences mostly on how they peaked and ended. This is called, not surprisingly, the peak-end rule and it’s vastly counterintuitive. To imagine this, think of taking a vacation to Hawaii for a week, in two different scenarios. In the first one, you nearly miss your flight because of traffic and, when you get to the islands, it rains for three straight days. But then a gorgeous sunshine comes out, you enjoy the remaining four days, and on the flight back you get bumped to first class for free, arriving home nice and rested. In the second scenario, you get upgraded to first class on the way to Honolulu and enjoy four days of fantastic weather, but then the rain starts. As you grudgingly step off the plane on the way back after having spent the last three days indoors, your find out that your luggage has been lost and you spend an hour filling out forms at the airline desk. Which of the two experiences do you think would leave you more satisfied?

Great psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman coined the idea and conducted a famous study about this in the mid 1990s, focusing on the rather displeasing procedure of colonoscopy, in which a probe is inserted through the anus to inspect the bowels for tumors; the study investigated ways to increase the likelihood that a patient would accept a follow-up procedure in the future. Remembering the peak-end rule and knowing that the discomfort is felt mostly when the instrument is moving, Kahneman suggested that doctors leave it in for a few more minutes at the end, motionless, instead of immediately removing it. Patients treated this way rated the procedure as less painful, even though they had the instrument inside them for longer.

Fortunately, there are ways to fight back. How can you escape the hedonic treadmill, for instance? By buying experiences rather than objects. Research shows that spending money on transient rather than constant experiences will leave you with a much greater level of satisfaction. The memory of something you’ve done or learned can be revisited and stays with you forever, whereas the appeal of a brand new purchase soon fades away. So if you were undecided between that concert ticket and a new pair of shoes, you know what to do now. Happy memories.

The Sweet Side of Nobel Prizes

What is the best predictor of a country’s ability to produce Nobel winners? Chocolate.

Wait, what?
Yes, a study is promoting the idea that countries that consume more chocolate produce more Nobel laureates. It’s been published on a scientific journal by a New York cardiologist, who got the idea from his research into flavanols, a type of antioxidants that help keep the brain young. Since chocolate in rich in them, he tried to plot a statistical correlation between the taste for chocolate and mental prowess. Amazingly, he found it worked: Switzerland, the country with the highest per capita chocolate consumption in the world, has given birth to more Nobel laureates than anyone else. China, who has a modest appetite for it, just two. The only country that deviates from the plot is Sweden: the chocolate predictor allows for just 14 of the 28 Nobels won by Swedes. But you could dismiss that entirely on the understandable bias the Nobel committee might have toward fellow compatriots.

But wait, is this guy for real? Well, even though the study is clearly light-hearted, the numbers are sound. The linear correlation between chocolate consumption and Nobel prizes is 0.791, where 1 would be a perfect match. That’s a very high value for social factors, and it shoots up to 0.862 if you don’t take sneaky Sweden into account. (In statistics, this number is called the Pearson correlation coefficient. Another factor that measures the probability of chance mudding the results, the p-value, is even better: p<0.0001. The target threshold is p<0.05, and lower is better).

There’s more research centered around strange predictors. What can you use to estimate the level of corruption of a country? Tips. A study conducted by the Harvard Business School on data from 32 countries found that high rates of corruption and high rates of tipping (or ‘prosocial gratuities’, as they call them) go together. Why? If you consider a tip as a way to ensure good service in the future, that is similar, in a way, to a bribe. So, tipping and corruption might both stem from the same predicament and their correlation is statistically measurable (The Pearson coefficient in this study was 0.6).

One of the most fascinating statistical correlations I’ve ever encountered links rainy days to admission rates at a Canadian medical school: fewer candidates were accepted when the weather was gloomy.  We all know that weather affects how we feel, but the notion that you should try to sustain job interviews when the sun is shining takes the idea to another level. (The p-value in this study was a decent 0.042).

The real jungle of strange predictors is economy. Sales of various items are periodically linked to its health. The trend was started by Alan Greenspan in the 1970s, when he said he looked at sales of men’s underwear as an indicator of how the economy was doing.
The assumption is that refreshing your underwear lineup will not be your top priority if you have trouble making the ends meet.

In the wake of this, researchers have come up with many different ways to assess the current state of the economy. Take the Box Index, for example: it measures the production levels of cardboard boxes used to ship everyday goods like beer, toothpaste or cereal. When they plunge, it’s because sales are slow. But that’s boring, right? Much more interesting is the idea the the length of women’s skirts might be tied to how much money is going around. The New York Magazine calls it the Hot Waitress Index: the hotter the waitress, the weaker the economy. Why? Because they attract more business when the money flow decreases. Sexist all you want, but effective. There’s more very weird indicators, including the number of unclaimed corpses at the morgue (funeral services are not cheap), mosquito infestations (home foreclosures create favorable breeding grounds), and the cover of Sport Illustrated magazine. Business Insider has a list.

And since you’ve made it this far, I might as well ask you: what’s in the picture that opens this post? A chocolate fountain? Chocolate pouring from the Heavens? Nope. It’s a lamp.

It’s called the Nemo ChocoLite Lamp and it’s made by Italian furniture manufacturer Cassina. So don’t underestimate the power of chocolate on the human brain yet.

Heisenberg’s Television Principle

The Associated Press reported today that a new type of methamphetamine from Mexico is flooding the US. It is said to be “of the purest quality” and coming from “high-tech labs”. Furthermore, it has “a clearer, glassier appearance, usually with a clear or bluish-white color”. Bluish-white color? Hang on a minute…

The HuffPost has already sniffed the connection: it’s a bewildering idea, that some Cartel drug lord might be trying to play Heisenberg, the chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-artist from the fantastic TV series Breaking Bad. Someone was already selling ‘blue meth’, but it was just sugar crystals from a particularly avant-garde Albuquerque candy shop.

There’s a running debate on how TV and especially reality TV is affecting, well, reality. For example, on how series like Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant are influencing the behavior of young girls. Regardless of how pregnancy and its consequences are depicted in these shows, the mere exposure and the power of social norms might have a stronger impact on viewers than the producers would expect.

Social norms can be used very effectively as an incentive toward desirable behavior. Consider the message you find in hotel bathrooms that tries to persuade you to reuse your towels. A study has found that people are 26 percent more likely to do so when the message states that most hotel guests reuse their towels at least once, as opposed to a general plea to consider the environment. Obama’s advisors used a similar tactic to entice voters to go to the polls in 2008, by spreading the word that a record voter-turnout was expected and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy (turnout increased by 5 million in the 2008 elections). You generally tend to do what others are doing. You don’t want to be the odd one out.

Similarly, if you tell a teenage girl that she shouldn’t get pregnant because a lot of her peers are carelessly doing so and ruining their lives, that’s probably not going to dramatically affect her decisions. Saying, however, that most girls in her school are taking precautions to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STDs is usually much more effective. A TV show centered around pregnant young girls gives that idea an aura of ‘normality’ that might have unintended effects. The psychology involved in how television modulates people’s behavior might be more subtle than you think.

People will act inadvertently badly under the influence of fictional stories. You don’t think a cute film like Finding Nemo would cause any evil, but after its release sales of clownfish briefly exploded due to thousands of kids nagging parents to take one home. Most were treated like goldfish and put in freshwater bowls (they are marine fish that require lots of care), where they would survive only a matter of hours. Some kids even intentionally flushed them down the toilet to set them free, recreating events from the film. But no matter how heartbreaking that is, dead fish do not stack up with pregnant teenagers and metheads.

Nat Geo is currently airing a show called Doomsday Preppers, about people who believe the apocalypse is nigh and are prepping for it, generally by stacking up massive amounts of foodstuffs and guns. They each have their own impending doom scenario (economic collapse, earthquakes, polar shifts, radiation, you name it), but it’s mostly irrelevant: they just want to invest every resource they have into preparing for the worst.

It’s easy to think that these people might have been influenced by the recent flurry of post-apocalyptic movies and series. This creates a curious recurrence: preppers may have been influenced by a TV show, and they now have their own, potentially influencing others. Mostly, preppers are extreme right-wing xenophobic hoarders who come up with a bullshit excuse for the end of the world so they can cave in to their fears and isolate themselves. And buy lots of assault rifles. What’s lamentable about Doomsday Preppers is that it doesn’t do much to instill the doubt that these might be dangerous, delusional sociopaths. Or if you don’t care for that, that it’s wiser to put your money into a savings account rather than buying boatloads of food and ammo. At least, after every segment, the world-ending scenario invoked by each prepper is properly debunked, but that doesn’t do enough to sway the balance of the show. I’m afraid it might be inspiring even more xenophobic hoarding.

Breaking Bad has endless artistic merits and I love it dearly. But it’s full of elegantly designed, sticky ideas about drug trafficking. It was just a matter of time before someone tried to turn them into reality.