NꙮW WITH MꙮRE MULTIꙮCULAR ꙮ

Links for March

One of the US government’s anti-Castro plots was to fake the Second Coming using pyrotechnics and then have Illusory Jesus demand that the Cubans overthrow their government. This totally would have worked in Oz The Great And Powerful.

So we already know that the average person can’t taste the difference between a $10 and a $10,000 bottle of wine. But what about coffee? Experts try a blind taste test of some prestigious and less prestigious brands.

Afghanistan’s first female mayor proves critics wrong. A really inspirational story – sort of: “She is now referred to as “Mr Mayor” by her community, a title that conveys respect in a country not known for women’s rights.” Also interesting for its take on the perverse incentives involved at only throwing money at Afghan regions that have terrorists.

One of the cutest marriage proposals ever: Two Body Interactions: A Longitudinal Study

The conventional wisdom is that you’re liberal in college but once you get exposed to the real world you become conservative. Here’s a story of the opposite. It is possible that the real world is horrible, and whether this makes you more liberal or conservative depends on whether you have more real-world exposure to the free market or to the government?

The election of a new Pope is a good time to notice that, despite the narrative of Catholic decline, the Church is larger than ever both in absolute numbers and percent share of the population. And the number of priests is starting to increase again, even in Western countries.

It’s also a good time to remember interesting saints, like St. Christina The Astonishing. But my personal favorite is (the apocryphal) St. Expeditus, who depending on your version of history may be a Roman legionary, a voodoo demon, or a comical misinterpretation of a packaging label (and who is also the patron saint of people trying to fight procrastination). As for non-Christian saints, it’s hard to beat the story of Gang Bing.

You know those outrageous multimillion dollar contracts basketball players get? Well, within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke.

rightists are more likely to buy name brand, leftists more likely to buy generic. Makes sense in light of some of our recent discussions about mental underpinnings of political ideology.

Paleo has taken a couple of big hits lately. Biology professor Marlene Zuk has written a book called Paleofantasy, arguing that the paleo diet doesn’t make sense because humans evolve quickly enough to adapt to dietary changes associated with civilization. I haven’t read this yet, but I’m hoping it’s the same argument as in “The Ten Thousand Year Explosion”, except aimed against low-status fringe groups instead of at popular sacred cows. That way I can kind of triangulate what an unbiased academic community thinks of the ideas involved by averaging the reaction to both books.

The other big hit is a study finding that mummies had clogged arteries, including those from hunter-gatherer tribes. First I want to wait to see if this result gets picked apart/anti-replicated. After that, well, it’s confusing for the paleo people, but really it should be at least a little confusing for everyone. Empirically hunter-gatherer groups don’t seem to get heart attacks, so what is the difference between their clogged arteries and ours?

Probably the best news of the year so far totally lost in the excitement: China will be closing down its forced labor camps.

A St. Patrick’s Day fact: our word “shenanigans” comes from the Irish for “I play the fox”.

Syria declares jihad on jihad, initiating what may be the first meta-jihad in history.

The Iranians are upset because Ahmadinejad hugged Hugo Chavez’s mother at his funeral, thus violating Islamic laws against men touching unrelated women. I declare meta-jihad against anyone who declares jihad on him over this.

Apparently everything useful or interesting is being destroyed this week? Google Reader is getting closed, Zeo is shutting down, and InTrade has mysteriously ceased to exist.

So now maybe we know how reservatrol and red wine work? Also within: a really interesting example of the methodological complexity of modern biochemical research.

I should work this into a future article on Reaction, but here’s a taster: happiness has been increasing over the past sixty years in most first world countries, including the United States.

And more good news: “wonder material” graphene may lead to cheap desalinization. Given that a lot of the grimmest predictions for the 21st century involved big conflicts over water, if this panned out it would be almost fusion-power-level good. Unfortunately, this only increases my suspicion that we can solve all environmental problems by being terrible thoughtless fools and waiting for science to come up with a clever patch for our irresponsibility.

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30 Responses to Links for March

  1. Misha says:

    I really wish the science was settled so I could figure out what I can eat. Not eating carbs seems to work for getting rid of fat for me, but who knows why?

    • Deiseach says:

      From my extensive research (a few evenings trawling the web), I can recommend that the most exhaustive scientific research almost unanimously agrees:

      Rainwater and moss. As much as you like (but not too much – careful of that obesity epidemic!)

      See, milk is good/bad for you, wine is good/bad for you, cut down/increase your carbs to get your metabolism working, lots of/as little as possible protein is the best choice, and fill up on/careful about those vegetables (remember they’re starchy! starch makes you fat/is burned off first) and fruit (remember there’s as much sugar in fruit as in processed foods, so fruit sugars cause/ameliorate diabetes mellitus!)

      Yep. Rainwater and moss. The only things I’ve not seen labelled as “I know we said this was good but now we’re saying this will kill you, and I know we said cut back on this or die but now we’re saying eat nothing but this”.

    • Hamcannon says:

      Keto (low-carb) has also been working well for me. It’s still not 100% settled science, but it activates particular kinds of biochemistry that happens to help.

      • Mary says:

        In the study of people who kept weight off long term, they found all sorts of diets worked, as long as people stuck to them.

  2. AJ from GA says:

    I would say the reason why hunter-gatherers didn’t get heart attacks was because they didn’t live long enough.

    Even today, when you see a country’s rate of heart attack and cancer on the rise, this is actually usually a good thing. It means their lives are improving. (Often. Of course there are always exceptions to generalizations.)

  3. Army1987 says:

    One of the US government’s anti-Castro plots was to fake the Second Coming using pyrotechnics and then have Illusory Jesus demand that the Cubans overthrow their government. This totally would have worked in Oz The Great And Powerful.

    Given this, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if that worked in the real world too.

  4. Army1987 says:

    the paleo diet doesn’t make sense because humans evolve quickly enough to adapt to dietary changes associated with civilization

    That would also mean that the optimal diet may depend on one’s ancestry. And, even not counting the obvious things such as northern Europeans being more tolerant to lactose, ISTR that there are indeed SNPs that influence whether (say) a Mediterranean diet will improve one’s health.

  5. Douglas Knight says:

    rightists are more likely to buy name brand, leftists more likely to buy generic. Makes sense in light of some of our recent discussions about mental underpinnings of political ideology.

    You talking about thrive/survive? Sounds backwards to me. I can see arguments both ways, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the one suffering confirmation bias.

    • Deiseach says:

      You also need to be sure that the “name brand” and “generic” aren’t been churned out by the same factory; the horse meat scandal over here involved both supermarket “own brand” cheap foods and brands that were “name brand” and so more expensive and thought to be better quality.

      Re: shenanigans – what? I’m Irish, and I can safely say that the nearest translation of “sionnachuighim” would be “(a) fox [sionnach] to me [chugham, preposition chuig “towards, in the direction of, approaching, facing”]”.

      There are three verbs “to play”: imir (as in play games, play sports); seinn (play music); súgradh (children playing, having fun). To play in the sense of act or pretend would be “lig”. There are two nouns for fox – sionnach and madra rua (literally “red dog”).

      I have never heard of an expression such as “I play the fox” and certainly never expressed in that fashion. This is one of those fudged-together etymologies, I suspect!

    • Charlie says:

      I was thinking authority / not-authority. But yeah, probably too loose to fit to a narrative.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, the reason I tend to buy name-brand is not because I have loads of money to spend, but because (a) generic or own-brands tend to be ‘cheapest possible ingredients used’ which means lots of fatty meat, fillers, etc. (b) when you use a specific brand of, for example, laundry detergent you know how much to use, how effective it is at cleaning and so forth from experience, but generic brands are a lottery – I tried one which worked way better than I expected and was very happy with it, but another one meant I had to use twice as much and so it was a case of ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ and (c) I like certain brands, dangit!

        • ThrustVectoring says:

          Better than just blindly picking either name-brand or generic is to get some value-of-information by trying them both and then figuring out if going generic is worth the price difference.

          There’s nothing wrong with buying name-brand if you tried the generic and it doesn’t work well enough to justify the extra cost. You’re leaving money on the table though, if you aren’t willing to try the generic once.

        • Deiseach says:

          I do try generics, but mainly I compare them with the name-brand stuff by reading the list of ingredients on both and seeing if one is better than another.

          For instance, just taking tomato ketchup as a random example, there are three choices for me: (1) name brand (2) supermarket own-brand (3) supermarket own-brand extra-budget version.

          I picked no. 2 because it was cheaper than the name brand and was better ingredients-wise; I did not pick no. 3 over no. 2 because even though it was much cheaper again, it was full of glucose-fructose syrup and the likes.

  6. Vilhelm S says:

    Re: the coffee tasting, note that Starbucks is currently selling “blond roast” coffee as an option. I guess they are in a New Coke kind of bind, all the coffee geeks agree that their coffee tastes burnt, but they have committed to it as the Starbucks flavour so it’s hard to change now.

  7. Dave Orr says:

    On the one hand, your link dumps are the highest quality and most interesting set I see. On the other hand, this is bad for me getting anything done.

    Re graphene, I happen to know a little bit about desal technology because I’ve invested in a couple that does water purification, and I’ve evaluated (and rejected) a couple of desal specific investments.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that there are a lot of promising lab technologies that could do really great things if they could be produced at scale, but once you actually dig into the kinds of problems you have to solve to get them to scale, the technology risk looks really really big. Which is why I’ve been passing on desal investments.

    Maybe Lockheed is big enough they can afford to spend a few tens of millions solving those kinds of problems, which this technology certainly has. (I evaluated a similar tech involving oriented carbon nanotubes.) I hope so, because it would be a gigantic win for society if they do.

  8. Doug S. says:

    Unfortunately, this only increases my suspicion that we can solve all environmental problems by being terrible thoughtless fools and waiting for science to come up with a clever patch for our irresponsibility.

    Sometimes we just use the equivalent of brute force; when ozone-layer-destroying CFCs were banned, the result was that people used the next-best thing.

  9. BenSix says:

    The best response to dogmatic paleoistas is to observe the success that people have consuming foods that would be alien to cavemen. Legumes, for example, are the most common feature of diets among peoples characterised by longevity. Which is not to say that eliminating processed crap and empty calories does not make lots of people look and feel good, at least in the short-term. One hopes, though, that if they must take carnivorism to extremes they don’t defy their evolutionary ancestors by propping up a modern system in which millions of animals are crammed into buildings and pumped full of drugs.

    Regarding, the basketballers, it is surely evidence that they should have been paid less. Most of them seem to have lost their cash because they pumped it all into doomed businesses. If they were not dazzled by abundance they might have been wiser…

    Come to think of it, that could be said about a lot of people…

  10. Deiseach says:

    The reservatrol article was good; so a big feed of turkey and red wine for the Christmas dinner will do us all good!

    🙂

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      I love these well-publicized studies that say that wine, chocolate, and such are good for us. Their vendors have the money to fund and publicize the studies. Because we like those foods … because we evolved to like those foods … because those who liked those foods survived longer … because those foods are good for us.

      Yes, yes, they don’t directly buy the studies, and longer survival does not equal better reproduction … except….

  11. Sniffnoy says:

    Etymonline is less sure about “shenanigans”.

    I gotta say I also don’t get what it is you’re implying with the namebrand/generic thing.

  12. suntzuanime says:

    If we can solve all environmental problems by being terrible thoughtless fools and waiting for science to come up with a clever patch for our irresponsibility, that’s great news. Terrible thoughtless foolishness is a lot of fun, and the only downside is that we end up needing patches for our irresponsibility. If we can trust science to provide them we make out like bandits.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The reason it worries me is that it seems potentially really bad if science consistently solves all of our problems, we get used to be being completely irresponsible and let our problem-solving institutions atrophy because we know science will clean up our mess, and then one day along comes a problem science can’t solve alone.

  13. Swimmy says:

    It is possible that the real world is horrible, and whether this makes you more liberal or conservative depends on whether you have more real-world exposure to the free market or to the government?

    Both the journalist and the kid in that article seem to think that strict break times are a horrible irrationality of the market, when they seem to be a product of regulation. They even mention that the business is worried about getting fined–by whom, exactly? Since lots of events in society are a mix of of government and market actions, you can blame almost any problem on the government or the market, and personal subjective impressions are going to carry the day most of the time.

    You can be subjected to some horrors that are indisputably market, or indisputably government, of course, but I’d imagine events like these that are horrible enough to change people’s minds are rare. I’d be that even most people subject to wrong-door drug raids don’t turn into libertarians afterward.

  14. Ben L says:

    The athlete’s wasted money was really interesting. I’d say I’m tempted to join the rip offs, but really I’d like a 1% service fee to just manage all their money, by which I mean give it to a bank to manage.

    • Ben L says:

      My tolerance to feel sorry for people who have tens of millions to lose is also rather minuscule.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, that was also raised in Britain a few years back; professional footballers who earned huge salaries and then blew all their money or had no concept of how to manage it when they retired or were ripped off by the people entrusted with its management.

        It was pointed out that a lot of these athletes were still relatively young men when they retired, had no other skills except their athletic abilities, had left school early or had only minimum education, and from a young age had been encouraged and trained in only one thing – their sporting skills.

        They had nothing else to fall back on when their careers were over, they hadn’t been trained to manage their finances the same way the rest of us have had to learn (when you’re nineteen and clubs are vying to pay millions for your contract, of course you’re not going to worry about what you’re going to live on when you’re thirty-eight) and that it was a case of “out of sight, out of mind” when they left their clubs and were left to their own devices.

  15. Mike Johnson says:

    Re: “hunter-gatherer groups don’t seem to get heart attacks, so what is the difference between their clogged arteries and ours?”

    Via the inestimableJohn Hawks: probably the pathogens or parasites they carried.

  16. Scott Alexander says:

    I think they are. They should be underneath the box where you’re typing your comment.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      There are two comment boxes, one right after the post before the comments and one at the very end. Only the first one generates a preview. Probably most people use the other, since it’s easier to find, not to mention in a more standard position.