Why did a secretive and moderately unethical giant Korean corporation purchase a big tract of land on the Canadian tundra, declare it was for an unspecified agricultural project, and then never grow any crops there? Hint: they recently bought a very well preserved mammoth specimen and sent it to one of their cloning labs.
The weird story of how a UFO cult built a clinic to surgically reverse female genital mutilation in Burkina Faso, and how they accuse the Catholic Church of thwarting them. Bonus: the head UFO cultist at the clinic was my college genetics professor.
Tips For Surviving If You Find Yourself In An English Folk Ballad (h/t Peter Scott)
There’s a lot of talk about Bitcoin use in Kenya. While it’s a little bit of an exaggeration to say that one third of Kenyans have Bitcoin wallets, the country’s combination of reliance on a mobile-phone based money-transfer service and high level of cross-border remissions makes it very fertile ground for cryptocurrency use. Also, how come Kenya can have a mobile-phone based money-transfer service and we can’t?
Awareness Weeks where speakers and artists earnestly tell people not to stigmatize certain groups may result in increased stigma of those groups, especially self-stigma. This does not surprise me. (h/t Kate Donovan)
Norway’s army, like America’s, has a problem with sexual harassment. Their solution was to encourage “a common mode where gender stereotypes had disappeared, or at least are less obvious” by making men and women share rooms and encouraging similar hairstyles. Norwegian women report a major decrease in sexual harassment.
This seems very implausible, but I include it because the study seems sufficiently meticulous: people have more positive emotions towards words typed primarily with the right hand. This must explain why everyone hates stewardesses but loves lollipops.
Study finds that 100% of children don’t like clowns, think they are scary. If this is true, how did clowns even come to exist? Was there this period when everyone thought clowns were happy and funny, and then some people put them in horror movies and made jokes about how scary they were and ruined them for the rest of us? Or were clowns always scary, but for some reason the circus industry was so bad at responding to market incentives that they adopted them anyway?
No, the government can’t save $400 million by changing its font.
Legalization of medical marijuana does not seem to increase, may decrease crime. I look forward to seeing a similar study of recreational marijuana in a couple of years, but in the meantime there’s always poorly controlled reports.
13th century philosopher Robert Grosseteste theorized physical mechanisms by which the ten nested crystal spheres of the universe might form. Scientists put his theories to the (mathematically simulated) test and find that small variations in the initial parameters can produce anything from ten crystal spheres to unstable spheres to infinite spheres to spheres that interlock through each other. Getting the ten nested spheres of our own (medieval vision of the) universe requires very careful fine-tuning. Then again, so do our own physical theories.
Laws are changing soon to permit Kickstarter style crowdfunded investment in new companies for as little as $100. I feel like this should be bigger news and in the long run might be one of the most important economic events of the decade.
Article: Science Compared Every Diet, And The Winner Is Real Food. So it is a combination of obvious – “real food” is better than “processed food” – and useless – what is “real food”? Is pasta real food? A turkey and cheese sandwich? A home-made cookie? For those of us who can’t eat apples straight off the tree three times a day, give us a little more guidance, please.
A Redditor wants advice on how to meet new people. But instead of posting on r/socialskills, he accidentally posts on r/socialism. The results are exactly what you would expect.
Costs of sequencing a genome have been dropping even faster than Moore’s Law for computer chips. Not sure how worried we should be about the pace seeming to level off in recent years.
Garden path sentences are one that momentarily mislead your language parser, for example “The girl told the story cried”. When you get to “cried”, you realize something must have gone wrong somewhere and have to double back and try alternate interpretations of the structure until you realize it meant “The girl [who was] told the story”. They’re a cool way to observe the hidden mechanisms of your brain at work. Here are twenty-one of them.
There’s a big debate in medical education between the people who think residents need strict limitations on the number of hours they can work to protect them from exploitation and to protect their patients from sleep deprivation-related mistakes – and the people who think dammit, I worked hundred hour weeks and that’s the only way to turn someone into a real doctor. The former group is in the ascendant now, but they’ve been dealt a big blow with a recent study finding limited duty hours do not improve patient safety. Meanwhile, even under the “strictly limited duty hour” rules, I worked seventy-five hours last week.
RAINN, the most important anti-rape charity, comes out against the concept of rape culture. In some sense, I agree. On the other hand, I think their position that it is all due to individual rapists being jerks is, while technically correct, denying the idea that people are influenced by a culture at all. I think my position would be that, while there is not a deliberate nationwide culture of excusing or promoting rape the way some people would have it, cultural factors affect the incidence of that crime the same as of every other type of crime and need to be considered. Also, in the process of investigating this I discovered that the largest organization for fighting false rape accusations really likes RAINN and urges all its members to donate to them. This is heartwarming in the same way as those pictures of cats and dogs snuggling with each other.
Oxytocin, previously lauded as the “cuddle hormone” and the “trust hormone”, reveals its dark side as a study finds it makes people more likely to lie to help a group. This comes a few years after a study finding that it can make people more racist. Overall this isn’t as big a conflict as people seem to think. It seems to active a sort of innate moral system, but the innate moral system just wants you to protect your in-group no matter what, which comes at the cost of broad principles (like honesty) and the out-group (like different races). Not especially paradoxical. But it does mean that my biggest nightmare has come true – someone has figured out a way to condemn cuddling as racist.
If we are to believe charts, the incidence of autism has more than doubled – not since 1900, or 1970, but in the last fourteen years, so that now 1/68 kids gets born with autism. But are we to believe the charts? The CDC finds that half the children born with autism now have normal or above-average intelligence, compared with only a third ten years ago and probably an infinitesmal fraction fifty years ago, which means probably people are more willing to diagnose it even absent severe limitations. I continue to get extremely annoyed that we use the same condition name to cover everything from such profound mental retardation that many of those who have it never learn language or are able to live without constant supervision to people who are slightly geekier than average and can find a few sensations they don’t like on a checklist. This seems possibly medically correct but socially prone to exactly the pathological and interminable debates we actually find ourselves in.
I’ve long suspected that obesity is partly genetic, and now we have probably found one of the genes involved. Seems to be involved in carbohydrate digestion, and and can change your odds of being obese by up to eight times. And it’s a copy-number variant, which is interesting because I’ve seen studies suggesting a lot of interesting things (eg aggression) are copy-number variants, and most modern genetic testing attempts don’t pick that up (they are limited to SNPs). If copy-number variants turn out to be really important, that could rescue some of them “none of our genetic testing ever finds genes that have a large effect on interesting psychosocial things even though we know they’re there” problem.
I’ve talked about how many promising medical ideas just sort of sit there, either unresearched or unadopted. Here’s an article in ACP Internist where an Idaho doctor suggests we add bacteriophage therapy to that list.
It’s generally assumed that lifting women out of poverty will also save them from violence because they will have more options. But in at least some cases, women who are wealthier or better-educated than their husbands are at greater risk of violence than poorer and less educated women. Ozy adds: “This is true in the US too, but might be reporting bias.”
Article confirms the obvious – children identified as “gifted” early on then grow up to become successful people who discover inventions, run businesses, or make amazing works of art. One might argue that the vast majority of value coming from an education system comes from what it does for gifted kids – giving them that tiny extra push they might need to cure cancer, invent nuclear fusion, or become the next Shakespeare will have more positive impact than a million construction workers becoming slightly smarter construction workers. And there’s a lot of evidence that even small interventions to help these children have spectacular effects – gifted children who are allowed to skip grades are 60% more likely to get doctorates and patents, and more than twice as likely to get STEM Ph.Ds, than a control group of equally gifted children who weren’t. And so in response to this state of affairs, schools: don’t let gifted children skip grades, refuse to stratify children by ability because it might offend someone, and allocate less than 1/2000th the funding for gifted education as it does to special education for low performers. China cannot take us over quickly enough.
Poooossibly related: according to the survey of student boredom 98% of kids are bored in school and 66% bored every day, including 33% bored because the work is too easy and 25% bored because the work is too hard.
Anagrammatron somehow finds tweets that are anagrams of each other.
Boycotting people and organizations who are intolerant of homosexuals may be illiberal, it may have chilling effects, and it may alienate exactly the people you are trying to convince – but at least it works, right?
Libertarian Police Department. This might be the closest I have ever come to literally ROTFL.
You know the paper’s going to be good because it’s called Biomarkers and Long-Term Labor Market Outcomes. And sure enough, they find that higher levels of creatine do better in the labor market, even when controlling for everything else. And I just heard from some of my psychiatrist friends that there are a couple of preliminary studies finding creatine to be pretty effective against depression (warning: everything is effective against depression in preliminary studies).
Researchers who discovered Ecstasy causes Parkinson’s disease retract their finding after realizing they accidentally used meth in the study instead of Ecstasy. I have a lot of respect for them for admitting it. Also, apparently meth causes Parkinson’s.
Slate Star Codex reader Thomas Eliot has a Kickstarter up for a Cthulhu-themed board game which you may check out and donate to if it suits your fancy.
You know how they found that caloric restriction increased lifespan, and then they found that it didn’t, and then they found that actually it did, and then they found that actually no it really didn’t? Well, now it does.