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Links For April 2014

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.

Article finds that 90% of academic papers are never cited, suggests up to 50% are never read by anyone except their authors and the peer reviewers. [EDIT: Likely exaggerated]

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.

The Thirty Most Unnecessary Uses Of Quotation Marks In History.

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.

Scientists discover brain area that causes Catholicism.

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.

One of my old articles, Who By Very Slow Decay, ended up on Reddit recently. And some of the comments by other medical people managed to horrify even me, who wrote the original.

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.

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97 Responses to Links For April 2014

  1. Nate Gabriel says:

    The worst punctuation sign I’ve seen just said “Our Saviors Lutheran Church.” It changes the meaning to a major departure from Christian orthodoxy, meaning it can only be called APOCRYPHAL APOSTROPHE APOSTASY.

  2. JTHM says:

    Both of the links in the paragraph about Who By Very Slow Decay ending up on Reddit just link to the post on your own blog. Did you mean for one of the links to point to Reddit?

  3. misha says:

    Damn so the diet that’s hardest to eat is the one that causes the most weight loss?

  4. adbge says:

    Bit of a nit. The “most papers are uncited” meme is, as far as I can tell, a myth. I spent some time in R with some citation data a few weeks ago confirming this. This conclusion is backed up by this report on the UK’s science performance, which finds that it’s more like a third of papers go uncited.

    Following your link, the article ends with:

    *UPDATE — March 18, 2014: We originally implied that the Faraday story was true, but, according to Snopes, that is not the case. There is also disagreement on the numbers cited from the University of Indiana study.

    Digging into the linked “disagreement on the numbers,” I find (emphasis mine):

    Evans’ assertion on the increasing concentration of citations reflects a widely held belief (Hamilton 1990; 1991) that most scientific articles are never cited, a common lore that comes back periodically in the literature (e.g. Meho, 2008; Macdonald and Kam, 2007). Though several empirical studies have challenged this belief (Abt, 1991; Garfield, 1998; Pendlebury, 1991; Schwartz, 1997, Stern, 1990, Van Dalen and Henkens, 2004)

    All of which I’m too lazy to pursue further.

    That most papers (as of late, at least) are cited is echoed by their own findings:

    Indeed, whereas citations received were concentrated on 10% to 20 % of published papers at the beginning of the last century and on about half of all papers at the beginning of the Seventies, in 2005, the last year for which we have a complete two-year citation window, citations were distributed among 80% of published papers in MED, 60% of papers in NSE and 55% of papers in SS.

    Except for the humanities, about which no one seems to care:

    In fact, only the broad field of HUM behaves differently, as it does with regard to several other aspects of scholarly communication, such as collaboration (Larivière, Gingras and Archambault, 2006) and the use of serials (Larivière, Archambault, Gingras and Vignola-Gagné, 2006).

    From the study’s graphics it looks like maybe 17% of humanities papers are cited after 5 years.

    Searching more broadly, this paper reports “The median number of Google Scholar citations is 2 to 3.” A little high, but the paper also notes that Google Scholar is not that hot at indexing humanities research, maybe explaining the skew.

    So probably the typical paper is cited once-ish.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Bit of a nit” is a good curse that I will attempt to use in the future.

    • Vaniver says:

      Are you disambiguating “cited by their author” and “cited by someone else”?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Although there are conflicting standards, the effect is in the opposite direction: people who claim to exclude self-citations are the ones that claim that there are more citations.

        The claim that 90% of papers are not cited has no source or methodology. It is probably a fabrication. The paper that claims that most non-humanities papers are cited makes that claim after excluding first author self-citations. It is phrased in opposition to Evans, who does not seem to exclude self-citations.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Huh, thanks. I always assume at least one of the links I post will turn out to be wrong, but I’m surprised it was this one.

  5. novalis says:

    Pretty sure it was occasional SSC commenter AJD who told me this: it turns out that The Star Spangled Banner contains a garden path sentence: “Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?”

  6. Douglas Knight says:

    we use the same condition name to cover everything

    What is the alternative? Asperger’s was introduced specifically to combat this problem. Did it work? I don’t know, because everything, such as that CDC post, gives numbers for autism spectrum, presumably because they want the biggest number possible. That people reading press releases are confused by this seems like a small cost. In fact, I have heard that it did work and all the increase in diagnosis of autism proper is in people who also diagnosed as mentally retarded, thus not increasing the pool of people who are diagnosed with something (excluding Asperger’s).

    SNPs: actually, the statistical significance of SNPs is not taken to indicate direct causal action. In most cases, it is probably that the SNP is in linkage disequilibrium with the causally relevant change. But that change could be anything, including a copy number variant.

    The study of smart kids is not at all obvious. The point is not that smart kids become smart adults, but that the measurement of intelligence works very far out on the scale. The kids who are 1 in 40,000 at age 13 remain measurably more productive than the mere 1 in 10,000 group.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Sorry for likely ignorant questions, but why is SNP-linkage a good way to check for copy-number variants? Is it because the first person to get a certain copy number had a certain SNP, and so this link is preserved? But don’t copy-numbers change pretty quickly, and more than one time? Aren’t most SNPs common, so that it would be the first person to get the copy-number, plus a million people who didn’t have that copy number?

      What percent of copy number variations do you think are are detectable through SNPs? (I would be happy with an answer within an order of magnitude). What do you think the sensitivity and specificity of those SNPs is?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Yes, that is the meaning/use of linkage disequilibrium. So, yes, the faster the rate of mutation, the worse it will work. In particular, it won’t work as well for CNV as for other mutations, but I don’t think CNV is that fast. Yes, the typical SNP used is 1%, pretty common. I don’t know any numbers for what the linkage disequilibrium actually is between a typical gene and its nearest SNP, let alone how much you can predict using several SNPs.

        I guess this is tangential, but when they look at a small population of related people, like from a single town, or even the big town of Iceland, then there has been less time to reach equilibrium, so these methods work better. SNPs should be close to perfectly predictors of the rest of the genome. At least, that’s what Decode says. And when they have done studies of samples from a single town, the SNPs additively predict height and IQ with accuracy matching previous measurements of additive heritability.

  7. Konkvistador says:

    On education see the main points of Charles Murray’s book Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality

    1. Ability varies
    2. Half of the children are below average
    3. Too many people are going to college
    4. The future of America depends on how they educate the academically gifted

    And yes not so much schools but the entire culture of education Western society has created systematically ignores and denies these.

    • Doug S. says:

      Half the children are below the median, but this does not necessarily mean that half the children are below average – if the IQs of the people in a group of four 105, 105, 105, and 85, three-quarters of the group have above average IQs. There are lots of things that cause brains not to work properly (blunt force trauma, Down’s syndrome, etc.), so it’s likely that there are more people with severe disabilities dragging the average down than there are geniuses pulling the average up.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I find life is much more pleasant if I assume that everyone means “median” by “average.” And many of them do! Not to mention that half the time mean doesn’t make sense.

      • Kibber says:

        Isn’t IQ normally distributed?

  8. Konkvistador says:

    “China cannot take us over quickly enough.”

    Accelerationism with Landian characteristicis.

    • Amanda L. says:

      Could you elaborate? I found a short wikipedia article on accelerationism and am not sure what Landian means.

      • ozymandias says:

        Land is, I assume, Nick Land. You can find his blog over on the sidebar, it is named Xenosystems.

      • James James says:

        Accelerationism is people who want capitalism to accelerate because they think it will collapse and they want to bring forward the collapse of capitalism.

        Nick Land wants capitalism to accelerate because he thinks it won’t collapse, and he identifies capitalism with a sort of singularity.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, I probably was accidentally channeling him there. It’s a nice break from my usual hobby of accidentally channeling Eliezer.

  9. Daniel H says:

    Thanks for the link to the signs, I found them quite “amusing”.

    (warning: everything is effective against depression in preliminary studies)

    This would have been useful to know when you were doing the Two Truths and a Lie dermatology quiz. I’m now re-lowering my confidence in Botox as an alternative antidepressant.

    • Anthony says:

      (warning: everything is effective against depression in preliminary studies)

      Is this something like the possibly-apocryphal story about changing the lighting at some factory, where it’s the fact that someone’s trying to make things better that makes people feel better, not what they’re actually trying?

      Alcohol is probably effective against depression in preliminary studies.

      • Geirr says:

        >Is this something like the possibly-apocryphal story about changing the lighting at some factory, where it’s the fact that someone’s trying to make things better that makes people feel better, not what they’re actually trying?

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Probably not, because a lot of these studies are placebo-controlled.

  10. JPol says:

    I’m pretty sure that dominant (numbers-wise) feminist views don’t hold that things like rape culture or patriarchy are deliberate. I can’t tell if you’re adding that they do, but it’s a common enough view that it seemed useful to mention.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am aware that feminists say “We do not believe rape culture is deliberate”, even as every example they give of it is deliberate and every definition they give of it involves deliberate action.

      This doesn’t seem to me much different from an equivocation tactic common to every political group, like when religious people who are put on the spot say “We believe God is just another name for the urge to goodness inside all of us,” and then when they’re not on the spot praying for their sick children to get well and threatening that unbelievers will burn in Hell.

      I certainly don’t think feminists believe men are sitting together in some smoke-filled room and plotting ways they can trivialize rape more.

      I do think that they believe rape culture comes from deliberate decisions by men not to care about rape. The examples you can find on any “What Rape Culture Is” website are things like (and I am copying these from one such): “Blaming the victim (she asked for it!)” and “trivializing sexual assault (Boys will be boys!)”.

      Which seem to fall within any definition of deliberate action other than the most outrageous and impossible ones like the aforementioned smoke-filled room.

      Compare to “theft culture”. I don’t think anyone has claimed that America is a “theft culture”, but there are certainly aspects of our culture that make theft much more common here than it is in, say, Japan. And it has nothing to do with evil people grinning and saying “Ha ha, theft, well, I bet the victim was asking for it. I don’t believe theft victims are really human anyway so I’m not going to care!”

      That is the distinction I’m trying to make between “deliberate” and “non-deliberate”

      • AJD says:

        I don’t understand what connection you think you’re drawing between such examples of what rape culture is and “deliberate decisions by men not to care about rape”. (In general people don’t make “deliberate decisions” about what not to care about to begin with.)

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        And it has nothing to do with evil people grinning and saying “Ha ha, theft, well, I bet the victim was asking for it. I don’t believe theft victims are really human anyway so I’m not going to care!”

        This has absolutely not been my experience. As a lower-class poor white person, I have personally had the following arguments made to my face, by police officers and other authority figures:

        – Well, you shouldn’t own such an expensive computer if you can’t afford to live in a low-crime area (never mind it’s several years old, I bought it used, I assembled it myself by hand, etc.)

        – You probably just left your door open. Yeah, you said you didn’t, but people around here don’t bother to protect their things since they know they can just buy more with their welfare checks.

        – If you don’t want your things to get stolen, you should buy an alarm (in an area where alarm companies contract at ridiculous premiums due to the crime rate).

        – lemme guess, your friends do drugs, don’t they? Somebody just stole all this to support their habit, unless you pawned it all to support YOUR habit and you think you can get away with reporting it stolen.

  11. Vladimir Slepnev says:

    I might be stating the obvious, but there’s nothing difficult about finding tweets that are anagrams of each other. You just need to use the magic of hash functions.

    Let’s say you have a million tweets. For each tweet, let F(tweet) = the sum of all letters in the tweet (like a=1, b=2 and so on), G(tweet) = the sum of squares of all letters, and H(tweet) = F(tweet)+1000*G(tweet). Then sort the tweets in order of increasing H(tweet). When you find some pairs of tweets with the same value of H(tweet), you just need to check if they’re anagrams. That should be much quicker than checking all possible pairs.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Probably the most efficient choice is something fancy along the lines you suggest, but the simplest reasonable choice is to sort each tweet.
      do wands have recoil?” → “   ?aacddeehilnoorsvw
      who discovered anal” → “  aacddeehilnoorsvw

      huh – “code” tags don’t preserve multiple spaces.

      • Eric Rall says:

        For longer messages, it would be more efficient to build a frequency table of each message (count how often each letter appears) rather than sorting. Frequency tables can be built in linear time of the length of the string, while sorting is O(n log n) at best. Tweets are short enough that computational complexity might not matter much, though.

        • Faster to calculate _and_ it would take less space. If you only include basic punctuation and don’t care about case then you’re talking about,say, 30 characters, each one of which can occur between 0 and 140 times.

          Total number of options is 140^30 (2.4*10^64)
          Which you can store in 214 bits. Or 27 bytes.

          That’s way smaller, and faster, than sorting.

          Not worth the hassle for hundreds of tweets, but if you’re sorting through millions of them…

      • Aaron Brown says:

        <code> means “this element is computer code”. <pre> means “don’t squeeze whitespace in this element”.

        (And yes, unfortunately Slate Star Codex doesn’t have <pre>.)

    • gwern says:

      [Never mind, Knight pointed out sorting works.]

  12. Nestor says:

    Clown makeup is designed to make a cartoonish face readable from a distance, in the context of a circus where the kids are sitting in the rafters a good way from the performers. But nowadays clowns have morphed into close quarters performance, so of course the effect is ruined. Also, kids have top notch visual acuity so they can see the caked on makeup, the poking bristly hairs, the wrinkles, etc…

    I recall reading an article on a highly successful children’s entertainer, a clown who wore no makeup and had no particular tricks or routine, he just had an excellent rapport with kids. <- guy asks r/fitness to explain macros and gets a lesson in programming instead

  13. Randy M says:

    “You know the paper’s going to be good because it’s called Biomarkers and Long-Term Labor Market Outcomes. ”

    Is this the kind of study where they pick 20 biomarkers to study, and it turns out that, against all odds, 1 of them is significant at 5% confidence?

    I mean, “against all odds.”

  14. J. Quinton says:

    Huh. I read “The girl told the story cried” as “The girl *who* told the story cried”.

    • nydwracu says:

      Are you so sure that’s what’s going on? I can think of a few ways it could be something else. Ranked in decreasing order of subjective plausibility:

      1) They’re Sicilians. If hbdchick is right, this matters, since Sicilians are less outbred than other (especially Northern) Italians. Where are the other criminals from?
      2) Different selection effects. People who commit non-Mafia crimes are more likely to have personality traits that incline them toward criminality. This may not be true for the Mafia—wasn’t it passed down in families at one point? (I can’t get to Wikipedia right now.)
      3) Maybe psychopaths are less inclined to join the Mafia, or are filtered out somehow. But I don’t know how that would work.

      • St. Rev says:

        4) Known Mafiosi are punished more harshly for similar offenses, so the median incarcerated Mafioso is less psychopathic. That is, the non-Mafiosi have committed worse offenses to get the same treatment.

  15. Ialdabaoth says:

    Given that the site which claims the Koreans are cloning a mammoth also has this absurd article on eight-winged chickens made from spliced spider dna:

    I’m not really buying it.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Sigh. Well, at least I had a couple of hours of believing it might really happen. I guess I will have to up my game from my usual strategy of Googling “[title of article] debunked”

  16. David Simon says:

    .i e’u ro lojbau jufra cu pavysmu .i ja’o ba’e no purdi ve klama pe’a jufra cu lojbo .i ku’i uinai ro lojbo jufra cu se nonysmu fi lo na’e lojbo zo’o .i ji’a su’o lojbo jufra cu nandu ke stura te facki ta’onai

    Translation: Well, you know, all Lojban sentences are unambiguous (lit. having exactly one meaning). So, there are really no “garden path” sentences in Lojban! Sadly, however, all Lojban sentences are meaningless (lit. having exactly zero meanings) to non-Lojbanists. 🙂 And some Lojban sentences are hard to parse anyways.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Garden path sentences are often unambiguous. AFAICT there’s only one way to read “The girl told the story cried” that’s syntactically successful. It’s just that *partway* through the sentence, you do not expect it to mean anything like the (unambiguous) final reading.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I read it as the story crying and did not find the intended parse until Scott pointed it out. You might not call that “syntactically successful” because it is missing a “that,” but I think most people don’t notice this parse for semantic reasons.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I would indeed call it syntactically unsuccessful because it is missing a “that”. The interesting thing about garden path sentences is how people will engage in syntactically incorrect parses in preference to syntactically correct ones that would force them to change the semantic relationships they’ve built up on the basis of a partial sentence.

      • David Simon says:

        It may be that Lojban has a more specific property; that as you are parsing a sentence the in-progress parse tree built in your mind is guaranteed to be correct as far as it goes.

        But this particular case demonstrates a difference in how Lojban grammar works; in English, “The girl told…” could mean either that the girl is the one doing the telling, or that the girl was descriptively told something, depending on how the rest of the sentence structure goes.

        In Lojban, as you add each word, I think that its relationship to the word before it is established conclusively at that point, usually because Lojban insists on structural words:

        le nixli cu te lisri – The girl tells a story…
        le nixli poi ve lisri – The girl that was told a story…

        But I’m not sure if this is universally true for the entire Lojbanic grammar.

        • David Simon says:

          Actually, nevermind; as soon as I posted the above, I thought of a counter-example:

          blabi zdani – White house…

          This could end in a couple of different ways:

          blabi zdani gerku – White-house dog (a dog that has something to do with a white house)
          blabi zdani bo gerku – White house-dog (a white dog that has something to do with a house)

    • Ken Arromdee says:

      Is it impossible to write a Godel-undecideable statement in lojban?

      • Lorxus says:

        How do you mean? I mean, {na nei} is pretty funny, but it resembles the Russell or Cretan paradox more than anything else.

      • David Simon says:

        It’s actually quite easy to do so, since you don’t even need to come up with a Godel numbering; as Lorxus shows, Lojban has the same capability for circular reference as your typical natural language.

        Additionally, although Lojban has a structure similar to predicate logic, it’s not generally intended to be used as a formal proof system. it’s entirely possible to make statements in Lojban that are ambiguous in the traditional boring natlang ways, e.g. “Which girl exactly are you talking about?”

        I overstated the case in saying that all Lojban sentences are unambiguous; they are *gramatically* unambiguous, but semantics are still tricky sometimes.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thank you for providing the translation, I was about to rot13 that.

    • Lorxus says:

      .ua .ue .ui do jbopli .i mi co’e .i .e’ucai mi’o tavla .i srana cmene ki’u mi lorxu zo’ocu’i

      Also, attempted backtranslation of your commentary to keep my Lojban fresh:
      [suggestion] Every Lojban language utterance is one-meaninged. I can conclude from this that ABSOLUTELY NO “garden route” (maybe should have used {ve muvdu}?) sentences are Lojbanic. However, (sadface) every Lojbanic utterance is no-meaninged for the non-Lojbanic, lol. Plus, at least some Lojbanic utterances are difficult to structure-find, (LIKE THIS ONE) at any rate.

      • David Simon says:

        .i .ie e’udai mi’o casnu .i mi ta’e zvati pe’a la’o .cy. FreeNode IRC #lojban .cy. .i fi’i ko .e’u vitke

  17. zz says:

    For what it’s worth:

    I use the Dvorak keyboard layout, which puts all the vowels on the left side. In relation to the QWERTY effect, I compared a piece of writing I’m in the middle of editing to Eliezer’s The Simple Truth. I predicted that I would use ‘I’, ‘O’, and ‘U’ less, since they’re Dvorak-left but QWERTY-right, and that, perhaps to make up for it, I would use ‘A’ and ‘E’ more (nb. ‘A’ is found in the same location in both QWERTY and Dvorak).

    Turns out, relative to Eliezer and Scott, I use ‘A’ less and other vowels more.

    • primality says:

      I remember reading that Eliezer uses Dvorak, so he’s probably not your best choice for a control group.

      • zz says:

        You are correct, and he was using when he wrote The Simple Truth.

        Adding the most upvoted LW article, I find that Dvorak users use A less and U more; the other letters are mixed. Overall, this seems to be negligible evidence against QWERTY effect for word choice.

  18. D says:

    You already know this, but it bears being pointed out for the sake of your readers. High functioning autism can come with it’s own struggles, and just because someone isn’t severely autistic doesn’t mean they aren’t disabled. I wish you’d made it clearer in the post that there’s a whole massive realm of levels of disability in-between very severe autism and autism that is so mild it causes no problems. A lot of high functioning autistics struggle to get help because people dismiss them as being so smart that they can’t be really disabled.

    • Ialdabaoth says:

      Of course, I’ve always seen “disability” in a very Foucaultian sense, myself – “disability” has less to do about how well you can function, than with how much sympathy and support your culture wants to afford you.

      Ultimately, autism and schizophrenia are the kinds of conditions where it’s reeeally hard to convince the world that you shouldn’t just drop dead.

    • R says:

      Yeah, I was a little disappointed with that comment, especially since Scott’s a psychiatrist. There’s a reason autism got grouped under one umbrella in the latest DSM – because as best we can tell, it’s the same pattern of brain development that causes many of the same challenges. No one would say ‘why are we saying people with an IQ of 180 and the symptoms of depression have the same disease as people with an IQ of 70 and the symptoms of depression’? but that’s almost what’s Scott is doing here.

      My first reaction was ‘yikes, I definitely wouldn’t want to be a high-functioning autistic person in Detroit. Capable of passing for neurotypical, even for passing in limited contexts as charismatic and funny? You’re a geeky person who can pick some sensory sensitivities off a checklist.’

      And, you know, likely to be misdiagnosed with ADHD or OCD or severe social anxiety or all three, because everyone knows autistic people act weird and you’re (capable of presenting as) perfectly normal.

      This happened to me, so I might be a bit bitter here.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        All right, here’s where I’m coming from.

        A bunch of autistic people, including some I know, talk about how anyone who wants to “treat” or “prevent” autism is an evil oppressor who is going out of their way to persecute a perfectly legitimate alternate way of looking at the world. That some people like big parties, and other people like trains and math, and the psychiatric profession is a conspiracy by the people who like big parties to pathologize the people who like trains and math and make them seem inferior.

        Then I go to work and I see someone who has never spoken a word of English and is covered in scars from banging their head and limbs against sharp objects. And when I try to treat this person, or prevent more people from ending up like this, I get yelled at for being an evil oppressor.

        High-functioning autistics probably have the opposite problem – that they mention they’re autistic to explain some otherwise weird sensory abnormalities, and everyone assumes they’re mentally retarded or dangerous or have no human emotion.

        This is what I mean when I say that the autism umbrella is medically accurate but socially unfortunate.

  19. Anthony says:

    A couple of links which contend that the entire increase in autism rates is diagnostic substitution. One is a paper where adults of all ages were randomly (?) sampled and evaluated, and found similar rates of autism-spectrum disorders at all ages.

    Conclusions Conducting epidemiologic research on ASD in adults is feasible. The prevalence of ASD in this population is similar to that found in children. The lack of an association with age is consistent with there having been no increase in prevalence and with its causes being temporally constant. [emphasis mine] Adults with ASD living in the community are socially disadvantaged and tend to be unrecognized.

    Discussion of the paper, and some other issues:

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Oooh, the “sample different ages” technique is a good one and hadn’t occurred to me.

      (unless of course rates of autism or penetrance of autism changes with age)

      • Anthony says:

        Do we know anything about autism disorders which provides evidence for rates increasing with age? Previous studies have shown lower autism rates in older cohorts, so unless there were studies showing that, say, kids in school were developing autism symptoms during their school years, it seems the null hypothesis would be that autism does not increase with age.

        Except maybe for people who study economics at GMU.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I recall seeing Tips For Surviving If You Find Yourself In An English Folk Ballad on your LJ many moons ago.

  21. Anthony says:

    I want to know if appropriate changes in the parameters of Grosseteste’s model made the spheres bounce to the left and and to the right.

  22. Fnord says:

    Even after clicking through to the original (review) paper, the “processed food is bad” claim appears to be pure author opinion, not based upon the work reviewed in the paper, at least not in any rigorous way.

    Meanwhile, the calorie restriction issues appears to be dueling methodology problems. In one case, “comparing a little calorie restriction to a lot”, and finding that “a lot” doesn’t help. In the other, you have monkeys being feed a high-sugar, apparently unhealthy food, and finding that monkeys who are allowed to eat as much monkey-candy as they like don’t live as long.

  23. a person says:

    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?

    I can personally say that I never found clowns scary myself. I think I just found them amusing like I was meant to.

    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.”

    This is the opposite of what I would expect. How do we reconcile this fact with the thing where kids who are old for their grade end up doing much better in life than the kids who are young ?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      According to natural experiments, children who are older do better in sports, but children who are younger do better academically. I don’t think that there has been any study of “in life.”

      • US says:

        “According to natural experiments, children who are older do better in sports, but children who are younger do better academically”

        This one does not match what I was taught in my recent Economics of Education class, and a large chunk of this class was a survey of the literature on topics like these. I have no idea about the sports part, but students who are old-for-grade tend to do better on the academic tests, certainly once you’ve taken selection into account – age-at-test is a very important (/confounding) variable in this literature. Selection mechanisms vary across countries (in some countries it’s mostly the ‘slow’ students that start late because their parents are advised to wait another year, in other countries it’s rather the smart parents who want to give their child the best possible start in life and so delay their childrens school entry because they know that older students tend to get better grades – note that it’s almost always problematic just to compare the outcomes of students who are old-for-grade and young-for-grade without taking selection effects like these into account), making comparisons across countries difficult, but the ‘a child who’s almost 7 will tend to do better in school than his classmate who’s only just 6’ is a pretty universal finding. A finding which is hardly surprising, given how much children develop during their schoolyears. Effects like these have caused some debate e.g. about the German tracking system, because it’s obvious from the data that students who are old-for-grade have better educational opportunities on average than do their classmates, calling into question the fairness of the applied sorting system.

        “I don’t think that there has been any study of “in life.””

        People have studied stuff besides academic outcomes in these contexts, but it’s not a topic which has received a lot of attention:

        “There are widespread myths about the psychological vulnerability of gifted students and therefore fears that acceleration will lead to an increase in disturbances such as anxiety, depression, delinquent behavior, and lowered self-esteem. In fact, a comprehensive survey of the research on this topic finds no evidence that gifted students are any more psychologically vulnerable than other students, although boredom, underachievement, perfectionism, and succumbing to the effects of peer pressure are predictable when needs for academic advancement and compatible peers are unmet (Neihart, Reis, Robinson, & Moon, 2002). Questions remain, however, as to whether acceleration may place some students more at risk than others.”

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Natural experiments deal with confounders. I’m not going to dig them up, but you could try wikipedia for the basic facts not covered in your class. It is not very positive about sports. Academically, older children do better than others in the same grade, but do worse than those of the same age in the higher grade. I took “in life” to refer to long term measures, which are necessarily hard to study.

          Economics of Education

          Two wrongs don’t make a right.

        • US says:

          “Natural experiments deal with confounders.” I know, but I assumed others didn’t. Perhaps a majority of the included papers were dealing with IV models, RD-designs or similar – I tried to motivate why such methods are necessary in my comment.

          Your comment incidentally gave me an ‘unpleasant person’-vibe because you seem to be Othering me, so my part of this discussion ends here.

    • Anthony says:

      How do we reconcile this fact with the thing where kids who are old for their grade end up doing much better in life than the kids who are young ?

      Without controlling for IQ, kids who are older for their grade are mentally more prepared to actually learn the material. They’re also socially more advanced, and slightly bigger, which would compound the beneficial effects of being more socially advanced. And social skills are the only thing anywhere as important as intelligence in predicting lifelong outcomes.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        and slightly bigger

        In my own anecdotal experience, this accounts for the majority of the effect.

        Also, in my own experience, being put forward a grade or two would have helped me IMMENSELY. But then, I was consistently performing 3-4 grade-levels ahead of my classmates academically, AND was consistently mistaken for someone 2-3 grade-levels behind my classmates physically.

  24. Doug S. says:

    Also, how come Kenya can have a mobile-phone based money-transfer service and we can’t?

    Paypal doesn’t work on smartphone browsers?

    • David Simon says:

      A PayPal account isn’t a good substitute for a physical credit card in meatspace transactions. PayPal is popular among meatspace merchants for their own accounts, because it can accept regular credit cards with a cheap phone dongle. But there’s no quick convenient way (that I know of) to transfer money from a customer’s PayPal account, even if they have a smartphone and the PayPal app.

      This may change as more phones get NFC support.

  25. Shmi Nux says:

    You haven’t linked How Being a Doctor Became the Most Miserable Profession, which has recently floated to the top of Reddit, so I wonder what your take is on the grim picture painted there.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I actually just read that today.

      All the doctors I met in Ireland were like the doctors in that study and seemed very unhappy and told me to get out of medicine.

      Most of the doctors I have seen in America seem very happy so far. I know somewhere on the bottom of that comment thread someone pointed out the survey they used for “9/10 doctors” was SUPER sketchy.

      But I mostly know older doctors (ie those senior enough to be teaching residents, who probably have it a little better), Michigan doctors (I think things might be more old-fashioned in the flyover states than on either coast) and psychiatrists (I think all specialists are doing better than GPs).

      So far I am sort of managing to enjoy residency, despite as far as I can tell it being strictly inferior in every way to non-residency real doctoring. I think this bodes well.

      I would not, from personal experience, urge other people not to go to medical school.

      I do have the huge advantage that my parents helped pay the vast majority of my medical school tuition, and so “crushing debts” are not a problem for me. But even a resident’s comparatively miniscule salary is pretty good and I don’t feel like debts would be a terrible burden on me right now. Medicine also pays absurdly well if you are willing to practice in a middle-of-nowhere place like Idaho and if debts were a big problem for me I would probably take that option for a while.

      • Shmi Nux says:

        Thanks, Scott! I guess the moral is, if you want to be a doctor, aim for being a specialist, and if you want to be a GP, aim for rural Midwest :).

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  27. Lorxus says:

    1) >stayed in bed

    2) Onward the revolution, accidental comrades?

    3) At the moment, I am laughing at Libertarian Police Force. I anticipate crying and then eating a heroic and lethal dose of orgasmium in 15 years from the same stimulus.

    4) >Who By Very Slow Decay
    Good fucking gods. I have gained somewhat of a new respect for my dad – a neuroradiologist steadily moving into administration. Also, a newfound desire for cryonics. Also also, failing that, eating a heroic and lethal dose of orgasmium in probably roughly 70 years.

  28. naath says:

    Mobile phone money> AIUI MPesa is… well it’s a horrible security nightmare mess and additionally charges pretty hefty fees (compared to the fees I’m used to in the UK anyway). In Kenya it has been widely adopted largely because Kenyans have a severe lack of other ways of sending money around.

    A few banks in the UK seem to be starting to try out the idea of sending money by text message; I’m hoping it will go well, I’m not sure how popular it will be, although if it does work it’ll be another nail in the coffin of the cheque.

  29. John Maxwell says:

    “One standard deviation increase from the average level of creatinine is associated with 6.8% increase in earnings.” Just skimming the biomarker paper, but that seems like a pretty big effect.

  30. Error says:

    Re: Garden path sentences, anytime I read anything about them, I think “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”