The Dutch are pioneering crops fed by sea water. Which sounds like just a cute trick, until you realize that saltwater floods destroy a lot of cropland, and fresh water shortages are one of the biggest problems facing the 21st century. And the cherry on top is that fruits irrigated with salt water taste sweeter.
The linguistics of curse words. If “fuck you” supposedly means “you should fuck yourself”, why doesn’t “assert you” mean “you should assert yourself”? And why can’t “fuck you” take on further specifiers like “Fuck you and I’ll give you a dollar”? Note: some warning signs this is not a real linguistics paper.
A Soviet Whiskey class submarine ran aground in Sweden in 1981 in an international incident known as the Whiskey On The Rocks crisis (still can’t find an explanation of why the Soviets named a sub class “Whiskey”)
Evolutionary psychologists upset that textbooks egregiously misrepresent their field. God help them if they ever discover the Internet.
The winds higher in the atmosphere can be many times stronger than those on the ground. And there’s no one up there to complain about eyesores. So why not suspend a wind turbine a thousand feet high in a giant balloon? First hoverwindmill to be tested in Alaska over eighteen months.
The dead haven’t yet risen to wreak horrible revenge on the living this Halloween, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any eerie omens and portents. Arch-antinatalist Sister Y has written a remarkably complete and scholarly piece on the demographic transition which – while not coming out in favor of unlimited reproduction – provides enough ammunition in that direction that the piece is getting thrown around the conservative blogosphere [but]. And cop-hating fringe-libertarian ClarkHat has veered so hard toward neoreaction that I expect him to come out in favor of a police state any day now. I blame whoever decided to build a WordPress server on an ancient Indian burial ground.
And I guess if I’m going to go with this angle, I should link to this ABC article: “Two “Stop the Violence” organizers allegedly beat one of their colleagues so severely that he vomited blood and was left unconscious in critical condition”.
During the isolation of the Tokugawa shogunate, the Japanese called western science rangaku, or “Dutch learning”. The solemnity of this forbidden knowledge was reflected in the title of the its important compendium, whose title means “red hair[ed people’s] chitchat”.
A Saudi Grand Mufti has declared Twitter to be “the source of all evil”. As enlightened, technologically advanced Westerners, we can laugh at such ignorance; we know that Tumblr is the source of all evil.
In 1999, chess champion Gary Kasparov played a game of chess against the entire world. He played white, and anyone who wanted was allowed to go to a website where they each got one vote on how the black pieces would move. Kasparov eventually won by a hair, but said it was one of the most difficult games he had ever played. On the other hand, this seems to have been less “the wisdom of crowds” and more “the wisdom of people mostly willing to listen to chess grandmasters who told them what to vote for.” Also, Kasparov was reading the other side’s strategy discussions in their public forums the whole time. It is nevertheless considered one of the greatest games in history. See also: Kasparov Against the World: The Book
I promised I’d link to Athrelon’s essay on social technology and tradeoffs when it came out, so here you go.
The neoreactionaries are starting an irl meetup group, and it doesn’t look like a thinly disguised paramilitary organization at all, no sirree. Move along, nothing to see here.
I’ve previously blogged about how anti-stigma interventions can backfire, so I should balance that with some good news: a recent meta-analysis finds anti-stigma interventions broadly effective at reducing prejudice. But I haven’t seen any of the individual studies, so I’m not sure how much streetlight psychology was going on here.
Most recent study finds that marijuana does not lower your IQ, contrary to previous findings including my own best guess. On the other hand, it was found that alcohol can lower your IQ. I am certain that the people who used this as their justification for keeping marijuana illegal will now behave perfectly consistently and switch to wanting marijuana legalized and alcohol banned.
Reddit: Lawyers, What Is The Sleaziest Thing You Have Seen Another Lawyer Do? Aside from a lot of great stories, the most interesting thing I got out of this thread is that law is more self-policing than you would think and most lawyers are kept in line by the fear of losing reputation among their professional peers (which is apparently a pretty big economic hit because your ability to get good outcomes for cases depends on how much you can convince other people to work with you). A lot of medicine seems to work this way too.
Foreign Affairs magazine argues against the conventional wisdom that post-communist countries haven’t improved much after the fall of the Soviet Union: “The truth is that the prevailing gloomy narrative about the postcommunist world is mostly wrong. Media images aside, life has improved dramatically across the former Eastern bloc. Since their transition, the postcommunist countries have grown rapidly; today, their citizens live richer, longer, and happier lives. In most ways, these states now look just like any others at similar levels of economic development. They have become normal countries — and, in some ways, better than normal.”
Just in case you’ve forgotten how the media works: a new study by Pew comes out showing that although all genders suffer online harassment, in five of seven categories on average men get harassed more than women. The media reports the study as Pew: Women Suffering Online Harassment Worse Than Men and this is no doubt the lesson every casual reader takes away from it (“Can you believe there are neckbeards who still don’t acknowledge the SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN truth that women always have it worse than men??!”). When challenged on it, the article says that by their definition, only “sexual harassment” and “stalking” count as ‘serious” online harassment, since those are the two categories in which women have it worse. Meanwhile, the five categories in which men have it worse include things like “threats of physical violence”, but all of a sudden this is “not serious” because caring about it doesn’t fit the prevailing narrative. Remember that this same process produces a lot of the other “facts” that drive political debate.
Thirty years after the infamous famine, Ethiopia’s economy is a huge success story, but its human rights record is atrocious, forcing the West to once again confront the dilemma of how much evil dictatorship we’re willing to excuse for a government that does a good job lifting its citizens out of poverty.
Easter Islanders have some Native American genes, proving contact with South America and perhaps the completion of the Polynesians’ great trans-Pacific voyage. Weirder still, there seems to be some evidence of contact with people on the Brazilian coast, suggesting they may have almost circumnavigated the continent. At this rate one of these days, someone is going to find Polynesian artifacts in Portugal.
Algorithm can predict the price of Bitcoin, say scientists who are not yet infinitely rich.
As usual, Leah Libresco wins Halloween.
I tried to estimate whether donating to the fight against Ebola was more effective than the usual set of charities and concluded that it was very hard to tell but it didn’t look likely. GiveWell is promising a more rigorous investigation of the same question.
First JayMan and now Audacious Epigone find a surprising and fascinating result: the dysgenic effect long believed to exist from poor people having more children has stabilized and may be reversing, at least among whites. I didn’t pay too much attention to dysgenics because I figured the reproductive status quo won’t last long enough to matter (see 5.3.2 here) but for those who disagree, the importance of this finding can’t be overstated. The dysgenic effect was by far the strongest argument of the traditional values crowd for why it was important to promote traditional gender roles so that smarter women would be able to have more kids and reverse the dysgenic effect. With that gone, they have…even less of a leg to stand on than previously. This also confirms a thousand times my respect for the Weird Rightist Statistics Blogosphere and their ability to investigate everything even when it challenges their own beliefs.
They’ve finally gone ahead and invented the hoverboard using a suspiciously convenient magnetic effect I would not have thought possible. For now it only hovers over metallic surfaces, but they claim that they may be able to make it work over everything, because this really is a suspiciously convenient form of magnetism. But the hoverboard is actually the least interesting part of this, because if their suspiciously convenient magnetism works it could pave the way for everything from hovering houses that resist earthquakes to cheap maglev trains.
Halloween costume: Sexy Ebola Containment Suit
Happy Halloween! Here’s a link to Economics of the Undead. It’s the cover that really does it for me.