Open threads at the Open Thread tab every Sunday and Wednesday

Links For November 2014

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.

Quora: The Most Mind-Blowing Tricks Used During War.

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

Not the Onion: Taylor Swift accidentally releases 8 seconds of white noise, tops Canadian iTunes chart.

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.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

231 Responses to Links For November 2014

  1. “Quang Phúc Đông” of the “South Hanoi Institute of Technology” is James McCawley.

    still can’t find an explanation of why the Soviets named a sub class “Whiskey”

    They didn’t; NATO did.

  2. Protagoras says:

    I assume your question was a joke, but Whiskey class submarines, like most Soviet military hardware, are normally referred to by NATO code names, which often seemed to be chosen to be silly. The Soviets mostly gave them letters or numbers, though they sometimes started calling them by their NATO names because names like 613 (Whiskey’s official Soviet designation) just lack flavor.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The question was serious and I did not know that. Thank you.

      • ciil says:

        The Russian version of the Wikipedia page begins: “Подво́дные ло́дки прое́кта 613 (по классификации НАТО: «Whiskey» — «Виски») …”

        If you can even only read Cyrillic (which is not hard to learn – like, maybe an hour? – and can be quite fun knowledge to have), the first few words on any Russian WP article concerning military equipment usually explain the original Russian name and also what it is called by the NATO.

        But at least you noticed that you were confused! 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      Echo Juliett Whiskey Romeo Foxtrot are not intended to be silly. They are all taken from the NATO phonetic alphabet. So it’s really just assigning them letters EJWRF. The order is pretty arbitrary, though. A lot of work went into designing the NATO phonetic to be clear, both in the face of static and because NATO is full of people with diverse linguistic backgrounds.

      • Protagoras says:

        I was more familiar with the naming conventions for planes (first letter signifies type, as in f for fighter, b for bomber, a few others, and one syllable means prop, two syllables means jet, not really any other rules) which produced strange names like “fishbed.” I hadn’t noticed that all the submarine names came from the NATO phonetic alphabet.

        • Nornagest says:

          All the submarine names from a certain era, but not all of them, period. More recent exceptions include the Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine (called by the Russians the Akula), and the Akula-class attack submarine (called by the Russians the Shchuka-B).

          NATO should really have known better than to name a sub in Russian, yes.

    • PDP says:

      This may be apocryphal, but I’ve heard that in more recent times, the Nato reporting names have actually gained traction in Soviet/Russian armed forces as informal nicknames. Because they sound cool.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’d buy that for e.g. the Foxhound, the Fulcrum, or the Bear. Not so much the Fishpot, Frogfoot, or Flagon.

        (The Sukhoi Su-25 “Frogfoot”, in particular, carries the much cooler Russian nickname Grach [“Rook”; the corvid, not the chess piece].)

        • RCF says:

          Depends on whether they understand English, or whether it’s just an instance of “foreign words sound cool”.

    • Slow Learner says:

      NATO reporting names are partly because, when a new Soviet weapon system or combat vehicle appeared, often the West didn’t know what name the Soviets had given it…and if they did, they didn’t want to offer a hint as to their espionage activity and so needed a reporting name anyway.
      Submarines have names from the phonetic alphabet; fighters got names like Flogger, Flanker or Foxbat starting with F; Surface to Air Missiles got names like Guideline and Grumble; bombers got name like Badger and Bear.
      There’s even a further level of encoding, in that Badger being two syllables indicates that Badgers are jet aircraft, whereas Bears are propeller-driven.
      So as a clued up member of NATO you could tell just from the name what kind of threat you were facing.

  3. Ari says:

    “Whisky” is the NATO reporting name for the submarine, not the Soviet name. Throughout the Cold War, NATO used words from the phonetic alphabet to designate Soviet submarines — there’s not only Whisky, but “Foxtrot”, “Kilo”, “Tango”, “Oscar”, etc etc. As near as I can tell the mapping from word to class is arbitrary — they weren’t used in alphabetical order or anything like that.

  4. Cauê says:

    From Steven Pinker’s small book, “The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” (yes, about the linguistics of curse words):

    “The simplest explanation is that the ‘fuck’ in ‘Fuck you’ is like the ‘fuck’ in ‘Where the fuck’ and ‘a fucking scoutmaster’: a substitution for an older religious epithet with similar emotional force. In this case, the obvious source is ‘Damn you’ (perhaps shortened from ‘God damn you’ and ‘May God damn you’). The original semantics would have been a kind of third-person imperative meaning ‘May it be so,’ which is common in blessings (‘May you be forever young’) and curses (as in ‘May you live like a chandelier: hang by day and burn by night’). But the curse melted into a holistic pronouncement of disapproval.”

  5. Sniffnoy says:

    It seems I got here just a bit too late to point out that “Whiskey” was a NATO codename! 😛

  6. sviga lae says:

    As briefly mentioned in the comments on JayMan’s and AE, the possibility exists that for the lowest-education/intelligence cohort, the paternity figures will be understated, and thus the female fertility figures still showing a dysgenic trend are the more accurate ones. Most likely we are not out of the woods yet.

    Meanwhile, the strength of the inverse education/fertility correlation grows #sarahpls

    • Lesser Bull says:

      If I recall, they found that intelligence isn’t dysgenic anymore because smart men having children above replacement slightly more than balances out smart women having children below replacement. The education stats are worrying, though.

      • Jaskologist says:

        That would also be dysgenic, depending on your viewpoint. Now you’re selecting for men to be smarter than women.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          This is evolutionarily a lot harder to pull off, and I would expect this kind of selection to be much slower.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Harder, sure, but a lot harder? Evolution has managed to produce a whole lot of sexual dimorphism. I’m sure it could manage to vary the mean intelligence for the sexes; it already gives us different standard deviations.

            Tangent: is anybody aware of some good equations related to the speed of evolution? How long does it take a trait to evolve (I assume traits would have to be measured in number of base pairs or something like that)?Can we calculate how long a dimorphic difference should take to spread? Or even better, how long it should take a trait to mutate into existence?

        • Geirr says:

          If you’re looking for evolution ad equations I think you need population genetics. I believe the classic intro is “The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection”. If you’re interested look at Razib Khan’s blog, He has a books subsection. There’s a review there.

        • Anonymous says:

          For recommendations of population genetics texts, three of which are free.

    • JayMan says:

      @sviga lae:

      As briefly mentioned in the comments on JayMan’s and AE, the possibility exists that for the lowest-education/intelligence cohort, the paternity figures will be understated, and thus the female fertility figures still showing a dysgenic trend are the more accurate ones.

      I thought about that. The way to check for that is to look at average male vs. average female fertility. If they disagree, someone is misreporting.

      There was a slight difference (1.88 for men vs 1.96 for women), however it’s not statistically significant, so whether or not it represents underreporting by men is not clear.

  7. B.B. says:

    Scott Alexander said:
    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.

    Thunderf00t (aka Phil Mason) thinks it’s nonsense.

    • Pseudonymous Platypus says:

      I don’t know if the Hendo Hoverboard is real or fake. I suspect it’s real, because actual journalists have apparently seen and ridden it, and because taking $400,000+ of people’s money for something fake would be a blatantly illegal scam. But it wouldn’t be Earth-shattering for me if it were fake, either.

      In any case, Thunderf00t’s “analysis” here seems very weak. He deconstructs a marketing video, and apparently based on that video alone, concludes that the hoverboard is fake. Dude, it’s a marketing video. Marketing videos are always bullshit. The engineers probably had nothing to do with it. There’s a Verge video of someone actually riding the board; he could have at least taken a critical eye to that if he wanted to credibly “debunk” this thing.

    • Paul Torek says:

      OK, does someone actually fluent in electromagnetics (i.e., not me) want to read their patent and determine whether it’s B.S.? In the meantime, this physics stack exchange leads me to think it’s at least workable in principle.

      • JB says:

        Credentials: Bachelor’s degree in engineering physics (mechatronics specialization); Master’s thesis on motor design, currently do magnetomechanics as a career.

        It is workable in principle. However, their claims that it will eventually run over non-conducting surfaces *is* absurd. This technology will likely only run on copper or aluminum surfaces.

        Rather than suggesting that the hoverboard will run over non-conductive surfaces, Hendo’s patent suggests that a variety of surfaces may in the future be rendered electrically conductive by suitable additives, e.g. electrically conductive concrete. That’s… a plausible future technology, but comes across to me as wishful thinking.

        They use a rotating disc of magnets, which is a pretty smart idea. The alternating N-S poles sweep across the copper surface, which induces currents that attempt to counter the field of permanent magnets. The copper plane behaver as a ‘mirror’: the induced electric currents in the copper create the same magnetic field as would be created by a mirror-image of the spinning disc below the surface. That means the N poles on the hoverboard will be facing the N poles on the mirror image, and likewise with the S poles. Like poles repel, and the lift is provided this way.

        If the copper were instead a superconductor, the magnets would not have to rotate at all. Even a stationary magnet lowered down onto a superconducting surface would induce a perfect mirror image current that would repel it. However, in a non-superconductor, the currents will decay with time due to the finite resistance of the metal, and the magnets would settle down to rest on the copper surface as the currents disappear. Spinning the magnets keeps the current going, and thereby sustains the lift, making up for the fact that copper is not a superconductor.

        There are some practical concerns, so I’ll quickly run some numbers. The important ones are:
        * Magnetic field needed to lift a practical load
        * Power needed to sustain the lift

        The hoverboard discs look about 20 cm in diameter, and there’s four of them, and they have magnets just along the perimeter. To support someone who weighs 80 kg, 800 N of thrust is needed. So the force per unit area is something like 20 kN per sq. metre.

        The pressure between two repelling magnets can be approximated roughly as 400,000*(B^2) N/m^2. A reasonable magnetic field density obtained by neodymium magnets is between B=0.1 Tesla to 0.5 Tesla, depending on the ratio of the magnet thickness to hover height. It looks like about 0.2 T would be enough to develop the necesary lift, which is definitely practical. It will take a lot of magnet though, which makes it pricey.

        The spacing of the N-S poles of the magnets should be not smaller than the hovering clearance, or else the magnetic field won’t be forced to go through the copper. It also shouldn’t be to much bigger or else it wastes a lot of magnet material. Assuming it hovers 1 cm off the ground, there could be about 20 north/south pole pairs.

        It’s very hard to calculate the resistance for current flowing through a solid copper surface, but I’ll do a first-order approximation by assuming that it flows in a uniform rectangular pattern along the top side and back along the bottom side. If the copper is 6 mm thick, and the magnets are spaced at a pitch of 25 mm, then about 10,000 A of current flows in the copper and the equivalent resistance is about 0.8 micro-ohms.

        So that amounts to 80 watts of power draw to keep the magnets spinning, or 320 watts for the whole hoverboard. (Again, this is a very rough calculation; I don’t know the size and specs of the actual Hendo design nor its surface, so I’m just choosing the numbers that I would use if I built one). 320 watts is quite high, but for a lithium-battery system it’s not too impractical, since the battery life doesn’t need to be that long. A 1.5 kg battery pack will keep it going for an hour.

        The power loss will appear as drag torque on the spinning magnet discs. The discs will need to be arranged in counter-rotating pairs to keep the whole hoverboard from spinning (just like the rotors on a Chinook helicopter).

        Directional thrust could probably be achieved by tilting the plane of the rotating magnets, although I’m not going to work out the details of this.

        My conclusion: It’s not a hoax. But it will only hover on metal surfaces for the forseeable future.

        Hendo technology probably won’t make maglev trains cheaper; actually, it’s based on inductrack maglev train technology. The rotating permanent magnets are a smart way of saving energy, rather than a more traditional approach of using electromagnets in an alternating-current configuration. But in enormous vehicles like trains, it becomes cheap to have a liquid-nitrogen cryogenic system and use superconducting magnets (Japan’s approach, currently with a working prototype). Meanwhile inductrack uses the train’s forward motion to generate the lift, rather than needing the magnets to spin.

        It would work for floating houses, but the power draw and mass of magnets needed will scale accordingly…

        • RCF says:

          ” However, their claims that it will eventually run over non-conducting surfaces *is* absurd.”

          Yeah, everyone knows they don’t work over water.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The main problem in earthquakes is that the house falls off of its foundation. Hovering just makes this worse.

    • JB says:

      The main problem in earthquakes is the shear stress developed in the support columns. Hovering makes this better. However, there are cheaper ways of achieving the same thing, like mounting the house on ball bearings or rubber pads. Or building a more durable house.

  9. Matthew says:

    Dammit, I get down to the comments to explain the NATO/Soviet naming convention differences, something I actually know something about, only to discover five people have done it already.

  10. Creutzer says:

    A propos of the swear word linguistics, there is a real linguistic paper about a phenomenon informally known as “fucking insertion”.

  11. The “sexy Ebola containment suit” costume went viral a few days ago, but shortly after that it came out that it was a hoax; it originated with an altered screenshot of an online storefront page for what was actually a “sexy Breaking Bad character” costume. Now it seems that, what with all the exposure that meme got, somebody has seen fit to defictionalize it. Full circle!

  12. Sister Y says:

    FYI I had like a dozen graphics for that post and blogspot is horrible for uploading pictures, but theviewfromhell was taken on wordpress. IT WAS A JOKE OK I still think we are all very unfortunate to have been born! Thanks for linking!

    • gwern says:

      Oh, is *that* why the name was that… I thought maybe you were doing a thing where you set up a ‘counter-blog’ where for every regular anti-life post you wrote you’d try to also write a rebuttal. (This made the transition essay a little odd to read because I kept expecting the part where you went ‘and this is why the demographic transition proves life is totally worth living and we should have more kids’.)

  13. Nestor says:

    I haven’t done a poll or anything but as an European I’m not aware of that conventional wisdom about post communist states, my impression was “Of course they have improved!”. Sure the 90s were a rough time but things are much better now. This might be an US-centric prejudice

    • Army1987 says:

      I haven’t done a poll or anything but as an European I’m not aware of that conventional wisdom about post communist states

      Me neither. I thought the conventional wisdom was that Eastern Europe used to be a hellhole and is now slowly recovering.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        It was my understanding that yes, that is the consensus, but that there are a number of communist apologists (on SSC, too, IIRC, but I cannot cite to it) who maintain that of course the former Soviet satellites are doing worse now. Because capitalism, or somesuch.

        • Anonymous says:

          Be careful about satellites vs ex-soviet.

        • social justice warlock says:

          The apologist position here is that the immediate aftermath was generally very bad, and that ex-communist states are generally doing worse than they otherwise would, not that they are doing worse now than they were in ’89 (although of course things get more complicated when you break things down by country and metric; obviously some will have regressed absolutely while others would be better than they otherwise would.) All else being equal, things tend to grow and progress.

          • Will says:

            Yeah, if you look at the graph in the paper posted further down this thread (page 11), it took the former Soviet countries 10-15 years to reach their previous GDP per-capita. It’s not a strong argument in favor of post-Soviet policies.


            edit: The best performing Soviet countries have seen their per-capita GDP rise by about 50% since the end of the USSR. The US’s per-capita GDP increased by about 100% in the same time period.

          • kaninchen says:

            It is true that measured output fell drastically after the fall of communism. However, this is because most of the statistics from that era are very dodgy. To take some (by no means all) of the major reasons:
            (a) Measured GDP leaves out the grey and black markets, which were frequently large proportions (typically 25%+, sometimes 60%+) of these economies in the early 90s.
            (b) Under communism there was flagrant over-reporting of output at multiple stages in order to claim larger bonuses, whereas under capitalism the tendency was to under-report so as to avoid taxes.
            (c) Goods made under communism were frequently so poor quality that no-one wanted to buy them, but they were counted as production, whereas after the fall of communism no-one had any reason to produce these shoddy goods.
            (d) Ultimately, the USSR collapsed because of its excessive and unsustainable military spending. After the fall of communism, military spending was massively decreased, but this can hardly be seen as a reduction in people’s living standards.
            (Source: Anders Aslund, 2002, Building Capitalism)

            TLDR: The Soviets were exaggerating the size and quality of their output, while the capitalists were deliberately lowballing their output.

          • Will says:


            The graph shows declining GDP per-capita for 5 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. (b), (c), and (d) have nothing to do with post-collapse economic indicators.

            As for (a), you are saying that these countries saw their GDPs cut in half over 5 years due to economic activity being pushed to the black market? And then there was a gradual reversal of this trend?

            If that were the case, you would expect per-capita GDP to currently be much higher than it is currently. If the economy had been growing at, say, a constant 4% rate for 20 years (not adjusted for inflation) it would be ~225% of what it was at the beginning, and that is simply not the case.

            Unless you think all of the numbers are bunk, and there is still a huge black market in all of these countries. In which case, you are discarding available data in favor of unsubstantiated theories that fit your ideological preconceptions.

          • kaninchen says:

            Of course they have impacts upon measured GDP. (b) indicates both that the Soviets were overreporting GDP while the post-Soviets were underreporting it, which would give an illusion of reduced production. (c) indicates that while output was falling, the output in question was of goods that no-one really wanted. Hence, this fall in output would have had no impact upon actual living standards, i.e. the thing that actually matter. (d) represents a significant fall in government spending, which is a contributor to GDP, but again with no impact upon actual living standards.

            Indeed, the main reason there was no significant fall in useful output following the collapse in communism was that the Soviet figures are overestimates, and that they included many things which were of no use to anyone and therefore ceased to be produced after communism fell. Hence, it’s not like the post-socialist economies were making up lost ground and could have been expected to grow faster.

            And for what it’s worth, at least in some countries the story of the majority of the economy going into black/grey markets is true. The Georgian black market reached its high point in 1994 at 63.5% of the economy; in Azerbaijan it was still growing in 1995, at 60.6%. (page 25, These were the high points, but black/grey markets reached significant size in countries including Hungary (32.9%, 1991), Russia (41.6%, 1995), and Ukraine (48.9%, 1995).

            I shall also direct you to Key things to note:
            -Black Markets are still large in the eastern bloc, typically comprising about one-third of the economy.
            -“For almost all country groups (except for the post-Socialist one), we observe a declining trend over time.” i.e. that there has not been a decline over time of the size of the post-soviet economies’ black markets; hence again, we should not expect this to contribute to higher growth.

          • Anonymous says:

            I grew up in Poland. Anyone who says that the situation in post-communist countries didn’t get massively better after 1989 has no idea what they’re talking about. In some aspects, it was a most stark discontinuity, from hyperinflation and empty shelves, to stable currency and first world supermarkets within a year or two.

            Some facts about life in a communist country:

            – To buy bread, you had to get up at 5am to stand in line for several hours before the store opened.

            – Real coffee was a rare delicacy. The government promoted grain coffee as a substitute. Similarly, we had a chocolate-substitute called “product similar to chocolate” (“wyrób czekoladopodobny”).

            – In the 80s they introduced rationing of food, gas and many other goods. It was illegal and punishable by jail for a farmer to kill their own pig and sell the meat.

            – Through the end of 1960s, after you graduated, you didn’t choose where you wanted to work. Your job was chosen by a person called “government plenipotentiary for employment” and it was illegal for you to refuse work at the assigned post.

            – I have never encountered the concept of hair conditioner until after 1989.

            Twenty some years later, Poland is still poorer than countries which didn’t go through 40 years of communism, but now it’s the kind of difference you have between California and Alabama: the borders are wide open and anyone is free to move to live and work from one place to the other, and the majority of people choose to stay. Whereas before 1989 it was more like between Cuba and Florida: people willing to risk death to get to the other side.

          • Will says:

            GDP is a decent proxy for living standards, as it gives a general idea of both national income and consumption. In any case, it is a better starting point for an argument than the reiteration of priors, which is what you are engaged in, as you are simultaneously saying GDP is not helpful and then asserting that living standards weren’t affected, all the while providing sources that discuss GDP.

            All of the numbers cited are from the post-Soviet years, so whether they were underreporting then or not is irrelevant. I don’t know how I can make this clearer.

            From the Brookings paper you linked to: “Adjusting for the unofficial economy implies a substantial revision in GDP numbers for some countries, as is also shown in table 1. For example, we estimate that Russian GDP in 1995 was actually around 75 percent of its 1989 level, rather than the 49.1 percent indicated in official statistics.”

            For a country’s economy to shrink by 25% over 6 years is a catastrophe. If you add up the hits and misses of capitalism this falls squarely under the “miss” column.

            To steelman your argument, assume that the post-Soviet countries’ “real” per-capita GDP was actually 75% of year 1, because of useless production. Then assume the most optimistic growth figures from Figure 1 in the Harvard paper. And then we can multiply both numbers by the VoxEU shadow economy co-efficient and try to guess at the actual economy’s size:

            .75*1.34 = 1.005
            1.5*1.36 = 2.04

            So the per-capita GDP doubled in size over 20 years. These are the most charitable numbers possible for us to use. Now we can compare this to the US, using the VoxEU’s OECD-EU co-efficient for economic size (15.9 and 14.5).

            The US’s per-capita GDP in 1989 was $23000. In 2009 it was $47000.


            Which is also a doubling of per-capita GDP. (2.019 compared to 2.030). And I repeat, this is giving your preferred argument its most charitable assumptions. The post-Soviet countries needed to have grown significantly faster than the US for there to be any sort of economic miracle.

      • vV_Vv says:

        My impression is that common knowledge in Western Europe is that Eastern European countries are all doing much better, though not all at the same level:

        The Baltic states, Czech republic, Slovakia and Slovenia are perceived as developed countries, Poland, Hungary and Croatia start to evoke “ugh fields”, anything else is looked down.

    • ii says:

      I have fond memories of receiving aid packages for christmas – watching kids scourageing them for candy/perservatives while dumping the “Jesus Saves” armbands and the McDonalds toys in the trash and going home to play on their playstations.
      I saved some of the photos because I was feeling sorry for them.
      Thanks for the toothpaste guys! 😛

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe it’s not US-centric, but Scott’s social circle-centric.

      We know since he has mentioned it on multiple occasions, that Scott’s friends like posting links on Facebook with feminist statistics. Probably the same people have another set of equally trustworthy statistics to prove that the Soviets weren’t all that bad, however, Scott doesn’t feel as strongly about real socialism as he does about Social Justice, so instead of devoting part of his blog to debunking Facebook posts by communist apologists, he accepted as conventional wisdom that post-communist countries haven’t improved much.

      • Anthony says:

        That doesn’t answer why Foreign Affairs felt it necessary to address the issue.

        • Anonymous says:

          The reason is not Scott’s social circle, but that of Andrei Schleifer. Back in 2004, people were coming up to him and saying: “You personally destroyed Russia.” And suing him. So he wrote a paper called “Russia is a normal country.” And now, ten years later, he is writing a paper called “I told you so.”

  14. John says:

    I feel like that Hendo tech would make the Hyperloop much more efficient.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Weird Multicolored Sun Twitter chose to celebrate Halloween by attaining sentience.

    The evopsych link seems to claim that there is an accepted evolutionary explanation for exclusive homosexuality. I was under the impression this was not true; can anyone shed more light?

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      BTW, can anyone explain the Weird Multicolored Sun Twitter thingy? I don’t get it.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Not much of an explanation, but, the original was Instance Of Class; Instance became notable enough that after a year and a half, within a day of one another, two parody accounts appeared, Member Of Species and Word Of Language, deliberately playing on Instance’s style (although Word rarely tweeted). With three such accounts in existence, it started to become a recognized thing to do, and more imitators slowly accreted, probably more just imitating the general group rather than Instance in particular anymore (especially once Instance stopped tweeting so often, leaving Member as the most prominent of the group). Then, this September, shortly after Scott produced his map referring to the group as “Weird Multicolored Sun Twitter” (soon shortened by most people to “Weird Sun Twitter”, especially as the avatars used were no longer just recolors of Instance’s), the whole thing just exploded; I count 18 definite new Weird Sun Twitters that popped up over the past two months (excluding those who already had an account which they converted into a Weird Sun account), and two questionable outlier cases.

        I’m not sure how much of an explanation that really is, but I’m also not sure how much better it’s possible to do.

      • Pseudonymous Platypus says:

        This is the first time I’ve seen it, but the name “Mark Of Chain” suggests that it’s just a Markov Chain bot. These are fairly common on Twitter as they’re quite easy to implement. Markov Chains can be used to generate text which sorta looks like it was written by a real person, except that it quickly reveals itself to be totally nonsensical. Also, because they generate text based on an existing corpus, these bots can appear to have the same style and interests as whoever wrote the original corpus.

        I don’t know what the deal is with this one in particular, and I’m not sure what Anonymous means by “attaining sentience.” Maybe a real human started posting from the bot’s account? It still looks like Markov nonsense to me, though.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Yes, it presumably *was* a Markov Chain bot, but over the past few days it’s been doing something different. Obviously “it’s attained sentience” is an “in-universe” description of what it’s doing, not what’s actually going on.

    • Regarding evopsych and homosexuality:
      The paper referenced by the BPS article responds to the following quote from a textbook:
      “The most common evolutionary story is focused on heterosexuals (making it heteronormative) and based on the assumption that men try to increase the frequency of their genes in the population by impregnating as many women as possible, whereas women are more selective and choose men who will be good providers to their offspring (Buss, 2000). That theory is problematic partly because of the failure to take homosexuals into account.” This is from Caplan, P. J., & Caplan, J. B. (2009). Thinking critically about research on sex and gender (2nd ed.).

      The authors respond to this quote with the following comment:
      “There are many papers by EPs addressing homosexuality (e.g., Bobrow and Bailey, 2001; Camperio-Ciani, Corna, and Capiluppi, 2004; Iemmola and Ciani, 2009; Rahman and Hull, 2005; Rahman and Wilson, 2003).”

      Hence, the authors are not claiming that there is an “accepted evolutionary explanation for exclusive homosexuality” so much as that homosexuality has not been ignored due to ‘heteronormativity’. Whether EP theorising about the subject is accurate or not is a separate question.

      • Vaniver says:

        “There are many papers by EPs addressing homosexuality (e.g., Bobrow and Bailey, 2001; Camperio-Ciani, Corna, and Capiluppi, 2004; Iemmola and Ciani, 2009; Rahman and Hull, 2005; Rahman and Wilson, 2003).”

        Sub-abstract-level summaries:

        Is male homosexuality maintained via kin selection? No: “Homosexual men were no more likely than heterosexual men to channel resources toward family members”, and tended to be more estranged from family.

        Evidence for maternally inherited factors favouring male homosexuality and promoting female fecundity: “female maternal relatives of homosexuals have higher fecundity than female maternal relatives of heterosexuals and that this difference is not found in female paternal relatives.” Might also explain the older brother effect?

        New Evidence of Genetic Factors Influencing Sexual Orientation in Men: Female Fecundity Increase in the Maternal Line: Other research found somewhat conflicting evidence to the previous paper, they looked again, found more people, and validated their previous results (that female lines that produce more male homosexuals seem to produce more children overall).

        An Empirical Test of the Kin Selection Hypothesis for Male Homosexuality: “There were no significant differences between heterosexual and homosexual men in general familial affinity, generous feelings (willingness to provide financial and emotional resources), and benevolent tendencies (such as willingness to baby-sit).”

        Born gay? The psychobiology of human sexual orientation: “Genetic evidence suggests a heritable component and putative gene loci on the X chromosome. Homosexuality may have evolved to promote same sex affiliation through a conserved neurodevelopmental mechanism.”

        • Are the papers that look at how much homosexual men contribute to their families cross cultural?

        • Nornagest says:

          Might also explain the older brother effect?

          Has anyone looked for a younger brother effect? If this is modulated by maternal-line fecundity, I’d expect to see both.

  16. Salem says:

    Easter Islanders have some Native American genes, proving that the Polynesians reached South America. Weirder still, there seems to be some evidence of contact with people on the Brazilian coast, suggesting they may have almost circumnavigated the continent.

    No, this suggests that either Polynesians reached South America, or, far more likely, South Americans reached Easter Island, possibly when blown off course. The Brazilian thing, if it stands up, is strong evidence for the second interpretation. Note that the origin myth of Easter Island is that the people came from the East (I.e. South America) which has always been dismissed by anthropologists because the people are clearly Polynesian. But if a couple of Chilean fishermen got blown off course and landed on Easter Island, they would no doubt have conquered the primitive natives and (unable to return home) established themselves as rulers, passing down the mythological origin story.

    • Anonymous says:

      Given the relative boating abilities, it is much more likely that the polynesians made a round trip than that south americans made a one-way.

  17. Max says:

    >Note: some warning signs this is not a real linguistics paper.

    James David McCawley was a Scottish-American linguist.
    Under the pseudonym “Quang Phúc Đông” (supposedly a linguist at the fictitious South Hanoi Institute of Technology), McCawley wrote a paper on “English sentences without overt grammatical subject.”

    • microtherion says:

      I’d argue that it IS a real linguistics paper, in that it was written by a linguist and tried to investigate a real linguistic question using the theoretical framework that the author believed in.

      On the other hand, the paper was part of a rather whimsical collection of papers published under (mostly obscene) pseudonyms, dealing mostly with unsavory subjects:

      • Anonymous says:

        Huh. I thought it was published elsewhere and reprinted in that book, but I can’t find any other citation.

  18. Ilya Shpitser says:

    I love the horizontal fasces as the Phalanx symbol. A little on the nose.

  19. Zorgon says:

    I laughed at the Phalanx thing more than is at all reasonable.

    Is there some kind of strange natural law that states that political groups have to pick names that sound vaguely creepy? I encountered an actual People’s Liberation Front a few years back. An actual People’s Liberation Front. (They didn’t last long, mind you.)

    For maximum effect, Phalanx needs to collapse into dozens of warring sub-groups; Phalanx Alpha, Moldbuggite Phalanx, Post-Phalanx, The Real Phalanx…

    • Zorgon says:

      Also I have never in my life been so tempted to hack into a page, just to add the word “Knitting” to the end of the list of Phalanx activities and see how long before anyone notices.

      • Nikias The Random Blog Commenter says:

        Not necessary. It’s cringeworthy and embarrassing enough as it is.

      • Nyan Sandwich says:

        Funny idea. Done. 😉

        • Luke Somers says:

          … can confirm, was actually done. Seemed a little odd when I ran across that, since I did so before seeing this.

        • Anonymous says:

          I think my brain stem just melted.

        • Nyan Sandwich says:

          I’m going to revert it soon. Can’t have our impeccaple masculine image tarnished by such jokes, you see.

          • Susebron says:

            Come on, knitting is a practical skill.

          • Letri says:

            Not only knitting is useful for enterprising survivalist, it also leads to a more refined command of fine hand and finger movement, which is a useful skill.
            Plus, many knitting needles can be sharpened to make for improvised weapons of varying effectiveness.

            Any long needle is a very versatile tool.

            Your lack of appreciation towards knitting’s practical aspects and the fact that you buy into the unsubstantiated stereotype that paints knitting as “feminine” betrays your lack of rationality.

            A proper man should be able to knit himself soft socks, then sneak upon his foes silently and stab them in the jugular with his improvised knitting-needle based stilletoes.

        • Lesser Bull says:

          Incidentally, I once knew a rough and tough Spec OPs officer with lots of kids who used to knit in church.

    • Creutzer says:

      Also, aren’t these people too historically educated for the identity of name with Franco’s party to be purely coincidental?

      • Anonymous says:

        Both are related to an older romantic image of Greek (Athenian, Spartan, Macedonian, Theban,…) phalanx

      • Nyan Sandwich says:

        Aware. Not going to let slimy fascists monopolize all the good semniotic real estate.

        • Letri says:

          semniotic ? Lol.
          You should have called yourself the Phalamx, thus avoiding all potential associations (and branding/trademarking issues)

          Also, with the kinds of views you espouse with regards to categories of ethnicity and gender roles, one has to wonder why do you characterize your ideological ancestors as “slimy”? Merely because they failed to succeed ?

    • Deiseach says:

      Phalanx needs to collapse into dozens of warring sub-groups

      Sounds like a prescription for what happened to the IRA and Sinn Féin in Ireland; on the paramilitary front, in 1997 (yet another) splinter group broke away in opposition to the peace process, calling itself the “Real IRA” and soon attracted the nickname from outside of the “Cokes” (because Coca-Cola is The Real Thing and they regarded themselves as The Real Thing for Irish Republicanism).

      How paramilitary forces turn into political parties, and vice versa, is common enough in Irish politics to warrant a handy guide to who was what when, even in Wikipedia.


      One out of the plethora of fringe and splinter Political parties

      • Zorgon says:

        That was the reference I made right at the end with “The Real Phalanx”.

        • Deiseach says:

          Or the Continuity Phalanx, like the joke about the split in the Wolfe Tones meaning there were now a Real Wolfe Tones and a Continuity Wolfe Tones rival touring music groups 🙂

    • AlphaCeph says:

      If you are allowed to use electronics and computers to control the strength of currents, then a lot of the theorems about “no magnetic system can be stable” are irrelevant.

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t forget Phalanx+, phalanx doesnt seem to have very progressive values so it would be a great opportunity to promote a more accepting and safe community for reactionaries.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      My guess: they made it sound creepy on purpose to troll outsiders and to discourage ‘entryists’

  20. Audrey says:

    I may be missing something as I don’t see the population paper as being pro anything in particular.

    That aside, I find it hard to follow what the argument is without explicit statements on the author’s beliefs about clutch niche relationships. Farmers may well desire bigger territories so want more children, but there are all kinds of other social and environmental complications to this. Isn’t clutch niche just simpler with more explanatory power, which is why it is better accepted? Most of human adaptation is through culture now; we are doing what speciation does through culture. Number of offspring – clutch is determined by ability to raise offspring to fill a niche. Hunter gathering takes 18-21 years to learn so more investment is required in each child, so average number of children is low with a median 4 year birth spacing. Agriculture takes 12 years to learn so people can have more kids that fit that niche.

    In more complex societies there are numerous different niches. In industrialised Britain you started work in the coal mines at 5, so that niche can have a high clutch. The middles can train a number of children to become lawyers by 21.

    We wouldn’t expect smaller family size to follow industrialisation, but to become most popular among families attempting to raise children for a post industrial niche (scientist, lawyer, artist) regardless of the time period. It may be that I could have 12 kids if I planned to raise them to enter coal mines as trappers at 5, but that isn’t a niche available to me. So I raise scientists (or if it goes badly call centre workers) because that is a. available to me and b. I know how to do it. Any 5 year old of mine would make a useless trapper and have a higher chance of death than the average trapper. It isn’t about thehigher status, but about fitness through the available niche.

    And I think where a memeplex starts is less important than where it becomes popular.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Hunter gathering takes 18-21 years to learn so more investment is required in each child”

      I believe that in hunter gatherer societies kids begin gathering very early – as kids.

      The 18-21 number probably refers to the age of transition among males from the gathering specialization to the hunting specialization, not the age at which people become productive food-wise.

      • Anonymous says:

        I am Audrey, but forgot to sign in…

        18-21 is the age of energetic independence of a hunter gathering individual, from Ulijaszek 2005. They also provide graphs for loss of energetic independence of a family unit if birth spacing is reduced.

        After writing my first comment on here, I actually found the writer’s other blog where they have various posts covering the points I asked about on demography that were not in the original link.

        I agree with about 95% of what they have to say, but hunter gatherers do not become independent earlier than farmers and the link they have provided to back up that claim does not do so. Hunting tasks are done from an early age anyway – small birds etc. But small children do some tasks is true in every society.

        Also, population growth of farmers in proximity to hunter gatherers is not all down to natural increase. The skill set for hunter gatherers is more difficult to learn, for both gathering and hunting. A farmer can take a hunter gatherer wife and she can learn the skill set very quickly. A hunter gatherer usually relies on his wife for more complex skills (watertight canoes in Greenland for example, that make seal hunting possible). It is much more difficult for him to take a farming wife and teach her how to be a hunter gatherer. So migration tends to be into farming communities not out of them.

        I think that the original writer should take a look at energetics. It would fit with a lot of the issues they want to explore, and add to their arguments around birth spacing and subsistence patterns if they also took into account more biological factors as well as cultural ones. Weaning ages in the past and child health can also be considered from the evidence from stable isotope analysis.

        • Alex Godofsky says:

          18-21 is the age of energetic independence of a hunter gathering individual, from Ulijaszek 2005.

          Energy is an important resource but not the onlyresource. Is it possible that people under 18 were still ‘carrying their weight’ by performing other tasks that aren’t energy-intensive but still valuable? e.g. adolescents making the spears that the hunters then use?

          (The example was merely meant to illustrate the idea and not to be a serious suggesting – I know very little about the details of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.)

          • Audrey says:

            I think the point is that we can compare the energy expended in making spears (or whatever) to the energy expended by adults, possibly in providing food but also in teaching the child the further skills needed to be able to carry out all the adult subsistence tasks.

            Part of the writer’s general argument is about how modern education is a cultural meme which can eventually lead to population decline (as in the demographic transition model), because children become a cost to their parents, while farming children do the opposite and add a benefit.

            I’m suggesting that looking at some tables and graphs on energetics in child rearing and subsistence could strengthen their argument. That kind of data isn’t just about getting energy by bringing in food, but the energy involved in all tasks.

        • Anonymous says:

          A common theory is that HGs have more variance in energy produced (over time). In bad years, the HGs die of famine, while the farmers eat stored food. The age of independence depends on how good the year is. Proper spacing take into account this risk, but it’s not clear what “age of independence” should mean.

          • Audrey says:

            In bad years the hunter gatherers don’t generally die of famine, they have to use less optimal resources which are more difficult and costly to obtain. Having to cope with bad years is one of the reasons their skill set is more difficult to learn. They need greater ecological knowledge to deal with different situations over their lifetime.

            There are two competing arguments about why agriculture spreads and usually (but not always) out competes hunter gatherers. One of these is about the spread of a meme (the idea that groups took on farming cultural identity and maybe had a few domesticated animals for show and associated material culture, but their subsistence base was really just hunter gathering still) and the other is about population growth in farmers (due to mate selection, early weaning, sedentary living, skill set and energetics).

            What is really interesting about the writer linked to is that they don’t seem to be arguing for either of these things (I’m aware most of their interest is in later periods, but still think this part is interesting too). They seem to be arguing that the desire for more territory causes population growth, not a. other groups converted to the farming culture as status symbol meme or b. population growth caused expansion in territory.

            And I like arguments that are not particularly widely argued but entirely plausible. The best way of testing it would be to compare population growth among sedentary hunter gatherers in resource abundant areas with population growth in farmers. That would also consider the issue you raise, as sedentary hunter gatherers also store surplus food.

  21. peterdjones says:

    ” 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 does 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.”

    The study cited shows that drinking affects IQ in under 16s, who ate banned from drinking anyway.

    Other stories show that drinking is positively correlated with IQ. (The causal arrow seems to be more iq->drinking)

  22. Andrew G. says:

    Argh, not the balloon turbines again. Helium is a non-renewable resource, people!

    • Anonymous says:

      So what? Is it mispriced? (Well, actually, at the moment it’s quite volatile, now that the strategic reserve is exhausted.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Why not hydrogen, then? A couple of flaming windmills are less disastrous than a flaming Hindenburg.

      • gattsuru says:

        I’d be less concerned about the initial burn as much as the sudden loss of pressure: the flaming windmill and its payload will be going toward earth pretty close to 9.8 m/s^2. You can tether the blimp far enough away from the general populace as to keep this from landing on anyone’s head, but then you’ve got to handle support technicians and transmit the energy further. And the device itself almost certainly won’t survive impact with the ground, which makes for an insurance concern, especially as the lifting gas isn’t the majority of the price of the unit. By comparison, most helium-focused designs can take a number of ruptures before slowly drifting down.

        This becomes a bigger issue as you’re trying to do larger generators. The BAT they’re testing in Alaska apparently runs at 30 kilowatts. The megawatt-sized generators we think of when describing wind turbines require significantly more material, in the range of tons.

        ((The FAA will also have a very big bone to pick with flying these anywhere in the continental US.))

        • Anonymous says:

          Why would the loss of pressure be sudden?

          The only balloon crash I know about was the Hindenburg, which floated gently to the ground and had many survivors. Is that not typical?

          • gattsuru says:

            The Hindenburg is less of a detonation event than normally described — while it burnt very fast, the balloon was already low (<300 meters) and most of the visible fire and smoke were structural rather than hydrogen burning: gas cell four probably burst two of the nearest cells, but that left a pretty sizable amount of boyancy to slow the fall, and by the time the other cells completely discharged the blimp had already hit the ground and everyone was on fire.

            That's not the worst likely failure mode with hydrogen. It's not pressure — you'd store the hydrogen at 1 ATM or just slightly above — but sudden conversion of hydrogen gas to water, followed by complete rupture of the cells. Compare the C-8 explosion (which broke windows miles away), when several cells ruptured in a chain reaction, leaving effectively no buoyancy while the vehicle was still in the air. Compare the Ahlhorn hangar disaster, where several blimps in close quarters chain-detonated.

          • Anonymous says:

            How do you know that the C-8 had no buoyancy? It was practically on the ground. Did people see it fall?

        • JB says:

          Safe containment of hydrogen gas at atmospheric pressure is an engineering problem, and much easier than many other successfully-solved engineering problems. Hydrogen won’t explode unless it is exposed to oxygen. For example, the hydrogen could be contained inside an outer shell of helium (as was originally planned for the Hindenburg, but helium export bans prevented this from happening). Another option is to have oxygen sensors inside the hydrogen envelope trigger a warning if the gasses mix. A system could be included to selectively remove oxygen that does enter the envelope — most simply by reacting it with the hydrogen gradually, to maintain an anoxic environment and prevent it from ever approaching an explosive stoichiometric mixture. I don’t know whether any of these systems would be effective or not, but they certainly wouldn’t be heavy or expensive. There’s no reason to treat hydrogen as a lifting gas like some kind of forbidden territory; it will just take some problem-solving.

          The Hindenburg could lift 232 tons (not including its own weight); a modern 1.5 MW turbine weighs about 92 tonnes (without the tower). It would certainly be a challenge.

      • Andrew G. says:

        Why not hydrogen indeed? More lift, even.

      • RCF says:

        Oh the machinery! The machinery!

    • Paul Torek says:

      Right; hold off on that until we develop fusion plants 😉 But seriously, I like the kite turbine idea better.

  23. Aris Katsaris says:

    Mentioned it many days ago (in MoreRight’s Open Thread) that unless I’m missing something, ‘Phalanx’ just sounds like a paramilitary group, but that simple comment seems to not have passed their moderation and thus never appeared in the thread. So, I guess that the neoreactionaries don’t want mentioned that their paramilitary group is a paramilitary group.

    • Vulture says:

      I imagine that that More Right is very heavily moderated to prevent non-NRx influence.

      Also, while I admit that I also immediately thought “haha, this would be virtually indistinguishable from a fascist militia to an outsider”, I didn’t think for a second that it was actually a militia. Now that I think about it I’m not entirely sure why. The best I can come up with is “That wouldn’t be Anissimov’s style”, but that explanation sends up burning flags. Oh dear.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I’m also of the “supposed to sound like a fascist militia to an outsider, but not a fascist militia” camp.

      • Nyan Sandwich says:

        Annisimov seems to support it, but it’s my project, not his. (And no one has a good character read on me. I could be doing anything.;))

        Non-NRx influence is very welcome, if it is civil and constructive. I don’t mod the open threads, but I imagine most people’s ideas of “non -NRx influence” are closer to disruptive than constructive.

    • Syna says:

      What makes it sound like a paramilitary group? It’s odd, but I didn’t make that connection.

      • Anonymous says:

        Because it’s a bunch of men doing masculine things. Obviously violence is the only reason for such a group to exist.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        It’s called “Phalanx”, which is a military-based name, its logo looks like a military badge, and they’re going to learn to use guns and go shooting together.

        • gattsuru says:

          That seems a value of paramilitary that includes the American Boy Scouts (and some Girl Scout troops). Which may be strictly true to the definition, but not normally what we’re concerned about when people say ‘paramilitary’.

          And, uh, not the part that gets my hackles raised here.

          • Illuminati Initiate says:

            To be fair, Boy Scouts are terrifying.

          • AR+ says:

            I like to think of David Hahn’s homemade breeder reactor as a bid by the Boy Scouts to become a nuclear power.

          • The Boy Scouts are actually pretty scary in the right light.

          • suntzuanime says:

            “Look at how scary this group is!” (Links to an article that suggests the group might be Christian, or at least non-atheist.)

            We’re in desperate need of more reactionaries in this comment section.

          • T. Greer says:

            Need more reactionaries? How about normal conservatives? Or just 1 of the million adult boy scout leaders serving now?

            Done that boy scout thing. Furthest thing away from terrifying I can imagine. Burnt fingers and hobo soup. Best description of the boy scouts is comical.

            Depending on the troop they can be adorable too. Occasionally they be magnificent. But always comical.

            So back in the early days of the Communist Party of China there was a sort of divide between urbanites Qu Qiubai and Bo Gu type intellectuals who believed that China’s revolution would take place in the factories, entryism would make the difference, and folks wearing glasses would end up on top.

            Their opponents were guys like Mao, who believed that the revolution meant an armed insurgency in the countryside, organizations should be created instead of co-opted, and guys who needed glasses should pretend like they didn’t.

            When good ol’ CKS decided to put a stop to communist influence in the GMD the first group was forced to flee into the wilds. It wasn’t five years before they were shown to be unprepared and out of their league. Mao and company took over.

            The Phalanx folks remind me of Qu Qiubai. They are showy, cocky, and urban. They are grey trying to play red. The result only looks like It looks like a ‘paramilitary’ group only if you have not seen what a real one looks like up close.

            More serious paramilitary guys hang out at blogs like this, and this, and this. You read their stuff and you’ll see lots of over-lap with reactionary thinking and ideals. But the style is different–but when we are talking ’bout ‘cultural’ where style reflects the substance.

            Here is a cultural credo that made its way around that section of the blogosphere a few years back:

            The Grey Man is always invisible in plain sight.

            The Grey Man is totally aware of his environs, his own capabilities or lack thereof, his weaponry and his levels of competence with that weaponry. He constantly strives to improve upon both his capabilities and competence. In public, he is always respectful, even to the point of obsequiousness if the situation calls for it. He always appears to be just a little confused by what is happening around him, while in reality he is alertly doing a tactical assessment.

            The Grey Man NEVER draws attention to himself by word, dress, action, or mannerism. The Young Grey Man is dismissed as a wimp, the Older as a doddering old fool. The Grey Man derives great inner satisfaction from having this portrayal of himself accepted by all he meets, for it means he is succeeding in his disguise of his actual persona.

            The Grey Man is a private man. He practices with his weaponry in private, or only with his fellow Grey Men, always in a secluded location. If he must resort to use of a public facility, he schedules his practice for times when he is likely to be the only one there. At such times he would probably wear bright clothing, to be remembered only as ‘that guy in the red jacket and sunglasses’, a quite different person from his usual persona. If right-handed, he would always occupy the leftmost station on a NRA bullseye pistol range, with his back to an observer, or the rightmost one for riflery or combat pistol practice. He would not have his name emblazoned on clothing or equipment, nor would he have any noteworthy affiliation proclaimed on his cap. “He’s just a guy. Comes every Wednesday morning for his coffeebreak. Always pays cash.”

            The Grey Man does not drive a pink Cadillac with steer horns on the hood, NOR does he drive the biggest mutherin’ 4X4-with-all-the-bells-and-whistles BOV in the lot. The older his vehicle is, the rustier, the less likely it is to draw attention (or to be stolen, for that matter). This vehicle is, under its exterior, scrupulously maintained and in excellent running order. If pulled over by authority on the basis of appearance, it can be shown to meet or exceed all requirements under licensing laws, and an obsequious co-operative manner precludes a search under the seats. The Grey Man does not speed on the highway: cruise control is his friend. So is the Highway Patrol: he waves to any he sees. If he travels the same route constantly, at the same times, The Grey Man becomes a ‘fixture’ and can be dismissed from conscious observation.

            It helps the Survivor to build up this persona of The Grey Man gradually and over time. The anti-gun sheeple neighbors will quickly rat out the ‘Patriot’ who is always loudly declaiming about his ‘Rights’ and ‘what will happen if they try to take my guns’. The Grey Man goes far out of his way never to offend anyone, imitating the duck which appears calm on the surface of his pond whilst paddling like hell under the surface.

            Be seen as conservative in all you do. A Survivor is a Grey Man, and that little old grey man alone over there in the corner is probably a Survivor!

            Their color-scheme is different than the one around here, of course. But listen to how un-reactionary all that sounds. Can you imagine guys like this joining up in Phalanx? Just the name would make these guys laugh.

            I suppose from the liberal perspective these guys are much scarier than the reactionaries. The reactionaries try to rebuild the past by looking over passages in Carlisle; these guys never stopped living it. They do all the stuff that Phalanx wants to do already, but with none of the flair or characteristic reactionary aggrandizement. And (as half are ex-Armed forces) they do with five times the professionalism as well.

            On the other hand, if I had to sit down and talk to someone about problems in my family or struggles at work or with faith and I had to choose between Phalanx and one of these ‘grey men’ tactical groups, I would choose the grey men every single time.

          • gattsuru says:

            @Joachim Schipper :

            As suntzuanime and T. Greer suggest, those really aren’t frightening things to a pretty large portion of the populace of the United States, who believe and act in almost entirely the same way.

            Might be Christian, and not exactly wild about gay folk and agnostics, isn’t what raises hackles about about paramilitary groups, and I say that as a non-Christian non-straight individual.

          • RCF says:


            “As suntzuanime and T. Greer suggest, those really aren’t frightening things to a pretty large portion of the populace of the United States, who believe and act in almost entirely the same way.”

            A pretty large portion of the populace are frightening.

            “Might be Christian, and not exactly wild about gay folk and agnostics”

            They aren’t just Christian, and “not exactly wild” about gay people and agnostics; they are clearly bigoted against them, and promoting hate against these groups.

    • Frog Doe says:

      That statement is so obvious it adds nothing to the discussion. Since it’s not a contribution, it was deleted.

      Note that this is my interpretation, I’m not a mod.

  24. AJD says:

    “English Sentences Without Overt Grammatical Subject” is definitely a “real” linguistics paper.

    It’s not a serious linguistics paper—that is, it’s deliberately humorous. But it’s real linguistics; the analysis is legitimate and well-argued, and (syntax isn’t my field, but) I believe it’s still regarded as one of the major papers in the syntax of curse words.

  25. James Babcock says:

    Actual technical details of the Hendo Hoverboard thing: . The extreme evasiveness of the Kickstarter page made me think it was a scam, but after some more digging I think it’s probably real. The catch is that it’s impractical; other than novelty and the skateboard-on-copper thing, it doesn’t do anything that wheels or conventional maglev rails don’t do better.

    • Christopher says:

      > it doesn’t do anything that wheels or conventional maglev rails don’t do better.
      Other than making these guys a tidy $400k, you mean.

  26. Pingback: Links For November -

  27. Jordan D. says:

    The thread about lawyers and corruption on Reddit isn’t too surprising, I think- if you’re an attorney and you know another attorney is doing something unethical you have a duty to report them. There’s some give there because disciplinary boards are really small and seldom investigate the small stuff, but anything involving client money would be taken up in a flash. Thus, we can assume that the most evil stuff a lawyer does is either going to be done in secret or the other lawyers who witness it will need to be paid off somehow.

    Less formal factors: assuming most jurisdictions are like mine, you’re totally right about the importance of reputation. That’s a group which is closely-knit enough that making an ass of yourself and having just one or two other attorneys find out is a good way to have hundreds of people who’d advise clients never to come to you.

    Lastly- I wish I could find the numbers I used for this, but I wrote a paper last year looking at disciplinary actions and malpractice cases against lawyers and the causes. My tentative conclusion is that willful and unethical behavior is very rare, but you’re entirely likely to come across someone who strays into malpractice territory through inaction (usually missing dates on statutes of limitations).

  28. RJMeyers says:

    Ok, so this hoverboard is an example of (1) an interesting design, (2) advances in battery tech, and (3) advances in control electronics.

    It uses circular arrays of permanent magnets that are rotated by electric motors, and the motors are powered by an onboard battery. Each circular array of magnets is arranged such that one side has a stronger magnetic field than the other–there may also be a gradual gradient to the permanent magnet field strengths rather than a simple strong/weak binary arrangement. Rotating it over a conductive material thus creates a varying magnetic field over any given point in said conductive material. This variation creates an induced magnetic field in the conductive surface which results in magnetic repulsion–this induced field repulsion is a basic and well known principle, usually achieved by either moving a permanent magnetic relative to a surface or using electromagnets to vary field strength (how maglev trains work). The rotation of permanent magnets is a neat design idea, but it’s not any sort of “special” magnetic field that “pushes against itself,” as the Kickstarter page implies (and the use of this language worries me…). It’s a well known effect being exploited in a pretty creative design that converts linear maglev train propulsion concepts into 2D surface levitation via rotating magnet arrays.

    This hoverboard will only work over surfaces capable of creating an induced magnetic field. This is where I hit a limit on my knowledge of materials, but I suspect that this would limit its applicability. You could potentially seed asphalt with materials that would respond, but I’m unclear how much you’d need to put in and what the results would be.

    Another issue to consider: The system uses permanent magnets, which explains why the onboard battery can run for 7 minutes–only the electric motor and controlling electronics need to be powered. How much will this technology scale? How expensive/common are permanent magnets? If permanent magnets don’t scale (and I mean cost/market/etc.), you’ll have to go to electromagnets. You can build an electromagnet pretty easily, but then you have to power it and will end up draining the battery much more quickly.

    This is cool, but probably a bit over-hyped at this point. If the market for permanent magnets can scale up massively and we can design our built environments to work with this tech, it could become a thing.

    • Arceris says:

      I was thinking about the “seeding” of asphalt and other materials you brought up, and, to my dismay, I don’t think it will work.

      Essentially, as you describe, the levitation is produced by the rotating differential magnetic field. That rotating field induces eddy currents in the conductive, non-ferromagnetic surface. Those eddy currents then oppose the incident magnetic field producing the levitation.

      It is the eddy currents that are critical here. One way you can minimize eddy currents is to decrease the size of the conductor. The eddies need conductor volume to circulate. Consider metal-core transformers, where eddy currents are detrimental to their performance (generate heat losses). To reduce the eddy currents, you can take the metal core and construct it out of thin pieces of laminated metal, rather than one monolithic piece. The laminations, each of which are very thin, drastically reduce the establishment of eddy currents.

      Doping something insulating (like asphalt) with granular conductive material, looks to me like the laminations of the transformer. The conductive sand seems likely to be too small to establish the large eddy currents needed to sustain levitation.

      I think you would need a fully conductive surface for this to work.

      I hope I am wrong here, but it at least seems plausible to me that I am correct.

      • pneumatik says:

        I’m a material scientist by education. The problem the Hendo system will run into is that on the scale of civil engineering everything that’s conductive is expensive. Asphalt is made of rocks and oil by-products. Concrete is rocks and dirt mixed with cement, which is itself made largely of dirt. Compared to these materials even steel is expensive, and steel is about the cheapest non-ferromagnetic conductor you’re going to find. Aluminum is several times more expensive, and were it not for airplanes creating a large enough demand for it to support major industry it would cost even more. Copper’s so expensive that people would probably rip it right out of the road to sell.

        If I were being inventive I’d try to come up with some sort of broad flat ring of metal to roll around the Hendo levitation pods. The metal ring would roll around like a wheel with the pod acting as the axle. Magnetic bearings for wheels already exist, but if the Hendo pod can propel itself and the ring then it could go anywhere.

        If you have enough available energy you can make just about anything carry electricity. A high enough voltage might be able to ionize enough of the air under a Hendo pod to hold eddy currents, for example. Though I don’t know what that plasma would push off against.

    • Will says:

      I don’t understand how they avoid getting magnetic drag the way they are doing things. With the rotating magnets you get lift, but back of the envelope calculations suggest you also get drag (the eddy currents will try to pull you back when you try to push the board forward).

      Maglev trains minimize the drag by manipulating their fields in various ways.

  29. social justice warlock says:

    Obviously “source of all evil” is an exaggeration, but as best I can tell Twitter really is just about the worst discussion format that people regularly use. People complain about Tumblr or Reddit or whatever, but I feel that’s mostly a way of attacking the politics and/or cultural markers of those you imagine to inhabit them – whereas Twitter makes an asshole out of everyone.

    Amusingly and inevitably the evo psych misrepresentation piece intentionally or unintentionally misrepresents the claims of its opponents as well (for instance, “female evolutionary psychologists means that it is not androcentric.”) Conclusion: communication is impossible, nobody understands anybody.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Really? I’ve found Tumblr pretty bad precisely because there’s limited ability to respond to something without reblogging it to everyone you know. So if one person posts something horrible, then it gets reblogged across half the Internet, which seems perfectly designed for pile-ons and turning tiny disagreements into giant wars among communities.

      Twitter has the disadvantage of being short, and therefore without subtlety, but it has the advantage of not automatically showing everyone everyone else’s replies. Also, the threaded conversation is so hard to follow that I’m not tempted to get hung up in everyone else’s dumb arguments, just because I can’t follow them.

      • RCF says:

        I don’t have any direct experience of Twitter, but I’ve seen blog posts about Twitter discussions, and it’s generally a complete mess. The blogger often doesn’t make much of an effort to actual cite their claims, and even if they do try, there isn’t much they can do. They can post screen shots and post links, but that’s rather messy, and there’s no way to show the whole context of the tweets. Which just leaves the discussion a giant mess of people disagreeing about what the proper context of the tweets is, and what the real issue is, and what the tweeters were really responding to. Throughout history, human discussions have been characterized by a common ground of meta-knowledge; if Alice, Bob, and Eve are having a discussion, and Alice says something to Bob, Eve knows Alice said it to Bob, and Bob knows that Eve knows that Alice said it to Bob, and so on. This is a fundamental property of discussions that was taken for granted; people were even conscious that they were relying on it. Message boards preserved this; there were occasional cross-posting, but for the most part, the common ground remained. But now this is disappearing, with discussions scattered across the internet, and Twitter is a major culprit.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Twitter is bad for arguments and good for collaboratively exploring concept-space. The lack of context and common ground is actually enormously freeing, you can be in a headspace fifty miles away from everyone else and that’s ok, because people expect to have to work out where you’re coming from anyway. This is why there’s a specific brand of surreal twitter humor that doesn’t work in other formats such as standup – they put absurdity into the assumed context of the tweet that you discover as you reconstruct it, and in other formats you’re expected to make your context explicit.

          Twitter is something special that doesn’t exist elsewhere, and if it’s not the best place to have political arguments, there’s more to life than that.

    • Keratin says:

      I remember seeing an article recently that showed that scientists seemed to be more active using twitter to discuss research as opposed to specifically science-based social networks. It is clearly serving some conversational niche for people interested in talking about actual non-signalling stuff.

      I think it could be that the strict length limit means that people don’t belabor the point. When you’re dealing with the Internet, there’s a big time/effort discontinuity between reading and writing that can serve as an effort-killer for people who know a lot about a specific topic, but twitter encourages these people to focus on the content directly pertinent to the conversation and also simulates a conversation.

    • Nornagest says:

      Tumblr really is pretty shit for reasons too complicated to get into right now. (As a discussion forum, that is. As a platform for sharing art, cat .gifs, fanfiction links, and porn it’s pretty good, and with the right design it can be an okay webcomic platform or even a not-entirely-terrible platform for hosting serialized fiction.) That doesn’t have much to do with its politics, though — with a different seed culture and slightly different features (to attract different use-case demographics) it could have turned into an equally terrible right-wing circlejerk.

      Reddit isn’t bad. Twitter is mostly weird, and I don’t know it well enough to have worked out which ways its design incentives all point.

      • veronica d says:

        Twitter encourages short, impulsive responses combined w/ rapid viral spread. This it is the perfect storm to create insta-rage and mass pile-ons. In this way it is terrible.

        It’s also the place where I have met some of my now-closest friends. It is the first place I could be “out” as the real me.

        So, it’s complicated.

  30. r says:

    To be fair, the Pew study found that for the four more serious forms of harassment, men and women got harassed at about equal rates, and young women got harassed much more than young men. It seems like a better summary than either “men get harassed more” or “women get harassed more” would be “young women get harassed very often and men of all ages get harassed somewhat often.”

  31. blithe spirit says:

    I think that cannabis study is pretty bad, and that’s coming from someone who wishes that cannabis didn’t lower IQ. This study looked at 16 year olds who smoked a lot of cannabis. If you’re only 16 you can’t have been smoking for that long, so it’s not surprising that they didn’t have any lasting damage . The previous studies looked at people who were now in their 30’s who have been smoking their whole life. I think that the confounding variables are still in question so it’s still not clear exactly what effect cannabis has over the long term.

  32. drs says:

    Rangaku is pretty neat, yes.

    On the Foreign Affairs piece on the ex-Communist countries:
    “Despite the initial contraction, the median postcommunist country in terms of growth (Uzbekistan) expanded slightly faster between 1990 and 2011 than the median country elsewhere in the world (Norway). Whereas Norway’s GDP per capita grew by 45 percent between these years, Uzbekistan’s rose by 47 percent.”

    So a bunch of poor and badly developed countries have grown slightly faster than a very rich country, despite the ease of catch-up vs. having to innovate the cutting edge. (Though Norway’s GDP might be buoyed more by oil prices, which I guess makes the post-Comm countries look better. Except they benefit from oil too, especially Russia.)

    “Even in Russia, long portrayed as a demographic disaster zone, life expectancy now stands at slightly over 70 years — higher than it has ever been.”

    Okay, so they’ve recovered. But compared to 23 years of potential progress, this hardly clinches a case that the post-Communist transition wasn’t disastrous for those living through it.

  33. ivvenalis says:

    Re: the Pew study. There is clearly a systematic bias in favor of empathizing with the suffering of women. I think–and this could probably be disproven by cross-cultural surveys–that men have a desire to protect “their” women for whatever definition of “their” can be constructed, and women have a desire to protect themselves. Observations of both attitudes are common in the MRA/PUA crowd where it is referred to negatively (e.g. pedestalism in men or narcissism, solipsism in women). I personally am no more outraged by it than I am by the fact that women have higher body fat percentages than men, but I do think it’s real.

    Take a look at this, for instance: There’s two sentences about how the men in the village were taken out in the desert and shot, then the rest of the article is about the cruel suffering of women the women, who tragically lost their brothers and fathers. In the whole ISIS embroglio in general, men are many times (probably an order of magnitude) more likely to be victims of violence, dying in combat or in mass executions. Take a look at this (trigger warning: graphic mass violence): There are dozens of videos like this. Nobody cares.

    This is a typical pattern, and it is not recent (see coverage of Indian raids three hundred years ago). I see no reason to think that anyone acting on reflexive beliefs will not emphasize harm done to women over men.

    To move this into more contested territory, I mostly see radical/tumblr feminism as an attempt to “concentrate” this probably inherent pro-woman bias into a sort of all-purpose rhetorical weapon (I’ve read Scott’s “superweapons” post, btw), perhaps analogous to the concentration of plant sugars into stuff that is then added to other foods willy-nilly as a way to make it appealing. It’s probably healthy in small doses (e.g. to prevent the casual employment of petty violence against women), but not when it’s made the default argument for everything.

  34. anon says:

    fresh water shortages are one of the biggest problems facing the 21st century

    Can we have a citation for that statement? I heard it before, but tend to not believe it after reading Julian Simon.

    • Anthony says:

      I’d tend to believe it because of what I’ve read of Julian Simon. Water is almost never (anymore) privately supplied, and property rights in fresh water are generally pretty weak.

  35. Pseudonymous Platypus says:

    Have you read the writing of Frederik deBoer? A lot of it is very good – I particularly like his critiques of the pitfalls of online liberalism. He is a liberal himself (in fact, very liberal), but like you he finds some of the rhetoric and behavior of other liberals troubling. That said, some of his other writing leads me to believe that he doesn’t always practice what he preaches, but then, no one does.

    • Alejandro says:

      +1 on this. I’ve thought for a long time that Freddie is one of the leftists (leftist describes him better than liberal) that Scott should add to his reading list.

  36. g says:

    Both the title and the cover of that economics-of-zombies book looked familiar-but-not-quite to me. Here’s why: Zombie Economics by John Quiggin, whose zombies are metaphorical (it’s a book about economic ideas that allegedly are refuted but still popular).

  37. Anonymous says:

    The pseudonym “Quang Phuc Dong” is constructed, so it could be constructed with detailed purposes. The second and third names are obscene. That makes me suspect the first, but I don’t see it.

    • Rauwyn says:

      I don’t know about the first name, but one of the cited articles is by Yuck Foo. As far as I can tell the article is fake.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, the page range 220-219 is implausible. However, Yuck Foo did proceed to publish another paper, available at Scott’s link.

      • AJD says:

        What do you mean by “the article is fake”? It’s a real article, in that it was written and published; it’s even a real linguistics article, in that it discusses and explains linguistic phenomena in a scientific way. It’s not, like, a hoax article. It’s just not a serious article.

        • Anonymous says:

          If it’s a real article, please point me to a copy of:
          Yuck Foo, “A note on English reflexives”, Quarterly Progress Report no. 29 of the Research Laboratory of Experimental Theology, South Hanoi Institute of Technology, pp 220-219, July 15, 1963.

          I like his style and would like to read his putative other paper. But it’s fake.

          • AJD says:

            Sorry, I misread Rauwyn’s comment and thought it was “English Sentences Without Overt Grammatical Subject” that they were saying was a “fake paper”.

    • Anonymous says:

      Quang is the family name, so this appears in some bibliographies as PD Quang, hence PDQ.
      Or am I imagining things?

  38. We’ll know ClarkHat has gone over to the Dark Side if he comes out in favor of gun control.

    • Pseudonymous Platypus says:

      I’ve read Scott’s anti-reactionary FAQ, but I guess I still don’t understand reactionary/neoreactionary politics very well… could someone explain what about those ClarkHat posts is neoreactionary?

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        Thinking there is a centuries long battle between “two” ideological visions (technically one and its opposition) of which one vision currently controls the machinery of power through academia and the press.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Though they stand out the most for the pro-monarchy thing, most Neoreactionary writing seems to concern itself with analyzing the institutions of control through which the left imposes its will.

        Basically, “the Cathedral” is another term for “the liberal media.”

        • Not a name says:

          There’s not a ton of monarchy discussion in the wider NRX-sphere. Describing NRX as primarily monarchist signals that a person doesn’t read it.

          Often it seems to be used as an easy way to dismiss NRX as silly. I wonder if people instinctively develop defense mechanisms to keep their brains away from exposure to impolite ideas that are true/plausible.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        To say it is just “liberal media” makes them sound like conservatives. They (or at least Moldburg) think that the media and academia are structures that are inherently attractive to progressives and get taken over by them.

        The important difference is in the conservatives version, the conservatives are the good guys fighting against a corrupt media, while in the neoreactionary version, the conservatives are the idiots working off of old versions of progressivism.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Yes, it does make them sound like conservatives. I think a lot of NRX stuff basically sounds like people raised Blue rediscovering things conservatives have been complaining about for decades, and then giving them different names.

          The special twist is phrasing this Great Relearning in such a way as to still paint conservatives as the Other Who We Are Better Than, because these are after all Blue-tribers who retain the primary concern of not being Red. Cthulhu always swims to the left; we alone swim North!

          (This is certainly not the most charitable interpretation I could make; and indeed it is not even entirely or always my view, but it is an impression I am often left with.)

      • grendelkhan says:

        I don’t really get it. Cthulhu always swims left, yes? But he must swim very poorly indeed if we’re still fighting the same fight five hundred years later. I think you can have your ‘leftism is an unstoppable horror advancing over the centuries’ or your ‘leftism and rightism are locked in eternal struggle where one or the other only gains the upper hand temporarily’, but I don’t think you can have both.

        • Zoe says:

          I’m probably missing the context here, but the CASL doctrine never was the Cthulhu swims smoothly. Rather, there is a fight that’s been going on a long time, where occasionally one side or the other wins some issue. But then they immediately take a step forward and start attacking something that used to be uncontroversial, and the other side takes a step back starting to defend the new target, and gaining new adherents to whom the new issue is important. And what CASL means is that in all eras where it would be true the ones who are pushing to the left gain ground more often.

        • Anonymous says:

          There’s a lot of ruin in a nation.

        • Nyan Sandwich says:

          “This thing has been moving for 500 years, clearly it’s not moving quickly.”

          Implying that things that move move a small distance and then stop.

      • Not a name says:

        Clarkhat’s post is roughly 60% Moldbug, 10% Scott A, 10% Jayman, and 5% Nick Land. The low-church English dissenter origins of the Western progressive movement is quintessential Moldbug. I would give examples, but as far as I know linking Moldbug is not allowed here 🙂

  39. Sniffnoy says:

    Since it’s links time, this seems up your alley — it was posted to Hacker News with the title “What if mega-rich people could buy places on clinical trials?”

    Short version: It seems to be a pretty good idea; there are a number of obstacles that prevent the simplest version of the idea from working, but they seem to be solvable.

  40. Pingback: In 5/7 Categories, Men Harassed Online More Than Women | Paul M. Jones

  41. JRM says:
    • Illuminati Initiate says:

      Why does this comment turn red when I mouse over it, but all the others don’t?

      • JRM says:

        Probably because I befouled the html commands.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s a link tag that doesn’t point anywhere. It turns red just like “newsletters.” It’s weird that there’s an underline to indicate that “newsletters” is a real link, unlike the rest. It’s pretty common that people mess up their links and get these, either a single word that they clearly wanted to be a link, or several paragraphs that they clearly didn’t.

  42. John says:

    Scott, I think I count six categories of harassment from the Pew study, not seven. They are: “called offensive names”, “purposefully embarrassed”, “physically threatened”, “harassed for a sustained period”, “stalked”, and “sexually harassed”. The correct statement would be “in four of six categories on average men get harassed more than women”.

  43. Susebron says:

    From the “mind-blowing tricks in war” one:

    [The destroyer U.S.S.] O’Bannon sighted the Japanese submarine Ro-34 on the surface and made to ram it. At the last moment, the officers decided that the sub may be a wikipedia.orgminelayer, and the rudder was turned hard to avoid the collision. This action brought the destroyer directly alongside the sub. As the Japanese sailors attempted to man their three-inch deck gun, the O’Bannon’s deck hands, not having side arms, grabbed potatoes from nearby storage bins and pelted the Japanese with them. Thinking the potatoes were hand grenades, the submarine’s sailors were too occupied with throwing them away from the sub to fire. This gave the O’Bannon the opportunity to distance itself to fire its guns at the sub and damage the conning tower. Although the sub still managed to submerge, O’Bannon used depth charges to finally sink it.

  44. Steve Sailer says:

    The curse words essay refers to Christine Keeler, a British call girl who was involved in the Profumo Scandal of 1963, so I’m guessing it’s a New Left product of a few years later, as is suggested by it being typed on a typewriter. The funny thing is that the reference to Chomsky seems contemporary.

    • nydwracu says:

      No — a lot of linguistics papers from that era (and even some book-length grammars) were typed on typewriters. Compare NUSA, which was typewritten until 1993. (edit: I just got sent a paper on a language spoken somewhere in New Guinea, for reasons unrelated to anything here, and sure enough, it’s typewritten)

      (Speaking of NUSA, anyone linguistically inclined who’s reading this should read the papers on Iau — one of the strangest languages I’ve ever heard of.)

      • RCF says:

        So people would type up a paper, send a hard copy to a journal, and if the journal accepted it, the journal would copy it by hand? It’s just mind boggling. And the idea of spending months writing something, and having only the one copy that I’ve typed up, is terrifying.

    • Anonymous says:

      The first paper is from 1966.

  45. Not a name says:

    I am still confused by the movement to maximize human population growth per unit of available resources.

    Effective Altruists as off-brand paperclip maximizers.

    • Creutzer says:

      I have the same feeling about all these pronouncements of how the continuation of humanity is, in itself, a great thing.

      On the other hand, (some of?) EA can be construed as having the goal of preventing awful deaths, with population growth being an accidental side effect. That seems much less paper-clip-maximiser-y to me.

      • somnicule says:

        Can you clarify the continuation of humanity thing? Because I usually hear it in the sense that “the ending of humanity would be very, very bad, relative to the potential good” which is relatively uncontroversial.

        • Creutzer says:

          That’s precisely the alien thing. I don’t care about potentially happy people who end up never born. The only bad thing I can see about the end of humanity is that it sucks for the last generation.

          • haishan says:

            Have you read Parfit? Reasons and Persons goes into mind-numbing detail about almost every conceivable ethical issue relating to future persons. Even if you don’t agree with Parfit’s conclusions — as I often don’t — it’s a useful way to sharpen your own thoughts.

    • Not a name says:

      From a utilitarian perspective pushing humanity down and to the right on a Malthusian isocline (more people who are more miserable) could be a net positive OR negative depending on how aggregate utility functions pan out. Shouldn’t Effective Altruists pause and show us some math before they resume tiling the world in human bodies? Note that they are plowing their resources into what is already the fastest growing region of the world, projected to add 4 billion new people by the end of the century.

      (Note that I Am Not A Utilitarian and I think it’s silly)

      • Nyan Sandwich says:

        Pretty obvious that total utilitarianism is berzerk.

        Average utilitarianism is less obviously broken, but too simple to be really good.

    • Nyan Sandwich says:

      Lol. Funny seeing this idea laundered for SSC. Much less kosher language used in other circles.

      Spoken plainly, this objection to EAs is obviously racist. It is also a really solid objection to EAs.

      They’ve adopted a morality and plan of action that are really simplistic, sounds nice, and can’t be openly criticized, as a way to excuse themselves from having to engage in strategic thinking on hard questions.

      “Why to you want to inflate the population of Africa above Malthusian limits?”

      “Muh short term QALYs”

      • Not a name says:

        For now I am donating to charities that improve the quality of human life, but not the quantity thereof. The world already feels overcrowded without 4 new Chinas being created in sub-saharan Africa.

        Unfortunately I don’t often visit LW, so open threads here are the only places that I can pick fights with effective altruists. They seem to be unwise/wrong. So far their most common counter-argument is that African-maximization is no worry because Africa will undergo demographic transition to low birth rates like the West. Well, so far population growth isn’t slowing down as much as economists projected. It’s as if people are not interchangeable – people from different civilizations react differently to unconstrained resources.

        In the meantime, altruistically removing local malthusian constraints in third world populations and betting that technology will save us from global malthusian disaster seems insane. And as far as I know I’m the only one critical of Effective Altruism.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          And as far as I know I’m the only one critical of Effective Altruism.

          Not so. See e.g. these subthreads.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Not so. See e.g. these subthreads.

            Whoops. Second link wasn’t specific enough. It was supposed to link here.

        • Nyan Sandwich says:

          I know someone who makes the same arguments as you. So similar that I suspect it might be you. If you are not @richascrassus on twitter, talk to him.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I don’t think this is a criticism of effective altruism. I feel the same way about trying to increase quality of human life while being neutral or actively negative to quantity. I think this is a pretty common belief in the effective altruist movement, though probably not a majority.

          But most effective altruists bring up what I consider a very strong point. The best way to deal with population explosions in Africa or elsewhere is to try to get them to undergo the demographic transition. While the factors affecting demographic transition are still sort of controversial (see the Sister Y link above) a lot of it seems to have to do with good education, security, and material standard of living. This seems…a lot like what effective altruists are trying to provide for people in Africa. I even read a very convincing article saying that reducing malaria death rates specifically would decrease fertility, though right now it’s one of those things where I remember the conclusion but not the particular logic.

          More to the point, GiveWell’s top charities right now are one that just hands money to Africans (presumably including their quality of life and increasing chance of demographic transition) and two that fight nonfatal parasites (which supposedly lower IQ and school attendance and thus depress the economy and intellectual output of the Third World, though they evidence for this is equivocal). Both of these seem like things that a quality-but-not-quantity maximizer could be pretty okay with.

  46. kieran M says:

    That harassment study doesn’t appear to control for time spent online. When they split out where harassment happens, the majority of both men and women have it from social media, but of those who had it during gaming, it was double the number of men. Because men play online games more, one would propose. It doesn’t seem to be a terribly helpful without some kind of ratio of time spent online.

    In fact, this could be Simpsons paradox: women could be harrased more in all spheres, but most of them tend to spent more time on places where this is less harasment.

    • social justice warlock says:

      My understanding is that women actually do quite a bit of computer gaming, but that it tends to be on platforms with less player-to-player communication; I’ve also heard it directly speculated that this is part of the reason.

    • veronica d says:

      Yeah, I was thinking something similar: I would love to see them control for what sites people frequent. Just speculating here, it could be that men are more likely to hang on forums with lots of shit-talking, which would lead to some of what we see. Also I wonder how they drew the line for violent threats. That matters, but it seems damn hard to measure.

      By way of example, some years ago, I hung out a lot on (Don’t ask.) Anyhow, the place was pretty dudely (with a few awesome exceptions) and shit-talking was constant — and look, some of these people would fly across the country to fight each other.

      Actually, it was kinda cool. Like, these were folks who stepped up and threw down.

      But the point is, violent threats were really super ridiculously common there. Like, all the time. Very dudely. I imagine weightlifting forums (and similar) get much of the same shit.

      Nevermind the chans.

      Anyway, I really think this stuff is different from what Anita and company get, at least much of the time. This difference should matter to us.

      So, more data needed, blah, blah, blah.

      • AR+ says:

        That does actually sound pretty cool.

        “Say that to my face, fucker, not online see what happens.”

        “How’s next Saturday sound to you?”

        “That would be lovely.”

        • veronica d says:

          When done right, they set up a smoker match in an MMA gym somewhere, like with their coaches and a ref. Done poorly, they met in parking lots.

          The former seems cool to me. The latter seems unwise.

    • Cauê says:

      One thing I keep thinking about is, are the people responding to these surveys using the same criteria? Are there trends in interpreting the same things in different ways?

      Because I don’t *feel* like I’ve ever been harassed online, even though I could technically answer yes to four of the six questions, given the standards I’ve been seeing on what counts as physical threats and sexual harassment. Should I include only things I take seriously? How are other people responding?

      For instance, recently a game got kicked out of Steam because a developer tweeted death threats to Gabe Newell. The guy was mad because the game was still wrongly marked as “Early Access” on the day of the official release, which would probably hurt sales. He was venting about this on Twitter, and one of the series of frustrated tweets was “I am going to kill gabe newell. He is going to die.”

      If that was about me (and I’ve had this kind of thing), I’d recognize it as a version of “OMG I can’t believe you did this I’m going to murder you”, which is just how people speak. I would never, ever think of understanding it as an actual “death threat”. If asked about this in the survey, would I say yes? I don’t think I should, but Gabe probably would.

      People have said very pornographic things to me as friendly jokes. On other occasions I’ve been angrily told I should be raped. I don’t think either was “sexual harassment”, but my mother would probably think that.

      (In time – I can’t settle on a translation for “harassment” in my native language. I don’t think the word is currently mapping to a coherent and well defined concept)

      • Zorgon says:

        Hypothesis: The degree of fear reaction to a given threat has far more to do with the recipient’s prior training, whether active or passive, regarding the danger level of the given threatening agent than it does to either the danger level of the threat circumstance or the content of the threat itself.

        We could test this by measuring people’s prior threat response to various individuals (using existing “stereotype threat” models) and then have those individuals issue threats of a variety of formats and content in a variety of circumstances.

  47. zz says:

    October 22: PBS publishes article that misrepresents Pew’s findings.
    October 22: PBS article receives one comment praising the article.
    November 1: Scott links to PBS article and points out it completely misrepresents Pew’s findings.
    November 1: Five comments appear on the PBS article, all critical of PBS misrepresenting Pew’s findings.
    November 2: Final comment appears, in reply to the lone pro-PBS comment, pointing out that the PBS article completely misrepresented Pew’s findings.

    While I can’t prove it, you’re doing a good thing here, Scott. My only regret is that, as a student, I can’t afford buy more stuff from Amazon to help support this blog.

  48. Daniel Radetsky says:

    Taylor Swift has started her new experimental artsy phase by releasing a hipper, more youth-friendly cover of a well-known John Cage song.

  49. E. Harding says:

    On the post-Communist countries, there are huge differences. I’ve looked at some comparisons for the non-Baltic U.S.S.R. here:
    Poland, Albania, and the Baltics are clear success stories; Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, and Macedonia are clear failure stories. Russia has improved in both its private and public transportation systems since 1990 and is definitely more a success than failure story.

  50. CaptainBooshi says:

    I wasn’t going to comment on this because I don’t think you’re going to change your behavior, so it won’t do any good, but this has been bugging me in the back of my mind for days, and I just have to get it off my chest.

    It is SO incredibly frustrating that in the exact same entry complaining about how the media is misrepresenting the Pew poll about online harassment, you do literally the exact same thing. The article you link to decided to ignore the parts of the poll that didn’t support their argument, and you decided to ignore the parts of the poll that don’t support yours. Why? Did you not actually read the Pew poll you linked? Is this topic just such a mindkiller for you that you can’t see yourself doing it?

    To clarify, here is what I see both you and the article doing:
    -The PBS article pretty much just doesn’t talk about the large number of men who face severe harassment online, focusing on the female experience even though the poll shows it is a problem for both genders. It also specifically uses the graph for young women facing harassment instead of the graph for all ages, but doesn’t make that distinction in the text, making the problem appear even worse to support its narrative.
    -You ignore the fact that even though the Pew poll does include the categories in which men receive it worse than women in the ‘severe harassment’ column, it still finds that women are more severely harassed than men. The result is just not as bad as feminists have thought and represented it as (I’ll also note that this subject affects you so badly you even have trouble counting, since it has men receiving worse harrassment in FOUR categories, not five). You then proceed to also completely ignore the fact that for young women, the effect is much stronger, and they do indeed have a much worse time online than men. The fact of the matter is, you misrepresent the poll worse than the article did, since at least they didn’t support a conclusion that is the opposite of what the poll found.

    There are indeed very interesting things in this poll. The fact of the matter is that the situation is not as lopsided as feminist, including me, have thought and portrayed it as. Also, they find that women are significantly more affected by online harassment than men. This indicates that developing a thicker skin might actually be an effective tactic against trolls, and might even explain much of the difference in severe harassment. After all, if severely harassing women online is actually more effective than severely harassing men, you would expect trolls to migrate to this tactic for women, but not for men, since it accomplishes what they want.

    • Anonymous says:

      In the official severe categories, men get 28 points and women get 29. Technically, “women are more severely harassed than men,” substantively, no. Maybe you didn’t read the study?

      The difference between Scott and PBS is that PBS has a headline, and it’s false. Scott gives lots of statistics equal weighting. His headline, such as it is, is that the media fabricates statistics. That’s correct, regardless of how badly he read the statistics.

      • CaptainBooshi says:

        I agree that for all ages, the difference is not very substantive, although it definitely is for the younger ages. I was not trying to make that claim, and I’m sorry if it came across like I was trying to defend it. What I was trying to do is show how Scott undermines his own point by misrepresenting the statistics, just like he accused PBS of doing. He completely elides the difference between slight and severe harassment, and that’s not even going into the fact that he says things that are just factually wrong like :”When challenged on it, the article says that by their definition, only “sexual harassment” and “stalking” count as ‘serious” online harassment.” The article is being misleading by focusing on those two in one of it’s quotes, but it clearly mentions all four of the categories that aren’t name-calling and embarassing comments as severe harassment.

        Let’s just take what you said as true, that his headline is that the media fabricates statistics. In reality, the worst that can be said of the article he links to is that it exaggerated parts of the poll to give readers the wrong impression and satisfy its headline. He exaggerated parts of the article and the poll to give readers the wrong impression to satisfy his headline. As I said, he undermined his own point by doing the exact same thing he is complaining about. It probably wasn’t even intentional for either of them, they just read what they wanted to see.

        • Anonymous says:

          I understood what you were trying to do. All I’m saying is that you failed.

        • Cauê says:

          Not sure why sexual harassment should count as “serious” but physical threats should not.

          It seems obvious to me that both can be serious or (more commonly) not.

          But the definitions of pretty much everything in this are unclear to me (I’m 80% confident this is not my fault).

  51. E. Harding says:

    One of the Big Mysteries of the world is why Ethiopia’s economy is growing so rapidly. It hasn’t reformed nearly to the extent Rwanda has. And its rapid growth is exactly one decade old.