When shoddy engineering caused a bridge to collapse in Quebec, Canada decided it needed to impress its engineering students with the sanctity of their duty. Their solution: call Rudyard Kipling to design a Ritual Of The Calling Of An Engineer.
Overlawyered: A man who performed under the name “Skull Von Krush” is now a plaintiff in a suit seeking class-action status that claims pro wrestling hid the dangers of concussion
Tom Loback makes beautiful illuminated manuscripts of the Silmarillion, in Quenya.
I Used To Be A Snob About Fake Meat. I Was Dead Wrong. A food critic argues that the moral imperative for vegetarianism is strong enough that he will grudgingly allow people to eat fake meat, especially since people eat their real meat with so much stuff anyway that the fake version doesn’t taste much worse. A lot of my vegetarian friends have also claimed fake meat doesn’t taste worse than the real thing. I’m curious which kinds of fake meat they’re thinking of. I use Quorn myself, but it’s not nearly as good, plus I’ve recently been told it uses factory-farmed eggs in the US anyway. Article is also notable for nominative determinism – food journalist Tom Philpott.
Speaking of nominative determinism, Wikipedia has a good list of examples, including a bunch of meteorologists with names like Storm, Raine, and Freeze, and DUI defendant Dr. Unk. (h/t Buck)
Reuters: Stop Adding Up The Wealth Of The Poor. You know all of those articles that tell you “The richest hundred people have more money than the bottom three billion”? The way they’re couinting it, a toddler with a nickel would have more money than the bottom three billion.
There is a Journal of Dracula Studies. (h/t Ozy)
A little late, but here you go: Cards Against Humanity: State Of The Union Edition. I have a feeling “NO, FUCK YOU, CUT SPENDING!” will end up as a trump card.
Contra some recent discussion on Xenosystems, a very interesting Noah Smith article in Bloomberg, Making Babies Makes A Comeback, says fertility rates have started rising again both in Japan and the West.
Elon Musk reveals that SpaceX’s new drone ships will be named Just Read The Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You, which fans quickly recognized as a Cultural refrence. Also a good excuse (as if you needed one) to read Wikipedia’s List Of Spacecraft In The Culture Series
More of poor people explaining why being poor is harder than you think on Reddit recently. I finally realized that one part of the answer to “Why don’t poor people leave expensive cities?” is “Because they can’t afford cars and are dependent on access to public transportation.”
In my post Social Justice For The Demanding Of Rigor, I listed a bunch of studies that I thought showed ironclad evidence of discrimination even when the usual confounders had been taken out. I was recently informed that one of these studies, the one showing discrimination against women in scientific peer review which disappeared when reviews were blinded to gender, has been – I don’t know if it officially counts as retracted, but Nature says after looking into it they realize it was false and they apologize for publishing the claim. Despite trying really hard to maintain skepticism, I am apparently still too credulous of gender statistics. I apologize for helping spread this falsehood and I have corrected the post in which it appeared.
Africa’s Quiet Solar Revolution. One of the factors behind Africa’s recent economic boom is that governments which continually botch infrastructure have been circumvented by technology and business that provide the same goods in a decentralized way. Thus the cell phone revolution and now solar power.
University of Chicago reviews Lee Dugatkin’s Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose, the story of Thomas Jefferson’s obsession with sending a giant stuffed moose to France as part of a plan to save America by fighting a weird theory of animal racism.
Related – Nations with moose cavalry: the elves of Mirkwood, the Soviet Union
Two new promising classes of cancer therapies.
Everyone is talking about Jonathan Chait’s article against political correctness, which is so boring I’m not even going to link it because it is exactly what you imagine it to be when I say “an article against political correctness”. On the other hand, some of the discussion has been worthwhile. Ross Douthat tries to pinpoint exactly what we mean by political correctness – though I’m not sure he succeeds – then argues contra Chait that, though it can be ugly, it does work. Meanwhile, Chait has a pretty funny analysis of the way people have responded to his piece.
India moves toward deal on global warming. For those of you keeping track, that’s India, China, and America at least making the right noises. Next step is a summit in Paris in December.
Libertarian book about how markets should be used for everything is, consistently, auctioning off its dedication to the highest bidder. Offer includes the right to write whatever message you want on the dedication page. Right now it’s at $180, so if you’ve ever wanted a libertarian book dedicated to you or a loved one, you’ve got another week or so before bidding closes.
Signaling and countersignaling: Even Airports Can Have Inferiority Complexes. Students from lower-level Ivy schools are more likely to talk about how they’re going to an Ivy, smaller airports that only have a few international flights are more likely to call themselves “X International Airport”, and so on.
Every news source’s employees donate more money to the Democrats than the Republicans, including Fox News. Perspective one: The liberal slant of the media is getting ridiculous. Perspective two: if a measure says Fox has a liberal slant, it’s probably not a meaningful measure; employees must not affect the tone of coverage much anyway, so it doesn’t matter if they all lean the same way.
Why Do Some Women Prefer Submissive Men?, asks a study that goes on to find that relationships with a power imbalance tend to produce more children, regardless of which partner is on top. Not sure whether they’re finding anything other than that if your relationship satisfies your fetish you’ll have more sex and therefore more kids.
There’s good April Fools’ Day jokes, there’s great April Fools’ Day jokes, and then there’s lighting a tire fire in the crater of the volcano outside town and making everyone think they’re doomed.
I thought the “ridiculous exaggeration of laws in new stories” trend had peaked with coverage of the right-to-discriminate law in Michigan, but I was wrong: Bill Would Allow Texas Teachers To Kill Students.
“So to recap: If you provide transportation services just for your own employees, people will say that you’re elitist, that you’re ‘letting’ the public systems crumble because you’ve got your own, and there’ll be protests wherever your buses stop. If you provide transportation services to everyone and thumb your nose at the regulators, they’ll say you’re a threat to consumers and should be shut down. If you try to provide transportation services to everyone while following the rules, you will get fuck-all done. Welcome to San Francisco.” – Mike Blume on Night School Failed Because It Followed Laws
DSM-V maintains diagnostic reliability by changing the goalposts (h/t James Wu and Kate)
This guy is really not impressed with that “amazing archery” video going around.
Study: half of the financial returns to schooling come from finding a better mate, at least in Denmark. (h/t Marginal Revolution)
I usually hate “It’s Not That Class That’s Ruining America, It’s This Class” almost as much as “It’s Not This Generation That’s Ruling America, It’s That Generation”. But Reihan Salam gives some not-at-all-bad political analysis of things like zoning laws and job licensing in the process of arguing that The Upper Middle Class Is Ruining America.
Andrew Sullivan retires from blogging, prompting suggestions from Ross Douthat and Tyler Cowen that he was the most important public intellectual of our era, most notably as the leading voice for gay rights. Kevin Drum argues that blogging is dying; Ezra Klein argues that it isn’t and names some blogs he likes, including SSC (!)
YOUR SUPPOSED SOCIAL FINDINGS ARE CONFOUNDED BY BIOLOGY, part 5206851: claim that having daughters makes couples get divorced may be a misinterpretation; alternate explanation is that daughters survive stress better in utero and so couples with high level of marital stress (and therefore likely future divorce) give birth to more daughters but miscarry more sons.
Rand Paul claims that he has “heard of many tragic cases of children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines”, is soundly mocked. Backtracks, saying that all he meant was that some children get mental disorders, and in strictly chronological terms this is after they are vaccinated. Poses for camera getting vaccinated, blames “liberal media”. I’m not sure America is ready for a president who doesn’t practice Gricean implicature. I was kind of hoping Paul would end up as the thinking man’s presidential candidate, so this is a pretty big blow.
80,000 Hours on a rough non-rigorous estimate of how much of a positive or negative externality is produced by different professions.
The Emerging Republican Advantage claims that trends are in place for Republicans to keep winning elections, despite the much more obvious counter-trends (more immigrants and minorities, more old people dying, etc). Some of its points are good, but I think after every election I’ve seen a couple of pieces saying “Party X’s victory in this election foreshadows a new era of complete Party X domination, Party Y will never be able to recover” and so far they’ve always been wrong. [EDIT: And on cue, a commenter points out that this is the same author who wrote The Emerging Democratic Majority ten years ago.]
How Citation Distortions Create Unfounded Authority – if all the cool people make sure to get positive results and cite each other, it looks to everyone else like there is universal consensus on positive results in a field.
Speaking of which, some great discussion of the hype around telomeres, first from Slate and then from James Coyne. No, living with a depressed parent doesn’t “accelerate your aging”, no, you probably shouldn’t be looking at telomeres and talking about “accelerated aging” to begin with.
The English Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 defined and strengthened the writ of habeas corpus, the right to a fair trial that we still (sometimes) enjoy today. It was passed because the guy in charge of the House Of Lords counted an especially fat Lord as ten votes as a joke and nobody else noticed.
Related to the recent discussion on innate talent: Shakuntala Devi, an Indian lady capable since a young age of apparently impossible calculations, like giving the 23rd root of a 201 digit number in less than a minute. Her other achievements include writing one of the first books to openly discuss homosexuality in India, as well as another book which is not really what you would expect from a savant.