Is Europe’s Little Ice Age a myth? Apparently temperature records don’t show much of a decline during that period, and the reason the Thames froze was because the London Bridge of the era dammed it up.
Peter Singer’s new book The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically will probably be released by the time you read this post. He’s giving out prizes for people who can help sell copies, and will be publicizing it with a Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything” thread) April 14.
In case Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates weren’t enough for you, Steve Wozniak becomes the latest science/technology celebrity to speak out about the threat of machine superintelligence.
I missed this the first time around, but I’m glad I found it now: Scott Aaronson on a novel idea about what might be required for consciousness. The good news is that it gives the intuitively correct answer to a lot of thought experiments. The bad news is I can’t see any other reason to believe it’s true.
Libya was once our best bet for an example of foreign military intervention going well for once, but in retrospect it went terribly and might have been a huge mistake.
Finally we know how many bloggers live in their parents’ basement – somewhere less than 3.7%.
The great white hope? In an upcoming boxing match, former heavyweight champion of the world Evander Holyfield will take on Mitt Romney.
Why does European cooking have less spice than Indian and other cuisines? One theory: after the Age of Exploration, spice became cheap and everyone started countersignaling.
It’s long been an anomaly that the rich donate proportionally less to charity than the poor even though they have more to give. The Atlantic describes research that it’s because the rich are so isolated that they barely remember the needy’s existence.
More econ statistics: poverty is plummeting globally, and general global inequality is declining even as it increases within individual countries.
What if we’ve been on the wrong track blaming the insurers/government/drug companies for soaring health care costs? What if the real culprits are the hospitals?
Have you heard the story that lots of Mohawk Indians worked on skyscrapers because for some reason they were genetically immune to fear of heights? Turns out if you ask the Mohawks in confidence, they admit that they’re exactly as scared as everyone else but their culture teaches them to hide it.
There’s been growing evidence that zero-calorie artificial sweeteners somehow still make you gain weight, and that my cynical intuition that there’s no way they made a food taste good without being unhealthy was right after all. Now an Israeli team may have discovered a mechanism. Artificial sweeteners change the balance between Bacteroides and Firmicutes bacteria in the gut, and the latter seem to have the ability to break down food in such a way that the body absorbs more calories (!). If true, it might be not only an important step toward the development of free-lunch-weight-neutral sweeteners, but also to a better understanding of obesity in general.
The strongest force in the universe is the tendency of Chinese people to kill and consume exotic animals out of some kind of far-fetched hope that it will cure diseases. What if we could use that power for good?
Free IUDs reduce teen pregnancy. Part of me wants to be snarky and say something like “sun reduces darkness”, but the last time they did one of these studies with condoms it turned out to be incredibly flawed, so I’ll wait until someone’s double-checked the methodology.
Lots of people and businesses are moving to small-government low-tax conservative states these days, which some have used as evidence of the success of conservative policies. Paul Krugman makes an interesting counterargument: the rise of air conditioning has increased the desirability of hot states relative to cold states, hot southern states are more conservative. Marginal Revolution basically agrees that weather is more important than politics in recent inter-state migration, but doesn’t think air conditioning in particular mattered that much.
That was unexpected: the Supreme Court bans regulatory boards made up of the profession they are regulating, in what looks like a big victory for, for example, entrepreneurs in the dental industry who don’t want the dental establishment to be the ones deciding whether they’re allowed to have a business. Cynical prediction: established players in the industry keep their regulatory boards, but pack them with non-professionals who just happen to agree with them about everything.
Remember how a few months ago two female librarians heavily involved in social justice called a male librarian a sexual predator, going into lurid detail about how his offenses are so well known that “women attending library conferences have instituted a buddy system to protect themselves from him”. And how, unable to produce any evidence of this, they blogged about how sexist it was to put the burden of proof on victims or to demand people “treat both sides equally”? And how after he lost his job, he sued them for libel? And how they become a huge online cause celebre for “refusing to be silenced” about the institutionalized sexism this represented in the (90% female) library field? And how feminist bloggers bravely spread the word and raised tens of thousands of dollars for their legal defense fund? Well, last week, apparently as part of some kind of settlement deal, the accusers admitted they made the allegations up in a post that literally used the phrase “mistakes have been made” and implied that they were still kind of heroes for raising the issue of sexism.
Related: a reporter inexplicably asks a pizza place if they would cater a gay wedding that for some reason wanted pizza. The pizza place says they are happy to serve gay customers but that their religion prohibits them from catering a gay wedding. The social justice world responds with such a flurry of death threats and rape threats and threats against their family that they are forced to close down. (Salon to publish article explaining how objecting to death and rape threats is a sign of “aggrieved entitlement” in 3…2…1…)
A Seattle doctor proposes a plausible aetiology for SIDS: a disorder of the inner ear.
Is poverty in the United States declining? The answer turns out to be “it depends how you define poverty”, but a lot of methodologies converge on the idea that government programs have successfully treated the symptoms of poverty without doing much to lessen the prevalence of the disease. That is, if you give the poor food stamps they may be less hungry and therefore happier, but they don’t necessarily escape a poverty trap and end up self-sufficiently middle-class.
“There are three hypotheses about why wages for the middle class are falling: robots, unions, and China…The evidence may point to least favored answer being the right one.” Noah Smith on what the evidence tells us about wage stagnation.
How nepotistic are different industries in the US? One in fifty male governors has a son who’s also a governor; one in a hundred male football players have a son who’s also a football player.
This is an interesting study, but the differences in how different media outlets report upon it is even more interesting: Vox: A New Study Says It Doesn’t Matter How Much Time You Spend With Your Kids versus National Post: Six Hours A Week Of Family Time May Just Tame Your Teenager. This isn’t even an isolated case – there are a lot of studies so complex that they support diametrically opposite headlines, allowing a source’s bias to seep in.
Speaking of which, Poverty Shrinks Brains is the title most sources are using to cover a new study which finds that poorer people have smaller brains than wealthier people, even at age one month old. West Hunter makes the objection I would have made, somewhat more forcefully and sarcastically than I would have made it. But as far as I can tell blame rests less on the study authors (who raised all possibilities) than on the coverage.
Vox: Why Education Won’t Cure Poverty, In One Chart. To save you a click, it’s about how poor Americans today are much more educated than they were a generation ago, but still poor – not the results table from that brain size study above.
OKAY, I ADMIT IT, I’VE BEEN READING ABOUT POVERTY AND INEQUALITY WAY TOO MUCH THIS WEEK. But here’s a chart showing that a lot of modern inequality comes from the cost of housing. Does this or doesn’t this debunk Thomas Piketty?
The darknet market Evolution recently turned out to be a scam that ran off with its customers’ money. In the aftermath, the federal government is subpoenaing account information of the Reddit users who talked about it, including SSC-commenter and generally-swell-guy Gwern. They seem to be concerned about his prescient prediction that this would happen, but once they realize that he’s Gwern and that sort of thing is just what he does, hopefully they’ll leave him alone.
Speaking of Gwern, he is my source for this study on Intentional Weight Loss And All-Cause Mortality, which somewhat contrary to my expectations shows that trying to lose weight leads to a 15% reduction in all-cause mortality. Maybe some diets work after all?
Here’s another study that violated my expectations: No Link Between Military Suicide Rate And Deployments. That is, someone who joins the military but hangs out at a fort in the States all day has the same suicide rate as someone sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. If true – and it joins similar results from other studies – it suggests the military’s high suicide rate may be related less to battle-related trauma and more to attracting suicidal sorts of people. Which I guess makes a lot of sense, when you think about it.
Soda taxes do not decrease soda consumption. Okay, now we’re three in a row for studies that contradict my expectations. I better get some better expectations quick.
Online libertarian portal The Libertarian Republic: We Give Up, Libertarianism Is Impossible, Who Would Build The Roads? But do check the date on the article.
I don’t know if this is a real product.
Beautiful pictures of world landmarks taken with no-longer-legal drone fly-overs.