In 1926, a rich guy died and willed all of his money to whichever Toronto woman could have the most babies in the next ten years. So began the Great Stork Derby.
For the past four decades or so, rich-country inequality has been increasing as labor gradually takes less and less of the pie; most people have blamed this on political or structural factors and expected it to get worse. A London economics professor suggests that it’s actually two demographic factors – the baby boom and the rise of China – creating lots and lots of new workers and driving the price of labor down. He predicts that from now on, as baby boomers retire and China shrinks, the trend will reverse and inequality will start decreasing back toward 1970s levels. Alternate still-pretty-good possibility: Africa booms as the new cheap labor source.
On the other hand, here are some people saying that 100% of the decline in labor’s share of income is due to intellectual property products.
The Yuan Percent: the children of China’s billionaires have nearly limitless wealth, but face the usual sorts of ennui and maladjustment that come with unearned riches. Their coping strategies range from taking over their parents’ businesses to becoming socially aware to retreating into a bubble of other rich kids to just partying a lot all the time. Also, one of them got a job with Uber and drives random people around in his Maserati.
What’s the point of a bitcoin generating chip that doesn’t even earn back the electricity needed to power it? A micropayments revolution where you can pay $0.001 to watch a video without needing a linked bank account or anything.
US doctors have been busy this month switching over to the new ICD-10 diagnostic codes. These have been generally mocked as overly complicated, but the Internet has many helpful guides, including a primer on the OMG codes (OMG 000.30 – Injury to dominant hand from hitting computer screen due to ICD-10) and a refresher on Star Wars-related codes (U327.21A – Accident to, on or involving Alderaan when blown up by first Death Star, initial encounter). Once you’ve got them all down, commemorate your successful transition with the new coffee table book Struck by Orca: ICD-10 Illustrated
The mainstay of the Chabad Lubavitch armed forces is the Mitzvah tank.
A bunch of studies have come out in the past few years purporting to show that “poverty affects kids’ brains”, based on studies that show that poor kids have differently-structured brains than rich kids. These are always followed with calls to give better social/financial support to poor families with young children to help the kids develop better. I’ve always been really skeptical, on the grounds that it’s also possible poor families are poor because they have some characteristic that increases risk of poverty, which like many characteristics is expressed in the brain, which gets genetically transmitted to their kids, thus making their kids’ brains look different. So I wanted a randomized controlled trial giving poor families money and seeing if their kids’ brains develop differently. Well, now we are getting exactly that. I predict 66% chance it comes back positive (because things usually do) and 33% chance it comes back true positive and survives good replication attempts. Either way it is a win-win situation. If it’s negative, we have All Learned An Important Lesson. If it’s positive, then there’s a super-super easy way to improve kids’ long-term prospects and change the world. EDIT: Here’s a quasi-experimental look at some Cherokee Indians that does find an effect.
Nobels in Medicine go to two groups who came up with novel therapies for tropical parasitic diseases: one for the discoverers of avermectin, one for the discoverer of artemisin. Both are great drugs, both have saved tens of thousands, maybe millions of lives, and it’s good to see tropical medicine getting the recognition it deserves.
If you’re like me, you saw a couple years’ plateau in genome sequencing costs and started panicking that innovation had stopped and the Great Stagnation had taken over yet another domain. Well, good news: after a short hiatus, the cost of genome sequencing is falling faster than ever, and even the official statistics now correctly reflect that point.
No matter what their original views, Supreme Court justices get more liberal as they get older. 538 throws out hypotheses: they don’t want to get in trouble with the New York Times? They want to keep getting invited to the good cocktail parties? Really, these are some of 538’s hypotheses!
The island of Kiribati looks like what happens when a bored gamer has to come up with city names in their third Civilization IV game of the night.
Something I should have realized a long time ago: cells sometimes pick up a few extra mutations when they divide, but it doesn’t matter because throughout the zillions of cells in the body they all even out. Unless we’re talking about the first division of the fertilized zygote, or the first few divisions in the neural crest which is about to become the embryonic brain, or anything like that. Now scientists find these crucial developmental mutations lead to large populations of genetically different neurons in the adult brain. This ought to increase (by how much? I don’t know) our estimate of how much interpersonal variation is genetic. Even identical twins will have different post-fertilization mutations, so the old maxim that all differences between identical twins are non-genetic doesn’t really hold; since identical twins are the yardstick by which we judge everyone else, that means we have to revise those estimates as well. In other words, these sorts of mutations could make up part of what we previously called “non-shared environment”.
In the 1700s, the British famously discovered that citrus fruit cured scurvy, and the treatment became a well-known mainstay of the Royal Navy. So how come in the early 1900s, polar explorers kept dying of scurvy and none of them knew how to treat it? This is a really good article.
Mathematician James Stewart got rich writing a series of popular calculus textbooks. He used his fortune to create a calculus-related mansion called Integral House. When I get older I hope to be at least this eccentric.
Vox: India is as rich as the US was in 1881. I feel like this probably hides some important differences – if ‘access to cool modern technology’ wasn’t a factor, I would choose 1881-US or even 1731-US over modern India in a heartbeat – but still neat to think about.
I am a sucker for faux actual maps of conceptual space. You probably remember my map of the rationalist community. And I might or might not have previously blogged about the map of humanity, which I used to have hanging in my kitchen. Well, now there’s a map of literature. I wonder if there’s a way to get a paper copy…
One thing I love about the very early US was their weirdly earnest intellectualism/utopianism/classicism, which gives you all of these random farmers naming stuff after the Iliad and trying to write Homeric epics. Definitely from that genre: 19th-century Wyomingian George W. Corey wrote a Paradise-Lost style epic poem detailing Satan’s role in founding the Democratic Party.
Repealing Section 230, the law protecting websites from being sued for their commenters’ comments, is a really bad idea.
Secret Service broke its privacy rules to embarrass a critic. The most Third World thing I’ve heard of happening in this country for a while. Luckily they seem to be in big trouble for it.
China opens a Communist Party theme park. Currently mostly just statues and exhibits, but Twitter offers ideas for exciting rides like Pile Of Forty-Five Million Dead Bodies Mountain. No word on whether or not the log ride will have a soft landing.
Starts off okay: “An absolute and permanent ban on vivisection is not only a necessary law to protect animals and to show sympathy with their pain, but it is also a law for humanity itself…. I have therefore announced the immediate prohibition of vivisection and have made the practice a punishable offense…” Then gets kind of, what’s the word – ironic: “Until such time as punishment is pronounced the culprit shall be lodged in a concentration camp.” Animal welfare in Nazi Germany.
This list of ten commonly bungled historical quotes is notably mainly for the story of “There’s a sucker born every minute”. It wasn’t said by PT Barnum, but by his competitor, circus owner David Hannum. Hannum had bought the fossilized remains of the Cardiff Giant, Barnum had tried to buy it off him, Hannum had refused, so Barnum had made a fake copy. When thousands flocked to see Barnum’s fake, Hannum explained it away by saying “There’s a sucker born every minute”. Twist: unbeknownst to Hannum, the original Cardiff giant was also fake. So Barnum’s customers were suckers, Hannum was a sucker, and everyone who attributes this quote to Barnum is a sucker too.
Thieves rarely stay thieves for very long.
An older school starting age dramatically decreases risk of inattention/hyperactivity at age 7 (effect size of -0.7!), and this persists at age 11. Possible cause of secular increase in ADHD? This is going with all of the other studies into the “100% of problems are caused by school” bin.
Say what you want about California’s government in general, but this month they’re the latest (and largest) state to pass right-to-die legislation.
The majority of the world’s children are now in school, but don’t seem to be learning anything there despite developing countries sinking billions of dollars into education. This is going with all the other studies into the…you know the drill.
Prospect gives the leftist perspective on the narrowing of civic life – ie the decline of fraternal organizations, grassroots associations, and benefit groups.
Experiment: making someone consume sauerkraut juice makes them more likely to support Nazis. Paper suggests it’s because drinking a healthy-but-disgusting beverage means they’ve “done their good deed for the day” and are now free of having to worry about moral concerns, but I’m surprised they didn’t take the social priming aspect and say that sauerkraut primes German-ness. Related: meta-analysis finds small but robust effect of social priming.
One constant in the back-and-forth debate over immigration is that Muslim immigration into Western Europe has gone exceptionally poorly. Or so I thought – Marginal Revolution reports that 40 – 60% of Middle Eastern/African/Muslim immigrants in France marry someone who is “neither an immigrant nor a descendent of immigrants”, suggesting an impressive level of assimilation. Still don’t know whether that means ethnically-French people or ethnically-Middle-Eastern people whose families immigrated more than one generation ago.
I asked some people who had read Albion’s Seed why we attribute a lot of American South/Appalachian culture to the Scots-Irish when neither the Scots nor the Irish display those cultural features. Their answer: Scots-Irish is a euphemism. American Southerners and Appalachianites are actually descended from the Border Reavers.
Julia writes about preventing child sexual abuse. It says about 10% of people are sexually abused as children, which is much higher than I would have expected before going into psychiatry, whereas now I constantly have to remind myself that occasionally some people aren’t.
Fiesta Cookware was a 1950s fad. Like all 1950s fads, it played into nuclear mania; in this case, by including uranium-based paints to give it its cool radioactive-looking color. Since having uranium in the things you eat off of is clearly the best idea, you may be regretting you were not around in the 1950s to enjoy it. Regret no longer – it’s back on sale for $25 a plate from United Nuclear, which advertises that they are “great for radiation demonstrations, classroom/educational use, as a geiger counter test source, and certainly an item for collectors”.
The easternmost point in the United States is in the Virgin Islands and is named Point Udall. The westernmost point in the United States is in Guam, and is named Point Udall. Truly did Bill Clinton say “The Sun will never set on the legacy of Mo Udall.”
A lot of news sources recently reported that Tsinghua University has topped MIT for best engineering school. QZ does some decent investigative reporting and finds that this is only true if you measure by sheer quantity of papers. Apparently Tsinghua produces lots and lots of papers but they aren’t very good.
One of the lynchpins of the Fermi Paradox/Great Filter argument is that if advanced alien civilizations existed elsewhere in the Universe, we would have detected them by observing the megastructures they would build around their star(s) – but we haven’t, so they don’t. Now, for the first time, Kepler has detected a star that looks like it has a megastructure around it. But before you get too excited, it could also be some kind of exotic planetary collision or weird cometary cloud or something. Scientists have already applied to SETI to get radio telescopes pointed that direction to see if they pick anything up.
We’re always told that we need seven to eight hours’ sleep, but hunter-gatherers seem to make do with six and a half.
Via a Marginal Revolution article on a philosophy paper about how there shouldn’t be philosophy papers, I found Nathan Robinson’s blog Navel Observatory. It’s kind of one-third Freddie deBoer, one-third Brian Tomasik, and one-third weird humor. This article reminded me of my “Niceness, Community, and Civilization”: Is There A Principled Distinction Between Refusing To Watch American Sniper And Refusing To Read Fun Home?. And this one reminded me of my “Toxoplasma of Rage”: Keeping The Content Machine Whirring. Mr. Robinson also has a bunch of weird leftist childrens’ books on Amazon with titles like The Day the Crayons Organized an Autonomous Workers’ Collective and The Mayor of New Orleans Gets Her Way: A Child’s Urban Planning Toolkit.