Maybe you knew that Maoist China got really obsessed with mangos for a while. But did you know that it reached the point where “when one dentist in a small village compared a mango to a sweet potato, he was put on trial for malicious slander and executed”?
People who lost weight on The Biggest Loser mostly gained it back afterwards and ended up with even worse metabolisms. Possibly related to permanent changes from obesity and yo-yo dieting, but we should also take into account allegations that the contestants were given illegal drugs.
This blog previously linked a Wikipedia article about a radar detector detector detector detector, but Rational Conspiracy did the research and believes it to be a hoax. The radar detection hierarchy likely ends with radar detector detector detectors. Mea culpa.
Some anecdotal evidence has previously suggested that online ads for vegetarianism could convert implausible numbers of people into vegetarians. Effective animal charity Mercy for Animals has done a more formal study and finds complicated and inconsistent results depending on how they define success. People apparently become more interested in vegetarianism, but there’s not much sign of a change in meat consumption itself.
New really interesting blog dissecting bad papers in the social sciences: ljzigerell.com
AskReddit: What is the most surprising mathematical fact you know?. The fractions 1/7, 2/7, 3/7 etc all share the same sequence but start at different places: 1/7 = 0.142857…, 3/7 = 0.428571…, 2/7 = 0.285714, and so on.
Giving scientific papers “badges” for transparent practices allowing outside analysis and replication increases compliance with such practices.
Guardian: “For nearly a year, Richard Rosenfeld’s research on crime trends has been used to debunk the existence of a ‘Ferguson effect’, a suggested link between protests over police killings of black Americans and an increase in crime and murder. Now, the St Louis criminologist says, a deeper analysis of the increase in homicides in 2015 has convinced him that ‘some version’ of the Ferguson effect may be real.”. I’m going to count this as a success for my 44th prediction for 2016.
A man who had no problems running thirty miles with no previous training and who later ran fifty marathons in fifty days may have some kind of mutation in his lactate metabolism.
Venezuela is collapsing, with the New York Times describing it as “uncharted territory” for a semi-developed country to be so deep in economic disaster that its hospitals, schools, power plants, and basic services are simply shutting down. So it’s a good time to reflect on the media’s previous glowing Venezuela stories. In 2013, Salon praised “Hugo Chavez’ Economic Miracle, saying that “[Chavez’s] full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results” (h/t Ciphergoth). And the Guardian wrote that “Sorry, Venezuela Haters: This Economy Is Not The Greece Of Latin America. Prediction is hard, and I was willing to forgive eg the pundits who were wrong about the Trump nomination. But I am less willing to forgive here, because the thesis of these articles wasn’t just that they were right, but that the only reason everyone else didn’t admit they were right was neoliberalism and bad intentions. Psychologizing other people instead of arguing with them should take a really high burden of proof, and Salon and Guardian didn’t meet it. Muggeridge, thou should be living at this hour…
Related: we all like to make fun of Salon, but Politico asks: no, seriously, what is wrong with Salon? They argue that it used to have great journalism, but that the pressures of trying to make money online forced them to fire journalists and increase demands from existing employees until the only way its writers could possibly keep up with the quantities expected of them was by throwing quality out the window. Key quote: “The low point arrived when my editor G-chatted me with the observation that our traffic figures were lagging that day and ordered me to ‘publish something within the hour,’’ Andrew Leonard, who left Salon in 2014, recalled in a post. ‘Which, translated into my new reality, meant ‘Go troll Twitter for something to get mad about — Uber, or Mark Zuckerberg, or Tea Party Republicans — and then produce a rant about it.’ I performed my duty, but not without thinking, ‘Is this what 25 years as a dedicated reporter have led to?’ That’s when it dawned on me: I was no longer inventing the future. I was a victim of it. So I quit my job to keep my sanity.”
Twitter: Questions Wolfram Alpha Can’t Answer, along with some it can. “Duration of the next time window during which the fraction of cats getting closer to Voyager 1 is between 0.2 and 0.8”, “Year that the ulnae of all living humans could first encircle Saturn’s equator, if laid end to end”.
Schizophrenia expert E. Fuller Torrey reviews Robert Whitaker’s contrarian mental health book Anatomy of an Epidemic. I was hoping someone of Torrey’s caliber would do this. Also a really interesting piece on schizophrenia in and of itself.
Neerav Kingsland, CEO of various educational groups, reviews my review of teacher-related research and emphasizes his belief that school-level factors are more important than teacher-level ones. And Education Realist offers a more pessimistic take.
But related: Adam Smith Institute’s roundup of how going to a better school doesn’t make you more successful (see especially paragraph starting with “luck is certainly a huge factor”). And a study finds that attending an elite school in Britain has few positive later-life effects, at least for men. That means either elite schools don’t have better teachers (really?) or that there’s a discrepancy between this and the Chetty study that needs to be resolved.
How come none of my Berkeley friends ever told me about the Berkeley Mystery Walls, a series of mysterious East San Francisco Bay structures that seem to predate the Spanish colonization and have inspired wild theories about pre-Columbian American settlement by the Mongols? [EDIT: proposed explanation]
How much do historians know about whether King Charles the Bald was actually bald or not?
The underwhelmingness of practice effects – “Overall, deliberate practice accounted for 18% of the variance in sports performance. However, the contribution differed depending on skill level. Most important, deliberate practice accounted for only 1% of the varaince in performance among elite-level performers…another major finding was that athletes who reached a high level of skill did not begin their sport earlier in childhood than lower skill athletes.” Maybe that 1% finding is partly ceiling effects – at the Olympic level, everybody’s practicing the same (high) amount. Does anyone know of any studies that contradict this?
Yet another Swedish lottery study finds that wealth itself (as opposed to the factors that cause wealth) has no independent impact on mortality, adult health care utilization, child scholastic performance, drug use, etc. “Our estimates allow us to rule out effects on 10-year mortality one sixth as large as the cross-sectional wealth-mortality gradient”
Maaaaaybe related, hard to tell – socioeconomic status has no relationship to hair cortisol level, which complicates theories about how many body systems are affected by “the stress of poverty” since we might expect hair cortisol level to be an indicator of biological stress levels.
17th-century philosopher William Molyneux formulated what’s now called Molyneux’s Problem: “If a man born blind could feel differences between shapes such as spheres and cubes, could he, if given the ability to see (but now without recourse to touch) distinguish those objects by sight alone, in reference to the tactile schemata he already possessed?”. Thanks to modern science we can now perform the experiment, and the answer is: no.
A group including James Heckman does a really detailed analysis of the effects of years of education. I can’t follow along and I’m suspicious of any model that gets too complicated, but I think their conclusion is that everybody benefits (in terms of earnings) by graduating high-school, but only high-ability people benefit from graduating college.
Have you seen Ostagram and related sites yet, where an AI given two pictures can redraw the first picture in the style of the second? It’s really impressive. And if you want, you can get it done yourself for free at deepart.io, although there’s an 18 hour wait for your completed pictures.
Louisiana governor signs bill making offenses against police count as “hate crimes”.
Soviet jokes on Reddit. Pretty good. Most depressing is: “Q: Don’t the Constitutions of the USA and USSR both guarantee freedom of speech? A: Yes, but the Constitution of the USA also guarantees freedom after the speech” – not because of what it says about Russia but because it’s basically just the “freedom from speech does not guarantee freedom from consequences” argument that so many people love in a non-joke way here in America.
Everybody knows China is a big late 20th/21st century success story, but did you know India’s GDP per capita has tripled in the past 25 years? Noah Smith has more statistics.
Vipul Naik wants you to take a survey on your Wikipedia use.
I agree with this article saying the recent study linking cell phones to brain cancer is hard to believe and that we should hold off judgment for now.
Dalai Lama warns that “too many” refugees are going to Europe and that “Germany cannot afford to become an Arab country”. I guess the Dalai Lama’s political views are a lot harder to predict than I would have expected.
John Horgan gave a really ill-conceived talk at a skeptics’ convention last month saying that instead of focusing on boring topics like Bigfoot and homeopathy, skeptics should focus on debunking the really dangerous ideas like [consensus scientific beliefs that John Horgan does not agree with]. Since then a whole host of scientists have pointed out that John Horgan doesn’t actually understand their scientific fields and is wrong when he talks about them, of which a decent roundup would include Steve Pinker on war and Neurologica on various things. And since Horgan also believes the anti-psychiatry book Anatomy of an Epidemic, have I mentioned that schizophrenia expert E. Fuller Torrey wrote a really neat review?
Emergence of Individuality In Genetically Identical Mice (h/t Paige Harden). Apparent biological differences in genetically identical individuals caused by “factors unfolding or emerging during development”. Maybe a good time to reread Non-Shared Environment Doesn’t Just Mean Schools And Peers.
Futurist Madsen Pirie has been called “Britain’s Nostradamus” for accurately predicting various British elections, Schwarzenegger’s California victory, and various other things. He’s just called the 2016 POTUS elections for Donald Trump.
A study two years ago argued that the US was an “oligarchy” because rich people were more likely to get their way than average citizens (I wrote about it here). But Vox now has a good article about why that study may not be true.
Putin offers free land for foreigners in Russia’s Far East. If you can get enough people over there, the government will even pay to hook up infrastructure. If you’ve ever wanted your own town, this could be your chance.
Probably not real, but A+ for effort to this method of dealing with speed traps.
Vox: Congressional Democrats who get elected on rainy days become more conservative. This sort of makes sense. Fewer voters come to the polls on rainy days, conservatives are usually more committed voters than liberals, so rainy days favor conservatives, mean that Democrats get elected by lower margins, and make Democrats feel like they have less of a mandate to pursue liberal policies. But it also sort of doesn’t make sense – political scientists have known this for years, so shouldn’t Democrats adjust for it? Not sure if this is a mystery beyond just that Congressional Democrats aren’t experts in obscure political science studies.
The war on free speech on social media, “I see” edition.