Have you heard of Desert Bus, the terrible game about driving a bus for eight real-time hours through a monotonous desert landscape? You have? Then did you know it’s part of Penn and Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors, a collection of trick video games mostly useful for trolling your friends?
Omens and portents, part 5490569910.
Did you know: there are still some practicing Manichaeans around in China.
During World War II, submariners who were missing their alcohol invented torpedo juice, a cocktail made of pineapple juice and torpedo motor fuel.
Related to recent posts on psychedelics: what happens when you take LSD once a week for a year?
The great thing about capitalism is that you can monetize everything, even the crackpots who send physicists mail claiming to have discovered Theories Of Everything: What I Learned As A Hired Consultant For Autodidact Physicists.
At least one study finds that police use of body cameras causes more fatal shootings, especially among African-Americans. Authors theorize that police in genuinely dangerous situations feel more comfortable shooting knowing that the body camera video will vindicate them. But I think I’ve seen other studies say the opposite, so probably best not to overreact just yet. Study does find that police use of smartphones is associated with decreased fatal shooting rate, which makes sense – if they’re anything like me, they’re probably staying in the police station browsing Facebook all day.
I say bad things about occupational licensing a lot, but I guess I should grudgingly admit that occupational licensing of midwives seems to have seriously decreased infant mortality.
Related: Otto von Bismarck’s universal health insurance for Germany seems to have decreased mortality rates. This paper somehow manages to talk about imperial German health insurance without making any Kaiser puns.
Facebook has too many terrible groups to remove them all manually, so they seem to automatically remove ones that get reported enough times. This goes exactly as well as you would expect; Muslims in the Middle East have started a (successful) campaign to get atheist Facebook groups in their countries shut down.
The FDA has decided to subject e-cigarettes to very onerous regulations, meaning they will probably become much less accessible and convenient, meaning probably thousands of people who would otherwise have successfully switched to tobacco-free products will continue to smoke tobacco. A friend on Tumblr tries a cost-benefit analysis and suggests that the change could cost up to 9360 lives, which seems about par for the course for FDA decisions.
Did you know: Brightline is a company building a high-speed rail network in Florida, in what would be the US’ first new private passenger rail system in a hundred years.
Tyler Cowen makes the case that Denmark’s institutions aren’t that great because Danes in the US do better than Danes in Denmark, suggesting Denmark is a successful country mostly because of Danish culture (Cowen didn’t mention genes, but should have). Discussion on Twitter centered around how it’s very hard to find accurate statistics on US Danes because they’re all confounded by who does or doesn’t remember their ancestry (usually upper-class people keep better geneologies). Somehow this realy neat list of all immigrant groups by average education level attained also came up, which shows that Danes are pretty unremarkable on that front. Cowen’s conclusion – that we should at least have open borders for any country with more generous welfare payments than our own – is also pretty interesting.
On the other hand, here’s a case where institutions do matter – Native American areas under the jurisdiction of US rather than tribal courts tend to have stronger credit markets. I would find this more exciting if I knew how a priori relevant strong credit markets were, versus how likely they just went down a list of things until they could cherry-pick one that courts seemed to affect.
Salon magazine is pivoting to a new format which will have less politics and try to include more conservative voices.
This is not a drill: Uber will be fulfilling ride requests using self-driving cars in Pittsburgh within a month. Okay, fine, it’s sort of a drill – the self-driving cars will still have drivers sitting in them in order to ensure safety and comply with regulations.
Old Tom was a killer whale who made a deal with whalers – he would drive other whales within range, in exchange for a share of the meat once they were killed. I don’t usually support phrases like “race traitor” but I’ll make an exception here.
Justice Department announces it will end the use of private prisons – although remember that this directive applies only to the federal level. Since we are not allowed to have unallayed happiness about a nice thing, here’s Jacob Levy on why we can’t feel good about this. Related: DoJ says poor people cannot be detained for being unable to afford bail. Also related: DoJ says it’s not going to prosecute people who use marijuana in accordance with state laws.
Most recent development in Dubai’s efforts to become an outright dystopia: they can arrest people for fundraising for charity.
Cracked with a surprisingly sophisticated (and scary) look into abuse in psychiatric institutions.
You probably think that there is no reason to read an entire New York Times article on the ankles of Michelangelo’s David, but it’s actually really poignant and well-written and gives you a good feel for the time period.
Finding: kids whose parents divorce seem to do worse. Problem: maybe this is genetically confounded – eg parents have some flaws that lead them to divorce, and which also get transmitted down to their kids. Solution: well, there are a lot of possible solutions, but one I wouldn’t have thought of is to correlate children’s outcomes with number of women at the father’s workplace. The theory is that fathers are more likely to divorce if they have lots of female co-workers – more opportunities for affairs, I guess – and there aren’t a lot of other good ways that your father having many female co-workers could make you do worse in life , so this is an “exogenous” cause of divorce and sort of like running a quasi-experiment. Results: children whose fathers have more female co-workers do indeed do worse in life, in the ways we would predict if divorce had lasting effects on children. I am pretty skeptical of this finding – they try to control for things like “richer men might work in more white-collar industries with more women”, but I don’t really trust statistical controls that much. But as one of many studies in this area it mostly accords with what I thought the last time I reviewed the research.
Using the caduceus as a symbol of medicine is mythologically incorrect (h/t Ben Hoffman).
Somebody tell me whether this surprising claim is true or totally made up: Reason claims that no matter what the tax rate, government revenue is always 19% of GDP.
People’s obesity is unrelated to that of their adoptive parents, but strongly related to that of their genetic parents.
FiveThirtyEight has a really interesting analysis of welfare reform (at least the TANF program), which concludes that there’s only been a small decrease in total amount of dollars going to “welfare”, but it’s shifted from cash transfers to poor people, to sponsoring classes/programs/bureaucracies that supposedly help poor people indirectly.
Dublin, California is experimenting with a new mass transit policy in which they subsidize Uber rides for needy travelers in their city. It’s supposed to cost the city about the same amount as bus subsidies, and passengers only slightly more than bus fares, while vastly increasing poor people’s mobility and ability to work to their own schedule. This sounds so amazing that I’m sure somebody is already working to make it illegal.
Contrary to previous belief, places with an excess of men over women are not necessarily prone to social instability.
I thought Steven Pinker was mostly okay, but he’s gone off the deep end lately with his theory that worrying about AI is just some kind of evolutionary psychology thing where men worry about other men being more alpha male than they are. Of course this is getting shared all over the Internet with titles like Ever Wonder Why Only Men Fear An AI Takeover? Of course, as people were quick to point out, multiple surveys show women express more fear of AI than men, plus the whole idea is ridiculous to anyone who has actually studied AI risk in any kind of serious way, and offensive to people who try to do evolutionary psychology responsibly. But I’m sure everyone involved has gotten their clicks and advertising dollars, not to mention their chance to express cheap stereotypes, and with 99% certainty no one will feel the slightest need to apologize for any of it. This reminds me how everybody who covers Silicon Valley has to write articles about how “white” it is, even though it’s one of the least white industries in the country and possibly >50% minority.
You know those sex-ed programs that give teenagers fake babies that really cry so they know how annoying having a baby is and presumably avoid teenage pregnancy? Yeah. They don’t work and may increase teen pregnancy. But I am super suspicious of this. It shows a single short assignment with these fake babies raises pregnancy from 11% to 17%. If this is true it’s the most amazing pro-fertility intervention ever known to mankind and needs to be rolled out in Japan immediately. This is what I mean when I say I am doubtful of studies where tiny interventions seem to produce life-changing results.
“But without government, who would build the roads?!” (h/t Jason Kuznicki)