Multiocular O, “the rarest Cyrillic letter”, used only to describe the eyes of seraphim. Kind of sounds like something out of a Borges book.
More on Low-Trust Russia: Do Russian Who Wants To Be A Millionaire contestants avoid asking the audience because they expect audience members to deliberately mislead them?
Xenocrypt on the math of economic geography: “A party’s voters should get more or less seats based on the shape of the monotonic curve with integral one they can be arranged in” might sound like a very silly belief, but it is equivalent to the common mantra that you deserve to lose if your voters are ‘too clustered’”
Please stop trying to “buy Congress’ Internet history” to “punish” them for “ending Internet privacy”. Please stop donating to crowdfunding campaigns promising to do this. Please stop claiming that now anyone can learn what you read on the Internet in a personally identifiable way. And please remember that the sense in which they “ended Internet privacy” was “they repealed a less-than-one-year-old regulation that hadn’t come into effect yet, changing literally nothing” (though see here for counterargument)
Facebook plans to launch GoFundMe-style fundraising tool. Seems like a good business move, though a little bit monopoly-ish.
Amber A’Lee Frost on attending Left Forum. “At its best, Left Forum remains a reassuring beacon of cameraderie and ambition…at its worst, however, Left Forum is Comic Con for Marxists — Commie Con, if you will—and an absolute shitshow of nerds and social rejects.”
Contra stereotypes, at least one study shows autistic children are more likely to share.
A combination men’s business suit / onesie is a thing that exists and that you can pay $378 for. The company involved being called “Betabrand” might be a little too on the mark, though.
Largest ever study on sex differences in the brain finds the usual – sex differences definitely exist and are significant, but there are nevertheless large areas of overlap between sexes in pretty much everything.
Okay, look, I went way too long between writing up links posts this time, so you’re getting completely dated obsolete stuff like Actually, Neil Gorsuch Is A Champion Of The Little Guy. But aside from the Gorsuch reference this is actually pretty timeless – basically an argument for strict constructionism on the grounds that “a flexible, living, bendable law will always tend to be bent in the direction of the powerful.”
Epidemiology buffs, is this true? US life expectancy, long believed one of the worst in the developed world, is actually the best in the developed world if you correct for our very high violent death rate. [EDIT: This CDC paper investigates fewer causes of violent death but might get proportionally similar results]
The Kernel Project is an in-planning rationalist group house and community center in Manchester, UK.
Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel proposes denying diplomas to students leaving high school unless they can provide a “plan for their future” – acceptance to college or some kind of trade. Current Affairs has pretty much the right take with Rahm Emanuel’s College Proposal Is Everything Wrong With Democratic Education Policy, although I might have used the words “tulip subsidies” a few more times.
The company that makes Taser is offering free body cameras to every police officer, although this might just be part of a plot to get police locked into their system so they can jack up prices later.
Reductress: Are You Dating, Or Just Friends Who Have Sex And See Each Other Five Times A Week? This is even more confusing when you’re poly.
Otium: Are Adult Developmental Stages Real? Looks at Kohlberg, Kegan, etc.
Edge asks “What do you consider the most interesting recent scientific news”. Evo psych founder John Tooby answers: the race between genetic meltdown and germline engineering.
FDA agrees to let 23andMe start telling people their genetic disease risk again. Seems to be less of a Trump pivot than a carefully-considered decision that, whatever point they were trying to make by randomly impeding technological growth and preventing people from getting important health information, they had apparently finished making it.
Beeminder adds a feature to automatically beemind your writing by tracking word count.
I mentioned the debate over 5-HTTLPR, a gene supposedly linked to various mental health outcomes, in my review of pharmacogenomics. Now a very complete meta-analysis finds that a lot of the hype around it isn’t true. This is pretty impressive since there are dozens of papers claiming otherwise, and maybe the most striking example yet of how apparently well-replicated a finding can be and still fail to pan out.
Pope John XIX ruled from 1024-1032; Pope John XXI ruled from 1276 – 1277. It wasn’t until years later that the Catholic Church realized they had gotten confused and accidentally skipped over having a Pope John XX
[Small brain]: Attachment style toward parents
[Bigger brain]: Attachment style toward peers
[Giant glowy brain]: Attachment style toward God
Overcoming Bias on the role of jargon and mythology: “Similarly, religions often expose children to a mass of details, as in religious stories. Smart children can be especially engaged by these details because they like to show off their ability to remember and understand detail. Later on, such people can show off their ability to interpret these details in many ways, and to identify awkward and conflicting elements. Even if the conflicts they find are so severe as to reasonably call into question the entire thing, by that time such people have invested so much in learning details of their religion that they’d lose a lot of ability to show off if they just left and never talked about it again. Some become vocally against their old religion, which lets them keep talking and showing off about it. But even in opposition, they are still then mostly defined by that religion.” Of course, I wouldn’t know anything about that.
From Garrett Jones on Twitter: no correlation between a country’s change in education and its change in growth rate.
List Of Greek And Roman Architectural Records. Did you know Constantine’s bridge across the Danube was over a mile long?
The American Federation Of Teachers, one of the US’ largest teachers unions, comes out in favor of bombing Syria. I feel like this is some sort of reductio ad absurdum of unnecessary politicization of stuff.
Some past studies that I took somewhat seriously suggested that antidepressant use during the first trimester pregnancy could slightly raise autism risk. The latest very large study fails to replicate this result and finds only a slightly increased risk of preterm birth.
The Politics Of The Gene: “Contrary to expectations, however, we find little evidence that it is more common for whites, the socioeconomically advantaged, or political conservatives to believe that genetics are important for health and social outcomes.”
Related: the hereditarian left. This seems like as close to a useful self-identifier as I’m going to get.
White House refuses to give Exxon Mobil special waiver to drill in sanctioned Russia. I want to emphasize how proud I am of (some parts of) America right now. Our Secretary of State is the former CEO of Exxon Mobile, our President is widely suspected of having benefitted from Russian interference in his election, but the government is still able to rule against Exxon and Russia when it needs to. Given how corrupt half of what we do is, it’s nice to know we have some weird hidden talent at not-being-corrupt that we can pull out sometimes.
More interesting techniques for surveying scientists and sounding out consensus: “As level of expertise in climate science grew, so too did the level of agreement on anthropogenic causation…the respondents’ quantitative estimate of the [greenhouse gas] contribution appeared to strongly depend on their judgment or knowledge of the cooling effect of aerosols.” Also: “Respondents who characterized human influence on climate as insignificant, reported having had the most frequent media coverage regarding their views on climate change.”
Deep learning system is able to generate new poems on arbitrary topics. See page 6 for its poem about bipolar disorder, which passes the Emo Teenage Girl Turing Test with flying colors.
A certain population in Bosnia is found to be the tallest in the world, likely for genetic reasons (study, popular article). This sort of thing drives me berserk; everyone can talk about between-populations genetic variation in height as if it’s so obvious it doesn’t even need defending, and then as soon as someone mentions between-populations genetic variation in cognitive abilities, it’s “Haven’t you heard? Scientists proved race is a social construct!” People should either be frantically trying to debunk all of these height-related claims, or else shrugging and saying “yeah, that’s a plausible minor extension of the existing literature” when they read cognition-related claims.
More evidence linking BDNF to depression: it appears to be a good biomarker for antidepressant treatment response. Usually my eyes start rolling when I see “psychiatry” and “biomarker” in the same paper, but with an n = 6000, d = 1.3, and p=4.4E-07, I am grudgingly prepared to take note. Extra neat – it’s serum rather than CSF, so we might actually be able to use it in real life.
Matthew Yglesias changes my mind and convinces me that Obama accepting a $400,000 Wall Street speaking fee is bad. Basic argument: as long as corporations can offer politicians lucrative deals after they retire, they can reward pro-corporate decisions with plausible deniability, which incentivizes politicians to be pro-corporate. If you’re anti-corporate, this is directly bad; if you’re pro-corporate, this makes it impossible to convince people that you’re really making well-considered decisions in their best interests and not just being corrupt.
There have been a lot of hot takes that the March For Science was bad in some vague way (see eg Slate’s here), but despite sharing their intuition of discomfort none of them really rang true to me. One thing that did strike me was this tweet about the focus on funny signs and who had the best costume. It seems to me that if we were protesting something genuinely awful (like a genocide abroad), we wouldn’t wear silly costumes and funny signs. Does that mean that a decision to go ahead with the signs and costumes reflects some kind of subconscious feeling that this isn’t really that bad, or a motivation springing from something other than true outrage?
Lyrebird is an AI project which, if fed samples of a person’s voice, can read off any text you want in the same voice. See their demo with Obama, Trump, and Hillary (I find them instantly recognizable but not at all Turing-passing). They say making this available is ethical because it raises awareness of the potential risk, which a Facebook friend compared to “selling nukes to ISIS in order to raise awareness of the risk of someone selling nukes to ISIS.”
Rod Dreher’s Monastic Vision. I had always thought of Rod Dreher as some sort of crotchety conservative blogger who was deeply concerned about The Gays. Apparently he is actually a tragic figure resembling an Old Testament prophet come to life. I regret the error.
Current Affairs on the back-stabbing, infighting, and comical errors of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Although of course if a handful of Rust Belters had voted differently, we’d be praising every one of these people as geniuses right now.
FHI’s April Fools’ joke – a paper On The Impossibility Of Supersized Machines. Size isn’t even a well-defined natural concept, so how could machines ever become “larger” than humans?
The Myth Of Superhuman AI is yet another poorly thought-out repetition of the same anti-AI claims, and in some cases uses exactly the arguments the article above is parodying. But I link it because it’s the first article that explicitly claims that the “scientific consensus” is in favor of superintelligence, saying things like “a panel of nine of the most informed gurus on AI all agreed this superhuman intelligence was inevitable and not far away”, and that it wants to distinguish itself from the “orthodoxy”. I’m not sure that’s quite right, but it’s nice to see the criticism shift from “stupid crackpot idea that no sane person believes” to “entrenched scientific orthodoxy that must be challenged”, even if I do wish we’d been able to spend at least a little time as “plausible idea that should be approached with interest and curiosity”.
Related: Siberian Fox – “Before thermometers, people mocked the idea of temperature ever being measurable, with all its nuance, complexity, and subjectivity.”
Freddie deBoer gives lots of evidence that there is no shortage of qualified STEM workers relative to other fields and the industry is actually pretty saturated. But Wall Street Journal seems to think they have evidence for the opposite? Curious what all of the tech workers here think.
Also, I can’t remember if I’ve recommended Freddie deBoer’s new education science blog ANOVA on here yet, but you should definitely read it. He’s one of the most engaging writers I know, plus also one of the few people I really trust to report on scientific research accurately, plus also has a rare gift to write about politics without making me want to scream at my computer. See also: his Patreon.
80,000 Hours presents what they recommend as a rare actually-evidence-based self-help career guide. I am a little skeptical of the billing – the “evidence” is mostly along the lines of “a popular book written by science-y sounding person recommended this”, and there are actually ten million different self-help guides that do that kind of thing. But it’s not bad advice and if you’re looking for self-help you could probably do worse.
Scott Sumner: How Can There Be A Shortage Of Construction Workers? That is, is it at all plausible that (as help wanted ads would suggest) there are areas where construction companies can’t find unskilled laborers willing to work for $90,000/year? Sumner splits this question in two – first, an economics question of why an efficient market wouldn’t cause salaries to rise to a level that guarantees all jobs get filled. And second, a political question of how this could happen in a country where we’re constantly told that unskilled men are desperate because there are no job opportunities for them anymore. The answers seem to be “there’s a neat but complicated economics reason for the apparent inefficiency” and “the $90,000 number is really misleading but there may still be okay-paying construction jobs going unfilled and that’s still pretty strange”.
Roscoe Arbuckle, one of the most famous silent movie actors, had his career destroyed by a Trial-Of-The-Century-style rape scandal that sounds like a 1920s version of the UVA Rolling Stone case. Key quote “The jury began deliberations April 12, and took only six minutes to return with a unanimous not guilty verdict — five of those minutes were spent writing a formal statement of apology to Arbuckle for putting him through the ordeal…After the reading of the apology statement, the jury foreman personally handed the statement to Arbuckle who kept it as a treasured memento for the rest of his life. Then, one by one, the entire 12-person jury plus the two jury alternates walked up to Arbuckle’s defense table where they shook his hand and/or embraced and personally apologized to him”. Also a good example of how it doesn’t matter what the justice system finds as long as an industry is controlled by people happy to blacklist you for being unpopular. Also, trigger warning for…fatphobia? That wasn’t the trigger warning I was expecting to have to give, but it’s definitely needed here.
US Supreme Court rejects the argument that states can keep certain suspects’ money even after they are found innocent. This seems like a kind of niche situation, but the article correctly points out that it establishes a strong precedent that might be applied later to rein in civil forfeiture, which definitely isn’t a niche problem and is a really important issue.
Also, Alyssa Vance on Facebook on law: the test cases that set Fourth Amendment precedent will inevitably be ones where defendants are clearly guilty, biasing judges in favor of expanding police search powers.
Study which is so delightfully contrarian I choose to reblog it before reading it all the way through: mandatory class attendance policies in college decrease grades by preventing students from making rational decisions about when and how to study.
You’ve probably heard of Vantablack, the “world’s blackest pigment”, and seen the creepy pictures. But it’s proprietary, it requires special equipment to apply, and you can’t have it. But now artist Stuart Semple has released an open-access version that anyone can use – except, presumably, Anish Kapoor.