"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Links 9/17: HURLy-bURLy

Forest rings: like fairy rings, except with trees, and up to a mile wide, and no one knows why they form.

From AskReddit: Russians who were adults back while the Soviet Union existed, how does life in Russia now compare to back then?

Memoirs Of The Twentieth Century was a 1733 work of speculative fiction about the world in 1997. The prediction: technology won’t advance at all over its 18th-century level, but evil Jesuits will control everything. Paging Pope Francis…

This week in pharma company chutzpah: in order to preserve their patent on a popular eyedrop, Allergan transferred the intellectual property rights to the Mohawk Indians, who as a recognized Native American tribe are immune from certain federal intellectual property laws. Will Native American pharmaceutical patent caretaking become the same sort of cultural phenomenon as Native American casinos?

Colombian airline proposes standing-room only flights to pack planes tighter and cut fares. Consumers are outraged at the possibility of getting a completely optional extra choice in the comfort vs. price tradeoff.

Newfound doubts that the paper claiming to have successfully CRISPRed human embryos did anything of the sort. Also, note that the paper saying they did CRISPR the embryos got published in Nature, and the criticism arguing that they didn’t is so far just up on the Biorxiv.

While cities grew faster than suburbs from 2000 to 2015, for the past two years the suburbs have overtaken their urban cores. New round of suburbanization incoming?

The number one food exporter in the world is the United States. The number two food exporter in the world is the Netherlands, 1/270th the size and mostly urban. How they do it, and how they’re leading the agriculturally sustainable future.

Evergreen State College, site of social-justice related protests, vandalism, and threats earlier this year, suffers major enrollment drop and budget shortfall, in what some commentators are calling the “Mizzou Effect” after similar drops at University of Missouri in a similar situation. See also kontextmachine’s take. Possibly related to various events at Berkeley not making things worse recently?

The Kellogg-Briand Pact was a 1928 League of Nations initiative which banned aggressive war. It has a pretty poor reputation today, understandable given what happened after 1928. But a team of political scientists say it made a real and lasting positive difference. See also their data here.

Adults With Autism Make More Consistent Choices. “People with autism spectrum conditions often show a reduced sensitivity to contextual information in perceptual tasks…” Note obvious predictive processing angle.

Related: Autistic Boys And Girls Found To Have Hypermasculinized Faces, Supporting The Extreme Male Brain Theory. But deeper in the article, it gets more nuanced: “Autistic spectrum disorder may constitute a disorder of sexual differentiation or androgeny rather than a disorder characterized by masculinization in both genders.” A good time to remember that autistic people are transgender at eight times the rate in the general population.

Gout decreases Parkinson’s Disease risk because uric acid has an antioxidant effect on neurons.

I mentioned last month I didn’t understand Ribbon Farm’s big post on “premium mediocrity”. Zvi writes a summary and response which helps me understand – oh, it’s just another aspect of the whole narcissism thing. Still not sure I get Zvi’s additional analysis, but maybe someone else will write a blog post explaining his explanation.

Anatomy Of A Moral Panic: how Slate, Vice, etc fell for a bogus story that Amazon’s recommendation algorithm is encouraging people to buy terrorist bomb-making supplies together. Equally interesting – Amazon, which undoubtedly knows this makes no sense, just says it will “review” the algorithm; it’s not even worth their energy to defend themselves anymore.

In case you’re wondering how accurate Twitter’s algorithmic moderation is: Japanese man banned for making death threat against mosquito.

Still in the process of looking this over, but seems interesting: two top British psychopharmacologists have a theory of what serotonin does in the brain based on 5HT1A receptors promoting “passive coping” and 5HT2A receptors promoting “active coping”. Exciting if true given that a lot of our understanding of psychopharm has been held up by an inability to get a good feel for what serotonin is actually there for.

Melting Asphalt challenges the traditional theory of ads where seeing a picture of a guy drinking beer on a beach makes you associate beer with fun, so you go out and buy some beer because of how fun it is. Proposes an alternative theory where ads are about creating shared social context. Not sure if true, but I think it’s important to have people challenging theories about how people are ridiculously stupid / infinitely persuadable, “because psychology”.

American Medical Association releases a statement supporting DACA, pointing out that “our nation’s health care workforce depends on the care provided by physicians and medical students with DACA status”.

The Cassini spacecraft carried plutonium. Saturn is made of hydrogen. You make a thermonuclear bomb by using plutonium to ignite hydrogen. So it’s nice to be reassured that no, there is no way Cassini could possibly haved turned Saturn into a giant thermonuclear bomb.

America’s First Addiction Epidemic When white explorers first came to America, the Indians had never seen distilled alcohol before, and entire tribes were destroyed by alcoholism before they even knew what was hitting them. Over centuries, entire new institutions and religions evolved to deal with the problem, providing a really neat and well-documented example of cultural evolution and maybe even gene-culture coevolution in real time. Highly recommended.

Artificial intelligence can tell from your face whether you’re gay or straight with about 80% accuracy, much better than humans. But do remember that story a few months back when they thought they could do this with criminals, and turned out to just be distinguishing mugshots from nonmugshots. Also interesting: look at their pictures of the most typically gay vs. most typically straight face. Several people on Tumblr said if they had to guess the axis, they would say it was something like “most liberal looking” vs. “most conservative looking” or possibly “higher class” vs. “lower class”. What do we make of that?

The supposed “Voynich manuscript solution” making the rounds is amateurish and unable to actually predict or decode anything. Also, it might have been a gimmick made for a TV show. Remember, claims that someone has decoded the Voynich manuscript should be met with the same level of skepticism as claims that someone has proven P ? NP; this is something thousands of experts have been trying to do for decades and any declaration of sudden success should be interpreted in that light.

Given the recent Equifax hacking, you might be interested in this guide to dealing with identity theft. Key fact: you have to hit exactly the right legal notes to make banks take action on your identity theft claim, and most ordinary people can’t navigate the process and aren’t able to get their names cleared. Some Good Samaritan created a form letter that hit exactly the right legal notes, everyone started using it, the banks became annoyed that they had to actually respond to identity theft claims now, and they successfully lobbied Congress to prohibit using form letters to report identity theft.

A new advance in open-access science: the arxiv overlay journal. You publish your paper on arxiv and then submit it to the journal; it gets peer-reviewed and officially declared a Published Paper and everything, and then the journal itself is just a set of links to the arxiv.

Second-newest convert to the AI risk movement: Hillary Clinton. “Technologists like Elon Musk, Sam Altman, and Bill Gates, and physicists like Stephen Hawking have warned that artificial intelligence could one day pose an existential security threat…every time I went out to Silicon Valley during the campaign, I came home more alarmed about this. My staff lived in fear that I’d start talking about ‘the rise of the robots’ in some Iowa town hall.”

Newest convert to the AI risk movement: Vladimir Putin. ” Vladimir Putin may secretly be on the side of Elon Musk in their indirect debate over the threat posed by artificial intelligence. As Arkady Volozh, the head of Yandex, pitched him on the technology’s potential, the Russian president inquired about when AI ‘will eat us’. The question seemed to baffle the head of Russia’s biggest tech firm, who was giving Putin a tour on the company’s Moscow HQ on Thursday.”

Suicide rates up by a third over the past ten years, mostly among the less educated.

Ridiculous juicer startup Juicero shuts down.

The mysterious attacks by an unknown sonic weapon against US diplomats in Cuba continue; authorities and scientists remain baffled.

Segregation in Sweden works similarly to US (h/t @bswud) – Swedish neighborhoods experience racial “tipping points” based on number of immigrants.

Various tobacco control policies and programs in Europe do not affect smoking rates at all.

“Jubal Harshaw” offers a skeptical counternarrative of the opioid crisis – what if we just made the reasonable medical decision to prescribe opioids three times as often for pain, and then a constant rate of death per prescription caused opiate-related deaths to triple? And then also heroin got cheaper so more people started using it?

In “give us this day our daily bread”, the translation ‘daily’ is basically made up; nobody knows what the relevant Greek word means. Inside the dispute over translating “epiousios.

Every species has a “type specimen” – a single individual, usually the first-discovered or best-known member of that species, who is declared by fiat to be the central example of a member of that species so that if there’s ever a debate about membership of that species the unclear examples can be compared to the type. The type specimen for humans is Carl Linnaeus.

Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, famous for his eight stages of life, was originally “Erik Homburger”. He changed his last name to Erikson to symbolize that he was the son of himself, ie had created his own identity.

Rationalist hub Less Wrong has relaunched with a new coat of paint, better moderation, and an improved technical base. Check it out.

The astronomer who discovered Charon named it after his wife Charlene – he thought “Charon” was a scientific-sounding version of her nickname “Char”. It was only later that anybody realized Charon was an appropriate Greek mythological character with a link to Pluto. TINACBNEIAC.

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367 Responses to Links 9/17: HURLy-bURLy

  1. fnord says:

    It’s not the narrative the article is selling, but reading between the lines it’s pretty clear that a big part of the Netherlands being the number 2 food seller by value is that it focuses on high value crops.

    This is not to say there’s nothing innovative there (after all, the articles compares yields for tomatoes specifically). But that’s not the only thing going on, and it seems like there might be issues with applying the capital-intensive methods used on their high-value crops to cheaper staples.

    • Svejk says:

      Indeed. These numbers appear to include very high-value products like bulbs (natch) and seed stock varieties of various plants, and also finished products like cheeses. I would be interested to see what the relative import/export volume is on a basket of staples (here Germans would make a joke about the export volume of Dutch tomatoes being mostly inflated with water).

      I wonder if it is useful to tease out the role of geography. The Netherlands may be advantaged as an export-oriented market for high-value goods as a small nation with a history of shipping expertise located right next to multiple foreign markets on the same currency. Will these practices be useful for Ukrainian wheat farmers (beyond encouraging them to diversify into potato seed stocks and yoghurt)?

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Excellent soil where the rivers of northwest Europe meet the sea, fairly mild weather for being so far north, excellent transportation by sea and by flat land, and long history of intensive agriculture. The lowland countries have been among the most densely populated parts of Europe for the last 1000 years or so.

        • H. Stapel says:

          With regards to physical geography:
          Half of the Netherlands is below sea level, and its natural state is marsh. This means high groundwater levels, and very clayey soils. These soils are completely unsuitable for arable farming: water logging being the most serious issue for arable crops. Grass is more resilient, so these areas have been turned into pastures for dairy farming.

          Historically this was not always so. The entire west of the Netherlands used to feature raised peat soils. As peat is essentially potting soil, crops will grow very well. However, the necessary drainage means oxidation of the organic material. In roughly a 1000 years, over 10 m of the soil has disappeared in these areas!

          All current highly productive soils have a sandy loam texture: the coarse sand grains allow the water to drain, and the finer particles (silt and clay) allow for moisture retention. Additionally, weathering of the clay releases nutrients. In the Netherlands, these soils are concentrated in three areas:
          – around the rivers Rhine and Meuse
          – at certain parts of the coastline (e.g. Westland mentioned in the NatGeo article)
          – in the young polders ( < 100 years old)

          Westland indeed has some of the best soils of the world, but many if not most of the greenhouses have concrete floors: they are no longer making use of the soil. The excellent soils have played a role in getting the intensive agriculture going, but no longer play a role. Most large scale new greenhouses are being built on marginal soils.

          The Netherlands have been populated very densely, for so long, that there are essentially no natural landscapes to be found in the country. Forests have since long time been managed for wood production (much less so in recent history). The last 'wild' landscapes have been turned into agricultural land in the 1930s after the invention of chemical nitrogen fertilizer. Before, the soil nutrient status would be so low that no cows would survive on those lands.

      • slapdashbr says:

        Also, the Netherlands *imports* a lot of food products, processes them locally, and exports finished products. Besides flowers and seeds, their top 3 agri exports are meat, dairy, and poultry. They imported ~$54B in agricultural products in 2015 according to https://www.export.gov/article?id=Netherlands-Agriculture so, while they are greatly exceeding that with exports, it does give a strong impression that by and large, the Netherlands is not exporting huge amounts of locally sustainable agriculture- it’s serving as Europe’s trade center for global agriculture. They import maize, soybeans, and other bulk food products from the Americas, feed it to animals or process it locally, then export finished cattle/swine/poultry and processed food to the rest of Europe. Kind of like the US importing more crude oil than it uses, refining it, and exporting a portion of the refined product.

        While a lot of the agriculture done in the Netherlands demonstrates good practices to use for sustainable agriculture, the massive value of their exports is mostly due to simply being the trading center for food for most of Europe.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      The last time I saw discussion on this, someone brought up that EU food regulations allow ripening of bananas to qualify as enough of a value add that bananas imported green, ripened in the importation nation and passed to other nations as ripe bananas counted as an export, so it could also be the result of Rotterdam being the busiest port in the world.

      Are we sure they’re growing everything they’re credited as exporting?

    • bean says:

      This is not to say there’s nothing innovative there (after all, the articles compares yields for tomatoes specifically).

      But it’s still worth noting that they’re only No. 22 in tomato production. If their system for tomatoes is so much better overall, you think they’d be getting out of potatoes (where they do very well, but not amazingly better than everyone else) and into tomatoes.

      Also, I wonder how much of this is tied into seeds. Seeds are really hard to do well, and I could totally see this approach to agriculture having a major competitive advantage in producing them.

      (And I’m just a bit suspicious of the whole thing. National Geo is big into ‘sustainable’ and ‘organic’, and I can’t help but think that if this was such a good way to do things, the US would have figured it out. Ag research is a really big thing, even if it’s largely invisible to those in cities. And it’s not all funded by Monsanto, either.)

      • keranih says:

        Several good points here.

        Firstly, 20 tons an acre is pretty good, but far from earth shaking- it’s about the US average, with selected areas averaging much, *much* higher. In terms of honesty, NatG would have been better to compare to European or even Scandinavian averages, instead of comparing the Low Country farmers to hill peasants in Chile.

        (All farming in the Netherlands is either urban or suburban. The farm land itself is incredibly valuable for housing, so in order to compensate, the crops have to be really valuable.)

        Secondly, as noted, the main potato export for the Netherlands is seed stock, and yes, that *is* hard to do well. Much easier to just grow a particular crop to an earlier eating stage. But…one seed stock farm/nursery/orchard can supply dozens or hundreds of other farms, depending on the livestock or plant. It actually makes sense for a small, highly educated, technology-soaked country to go the seed stock route.

        NatG makes several choices that I find…interesting, particularly in their photographs (always a prime draw of NatG, even when their articles are slight and/or slanted.) The picture of the guy in the greenhouse – the huge tomato bushes are typical for greenhouse stock, which are generally indeterminate and so keep on growing (and putting out new blossums) throughout their lifetime. Supported on wires, the tomatoes keep on growing and are lowered mechanically so they can be picked. The students are an interesting choice – 50% of those pictured are not ‘native’ lowlands stock. I wonder if this was an editorial/artistic choice or if it reflects the actual makeup of the colleges.

        And finally…the picture of the chicken house. I note two things – firstly, that Dutch animal agriculture is about 99% completely indoors – the only way to get that low of antibiotic use is to run low input stocks on very low density and production levels, which is economically unfeasible in that part of Europe, or to remove the animals from any sort of environmental threat by modifying pathogens out of the environment. (It’s also worth noting that the Dutch reached their current low levels by 1) dropping from an EU-wide high several years ago, 2) regulations controlling the use of antibiotics 3) allowing a number of animals to sicken and die while they figured the lower levels out (proof, imo, that they were trying to go too far, too fast) and finally by putting those farmers – small family farmers with older equipment – out of business, to be bought up by the larger, more efficient producers.) Dutch farming meets the SSC definition of “factory farming”, and it’s worth noting that the picture of the stacked chick nursery shows cute fluffy chicks on fresh shavings – the same sort of thing that could be seen at every. single. poultry farm in the USA. (Because that’s how you raise healthy chicks.)

        All in all, I found this NatG article interesting but insufficient – enough to spark interest, not enough to actually educate, and leaving me wondering what was left out.

        • H. Stapel says:

          A few points:
          Calling all farming ‘either urban or suburban’ seems somewhat exaggerated: my non-Dutch friends assure some parts of the country, especially in the North, are quite rural! Additionally, the Netherlands is urbanizing further at the moment, with a great deal of educated young people moving towards the cities in the west (Randstad). The rural parts are getting more rural, so to speak. Nevertheless, I saw this picture coming by some time ago, which does provide some context: Holland is not a dense country, but an empty city.

          I am a graduate from Wageningen, and the student pictures are not that far from reality. 20% of students are foreign; some majors do have over 50% non-European foreign students; exact numbers here. However, Wageningen is a relatively small university, with roughly 10 000 students.

          Apart from sharing knowledge for the good of the world, I’m fairly confident there are financial benefits to this as well: non-EU students pay roughly ten times more in college fees. A downside for the native students is that I felt the curriculum seemed to get dumbed down: the Bologna process is meant to facilitate easy transfer from a Bachelor of Science to a (related!) Master of Science, but students are starting their MSc with wildly differing background knowledge. (Then again, I don’t seem to be wildly incompetent compared to my colleagues who graduated 20-30 years ago, so perhaps not that much has changed.)

          Pig and chicken farming is around 80% indoors. For dairy farming, roughly 80% of cows graze outdoors daily (except for winter). Fun fact not mentioned in the NatGeo article: the Food Valley smells like chicken shit! The Netherlands also suffers from very high nitrogen loads from the agriculture, with subsequent eutrophication of surface waters, nature areas, and rising nitrite concentrations in groundwater.

          For Dutch chicken egg farming, around 35 million chickens, but can’t find many quantitative sources:
          – 15% caged: around 20 to 30 farms with “enriched” cages are (~0.75 square meter per chicken) around until 2021, with 5 to 6 chickens per cage or “colony” type with 30 to 60 chickens per cage. The original battery cages (~0.55 square meter per chicken) have been banned by the EU.
          – 64% ‘flutter’: 9 chickens per square meter, generally one big space. Preventive medication allowed.
          – 16% ‘free-range’ : 9 chickens per square meter, 1 square meter available outside for every chicken. Preventive medication allowed.
          – 5% ‘biological’ (= organic): no fertilizer, no pesticides, probably more space. No beakcutting; cannibalism and featherpecking are big a issue with chickens, so generally the beaks are cut/burned. Beakcutting will be outlawed completely in 2018.

          As far as I know, which of these is optimal from the perspective of the hens isn’t quite clear. I’ve heard that chickens have a memory for roughly 15 other chickens. Within this group, they can maintain a pecking order. A hen walking around with 10 000 others is most likely constantly confused about her relative social status, which causes the extreme pecking behavior. The outside space of free range chickens may go very strongly underutilized: domesticated chickens are still prey animals, and they dislike being out in the open. It’s known that organic farms end up with more sick and dead chickens.

          For poultry farming, around 47 million chickens, but I can’t find good numbers. I’m guessing similar percentages, but no cages. A ‘new standard’ poultry chicken was introduced some time ago ago, as the old ones grew too fast, lived too short, and were generally not healthy enough. I haven’t researched pig farming yet.

          • Aapje says:

            I’ve heard that chickens have a memory for roughly 15 other chickens.

            This suggests that the colony type cages would be optimal, if we limit them to 15 chickens per cage.

          • baconbacon says:

            @Aapje,

            That probably only works if there are no cages side by side, or all cages are sufficiently blocked from all other cages.

      • poignardazur says:

        > Ag research is a really big thing, even if it’s largely invisible to those in cities. And it’s not all funded by Monsanto, either.

        Yeah, that was the first thing I had in mind reading this article.

        The efficient market hypothesis is a harsh mistress.

      • The Nybbler says:

        And it’s not all funded by Monsanto, either.

        Well, yeah, there’s also Archer Daniels Midland.

        • bean says:

          My grandfather is a retired cattle farmer. Some of his land is leased to an organization called the Nobel Foundation, set up by a philanthropist ~100 years ago to do agricultural research. How is Monsanto supposed to be suppressing them in doing the same kind of research the Dutch are if it’s so much better than what Monsanto wants? What about the massive web of land-grant colleges across the Midwest, most of which have large ag departments? Are Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland sitting on all of them?

    • Garrett says:

      I was also surprised. Canada does a lot of large-scale agriculture, especially wheat. I would be interested in knowing what the rankings are, adjusted for other metrics such as calories exported, or grams of complete protein or some such thing. You could probably make a huge financial dent in the export market by specializing in eg. saffron production, but I’m not certain that it would be very important.

    • Nate the Albatross says:

      My sister-in-law’s family are farmers and once during a discussion about several media articles predicting a potential shortage of all kinds of products if the California drought continued. I asked him if farming was “maxxed out” in the US as the article implied, or if there was additional farming capacity that would be put into use if prices went up.

      He said that midwest farmers in the US could produce lots and lots more food, and that if prices rose he would increase his production appropriately. This supports fnord’s suspicion that the Netherlands can produce a lot of high mark up items. Lots of countries could, if their customers got really into expensive foods no doubt production would dramatically increase in the US, Canada. Compared to other costs, food has become so cheap that many countries throw most of their food away and innovations in production are unnecessary. The bulk of food export costs are shortage and transportation.

      • baconbacon says:

        Most of New England at one point was farm land that was abandoned after the midwest was opened up. Wander through the hills in Massachusettes and there are miles of stone walls running through the woods there from farms ditched more than a century ago. We aren’t even close to the maximum food production for the world.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          And on the other side of the Atlantic, there are former farms in Norway that have not been farmed since the Black Death. By the time the population had reached a high enough level that farming that marginal land was viable again (which I imagine was higher than pre-plague levels due to increased efficiency) emigration to America was also an option, and the one which people took.

    • baconbacon says:

      The article on the Dutch farming is almost certainly misleading, most of its comments appear to be about hydroponics or aquaponics, I’m not an expert, but I did build a functioning aquaponics system in my greenhouse a few years ago, which is still running (though producing very little) My best bet as to what the article leaves out.

      1. Ponics (Hydro is where you add nutrients directly, Aqua is where you feed fish to input the nutrition) has a few advantages. The article notes water usage as one, no run off and far less evaporation means less water used, this is great for arid areas, and especially arid areas with rainy seasons where you can predict and store rain water/runoff. Another is low transportation costs, you can stock up on your fertilizer for long periods of time, saving by shipping and storing in bulk and then turn that fertilizer slowly into fresh food. This is great for isolated areas with low populations that make shipping expensive for fresh fruits/vegetables.

      Isolated and dry is not what comes to mind when discussing Holland.

      2. Downsides to ponics. Very high start up costs for a lot of system types. Greenhouses aren’t cheap, pumps, filters, maintenance, substrate, containers, electricity make getting a substantial system going difficult. Also it is tough to grow high calorie crops using artificial light. If you look at the list of products coming out none of them are going to solve world hunger. Quick google show a tomato (~1/4 lb each) has 22 calories. 2000 calories a day is ~90 tomatoes a day, or 22-23 lbs of tomatoes a day. Hydroponic tomatoes in my grocery store cost ~$3 a lb, so to feed a person on tomatoes would take $66 a day. Even if you managed to slash costs by 90% with this technology you aren’t solving world hunger or the ‘looming food crisis’ by growing salads. Lettuce is another favorite of ponic growers, low calorie, water dense foods that don’t feed anyone in terms of calories. Scrolling through their list of major exports only the potato looks calorie dense, and another commentor noted that those are probably seed potatoes, not eating ones.

      3. Ponics does seem to work in some limited areas. Australia has an enthusiastic amateur community which makes a lot of sense. Lots of low population density, arid areas that are difficult to reach. They also have the weather to get by without greenhouses eliminating a lot of the startup cost issues (visit an Australian ponics site and there is more discussion about shade cloth to keep the sun off, rather than greenhouse growing). California would be a great place for ponics growing if they didn’t have asinine water rights policies.

      4. Ponic growing isn’t going to feed the world unless some bizarre combination of broad water shortages and food shortages with no fuel/plastic/shipping shortages to go with them. I strongly suspect that all this growth in Holland is being heavily subsidized at some level to lower startup costs, it is basically the only way it makes sense to do this type of farming on this scale. Build greenhouses with the same square footage as Manhattan? Sounds cheap! String miles of LED grow lights through them? Sounds Cheap! Keep them all heated through Holland’s winters? Sounds Cheap!

      Of course now that I have seen it here this article will be linked dozens of times in my facebook feed over the next few weeks.

      • Aapje says:

        Isolated and dry is not what comes to mind when discussing Holland.

        The Rhine is mainly rain-fed, which means that it can experience both large increases in throughput (in the winter), but also semi-long periods of low water levels. Furthermore, it’s important to keep enough water in the rivers, as low water levels block shipping, allow for the ingress of sea water which destroys farmable land, causes dykes to dry out (many are made of peat and get very weak when dried out) and make it impossible to cool the power plants.

        In the summer there is an average maximum cumulative difference between precipitation and evaporation between April 1 and October 1 of 151 mm of rain. If the river is fairly dry, the precipitation deficit cannot be replaced by river water. Fortunately the Netherlands has closed of a large bay, called the IJsselmeer. This is a huge freshwater supply, but it can only service part of the country.

        The likely result of climate change is more extreme weather, with more summer droughts in The Netherlands and the rest of Europe, which means that the precipitation deficit will increase and the river levels will drop in summer. Large-scale agriculture gets the lowest level of service, so they can expect problems.

        TL; DR: The Netherlands has both a water surplus and a deficit, at different times of year and this is expected to get worse.

        • The likely result of climate change is more extreme weather

          Can you explain why you would expect that, or it a case of “people I trust say so but I don’t know why”?

          The obvious result would be more extreme highs and fewer extreme lows, and it isn’t obvious how you combine those into a net increase or decrease of extremes.

          • Aapje says:

            My statement was a bit unclear, in hindsight, as I mistakenly thought that context was sufficient to make it clear that I was referring to more extreme rains in winter and more droughts in summer. You seem to be referring merely to temperatures, where you can indeed expect milder winters and hotter summers.

            Both models and observations suggest that climate change causes more extreme rainfall in Northern Europe. The basic proposed mechanism is that warmer air can contain more moisture and warmer temperatures result in more evaporation. As it starts raining the condensation increases the temperature further, causing rising air to pull more moisture into the clouds. So higher temperature cause a positive feedback loop where the higher initial rainfall causes more moisture to be pulled in than before, causing even higher rainfall.

            If you want more detail, I refer you to this document by actual experts.

  2. OptimalSolver says:

    1) If autism is a result of hyper-masculinization, what does hyper-feminization look like behaviorally?

    2) Don’t the multitude of studies linking physical appearance to various behaviors and personality traits mean phrenology was on the right track after all?

    3) Re: autism and transgenderism. It seems there are two kinds of mtf transgenders. The early-transitioning ones who were extremely effeminate as young boys, and late transitioning ones who don’t seem particular feminine, and whose transitions usually shock everyone (think Matrix brothers.) I’m willing to bet that autism occurs almost exclusively in the second group. The first group tend to be extremely people-oriented and display the exact opposite of autistic traits.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      It’s not really a result of hypermasculinization, that’s what the “more nuanced” part was trying to say.

    • registrationisdumb says:

      1)Asspull hypothesis says BPD, as this seems to be way more prevalent in women than men.

      • Nornagest says:

        Dunno how credible this is, but I’ve read some speculation saying that BPD and antisocial personality disorder share an underlying etiology, and that the two presentations have something to do with gender and/or gender roles.

    • hypnosifl says:

      A little while ago someone on the slatestarcodex subreddit posted some evidence here that seems to go against the “autism as extreme male brain” hypothesis, and perhaps fit better with the “disorder of sexual differentiation or androgeny” idea that Scott quotes from the article.

  3. SeraphicReaper says:

    I know this doesn’t belong here, but since this blog was made today, I thought it would elicit the quickest response time. I read your piece on trans (http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/21/the-categories-were-made-for-man-not-man-for-the-categories/) and wanted to ask if it would be possible for me to ask questions and discuss with you on the topic. I’ve been trying for awhile to wrap my head around the whole topic and I like your approach to it.

    Whether possible via blog, email or a one-time sit-down chat, any method would be appreciated.

    Thanks for reading.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Your best bet would probably be to ask any questions you have in the most recent open thread (see link at top right of page), unless you’re looking for Scott’s opinion in particular in which case email him directly.

    • yodelyak says:

      You might find that if you post some questions, and wait to see which commenters take the bait, they may be able to give you some good answers/counter-questions/starting points for wikipedia-binges/etc. You’ll probably also get some spam, and some well-intentioned vacuity, and it may be hard to know what to credit… but in general this is a friendlier and smarter comment thread than most, and since your publishing under an alias… well, why not ask the peanut gallery? One of your best bets for getting Scott to wade into a discussion may be to make the discussion informative, so ask a good question or two and see what you get.

  4. Sniffnoy says:

    Widely regarded as the world’s top agricultural research institution, WUR is the nodal point of Food Valley, an expansive cluster of agricultural technology start-ups and experimental farms. The name is a deliberate allusion to California’s Silicon Valley,

    They couldn’t have called it “Carbon Valley”? C’mon.

    A new seed variety in Europe’s heavily regulated GMO arena can cost a hundred million dollars and require 12 to 14 years of research and development, according to KeyGene’s Arjen van Tunen. By contrast, the latest achievements in the venerable science of molecular breeding—which introduces no foreign genes—can deliver remarkable gains in five to 10 years, with development costs as low as $100,000 and seldom more than a million dollars.

    It would be nice to see what these numbers look like without Europe’s restrictive GMO laws.

    • toastengineer says:

      They couldn’t have called it “Carbon Valley”? C’mon.

      Normal folks’ brains would’ve jumped to “carbon emissions” from carbon, not to carbon-based life.

      It turns out most people just don’t know this kind of stuff. It took me a lot of of (highly-amatuerish) SF writing and having it critiqued to accept that most people have never heard of hydrogen and certainly don’t know it’s a flammable gas.

      • RDNinja says:

        On that note, I once paid for a first-chapter critique at a SF convention, but I ended up getting a fantasy author critiquing my sci-fi story. She proceeded to inform me that the term “Interstellar drive” was meaningless technobabble, and should be changed.

        • tvt35cwm says:

          She was right. I speak as a hard SF fan.

          Possibly you’ll have done your research on Project Rho. I mention it as a site that may be of interest to others.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That is a neat website, thanks for the link.

          • John Schilling says:

            I will certainly second the endorsement for Project Rho. But on the matter at hand, approximately everything an SF writer can use to establish that their characters are or have been engaged in interstellar travel will be technobabble as meaningless as “interstellar drive”. I do like the sort of diamond-hard SF where the writer commissions a Caltech physicist to develop an FTL drive based on not-entirely-meaningless technobabble, but I wouldn’t expect that all SF “should be changed” to fit in that niche.

            If the performance limitations of the “interstellar drive” matter to the story, if e.g. the characters are trying to escape from an enemy warship and people are going to wonder why they don’t just jump to hyperspace like Han Solo used to do, then there are specific bits of technobabble that by long usage code for at least broad classes of expected behavior in ways that the generic “interstellar drive” doesn’t. But if all you need to do is establish that the Planet X your characters are about the spend the story on is not in our Solar System, it’s fine to open with “Captain Awesome disengaged the interstellar drive and prepared to enter orbit about Planet X”.

          • bean says:

            I will certainly second the endorsement for Project Rho.

            Thirded. It’s an amazing website, particularly since they published a bunch of my stuff last year. (John’s stuff has been up there for ages.)

      • most people have never heard of hydrogen and certainly don’t know it’s a flammable gas.

        for a somewhat subtler distinction, Scott wrote:

        The Cassini spacecraft carried plutonium. Saturn is made of hydrogen. You make a thermonuclear bomb by using plutonium to ignite hydrogen.

        Ignoring the fact that a thermonuclear bomb uses deuterium or tritium, which is not what Saturn is made of.

        • Nornagest says:

          Well, there’s enough deuterium in your average stellar body for deuterium fusion to be a stage in stellar evolution. One definition of brown dwarf stars is as bodies that’re large enough to fuse deuterium but not large enough to fuse regular hydrogen, in fact.

          The threshold for that is about 13 Jupiter masses, though, way bigger than anything in our system besides the Sun.

        • Gerry Quinn says:

          In fact, it mostly uses Lithium, which can I suppose be thought of as Di-Tritium.

  5. Steve Sailer says:

    “Jesuits will control everything”

    Anti-Jesuitism was huge during the Enlightenment. The Jesuits were suppressed in the “Portuguese Empire (1759), France (1764), the Two Sicilies, Malta, Parma, the Spanish Empire (1767) and Austria and Hungary (1782).”

    The Pope abolished the Jesuits in 1773. A later Pope revived them in 1814.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suppression_of_the_Society_of_Jesus

    • Does that make the Society of Jesus the only monastic order to imitated Jesus by rising from the dead?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Was second run of Jesuits significantly different from the first?

      I’m assuming that losing institutional continuity would make some sort of difference.

      • Tuna-Fish says:

        Yes. But not because of loss of institutional continuity, because that wasn’t really lost. Many of the important Jesuits were eventually expelled to the Papal states, where they continued serving the Pope. When the Pope felt compelled to suppress the order, he allowed the people who had been Jesuits to continue in his employ, only now nominally as not Jesuits. The way the order was reinstated at the earliest opportunity hints that in many ways, it wasn’t actually disbanded.

        The change in character was more because on their second try, the Jesuits understood that having an efficient multinational political organization operating inside nominally sovereign states that consistently accumulates more power and responsibilities was seen as a threat by those states, and that the threat of excommunication was no longer sufficient to keep even the most catholic of rulers from acting against them. So they learned to tread lightly, and take the concerns of the ruling class into account.

    • lincolnfd says:

      Even so, Catherine the Great supported a small remnant of Jesuits in Russia, encouraging them to remain as Jesuits in spite of the Roman Pope forbidding it until the restoration of the order. I haven’t read his book, but Marek Inglot, S.J., says “The ‘Russian’ Society served as a beacon of hope for former Jesuits everywhere, made possible partial restorations outside the empire before 1814, and led directly to the general restoration of the Society in that year.”

      How the Jesuits Survived Their Suppression The Society of Jesus in the Russian Empire (1773-1814)

      • Creative Username 1138 says:

        The same happened in Prussia under Frederick the Great. Why would a Protestant or Orthodox ruler care what the Pope bans?

        • LHN says:

          They wouldn’t, but given that my prototype for Protestant reactions to Jesuits is Britain (which AFAICT viewed them roughly the way we view ISIS), I’m interested to learn that other non-Catholic rulers found them benign or useful rather than an insidious threat.

  6. INH5 says:

    Related: Autistic Boys And Girls Found To Have Hypermasculinized Faces, Supporting The Extreme Male Brain Theory. But deeper in the article, it gets more nuanced: “Autistic spectrum disorder may constitute a disorder of sexual differentiation or androgeny rather than a disorder characterized by masculinization in both genders.” A good time to remember that autistic people are transgender at eight times the rate in the general population.

    As the article notes, this contradicts previous studies (such as these two) that have found that autistic people have more androgynous facial features, on average, than neurotypical controls, and that the level of facial androgyny positively correlates with the severity of autistic symptoms. The article claims that the differing results may be due to the study using pre-pubescent children whereas the previous study used adults, but their logic doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me:

    Past research into whether autistic people tend to have stereotypically masculine facial features has been mixed. Women with sub-clinical autistic traits or a diagnosis of autism have been found to have more masculine than average faces, but studies with autistic men have sometimes found no difference from controls, or they’ve found the autistic men to have androgynous rather than hyper masculine features.

    For their new paper, the research team led by Diana Tan at the University of Western Australia, deliberately sought to test pre-pubescent autistic and neurotypical children, thus removing the possibility that hormonal changes during puberty might conceal or reverse any facial signs of prenatal exposure to high testosterone levels (as may have been the case in the earlier research involving adults).

    Remember, if we’re to believe that both this study and the previous studies are accurate, then autistic boys and girls have hypermasculine facial features before puberty, autistic women still have hypermasculine facial features after puberty, but autistic men have either normal or less masculine than average facial features after puberty. Why on Earth would pubertal hormones cause changes like that? If anything, I would expect it to do the opposite: decreasing the amount of hypermasculinization in females while either increasing or not significantly changing the amount of hypermasculinization in males.

    Does anyone who knows more about endocrinology care to weigh in on this?

    • anon1 says:

      “Amount of hypermasculinization” isn’t a thing at the level you are thinking of it on.

      A hypermasculine face for a prepubescent boy is still a lot more like an average girl’s face than an average man’s. If puberty hits and nothing changes, his peers will overtake him and then he’s hyperfeminine. Meanwhile, for perhaps obvious reasons, female puberty does *not* cause much facial masculinization, so it makes sense that existing differences would be preserved there.

    • Svejk says:

      Remember, if we’re to believe that both this study and the previous studies are accurate, then autistic boys and girls have hypermasculine facial features before puberty, autistic women still have hypermasculine facial features after puberty, but autistic men have either normal or less masculine than average facial features after puberty. Why on Earth would pubertal hormones cause changes like that?

      This is completely speculative, but since the masculinization measurements reported here are relative to a peer group, the observation described in the above paragraph could be produced by a situation wherein

      1. Both autistic males and females experience a a relatively earlier or greater androgen surge prenatally or in childhood (like early adrenarche).
      2. Non-autistic male peers then catch up or exceed this surge at puberty, while female puberty leaves the autistic females with the effects of an androgen excess relative to their peers deriving mostly from pre-pubertal exposure.

      The relative importance of prenatal and adrenal androgens to total androgen exposure is much greater in women than in men, so it is possible that higher fetal or childhood exposure could leave a greater post-pubertal footprint in autistic females relative to their female peers.

      If adrenarche is involved, one would expect autistic females to have higher rates of PCOS and metabolic syndrome, and autistics of both sexes to be slightly more insulin resistant and possibly a bit shorter. I think these papers suspect prenatal exposure is the more likely contributor.

      • INH5 says:

        So the idea is that male puberty causes facial masculinization, but female puberty doesn’t cause facial femininization?

        Even assuming that that’s true, I still don’t see why the peers of autistic boys would “catch up” or even overtake them during puberty. I’m not aware of any evidence that autistic people have a different hormone balance than usual during puberty, so shouldn’t autistic boys receive the same average amount of androgens during puberty as their peers, which would leave them with more masculine faces than their peers due to their greater masculine “starting point”?

    • alsosprachaspiethustra says:

      The effects of hormones on phenotype aren’t completely dependent on the level of one hormone in isolation. It’s a matter of hormone ratios and amount/sensitivity of hormone receptors as well. E.g: Testosterone level in comparison to estrogen level, and how sensitized the testosterone receptors are genetically. For example, hair loss. If your testosterone receptors aren’t genetically primed to make your hair fall out, no amount of androgen will make you bald. If you don’t have very much testosterone to begin with, or never have enough that it goes over the level where it triggers balding, (which could be different for different people, and in some could be mediated by the ratio compared to estrogen,) you won’t go bald.

      The more testosterone you have, the more estrogen you will have overall (due to aromatization,) unless you’re taking a performance enhancing illegal drug like winstrol, which inhibits aromatase. Physical masculinization requires both the presence of enough testosterone and an amount that sufficiently outnumbers estrogen. That and genetic predisposition to developing certain masculine physical traits.

      The androgyny or feminization in autistic men compared to nonautistic could be a result of excess testosterone being aromatized into estrogen, same mechanism as anabolic steroid users developing gynecomastia. (That’s why many of them take an aromatase inhibitor with their injections, to prevent moob growth.)

      • INH5 says:

        If that’s true, then it seems like facial features or physical features in general would be a poor proxy measurement of testosterone exposure, whether prenatal or pubertal.

        The article has a link to a brain imaging study that directly compared fMRI scans of male autistics and female autistics to neurotypical male and female controls. The short version of the results are that the male autistic brains showed connectivity patterns that “shifted” towards those of neurotypical female brains, while the female autistic brains showed connectivity patterns that “shifted” towards those of neurotypical male brains. Which would seem to be direct evidence against the “extreme male brain” theory and in line with previous studies that have found that autistic people trend towards androgyny in various features.

  7. RohanV says:

    The post on advertising is interesting. One of the examples, though, is bed sheets.

    Bed sheets are the perfect example. If ads work by emotional inception, why not seed us with the idea that Brand X bed sheets are the smoothest, softest, best-night’s-sleep bed sheets money can buy? On the other hand, if ads work by cultural imprinting, then we should expect almost no branded advertising for bed sheets, because their consumption is almost perfectly obscure (the opposite of conspicuous). It’s unlikely that any of your peers will ever see or feel your bed sheets, nor even inquire about them. Bed sheets just aren’t a social product, so cultural imprinting can’t work to convince us to buy them.

    This is true, and I cannot remember ever seeing an ad for bed sheets. On the other hand, I have seen many, many ads for mattresses. Why would mattress advertising be so prevalent, and bed sheets so obscure?

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Lots of bedsheets are sold under heavily advertised brand names like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and Tommy Hilfiger. Other bedsheet brand names seem to be focused on the bedding segment, such as Hotel Collection. I would think that advertising works about as well or as poorly for sheets as for most other products.

    • phoenixy says:

      Gonna guess that mattresses are a much higher margin item. Freakonomics did a piece on this: Are We in a Mattress-Store Bubble?

    • toastengineer says:

      If you’ve dipped in to the podcast-sphere you’ll hear Boll and Branch brand sheets advertised quite often. That’s more of the “you may not have heard of us, please be aware that buying our stuff is an option” kind of advertising though.

      In any case, I was always told the point of advertising was TOMA – top-of-mind-awareness. Coke wants you to think “I want a coke” when you want a soda and enter the store with the preconception that you want a Coca-Cola, so they yell “COCA-COLA IS A SODA” very loudly in visually & auditorially interesting ways where you’ll see and hear it.

      • onyomi says:

        Coke really takes the “inception” model to the limit and obviously they’ve been hugely successful, though I’m not sure it’s because of their ad campaigns.

        I visited the Coke museum thing in Atlanta and before you’re allowed to enter into the main portion, you’re sat down in a large theater where you literally just watch people doing fun, exciting things for ten minutes, at the end of which a Coca-Cola logo appears. The drink doesn’t even figure hardly at all in the activities shown. It isn’t ten minutes of watching people have fun with Coke; it is literally just ten minutes of watching people have fun at the end of which COCA-COLA! If this isn’t attempting to make you associate warm fuzzies with Coke, I’m not sure what is.

        But maybe it works, but not for the reason they think? Maybe you’re now primed to drink Coke because now you associate Coke with fun, exciting people who are loving life and you want to signal that to your friends? I mean, maybe, but the Occam’s razor explanation, assuming the ads work at all, is that they make you associate drinking Coke with a fulfilling life, not that you associate drinking Coke with signalling a fulfilling life?

        Those really expensive Pepsi ads are an interesting example of a different strategy, which seems to have worked quite well for a product in its position, which was fighting uphill to compete with Coke. Basically they spent millions to get really big celebrities like Michael Jackson to be in their commercials; not saying “I’m Michael Jackson and I drink Pepsi,” but simply performing and then there’s a Pepsi at the end.

        This seems like it might be a little more of the social signalling thing: “someone super high-status like Michael Jackson associates himself with Pepsi, so I can too!” But I also wonder if it isn’t actually more like the Times Square billboard: simply being able to get Michael Jackson as their spokesperson sends the message: “we are a serious thing you should take notice of because we just spent a ton of money on this.”

        I might even call this something slightly different, something like “buying a news story.” If you spend enough money on something then the fact of your having spent it itself becomes somehow noteworthy. Many people want to try “that thing everyone’s talking about lately.” Any way you can get your product to be that “thing” is a big boost, especially for a newish entry to the marketplace. It’s somewhat about signalling then, but more in a “I am the sort of person who stays abreast of the latest trends” sort of way.

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          But I also wonder if it isn’t actually more like the Times Square billboard: simply being able to get Michael Jackson as their spokesperson sends the message: “we are a serious thing you should take notice of because we just spent a ton of money on this.”

          I don’t think this model can really apply to Pepsi. The idea of signalling large advertising expenditure is as a trust-building exercise: “you can buy your durable good/significant experience from us, because our financial model requires that we be in this for the long haul, not just to make a quick buck”.

          But Pepsi just isn’t a high risk purchase, I wouldn’t have thought. Surely almost everyone has tried it, and, even if they haven’t, you’re not asking for much of an investment to give it a go, and the worst case scenario is “like coke, but noticeably worse”.

          Maybe people are just that cautious in their soda consumption.

          • Matt M says:

            But Pepsi just isn’t a high risk purchase, I wouldn’t have thought. Surely almost everyone has tried it, and, even if they haven’t, you’re not asking for much of an investment to give it a go, and the worst case scenario is “like coke, but noticeably worse”.

            The secret here is probably that most people don’t actually pick their cola based on taste, but on other factors, and that the “risk” of switching from being a “Coke person” to a “Pepsi person” is, in fact, rather high – but the cost is one of personal image (to yourself and to others), not of the 75 cents or whatever a can of Pepsi costs.

          • Careless says:

            To get a little off topic, on the subject of Pepsi people: have you ever noticed how many more Pepsi cans are littered by the sides of highways than Coke?

        • poignardazur says:

          But maybe it works, but not for the reason they think?

          “Oh god, don’t they have air conditioning in here? I’ve been sitting in this dumb theater for ten minutes watching their dumb movie. It’s so hot in here. I am super thirsty. Oh look, a drinks stand!”

    • [Thing] says:

      Bed sheets are the perfect example. If ads work by emotional inception, why not seed us with the idea that Brand X bed sheets are the smoothest, softest, best-night’s-sleep bed sheets money can buy? On the other hand, if ads work by cultural imprinting, then we should expect almost no branded advertising for bed sheets, because their consumption is almost perfectly obscure (the opposite of conspicuous). It’s unlikely that any of your peers will ever see or feel your bed sheets, nor even inquire about them. Bed sheets just aren’t a social product, so cultural imprinting can’t work to convince us to buy them.

      😐

    • Gerry Quinn says:

      If I want bed sheets, I tend to go to my local Dunnes Stores. The thing is, they don’t mostly advertise particular goods (they really don’t advertise much at all), but they are a one-stop shop for basic household goods that everyone in Ireland knows about.

  8. The gay vs straight photos make sense in comparison to gay and straight people I have seen. They do not look surprising to me in any way.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Everybody is worked up over how the paper claims that you can train a computer to recognize gay vs. straight, but I’d be interested in whether you can train humans to be more accurate at that task. I suspect you can.

      I suspect some groups of people would tend to be more expert than other groups (e.g., 60-year-old Hollywood casting agents would be better at distinguishing than 20-year-old psychology majors).

    • MawBTS says:

      Careful. You were primed to think of gay/straight by Scott’s writing.

      If you’d seen those two pictures without context, would you have thought they were noticeably gay/straight looking?

      • johnjohn says:

        From the description I was excepting something a lot more blatantly stereotypical. I don’t think any of them look particularly gay or straight.

      • Pretty sure I would. The gay faces in particular both remind me of particular gay people, and at least one of them I guessed in real life was gay before being told, and in part by reason of their appearance.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Ehh, The gay male example reads as unusually effeminate to me but that’s a weak signal on its own.

        That said, I think there’s something to P. George Stewart’s neotenic theory as both of the straight example strike me as significantly more mature, and (for lack of a better term) “motherly” or “fatherly” than thier gay counterparts. IE, I find it difficult to imagine either of the gay examples as someone’s mom or dad.

      • Deiseach says:

        Looking at them even now, they don’t ping any “definitely gay/definitely straight” for me, the only difference to my eyes is that the (supposedly) gay photos look a bit younger.

        So I suppose that means I have no gaydar?

      • To be honest, they both look gay to me. The one on the left looks masculine looking but still somehow gay. I think it’s the eye area.

    • Eponymous says:

      The faces don’t look gay/straight to me at all. The gay faces look smarter, younger, and “softer” to me.

      I have a decent gaydar, but on reflection it probably operates through speech, clothing, and behavioral clues rather than facial features.

    • skef says:

      I read the article, looked at the dimensions and the average pictures, and wondered: Are they really, really sure that straight guys aren’t sticking their chins out a bit, and gay guys aren’t tilting their foreheads forward a bit? The article talks about correcting for the tilt axis*, but close to center that must be difficult to do.

      * I am awesome.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The article doesn’t correct for pitch, but filters on it. Any time you filter (or correct) you should check to see if it is correlated with variables of interest. It usually is, and there’s not much you can do about that. But usually the filter is a threshold on a continuous variable and looking at the distribution of that will tell you a lot. So they should look at whether gays and straights have different distribution of pitch. If they don’t, that pretty much rules out your suggestion. But if they do, then they will have different truncated distributions of pitch. Moreover, the error in the measured pitch will be correlated with orientation, which is probably the big problem.

    • tgb says:

      When I saw them, my first thought was “fat versus skinny”. But no one else seems to be remarking on this – does it not look that way to others? The difference is so obvious to me it makes me think that you could replicate the results when given BMI instead of photos.

      Also I read a critique of the study that makes several points that have been missed by media coverage. First, the 80% success rate is success rate at the task of being given two photos, one of which is gay and one of which is straight, to identify the straight versus gay one. So the base rate of success here is 50%. When given 1000 pictures with about 10% of them gay (roughly like the real world population), it only successfully identified around half of the gays and identified just as many false positives. So it’s less successful than one might first imagine and certainly can’t say “This picture you just showed me is gay with 80% confidence.” Finally, the pictures were taken from a dating site, so it’s tough to control for cultural differences in their picture choices.

      • justinliebernotes says:

        That last point seems pretty important to me. There’s a huge difference in task between “identifying gay/straight from dating site profile pictures” and “identifying gay/straight from faces.” It probably has more to do with self-selection of “representative” photos than anything like facial structure.

  9. Steve Sailer says:

    Every species has a “type specimen”

    Naturalist Edward O. Wilson turned down an attractive job offer from Stanford to stay at Harvard in part because Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology has the type specimen for 28,000 insect species.

  10. Steve Sailer says:

    “When white explorers first came to America, the Indians had never seen distilled alcohol before, and entire tribes were destroyed by alcoholism before they even knew what was hitting them.”

    Of the two big Indian casinos I’ve been to in Southern California, one was completely dry (Barona) and one kept the bar small and obscure (San Miguel). I was impressed, since promoting drinking by gamblers is an easy way for a casino to make even more profit.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I was doing contract work for a tech company in Seattle and on the weekend took a drive out to one of their Indian casinos. I was very annoyed they did not serve alcohol, as the entire reason I play blackjack is so I can drink for free.

      • achenx says:

        MGM built a giant luxury casino in Maryland right outside of Washington, DC recently. I was interested in checking it out right up until the point I learned that the state does not let them serve free drinks. What’s the point then?

  11. Douglas Knight says:

    What I said before about the Kellogg-Briand article:
    They equivocate between several claims. One claim is that the Pact was a herald of the future regime. That much is true. But saying it “worked” because the post-war regime followed it is like saying that the League of Nations “worked” because the UN was similar.

    Writing things down is powerful, so maybe the Pact did affect the future, but it’s pretty hard to tell. Was it the cause, or just a statement of what the West was already trying to do? Already in WWI, the final victors didn’t explicitly take much territory, but instead created “Mandates” of the Ottoman Empire and more independent states in Europe.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      What were the Germans planning to do with the immense territory that the new Soviet Union ceded to them in the Brest Litovsk treaty of early 1918: set them up as puppet states or incorporate them directly into the German Empire?

      The rise of nationalism from 1789 onward made it harder for old fashioned conquest to operate quite as directly as before.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Maybe “the West” was ambiguous, but I wrote “the final victors” because they’re the same people who wrote the 1928 Pact. France did take Alsace and Lorraine, though.

        the Baltic States … were meant to become German vassal states under German princelings. Russia also ceded its province of Kars Oblast in the South Caucasus to the Ottoman Empire and recognized the independence of Ukraine. [Poland unclear]

        so all possible outcomes, according to wikipedia.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          We live in a world today in which a statesman isn’t supposed to say that he is going to invade his neighbor and conquer some territory. That’s a big change from the past in which conquest was one of the main jobs of kings. It doesn’t seem all that unreasonable to think of 1928 as when Europeans actually wrote down this change in attitude.

          I’d say a few things were going on:

          – In the past, conquest didn’t really mean all that much because life didn’t change that much for the bulk of the population under feudalism. They just paid taxes and rents to different rulers, and life went on.

          – The rise of democratic thinking meant that the outcomes of wars could be worse for the losing population. If the German people went to all the trouble of conquering the Slavs, they’d need to, say, enslave the Slavs to make all their wartime suffering pay off.

          – The development of artificial fertilizer around 1913 lifted the Malthusian ceiling. Nations didn’t need to expand their territory any longer to avoid the threat of starvation because productivity per acre was going up faster than the population. Hitler refused to pay attention to the revolution in farm productivity because he liked the idea of nations fighting to the death to conquer or starve.

          • Worley says:

            MHO is that artificial fertilizer (and the development of plant varieties that exploit them efficiently) is a major cause. Before that, the size of a human population (and economy) was limited by the (largely fixed) agricultural production of the land they occupied. And this had been true since before we were human. With artificial fertilizer, food is no longer a limiting resource, and fighting a war to acquire land often isn’t worth the effort.

            Remember, when Hitler conquered Europe, his stated goal was “living room” for Germans. He didn’t mean places to build houses, but rather to (quickly or slowly) clear off the current population and replace them with ethnic Germans.

        • Protagoras says:

          As I understand it, Austria-Hungary was fiercely opposed to Germany making big outright land grabs, which likely would have influenced the eventual outcome in the extensive areas left TBD in Brest-Litovsk, had the defeat of the Central Powers not rendered the treaty irrelevant.

      • SEE says:

        Well, the Germans and Austrians had already pledged to create a revived Poland, and there was even a Polish-speaking Hapsburg prince who was considered the most likely candidate for being the king. US Congressional hearings after the war claimed that the Germans were lying and were intending to forcibly Germanize their acquisitions, but I’ve found to hard to judge how much that was the “real plan”, how much that was the plan of just a faction of Germans, and how much of that was postwar propaganda to justify the US ever getting involved in the shitstorm.

      • Tuna-Fish says:

        > What were the Germans planning to do with the immense territory that the new Soviet Union ceded to them in the Brest Litovsk treaty of early 1918?

        This is actually a very complex question that is hard to answer. At that point, the German Empire did not really have a centralized authority that could make decisions like that, rather it was a collection of factions that each tried to push their own agenda and pass it as the thing the German Empire was doing. The fact that the Emperor was basically a weather-vane who promoted the opinion of whoever he last talked with really didn’t help, although at this point he was mostly bypassed in all decisionmaking anyway.

        Some factions wanted annexations, others wanted allied states, others wanted vassals, and someone wanted basically anything between those points. The “official plan” changed more than once per month between the Brest-Litovsk and the Armistice.

        Anyway, it is of note that the primary opposition to annexations wasn’t that annexations were seen as somehow morally wrong, but rather the fact that in the German Empire every adult male had a vote, and political groups that were currently dominant in the Reichstag didn’t want to annex large amounts of “dirty foreigners” who would all probably vote for the Catholic party anyway. Correspondingly, the Catholic party, despite having had borderline pacifist views before the war, wanted to annex all the things — at least all the Catholics.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Thanks. Very informative.

          So nobody really had a plan in 1914 for what they were going to do in case they won?

          I can recall reading Sergei Witte telling the Czar not to go to war in 1914 because Russia already had plenty of land and if they won, they’d just have more Germans and Jews to rule over, who would be more trouble than they were worth.

          Maybe the late 1920s swing toward pacifism had to do with the realization that nobody in 1914 had had much of a plan of how to benefit from victory. How could the immense cost of total war possibly pay off?

          The Nazis went in the opposite direction and came up with monstrous plans for how to benefit from victory: murder all the Jews, enslave the Slavs, plant German colonies all the way to the Urals, etc.

    • bean says:

      I feel that they’re playing some serious games with their numbers. 1816 to 1928 was overall a pretty peaceful period, with a rather large exception near the end. I’m not going to wade through the raw data right now, but I suspect that the vast majority of the conquests were basically European countries seizing colonies. The math simply doesn’t give any other conclusion. They claim 12.8 million square miles were conquered over 1816 to 1928, which is 75% of the area of Asia. Even taking into account Brest-Litovsk, that’s still way more than we can explain by countries conquering each other. Clearly, they were taking land away from other people who might charitably be called countries. By 1928, there was very little land left to take in this manner, and attitudes towards imperialism were changing.

      • Jiro says:

        It may depend on how you count various rebellions in China.

      • SEE says:

        Yeah, 1816-1928 includes, for example, the whole Scramble for Africa, the extension of formal British rule over India, all the major conquests in Southeast Asia, and (with WWI ending) the seizure of most of the Ottoman Empire. Oh, and the unifications of Italy and Germany. Did people decide to stop conquering, or did they just run out of backwards lands to colonize and divided nations to unify?

      • Steve Sailer says:

        I think they must be listing Africa as being conquered. Africa is really big in area.

        On the other hand, the Scramble for Africa wasn’t much of a fight.

    • SEE says:

      It seems unlikely that the Entente would have even bothered with the fig leaf of “Mandates” had they not been basically forced into that by US popular opinion, which had no tolerance for the idea that we got into the shitstorm in order to serve the imperial ambitions of Britain and France. And the bunch-of-independent-states in Europe was pretty much the only solution available for the territories lost by the Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, and Bolsheviks. All the victorious powers in a physical position to get direct territorial gains from the Central Powers — France, Italy, Serbia, Greece, and Romania — did take some, and indeed still hold at least part of those gains to this day.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        What do you mean by “only possible solution”? What constrained the set of solutions? The US? Nationalism?

        • SEE says:

          Geographic, military, and economic factors, mostly. France and Britain didn’t border Poland, Czechoslovakia, Byelorussia, Ukraine, or the Baltics. The other victorious powers were pretty weak; Italy was the strongest, and it was wracked with social turmoil as if it had lost. France’s army had more-or-less mutinied and sat out the end of the war just concluded. Both France and Britain had groaning debts.

          Britain trying to occupy all Europe from the Rhine to the Urals would have been an expensive, difficult nightmare. The logistics of trying to set up colonial control in just Central Europe, with the Bolsheviks trying to subvert it on one side and revanchist Germany/Austria/Hungary on the other, would similarly be utterly impractical.

          Pretty much everything that could (as a sheer practical matter) be annexed and held by the victorious powers other than the US was annexed, either directly or under the guise of a mandate.

          The biggest effect of nationalism, in my opinion, was that it ruled out trying to build a revival of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, consolidating the Baltics, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Byelorussia, and Ukraine into a single firebreak against Bolsheviks and counterbalance to Germany.

    • Eric Rall says:

      It also occurred to me that apart from the Soviets (whom the article excuses as an aberration), the major allied powers had already satisfied almost all of their territorial ambitions vs Germany in 1919: Britain and its dominions took over most of Germany’s colonies, France re-annexed Alsace-Lorraine, and the US never really had significant territorial ambitions against Germany. The one remaining ambition was France’s desire for the Rhineland and the Ruhr area.

      And France totally tried to seize those following WW2, and I don’t see the K-B pact having much to do with their failure to make it stick. The US and Britain pushed back on France’s territorial ambitions mostly due to Cold War politics, for fear that giving a big chunk of territory to France would lead to post-occupation Germany aligning with the Soviets. The compromise was to put the Ruhr’s heavy industry under “International” control (France, Britain, and the US collectively controlled 9 of the 15 votes on the Ruhr Authority’s council) under nominal German sovereignty and to detach Saarland from Germany completely as a French puppet state (the Saar Protectorate) that France would try to groom for eventual annexation. The former would be returned to West German control in 1952 as part of the negotiations forming the European Coal and Steel Community, and France allowed a plebiscite in Saar a couple years later that West Germany wound up winning. I can’t find details about the plebiscite negotiations, but it looks like they were strictly bilateral negotiations between France and West Germany.

  12. Douglas Knight says:

    There have been arxiv overlay journals for 20 years, I think. Certainly people were talking about them and edging up to them. Here is an article from 15 years ago about ideas for what journals should be.

  13. Virbie says:

    From the opioids article:

    > It’s a bit amusing that Lopez so cavalierly dismisses prescription opioids for chronic pain and then suggests accupuncture and meditation, which are basically placebo treatments.

    This isn’t true of meditation, is it? I thought it was considered a reasonably effective treatment (though I’m not suggesting that it replace opioid medication). It just jumped out at me because he’s all over Lopez for far less dishonest claims (unless I’m mistaken).

  14. Steve Sailer says:

    Take a look at today’s Google doodle and try to guess the sexual orientation of Gloria E. Anzaldúa:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria_E._Anzald%C3%BAa

    You don’t always need a supercomputer.

  15. MawBTS says:

    Interesting about the type specimen for humans.

    Maybe we should update to someone modern. Our nucleotides collect about 130 new mutations per generation, and there’s been a few of those since Linnaeus lived. He’s closer to the chimp/human split, and is less therefore less human than we are.

  16. P. George Stewart says:

    Re. the AI and gay/straight faces, my guess would be neoteny. Like r/K selection, I think neoteny is a strategy or tendency that’s “more or less” and relative, though you can classify populations and averages as more “x-like” in one or the other direction. Sometimes it pays (in relation to a given relatively constant environment) for the population to tend towards plasticity, curiosity, learning, flexible social patterns, etc., and sometimes it pays for the population to tend towards strict roles, settled hierarchy, stable social patterns. Sometimes it pays for human beings to be more mature (more like fixed, mature apes) and sometimes it pays to be more childlike (questing, curious, scanning, etc.).

    I’m fairly convinced that relative neoteny like this is the culprit for the tenacity of the Left/Right distinction (the “ant smell” of liberal vs. conservative) and a whole bunch of other related things (including the psychological traits that are associated with political leanings, as canvassed by the likes of Jonathan Haidt and Jordan Peterson).

    The looks aspect of sexual dimorphism seems to be strongly related to neoteny too (females have evolved to look a bit cuter than males, a bit more like human young, so that males will feel protective, especially wrt the extra vulnerability of human females during pregnancy).

    And the idea that would wrap all this up in a neat little bow is the Aquatic Ape hypothesis – but I’m well aware that’s not a favoured idea (although I gather that it’s recently gotten a bit more acknowledgement than it did when it was first proposed). I think for the AAT to work, you’d have to tie it in with a population bottleneck, such as has been proposed re. supervolcanos (although again, that’s been doubted a lot). We’d need to have been a fairly fixed savannah ape before the AAT could get to work.

    • Speaker To Animals says:

      Neoteny may correlate with autism.

      People constantly underestimate my age by about 10 years (I’m 51).

      Although this might be because I’m still interested in comics and such, dress in jeans and a comic related t-shirt, and a lack of facial expression might have resulted in fewer lines.

    • MugaSofer says:

      Re. the AI and gay/straight faces, my guess would be neoteny.

      My immediate first guess was “(out) gay people tend to be younger because older people are more conservative”, although maybe they controlled for that, IDK.

    • Nick says:

      I don’t buy the connection between gay/straight and neoteny, but I have to link to Ribbonfarm’s snowflake/clod post. Incidentally, it’s one of my favorite of Venkatesh’s posts.

  17. PedroS says:

    Dan Simpson has published a pretty interesting takedown of the the gay/straight face recognition paper, in http://andrewgelman.com/2017/09/12/seemed-destruction-done-not-choose-two/

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Pattern recognition is the cardinal sin these days.

      Anyway, some interesting studies have been done on the accuracy of recognition of gay men by voice. The “sibilant S” sound or “lissssp” (as distinguished from the Mike Tyson-Daffy Duck “lithp”) is common enough to be the bane of choir directors of gay men’s choruses.

      • Nornagest says:

        That’s likely to be a cultural rather than a phenotypic marker. I’ve kept in touch with a couple of friends from high school who later came out as gay; they didn’t do the sibilant thing then, but they do now.

        • JayT says:

          Theoretically they could have been masking their “true” voice before they came out, no?

          • Nornagest says:

            My vowels shift if I spend more than a few hours talking to a Brit, so I don’t think there is such a thing as a true voice at this level.

          • Aapje says:

            That’s why you should come to The Netherlands, instead of Britain, we never shifted our vowels. Also: weed the ability to experiment with neuroactive compounds*.

            * Yes, adapting my pitch to the audience.

    • SUT says:

      “… could do this with ‘off the shelf’ tools to find [redacted] people in countries where its illegal.”

      Tell me again about that Implicit Association Test I must take to maintain my employment?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Could you say what you got out of it?

      I got nothing out of that post. Simpson’s comments on Gelman’s post the previous day made a lot more sense, but were yet inferior to Gelman’s post itself.

      • epiphi says:

        I think the most interesting point of the post is here:

        Probably the biggest criticism that I can make of this paper is that they do not identify the source of their data.

        The reality of gay dating websites is that you tailor your photographs to the target audience. My facebook profile picture is different to my grindr profile picture is different to my scruff profile picture. These are chosen for results. In these photos, I run a big part of the gauntlet between those two “composite ideals” in Figure 4.

        His point is that you’re not going to get a representative training sample from a single dating site, because gay people (and people in general) select different dating sites depending on who they’re targeting. Although (based on the comments you link) the authors apparently tried to account for transient/grooming features (e.g. “do you take your photos in nice lightning” or “do you wear cosmetics”) they wouldn’t be able to account for this kind of sampling bias, because they only used images from one dating website.

        Given the sampling bias, I would be surprised if this study replicated using, say, driver’s license photos. (I am not also not entirely convinced that their model has learned underlying physical facial features, but don’t know enough stats to properly assess this.)

        • Douglas Knight says:

          They haven’t replicated it using driver’s licenses, but they did replicate it using another source of gay-identified photos. Did you know that? Did you net negative information from reading Simpson? He does actually mention this, but he spends so many words saying so little, that it’s easy to miss what he actually says. It is hard to reconcile how he dismisses this with the paragraph you quote.

          I am not also not entirely convinced that their model has learned underlying physical facial features, but don’t know enough stats to properly assess this.

          Do you know that they tried to isolate physical features from hats and makeup? They didn’t really try to test whether they succeeded, so whether we can conclude they succeeded is not a statistical question.

      • PedroS says:

        Basically what I got from it is that using photos from dating sites heavily skews the representativeness of the sample towards the specific “kinks” of the target population, and their validation sample was most likely similarly skewed towards specific gay sub-cultures.
        Dan Simpson’s post is long, rambling, and it does not lose any opportunity to say in two paragraphs what could be said in one sentence… I did not realize it at the time I read it because I had no idea about the point of the piece going in and was just “enjoying the ride” as I went along. I am sorry for not having condensed its points instead of simply pointing to the piece 🙁

        • Douglas Knight says:

          That is certainly something, and probably isn’t in any of the other criticisms I’ve seen, not even Simpson’s comments on the other post, but I’d hardly call it a “takedown.”

          If you enjoyed the ride, then it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that other people do so. I did not enjoy the style, but there’s no accounting for taste. But you didn’t advertise it as stylish, but as a takedown.

          Stylish takedowns are probably very bad for the progress of knowledge.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It’s not just that rhetorical skill amplifies complaints. It’s also that most people praising his post don’t seem to notice what his biggest complaint is, even though it is explicitly labeled as such. It is a lot clearer in his comments on the other post. But maybe that’s OK. He doesn’t care that you don’t know why he hates the paper, only that you disbelieve it.

            (His main complaints are, in turn, two rhetorical techniques the paper uses.)

  18. Bugmaster says:

    Rationalist hub Less Wrong has relaunched with a new coat of paint, better moderation, and an improved technical base.

    Is the site designed to be difficult to read and navigate on purpose, as a sort of a barrier to entry / IQ test ?

    • Ketil says:

      I also found it difficult to read, and asked about the small font and gray-on-gray text (actually, an alpha setting of 0.55, making the half transparent). The response cited Google’s material design and general aesthetic preferences.

      I guess this is where I inject my lament about Usenet where anybody could simply switch client to get an acceptable presentation (including text-only and braille readers, as well as killfiles, author scoring, offline functionality, notification of unread messages, global replication, global search, wholesale catching up…pretty basic stuff, but mostly unavailable in web forums). But those days are long gone, and usability has been replaced by “user experience” – which as far as I can tell, is pretty much the opposite.

      • FeepingCreature says:

        Good websites have customizable theming. CSS makes this very easy.

      • Gerry Quinn says:

        That’s how HTML was supposed to work. You’d type in [P] Paragraph [/P] and the reader could choose how to display it.

        (I can’t use angle brackets here)

      • poignardazur says:

        RSS is more likely to have all those things.

        But yeah, I hope web developers start catching up and using simpler standard soon. The all-JS internet is super annoying.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        usability has been replaced by “user experience” – which as far as I can tell, is pretty much the opposite.

        🙁

        As someone who does UX design, this sentiment makes me sad. UX and usability are complementary!

        (And LW 2.0 fails at both, I’m sorry to say.)

        • Brad says:

          Sorry, but it seems more like fashion where showing off knowledge of the latest idiom to your follow literati is more important than actual usability and certainly far more important that preserving the value of users’ hard won product expertise.

          I certainly can’t speak to the UX of every website or every UX professional but that seems the general trend.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            I agree that this is the general trend.

            Some of us work very hard to push back against it. The principles of UX design, as expressed by respected people in the field, and as set down by UX researchers, are very much against such trends.

            The thing is, good UX is often invisible. Sometimes it stands out in its excellence; but more often, it’s simply things working the way they should, the way you expect them to, and not getting in your way. This is as it should be. But it means that there’s a tremendous selection bias in what you think of as “UX”.

      • habryka says:

        (main developer on LW 2.0 here) Huh, I am surprised. No text outside of headings with very large font sizes (where readability is really no issue) should have an alpha of 0.55. All body text has an alpha of 0.87, which is standard for most modern websites these days. This might be a bug, so if someone can replicate this, I would love a bug report via Intercom.

    • drethelin says:

      The change in UX is an enormous barrier to me. I find it awful compared to old LW, which was my favorite way of reading threaded conversations.

    • Nornagest says:

      Yeah, I don’t like it. The font size and choice look like they’re optimized for short-form content, and my eyes glaze over trying to read anything long-form on it (which covers most of the site). The contrast also looks uncomfortably low to me, and given that the last time I did UI work I found I was relatively insensitive to contrast, that probably makes it unreadable for the other side of the bell curve. Comments are cramped and ugly and blend together, making threading hard to follow, and feel like an afterthought compared to top-level content. All the headers are way too damn big. Navigation is weird.

      The geological map motif is attractive, but that’s not nearly enough to save it.

      It might be better on mobile, but if a site wants me to read long-form content on my phone as a first resort, I’ll find another site.

      • Nornagest says:

        Also, this might be more of a personal preference thing, but I really don’t think we ought to be pointing to HPMoR as a resource. MoR is fundamentally an evangelical text — it’s optimized for showing off all the cool stuff you can do if you’re sufficiently rational, not for actually showing you how to be rational. (Rationality doesn’t really deliver on the cool stuff, but that’s another issue.) It won’t age well as Harry Potter moves out of the public consciousness, which it has already started doing. Also, it’s very divisive: half the people I’ve shown it to have reacted like a Baptist that just got handed a stack of Slayer albums, including some that later handled Scott’s work quite well.

        • Rick Hull says:

          Agreed, and with an appreciative chuckle, though I personally was utterly captivated by HPMoR while it was ongoing. I think I made it about about 1/3 of the way through the complete version before reaching satiation.

  19. sohois says:

    Re: Melting Asphalt’s post on advertising, that popped up on the subreddit recently and a marketing academic who posts over there decided to offer his own, academic influenced take on how ads work in response to the post.

    https://playdevilsadvocate.wordpress.com/2017/09/11/how-marketing-works/

    and the relevant reddit thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/6zfarw/how_marketing_works/

    • Lillian says:

      From Playdevilsadvocate’s essay:

      Think about the last phone you bought. How many different phones did you compare? I recently asked my class and many people didn’t even compare any. If they wanted an Android, they bought Samsung and if they wanted IOS, they bought the latest Iphone. At the high end was three. There are dozens of alternatives, each with different price points, advantages and disadvantages. They aren’t cheap either, so one would think they would be a product category that people would do their research. And yet, most people make their decisions without it. Why?

      The last phone i bought was a result of an extensive research process which involved comparing over a dozen phones, including a number that i did not intend to buy at all but served as reference points. At the beginning of my search, i probably would have told you that while i wanted a budget phone with decent performance, i did not want a cheap Chinese phone. At the end of it what i bought was in fact a cheap Chinese phone, because i concluded that nothing else met my performance, size, and budget requirements. Though at one point i did seriously consider the Wileyfox Swift 2X, didn’t even know the Brits made smartphones.

      Now if money had been no object i probably would have bought an Iphone 7 or a Samsung Galaxy S7, which yes would have involved my comparing just a handful of phones. However since money was an object, the process was rather more involved like i said. The one i finally wound up buying is basically an GS7 in size and raw power, but with a somewhat bigger battery, shittier everything else, no Samsung bloatware, and hundreds of dollars cheaper. Pretty happy with it all told.

      • poignardazur says:

        Muck like most of my high-tech purchase, I googled “smartphone comparative”, and checked a few Amazon reviews to make sure I wasn’t getting scammed. I ended up with a Samsung Galaxy A5.

        My biggest criteria was “I don’t want to spend more than ~300€ on my new phone”. So far, I’m mostly happy with my purchase, but I could have gotten scammed for all I know. And yeah, Samsung bloatware is annoying.

        I wonder why people aren’t worrying more about the implicit power of product comparison websites / magazines.

        • Nornagest says:

          I wonder why people aren’t worrying more about the implicit power of product comparison websites / magazines.

          I’ve heard a few claims that Yelp is the devil, and a lot of claims that video game reviews in the gaming press are the devil. I don’t think there’s enough homogeneity in the hardware review market to get a really good cartel going, though.

  20. Difference Maker says:

    American Medical Association releases a statement supporting DACA, pointing out that “our nation’s health care workforce depends on the care provided by physicians and medical students with DACA status”.

    Lmfao

    • Difference Maker says:

      In “give us this day our daily bread”, the translation ‘daily’ is basically made up; nobody knows what the relevant Greek word means. Inside the dispute over translating “epiousios“.

      Fascinating

  21. atreic says:

    I liked the article on the amazon algorithms, but I really doubt ‘There is no conceivable world in which enough bomb-making equipment is being sold on Amazon to train an algorithm to make this recommendation’ and ‘ For a recommendations algorithm to be suggesting shrapnel to sulfur shoppers implies that thousands or tens of thousands of people are putting these items together in their shopping cart.’

    A few years ago I went on holiday with my friends. One of the things we do on holiday is read plays together, and this time we read Top Girls by Caryl Churchill and Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss. This is a group of about 15 friends. By the time half of us had gone to Amazon to buy scripts, Amazon was popping up ‘People who bought Top Girls also bought Marat/Sade’ (and vice versa). I can’t think of any other reason why the algorithms would have learnt these things (maybe there is some English degree where they end up on the syllabus together?) which suggests the algorithm is training on very small data sets for products sold fairly rarely.

    It appears to have mostly vanished from the internet now – the Marat/Sade page still mentioned Caryl Chruchill and Top Girls, but only in an omnibus edition. But it was in 2015, I guess things fade away as other people buy stuff.

    Anyway, I completely agree that ‘BBC blames terrorists, when it’s more likely to be hobbiests wanting gun power and chemisty explosions’ is a good critisicm of the BBC article. But ‘it is impossible enough terrorists could be doing this to train Amazon’s algorithms’ isn’t – there is very little cost to Amazon to offering weak associations if they’re the best associations it knows about, and this could be based on a handful of people.

    • Nick says:

      ‘ For a recommendations algorithm to be suggesting shrapnel to sulfur shoppers implies that thousands or tens of thousands of people are putting these items together in their shopping cart.’

      Yeah, Amazon is surely more fine-grained in its suggestions than that article suggests. I’ve plenty often followed Amazon links to books recommended by authors who’ve just had it put up; the books couldn’t have been bought by more than a few dozen people yet (perhaps 100, at most), but Amazon already has its exact audience pegged with its recommendations.

  22. Difference Maker says:

    Several people on Tumblr said if they had to guess the axis, they would say it was something like “most liberal looking” vs. “most conservative looking” or possibly “higher class” vs. “lower class”. What do we make of that?

    This is the baggage of civilization, where individuals take a shortcut to intelligence without having undergone purifying selection to maintain function or excel in other areas. Muscles are expensive, and so are testes and brains; these compete with each other for resources.

    Once ensconced in their talky shops and the like, the effeminates select for others of their kind.

    We are at the stage every civilization goes through, an effeminate and weakened zeitgeist before collapse

    • if you ask me, the rot set in with Cro Magnon man.

      • toastengineer says:

        If you ask me, it all fell apart once that weird greenish stuff started growing in the water. Ever since then it’s been trying to turn other things in to things that aren’t paperclips.

    • skef says:

      This is the baggage of civilization, where individuals take a shortcut to intelligence without having undergone purifying selection to maintain function or excel in other areas. Muscles are expensive, and so are testes and brains; these compete with each other for resources.

      Once ensconced in their talky shops and the like, the effeminates select for others of their kind.

      We are at the stage every civilization goes through, an effeminate and weakened zeitgeist before collapse

      There’s still hope! For there are still men with the courage and stamina to subject themselves to the crucible of Battlefield 3, and emerge victorious!

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Banned for various comments like this one

      • mupetblast says:

        Weird. I don’t even know what that commenter was trying to say. I suppose it’s a good sign, in a way, that people are being banned for making esoteric arguments only intellectuals can understand. It points to a general increase in intelligence.

        It’s akin to the Damore drama; your typical American can’t figure out what’s so bad about it, but Damore’s intellectual peers in a highly educated workforce like Google’s certainly know what the transgression is.

        • Nornagest says:

          It’s not that esoteric, it just has a lot of dog-whistle in it. He’s saying liberals are worthless and weak because they’re not men of action or something.

          Personally, I thought the “lmfao” downthread was more actionable, but it’s not like we’re losing much either way.

        • Gerry Quinn says:

          Probably banned for silliness as much as anything. I would hope that if he had made a more robust argument – or, to be precise, an actual argument – it would have been allowed!

          As for Damore, people were literally shaking, don’t you know?

        • Incurian says:

          I will not stand for this pro-Sidles propaganda!

          • bean says:

            The banned commenter wasn’t Sidles. There were no links in the post.

          • Incurian says:

            Naturally, but mupetblast is making a pro-Sidles argument, intentionally or not.

          • mupetblast says:

            Must be a small community if that point can be identified with one individual.

            I thought you meant the political scientist John Sides at first. Looking up John Sidles now. My interested has been piqued.

          • Nornagest says:

            I believe John Sidles is a mathematics professor, but here he’s better known for posting long, impenetrable, link- and quote-infested crankish posts on the subjects of empathy and rationality (‘scuse me, “racionative cognition”) and politics, and for refusing to engage usefully with anyone that tries to talk to him about them. Also for coming back whenever he gets banned, which has happened like a dozen times now. Currently he’s calling himself “willachandler”.

            IDing his posts isn’t really that hard; he has a very distinctive style.

  23. Markus Ramikin says:

    The chat box in the new lesswrong contains a “gif” option. Promising.

    Where the hell are the sequences…

    In other news, since I’ve been out of touch, we got any specific traditions for celebrating Petrov Day yet? Playing a round of DefCon? 😉

  24. mrthecabinet says:

    To the extent that the AMA’s statement on DACA is even true, it’s because medical schools would much rather admit less qualified non-Asian minorities over qualified Asians and whites: Blacks with GPAs of 3.2-3.4 and MCATs of 24-26, and Hispanics with GPAs of 3.4-3.6 and MCATs of 27-29, are admitted at the same rate as Asians and whites with GPAs of 3.6-3.8 and MCATs of 30-32.

    • Brad says:

      Aren’t you begging the question? What is the relationship between undergraduate grades or mcat scores and “qualification” for medical school or medicine?

      • bbartlog says:

        If you feel that grades and MCAT scores do not constitute qualifications for entry to med school, I think you should direct your inquiries and your discontent towards the schools and the test designers. I mean, you’re essentially asserting that these schools and tests have failed at what they’re intended for, without offering any evidence to support that rather radical claim.

        • Brad says:

          The schools don’t use grades and MCAT scores as the sole determinants for entry to med school. If they did, then what mrthecabinet posted would be impossible.

          If we are going to take whatever the schools do as the definition of “qualified” then the status quo is perfect and there’s nothing to discuss. So I reject your attempt to shift the burden.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        I don’t know if undergraduate grades and mcat scores are a good proxy for “qualification” for medical school but I do think that they are used as such when determining admission. Doing a quick google search for “best medical schools” the first couple results were usnews followed by http://medical-schools.startclass.com/ which shows 6 metrics for each school: “Smart Rank”, In-State Tuition, Median MCAT Score, Median Incoming GPA, Acceptance Rate, and Enrolled Total. As you go down the the list, mcat and gpa go down. This is evidence enough for me to say that mcat/gpa are positively correlated with chance of admission.

        Also, I think that if the bias was the other way (whites with lower gpa/mcat got in at a higher rate then PoC) it would be a good evidence for structural discrimination against PoC. Brad, would you disagree?

    • nelshoy says:

      There are still be lots of High achieving Dreamers, and dreamers already inside the system getting educated that you can’t simply marginally replace. I don’t know why the AA griping is necessary.

      • mrthecabinet says:

        High achieving relative to their parents or relative to the existing population? There’s no way that the children of illegal aliens as a whole are high achieving in an absolute sense. As we all know America is a terribly racist and unjust place, so how could these poor sympathetic 👋🏽Dreamers👋🏽 who don’t even speak English at home really hope to compete with the existing population?

        The affirmative action griping is necesssary for the same reason that the AMA made a statement at all: because everything must be culture war.

        • Nornagest says:

          That’s a singularly obnoxious way of doing air quotes.

        • nelshoy says:

          There are dreamers who are higher achievers than who would otherwise attend medical school. Getting rid of DACA puts there careers at risk. And like I said, the far bigger problem is that a ton has already been invested in many of the dreamer’s individual training. Speaking Spanish (and serving underserved areas, as many URM students are more likely to do) is also a huge boon to healthcare in many places in the US.

          • Incurian says:

            Self licking ice cream cone?

          • Careless says:

            There are dreamers who are higher achievers than who would otherwise attend medical school.

            Sure, it’s almost certainly more than zero. But to suggest that it’s a number that would cripple a system that has far more qualified applicants than slots is quite laughable.

  25. gloster80256 says:

    Ok, Cassini can’t do it – but thinking about the whole scenario: Perhaps you could dump a nuclear “ingitor” into a gas supergiant and have it spark a thermonuclear reaction in the hypothesized metallic hydrogen core? Turning the giant into a star?

    It’s basically the plot of the 2010: Space odyssey sequel, just with fewer Monoliths.

    (The gas giants, as far as my minimal knowledge of astrophysics tells me, are basically sub-critical stars – they just don’t have the mass to ignite a thermonuclear reaction naturally through core pressure. The ignition spark could hypothetically bypass that – though I’m suspecting the reaction then wouldn’t be self-sustaining…?)

    • CatCube says:

      This is pretty outside my wheelhouse, but I doubt it. From what little I know, pressure as well as temperature is necessary. Thermonuclear weapons have extensive engineering so the radiation from the fission primary will compress the fusion fuel in the secondary, but I don’t see how hucking a nuclear bomb into a gas giant will duplicate this. You might get some fusion, but I think most of the fuel will be blown away, rather than participate.

      (Interesting note of the day: the material that US weapons use to provide this compression is called FOGBANK. The production line was shut down after the last US warheads were completed. When we went to refurbish them early in the 2000s, it turns out that the Department of Energy had forgotten how to make it!)

      • gloster80256 says:

        Yes, but you don’t need to compress anything here. The hydrogen is already compressed to a sub-critical state by the planet’s gravity. The pressure and temperature in the core are insufficient to spontaneously start the reaction (e.g. the Sun had a mass large enough to ignite on its own) but adding extra thermal energy could put it over the top. The issue is: would the reaction gradually dissipate since the pressure is insufficient or is the gap between the pressure necessary to start the ignition and the pressure level required to sustain it large enough to keep it going?

        It really seems quite analogous to saying: This pile of wood certainly won’t start burning on its own. But if I pour a bit of gasoline on this log and set it ablaze, is the pile packed tight enough to get the whole thing going just off that?

        • Careless says:

          It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Stars stay in equilibrium because the gravitational pressure is counterbalanced by the energy from fusion. The gravitational pressure to keep fusion going obviously doesn’t exist in a gas giant.

    • bean says:

      No. I’d expect starting a gas giant’s core burning would reduce the pressure, not increase it, which kills the reaction. Assuming you could start it at all.
      Wait, was this a serious worry? We dumped Galileo into Jupiter with no problem, and ‘Cassini will ignite Saturn’ is on the level of ‘you can make a nuclear bomb with Anfo and Uranium Glass’. Heck, Pu-238 isn’t even fissile, and it’s definitely not in the right configuration to go off. It’s like most people know nothing about nuclear weapons!

      • gloster80256 says:

        I’m pretty sure the pressure would remain generally constant – it’s dictated by the total gravity of the planet. The ignition, if successful, would create a thermal expansion acting against the gravity and pushing the heated plasma outward, but the resulting pressure would, I think, by necessity be a wash (end state: greater volume, identical gravity, identical pressure in the center). But the extra heat energy would facilitate the fusion reaction.

        So the question is rather: is there a gas giant of a mass insufficient to spark a spontaneous fusion reaction but sufficient enough to maintain a reaction once it gets going? It seems theoretically possible to me.

        • bean says:

          I’m pretty sure the pressure would remain generally constant – it’s dictated by the total gravity of the planet. The ignition, if successful, would create a thermal expansion acting against the gravity and pushing the heated plasma outward, but the resulting pressure would, I think, by necessity be a wash (end state: greater volume, identical gravity, identical pressure in the center). But the extra heat energy would facilitate the fusion reaction.

          But in that case, you now have reduced density, which is also a problem. My understanding of the triple product is that you’d at least potentially have the reaction self-quinch. It’s been a long time since I did fusion physics, and that was all magnetic-confinement, so I’m not sure either way.

          So the question is rather: is there a gas giant of a mass insufficient to spark a spontaneous fusion reaction but sufficient enough to maintain a reaction once it gets going? It seems theoretically possible to me.

          No clue. I have no idea how fusion starts in stars.

          • gloster80256 says:

            I think you are exactly right about the need for sufficient density and temperature over time – I guess that is a better formulation of the factual question of: “Would a given gas giant provide that?”

        • bbartlog says:

          I suspect that such gas giants are theoretically possible, but that in the real world they get ‘set off’ by meteorite impacts (or quite possibly internal tectonic events) rather than floating around indefinitely waiting for intelligent life to kindle them with a nuke. The steady-state rate of fusing in a marginal star is not all that high so I don’t think the really high local temperatures created by a nuclear weapon are relevant, and the total energy is small compared to that of even a modest meteorite impact or earthquake.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m pretty sure the pressure would remain generally constant – it’s dictated by the total gravity of the planet.

          “Total gravity” needs to be unpacked. Pressure at the core of a self-gravitating body is the integrated weight of a column of fluid with unit area, from the core out to the surface. Integral (mass density * gravity), both of which will vary from core to surface.

          Thought experiment: Consider a planet, and in particular consider a spherical shell of planetary material at radius R, thickness T with density D at local gravity G. Note that G is itself proportional to the mass within R, divided by R^2. This shell makes a contribution (T*D*G) to the core pressure.

          Uniformly expand the entire planet by a factor of two. What happens to the shell? Thickness is doubled. Density is divided by eight, because you’ve doubled every linear dimension while keeping the mass the same. For local gravity, the mass inside the shell hasn’t changed but the radius has doubled, so G goes down by a factor of four.

          The contribution of this shell, and every other shell, to the internal pressure is now (2T * D/8 * G/4), which comes to one-sixteenth that of the original unexpanded body. The pressure inside a planet/star/whatever is proportional to mass, divided by the fourth power of radius. If it expands, the pressure drops.

    • John Schilling says:

      Perhaps you could dump a nuclear “ingitor” into a gas supergiant and have it spark a thermonuclear reaction in the hypothesized metallic hydrogen core?

      No; this is the fallacy of the Classical Super, the idea that hydrogen or some other fusion fuel will “burn” if it is simply ignited by a sufficiently hot “spark”. This turns out not to be the case for any known material at normal pressures or densities, barring exotic isotopically-enriched elements or mixtures, mostly involving high concentrations of tritium – and since tritium has a half-life of about twelve years, you don’t find large concentrations of it in nature.

      Anything with a vaguely normal isotopic ratio, no matter how hot you get it the rate at which heat produced by its thermonuclear “burning” will be less than the rate at which heat will be lost to radiation, conduction, or in a self-gravitating body, thermal convection. The reaction will inevitably quench, and so you cannot use it as a steady star-like source of light and heat.

      If you are hoping to at least get decent flare out of it by running the reaction to completion before it has time to radiate/conduct/convect all its heat away, well, OK, having a planet’s worth of insulation wrapped around your reaction might buy you a few years. Unfortunately, the reaction rate for ordinary hydrogen (i.e. not the exotic deuterium and tritium isotopes) is so abysmally slow that even at stellar-core temperatures and pressures it takes billions of years to run to completion. Wait, did I say “abysmally slow”? That’s the only reason the universe didn’t go cold and dark about ten billion years before we evolved to enjoy the view, so nothing abysmal about it.

      In order to get a self-sustaining, or explosively growing, fusion reaction, particularly using normal isotope abundances, you need not just high temperatures, but also high densities, densities several orders of magnitude higher than normal for e.g. hydrogen and achievable only at literally astronomical pressures. And you need to maintain those densities against the natural tendency of very hot things to expand.

      If all you’ve got to do the containment is gravity, you need at least seventy Jupiter masses of stuff to get enough pressure for ordinary hydrogen fusion. With thirteen Jupiter masses of stuff, you can at least burn some of the deuterium that got mixed in with the original hydrogen, for as long as that lasts. With only one Jupiter mass of gravitational containment, nothing is going to keep burning once you take the ignition source away.

      Aside from many Jupiters’ worth of gravity, the only thing that is known to confine materials at the densities and pressures necessary for a useful fusion reaction is a heavy metal tamper imploding at several hundred kilometers per second. This obviously doesn’t last very long, but if you can live with that limitation there are some folks in North Korea who can probably explain the process in arbitrary detail if you wave enough cash at them.

  26. MugaSofer says:

    Couple of typos:

    not sure I Zvi’s additional analysis

    not sure I understand

    ” Vladimir Putin

    There’s an extra space after the quotation mark.

  27. willachandler says:

    By way of the redoubtable anti-denial essayist Hotwhopper, comes news of Canadian citizen-scientist Andy Skuce’s passing.

    Skuce’s final post on his blog Critical Angle: Reflections on the refractory problems of climate and energy addresses multiple medical, moral, economic, and scientific issues that are of central concern to rationalists in general and SSC readers in particular:

    Exit, Pursued by a Crab

    I never wanted to write this post, but I feel that I owe it to the people I have come to know as online friends. They deserve to know that I’m suffering from a fatal illness. However, I hate the idea of now being treated differently because of this disclosure. I am not fishing for compliments or looking for moral support. …

    In 2002, at age 48, I was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. … As Hemingway remarked about going bankrupt, my cancer progressed gradually at first and then suddenly. … You become aware that the treatment options are running out when the oncologists start talking about maximizing quality, rather than quantity, of life. That’s where I am now. … I was originally given a median life expectancy of six years. I have lasted fifteen and I’m not done quite yet. …

    Living in Canada means that I have received first-class medical treatment, without once having had to worry about paying for it.

    I held a high-stress oil-company executive job for a few years before and after my diagnosis. I had an inkling that the long hours would have killed me if I had kept it up. My employer was understanding and eventually laid me off with a generous redundancy package. There wasn’t room in that corporate culture for employees who were not able to give their all. …

    There were no worries about losing health insurance. Had I been an American, I would likely have faced a terrible decision about whether to hang on to my stressful job, or impoverish my dependents by quitting and giving up health coverage. …

    Climate change and me

    It may seem a little odd to end this disclosure about my looming demise with a technical commentary on climate change. However, concern about what happens to the planet after my death—whenever that date might be—has been important to me over the past few years. Having the fatal moment moved forward doesn’t change anything.

    One of the great benefits of my engaging in research and activism on climate change has been making friends with some determined and talented people. They have taught me so much. They will continue the struggle to communicate the nature of the crisis and advocate for solutions.

    In particular, the volunteers in the Skeptical Science team have been an inspiration. Long may they run.

    I’m still keen to continue conversations, especially with people I don’t agree with. There’s so much more to learn. A politically conservative perspective on climate solutions is essential.

    In respect to climate change and healthcare issues alike, there have been few SSC-compatible (yet fundamentally anti-Caplan) “steelman” voices more reasoned, reflective, and respectful than Andy Skuse’s. Particular during this month’s cascade of dubiously rational health-care and climate-change fulminations, Skuse’s well-framed end-of-life reflections are commended to all SSC readers.

  28. bean says:

    Colombian airline proposes standing-room only flights to pack planes tighter and cut fares. Consumers are outraged at the possibility of getting a completely optional extra choice in the comfort vs. price tradeoff.

    Airline consumers are idiots who like complaining.
    OK, maybe that’s a bit cynical, but the difference between what the traveling public says it wants and does is rather striking. See my series on air travel for more details. (Last post was in OT 84.75.)
    Also, it won’t happen. Unless Colombia’s equivalent of the FAA is totally passive (which I suppose it could be), they won’t get regulatory approval. Too many issues with evacuations and crash safety. Also, nobody makes seats for that. I did notice that VivaColombia is owned by the same people who own Ryanair, which is famous for saying things like this to get publicity. So no, this is just an attempt to get free publicity. Nothing will happen.
    (Even geekier side-note, O’Leary is wrong about seatbelts. They’re an important safety feature, one of the most important in a crash. Broken bones do not help evacuations, and seatbelts are important to avoid them in survivable crashes.)

    • bbartlog says:

      Just as a theoretical quibble I do want to point out that under certain circumstances, adding a new choice for consumers can lead to a new equilibrium where some subset of consumers is worse off. If 99% of flyers think standing is great, so that all normal flights end up going that route and sitting flights end up being a special expensive option, then someone who would really rather sit is going to be worse off. Generally speaking such scenarios require a subset of consumers with significantly different preferences than the rest along with structural factors that make the cost of accommodating a small number of consumers with different preferences high. So if (some) ‘consumers are outraged’ it is not necessarily nice to make fun of them for being irrational. We can imagine that there are 6’3″ flyers who really are in a tough spot as consumers if airlines decide to cram the seats a little closer together in economy class, to consider another example that actually happens; of course they have other choices with more leg room, but it’s not as if there is necessarily a continuum of choices and the prices for first class may also not be to their liking.

      Similar considerations can also come in to play if someone is part of a consumer pool, for example all the people who dine out in some town, and the preferences of the pool change. If I really like Ethiopian food, but everyone else in town who previously enjoyed it moves away or decides that it’s passe and now they’re going to eat Thai fusion cooking instead, then it’s quite possible that the Ethiopian restaurant will shutter its doors and I personally will be worse off. There are advantages to being part of a consumer pool with preferences that match yours.

      • bean says:

        Disclaimer: I’m doing an effort post series on air travel.

        Just as a theoretical quibble I do want to point out that under certain circumstances, adding a new choice for consumers can lead to a new equilibrium where some subset of consumers is worse off.

        And? Yes, the squeeze in legroom has been worse for the comfort of tall fliers. But said tall fliers have cheaper tickets, along with everyone else.

        If 99% of flyers think standing is great, so that all normal flights end up going that route and sitting flights end up being a special expensive option, then someone who would really rather sit is going to be worse off.

        But someone who would rather get a flight at 2/3rds of the price is better off. Why should we respect person one over person two? (Assuming this happens, which it won’t.) Also, if this is truly a point where we start to see consumer preferences separate, why should we assume that there will be a big premium? The premium for extra-legroom economy isn’t even that much on a lot of routes.

        Generally speaking such scenarios require a subset of consumers with significantly different preferences than the rest along with structural factors that make the cost of accommodating a small number of consumers with different preferences high. So if (some) ‘consumers are outraged’ it is not necessarily nice to make fun of them for being irrational.

        I’m not making fun of consumers for being irrational so much as hypocritical. People swear up and down that they want more legroom, but when American tried to give it to them ~10 years ago, they refused to pay more for it, or even book American preferentially at the same price.

        We can imagine that there are 6’3″ flyers who really are in a tough spot as consumers if airlines decide to cram the seats a little closer together in economy class, to consider another example that actually happens; of course they have other choices with more leg room, but it’s not as if there is necessarily a continuum of choices and the prices for first class may also not be to their liking.

        The fact that you believe the only option to regular economy is first class just tells me you’re not paying attention. Different airlines do offer materially different legroom (Southwest and JetBlue), and in most cases the buyup to better legroom is $20-40/segment. If that 6’3″ person doesn’t want to pay that, it’s his problem. I’m not sure why we should insist that air travel be made more expensive for everyone to satisfy him.

        There are advantages to being part of a consumer pool with preferences that match yours.

        But this makes little sense in the concrete example of air travel. The airlines have repeatedly shown themselves to be willing to satisfy preferences that are strong enough to be reflected in their bottom line. The fact that your preferences are not strong enough to make their bottom line is your problem. And the typical complaints are definitely not from people with unusual preferences in this case, either.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I imagine most people complaining expect the “new equilibrium” to be “the standing price is the same as the old sitting price, with the new sitting price being much higher”.

          Different airlines do offer materially different legroom (Southwest and JetBlue), and in most cases the buyup to better legroom is $20-40/segment.

          Airlines that don’t travel where I need to go are irrelevant; for instance if I’m in Philadelphia I probably can’t switch from a USAir flight to a JetBlue flight, at least without significantly increasing travel time by adding a connection.

          There’s buyup, but it’s not $20-$40/segment, it’s more like $50-$80/segment nowadays, at least from Con-U. Sometimes more; I once paid $115, but they included a bag with that. Last time I went Virgin America, but the buyup was just as expensive (and not available on one segment).

          • bean says:

            I imagine most people complaining expect the “new equilibrium” to be “the standing price is the same as the old sitting price, with the new sitting price being much higher”.

            They’re empirically wrong on that. When the seats get smaller, the prices drop in real terms.

            Airlines that don’t travel where I need to go are irrelevant; for instance if I’m in Philadelphia I probably can’t switch from a USAir flight to a JetBlue flight, at least without significantly increasing travel time by adding a connection.

            Well, yes. Obviously, some people will be in places where they have fewer/worse options. I’m sorry for them, but that’s always going to be the case. Also, USAir has been dead as a brand for 2 years.

            There’s buyup, but it’s not $20-$40/segment, it’s more like $50-$80/segment nowadays, at least from Con-U. Sometimes more; I once paid $115, but they included a bag with that. Last time I went Virgin America, but the buyup was just as expensive (and not available on one segment).

            $20-40 is based on my memory of the last time I flew on American. It wasn’t a business route, and it’s possible that the airlines are dynamically pricing the buyup to get as much out of it as possible (which is not something I can object to on a philosophical level). It would be interesting to see a broad study of buyup prices, but I don’t have one in front of me. In any case, if they weren’t selling enough, they’d lower the price.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I imagine most people complaining expect the “new equilibrium” to be “the standing price is the same as the old sitting price, with the new sitting price being much higher”.

            How are airline profits these days? Over all of history they are negative but maybe things changed since I looked last, when there wasn’t a lot of producer surplus.

          • bean says:

            How are airline profits these days? Over all of history they are negative but maybe things changed since I looked last, when there wasn’t a lot of producer surplus.

            Very high. Some idiot introduced the idea of capacity discipline, which is basically that the airlines are sitting on their cash instead of spending it on new planes and starting fare wars. (Well, he’s an idiot to me as a former employee of the manufacturer and a member of the traveling public. If you’re an airline stockholder, he’s a hero.)
            Warren Buffet, long a prominent airline-industry skeptic, recently moved into the big US airlines (I think all of the Big 4) in a major way. How long this will hold up probably depends on low oil prices.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        We can imagine that there are 6’3″ flyers who really are in a tough spot as consumers if airlines decide to cram the seats a little closer together in economy class

        That particular problem sounds like something that could be potentially solved by having a tall-people-only tickbox when you book the ticket, for ‘I need extra legroom’, and a slot where you fill out your height, and then at the airport, they actually measure your height and charge you extra if you have lied about it. The time and staffing to do this can come from, say, not making everyone take off their shoes, or whatever the most easily-shaved-off element of the security theatre currently is.

        • bean says:

          That particular problem sounds like something that could be potentially solved by having a tall-people-only tickbox when you book the ticket, for ‘I need extra legroom’, and a slot where you fill out your height, and then at the airport, they actually measure your height and charge you extra if you have lied about it.

          Why? Why are we doing this? The only airline which I’m aware of which doesn’t offer extra-legroom seats at some buyup (usually $20-40/segment) is Southwest. (And even then, you might be able to secure an exit row with enough cash, although it’s a bit more chancy.) I fully understand that someone who is tall may have a very strong preference for more legroom. But why do we demand that they be given it for free? Do we make Southwest put in 35″ pitch seats for them? If someone is tall but doesn’t mind normal pitch, do we give them a refund equivalent to the buyup for the seats? Are we going to give fat people first-class seats because they’re wider? What if someone who isn’t particularly tall has a very strong preference for extra legroom for some reason? Why don’t we just use money to determine who wants the seats the most, like we do with food, and air travel in general? Because that seems the best answer to me.

          The time and staffing to do this can come from, say, not making everyone take off their shoes, or whatever the most easily-shaved-off element of the security theatre currently is.

          Another pet peeve. The airlines and the TSA are not the same, and we can’t simply shift people and money from one to the other. I suppose this scheme would have to be government-mandated, so the TSA people might have to do it. Tall people would still have to take their shoes off, of course, to prevent cheating.

          • Brad says:

            I strongly agree with your post in general, especially as it applies to tall people seeking ever more advantages.

            But as a quibble, there is some cooperation between the airlines and the TSA that I’d go so far as to call gratuitous. When the security lines got really bad a couple years back the head of the TSA was asked to explain why first class got to cut the line. He responded that the lines leading up to the screening area belonged to the airports and the TSA had nothing to do with them. That is frankly mealy mouthed BS.

          • bean says:

            I strongly agree with your post in general, especially as it applies to tall people seeking ever more advantages.

            Out of curiosity, is the problem due to the fact that this policy would benefit tall people, or in general? If it was forcing them to give fat people wider seats (let’s assume we have widebodies and a lot more flexibility in terms of seat width), would your opinion change?

            But as a quibble, there is some cooperation between the airlines and the TSA that I’d go so far as to call gratuitous. When the security lines got really bad a couple years back the head of the TSA was asked to explain why first class got to cut the line. He responded that the lines leading up to the screening area belonged to the airports and the TSA had nothing to do with them. That is frankly mealy mouthed BS.

            There’s a reason I haven’t talked about security at all in my writings on air travel. It’s because I agree with pretty much all of the criticisms of the TSA, and don’t really have anything to add. The TSA is terrible. But it’s not the airlines. Get pre-check. It makes flying so much nicer.
            Edit: In fairness, the airlines aren’t wholly innocent. The TSA was talking about letting nail clippers, small pocket knives, pool cues and similar items through security, and focusing more on bombs (the real threat). The airlines and particularly the flight attendants kicked up enough of a fuss to kill the plan. And don’t get me started about flight attendants on power trips under the guise of ‘security’.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The little I’ve heard about Pre-check absolutely reeks of panopticon. Do you disagree or just consider it a worthwhile trade?

          • Brad says:

            @bean

            Out of curiosity, is the problem due to the fact that this policy would benefit tall people, or in general? If it was forcing them to give fat people wider seats (let’s assume we have widebodies and a lot more flexibility in terms of seat width), would your opinion change?

            I’d object to the fat people version too, but the tall people version is doubly objectionable.

            To give an analogy, I don’t especially like India’s caste quota system but if it had one to benefit Brahmin that would be worse than one to benefit Dalits.

            @bean

            Edit: In fairness, the airlines aren’t wholly innocent.

            That was the point I was, perhaps poorly, trying to make. There’s some cozy little symbioses there and it benefits both to be able to point to the other.

            @Gobbobobble
            I have global entry. They took my fingerprints and did some kind of background check. As far as I know this background check consisted of checking information they already had. I don’t see that as especially invasive. If it had required going through what my sister-in-law went through to get TS I wouldn’t have done it.

          • bean says:

            @Gobbobobble
            I think it’s a worthwhile trade. I wish that the government would do actual security, but ultimately I’m not going to die on a philosophical hill when I can make flying much nicer for $20/year. Particularly when I want to do defense work, which involves a security clearance.
            Also, if you plan to travel internationally, get Global Entry, not plain pre-check. It’s $15/more over 5 years, and you get fast immigration.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Why don’t we just use money to determine who wants the seats the most, like we do with food, and air travel in general?

            Sure, but this was part of a conversation about American Airlines offering enhanced legroom for a fee and yet not having people take them up on that offer. An ‘extra legroom for those who can prove they need it’ would at least stop people complaining about that particular issue.

            The airlines and the TSA are not the same, and we can’t simply shift people and money from one to the other

            I know, but one can still dream. In particular, given that one of the main side effects of the gargantuan security theatre must surely be to reduce the number of flyers, I would have expected that it is in the airlines’ financial interests to lobby against the worst excesses of it. Are they in fact generally supportive of it? That I would find surprising.

            Edited to add: another thing that surprises me that they don’t do is have people queue up at the gate in the order they’re going to sit when they actually get on the plane, maybe even with the row numbers marked on the floor in front of the final gate check desk. Given the faff of people needing to pass each other in the aisle, and the money to be saved by minimising the time that planes are actually sitting on the ground, that’s something that sounds like it ought to work, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. Closest I’ve seen is people being called by ‘groups’, and that only in the US, I don’t think I’ve seen anything systematic at all in European flights.

          • bean says:

            Sure, but this was part of a conversation about American Airlines offering enhanced legroom for a fee and yet not having people take them up on that offer. An ‘extra legroom for those who can prove they need it’ would at least stop people complaining about that particular issue.

            They’ve been getting a lot better at monitizing those seats recently, so I doubt there’s a lot of slack to give them away. And there are other issues, too. It’s common for elites to be able to select those seats for free. If we start giving them out to tall people, then we have fewer for elites. (Who we want to keep loyal, because they spend a lot of money.) And the people who are 6’2″ when the cutoff is 6’3″ will complain a lot, probably making the situation worse overall. And what happens when I’m 6’3″ and my wife is 5’9″? I’m going to assume she doesn’t get a free extra-legroom seat. Not to mention all the extra trouble for gate agents and such.
            The only case I can see where this sort of thing is vaguely plausible is a sale, say “$1 off/inch over 6′ ” as a way to raise awareness of the existence of the seats. But that probably won’t happen due to the logistical headaches.

            I know, but one can still dream. In particular, given that one of the main side effects of the gargantuan security theatre must surely be to reduce the number of flyers, I would have expected that it is in the airlines’ financial interests to lobby against the worst excesses of it. Are they in fact generally supportive of it? That I would find surprising.

            The relationship of the industry with security is sort of weird. These days, planes are full, so it’s not like they’re really losing that much money. And lobbying against security has the ‘soft on crime’ problem, particularly if something goes wrong. And as Brad pointed out, there is a benefit to the airlines in having the security stick to wave about.

            Edited to add: another thing that surprises me that they don’t do is have people queue up at the gate in the order they’re going to sit when they actually get on the plane, maybe even with the row numbers marked on the floor in front of the final gate check desk. Given the faff of people needing to pass each other in the aisle, and the money to be saved by minimising the time that planes are actually sitting on the ground, that’s something that sounds like it ought to work, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. Closest I’ve seen is people being called by ‘groups’, and that only in the US, I don’t think I’ve seen anything systematic at all in European flights.

            Uncle! Uncle already! I’m just going to let Air Canada answer this one this time.
            (David Friedman and I have gone around on this a couple of times. The bottom line is that this system would work great on a 5 PM flight from New York to Chicago. It would work horribly on a 6 AM flight from LAX to Honolulu, and airlines value consistency.)

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Thanks; I’ll watch the Mythbusters segment when I’m not at the office.

          • bean says:

            I have one specific criticism of that segment, namely that everyone involved was an interested adult traveling alone. This wasn’t really something they could solve, and I think they did a good job overall. But it’s not the be-all and end-all of boarding mechanism tests, because there are factors they couldn’t consider.
            (I’ll probably do boarding methods as a fully worked-out effort post at some point. But my slots are full for a while.)

          • bean says:

            Re monitization of the extra-legroom seats, the evidence is that it works. For a long time, United was the only airline that had them (called Economy Plus), but when they merged with Continental, they were kept by Continental’s management team (who ended up running the company). American and Delta followed over the past few years. So this is an area where we’ve seen meaningful improvements in options over the past decade, and if the airlines weren’t making money on them, I assume they’d stop installing them.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            bean:

            “The TSA was talking about letting nail clippers, small pocket knives, pool cues and similar items through security, and focusing more on bombs (the real threat). The airlines and particularly the flight attendants kicked up enough of a fuss to kill the plan. And don’t get me started about flight attendants on power trips under the guise of ‘security’.

            I assumed that the 9/11 attack started with box-cutters, but it turns out that the evidence for that isn’t sound.

          • bean says:

            I assumed that the 9/11 attack started with box-cutters, but it turns out that the evidence for that isn’t sound.

            The 9/11 attacks started with the prevailing theory that the passengers and crew should go along with the hijackers. That window of opportunity closed when United 93 plowed into the field. They actually kept box cutters off the proposed list for ‘sentimental reasons’. The ability of simple weapons to stand off much larger numbers of determined crew and passengers is minor.
            (Also, that dates to 2003, and significantly understates the information provided on AA11, as well as incorrectly stating that no information came off UA175. I think it’s a Bush-bashing piece, and not an accurate reflection of what is known. About the only interesting piece of information is that they had mace, as well as knives.)

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Okay, office is closed, and I have watched the segment. But what I had in mind was something a good bit more regimented, where the floor of the departure lounge actually has squares on it for people to stand as they queue, so that they can line up in the order they’ll enter the aircraft, and thus save time in the calling people up to board process as well. All (say) six people booked into the back row at the front of the queue, then the next six, and so on.

            I think that’d be a pretty small indignity to put up with compared with getting to the departure lounge in the first place. But I hadn’t bargained on there being far more elaborate boarding schemes available, that fill the seats in even more devious ways. (Reverse pyramid? That sounds more like it ought to be a way of partaking of the mile high club than a way of getting onto the plane in the first place)

            I guess to do those you’d need to work out the most efficient, give every ticket a boarding order number as well as a seat number, and get people to stand in their boarding order. Which does sound as if it ought to be feasible, but if it doesn’t actually beat random-with-allocated-seats boarding by a large margin, probably not worth the bother.

            Though I do notice that you are more likely to get to board by both front and rear doors on the small Ryanair-type flights than you are on the larger and/or more reputable carriers. I guess that boarding steps tall enough to reach the larger aeroplanes are too expensive to justify the savings in boarding time.

          • bean says:

            Okay, office is closed, and I have watched the segment. But what I had in mind was something a good bit more regimented, where the floor of the departure lounge actually has squares on it for people to stand as they queue, so that they can line up in the order they’ll enter the aircraft, and thus save time in the calling people up to board process as well. All (say) six people booked into the back row at the front of the queue, then the next six, and so on.

            That’s a horrible plan, although one that used to be standard. Put too many people in the same area at once, and you just get delays. The one usually floated as ideal is everyone on the right windows, left windows, and so on, so you have the work spread out. Great for boarding soldiers or businessmen, but probably iffy if there are families and the like involved.

            I guess to do those you’d need to work out the most efficient, give every ticket a boarding order number as well as a seat number, and get people to stand in their boarding order. Which does sound as if it ought to be feasible, but if it doesn’t actually beat random-with-allocated-seats boarding by a large margin, probably not worth the bother.

            One of my main worries about these schemes is robustness. Yes, our mathematically-optimal boarding order is great when everybody involved understands what they’re supposed to do and does it. But when a large fraction of your passengers are children, elderly, tired, or otherwise impaired, how well does it hold up? What do you do about the people who are connecting from a delayed flight and are sprinting up partway through boarding?

            Though I do notice that you are more likely to get to board by both front and rear doors on the small Ryanair-type flights than you are on the larger and/or more reputable carriers. I guess that boarding steps tall enough to reach the larger aeroplanes are too expensive to justify the savings in boarding time.

            There’s a couple of factors. First, in the US at least, most flights depart from jet bridges. Those can’t reach the rear door easily/at all. The only times I recall using the rear doors were cases were we were not at a bridge (mostly regional jets and once at Long Beach). Second, low-cost airlines worry more about turn time, although the legacies don’t totally ignore it. Third, stairs are trouble for passengers with lots of luggage or mobility issues, and the airports aren’t really set up to support them.

          • Brad says:

            A potentially more rationalized boarding protocol is also precluded by the fact that overhead bin space isn’t assigned and so is available on a first come, first basis. The flips around the desirability of boarding order from last is best to first is best.

            Airlines could assign overhead bin space. My guesses for why they don’t are: a) the hassle of enforcing it and b) they wiggle room on the maximum bag size is actually a desired perk for their best customers.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’m north of 6′ 3″, and I’ve been buying the legroom packages that most airlines offer under various names. Depending on the airline, this can be cheap and convenient (a $20 add-on) or expensive and a pain in the ass (an extra $140 and forcing me to restart the entire transaction).

        JetBlue has a comfortable seat pitch for me at its base price, so I’ll buy it in preference to another airline if all else is equal. But all else is rarely equal, and there are lots of things I care more about than a smallish upcharge.

      • of course they have other choices with more leg room, but it’s not as if there is necessarily a continuum of choices

        Pretty close on WoW airlines, which my wife and I are taking to Iceland this evening.

        They have an interesting system. The base price is amazingly low. For that price you sit wherever they decide to put you. You can reserve a seat, but the least expensive seats you can reserve are an extra twelve dollars or so. The seat prices scales up from there by multiple steps to something like a hundred dollars extra, depending on spacing.

        They also charge for not only drinks and food but water.

        • bean says:

          That’s pretty much the standard low-cost model, although it’s crept into the legacies over the past 10 years. A lot of customers hate it, mostly because of how it was sold/rolled out, and the fact that some bits feel a bit too much like gouging, particularly from some of the LCCs.
          The best example of this is the ‘convenience fees’ Spirit and co charge for booking online. There are two reasons for this fee, which is technically optional and can be avoided by booking at the airport. First, they may not have to be bundled into the advertised prices. I’m not sure exactly what the rules here are. Mandatory fees do have to be counted, but Spirit is known for advertising $9 fares. Second, because it’s an optional fee, it’s exempt from the 7.5% excise tax on airfare.

    • How important, statistically speaking, is the ability to survive a crash, given that crashes are rare events and crashes that some passengers survive a little rarer? How much higher would the death rate per mile be if every time a plane crashed all passengers died?

      • bean says:

        Define ‘crash’. I’ve got a draft column that deals with this in more detail, but it’s not that uncommon to have a plane crash-land and burst into flames shortly thereafter. At least as often as a conventional crash that kills everybody, if not a bit more frequent. Being able to get everyone off quickly is important in those cases. The seatbelts help by reducing injuries. A fair number of people in those cases die from smoke inhalation when they couldn’t evacuate. There are also cases where the plane catches fire, and you want to get everyone off quickly. The seatbelts don’t help there, but a plane with standing seats would take a lot longer to evacuate. Between the two, maybe double the rate at present?

    • Worley says:

      My favorite columnist (Megan McArdle) noted that there is one group that has been made worse off by the increasing choice of low-cost flying options: people who travel on business, but whom business want to spend the minimum on their travel. It used to be that their travel was quite pleasant, and rather expensive, and businesses had no choice but to pay for it. But these people form a substantial fraction of the total airline traffic, and they have strong interests at stake.

      • bean says:

        It depends. A decent company isn’t going to put you on a 5 AM Spirit flight. The places that are likely to buy airfare more like people do are the ones that are small businesses, where the employee is likely to be more invested and more willing to put up with annoyances for the good of the company. I traveled occasionally at my old job, and it wasn’t too bad. We got the times we wanted, so long as they weren’t crazy expensive. The other simple factor is that the people who get treated the worst are advance-purchase fares. Businesses aren’t likely to book 6 months in advance.

    • Anthony says:

      If they were Spirit, they’d leave in about 20 seats, and charge an extra 300,000 COP (US$110) for the seat. And install poles to hang onto, for the low, low price of 100,000 COP.

      • bean says:

        Actually, Spirit sells a few of what are essentially domestic first-class seats on each flight (4-8) for, IIRC, $40 each. You just get the seat for that, but they do exactly what so many people seem to accuse them of not doing.

  29. Tangentially related to the androgynous facial features thing, during a discussion on the Google memo someone hear or on /r/slatestarcodex mentioned that higher IQ people tend to have more androgynous personalities. Is that actually true and does anybody know of papers on that?

  30. registrationisdumb says:

    Weird thought, but to me the first thing I saw when I saw the composite gay faces was “jewish.”

  31. Ciaran says:

    TINACBNEIAC – Shouldn’t it be TINACBNIEAC?

  32. susanbrindle says:

    Re: Identity Theft: I’d like to share this delicious tidbit, but in prudently double-checking, I can’t find any official reference to form letters actually invalidating your claim. I did find this FTC website that explicitly suggests using form letters and provides form letters for public use.

  33. the verbiage ecstatic says:

    “Consumers are outraged at the possibility of getting a completely optional extra choice in the comfort vs. price tradeoff.”

    Assuming this is sarcasm, I’d like to point out that “completely optional extra choice” is not how these things play out long term. I’d elaborate, but Meditations on Moloch makes the point much better: as soon as you sacrifice a value in favor of efficiency, it’s hard to un-sacrifice that value. Maybe YOU don’t want to fly standing up, but if enough other customers are desperate enough to travel cheaply that they are, and airlines that don’t offer this service start going out of business, pretty soon you might find yourself paying first class fares for the privilege of sitting down.

    I don’t think it will actually play out this way, but that’s because of the consumer outrage being mocked here… in a world of free market economists, I’m less certain of how this would end.

    • bean says:

      Assuming this is sarcasm, I’d like to point out that “completely optional extra choice” is not how these things play out long term. I’d elaborate, but Meditations on Moloch makes the point much better: as soon as you sacrifice a value in favor of efficiency, it’s hard to un-sacrifice that value. Maybe YOU don’t want to fly standing up, but if enough other customers are desperate enough to travel cheaply that they are, and airlines that don’t offer this service start going out of business,

      Well, it sort of is how things play out. For all that people bemoan the death of comfortable air travel since deregulation, it’s still offered. American calls it Main Cabin Extra. United calls it Economy Plus. JetBlue calls it the A320. But not a lot of people are actually willing to pay for it, because they just want cheap tickets. My series on air travel can be found linked here, and covers this in much more detail.

      pretty soon you might find yourself paying first class fares for the privilege of sitting down.

      No, because economics don’t work this way. If the standing seats let them pack people in more tightly, then the ticket prices go down. The airlines will of course charge a premium above current ticket prices for proper seats if standing becomes popular enough, but I doubt it will be that high.
      Also, the regulators haven’t approved these seats (incredibly important), and this kind of thing is pretty standard for some low-cost carriers. Make noises about making flying really unpleasant, and then get your name plastered across the headlines, tied to ‘cheap fares’.

    • Jack says:

      Seconded (and also to comments along similar lines above). Once in a while SSC says things about consumer policy that make it sound like he doesn’t know there is a whole field about it.

    • I don’t think it will actually play out this way, but that’s because of the consumer outrage being mocked here… in a world of free market economists, I’m less certain of how this would end.

      In a world of free market economics, if the cost of producing a service goes down and firms are free to compete, the price goes down.

      • Garrett says:

        On a vaguely-related note: has anybody been able to derive a function of the number of firms/other conditions related to the markup over 0 economic profit?

        That is, is there a generally-accepted way to determine what number of providers in a certain market is required to get within, say, 10% of a theoretically maximally-efficient cost?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          There are standard measures of industry concentration, such the Herfindahl index, the sum of the squares of the market shares of the competitors, which seems to be a better metric than the number of competitors.

          But it just isn’t that simple. There are obvious things that matter, like “competitive moats.” But a lot of it seems arbitrary, that someone chose to compete. Here is a quote from Charlie Munger

          Here’s a model that we’ve had trouble with. Maybe you’ll be able to figure it out better. Many markets get down to two or three big competitors—or five or six. And in some of those markets, nobody makes any money to speak of. But in others, everybody does very well.

          Over the years, we’ve tried to figure out why the competition in some markets gets sort of rational from the investor’s point of view so that the shareholders do well, and in other markets, there’s destructive competition that destroys shareholder wealth.

          [examples that he understands]

          For example, if you look around at bottler markets, you’ll find many markets where bottlers of Pepsi and Coke both make a lot of money and many others where they destroy most of the profitability of the two franchises. That must get down to the peculiarities of individual adjustment to market capitalism. I think you’d have to know the people involved to fully understand what was happening.

          And you should probably go read the 6 paragraphs that I cut out.

  34. poipoipoi says:

    So there wasn’t ever a urbanization thing, so much as nobody nowhere was allowed to build anything for a decade, and if I’m going to have to have roommates, I might as well have roommates in cool cities full of high-paying jobs and good infrastructure.

    The last time American cities had a building boom was the early 80’s.

  35. Tulip says:

    My father (who doesn’t have an account here so can’t post this himself) suggests that “give us our daily bread” is a rendering of Proverbs 30:8 הטריפני לחם חוקי.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      And what does that mean? NIV says “daily,” but I guess that could be shaped by the Vulgate Lord’s Prayer. Google translate seems to want to render it “legal.” Does it mean “daily” in ancient Hebrew? How was it translated in the Septuagint?

      It seems likely that the Lord’s Prayer is intended to echo the Proverb (or both echo an earlier idiom), but I don’t think that tells us much. Wikipedia mentions one person who thinks it’s important. I find it odd that I don’t find people engaging with it, but ultimately dismissing it, which seems to me pretty easy to do. (On the other hand, the Vulgate translation might echo the Proverb, for lack of any other idea.)

      Jesus said “Give us today our ? bread.” Even if he did mean to echo the Proverb, he might have moved the “daily” into “today” and “?” might be something else. If Matthew thought he meant to echo the Proverb, he would have translated to match the Septuagint. But maybe he missed it.

    • Kevin Lyter says:

      One of the things I’ve learned from reading the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon is that the Nicene Creed (aka “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty”, aaka the one that won) is that the thing the Creed was speaking against was the Arion belief of ‘Homoiousia’, the belief that Jesus was seperate in being from God the father. The Nicene Creed espoused Homoousia, the belief that God and Jesus are one and have existed since the beginning of time as the logos.

      I’ll admit, that chapter was a struggle.

      The extent to which that was tied up to Christian belief, for how long, and how much strife it caused, makes a prayer involving ‘ousia’, or being, make a lot more sense. So it’s not that we fully don’t know what it means, but rather ‘hmm, was this particular Christian a fan of Anathasius, Arius, or other?’

      • Evan Þ says:

        Except Arius was born no earlier than 250, and the controversy started well after that; we have surviving manuscripts of the Lord’s Prayer predating even his birth.

  36. poignardazur says:

    My feedback on the new LessWrong website: nope nope nope.

    I personally like “old-school” websites which are 99% made of HTML+CSS, with as little JS as you can afford. In non technical terms, website where there’s a bunch of text, the text is in boxes, the boxes are in bigger boxes, and ideally it’s all vaguely aesthetically pleasing, with nice colors and a consistent theme.

    I hate modern websites with an avalanche of JS, menu UI that scrolls with you, expanding menus, and zoomed content intended to be read on a phone; and the whole thing usually takes way more time to load because of all the bundled minified scripts and the associated spyware.

    LessWrong 2 doesn’t have all these things (which already puts them above the average media website), but it has some of them. The new black-on-white theme is very boring compared to the old green-and-gray; the chat widget keeps changing the title back and forth to attract my attention which is *extremely* annoying when I’m reading something else.

    Also, I’m puzzled that 2 of the 3 elements the website focuses on are “Rationality A-Z” (the abridged sequences) and HP:MoR (the third being this blog). I though LW wanted to move away from being seen as EZ’s blog, and be more of a community thing? Has that changed?

    • habryka says:

      (Main developer on LW 2.0 here)

      I basically agree with you on preferring old-school websites. Some of the things we want require a bunch of JS, but we are currently working on drastically reducing the amount of JS we are sending to the client. So I think you will have less worries about this as time progresses.

      Agree with you on the chat widget. Intercom is super useful during the open beta, since it makes bug reporting much lower cost for the user, but we are definitely going to turn it off as soon as we are out of the open beta. I hate what it does to the page title, and how the notifications don’t properly disappear when you click clear and many other things. But I think it’s current usefulness is greater than that cost, at least in the short run.

      Regarding the last one: Yeah, the goal is definitely to start featuring more content that is not Eliezer’s, but editing and compiling collections of content takes a lot of time. We put in the work to get the Codex edited and formatted, but haven’t gotten around to doing it for any other major collection of content. As time progresses we will feature more and more content from the community.

    • Jiro says:

      I’m also wondering why LW2 has a large white gutter on the left and another large white gutter on the right. There’s occasionally stuff in them, but it really isn’t worth losing the space.

      The whole thing seems overdesigned.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        The reason you’re seeing all that white space on the sides there is to keep the text column a fixed width (in characters), as per, e.g., https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2014/09/balancing-line-length-font-size-responsive-web-design/ or https://practicaltypography.com/line-length.html

        This is fine, and proper.

        On the other hand, not using the space on the sides for anything, when what could go in there is—well, any number of useful things, such as a nav UI, a posts/comments feed, etc.—that is a questionable design choice, imo.

        Edit: I should add that, ideally, users would be able to select from multiple themes, some of which had a fixed text-column width and some of which did not.

        Edit2: To see what I mean, try shrinking your browser window horizontally.

        • Jiro says:

          The problem with this idea is that it means that the website is overriding the user. It means that I can no longer compensate for poor choices on the part of the website owner by changing the size of my browser window to show more text. It also violates user expectations of how a wider browser window (or a smaller font) should behave.

          Furthermore, people use different websites in different ways. Reading the kind of thoughtful posts you would expect to see on LW may require referring back to earlier sections. Reading a string of comments often requires you to refer back to earlier comments, and making your own comment requires you to refer back to earlier material on the page. These unusual usage patterns tip the scales towards having more text on the page at the same time even if the lines are longer, and make the “ideal measure” non-ideal.

          Edit: Actually, the comments seem to have more characters on a line than the articles, which mitigates some of this. Although I wonder if this is an oversight, since this seems to be the result of using a smaller font for the comments but the same line length.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            The problem with this idea is that it means that the website is overriding the user.

            All websites override the user in some way.

            As I’ve said before: the gold standard, in UX design, is: sane defaults plus good customizability.

            It means that I can no longer compensate for poor choices on the part of the website owner by changing the size of my browser window to show more text.

            It may be said, perhaps, that the solution to this problem is for the website owner to make better choices. And if cannot or will not do this, why, then, presumably, he will also not make the good choice of listening to, and properly acting on, the reasoning you give here.

            I am all for user freedom. The way to provide it isn’t to abstain from making choices. Rather, it is to make choices, and then allow the user to override them.

            It also violates user expectations of how a wider browser window (or a smaller font) should behave.

            Many (most?) users, these days, do not resize their browser windows. I certainly don’t. I would really quite hate it if all websites let their body text reflow to max width, and expected me to resize my browser windows to compensate.

            So you see, I (and many others) do not have this expectation of how a wider browser window should behave. (And as for a smaller font—why, that even differs between browsers!)

            You have differing preferences and expectations. This is fine. It is also exactly the reason why customizability is key.

            Your point about thoughtful posts vs. strings of comments is well made. I agree that this distinction ought to be reflected in the design. There are several ways to do this. Many of them do not require adjusting the article’s text column width.

  37. drethelin says:

    Re: Native Americans and IP law, my dad has proposed that you could set up a hospital on Native American territory and take advantage of that when it comes to pharmaceutical patents

    • bean says:

      You have this the wrong way around. The tribe has sovereign immunity, which is preempting a challenge to the patent. Tribal lands don’t have immunity to US IP law in general. If they did, I’m sure that Pirate Bay would be based there.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      NAEAAS. Native American Exceptions As A Service. I’m applying to Y Combinator now.

    • Brad says:

      This was a loophole created by Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida. The federal patent laws (partially) abrogated state sovereign immunity but didn’t expressly include Indian Tribal Entities, because until that decision came down it wasn’t clear that it was necessary. Still and all even with that oversight it took 20 years for anyone to exploit the loophole. I expect it’ll be fixed sooner rather than later.

  38. @Scott

    Related: Autistic Boys And Girls Found To Have Hypermasculinized Faces, Supporting The Extreme Male Brain Theory. But deeper in the article, it gets more nuanced: “Autistic spectrum disorder may constitute a disorder of sexual differentiation or androgeny rather than a disorder characterized by masculinization in both genders.” A good time to remember that autistic people are transgender at eight times the rate in the general population.

    I wonder if there’s a qualitative difference between Asperger syndrome and autism? Right now it’s portrayed as a quantitative difference with a lot of debate that Aspergers is functionally equivalent to high functioning autism going on, and at the very least it’s on the spectrum. I wonder how many of the individuals with Aspergers are identified as being “autistic” in these studies? The separation seems to be treat vaguely at times, with people on the mysterious “autism spectrum” being “autistic” even if they don’t match the classic traits.

    I can’t say I have any proof, so it’s just a thought, but from my experience, high functioning autism is very different from Aspergers, and that if Asperger people are being folded into “autism” in modern tests it will have results. My experience is that guys with autism are more likely to have heavy looking skeletal structure in the face, whereas men with Aspergers look more often like the classic slightly androgynous looking nerd archetype.

  39. Adam says:

    Surely I could achieve higher than 80% accuracy by guessing that everyone is straight, though. Am I missing something?

  40. aciddc says:

    Huh, I thought over-prescription of opioids already was the standard explanation for the opioid epidemic. Seems like the core difference is that the post linked here is arguing that the resulting increase in opioid related deaths is a price we should be willing to pay for the presumed benefits for people getting those prescriptions. Could be true, but unfortunately I’d guess the increase in prescription is due to the pharmaceutical industry lobbying to sell more pills.

  41. Deiseach says:

    Second-newest convert to the AI risk movement: Hillary Clinton.

    Oh sweet Lord Jesus, I already have a headache, I don’t need to be banging my head off the desk!

    Think about it: Have you ever seen a movie where the machines start thinking for themselves that ends well?

    Well, that does it: forget all those essays Scott ran to see what would convince people who were sceptical about AI risk to change their minds, and they didn’t do it for me – now I’m convinced! Yes, Hollywood’s dramatic necessities for exciting plots is the same as real life! (And before you chime in “Come on, this is clearly meant to be a light-hearted bit of humour”, does Hillary look like she’s ever known what a joke is, apart from instruction in her speeches from her writers to “laugh after delivering this line here – it is meant to be funny”?)

    By this stage, every excerpt from this book that I’ve seen has been even more disastrous than the preceding one. I’d be convinced it was a parody except that she’s actually on a book tour promoting the monstrosity, so it really must be her own (or ghost-writer’s) work (and whoever the ghost was, give that poor bastard a large drink and a huge wodge of cash for having to turn this material into prose). If the alternative wasn’t Trump, all this would be proof that the USA were very lucky not to have her as Madam President. Has The Donald ever expressed his opinions on AI existential threat or have we been mercifully spared that, at least?

    Is there anybody in the entire nation who can say to her “For the love of God, Hillary – shut up“?

    • Standing in the Shadows says:

      Is there anybody in the entire nation who can say to her “For the love of God, Hillary – shut up“?

      Lots of people are saying it. Even to her. She is unable to understand them. She is unable to understand why she should. She is unable to do it even if she understood why she should.

      On the other side, there are a bunch of people who are sitting back, grinning, and saying “yes, keep talking, PLEASE”.

      • Deiseach says:

        I can’t say I keep wanting to like Hillary Clinton but I do keep wanting not to go “For the love of God, woman!” every time I read something about her.

        But oh my word. She was supposed to be the smart candidate, the one with brains and policy wonkiness out her fingertips and smarts and experience and know-how and all the rest of it. Which gives us: “AI risk? Yes indeedy, look at all the scary movies about killer computers!”

        Even if that’s her notion of common people populism and putting it in a way the ordinary morons voters of America can understand, it’s disheartening to think that the best that can be said for this is that she thinks pitching it on the level of “Hey, the Terminator movies were popular, weren’t they?” is the only way the public will understand it.

        It’s even more depressing to imagine she might be right, but I would expect some more rigorous underpinning for her accepting that this is a risk worth taking seriously than “Top Men seem to think this is a problem, and I kinda remember seeing some movies about machines thinking for themselves”.

    • registrationisdumb says:

      What if Hillary believes in AI risk because she *is* AI risk gone wrong.

    • BBA says:

      No matter who says it, she won’t listen. If a man says it, he’s a misogynist. If a woman says it, she just doesn’t understand what it’s like to be the target of a vast right-wing conspiracy, and shutting up would just play into their hands…also, internalized misogyny.

      I voted for her twice in ’16 and don’t regret it, she was the least bad option by a long shot, but maaaaaaaaaan…

    • Matt M says:

      D is gonna love it when my prediction of her running (and winning at least the nomination) in 2020 comes true 🙂

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      “When Skynet sends their robots, they’re not sending their best, folks, they’re not sending robots like you. They’re sending Terminators, they’re sending HKs, their skinjobs. And some, I assume, are good robots.”

    • pontifex says:

      I wonder if we really want Hillary Clinton as an AI risk advocate.

      Climate change denial used to be a lunatic fringe kind of movement. After Al Gore “got religion” and started publishing books and giving speeches about Global Warming, climate change denial suddenly became mainstream. Nowadays you can hardly find a Republican who will unequivocally say that they support the science. Because culture war.

      It would be humorous (in a dark sort of way) if the same thing happened with AI risk. “Those big city liberals don’t understand. Texas NEEDS self-aware killbots to patrol the border and cook burgers for the local church bake sale!”

      • engleberg says:

        @’Those big city liberals don’t understand’

        Hmm. Radio-controlled model planes were always noisy. You played with them outside city limits or got complaints. There was a drug war reporter who mentioned in passing, just setting a scene on the border, that a lot of very poor Mexican kids were playing with expensive radio-controlled planes right on the Tex Mex border. I could see drones catching on big with of country boys who like messing with machinery and taking drugs. Haven’t seen it yet, they mostly seem to drive into town and head for the hood.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I could see drones catching on big with of country boys who like messing with machinery and taking drugs.

          Based on myself, and cursory observation of my friends and neighbors, this already happened. (though I’ve been clean for a couple years now)

        • The Nybbler says:

          Pretty sure drones have already caught on with country boys who like messing with machinery. They’ve been used to courier drugs into prisons. I’d say they don’t have the payload capacity to make effective cross-border drug transportation systems, but fentanyl changes that; if you ship pure stuff north to be cut locally, it’s probably effective.

  42. TK-421 says:

    The mysterious attacks by an unknown sonic weapon against US diplomats in Cuba continue; authorities and scientists remain baffled.

    This reads like a news report some background character is seen watching at the start of a superhero movie.

    • poignardazur says:

      I know, right? I thought the same when I read that.

    • b_jonas says:

      Does it? It sounds to me like it’s mostly amplified noise or placebo effect.

      I don’t know how the story started and whether there’s any sort of futuristic technology involved. But then the news report goes onto mentioning 21 “total American victims” with different symptoms, different recollections of what happened” including “problems concentrating or recalling specific words” and hearing “grinding noise”. That sounds like after some official learned about something that might have been the actual attack, he went around and asked everyone he could reach in detail to tell about what uncomfortable distractions during the night they had in the last few month, and whether they have had trouble concentrating lately. So some workers mentioned some everyday symptoms that you’ll find among humans all the time, and the official collected all this in a nice chart, and ordered any worker who was affected to go to a doctor’s examination. That’s what I mean by amplified noise.

      It could be even worse, with the official saying “We’re suspecting that there’s an attack with sonic weapons on some of our diplomats. The attacks occur at night, last for a few hours in your sleep, and can have symptoms like hearing ringing or grinding noises, and may cause headaches when you wake up. Do you remember having experienced anything similar to you or your family in the last month?”. That’s what I mean by placebo effect, although I’m not sure if that’s the right word.

      The part that’s absolutely telling is “fewer than 10 Canadian diplomatic households in Cuba were affected, a Canadian official said”. That really seemed to indicate that they went around and asked every Canadian diplomat and also their family about whether they experienced anything strange.

  43. seebs says:

    I have a much simpler explanation for the higher incidence of gender weirdness in autistics:

    Autistics are more likely to report on and notice dysphoria in cases where non-autistics would just overrule it with what they “know” from social inputs.

    I know a lot of “mildly-trans” autistics, and I know a lot of cis non-autistics who appear to have basically comparable experiences of gender, but who assign much higher weight to what their surrounding society tells them.

  44. Reasoner says:

    The soaring cost of grain to feed animals? “Feed them grasshoppers instead,” he says. One hectare of land yields one metric ton of soy protein, a common livestock feed, a year. The same amount of land can produce 150 tons of insect protein.

    Oh boy, Brian Tomasik will love this idea.

  45. keranih says:

    @bean –

    Well, mostly @bean, but also anyone else up on sea shipping/sea lift and disaster relief – regarding Puerto Rico –

    What I know of the island you can fit in a hat and have room for a litter of kittens – US property; US citizens; Hispanic-ancestry-with-a-heavy-dose-of-Africa; the Jets vs the Sharks; homeland to Julia de Burgos and the place where they shot most of The Losers. And here of late, a location completely smacked by a major hurricane.

    And by *smacked* I mean just short of nuclear bomb-leveled – I went round and round with bean a few threads back regarding the need for the military to move into post-disaster areas, with one of my stipulations being that places with functioning coms should not be areas with major military interventions but where da gvt should get out of the way. Well, it appears that both land lines and cell phones pretty much went completely down.

    The airport was likewise seriously trashed, without functioning radar, and as of this writing I think it’s still mostly down.

    There’s a lot of room to talk about whose fault it is, but from what I read 1) ain’t nobody able to aim a hurricane 2) ain’t nobody able to move islands away from a hurricane 3) the local government elected by the people of PR have been incompetent, corrupt, and ignored by the mainland for generations and 4) the people (US citizens, remember) are pretty miserable right now.

    There are calls to suspend the Jones Act, which is a law that prevents other nations from doing business direct with PR and requires them to offload their goods (and go through customs) at US mainland ports. I’m not clear entirely clear on what this is supposed to do, but I can think of several good reasons for having this rule.

    As of now, the Trump administration is declining to suspend the Jones Act as they have done in the past.

    I have heard that PR completely lacks ports of large enough size for the Mercy or the Comfort to dock. Given this, and the power supply issues, I am not sure if suspending the Jones act would actually make any difference.

    Thoughts and more information welcome.

    • cassander says:

      the Jones act requires that all shipping between US ports be done on US built and flagged ships. This is a very small percentage of the world’s shipping, which means that if there’s an emergency and some part of the US needs a bunch of stuff shipped in, there isn’t a lot of spare jones compliant capacity to do it with. I have no idea if suspending hte act would allow more aid to be sent to puerto rico or not (their port facilities might be in bad enough shape that the number of ships available isn’t a bottleneck), but at least in theory, it can’t hurt.

    • Brad says:

      It seems pretty clear to me that POTUS is neglecting Puerto Rico in word and deed as compared to how he responded when Texas and Florida were hit by hurricanes. I don’t know if that’s because he doesn’t consider it “real America” or because of the political proclivities of the inhabitants, or the color of their skin and native tongue. But, whatever the reason, I think it reflects poorly on him.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        It seems pretty clear to me that POTUS is neglecting Puerto Rico in word and deed as compared to how he responded when Texas and Florida were hit by hurricanes.

        It doesn’t seem clear the PR’s governor:

        http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/devastated-puerto-rico-needs-unprecedented-aid-says-governor/

        JOHN YANG: Governor, are you getting all the aid you need or getting it fast enough from the states?

        GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO: First of all, we are very grateful for the administration. They have responded quickly.

        The president has been very attentive to the situation, personally calling me several times. FEMA and the FEMA director have been here in Puerto Rico twice. As a matter of fact, they were here with us today, making sure that all the resources in FEMA were working in conjunction with the central government.

        We have been working together. We have been getting results. The magnitude of this catastrophe is enormous. This is going to take a lot of help, a lot of collaboration. So, my call is to congressmen and congresswomen to take action quickly and conclusively with an aid package for Puerto Rico.

        JOHN YANG: You say it has to be consistent with the aid that went to Harvey and Irma.

        Do you worry that, because that was Texas and Florida, that Puerto Rico might be overlooked or in some sense sort of forgotten in the wake of all of that?

        GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO: We can’t be treated differently. You can’t build half a house.

        You need to have all of the resources to restructure and rebuild Puerto Rico properly. And let me just say this. Puerto Rico’s situation is very unique. FEMA, you know, recognizes as much. So, it’s a situation where we essentially had two Category 5, 4 or 5, hurricanes go through Puerto Rico in a matter of two weeks.

        This is unprecedented. And, as such, the response should be unprecedented as well.

        PR is advocating to be treated equal to a state when it comes to relief packages, but they aren’t saying they’ve been ignored so far.

      • quaelegit says:

        Funnily enough, this was the main subject of top-of-the-hour NPR news when I was driving home from work: the president intends to visit Puerto Rico soon (this week?).

    • bean says:

      Sorry, can’t help you much here. Civilian sea travel bores me. I’d be suspicious that the Jones Act requires supplies to go through the US mainland. All it says, AIUI, is that non-US ships can’t carry stuff between the US mainland and Puerto Rico (between US ports in general, actually). I’m generally not in favor, but I also don’t think this is the villain you’re looking for. As for port facilities, I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to limit T-AH deployment. San Juan is a fairly major cruise port, and a quick check shows Mercy as smaller than at least one of the liners homeported there.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I’m inclined to agree that suspending the Jones act would be unlikely to help, and could possibly cause problems depending on who’s boats/aircraft show up.

      Frankly, drop into a war zone and establish a beachhead sufficient to land large numbers of troops relief workers and supplies is something that the Navy already trains for (or at least did as recently as the mid 2000s) so depending on the disposition of the Atlantic fleet I’d hope that’s already in work. Otherwise Mattis needs to get off his ass and start knife-handing some motherfuckers, POTUS included.

      I feel like I ought to write an effort post on this, but it’s crunch time and I need to get back too work.

    • quaelegit says:

      Two Major Hurricanes… Irma(‘s eye) didn’t pass directly over Puerto Rico but that storm also caused a lot of damage on the island. I haven’t seen this directly asserted anywhere, but since Irma also damaged the electrical grid it’s plausible the first storm left the grid more vulnerable to Maria. (Also it probably wasn’t the hardiest system and this was the worst storm to hit PR since 1928.)

      I guess hurricanes named [aimrIM]* are bad news for PR. (CS people, did I get the regex right?)

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Looks like Trump is waiving the Jones Act.

    • Careless says:

      There are calls to suspend the Jones Act, which is a law that prevents other nations from doing business direct with PR and requires them to offload their goods (and go through customs) at US mainland ports.

      nope. They can go straight to PR ports. It stops foreign ships from going to US ports and then directly to other US ports (including PR)

      • John Schilling says:

        Right. Jones Act doesn’t matter if some foreign government, corporation, or wealthy individual wants to ship relief supplies for their country directly to Puerto Rico. It does matter if there’s relief supplies in a CONUS port and a foreign but not a US ship available to take them to Puerto Rico. That’s unlikely to be the case – but then, if it doesn’t make any material difference then it’s an obvious good PR move to suspend it as soon as the issue even comes up. And it should come up in Trump’s cabinet meetings before it comes up in the press.

        So, probably no harm done to the Puerto Rican people, and one more bit of proof that Trump either doesn’t have a well-oiled cabinet or that he doesn’t care about PR except among the white working class (or both).

  46. fortaleza84 says:

    I haven’t actively participated in Lesswrong for a long time. When I stopped, it seemed like it was becoming a magnet for culture warriors, misfits, and intellectual narcissists who wanted to pretend to superior rationality in order to bolster their arguments. Also, it seemed like a lot of the more interesting posters were drifting away. Last, somebody karma-killed me and it seemed like the mods were making up excuses not to do anything about it but instead were enforcing the rules selectively. Not that I cared that much about karma points, I just found it irritating that they made an issue out of mass downvoting but refused to rectify the mass downvoting I had received.

    In the early days, I really enjoyed Lesswrong and learned a lot of useful things on it. But I think the glory days are long past. It’s just really difficult to have a nice open venue with mostly intelligent, thoughtful people.

  47. nelshoy says:

    Tangential to the the crime-face gay-face story:

    Can genetics predict your face? Not yet.

  48. Anatoly says:

    >they successfully lobbied Congress to prohibit using form letters to report identity theft.

    Any evidence of this? I tried to find it and couldn’t.

    • Jiro says:

      It says it in the article:

      For example, the CRAs told the regulators that there were businesses and websites offering form letters which correctly cited the FCRA and FDCPA, and that this let people send in a vexatious number of “frivolous” form letters. (Translation: Walmart is annoyed how many shoes found out how to speak.) So the regulators offered the CRAs an olive branch: they’re allowed to close without actioning any case which involves a form letter.

      It doesn’t literally prohibit the use of form letters, but it’s close.

      • Anatoly says:

        I saw this – I meant evidence. As in, a link to a specific legislation, or an official proclamation of the regulating agency, or any sort of official document that says something like this.

        • Jiro says:

          Less than a minute of Google found me this where bankers are complaining about form letters and one points out that they don’t have to respond to forms submitted by credit repair organizations. (623 a 8 g).

          Wikipeda links to the act

          This paragraph shall not apply if the notice of the dispute is submitted by, is prepared on behalf of the consumer by, or is submitted on a form
          supplied to the consumer by, a credit repair organization, as § 623 – 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-285 defined in section 403(3), or an entity that would be a credit repair organization, but for section 403(3)(B)(i).

          Whether a website counts as a credit repair organization would probably depend on caselaw, which isn’t going to be easy to look up.

          • Brad says:

            403(3) Credit repair organization. — The term ‘credit repair organization’–
            (A) means any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails to sell, provide, or perform (or represent that such person can or will sell, provide, or perform) any service, in return for the payment of money or other valuable consideration, for the express or implied purpose of–
            (i) improving any consumer’s credit record, credit history, or credit rating; or
            (ii) providing advice or assistance to any consumer with regard to any activity or
            service described in clause (i);

            The law then goes on to exempt non-profits from the definition, but the law wikipedia links puts them back in.

            The part that may snare websites is the “other valuable consideration” if there are ads on the site.

          • Anatoly says:

            Your Google-foo is awe-inspiring. Thank you!

          • bean says:

            My understanding is that most credit repair organizations are basically operating on behalf of people who actually have bad credit and are trying to improve their credit so they can run off with more of the bank’s money. Banning them from spamming banks with these notices seems entirely reasonable, bad though it may be for identity theft victims.

      • Robert Miles says:

        Guess it’s time for a Good Samaritan to build a big Context-Free-Grammar that can generate a combinatorically vast number of different letters, all of which tick the required boxes.

        I’m tempted to actually do this but I don’t know enough about the requirements.

  49. danikalaw says:

    “Artificial intelligence can tell from your face whether you’re gay or straight with about 80% accuracy, much better than humans” – This is something easily misinterpreted, so for clarity: The 80% accuracy is if the AI is shown a picture of your face and someone who is the opposite sexuality of you (assuming gay and straight are the only options). And the humans it did better than were humans from Mechanical Turk.

    If you wanted to have higher accuracy (for the general prediction problem of guessing gay or straight from your face) than this for predicting gay vs. straight, you could just predict that everyone is straight and be right ~96.5% of the time. How you measure error matters, especially if you want to predict successfully for imbalanced classes. The dataset used to train a dataset really matters, too, and one might expect that dating profiles have more hints about sexual orientation than other photos since you’re trying to attract someone you’re attracted to with your dating app photo than that super sexy passport photo you have.

    There’s a lot going on with this study, but I think it’s important to not take it too out of context given it has some statistical issues (sampling, etc.) But a bunch of people have said this and more better than I can at this point, for example, https://greggormattson.com/2017/09/09/artificial-intelligence-discovers-gayface/amp/, https://www.statschat.org.nz/2017/09/10/should-there-be-an-app-for-that/, and http://andrewgelman.com/2017/09/12/seemed-destruction-done-not-choose-two/

  50. Anatoly says:

    >Russians who were adults back while the Soviet Union existed, how does life in Russia now compare to back then?

    The Russian blogosphere used to be concentrated on LiveJournal, and I remember how 10 years ago or so there was a wave of flamewars about what life in late Soviet times was like, in particular about were there food shortages and how serious. This was 20 years after the fact and people who had been adults in the 80s were shouting at each other and evidently having completely contradictory stories of what everyday life was like. But that’s nothing compared to the flamewars about what 90s were like in Russia, something they went through only 10-15 years ago.

    Everybody sees the past through the colored glass of their ideology. Also, people tend to discount the differences in their own statuses and statures in life when they try compare themselves now and themselves 30 years ago. Also, life was very different in “the capitals” (Moscow and Leningrad) vs. other cities vs. small towns and villages. That much is still true in Russia today.

    Also, what’s life like in the US today? How does it compare to living in France today or in the US in the 80s (besides the obvious technological changes)? Are those even meaningful questions? You can give macroeconomic answers but the variance depending on where you live, what you do, your education level etc. is so great that any single narrative sounds misleadingly naive.

    Also, there’s a rude Russian joke that goes – “Grandfather, was life better under Stalin than it is today or worse?” – “Of course it was better under Stalin” – “But why, grandfather?” – “Because back then, I used to have erections”.

    Having said all that – I grew up in late Soviet times (b. 1976), AMA about Soviet life as a kid in the 80s (but not about life in Russia today). We trained at wearing gauze masks in second grade in the event of a nuclear or chemical attack by the American imperialist forces; every kid received a personal gauze mask, and I was kinda distressed at having soon lost mine. The major holidays were the New Year (Christmas having been abolished some time during Stalin’s era), November 7th, May 1st and May 9th (the Revolution Day, the Workers’ Day and the WWII victory day respectively); the last three usually featured parades and mass celebrations on the city streets.

    Housing worked differently from the West or Russia today. Urban dwellers typically neither rented nor owned apartments; apartments and rooms were assigned by the state, often through quotas distributed over workplaces. In the 50s, most families in cities lived in rooms within shared “communal” apartments alongside strangers; by the 80s the communal rooms were a minority and I didn’t experience this. You couldn’t sell your apartment/room for cash, but you could exchange it with someone else’s, typically with paying/receiving extra cash under the table. Even if you wanted to rent a room or live in a dorm, you couldn’t simply come live in Moscow or a handful of other desirable cities; there was a mandatory registration process. Typical ways to get your foot in the door were to marry someone already registered to live in Moscow, or come as a student. However, after finishing your college studies most students got their first workplace through a process of “distributing” them to faraway places the country needed them in; after a few years they’d either stay in that remote town or try to go back working in Moscow.

    Soviet housing is mysterious to young people in Russia today, nevermind Westerners. Here’s an example: in Yuri Trifonov’s (one of the best Soviet-era writers) novella “The exchange”, the hero lives with his wife and kid in a room in a communal apartment. His mother lives in her own room in another communal apartment, and has just been diagnosed with cancer, but falsely told by doctors and relatives, as was normal in those times, that it was an ulcer which will pass soon. The hero’s wife wants the family to execute a complicated “exchange”, where they give up the two rooms and move together with the mother into a single two-room apartment, adding a lot of cash to the deal; but the hero is ashamed to even talk about this plan with his mother – why? (answer at the end of comment)

    Many, perhaps most desirable consumer products were obtained through “blat” – a concept akin to nepotism, but with much wider applicability than in the West. In the Soviet Union, things were typically inexpensive but unobtainable. So for example if you wanted a fully automatic washing machine that didn’t break down after a few months, the problem wasn’t that you couldn’t afford it, the problem was that too few of them were imported or produced compared to the number of people who wanted them. In theory, these fancy washing machines went straight from producer/importer to distribution centers and then to regular stores to be bought by regular people. In practice, every chain in the distribution link was highly corrupt, and desirable items never reached regular stores (or, in some cases they did, but the knowledge of when exactly and in what store they’ll be giving out something “good” was by itself desirable). Everybody worked intensely at cultivating connections with the right kind of people who were gatekeepers in some distribution chains, or officials in charge of those chains. Now repeat that for every kind of expensive item: furniture, cars, good clothes, shoes, many kinds of high-quality food (from caviar down to sausage), getting your kids into a good school, summer camps, vacation packages, a work trip abroad… all could be and were obtained through nepotism.

    Education and healthcare were free, though peopled worked their “blat” connections intensely to get to a reputable doctor or into a “good” hospital. Private enterprise was mostly restricted to selling produce and goods at markets/bazaars, though some cases of other services went on under the radar. All businesses were state-owned, all management state-appointed, all activity subject to central planning (again, with a certain degree of everyday corruption/”blat”/bribery going on). The ideological control was very strict. An opposition newspaper could only be a thing in a capitalist country, it literally wouldn’t register as a sane idea to have something like that in the USSR. People went to “vote” in local elections that always has one candidate, who got >99% of the vote; I’m not sure why it didn’t seem totally absurd to me. At school there was a thing called “political information”: starting from I think the third grade, once a week one of the students would prepare a lecture on the “current situation” in some country and deliver it under the homeroom teacher’s supervision.

    (today in Russia the regime controls most TV channels and large newspapers, but allows limited opposition in the printed media and mostly leaves Internet alone. Elections have >1 candidate but mass-scale election fraud is the norm).

    Not sure what else to describe, but if someone is curious, ask. Answer to the question about “The Exchange”: if the mother dies living in her communal room alone, the room goes back to the state; but if her son and his family move in together with her in their own apartment, they get to keep her room after she dies. The son is ashamed to bring up the plan to move in, because the mother will immediately understand that this is the reason, and the shared pretense that she just has an ulcer (which she either believes or sees through but goes along with – this is unclear) will shatter.

    • poignardazur says:

      I kind of puzzled about the logistics part of your post.

      If valued good were intercepted by corrupt intermediaries between the production and the distribution, didn’t some official notice that that the number of distributed goods was way under the number of produced goods?

      Weren’t there distribution supervisors who made sure the numbers checked out? Or were they usually corrupt too? Or were there too many ‘A TV fell off our truck on the way to the warehouse’ incidents for them to keep track off?

      • JayT says:

        They probably had no problem counting the TV in their living room, so the numbers weren’t off.

      • Anatoly says:

        Basically all combinations of corruption you can think of happened and were frequent. There was *lots* of paperwork around everything to keep the numbers straight, but people were also very resourceful and extremely incentivized at coming up with ways around the paperwork.

        So for example take those color TVs. Many of them would be sold to friends/relatives, but described in the paperwork as having been sold in the stores. The right amounts of money are paid, but this is trivial since the products are relatively cheap (but unobtainable). This can happen at multiple levels. The store manager can keep the TVs in the store’s warehouse and not put them on display, then ring the “purchases” for his friends through the cash register after hours. The distribution warehouse’s manager can take TVs off the shipment to a store and have a private word with the store manager, convincing him to sign off at having received more TVs than he actually got, giving him money in advance (with a premium on top) to walk it through fake cash-register purchases. Some percent of the TVs will be written off as broken, the resident technician getting some payback for certifying them so. Finally, those products that do make it to the store and are sold “normally” to consumers aren’t just put on shelves; there’s a word going round that on Thursday 6pm exactly they’re going to “throw them out”, and people in the know come in advance and queue up. If you’re not in the know, you never have a chance.

        The system comes equipped with a mountain of paperwork on every step, with the key people signing off on every money/goods transfer, with sudden inspections from above and so on and so on. But all these mechanisms are systematically subverted: papers do not describe reality and the people responsible for noticing that are bribed; papers are faked and the people cross-referencing them get their cut; inspections are known in advance and turn into a well-orchestrated spectacle, which the inspectors themselves realize (and if they do find something, they’re bribed). Sometimes the economic crimes’ branch of the police does a decent job of finding a largish fraud, and then the policemen are bribed, and so on. Some small portion of the cases actually makes it to indictment and conviction because the police have their own quotas to worry about, but by and large the system functions with a shocking degree of everyday corruption, and that’s just how it is.

        • poignardazur says:

          Wow. Okay.

          I was thinking about Scott’s review of Red Plenty, and I wondered if this system would work better with more modern, computerized databases. But from what you’re describing, it wouldn’t have worked: the incentives aren’t there, and there’s too many way for the humans to cheat.

  51. sinxoveretothex says:

    In case you’re wondering how accurate Twitter’s algorithmic moderation is: Japanese man banned for making death threat against mosquito.

    “[…] Die! (Actually you’re already dead).” He added a picture of a dead insect to his tweet.

    omae wa mo shindeiru

  52. Brad says:

    I heard Nate Silver speak tonight and he’s also on the worried about UAI train, though he didn’t elaborate much.

  53. BlindKungFuMaster says:

    Can someone tell me how it can be that a quarter to a third of all Americans need strong painkillers in a given year? Is that normal for a western country? Is it a result of obesity?

    • Urstoff says:

      15% of the population is over 65, so I imagine that counts for a lot of it.

    • bean says:

      How much of the year do they need the painkillers? I’ve been on strong painkillers twice in the last 10 years, once for a broken arm, the other time for wisdom teeth removal. Both cases were for less than a week. That’s 20% for me on an annual basis, and I’m pretty healthy. On a daily basis, it’s something like two orders of magnitude lower. A better metric would probably be days of pills/person/year.

      • Creative Username 1138 says:

        Did you get opioids for wisdom teeth removal? Anecdotal but had wisdom teeth removed in Germany recently and only got Ibuprofen (and was told only to take it if the pain got bad). Seems to be a very different approach from the US.

        • bean says:

          Hydrocodone, not sure what dose, and probably cut with acetaminophen. It was probably fairly low-dose, as I got really, really out of it on the Tylenol 3 they gave me for the arm (I spent about an hour watching my fingers move) but was fine on the pills for the wisdom teeth. Of course, this would have been 2011, so things might have changed.

        • Incurian says:

          I had my wisdom teeth taken out this year and got some vicodin – I needed all of it and wished I had more. I think some extractions are more painful than others.

    • Lasagna says:

      This is probably an unhelpful answer, but: “need” is a slippery word. I’ve been PRESCRIBED strong pain killers for lots of things: mostly intense dental work, but also injuries while exercising, etc. etc. I doubt I ever “needed” them, for any reasonable definition of the word need. I could get through my day just fine; I think my pain receptors might be a little less responsive than the average person. Or at the very least over the counter Advil is always enough.

      But still: I’m given the prescription, I dutifully get it filled, just in case, but it typically just sits unused in my medicine cabinet. I’m not sure I get a prescription every year, but it can’t be THAT far off. Maybe 2 out of every 3 years, or one out of every two?

      Anyway. So I might be somewhere on that chart, but it’s misleading, because 99% of the time I never use them. Everyone once in a awhile, though, I’ll get the urge to pop one of the painkillers, see what happens. Mostly the answer is nothing. For some pain killers, though – no idea which ones – yowza. I really see why people use them recreationally. So if that’s your thing, you might gently encourage the doctor to give you heavy stuff to goof on, and that helps drive up the numbers.

      Why would it be connected to obesity? Bad knees or something?

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I’m a similar bucket. When I got my (quite impacted) wisdom teeth out I got a prescription for pain meds – which I promptly ignored in favor of ibuprofen because stubbornness and cheapness combined to make the copay not worth it. But then I’m probably an outlier since I also declined general anesthetics (for the same reasons) – thankfully the oral surgeon was a good sport.

        I wasn’t noticeably worse off for cheaping out. I bet if the healthcare system didn’t obscure costs so much we’d see a lot less overprescription.

    • bbeck310 says:

      I also wonder what they’re defining in that study as “prescription opioids.” Codeine is a prescription opioid, and that gets prescribed all the time for particularly bad colds (and is OTC in Canada). Hydrocodone is a strong prescription opioid, but it gets prescribed both for pain (as Vicodin) and as a prescription cough suppressant (Tussionex). Most doctors these days put strict time limits on prescription opioids–I had a prescription for about 10 Norco pills (hydrocodone/acetaminophen) when I had a bad gout flareup and was diagnosed with gout, but haven’t had any since. A more useful measurement would be to see how many people are prescribed more than X doses of opioids in a year, where X is some sufficiently large number to exclude isolated incidents that most likely don’t lead to addiction (around 30?)

      • JayT says:

        That’s a good point about codeine. I wonder how much it accounts for the differences in opioid prescriptions between countries.

        • SEE says:

          The underlying UN INCB data (I tracked it down and read it) doesn’t care about prescriptions or not, it just counts up the (reported-by-each-country) amount of each opioid used, divides the quantities by the number in the UN INCB’s standardized “defined daily dose” values for each, and then reports how many doses per million people.

          That the US coverage focuses so heavily on prescriptions and includes such howlers as “In Europe, opioids are much more tightly regulated” (this Vox piece, and never mind OTC codeine) is just the usual indictment of journalists only knowing what they learned while putting together a story pre-shaped by their pre-existing prejudices. If the opioid crisis was driven by mere ease of getting opioids for pain treatment, very obviously the problem would be worse in the many other developed countries where codeine is available OTC.

          Off on my own, spinning stories to fit my prejudices, I could claim that the US problem is the unavailability of opioids to the general population. Denied the pain relief of a codeine-containing OTC preparations, Americans in serious pain find themselves having to go to doctors to ask for “good” pain relief. Faced with a patient in pain, the doctors shoot to make sure the pain is relieved, and prescribe stronger opioid drugs than the OTC preparations available in other countries. These stronger drugs have stronger addictive effects, both psychological and physiological, and accordingly produce more addicts. Thus France, by consuming three times as much codeine per capita as the US, avoids addiction-fed demand for stronger opioids, and keeps its standardized daily does per capita of all opioids down to one-fifth that of the US.

          Is that true? No idea. There are a lot of other differences between France and the US, too. I generally am skeptical of any efforts at cross-country comparisons on anything, because a couple hours of digging winds up with so many confounding factors I don’t think most are worth anything.

          • noamik says:

            In Europe French are known to pop a pill for everything. So they aren’t a good reference point …

    • Winfried says:

      This year, I have had nothing stronger than an Advil. I broke my foot but it wasn’t that bad.

      2016, I broke my foot and had 4 wisdom teeth out in a procedure that didn’t go smoothly. I was prescribed maybe a dozen Oxycontin for the oral surgery. I took maybe 6.

      2015, no major medical issues other than a deep puncture wound which needed a few stitches and a tetanus shot.

      2014, I had throat surgery for suspected cancer that turned out to be scar tissue from the regrowth of my tonsils. I was prescribed Oxycontin but only took a few days of my allotment.

      2013 I had a motorcycle incident and scraped part of my arm and hand to the point I saw some bone. I was given nothing at the ER and the pain was rather exquisite after the first hour or two. I wasn’t even given prescription Tylenol with codeine.

      In the decade before that, I was given Hydrocodone for jaw pain as part of having severe tonsil infections which I reported as being ineffective for pain and slightly nauseating, and Demerol for my actual tonsillectomy, which I would rate as being the most effective thing I’ve ever taken.

      I suspect it isn’t so much about what insurance you have as much as a blend of what doctors you have, what’s wrong with you, and how trustworthy you appear.

      Out of the last 12 years, I’ve taken Hydrocodone, Oxycontin, or Demerol at least once 4 of those years. 1/3 is about right for me.

    • Jesse E says:

      Nope, the US is an outlier among even developed nations – https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/8/8/16049952/opioid-prescription-us-europe-japan

      We’re 60% above the #2 country (Canada) and twice most other industralized First World nations and 5x that of Japan.

  54. Matt M says:

    Re: evergreen

    I feel like this is a much better example than Mizzou. The problem with Mizzou is that both sides had a somewhat plausible claim that it was totally the other side’s fault.

    Red tribe said: “See, this is what happens when blue tribe runs amok and you have professors physically assaulting journalists. Students are avoiding this university because of political correctness!”

    But that narrative was not unchallenged. Blue tribe was simultaneously suggesting “This is what happens when you have racist graffiti on campus and the administration does not take proper action to prevent it. Students are avoiding this university because of racism!”

    But I don’t think Evergreen has a similar case to be made. There’s really no plausible reason enrollment would suffer aside from backlash against PC.

    • Lasagna says:

      Deleted because I misread Matt M.’s point.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      That’s exactly how the New York Times explained Mizzou’s drop in enrollment. It was because of racists. Even white people were staying away because of the racists.

      “By sheer numbers, the drop in white students has caused the greatest damage, since they make up a majority of those on campus. Tyler Morris, a white student from St. Louis, said he was afraid of being stereotyped as a bigot if he went to Missouri.”

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/09/us/university-of-missouri-enrollment-protests-fallout.html

      • knockknock says:

        Gee, you don’t think the NYT might have an agenda when reporting — and I use that word advisedly — on the troubles at Mizzou.

        I think it might be more a case of parents not wanting to send their 18-year-olds someplace where the alleged adults in charge let the inmates run the asylum, and where the resulting bad PR clearly (if perhaps unfairly) puts a taint on a Mizzou degree.

        I graduated in ’77, and yes the place was very white — many black Missourians tend to look elsewhere for college than someplace in the middle of nowhere, and diversity came mainly from foreign engineering students. I took more crap for being a New York Jew — from my friends! — than I ever saw any black person take; back then it was all just part of growing up. I loved the place and am so sad about all this.

        Along with being pretty white the place was relatively non-political. But that kind of place increasingly is not allowed to exist anymore. Everything and every place eventually gets a target on its back for someone who wants to make it political

      • Matt M says:

        Tyler Morris, a white student from St. Louis, said he was afraid of being stereotyped as a bigot if he went to Missouri.”

        This is a super interesting and loaded quote that proves my point exactly.

        The writer, I’m sure, sees this quote as “I don’t want to go to Mizzou because people know it as a school that racists go to and I don’t want them to think that I’m a racist!”

        An alternative interpretation might be something like, “I don’t want to go to Mizzou because that place is run by people who think that every white person is a bigot and I’d rather avoid that sort of environment.”

  55. bean says:

    Some Good Samaritan created a form letter that hit exactly the right legal notes, everyone started using it, the banks became annoyed that they had to actually respond to identity theft claims now, and they successfully lobbied Congress to prohibit using form letters to report identity theft.

    I’m not sure this is entirely what happened. Yes, identity theft is a problem, but so is people who genuinely have bad credit who are trying to improve their credit for the purpose of bilking more money out of the banks, which they will then default on. Form letters make it easy for both groups to force the banks to do a check, which costs them time and money. I don’t know what the success rate of false claims is, but if the inconvenience is trivial, then there’s no reason not to make them. Someone with a genuine claim is going to be more willing to put in time and effort to write a letter that isn’t obviously a form letter.
    The author of that post has an understandable anti-bank bias, but as he points out, almost all of us are also stockholders in the banks, too.

  56. Murphy says:

    “Consumers are outraged at the possibility of getting a completely optional extra choice in the comfort vs. price tradeoff.”

    I’m reminded of one of your points in meditations on moloch. particularly the bit about rat island.

    People may not be so awful at recognising races to the bottom and similar traps well in advance. People know very well the pattern where, while you may not be 100% price motivated a lot of the market is and even large sections of the market that wouldn’t choose that option up front will find themselves with it anyway stuffed into package deals made to look better than they really are.

    In theory nothing changes for people who would prefer economy, in practice suddenly they’re considered to be in the luxury market segment and prices balloon accordingly because now there’s a tier bellow them.

    In practice everyone who has to travel for their jobs who’s job requires economy class now faces the strong probability that they’ll get stuffed into an even lower tier forevermore.

    Already being at the lowest tier is protective. In situations where your choices get limited by circumstance there’s only so low you can get pushed.

    Someone is going to throw a hissy fit rather than engage with the point of the bellow hypothetical “how dare you make such a comparison, so I refuse to engage with any part of your post” while utterly missing the point. So lets just say it’s high energy ethics .

    In theory I shouldn’t oppose the creation of a lower tier of dentist who’s legally allowed molest me while I’m under anaesthesia. The price could be amazing: rich perverts could be willing to work for a pittance under those rules. The libertarian solution is “just don’t use those dentists” but in reality it lowers the lowest tier. From then on when someone desperately needs emergency dental care to avoid dying from an abscess the refrain from those in charge becomes “Why don’t you just use the rape-dentist if you’re that desperate, you can afford that“.

    If rape-dentists are allowed within the Overton window then the next fuck-the-poor candidate will campaign that in order to save money medicaid shouldn’t cover any dentist charging more than the rape-dentists.

    The lowest tier matters. People are not irrational to get angry when they see new, even lower tiers being created bellow them because they know damned well they’re going to be pushed into them.

    • Jiro says:

      Someone is going to throw a hissy fit rather than engage with the point of the bellow hypothetical “how dare you make such a comparison, so I refuse to engage with any part of your post” while utterly missing the point. So lets just say it’s high energy ethics .

      The preacher in Scott’s article was stringing together a set of applause lights whose connotation was that atheists are bad people, even though it did not literally say that.

      I doubt that you’re throwing applause lights out to show how dentists are evil people.

  57. spandrel says:

    Melting Asphalt … proposes an alternative theory where ads are about creating shared social context. Not sure if true, but I think it’s important to have people challenging theories about how people are ridiculously stupid / infinitely persuadable, “because psychology”.

    Here’s another challenging theory : http://existentialcomics.com/comic/204

  58. TheRadicalModerate says:

    From the top of the reddit thread on Russia:

    I think that’s the main difference between the USSR and the Russian Federation: in the former the elite hated your guts, in the latter they just don’t give a fuck.

    Reminds me of my favorite Soviet Union joke: “Under capitalism, man exploits his fellow man. Under communism, it’s the other way around.”

  59. knockknock says:

    Charon — boatman on the River Styx and home planet of Star Trek’s eternally warring half-white half-black dudes.

  60. Naclador says:

    I do not mean to nitpick, but
    “Various tobacco control policies and programs in Europe do not affect smoking rates at all.”
    is not a very good representation of their findings. Read this:

    “Current tobacco control policies do not seem to discourage young individuals from starting
    to smoke. This does not imply that current tobacco control policies are all to-
    gether ineffective in reducing smoking since they could have reduced the intensity
    of smoking or stimulated the quit rate from smoking.”

    All they checked for was the effect on smoking initiation rate, not the impact on overall smoking incidence or intensity.

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