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Irvine Meetup This Friday

When: Friday, October 11, 7:30 PM.

Where: Underneath this mysterious hexagonal sigil at the University Center food court in Irvine, California.

Why: I’ll be in Irvine as part of the Meetups Everywhere tour.

Who: Anyone who wants. Please feel free to come even if you feel awkward about it, even if you’re not “the typical SSC reader”, even if you’re worried people won’t like you, etc.

How: No contact person for this one, but I’ll try to read and respond to questions in the comments.

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Berkeley Meetup This Thursday

When: Thursday, October 10, 6:00 PM.

Where: “Event Horizon” (private residence), 2412 Martin Luther King Jr. Way

Why: I’ll be in Berkeley as part of the Meetups Everywhere tour. I might be a bit late to this one, sorry.

Who: Anyone who wants. Please feel free to come even if you feel awkward about it, even if you’re not “the typical SSC reader”, even if you’re worried people won’t like you, etc.

How: For more info, contact mingyuan[at]uchicago[dot]edu or see the Facebook page. The house wants us out by 10 PM, but some people are planning to go to Jupiter afterwards.

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Links 10/19

[Epistemic status: I haven’t independently verified each link. On average, commenters will end up spotting evidence that around two or three of the links in each links post are wrong or misleading. I correct these as I see them, but can’t guarantee I will have caught them all by the time you read this.]

Ugly Gerry is a font where every letter is a gerrymandered Congressional district.

Marie-Auguste of Anhalt was a German princess, daughter-in-law of Kaiser Wilhelm II. After the collapse of the German Empire, she found a new way to support herself: adopting people for money, letting them (as child of a princess) include the title “Prince” in their name. Her most famous adoptee was entrepreneur Hans Lichtenberg (later “Frederic Prince von Anhalt”), who ended up marrying Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Contra some other studies, Medicaid and Mortality: New Evidence For Linked Survey And Administrative Data finds that giving people free health insurance does make them live longer.

Apparently corporate profits have been a declining share of GDP over the past five years? Even despite the tax cut?

Related: the decline in labor share of GDP may be smaller than previously believed because more skilled employees are getting paid in equity, which wasn’t counted. This would solve a minor economic puzzle, but probably shouldn’t change people’s intuitive perception of inequality much, since equity only goes to the highest-paid workers.

The story of the bizarre, possibly insane American outsider artist Henry Darger. “Darger’s 5000-page work The History Of My Life is putatively an autobiography. However, that word does not accurately describe the vast majority of its contents. The first several hundred pages of the work are indeed an account of Darger’s early life. However, after describing a scene in which his younger self is entranced by the sight of a powerful storm, he apparently gets distracted by the storm and spends the remaining 4000-some pages of the text describing the wake of destruction caused by a fictional twister called “Sweetie Pie,” with no further mention of his own life whatsoever.” Although I can find many books and essays about Darger available online, I can’t find his own books anywhere, not even Amazon.

Government accuses over 20 generic drug companies of colluding to increase drug prices, particularly the price of the the antidepressant clomipramine.

r/bernieblindness records bizarre incidents where the media downplays Bernie Sanders’ chances or even outright erases him from existence. Take a look and decide whether they’re just paranoid, or whether there’s really something nefarious going on.

I previously argued that ketamine might be an opioid, so here’s an argument that it isn’t. I’m now officially confused and will wait for an actually good study before having any more strong opinions.

People have been saying that “the tech bubble is about to burst” since 2011. Why didn’t it? The Atlantic investigates. A good reminder that even claims framed in the language of “we are being the responsible grownups telling you that what comes up must go down” need careful scrutiny.

Maternal cortisol varies by season, which may help explain why babies born in the winter are more likely to have mental illness.

Despite my ongoing complaints about regulation of pharma, I keep being impressed with the incremental progress the FDA is making. Case in point: a new plan to allow importation of prescription drugs from foreign markets.

Research on research on sex differences: when presented with (fictional) research on sex differences, both men and women are more likely to believe research saying women outperform men in something, more likely to condemn research showing men outperform women, even if the studies were identical aside from the conclusion. The more strongly a participant believed in “male privilege”, the more difference in how they evaluated the studies.

Am I the last person to realize that Gavin McInnes, the founder of the “Proud Boys” hate group, also founded Vice Magazine?

A Harvard team researching politics is looking for trivia questions that liberals or conservatives are disproprtionately likely to get wrong, and offering a $100 bounty for good suggestions. Go to to help them out.

Tech giant Stripe promises to offset all its carbon emissions – so far, so normal. But it plans to accomplish this through “carbon capture” technologies which directly remove carbon dioxide from the air. Right now these are very inefficient, but Stripe hopes that with sustained investment they could become cheap or even profitable, giving humanity another weapon in the fight against climate change. Announcement includes a “call to action” asking carbon capture teams to get in touch with Stripe and asking other companies to consider the same tactic. See also this Eli Dourado article for some more unusual ideas.

Related: Claims that marine cloud brightening might be able to halt global warming for $10 billion, 50x more cost-effective than other global warming interventions. Be sure to read the top comment on the post too.

The rabbit-duck illusion works in real life too (and is adorable).

Open Psychometrics gives the result of their research on birth order. Short version: like everyone except me, they find a significant but very small effect. Seems to be best captured by “intellect” and “openness to experience”, and by questions like “have you read an absurd number of books?” But they also found that their sample, people who take Internet surveys, was skewed vastly more firstborn than their data could account for! (see this Reddit comment thread for discussion). I think this supports my theory that our current personality tests are really bad at measuring the pathways by which developmental causes translate into behavioral effects.

Related: this article on “disgrace insurance” for Hollywood stars – ie insuring their employers against the risk that they get cancelled for wrongthink – is interesting in and of itself. But I was especially struck by the throwaway comment that their analysts find firstborn celebrities are at higher risk of disgrace – which fits the prediction that they would have higher openness to experience.

Related: Why do men find a lower waist-to-hip ratio sexier? (systematic review, popular article). No, really, it’s related – the study claims it’s because hip fat is disproportionately made of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids crucial to fetal brain development. This store gets exhausted every time a woman carries a child to term, and (the study suggests) any more pregnancies before the store can be replenished will have suboptimal brain development, thus giving firstborns a small brain development and intelligence advantage. I am really skeptical of this, but I admire its elegance.

Did you know: Area 51 has several less mysterious neighbors, including Areas 1-12 (testing nuclear weapons), Area 20 (testing the lunar rover), Area 23 (testing a bowling alley), and Area 15 (testing a herd of 30 Holstein dairy cows).

The Future of Humanity Institute people estimate an upper bound for the background rate of human extinction based on past history and anthropic reasoning. “We conclude that the probability that humanity goes extinct from natural causes in any given year is almost guaranteed to be less than one in 14,000, and likely to be less than one in 87,000…using the longer track record of survival for our entire genus Homo produces even tighter bounds, with an annual probability of natural extinction likely below one in 870,000.”

Study: politicians who win elections have lower openness to experience than losers.

Alexey Guzey (with the help of a Marginal Revolution grant) has been assessing how the life sciences work and whether there are easy ways to make them better. The result is this magisterial How Life Sciences Actually Work: Findings Of A Year-Long Investigation essay. Conclusion: biology is not slowing down, its institutions are mostly good, but some obvious problems like peer review are definitely real. See also this MR excerpt.

Related: you can join a replication market, ie a prediction market on which scientific results will replicate.

Poll results on whether people think the “intellectual dark web”/Quilette is failing or succeeding, by supporter/opponent status. Supporters seem to think it is succeeding, opponents seem to think it is failing; is this true of everything? It seems like the opposite pattern as eg socialism circa 2015, when anti-socialists believed socialism controlled government and media, but socialists believed their situation was hopeless before capitalist hegemony. When should we expect to see one pattern vs. the other?

Beloved supplement information site gives stats on a recent collapse in traffic to their site. The culprit – a Google algorithm update that manually tweaks the algorithm to redirect health queries away from the “real” results and towards sites like WebMD. Google’s intentions are good – to protect users from quackery by making sure they only get the most official sources. But in practice the most official sources are often useless, because they were written by lawyers terrified that someone will take their advice and die, and the only way to avoid that is to speak in such vague terms that you end up saying nothing at all. Also, Google has exiled Wikipedia to the second page, even though I find it’s usually the best site for health-related topics. Overall I think this makes Google and the Internet less useful, and it definitely hurts poor sites like Examine that get caught in the crossfire. See also the Hacker News comments.

Related: the story of how the same kind of Google algorithm tweak devastated MetaFilter in 2014. Unexpectedly interesting. I’m suspicious that something like this has happened to SSC a few times based on some sudden unexplained traffic drops.

CPlusPlusDeveloper explains some intricacies of the online economy: “I don’t think people understand just how poorly performing Reddit is at advertising. Reddit has 300 million active users, and annual revenue of $100 million. That gives it an ARPU (average revenue per user) of $0.30. Facebook has a [North American ARPU of $120].”

Has the Bystander Effect been debunked, or not?

Seemingly good study links fluoridated water during pregnancy to lower IQs. Everyone says this is new and shocking, but I was pushing this line in my 2012 Biodeterminists’ Guide To Parenting and still think it is basically right. But the studies I included in the Guide estimated the effects of 1 mg/L fluoride as 1 IQ point (probably too low to worry about) and this more recent study estimates them at ~4 IQ points (reasonable to worry about). No evidence yet that fluoride is harmful after birth. Some water filters can remove fluoride.

Did you know: ancient China fought ancient Greece in the War of the Heavenly Horses.

A big new study, which tries to address selection bias, finds that students who attended some college but did not get a credential earn more than those who never attended college at all. But this doesn’t disprove the signaling theory of education, since the study admits even a small amount of college can still be a signal. In fact, this seems likely, since women and minorities gain the greatest advantage from partial college completion; there’s little reason to think these groups learn more in college, but lots of reasons to think these groups start at a Bayesian-stereotyping-style disadvantage which evidence of competence can help clear. Interested in what people involved in hiring have to say about whether “completed some college” is a plus, minus, or neutral on a resume.

During the height of the Amazon forest fire crisis, Leonardo DiCaprio donated $5 million to help the Amazon, and European billionaire Bernard Arnault said his group would donate $11 million. At the same time, the G7 – the seven richest Western countries, including powerhouses like the US, UK, and Japan – donated $22 million. That means two people donated 2/3 as much as seven countries. Cf. the discussion of global warming spending from Against Against Billionaire Philanthropy, and the discussion of how little gets spent on non-selfish causes from Too Much Dark Money In Almonds.

A good discussion thread about how the market for choicer vs. cheaper parts of the same animal affects the altruistic effectiveness of meat substitutes. Interested to hear meat substitute proponents’ take on this.

Impossible Conversations is hosting plant-based conversations indistinguishable from the real thing something kind of like SSC’s own Adversarial Collaboration Contest – a call for dialectic between people with opposing viewpoints, with $2500 in prizes and invitations to various prestigious media outlets (Areo Magazine, various podcasts) for the winners. Friend of the blog Russ Roberts is a judge. Entries accepted until November 3. You can also see some completed conversations here.

A eulogy (dyslogy?) for Melissa McEwan’s Shakesville, one of the 2010-or-so era’s most influential feminist blogs. Reading about it makes me realize how different 2010-era-feminism (and the 2010-era Internet) were from the modern Internet, even though the same issues (is feminism too hostile? is it too cultish?) continue to be relevant. It’s hard to reread Shakesville (or the article’s portrayal of it) without it seeming kind of pathetic, hard to take seriously. Yet I remember feeling at the time (and remember other people also feeling) like it was this terrifying threat that could get the whole Internet swooping down on you accusing you of being a “PUA” or an “MRA”, and not funny or pathetic at all. I think the Internet has just upped its game in a way that I didn’t realize until now. SJWs are still with us, but they seem more polished now. In that context, Shakesville belongs with Maddox’s The Best Page In The Universe, as a relic of an earlier pre-corporatized Internet where real people with real “personality” could still punch above their weight.

I like, especially this one and this one.

The Sterile Insect Technique is a scheme to eradicate (or at least decrease the numbers of) some species of insect by releasing sterile males; if enough females mate with the sterile males instead of regular ones, few or no children will be born to the next generation. This has successfully eradicated some pest and disease-vector species. But a recent attempt to extend it to mosquitoes apparently is not going well EDIT: actually the study making that claim is very bad and its own authors are calling for its retraction.

If you liked Uncleftish Beholding or are just a general fan of writing things in an Anglo-Saxon-derived-word-only form of English, you might like the Anglo-Saxon-derived-word-only version of Wikipedia. See eg their article on the Oned Rikes of America.

Arm Joe is a fighting game based on the novel and musical Les Misérables.”

From the “Best Of New Less Wrong” file: Heads I Win, Tails? – Never Heard Of Her; Or, Selective Reporting And The Tragedy Of The Green Rationalists by Zack Davis. Good discussion + model of how selective reporting can mislead people at the personal and social levels.

You probably heard that the Russians domesticated silver foxes, but did you know about the Kostroma Moose Farm? Obligatory cute domesticated moose picture.

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Open Thread 138

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread (there are also hidden open threads twice a week you can reach through the Open Thread tab on the top of the page). Post about anything you want, but please try to avoid hot-button political and social topics. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server – and also check out the SSC Podcast. Also:

1. Remember, the due date for the Adversarial Collaboration Contest is November 1. Can someone from each team please fill in this form letting me know your status?

2. Comment of the week is penpractice on the lack of obesity among US Orthodox Jews.

3. Thanks to everyone who attended SSC meetups over the past few weeks. Upcoming meetups that I’ll be attending are Fairbanks (Sunday ie today), Berkeley (Thursday), and Irvine (Friday). See the list for more information now, but I’ll announce them closer to the date.

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Fairbanks Meetup This Sunday

When: Sunday, October 6, 9:00 PM

Where: Taco Bell, 1450 University Ave S, Fairbanks, Alaska

Why: It’s complicated.

Who: Anyone who wants. Please feel free to come even if you feel awkward about it, even if you’re not “the typical SSC reader”, even if you’re worried people won’t like you, etc.

How: No organizer for this one, but I’ll check the comments and answer any questions I can.

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Seattle Meetup This Wednesday

When: Wednesday, October 2, 6:30 PM

Where: The Territory (house), 5238 11th Ave NE, Seattle.

Why: I’ll be in Seattle as part of the Meetups Everywhere tour

Who: Anyone who wants. Please feel free to come even if you feel awkward about it, even if you’re not “the typical SSC reader”, even if you’re worried people won’t like you, etc.

How: For more info, contact orborde[at]gmail or see the Facebook event.

Portland Meetup This Tuesday

When: Tuesday, October 1, 7:00 PM

Where: Cartopia, 1207 SE Hawthorne Blvd. This is a food cart pod with many options. Organizer Noah will stake out a table space with an SSC Meetup sign. Afterwards there might be an afterparty at 1546 SE Ladd Ave (private apartment).

Why: I’ll be in Portland as part of the Meetups Everywhere tour

Who: Anyone who wants. Please feel free to come even if you feel awkward about it, even if you’re not “the typical SSC reader”, even if you’re worried people won’t like you, etc.

How: For more info, contact nwalton125[at]gmail[dot]com or see the Less Wrong post.

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Austin Meetup This Monday

When: Monday, September 30, 6:00 PM

Where: Central Market North Lamar, 4001 N Lamar Blvd, either upstairs on the balcony or outside in the courtyard. If we overflow, we’ll move to the park behind central market, ie here.

Who: Anyone who wants. Please feel free to come even if you feel awkward about it, even if you’re not “the typical SSC reader”, even if you’re worried people won’t like you, etc.

Why: Austensibly because I’ll be there as part of the Meetups Everywhere tour

How: Austintatiously! For more info, contact azavoluk[at]gmail or check the Google Group for updates.

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Chicago Meetup This Saturday

When: Saturday, September 28, 6:00 PM

Where: South Loop Strength & Conditioning, 645 S Clark St (yes, a gym)

Why: I’ll be in Chicago as part of the Meetups Everywhere tour

Who: Anyone who wants. Please feel free to come even if you feel awkward about it, even if you’re not “the typical SSC reader”, even if you’re worried people won’t like you, etc.

How: For more info, contact todd[at]southloopsc[dot]com

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Ann Arbor Meetup This Thursday

(edit: I am going to be late, eta about 7, sorry)

When: Thursday, September 26, 6:30 PM

Where: Burns Park, near the Warming Hut.

Why: I’ll be in Ann Arbor as part of the Meetups Everywhere tour

Who: Anyone who wants. Please feel free to come even if you feel awkward about it, even if you’re not “the typical SSC reader”, even if you’re worried people won’t like you, etc.

How: For more info, contact algo2217[at]gmail

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