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

More Links For May 2014

Consider taking the Effective Altruism Survey, especially if you are an effective altruist but you’re welcome to take it even if you’re not.

Clever ideas: pay a small amount of money for cigarette butts picked up. “In just a few short hours, the booth had run out of cash, with eager butt collectors bringing in more than 60,000 used filters.”

And while we’re solving pollution: bioplastic! Also solves part of the oil crisis! But what I’m most excited about is that it might put an end to endocrine disruptor plastics and their mysterious but for-all-we-know sinister effect on human psychology. If society-wide measures of personality, obesity and sexuality change dramatically after bioplastics replace regular ones, remember I told you so.

The same thundercloud has been raining on the Tiwi Islands near Australia ever since World War II. Its name is Hector The Convector.

I’ve been debating whether I self-identify more as a liberal or conservative. After reading about where liberals and conservatives eat I am forced to admit that no matter how much I flirt with conservative ideas I will always be a liberal at heart. Any tribe that eats at California Pizza Kitchen is my people.

Last Psychiatrist: Who Bullies The Bullies? One of those things where the writing is so delightful I am ready to forgive him for not really having a thesis or any coherent point. And almost ready to forgive him for no longer writing about psychiatry.

London Police To Use Wearable Video Cameras In Public. Another victory for technical solutions to human problems! I look forward to the day when a police officer without a camera is viewed with the same horror as a surgeon without gloves.

New gene is found that explains 3% of human intelligence variation – up to six IQ points. What I don’t understand is how this was missed until now! I could swear I read a bunch of genome-wide association studies that said they had combed through the entire genome and found very definitively that no gene could possibly code for more than a fraction of a percent of the total variation. Did those scientists totally just drop the ball? Are there more very important single genes waiting to be discovered?

(If you have 23andMe you can play along at home. I have the non-intelligence-boosting T;T version. I’d say I’m sad, but since I already know what my intelligence is I guess it doesn’t matter).

American Conservative: Polio Breaks Out After The US Breaks Trust. This one is absolutely our fault and totally disgusts me.

A black guy writes a FAQ on the human biodiversity movement.

And as long as I’m talking about race – drug testing makes black applicants more likely to be hired. The reasoning is basic economics – bosses want employees who don’t take drugs. They might prefer to drug test everyone to get a reliable signal on who is or isn’t an addict. But if they are not allowed to get a reliable signal, they’ll switch to a less reliable signal – stereotypes of addicts based on their race and gender. As a result, when legislation makes drug tests impossible, there is a 7% – 30% shift from hiring blacks and men, to hiring whites and women.

And as long as I’m talking about race – are the differences between Europeans and Chinese cultures based on wheat vs. rice cultivation?

Speaking of China, a very convincing article on why China is not destined to rule us all. The short answer is that everyone except America is doomed because of aging populations, America is slightly less doomed because we have lots of young immigrants, and China is super super doomed because of the one-child policy.

Leah of Unequally Yoked responds to my post on infinite debt.

Things you never knew you never knew: why do you see so many perfectly circular farms from an airplane window? [EDIT: And a great article on field corners posted by commenter Andy]

[Note: I am banning discussion of the race-related link in the comment thread below, or else it will go out of control and people will be jerks and none of the other links will ever get discussed]

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132 Responses to More Links For May 2014

  1. gunlord500 says:

    Concerning China, isn’t the heavily-male-skewed population looking to be a problem as well? I’ve heard a lot of concern over “bare branches” and the like.

    • pxib says:

      The population skew is a lot larger than in other countries, but isn’t quite large enough to have created a tilting imbalance. It’s predicted that shifts in cultural understand and expectation will erase it entirely within a few generations.

      http://populationpyramid.net/china/

  2. zac says:

    Re: The gene that explains 3% of intelligence variation, it looks like they only had 220 people, so I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that this effect will go away once people start examining it.

    • Andy says:

      Second that bet.

      • Jacob Steinhardt says:

        Third that bet. But how do we actualy bet exactly, and who will bet against us?

        More speculative question: will Andrew Gelman write a blog post about it, and what will his opinion be?

    • Carl Shulman says:

      I’d think it’s bogus.

    • Ishaan says:

      Would you really? Due to the information below, I might be willing to take you up on that bet after a more rigorous framing of the claim. (Though if we’re actually betting, I suppose increasing the visibility of this information is “showing my hand”…)

      > When they analysed data collected by two other groups who work independently on KL-VS they discovered these researchers had found the same thing. That comparison brought the number of people examined to 718, a fifth of whom were possessors of KL-VS.

      >To do this they added the murine equivalent of KL-VS to the genomes of some mice. The genetically engineered animals did much better than regular mice at learning how to navigate mazes and other memory tests which psychologists like to inflict on their subjects. And analysis of their brain tissue revealed… in the mice’s hippocampuses and frontal cortice… doubling…GluN2B. Previous research has found links between GluN2B levels and cognitive performance. Dr Dubal and Dr Mucke discovered that blocking GluN2B with a drug called ifenprodil abolished the genetically engineered mice’s advantage.

      (Out of curiosity, did you make your bet even after reading all the above, or did you skim over that part?)

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Did you read the original post where Scott mentioned that there had been GWAS with orders of magnitude more subjects? For example, a [study](https://www.sciencemag.org/content/340/6139/1467.abstract) of 125k people failed to detect this SNP having a correlation with educational attainment. For a smaller subset (I’m not sure how much smaller) there was direct measurement of IQ, but still correlation.

        • Ishaan says:

          I recently learned how to work with GWAS databases this semester as part of undergraduate coursework. I thought I would test my methods by looking for genes which were already established to have roles in certain things…and it was pretty frequent for the expected result to not happen.

          I don’t actually know enough math to be saying this confidently, but I think that what happens is that when you test a dataset as large as the human genome, you have to do some really stringent corrections for multiple comparisons (each polymorphism considered is a separate hypothesis) …so when a GWAS study doesn’t turn up anything in particular, that doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing is there. I’m not sure if Scott knows something I don’t when he says he can’t see how they missed this, but I don’t *think* there is reason to be surprised when GWAS study, even a large one, misses things (So again, in the absence of knowledge about Scott’s math background, I’d wager that his statement, “found very definitively that no gene could possibly code for more than a fraction of a percent of the total variation” is incorrect). Even if their are on the order of a thousand subjects, the number of SNPs is on the order of several millions and that’s a huge multiple comparisons problem which makes even numbers like 125k statistically unimpressive. You can set up stats such that you can be confident of things that you DO find, but with those odds not finding anything is insufficient reason to bet that nothing is there.

          Now, if my math-instincts are correct you COULD go into each of those GWAS separately and look at JUST that one gene of interest to see if it backs up the results. Since you’d only be looking at a single gene this time which you chose a-priori, you wouldn’t have to correct for multiple comparisons.

          (I don’t actually know what I’m talking about, so if anyone can speak with more authority on this please do chime in…)

        • Douglas Knight says:

          These studies are large enough to detect genes that explain 1%, maybe 0.1% of variance, after the correcting for multiple comparisons. This gene is supposed to explain 3%.

          What specific genes were you unable to detect?

        • Ishaan says:

          I don’t remember, didn’t write it down unfortunately. I basically picked a random GWAS for some disease and looked at all the “significant” genes (after multiple comparison correction), and compared it with the list of genes Malacards said were associated with the disorder. There wasn’t much overlap. (Looking at genes individually yielded different results of course, since as explained above with individual genes I could stop correcting for multiple comparisons)

          I’m sure if I did it again I’d get the same results though – should I do so? Would doing so enable you to provide me with useful information?

          If you have time could you explain to me the math behind how you know that these studies had a sufficiently large sample size to be able to confidently reject the hypothesis that any single gene contributed more than 1% of the variation? (Or just point me to a source that would explain it?)

          I understand how you could, given the right results, reject the hypothesis that there does not exist a gene that contributes more than 1% of the varianc, but I don’t understand how how you can reject the hypothesis that their does exist such a gene…

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Of course you can’t reject the hypothesis that there exists an informative gene, somewhere out there, if you aren’t looking at the right region. But this SNP is on 23andMe v1, so it has probably been considered by every GWAS, ever.

          What if it weren’t a GWAS, but just a single gene? Do you see how you could reject the hypothesis that it contributes more than 1% of the variance?

          I have not computed what sample size it takes to upper bound the variance, but these studies supposedly had p<0.05 for genes accounting for 0.1% of the variance.

          Malacards doesn't seem like a very reliable source. It's just the medical literature, right?

        • Ishaan says:

          >What if it weren’t a GWAS, but just a single gene? Do you see how you could reject the hypothesis that it contributes more than 1% of the variance?

          Well, practically speaking, when the sample size is sufficiently high then absence of significance results indicates that no such results exist. But no, I’m not actually aware of any statistical method for quantifying certainty for something like that. (But like I said, if you singled out this one gene and went back into those GWAS’s and removed all corrections for multiple comparisons it should theoretically hit significance, if that’s what you meant)

          >these studies supposedly had p<0.05 for genes accounting for 0.1% of the variance.

          If I understand correctly, when p<.05, then their is a 5% chance that you would have gotten differences of greater magnitude by chance testing two equal random samples…that doesn't mean that you're allowed to infer the absence of differences based on the failure to hit the significance threshold.

          I’m not actually aware of any test that quantifies certainty for the *absence* of differences, though I’m sure one exists and I would like to be pointed to it if so.

          >Malacards doesn’t seem like a very reliable source. It’s just the medical literature, right?

          You may be right about that.

          >Of course you can’t reject the hypothesis that there exists an informative gene, somewhere out there, if you aren’t looking at the right region. But this SNP is on 23andMe v1, so it has probably been considered by every GWAS, ever.

          Yes. My concern is that even when an informative SNP is in the GWAS, even if its on every GWAS which relates to that particular subject, you still need an insanely large sample size to successfully detect it because the sheer presence of so many other SNPs creating false positives requires stringent correction, and it would be easy to miss something.

          I might be wrong, but *why*?

          If we could just do a GWAS and immediately find these sorts of things, it seems that stuff would be progressing a lot faster than it currently is.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          If you’re not aware of confidence intervals, that might be a helpful keyword; though starting from the very beginning might be a better idea. If you have heard of them, I suggest you try the 1 gene case as an exercise.

          I’m not actually aware of any test that quantifies certainty for the *absence* of differences

          I didn’t say the absence of difference. The claim that the difference is not 0 is not falsifiable / subject to NHST. The claim that the difference is less than a fixed cutoff is testable.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Here are some calculations.

          Normalize IQ to have variance 1. Consider a gene G with frequency p and effect E, in units of standard deviations. The frequency is easy to measure and eventually will be 20%. What we really want to know is the effect size. VG=p(1-p)E^2, so E=VG/p(1-p). Consider two hypotheses, that it explains 1% of the variance or that it explains 0.1% of the variance. In the first case, E^2=1%/(1/5 * 4/5)=1/16; E=0.25. In the second case, E=0.08, smaller by sqrt(10).

          We take a sample of N people from the population, pN with the gene, (1-p)N without. We measure their IQs and average within each population. The standard error for these means is the reciprocal of the square root of the population, 1/sqrt(pN) or 1/sqrt((1-p)N). I’m just going to use the larger number, 1/sqrt(pN) and pretend that our measurement of the mean of the larger population is perfect. The smaller p, the more justified this approximation. It probably isn’t really justified at p=20%, so my confidence interval will be overconfident. In the worst case at p=50%, it will probably be half as big as it should, but we have plenty of room.

          If the true effect is 1% of variance, what is the probability we will measure the effect as being only 0.1% of variance? It is the probability that our measurements of the mean are off by 0.25-.08=.17. That is .17*sqrt(pN) standard errors. The probability of such an error is e^-()^2. With N=100k, p=20%, e^-580, a pretty small p-value. For multiple comparison reasons, we multiply it by a million, but it is still zero.

          What is the confidence interval? The 95% confidence interval is 2 standard errors. That is, for a p-value of 1-95%=0.05. But we want the divide the p-value by a million for multiple comparisons. A p-value of 1 in 20 million is about 5.3 standard errors. So if our corrected confidence interval is 0.08 +- .04 standard deviations, 0.6 to 1.8 IQ points. We’re just barely able to detect genes with a variance of 0.1%, but we can be very sure that we detect all genes with a variance of 1%. Our estimate of its strength might be too low, but it will be on the list of genes statistically significantly different from 0.

          The important number is Esqrt(pN). Since VG=pE^2, the important number can be written as sqrt(VG*N). Thus the difficulty detecting genes depends on their variance, not really on frequency or effect size.

  3. Andy says:

    On circular farms:

    http://www.ediblegeography.com/squaring-the-circle/

    (Also, one of the best food/geography/errata blogs I’ve seen. Updates infrequently, but quite interesting.)

    And the wheat vs. rice reminds me of a bit from a book called Planet Taco:
    http://www.amazon.com/Planet-Taco-Global-History-Mexican/dp/0199740062

    Spanish conquistadors, colonists, and clerics initially feared maize in the New World for fear it would turn them into Native Americans. Later, wheat became THE high-status food, and when colonial law had a complicated system of castes, ranging from pure-white on top to native-peasant at the bottom, bakers produced breads of all varieties that mirrored these, from white bread for the top of the social heap down to corn tortillas for the peasants.
    One could picture a future Reactionary society where the elites eat wheat and the peasants eat rice, by law, and the twain shall not meet. 😛

    • Zathille says:

      My impression from reading the article is not that consumption of the crop is what defines such change in mentality per se, but how differences in the way crops are grown require differentiated social organisation to produce, which then has an effect in mindset over time. I don’t think it’s a matter of feeding people different stuff.

      • Andy says:

        I got that too, but I hold that a hypothetical Reactionary state would have its own superstitions and reasonless prejudices and fads, just as our own progressivism does. And the thought amuses me.

    • nydwracu says:

      Reaction likes paleo and East Asia, so it’d be the other way around.

      (Is rice paleo? I think it’s not supposed to be, but in practice it seems to be considered less bad than wheat — the equivalent of “I’m a vegetarian except for fish” seems to be “I eat paleo except for rice”.)

      • Andy says:

        Interesting, I didn’t know that. My mental image of neoreactionaries involves a fair bit of libertarianism, something I know isn’t true across the board, but something I associate with the supposed wheat-qualities.
        Just my mental presets and prejudices, and thanks for the correction, I’ll try to keep that in mind.
        EDIT: from a quick survey of paleo and rice (googling “Is rice paleo”) varies from rice being one of Those Bad Evil Grains, Avoid It, to rice being “the best of the bad,” to my favorite, “if you must eat birdseed, rice is the best of the bad.”
        Glad I’m not paleo. I like fried rice and mandi (Middle Eastern rice dish, cinnamon and pepper, it is the bomb when properly made) too much to ever give them up.

        • nydwracu says:

          I don’t keep paleo, but I do try to avoid wheat products. Not for any health reasons — I just don’t like them. If I ever had to give up rice noodles or grits, I’d… probably get used to it within a week, since my years-long (and stupid, never do this, especially never do this if you are still growing because you will stop growing five years before anyone else in your family) vegetarianism demonstrated that demonstrated food preferences are very easily modified.

          That’s another reason I’m much less of a genetic determinist than the reactionaries: I’ve done these experiments on myself, and I’ve noticed that I can significantly change my food preferences, depending mostly on social environment / what I want to signal. So when I was still a good little Brahmin who thought liberal arts majors in colleges were a perfectly fine thing to keep around, I actually didn’t like meat, and now, I like meat and instead sacrifice wheat and sugar to the Dietary Restriction Signaling God.

        • BenSix says:

          …never do this, especially never do this if you are still growing because you will stop growing five years before anyone else in your family…

          Perhaps you might. But you may not.

          The results indicate that vegetarian children and adolescents on a balanced diet grow at least as tall as children who consume meat.

        • MugaSofer says:

          Vegetarian here, calling BS on the “vegetarians will stop growing” thing. Sure, it’s possible to eat unhealthily when you’re a vegetarian. But it’s not only possible, but probably more likely, if you’re eating burgers and steak.

          (Vegetarians, y’know, live longer. This is unquestionably a massively biased sample; so I guess if you’re actually considering vegetarianism and you care what this blog comment says, it’s a smoking-lesion type deal.)

          This is kind of a pet peeve – I’ve been vegetarian all my life, and I’ve had avowed carnivores (one over a foot shorter than me) helpfully explain/argue that it’s impossible for anyone under 18 to be vegetarian without DYING OF MALNUTRITION. People believe strange things sometimes.

          Nice idea with the sugar preferences, though.

        • nydwracu says:

          Yeah, it’s possible to do it right, but it takes a lot of work — more than I could keep up with when I was 15. It’s well-suited to people who eat home-cooked meals and have the resources and the patience to closely track their nutrition; not so much to people living off college dining hall food.

          As for the longevity thing: does that still hold once you correct for all the obvious confounders like income, tobacco use, social capital, and Adventism?

        • Randy M says:

          Can I call BS on the “eating burgers and steak is unhealthy” bit? And also the assumption that it will be easy to go healthier if you switch from standard diet to veganism; if people get the idea that all they have to do is take the meat out of their diet, they will probably be missing nutrients (B, A, D, iron).
          (If it helps, I’m 6’6″)

      • Ishaan says:

        According to this person who seems fairly representative of paleo thinking (http://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-rice-unhealthy/) white rice doesn’t have many of the traits that make wheat harmful, so the only drawback is that it’s not that nutritious beyond calories. Brown rice is more nutritious but it’s supposedly iffier in terms of the factors which cause the objection to grain, and it’s questionable as to how much of that nutrition actually makes it through.

        no idea if this is actually true or not.

    • Andy says:

      Also squeeeeeeeeeeee Scott linked something I linked I’m such a hopeless fanboy.

  4. suntzuanime says:

    The more your intelligence is due to non-genetic factors, the less of it you’ll pass along to your hypothetical future children. So if you needed a reason to be sad, there’s one.

    Of course just because your intelligence doesn’t from this one gene doesn’t mean it doesn’t come from your genes in total, and there are ways other than genetics to pass intelligence on to your children.

    • lmm says:

      I thought the opposite – knowing you don’t have that gene is great because it means your genetic intelligence comes from other, less well-known genes. So just be sure to breed with someone who does have the intelligence-boosting variant and you can have super-intelligent children!

  5. zac says:

    re: Cops wearing cameras, why not have the surgeons wear them too? Medical mistakes kill orders of magnitude more people than cops ever will.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Because we’re not trying to catch the cops in error, we’re trying to catch them abusing their power. Which presumably cops have much larger scope for than surgeons. And presumably “abuse of power” goes down much more if you know you might get caught than “mistake-making” does.

      • It’s not even so much “catching” them, it’s largely preventative; cops with cameras fuck up less (beating people up being a subset of fucking up) because they are more self-conscious.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Yes, that was the point of my last sentence there.

        • Anonymous says:

          it’s not “self-consciousness” that’s keeping them from doing shit it’s literally being under surveillance. They’re not embarrassed or self-aware, they simply don’t want to get punished for transgressions

    • Andy says:

      Surgeons wearing cameras would not be a bad idea – catching and learning from medical mistakes would be a possible upside.

      • gunlord500 says:

        Where would they wear them, though? Serious question. According to the article, cop cameras can be worn on sunglasses, caps, or collars, but if they get loose or misplaced it’s no big deal and they can just be reset. For surgeons, though, someone could possibly die if the camera falls off and provides a distraction or something like that.

    • Xycho says:

      Surgeons typically do not hold emnity for their patients, and are also required to be very well educated. They might make mistakes, but I would (and have) trust a surgeon to take a knife to me while I slept. I wouldn’t trust an LEO with a Nerf gun in a padded room. Certainly not a British one, anyway; I haven’t had the experience of interacting with them in any other country.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This is almost in place already.

      I rarely do anything directly in hospital; I enter my orders into a computer system and then a nurse or someone does them (I suppose if I wanted I could do them myself, but I would have to enter them in the computer first).

      The computer records forever the name of the person who gave the order, the time it was given, and the exact specifics (drug, dose, route, et cetera).

      If three months ago I gave someone the wrong dose of lithium and she decides to sue the hospital, the first thing that will happen is the hospital will be forced to turn over the record of the exact dose of lithium I gave at that time.

      And aside from the computer, everything also has to be concurrently documented on notes that all doctors, nurses, etc have to write every day.

      Actually, I just realized something. If wearing a camera would could serve as evidence in malpractice suits that replaces documentation, that would save everyone in medicine several hours a day and be an obvious much better choice.

      • David Simon says:

        But the documentation is useful for other things besides malpractice suits, isn’t it?

  6. Matthew says:

    Various unconnected thoughts:

    I find it interesting that you like The Last Psychologist’s writing so much. You’re my favorite writer, and I detest TLPs writing. He or she displays basically the opposite of your intellectual and epistemic humility. He/she Knows The Answers to everything, and it doesn’t even seem like there are that many different answers, regardless of what the question is.

    This post seems like as good a place as any to wonder: If the HBD people are so confident that mapping the genome is going to confirm all of their claims, why don’t they just… shut up for a while. This sort of genetic analysis would be less controversial and easier to get done quickly if there weren’t a bunch of people with beliefs currently deemed unsavory yammering about its importance.

    Noah Millman has a response to the national debating debacle that will tend to further lessen your horror at it, though I still think the behavior as described in your original link sounded too much like an attempt to browbeat the opposing team rather than out-argue them.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Regarding TLP: why are you surprised that an intellectual masochist should enjoy the work of an intellectual sadist?

      • orthonormal says:

        Holy shit, you’ve just codified a brilliant distinction. And it gave me the realization that I’m absolutely an intellectual dom. (Which is a good thing only when I practice it consensually.)

      • SneakySly says:

        This post just connected a lot of dots for me. Thank you!

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t get it. Could someone concrete this metaphor for me?

        (guess) Is an intellectual sadist a person who likes proving people wrong and feeling intellectually superior, and an intellectual masochist someone who likes exploring all possible ways they might be wrong and misguided? Like teacher/student?

    • James James says:

      “If the HBD people are so confident that mapping the genome is going to confirm all of their claims, why don’t they just… shut up for a while.”

      This is sort of like Gwern’s response: “Mu” http://www.gwern.net/Mistakes#mu

      “But the massive fall in genome sequencing costs (projected to be <$1000 by ~2014) means that large human datasets will be produced, and the genetics directly examined, eliminating entire areas of objections to the previous heredity studies. And at some point, some researcher will manage the study – some group inside or outside the USA will fund it, at some point a large enough genetic database will be cross-referenced against IQ tests and existing racial markers. We already see some of this in research: Rietveld et al 2013 found 3 SNPs simply by pooling existing databases of genetics data & correlating against schooling. I don’t know when the definitive paper will come out, if it’ll be this year, or by 2020, although I would be surprised if there was still nothing by 2030; but it will happen and it will happen relatively soon (for a debate going on for the past century or more). Genome sequencing is simply going to be too cheap for it to not happen. By 2030 or 2040, I expect the issue will be definitively settled in the same way earlier debates about the validity of IQ tests were eventually settled (even if the public hasn’t yet gotten the word, the experts all concede that IQ tests are valid, reliable, not biased, and meaningful predictors of a wide variety of real-world variables)."

    • James James says:

      “If the HBD people are so confident that mapping the genome is going to confirm all of their claims, why don’t they just… shut up for a while.”

      1. HBD has lots of important policy consequences, and the evidence for it is strong, so it would be a shame if we couldn’t fix policy now rather than wait 10-20 years.

      2. The same applies the other way. “If the HNU people are so confident that mapping the genome is going to confirm all of their claims, why don’t they just… shut up for a while.”

      • Oligopsony says:

        HBD has lots of important policy consequences, and the evidence for it is strong, so it would be a shame if we couldn’t fix policy now rather than wait 10-20 years.

        [Godwin joke]

      • alexp says:

        In a world where we’re not 100% sure, it’s better to err on the side of assuming everyone’s equal, especially in a multicultural society.

      • peterdjones says:

        1a, no there’s evidence of the differences HBD ers bang in about having any real effect in concrete terms..

        1b …but since race is such a hot button issue, any policy change in any policy change in any direction will create huge amount of unproductive debate and dissent. (An issue doesn’t have to be real to have real world consequences, it just has to be cared about)

        2. If one side pushes one way, the other willpush back, for any value of one side. It’s a PD.

        • Zathille says:

          1a I cannot address, particularly without clarification about what it means. What concrete terms?

          1b an 2 seem trivially true, any hot-button issue will have discussion dynamics that may be unproductive, but how and why would this justify merely dropping the issue if it’s believed to be an important one with far-reaching consequences?

    • Randy M says:

      “This post seems like as good a place as any to wonder: If the HBD people are so confident that mapping the genome is going to confirm all of their claims, why don’t they just… shut up for a while.”

      It isn’t that they think that someday there will be evidence for the claims; that they think that there is now evidence, but it is being ignored, and will continue to be, because otherwise unstable political edifices are built upon such purposeful ignorance.

      • Multiheaded says:

        That’s an overly strong claim, because first you have to show that those are indeed “unstable”.

        I’m sorry, but I’ve noticed this tendency with you lot; to a race egalitarian’s face, you usually say that acknowledging race differences in intelligence would help progressives, while among yourself you’re likely to sigh and roll your eyes at those double-thinkers who ineffectively pander to the lesser races instead of ruling them with the good ol’ iron fist.

        I’m sorry again, but the authoritarian’s cry of “It’s for their own good!” is still more disturbing to me when packed with overarching accusations towards those who, like me, dispute the goodness of the “good”. Just one example: I used to be an apologist for colonialism, myself, before I learned a thing or two about its history and direct consequences. I shudder at how easy it is even for a progressive to fall into this trap of whitewashing white supremacy. At least Stalinists are usually explicit about where they’re coming from.

        P.S.: Scott, as long as we’re not debating your link or indeed any empirical facts about race and intelligence, but only some hypothetical stuff about politics… does this make it worse?

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          the authoritarian’s cry of “It’s for their own good!” is still more disturbing to me when packed with overarching accusations towards those who, like me, dispute the goodness of the “good”… At least Stalinists are usually explicit about where they’re coming from.

          I think this is at least part of the origin of my (admittedly horrific) “backup metaethic” – it may be vicious and destructive and violent, but it’s APPALLINGLY honest.

        • Randy M says:

          “I’m sorry, but I’ve noticed this tendency with you lot; to a race egalitarian’s face, you usually say that acknowledging race differences in intelligence would help progressives, while among yourself you’re likely to sigh and roll your eyes at those double-thinkers who ineffectively pander to the lesser races instead of ruling them with the good ol’ iron fist.”

          I’m not quite sure what you would mean. An example of each tendency would help. But, go ahead and save them for next time this is on-topic, since I think this is going into territory the avoidance of which was requested, and I accordingly apologize for the previous comment.

        • Multiheaded says:

          I took your comment as an implicit example of the latter, and basically any time a reactionary talks about reintroducing colonialism or, say, praises the War on Blacks, you get a more explicit example.

          Here’s one example of the former, and I’ve seen more; basically every time an HBDer says, “It’s time to stop blaming this or that group’s moral character for their failures! So rub it in those mean ol’ conservatives’ faces, young padawan! Inferiority is no vice!” This might come across as crazy and paranoid, but.. it’s hard for me to trust such ostensible magnanimity.

          “Here’s why this group is always going to be weaker and less able to progress than the group I identify with. But don’t worry, I’m totally for treating them nicely, yeah! I wish we could all do the best thing for them!” Can you not see the ridiculous amount of moral hazard here?

        • nydwracu says:

          The “for your own good” is in the following sense: sure, progressives get a lot of power from it, but it’s all a sham and it will end up being disproven at some point, after which increasingly draconian measures will be necessary to keep it from being rejected, and also the desired outcomes are literally impossible so continued failure will bring about increasingly draconian measures anyway, and those measures will lead to societal decline.

          But in practice, the Adventists are still around, so, you know.

        • Multiheaded says:

          If you’re that concerned about progressives pushing a policy to an extreme just to gain power… why not give up all overt opposition to it, so that they would become unable to derive the power from crushing opposition, and incentivized to avoid the policy’s drawbacks to themselves?

          Also, go ahead, try and “disprove” Ghana. The claims here appear sufficiently strong that a single example of succesful development contradicting racialist/reactionary ideas would invalidate them.

    • Novak Djokervic says:

      The Last Psychiatrist, at least in that last article, has a similar cephalic index to me; indeed different to Scott.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “This post seems like as good a place as any to wonder: If the HBD people are so confident that mapping the genome is going to confirm all of their claims, why don’t they just… shut up for a while. This sort of genetic analysis would be less controversial and easier to get done quickly if there weren’t a bunch of people with beliefs currently deemed unsavory yammering about its importance.”

      By their view, any reasonably smart person can come to understand HBD is true by dispassionately assessing the science, but the social costs are so high most people won’t admit it.

      This makes it an excellent signal for people who obsessively care about truth regardless of social costs.

      That’s useful for two reasons. First, obsessively caring about truth enough to overcome personal disinclination towards it is high status in some communities including ours, so it is signaling that you have a desirable trait.

      Second, people who care about truth regardless of social consequences probably would get along with each other much better than they would get along with the general population. But everyone claims they are pursuing the truth in an unbiased fashion. It would be very helpful if people who actually care about truth had a costly signal they could use to recognize each other. And HBD is the costliest one they can think of.

      Ironically, I’m not sure it’s even necessary for HBD to be true for this to work. You can at least signal propensity to make mistakes for reasons other than social desirability.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Also, let me add a related but totally different question.

      Do you really think in 2030 or whenever we have millions of genomes to work with that we can turn that into a model that can accurately predict your intelligence (or at least the genetic contribution to your intelligence) given your genome?

      My understanding (amplified by the comments here) is that intelligence is probably going to look like:

      “If you have allele 1 of gene A, AND allele 2 of gene B, but not allele 3 or 4 of gene C, then gain one IQ point. Unless you have allele 5 of gene D, in which case lose two IQ points”

      times about a zillion different combinations and tiny mutations that only one person has.

      There are 10 million SNPs and probably many more random single-family mutations. If we have to analyze some kind of combinatorics on the mutual interactions of each of 10 million genes with each of the others – and if it’s possible an interaction can have ten or a hundred genes in it – that is going to get beyond the power of even 2030 supercomputers pretty quick.

      Is this a legitimate worry?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Only about 10%-20% of the variance of IQ is genetically complicated. The rest is linear: if you have variant A, lose a point. This is the difference between H^2 and h^2. We’ve known that for a long time from family studies. This study using SNPs from related people, hence with much stronger linkage disequilibrium, finds an h^2 of 40-50%.

        But I think a big problem is single family mutations. There probably won’t be enough data to determine their effects.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          This might be a good time to point out I didn’t really understand your answer to my old post.

          If things are linear, randomly assorted, and only amount to a tiny percent of IQ each, IQ variation should be pretty small.

          If I remember right, you said IQ should be additive within a certain range but subadditive at the fringe. But that would work as an explanation for why IQ variation is *less* than we expect. Instead we find it’s *more* than we expect.

          Could you ELI5 why the original casino argument doesn’t hold?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Looking at the comments on that post, I never explicitly addressed the casino dilemma: Yes, the total possible genetic variability in intelligence is huge.

          Yes, you could genetically engineer someone to have a genetic IQ of 1000 or -1000. What does that mean? It means that the person is off the charts. IQ isn’t defined off the charts, but that’s OK; why don’t we just define it as the genetic measure and be happy that the tests match the genetic measure in the normal range?

          But you could also genetically engineer someone whose height would be predicted to be 10 meters or -10 meters. This is impossible, especially the second, so there must be sublinearity for height. Yes, this reduces the variance. But this is a rare event. Its contribution to the variance is the square of the height times the probability. The probability of these outliers is exponentially small in the number of genes. So the effect on variance is negligible.

          Also, we’re doing statistics, not probability. When we measure the variance of IQ, we do it by sampling a few people, not everyone who exists, let alone everyone who could exist. Outliers cannot affect the measured variance.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I’m still not really understanding. You might need to pump my intuition.

          Consider a toy model where there are 100 genes, each of which has either a good allele (+2 IQ points) or a bad allele (+0 IQ points). All genes are random and determined by coin flips. It’s easy to show that the average person here has IQ 100, and about 2% of people will have IQ of over 120. The ceiling for IQ is 200, and each gene controls 1% of variation.

          A second model is the same, except there are 1,000 genes. Each has either a good allele (+0.2 IQ points) or a bad allele (+0). Once again, the average person will have IQ 100. But now only 10^-10% of people have IQ of 120. The ceiling is still 200, and each gene controls 0.1% of variation.

          Can you give me an example of a toy model like this where the ceiling is 1000 or greater, each gene controls only a tiny percent of variation, but still a substantial number of people have IQ of 120 or greater?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Your first model had a variance of 100, a standard deviation of 10, about what we want. Your second model had a variance of 10. Just rescale it so that the variance is 100. That is, multiply everything by the square root of 10, namely 3. Then we still have 1000 coin flips, but now the good genes are worth 0.6 and the bad genes 0. Of course, the mean is now 300, so subtract off 200. So a good gene is 0.4 and a bad gene is -0.2. The variance of an individual gene is 0.09 and the variance of IQ is 90.

          But that only gets you a maximum of 400 (30 sigma). If you do a million genes each a coin flip with mean 100 and standard deviation 10, you’ll get a max of 1000. If you use N genes, each worth 1/sqrt(N) IQ points, then the variance is constant, the maximum number of genes grows with N, but the maximum score grows with N/sqrt(N) = sqrt(N).

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Thank you! I’ve gone through that and I think I understand a little better now. But help me clear up one more thing.

          So it looks like if there were 1,000,000 genes, and good genes are worth 0.01, and bad genes are worth -0.0098, then the average would be 100 and the SD would be about 10.

          But if there were 1,000,000 genes and good genes were worth 0.0002, and bad genes were worth 0, then the average would still be 100 but the SD would be about 0.1.

          So is the difference between my models, where SD is unrealistically low, and your models where SD works out fine, the difference between only positive genes, versus also having negative genes? Would it be possible to make a model where the means and SDs work out correctly with only positives?

          (I know that’s probably not how real genetics works, I just want to get my head around the math further)

        • Douglas Knight says:

          If we have weighted coins, then sure. Say there are N genes each of which are worth 1 IQ point and each of which has a p=100/N chance. Then the expected IQ is 100 and the variance is p(1-p)N~100. This is the opposite of the mutational load model and not plausible.

          But the difference between “negative” and “neutral” is not meaningful. The mean and variance of IQ are defined to be 100. We’re assuming that IQ is linear in the number of genes, but that leaves two free parameters in the linear map to fix the mean and variance. If you fix N and have all genes 50-50, that’s the whole model. The maximum is sqrt(N) standard deviations above the mean, regardless of what you call the mean and variance. If you define zero IQ as zero genes and scale to keep the mean fixed, then the variance becomes small. But zero IQ doesn’t mean anything, so there’s no reason to pin it to zero genes.

          Also, my “million” is wrong. It should only be 10k.

    • lmm says:

      I remember reading somewhere in the LW-sphere about several grad students in anthropology were unaware of established racial differences in brain size (until, prompted by the author, they asked their professor), because it’s considered impolite to talk about those results. Or think about the promising LSD/creativity experiments for which funding was withdrawn and which would now be illegal to continue. How confident are you that our system can establish politically inconvenient truths?

  7. Matthew says:

    Also, it’s probably premature to assume that putting recorders on the police in any given jurisdiction will be sufficient to solve the problem it is intended to solve.

  8. Chris says:

    I liked this link: http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2014/05/gluten_sensitivity_may_not_exist.html

    It appears that the person who performed the study that is perhaps most responsible for gluten-free being a health fad (rather than just something for people with Celiac’s) tried to replicate his own study and found that there’s a strong nocebo effect, and is now making it clear that he no longer trusts his original result. Can we get some kind of reward for researchers who do that? 🙂

  9. adbge says:

    Another victory for technical solutions to human problems!

    And another victory for surveillance. The logic of attaching cameras to cops applies just as well to attaching cameras to, well, basically everyone. (Something I’ve touched on before.)

    I almost want to call this near versus far thinking, but that fit doesn’t seem quite right. More like “let’s attach cameras to everyone but me” thinking. And in that vein, I next nominate psychiatrists.

    • Macbi says:

      I think an important distinction is in who can access the data. If the videos from the police cameras are only accessed by the officer’s superios after a formal complaint, then the situation is analogous to the NSA/GCHQ collecting data on us but needing a warrant to access it. That would be fine by me.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree with Machi and the other commenters above that recordings should only be available as part of a formal investigation (note similarity to utopian system I proposed).

      As for psychiatrists, we already have to document everything we do so carefully that we might as well have cameras on us.

    • MugaSofer says:

      My instinct is that a world where we attached cameras to everyone would, in fact, be a better place. (If that’s correct, we’re just reluctant because we want to be able to defect in the Prisoner’s Dilemma.)

      Can you give counterexamples?

      • If there’d been universal surveillance before a lot of work had been done to make homosexuality acceptable (at least in some places) to mainstream people, the world would probably be a worse place.

        There’s a chance that universal surveillance would have led to the mainstream noticing that homosexuals aren’t especially different from heterosexuals, but I wouldn’t count on that.

        • Lesser Bull says:

          In other words, universal surveillance would tend to trap into amber whatever the current social ideals are.

      • blacktrance says:

        To generalize Nancy’s point, surveillance promotes whatever is socially acceptable to do in public and suppresses things that are socially disapproved of when public. This can be good or bad, depending on social norms and the specific activity.

  10. Benquo says:

    Last Psychiatrist: Who Bullies The Bullies? One of those things where the writing is so delightful I am ready to forgive him for not really having a thesis or any coherent point. And almost ready to forgive him for no longer writing about psychiatry.

    I’m not going to pretend to be surprised, since TLP can be a bit hard to understand, but nearly all their recent posts make the same basic observation:

    “Hey, you know that thing you’re upset about? You’re not doing anything by being upset, and it’s distracting you from this underlying shitty situation.” I think TLP’s a bit of a Marxist, so there’s always the underlying “you don’t control your own life, you are just a consumer” thing, but there’s also usually a more directly relevant thing being ignored.

    So in the hipsters on food stamps post, being mad at entitled hipsters distracts people from noticing that unemployment is high. In the SSI /SSDI article, being upset at people “gaming” the system prevents people from noticing a tremendous number of people who could theoretically work but can’t really find a job, and aren’t counted by the unemployment statistics. TLP has another post about how people “gaming” the mental health system are given drugs to buy them off and give them some relief from the suffering caused by their poverty.

    In this particular article, being upset about anonymous online harassment distracts people from the fact that lots of other harassment goes on and the police don’t seem to be interested in investigating it, and from the fact that ordinary people – those who aren’t professional writers – might benefit from anonymity.

    • Sarah says:

      He’s the only guy I’ve seen so far arguing that the problem with feminism in the media is that it’s a form of *entertainment* masquerading as politics.

      He’s more anti-advertising than I am, but he gets props for noticing when memes are just created by advertising and click-rate pandering, and NOBODY ELSE IS BRINGING UP THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.

      BTW, I’ve heard other people refer to TLP as “she” and my initial impression was that he/she was a conservative, not a Marxist. So, hard author to pin down.

      • nydwracu says:

        My impression: female, has seen Fight Club way too many times, and might have once been a libertarian before becoming too jaded for it. The strangeness of the signaling has to do with the fact that there aren’t very many people like that.

        I’d take it further and guess that she probably doesn’t live near a coast, but I don’t read her much. I base this on the fact that the above is a profile of every single one of my exes, and, although every single one of them sounded pretty much like TLP on the thankfully rare occasion that they tried to talk politics, they were all too caught up in Being A Person Who Lives On A Coast somehow or other to give a rat’s dick about celebrity magazines.

        edit: While I’m profiling, is the Fight Club author gay? I don’t know. But I bet he is. Fight Club doesn’t seem like the kind of thing a straight guy would write.

        • Nornagest says:

          While I’m profiling, is the Fight Club author gay? I don’t know. But I bet he is. Fight Club doesn’t seem like the kind of thing a straight guy would write.

          Chuck Palahniuk is indeed gay, although he didn’t come out until after writing Fight Club.

        • Randy M says:

          I suspect you will get a large number of hits googling gay and fight club.

      • Benquo says:

        I try to avoid gendered pronouns when talking about TLP, because I’m actually unsure.

        There’s a lot of overlap between modern American intellectual conservatism and Marxism. Matt Yglesias is fond of pointing out that Austrian economics basically accepts the Marxist criticism/embrace of capitalist boom-bust cycles.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Nah, someone posted a doxxing of him a while back, and he’s definitely a guy.

        (this seemed obvious to me from his writing, but I don’t know how big a role my “default male” assumption played, or whether I was just going off of his very aggressive style and contempt for feminism)

        • Benquo says:

          There are parts of TLP’s writing that made me think “definitely a man,” and others (fewer) that made me think, “definitely a woman.” Which I guess just means TLP’s a good writer, and knows how to sympathize with other people.

          “Contempt for feminism” seems a bit odd to me because TLP *uses* feminist theory more than any other writer I’ve seen who doesn’t mainly write *about* feminism. Although there sure is a lot of contempt for individual *feminists*.

        • Sarah says:

          Women are 34% of American psychiatrists. (http://www.jaapl.org/content/41/1/146.full) Funny — I thought it was a majority-female profession.

          Add the antifeminism and the very schizophrenic-ish thought process and, yeah, I’d have to guess male.

          [What I mean by that is the way he finds connections and patterns everywhere and attributes agency to a They controlling everything. It’s a distinctive behavior.]

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s the best summary of TLP I’ve seen. Too bad the commenters over at the actual TLP site are (for the most part) sub-par and seem too interested in bad attempts at emulating TLP and in general being obtuse and pretentious to bother discussing the articles. Regardless or whether or not I agree with what TLP says, I find it very interesting and would love to discuss them.

  11. Carl Shulman says:

    That China article seems to be stretching to be contrarian.

    It speaks ill of current Taiwanese and other Asian Tiger growth rates, after they have already become developed. But a China that matched their GDP per capita would tremendously surpass the US or EU. All the other Chinese-majority jurisdictions have become developed-to-rich: Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan. The Chinese diaspora is rich all over the world. China has been following a similar growth path to its predecessors.

    The demographic problems aren’t close to being enough to neutralize that.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree with everyone else who says the inverted age pyramid is a big problem. Yes, China has the potential to be as rich per capita as America, but if America had those kinds of demographics, it would have big problems too. I predict China needs growth more than America does because US democracy is more stable than what China’s got if everyone suddenly starts being very mad at the government because of economic stagnation. Ability to sustain growth rate with their current overinvestment issues AND looming demographic issues AND regression-to-the-mean type issues seems very hard.

      • EoT says:

        I think the core problem with the China article is that it underestimates the extent to which GDP change is going to become decoupled from growth/shrinkage of the working age population.

        For example, US manufacturing output has increased substantially since the Great Recession began, while total manufacturing employment has continued to decline.

        In other words, it’s plausible that a large number of American young people won’t be able to find gainful employment, and they will wind up just as dependent as China’s elderly.

        Another X factor is whether China will have the same problem with health care hyperinflation that has plagued western countries. My guess is that the Chinese may be able to make decisions to “bend the cost curve” which would be impossible in America.

        “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”

  12. Army1987 says:

    I’ve been debating whether I self-identify more as a liberal or conservative. After reading about where liberals and conservatives eat I am forced to admit that no matter how much I flirt with conservative ideas I will always be a liberal at heart. Any tribe that eats at California Pizza Kitchen is my people.

    I took this test and I was right smack in the middle along the economic left-right axis, and slightly below the centre on the authoritarian-libertarian axis, but way on the far left end of the culture war axis.

  13. TeaMug says:

    The thing I like most about the new shrimp-based bioplastic is that it plays well with traditional manufacturing methods, so it’s an easy drop-in replacement for existing materials. This could be a big plus towards widespread adoption.

    I like bioplastics in general (including currently-in-use PLA) because they also serve as a nifty potential carbon-sink. If you make a bioplastic from plant or animal material, and then stick it in a landfill (where it will basically never degrade), you’re effectively taking it out of the carbon-cycle. This is the only carbon-sequestration method I know of that doesn’t require any weird incentives, and might actually happen ‘naturally’ as people follow their regular purchase-discard consumer cycle.

  14. Ghatanathoah says:

    I’m generally skeptical of claims that a country is “doomed” by lowering demographics. It seems like in most cases, the population size will shrink, but it will still be vastly larger than it was a few decades ago. A few decades ago most developed countries were doing alright.

    • peterdjones says:

      In most cases, the overall demographic us made up for by immigration, and the concern ends up being about ethnicity X shrinking and ethnicity Y growing.

      • suntzuanime says:

        That’s true in the US, but a lot of countries are either hostile enough to immigration or simply not attractive enough to immigrants that they really are looking at shrinking by about 40% per generation. In the recent Japanese anime Sakura Trick a plot point was that the school all the students were attending was going to be shut down due to a lack of children to attend it. This is a real phenomenon happening all over Japan, their demographics are crunching.

        • meyerkev says:

          1) The problem isn’t so much the size of the population as its composition.

          Right now, the basic “deal” is this:

          From 0-18, the state spends quite a bit of money educating you.
          From 18-mid 20’s, you go to college. (And for certain high-income, high-tax-paid industry, that can be late 20’s)
          From mid 20’s to mid 60’s, you work.
          From mid 60’s to death (late 80’s), you live on the dole.

          Oh, and if at any point between 25 and 65, something goes wrong, onto the dole you go. So 3% of this country is on SSI, and another 4% is on SSID. Not to mention unemployment, food stamps, Medicaid, etc, etc, etc.

          We can debate the nature and amount of dole, but that’s basically the deal.

          And if you’re Japan, where in 30 years, you’re going to have 30 million old people asking for money and healthcare, 40 million workers, and 10 million kids who need schooling, you can’t afford the sheer crushing amount of dole.

          2) Type of immigrants also matters.

          Can’t find the cite, but I recall hearing:
          ~50% of Swedes are on some form of welfare.
          ~60% of European migrants to Sweden are on some form of welfare
          ~70% of non-European immigrants are on some form of welfare.

          So if your giant plan for fixing the welfare state is to import immigrants, it’s probably a good idea to ensure that they are a net positive.

        • peterdjones says:

          SZT
          Your point is well taken. My point was rather eurocentric.

        • peterdjones says:

          It’s quite possible to insure migrants are a net positive if you don’t have large indefensible borders.

        • peterdjones says:

          “Some form of welfare” is meaningless without figures. You can have forms of welfare that large numbers of people are entitled to but are only few bucks a week. Its doesn’t equate to being dependent on handouts.

        • peterdjones says:

          A population crunch on a small, crowded island,…I live on one myself..isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the long run…the problem is the transition.

    • nydwracu says:

      Inverted age pyramid though.

  15. nydwracu says:

    I’ve never heard of most of the restaurants in that study, but all the chains and fast food places I go to score like the average customer is too prole to care about voting, and the supermarket data is too regional to matter — all we have around here is a Safeway, a Giant, and a Shoprite. Safeway and Giant are basically the same store, though if I had to guess, I’d guess that Safeway is more prole than Giant; but Giant is all DMV, whereas Safeway is all over the US.

    Which I think would predict the exact opposite of the data there, so I have no idea what’s going on. Like, PG County is 90% Democrat. 90 fucking percent. And Giant’s headquarters are here.

    Not surprised Shoprite comes out with about the same score as McDonald’s. I go there, but it’s prole as hell. Guess the lesson here is that I should stop commenting on innellecshul fancy talk blogs, innit. (And I almost went to grad school!)

  16. Sarah says:

    Me too! I have *all* the dumb genes.
    Luckily, my fiance has all the smart genes.

  17. tgb says:

    Questions on circular farms:
    1.) Wikipedia claims its more efficient but doesn’t say why. Why?
    2.) Why aren’t they hexagonally pack? Actually, this brings up the question of why hexagonal packing isn’t used more often in life, like when placing cookies on a cookie sheet.

    • Kevin P says:

      1.) Because the irrigation system is spinning around in a circle. Less complexity and less energy usage than a system to irrigate the whole of a square plot.

      2.) See 1.)

      • Andy says:

        Though circles can be hexagonally packed as well as in perpendicular lines, though I suspect the efficiency benefits to a grid are non-obvious.
        It would also be interesting to contrast with organic farmers on large scale and see how they’re doing things – using the fringes of a circular field to test new varieties for drought tolerance or to host symbiote plants, pollinator-attractors, or pest-control attractors.

        • Tom Womack says:

          If you look at the southern part of New Guinea in Google Maps, there are a few palm-oil plantations where the palms have been planted on a hexagonal grid; but that’s the only hexagonal agriculture I’ve found. You probably have to own a fair number of contiguous 160-acre quarter-sections before you can fit more area in with hexagonal packing that’s constrained to fit in your rectilinear boundaries.

    • Andy says:

      I suspect because of land ownership, which often involved straight lines and a hex-pack would not fit as well. There’s parts of America – mostly in the middle – where the counties fit the grid of the Public Land Survey System.
      Also, I suspect that a straight-line grid makes it easier to deliver pesticides and herbicides by crop duster. So far as I know, you would not see this central-pivot system in many organic farming outfits, which don’t tend to nuke the soil the same way industrial farming does.
      And I’ve tried to design a hex-packed muffin tray, without success. I want one even more now. And I want a hex-mini-muffin tray SO MUCH.
      And why it’s more efficient? American agriculture is incredibly automated – especially when it comes to vegetable cultivation. There’s a workforce that’s tiny next to the population it feeds, even with the large number of migrant laborers. Many of those migrants work on the processing end, or here in California, work a circuit and harvest multiple crops in a year.
      And in the middle of the country, land isn’t in short supply, but the central-pivot system allows easy delivery of water and water-soluble fertilizer with minimum piping and labor.

  18. roystgnr says:

    Between “I’ve been debating whether I self-identify more as a liberal or conservative” and the earlier [Here’s a bunch of instrumentally rational reasons to act epistemically irrational] post, you’re starting to worry me. My prior favorite source of intelligent liberalism has been going down the “evaporative cooling of group beliefs” route for long enough that it’s starting to freeze over. And although I’ve got some additional redundancy in my RSS feeds, there’s still a big gap between you and e.g. Kevin Drum.

    • nydwracu says:

      It took me a while to realize that the words “my prior favorite source of” were there before “intelligent liberalism”…

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Sorry, having trouble understanding this post. Am I your favorite prior source of intelligent liberalism?

      • roystgnr says:

        Current favorite source, despite your significant handicaps of only being one person and spending time on a career that isn’t blogging/journalism/writing.

  19. BenSix says:

    It says something about America that conservatives eat at Hooters. I’m not sure of what it is but it’s something.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      But the truth, that liberals eat at Hooters says nothing about America. (Actually, maybe first point to make is that moderates do not eat at Hooters.)

      • BenSix says:

        Good point. Should have clicked through to the actual data. (While doing so, I noticed that one of the biggest conservative-to-liberal disparities was the supermarket Randall’s. I was curious as to why until I found out that it’s based in Texas. It’s nice to know that some questions have simple answers.)

        …maybe first point to make is that moderates do not eat at Hooters…

        Nuthin’s moderate about Hooters.

  20. I mostly eat at the liberal restaurants, except for Papa Murphy’s, which is the best pizza chain in America. It seems to me that the quiz has mostly discovered geography, not politics, as I don’t think I’ve ever even seen an Au Bon Pain out here in flyover country.

    Another feature of living in flyover country is that I assumed that everyone always knew why fields were circular, and am amused that this is a thing that needs to be explained to educated adults.

    • Nornagest says:

      I spent a lot of time in the agricultural parts of California when I was younger, but center-pivot irrigation is almost unknown there. I don’t know why; my first thought was that it had to do with the ready availability of surface irrigation, but I remember seeing wheel-line systems too.

      Best guess is that it’s a function of the cost of land relative to the cost of labor.

  21. Douglas Knight says:

    Here is the paper about the IQ gene.

  22. Eli says:

    Hey Scott, could you take a look at this study where they got rid of drug-refractory myeloma in one patient? I feel like the sample size is much too small for an effect by instinct, but the Bayesian in me says the surprisal here is so high there must be evidence to gain.

    Speaking of China, a very convincing article on why China is not destined to rule us all. The short answer is that everyone except America is doomed because of aging populations, America is slightly less doomed because we have lots of young immigrants, and China is super super doomed because of the one-child policy.

    Hey, you know who’s actually the country in the Western world with the highest birthrates?

    That’s right. Our time to shine, world. ISRAEL YOUNK! ISRAEL RELEVANTIT! YISRAEL CAN INTO SPACE!

    • EoT says:

      But the question is what percent of Israel’s “younk” are going to wind up on the government dole for religious study.

  23. Matthew says:

    [Off-topic, but this is the closest you get to open threads]

    Scott, is there rationality-related content on your FB that isn’t reproduced on SSC or Lesswrong? And if so, do you accept friend requests from fans you haven’t met in meatspace?

  24. Barry says:

    For what it’s worth, a reader wrote into Andrew Sullivan’s blog with the following comment:

    Just a note about your post on the KL-VS gene variant. I’m quite familiar with this research, and the scientists behind it never tested IQ, nor did they claim to. That idea, and the notion that the KL-VS variant somehow confers a 6 IQ point advantage, was introduced in The Economist‘s coverage of the work, and how they arrived at that number is quite unclear. The tests the researchers actually did were all on different types of cognitive function, such as learning, memory and attention, because the focus of the work is on preventing cognitive decline in the elderly. Your commentary implies that IQ claims were part of the original research paper, which isn’t the case. The original paper is fascinating and worth a read!

    Judging from a quick skim through the paper, Sullivan’s reader is correct – the study doesn’t actually address IQ directly at all, and makes no “six points” claim.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      It is quite reasonable to treat MMSE as an IQ test; “learning, memory and attention” are the same things IQ tests measure. 6 points of IQ is a Z-score of 0.4. That looks a little cherry-picked, but most of the numbers in the paper are in the ballpark.

  25. a person says:

    Bob Evans is my favorite chain restaurant, but Chipotle is my favorite fast food restaurant… I don’t know who I am anymore

  26. Matthew says:

    This totally deserves a link next month: Second livestock. At least they don’t actually suggest wireheading the chickens.