The man who set the world record for fastest drive across the US did it in 28 hours 50 minutes in a heavily modded car, with one ear to the police scanner at all times.
Weird politics: Why Is A Major Green Group Backing A Republican Who Supports The Keystone Pipeline? Answer: environmentalist groups are following some corporations in donating to natural opponents of their cause who are a little less bad than other people from their party, in the hopes of giving opposing politicians an incentive to moderate their views.
More weird politics: Republicans push for over-the-counter birth control, are informed that their attempts to help women are an evil plot to disguise the fact that they never try to help women.
I knew the classical world was big into religious syncretism, but this is going a little too far: Hermanubis
Academic urban legends. Where did the legend that spinach was full of iron come from? Where did the legend about the source of the legend that spinach was full of iron come from? A good case study in following footnotes. (h/t Kate Donovan)
An observation: any politicized childrens’ book that agrees with your own views seems like a fun and educational way to teach your kids to be good prosocial citizens. Any politicized childrens’ book that disagrees with your own views seems like extremely creepy propaganda. In that spirit, here’s Amazon’s page for My Parents Open Carry. The second best part is the customer reviews (samples: “Can’t wait for the sequel, My Black Parents Open Carried Until the Police Shot Them 146 Times” and “If only the title was My Two Moms Open Carry, the Pulitzer would be already decided.”) Best part is the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section, which starts with Raising Boys Feminists Will Hate and only gets worse from there.
People often talk about the culture of “everyone getting prizes for participation” as if it is something that psychobabble-spouting bureaucrats push to condescend to the underqualified. But a recent poll suggests a much more heartbreaking picture – the richer, whiter, and better educated you are, the less likely you support prizes-for-everybody and the more likely you are to support winner-take-all. In other words, the people saying everyone’s participation should be celebrated whether they win or not are probably the people who don’t expect to win very often 🙁 This was genuinely surprising and distressing to me (h/t Marginal Revolution)
Related: What happened when Wellesley declared war on grade inflation? Some good – students started switching away from majors known for rampant grade inflation to “harder” majors like STEM and economics. But also some bad – students gave professors worse ratings and complained that they were at a job market disadvantage compared to students from other colleges with inflated grades. Article concludes with “In the grade inflation arms race, Wellesley disarmed unilaterally,” which seems like as good a description as any for their prosocial but self-harming decision.
There’s an old joke that if you name your daughter Chastity, she’s sure to become a nymphomaniac. So what happens if you name your son Douglas MacArthur McCain?
One of the quickest transitions from “neat theory” to “full experiment on humans” I’ve ever seen: Alzheimers Patients Will Be Injected With The Blood Of Young People.
Related to Robin Hanson’s Near-Far distinction: “When nonpregnant people are asked if they would have an abortion if their fetus tested positive for Down syndrome, 23-33% said yes; when high-risk pregnant women were asked, 46-86% said yes, and when women who screened positive [for actually having a fetus with Down syndrome] are asked, 89-97% said yes.” [source]
This essay on “Excellent Sheep” is one of the most devastating book reviews I have read, especially the last sentence.
Five years ago, Janet Mertz changed the women-in-math debate by pointing out that cultures with high gender equality (as measured by various factors) also had higher female math performance (relative to men), suggesting that female math underpeformance was cultural rather than biological. Since then there have been several counterarguments, including another paper by Mertz herself finding that by a different measure of math ability, women in more gender-equal cultures have worse math performance relative to men. Now things get even weirder with a study showing that men and women in more gender-equal cultures (by some of the same measures Mertz uses) have more similar digit-length ratios, a measure of sex hormone exposure in utero. This would suggest that women are getting a more masculine hormone pattern (or men a more feminine one, or both) in such cultures. For example, the correlation between percent of parliamentary seats held by women in a country and the left-handed digit ratio of women in that country is significant at the p < .0001 level. On Facebook, Carl Shulman questioned some of the statistics and brought up the possible explanation that gender-equal countries tend to be richer and so may have a different diet than less-equal countries. Another possibility I find plausible is that although they claim to be evaluating 29 countries, they're actually finding a broader category difference (Northern Europe vs. Southern Europe, for example, since almost all countries involved are European) and the finding is driven by a genetic tendency for Northern Europeans to have lower digit ratio difference, plus Northern European countries being more gender-equal. Still another possibility is the hormone disruptor chemicals in plastics. (h/t Claire Lehman) Here's a news article I definitely fault for its statistics: Marijuana use involved in more fatal accidents in Colorado after it became legalized for medical use. If true, this would be a big deal to me since I previously suggested the utilitarian calculus on marijuana legalization was dominated by its effect on car accidents. But the news article fails to prove anything – it’s just measuring the percent of drivers in accidents who tested positive for marijuana, but marijuana stays in the urine for about a month. So it’s only telling you what percent of accident victims used marijuana in the past month – and of course that’s going to increase after marijuana gets legalized, because everyone uses more marijuana.
I find this much more convincing and relevant: In States That Legalize Medical Marijuana, Opiate Painkiller Deaths Drop By 25%. To save you the trouble of looking it up, 25% of the US’ yearly opiate painkiller deaths is about 4,000 people.
Midas Touch is a beer made to exactly reproduce the 8th-century beer found in King Midas’ tomb and which has already won awards from the beer community. Now the archaeologist who inspired it is working on commercializing alcoholic drinks faithfully based off the ones from ancient Egypt, ancient Peru, and ancient China.
Speaking of overly intellectual things to eat, Slate Star Codex readers Romeo Stevens and John Maxwell are starting to test sell their MealSquares, a more actual-food-resembling competitor to Soylent. I’ve ordered a box just to try them out – and because my girlfriend occasionally gets stuck in a mental trap where they are too hungry to prepare anything to eat and so sits around getting more and more miserable, and these seem like a healthy solution. Website is here, but actual order page is hidden here (h/t Kate Donovan)
Climate geo-engineering is experiencing an exciting reclassification from “thing everyone agrees is a bad idea” to “thing everyone still agrees is a bad idea, but which we’ll probably have to do anyway, because we are too much of a civilizational basketcase to implement a safer solution”. Scientists in the field suggest it could reverse some of the effects of global warming for $5 to $10 billion. Compared to the cost of stopping climate change (potentially in the trillions) or the costs of climate change itself (potentially in the tens of trillions) that looks amazingly cheap. And there’s no downside whatsoever, unless you count accidentally destroying the world by meddling in a system you don’t understand as a downside. Article also worthwhile for its example of nominative determinism – a Dr. Caldeira who studies volcanic eruptions.
Vox – The Uber recruitment scandal isn’t scandalous. Uber decided to pay for rides with Lyft drivers in order to convince them en route to switch to working for Uber. In the process of buying thousands of rides, some of them inevitably got cancelled, and this was framed as “Uber cancelling rides to sabotage Lyft”. My takeaway: the Uber-driving market is so competitive that companies are actually poaching employees from each other. An industry where people without college degrees or expensive government-granted licenses can get jobs without having to beg pathetically or do years of unpaid internships! Get it now before someone figures out how to make it illegal!
Do Poverty Traps Exist? Assessing The Evidence. Study in Journal of Economic Perspectives concludes: “Overall, our view of the existing literature finds no strong evidence for many of the common mechanisms theorized to give rise to poverty traps…while the evidence indicates that poverty traps are rare, this does not mean they can never exist. The clearest evidence for traps appears to come from people being trapped in low-productivity locations. Policy efforts to lower the barriers to internal and international mobility therefore appear to offer large potential payoffs in terms of taking people out of poverty.”
Very closely related: Childhood family income, adolescent violent criminality and substance misuse: quasi-experimental total population study. The question: does poverty cause crime, in the way everyone from Aristotle to the song Officer Krupke assumes? The answer: once “unobserved family risk factors” were taken into account, poverty had no ability to explain criminality rates. I can’t access the full text of the paper, but what I gather from Psychological Comments and The Economist was that the study investigated families who started poor, had children, became wealthier, and then had other children – such that some children were raised in poverty and others in relative affluence. The children raised in poverty were no more likely to commit crimes than the children raised in affluence, suggesting that “unobserved family risk factors” and not poverty per se account for the increased criminality rates among poor families. Tempting to say parents learn certain habits in poverty that they inculcate their children even after they are less poor, but other studies already show parental inculcation (in terms of shared environment) has very weak effect. So social scientists leap to the only possible remaining explanation: the siblings raised in poverty are controlling the cultural development of the siblings raised in affluence and are forcing their poverty-influenced memes into the heads of their younger brothers and sisters. Never change, social science. Never change.
Rational Conspiracy: What Is A Copy? Just in case you hadn’t already decided that personal identity is a hopelessly confused philosophical concept and needs to be jettisoned. Sandorzoo and Katja’s comments seem especially good.
I’m sorry I’m throwing all of these really dense study links at you tonight, but this one is too good to pass up: A Critical Reanalysis Of The Relationship Between Genomics And Well-Being. You may remember Fredrickson et al recently published a study purporting to show that the “connectedness and sense of purpose” of helping others can influence gene expression in positive ways, but the selfish pleasures of “hedonic happiness” do not. A re-analysis by a team including James Coyne proves that their statistical methods were so overpowered that they would give “significant results” 69% of the time by chance alone, and proved it by re-running their analysis on totally random data and continuing to find a strong “effect”. I like this methodology.
Vox on the Hamas-Israel cease-fire: who wins and who loses? Guessed before opening article that the Palestinian people would lose; was not proven wrong. Everything substantive stays much the same as it was before the mini-war, just as it did after the last couple of mini-wars. At this point, I think Israeli wars should be thought of less as any attempt to change things, and more as some sort of horrible tension-release cycle like forest fires in national parks where apparent crisis is just part of an inevitable return to equilibrium. At this point I feel like any change, to the advantage of either side, would be a welcome occurrence in breaking the incentives both have to maintain status quo.
Lobbies Of Detroit. I was in one of these for a psychiatry conference a few months ago.