Jeff Kaufman wades through conflicting claims about the effectiveness of SAT coaching.
And speaking of which: Scott Aaronson endorses Steven Pinker’s critique of the college admissions process, which you might remember from the last links post here. Yet another very persuasive essay. Key quote: “I admit that my views on this matter might be colored by my strange (though as I’ve learned, not at all unique) experience, of getting rejected from almost every “top” college in the United States, and then, ten years later, getting recruited for faculty jobs by the very same institutions that had rejected me as a teenager.”
Related to a recent conversation here: How To Fake Your Way Through Hegel. (h/t Oligopsony)
We don’t really know anything about the the London Stone except that it’s been called “the London Stone” and considered important in some way since at least 1100. Unproven theories include a Druidic cult object, the milestone marking the center of Roman Britain, a magical talisman protecting the city, and the stone from which King Arthur pulled his sword. It is currently in a little case built into the front of a bookstore.
Civilization: Beyond Earth (unofficially: “Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri II”) is available for pre-order for its October 24 release and has been gradually releasing faction information. They have a tough job: they need to live up to the beloved factions of their predecessors, match them to real-world countries, have them be sufficiently different to be interesting, and avoid the trap where there is the Generic Military Faction which thinks Strength Is The Greatest Good and the Generic Religious Faction which wants to Kill The Infidel. Currently I rate them a “C”. The Slavic Federation seems almost perfectly generic, the People’s African Union takes the easiest angle possible, the Polystralians are best described as “cute, I guess”, and only the Kavithan Protectorate seems to show slight signs of anything unexpected or creative. Given how burnt I felt after pre-ordering Civilization V, and this game’s reliance on the same engine, I might just wait and see.
Indian officials are investigating how the monkey god Hanuman got issued an official biometric identity card. Also: whose fingerprints and iris are those on there?
California bans Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar from offering carpool services at a lower price. I feel safer already. Don’t you feel safer?
My mother has been a school teacher for a long time, and she swears the kids are getting worse every year. This claim interested me when I first heard it, but I didn’t have any way to investigate. I still don’t, but AskReddit: Teachers Who Have Been Teaching For 20+ Years, How Are The Students Different? suggests that a lot of other people feel the same way. Although many of them think of it less as a gradual decline and more of a one-time drop around the late ’90s or so. Theories welcome.
A Survivor style gameshow where a Republican and Democratic senator compete to make it on an uninhabited desert island will air on the Discovery Channel next month. Key quote: “We can promise you a happy ending — even if it’s only two fewer senators.”
I will always link other people suggesting lithium in the water supply, especially if it’s the New York Times.
As we discuss whether the earning premium for a college degree represents genuine learned skills, signaling value, or a simple proxy for class, it’s worth noting that prostitutes with college degrees earn 31% more than those without.
A new study uses high-powered genetic clustering techniques to show that schizophrenia is actually eight distinct genetic disorders. Now something like this is almost certainly true, in that there are probably many very different ways you can end up with schizophrenia. On the other hand, there have been lots of attempts to do this sort of thing before and the statistics involved are notoriously iffy – even assuming the relevant axis along which to divide types of schizophrenia is indeed genetic. In any case, whether this is true or not I expect it to be ignored by psychiatry for at least ten years, until (if?) it gets replicated a few times and people find something useful you can do with the information.
I often talk about the contractarian idea that you shouldn’t cause trouble for your neighbors if you wouldn’t want your neighbors causing trouble for you, and I’ve specifically cited disruptive protests as a good example, but it usually stays pretty hypothetical. But here’s a town where the local pastor sent religious people to picket a strip club, and the strip club owner retaliated by sending strippers to picket the church.
Obsidian, one of the oldest substances used by mankind to make tools, still has the sharpest edge of anything known, so much so that obsidian scalpels make surgery safer than the traditional sort.
Before they settled on killing the Jews of Europe, the Nazis had a more creative plan: send them all to Madagascar. They hoped that after taking over Britain they could use the British merchant fleet to transport them, with the voyages being funded by confiscated Jewish assets. Imagine a world in which the plan was successful – say all European Jews deported to Madagascar – but the Nazis were defeated on schedule and the victorious Allies declared Madagascar the world Jewish homeland instead of Israel. Sure, we would probably end up debating Malagasay apartheid with the same fervency as the Gaza War. But the Madagascaraelis would have twenty times the land area of Israel, probably at least double the population (since it would include the six million murdered Europeans) and infinitely more farmland and natural resources. And they would be on a basically uninvade-able island. Between the land God promised us and the land Hitler promised us, I’m kinda going with advantage Hitler here. At the very least it would make good alternate history.
Hair Color Stereotyping And CEO Selection In The United Kingdom. Of the top 500 CEOs in the United Kingdom, 5% have blond hair, compared to 25% of the general population. Evidence of prejudice? Seems possible, although that is a scary large effect. Study also says none of the CEOs were non-white (removes possible confounder, but seems hard for me to believe – I know there’s prejudice, but seriously, 0/500?) and only two were women (which means that this is apparently a prejudice against blond hair in men). If true, this would be strong evidence in favor of the ability of prejudices to impede workplace advancement in a way that might be less confounded and politicized than real studies on race or gender or other more important things like that. But still want more evidence before I believe that blond hair cuts men’s chances of advancement by 80%.
Vox: The Democrats And Republicans Really Are Different. Some political scientists suggest that the Democrats and Republicans aren’t just mirror images of each other, but that they represent fundamentally different sorts of coalitions. The Democrats are a more practical coalition of a bunch of different interest groups, and the Republicans are a more ideologically motivated group of small-government true-believers. This asymmetry reflects a second asymmetry; because policy more often expands than contracts government, and it’s easier to enact policy than reverse it, Republicans are more comfortable with gridlock and dysfunction, which shapes their strategy. Reminds me of Land on the ratchet.
NASA makes the safest and most boring decision possible and chooses both Boeing and SpaceX as joint leaders in the contract to create the next generation of American manned spacecraft. The Reddit comment thread makes a pretty interesting point: Boeing is getting paid $4 billion and SpaceX $2 billion for the exact same service (1 spaceship meeting certain requirements). The reason: Boeing said they could do it for $4 billion, SpaceX said they could do it for $2 billion, and NASA gave both of them what they asked for. That’ll teach SpaceX to dare try to be cost-effective when seeking government bids! But others suggest a more complicated picture, where NASA will experiment to see if they can succeed with such low expenses, and if so they may have won themselves preferential treatment next time.
Less Wrong: Superintelligence Reading Group
The history of spies seducing people. Key quote: “When the KGB tried to blackmail Indonesian President Achmed Sukarno with videotapes of the president having sex with Russian women disguised as flight attendants, Sukarno wasn’t upset. He was pleased. He even asked for more copies of the video to show back in his country.”
What Can Evolutionary Biologists Learn From Creationists? Love thine enemy, for he teaches you the parts of your theory that need further investigation. H/t Dia Pente.
Teen drug and alcohol use continue to fall due to new anti-drug programs, according to same logic by which all rain dances work eventually.
Jeff Kaufman: Policies That Would Probably Make Us A Lot Better Off. Please assume this, if not quite a Consensus Rationalist Opinion on politics, is a lot closer to such than what random people on Tumblr accuse us of believing.
Seen on Tumblr: “When you hear this joke about Russell’s Paradox, you won’t be able to contain yourself.”