Owl species of the week: the Powerful Owl.
You may have heard the theory that the famous God-reaching-toward-Adam picture in the Sistine Chapel actually encodes an anatomically correct image of the human brain. But did you know that another Sistine Chapel image, The Separation of Light from Darkness, might contain a detailed diagram of the medulla? Apparently the whole Sistine Chapel ceiling was just one big disguised anatomy textbook, or something.
The statistics behind why Antigua & Barbuda (population 90,000) can have a better soccer team than China (population 1.3 billion), and how this applies to other measures of national differences and success.
GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz acting out a scene from The Princess Bride and actually being pretty good at it.
I previously said some nice things about ASAN and the neurodiversity movement, but Slate has published a couple of exposes on them that might force me to take that back. A big part of their argument is that we don’t need cures because autistic people, even supposedly nonverbal autistic people, prove to be intelligent and self-reliant when given proper accomodations. But by “proper accomodations” they usually mean Facilitated Communication, and this is actually pseudoscience that works on about the same principles as the Ouija Board. Related: ASAN New York doubles down on supporting Facilitated Communication.
From the Department of Living In The Future: Dubai Firefighters To Get Jetpacks For Fighting Skyscraper Fires.
A while back I pointed out some polls suggesting that white people’s opinion of police improved after the Ferguson shooting, apparently as a kind of backlash-to-the-backlash effect. Possibly related: favorability ratings of Muslims rise after every big Islamic terrorist attack.
In the 1980s Democrats and Republicans both supported Israel about the same amount. Over the next thirty years, Republican support for Israel shot way, way up. Why did that happen, and will it politicize Israel enough to start making the Democrats dislike it?
Chutzpah: Wired writes an article on a $100,000 nano-sapphire razor mocking its ridiculous cost and saying that “It’s all so depressing…if Zafirro sells a single one of these, the world will be a worse place.” Zafirro’s now got it on Kickstarter, with an “as seen on Wired” advertisement.
Lots of continuing discussion about Garrett Jones’ new IQ-of-nations book Hive Mind. Open borders supporter Robin Hanson says that “I must admit to now being more nervous about allowing more impatient and stupid immigrants, though as Bryan Caplan points out, that still allows for taking on billions of smart immigrants. But even if I’m now mildly more reluctant to take on certain kinds of immigrants, I’ll blame that mainly on our poor governance institutions, which give too much weight to the stupid and the impatient.” Bryan Caplan says that given some common assumptions about discount rate, open borders is still an obviously good policy. Jones answers that given Bryan’s assumptions about discount rates, open borders would still be an obviously good idea even if it set off a thousand-year dark age. You can see the full debate between them here (warning: video).
David Friedman on legal systems very different from ours.
Did you know: according to the Star Wars Extended Universe, Jar Jar Binks’ father is named George R. Binks, and he attempted suicide because of how annoying his son was.
The Ku Klux Klan had little measurable impact on society in terms of any variables being different in areas with high vs. low Klan participation. What it did have was – seriously – a really sweet business selling overpriced robes, such that it might best be viewed as “rather than a terrorist organization, a social organization built through a wildly successful pyramid scheme fueled by an army of highly-incentivized sales agents selling hatred, religious intolerance, and fraternity in a time and place where there was tremendous demand.”
Giving one party or the other unified control of a US state government has surprisingly little effect – for example, increasing (or decreasing) welfare payments about $2 per month per recipient, and switching the political climate of a state an amount only “one-twentieth the size of the typical difference between states”
Uber for flu shots is actually just regular Uber.
The H-1B visa lottery seems to be gamed by a few big companies that spam the government with applications. A new company is trying to counter-game the system by helping current H-1B holders transfer to new companies, leaving the big companies that got them their visas wailing and gnashing their teeth.
Psilocybin makes brain regions more connected. To some degree this is cool. To another, I’m starting to worry that every time neuroscientists are asked to explain something they flip a coin, and if it lands heads they say “this increases connections between brain regions” and if it lands tails they say “this decreases connections between brain regions”.
The time a legion of 40,000 Czechoslovakians went to fight in Russia, then were blocked by World War I and the Russian Revolution from crossing back into Czechoslovakia. One of them remembered that the world was round, and so began a three year, 20,000 mile journey to bring the entire legion around the world.
People are much more likely to identify as nonwhite when given affirmative action incentives to do so. Also: theory of a correlation between campus affirmative action and the latest round of campus protests (not just “affirmative action means more minorities and so more protests by minorities”, more interesting than that)
From the Department Of Things That Are Obvious In Retrospect: nutrition study finds that different people have widely varying metabolic responses to the same foods.
Despite their growing demographic disadvantage, Republicans are likely to maintain Congressional and state-level power in the US for the next few decades.
People talk a lot about restoring monarchy these days, but nobody ever mentions what rule of succession we should use. The genetics community comes through and proves that optimal royal succession moves from parent to opposite-sex child.
Why are scientists finding fungi in the brains of Alzheimers patients (but not healthy controls)? The Economist also comments. I don’t know much about this, but I would think if it were straight-out caused by fungus, someone would have noticed that people treated with antifungals had their Alzheimers go away / stop progressing. Other possibility – Alzheimers is a disruption to the brain’s immune system (it is) and this makes it harder for it to get rid of fungi.
French organization demands a law that imams must obtain a license certifying them to be liberal and tolerant before preaching. So far, so racist – except that the organization involved is actually France’s largest Muslim group, and this seems less about Islamophobia than about regulatory capture and attempts at monopolizing a religious ‘market’ – guess who they hope would be giving out the licenses.
H/T Stephen Guyenet: this chart is a pretty damning one-image rebuttal to people who think sugar is responsible for the obesity epidemic.
Vox: Wait a second, why are we all so sure that constant front-runner Donald Trump will suddenly crash and burn just before the election for no apparent reason?
Sam Harris really doesn’t like Salon, and as per his story Salon lied about editing one of his interviews.
Another good example of how reporters have lots of degrees in freedom when deciding how to report studies: recent research finds that women with lots of tattoos have higher self-esteem – and four times as many suicide attempts.
Time to take the 2015 Effective Altruism Survey – your participation is welcome even if you do not identify as an effective altruist.
Scott Sumner has a new book out, The Midas Paradox, which despite having a perfect title for an airport thriller in fact is about how issues with the gold market help explain the Great Depression. Tyler Cowen reviews and calls it “a very good book, one of the best on the economics of the Great Depression ever written.”