In 2007, the Texas Legislature officially declared that the West Pole was in the town of Bee Cave, Texas.
Vox: Hamilton’s Cabinet Battle #1 Explained. Using a silly song to investigate a tough question: how easy it is to map our current concepts of “right” and “left” onto the 1700s’ Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties? Is there a clear line between either of them and either modern party? With the perspective of history, can we clearly identify either as the “good guys”? Just similar enough to our own time to produce an uncanny valley effect.
“Blowback theory” is the common belief that the West’s overly harsh response to terrorism is itself encouraging more Middle Easterners to become terrorists. Anonymous Mugwump explains how studies do not support it. [EDIT: But some disagree, see here and comments]
That experiment people were saying showed a “cure for diabetes” that would prevent people from needing insulin? Actually an n = 14 safety study not designed to test efficacy. Yet still pretty cool.
The Greater Male Variability Hypothesis says that men will have more variability on most traits than women, and therefore the highest and lowest performers in lots of areas will be disproportionately male. It goes along with a neat genetic explanation: males don’t have a backup for the X chromosome and so small mutations there have more effect – and a neat evolutionary explanation: men have more variability in their reproductive success and so should pursue higher-risk strategies. A 2013 study gives the theory an interesting test – what about birds, where females are (bird equivalent of) XY and males XX? Here the female birds have more variability, suggesting the genetic principle is sound but casting doubt on the evolutionary explanation. Unless I’m misunderstanding something.
The 21 Bitcoin Computer is a computer that’s constantly producing bitcoins in the background and integrating them into some kind of micropayment structure so you can buy things without spending any of your own money on them. Problem is it costs $400, costs more in electricity than it makes in bitcoins, and is worse than any other payment method in practically every way. Nevertheless smart people have informed me that for complicated reasons this is The Future. We should probably all get three of them if we don’t want to be buried beneath the tide of progress.
I know I mentioned that there were rationalist solstice celebrations in SF and NYC, but I have been reminded that there is another celebration in Boston this Friday evening and one in Seattle on the 19th.
Israeli Jews have a fertility rate of 3, very high for developed countries, despite a high level of female education. Some of this is driven by the Orthodox, but even more liberal Israeli Jews average about 2.6, compared to more like 1.3 for secular Jewish Americans. Why such a big difference?
Related: Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas says he turned down a peace plan in 2008 because the Israelis demanded an on-the-spot decision from him and wouldn’t even let him show the plan to his advisors first. Now he is reduced to drawing the proposed border from memory because Israel wouldn’t let him keep the map. Really, Israelis? Really?
Steven Pearlstein: Four Tough Things Universities Should Do To Rein In Costs vs. Daniel Drezner: Four Tough Things Columnists Should Do Before Writing About Universities.
The Islamic State has a really professionally done English-language magazine, and you can read every issue online as long as you don’t mind probably ending up on various FBI lists. My favorite article is Issue 11, page 16, where they pre-emptively denounce Iran for taking the side of the Jewish Messiah in the End Times, even though said Messiah will probably be the Devil.
As usual you should read Harold Lee: The Confucian Heuristic.
As usual you should read Sarah Constantin: Regulatory Problems With Cancer Research.
I have always been skeptical of the research showing that spanking traumatizes children and causes them various problems throughout their life. For one thing, it’s a shared-environmental effect. For another, it’s just too convenient – this thing everyone in history has done forever turns out to be really bad for you, and the late-20th-century-rich-Westerner way of doing things is actually provably way better! Brian Boutwell is also skeptical, but unlike me he did a really complicated study that shows that a lot of this may be genetic confounds – some of the variation in which parents spank their children may be genetic, and these genes could be passed down to children and correlated with child outcomes. Exactly how much of the variation this explains I’m not sure, as the statistics get really complicated and their model goes all over the place.
New study: White police officers do show a racial bias in favor of ticketing black motorists. Twist: black police officers show a racial bias in ticketing white motorists.
RCT: Diet soda causes (slightly) more weight gain than water. You might think that’s obvious, but it really isn’t – a lot of diet sodas are zero-calorie, and water is zero-calorie, so classically they ought to be equivalent. Not sure whether this is a real result or confounded by something else – eg group randomized to diet soda primed to eat fast food because it goes well with soda, or something.
In the old days, people said poverty explained racial gaps in educational achievement. Then someone did a study controlling for poverty and found the gaps still remained. The new conventional wisdom points to concentrated poverty, the effects not just of being in poverty yourself, but growing up in a neighborhood full of other poor people. So what happens when you control for that? (warning: simple, non-peer reviewed analysis)
Space and time may be built out of quantum entanglement. Scott Aaronson very kindly tried to explain this to me, but I got hung up on how the qubits knew which other qubits they were entangled with if there was no spatial arrangement to them and information about those relationships didn’t seem to be encoded in any of the qubits that made up the universe. The answer seems to be “look, saying that qubits are entangled with each other might sound more complicated than saying they’re arranged in space, but the math is actually a lot simpler, so this is an important forward step”.
What should we do about the moribund state of the Less Wrong website? Should it be an aggregator, an archive, or something more?
That “gold standard” study “proving” that brain training worked? Included 70% attrition rate, carried over data from dropouts in a weird way, used a self-report measure, et cetera
What factors determine whether a country’s men are happier than its women or vice versa? As per a new paper in the Journal of Happiness Studies, the main determinant was that the lower the female employment rate, the happier (relative to men) women were; the female:male happiness ratio was highest (in favor of women!) in Muslim countries and the Middle East. Woodley papers always give me the impression that they are trolling, and this one is no exception. Related: Meta-analysis of gender differences.
So there is epigenetic information about weight carried in sperm cells, but that still doesn’t explain how it survives the general post-conception epigenetic reprogramming and nobody seems to be asking that question.
The big debate in effective altruism this month: earn to give, or choose a directly beneficial career?
You’ve heard of embodied cognition, now get ready for enclothed cognition.
Jacobin Magazine is obviously really variable, but Real Utopias is a surprisingly mature and readable piece. After admitting that advocating a giant revolution probably isn’t the best way to deal with the excesses of capitalism, they start a classification system for anti-capitalist activity including “eroding capitalism”, ie working within the system to create non-capitalist institutions that are better than capitalism and will eventually take over. Sounds a lot like some of the best libertarian and conservative ideas I hear about as well. There are worse futures than the one where politics turns into everyone competing to create awesome institutions that catch on and take over.
You know those oil paintings you can get for like $50 at Wal-Mart? You know how they look hand-painted? Turns out they are indeed hand-painted on giant art assembly lines all in a single Chinese village. I betray my Fake Capitalist Girl nature by feeling like maybe it would just be easier to print them off and save everyone the trouble.
I always felt the universally-cited statistic that 15% of depressives eventually commit suicide sounded way too high. Turns out it was indeed way too high. The study lasted five years, and 15% of the depressives who died during those five years died of suicide, but since most people don’t die in any five year period it was disproportionately the ones who died young who got counted. The real number is more like 2%. Also, REALLY?! NOBODY THOUGHT ABOUT THAT UNTIL NOW?!
Depending on what you classify as a “mass shooting”, you can prove pretty much whatever you want about mass shootings.
I discussed this during my talk in Boston, but it’s nice to have it all in one place: A meta-analysis of the fade-out effect in raising early intelligence. Extrapolated just a little, this is the sort of thing that makes me doubt college’s effects on critical thinking last very long.
The best discussion of gun control, like the best discussion of most other things, comes from Popehat: “OK, maybe not actually ::air quotes:: hounds ::air quotes::”
Finland is likely to enact a basic income of 800 euro/month! Not sure how close that is to a living wage in Finland or what will happen if it’s not enough for somebody. [EDIT: Finns are skeptical, preliminary, may not be happening]
After the Titanic sank, the government passed a law requiring ships to have lots of lifeboats. The weight of all the extra lifeboats made the S. S. Eastland top-heavy, and in 1915 it sank, killing 844 passengers. Sometimes I feel like everything is like this.
In my post on Lizardman’s Constant, I suggested polls include an obviously stupid option so we could see how many respondents were trolling. Now some tried that, and apparently the answer is it depends.
University of Ottawa bans free yoga class because yoga is a form of “cultural appropriation”. I hate to have to make a big deal of this, but since we still live in a world where Vox wants us to edit our browsers to auto-change “political correctness” to “treating people with respect”, fine, big deal it is. [EDIT: Doubts]
I’m cautiously optimistic about the Paris climate talks, and they have already resulted in an agreement to restore 360,000 square miles of African forest by 2030. Talk may be cheap, but they’ve also agreed on $1.5 billion in funding.
There are only two known polyhedra where each face shares an edge with each other face: the common tetrahedron and this thing.
Coronary angioplasty in stable heart disease does not improve survival.
Study: Sweden’s intensive refugee integration program has no effect on integration of refugees as measured by employment and earnings.
Why Is English So Weirdly Different From Other Languages? It’s got a lot of unique features, and their theory is that this was because Olde England was a complicated melting pot/invasion target of all different cultures. Fine. But wasn’t everywhere a complicated melting pot/invasion target of all different cultures? Still not seeing why that would make English special. Related: Is “eeny, meeny, miny, mo” the numbers one through four in Cornish?
Why does building subways in the US cost five times as much as building similar subways in European countries? How come American railroads have the same issues? How come Robert Moses was like the only American in the entire 20th century who could actually do a halfway-decent job getting infrastructure built, and how did that shape New York’s position as America’s preeminent city? Transit Infrastructure and the Temptations of Techno-Autocracy.
We know professors are more likely to be liberal than the average American. How much of that is increased intelligence versus some sort of academia-specific factor? Here, have a bar graph on the subject.
More on the compound interest question: The Effects of General Sherman’s March To The Sea. Southern counties devastated by Sherman’s scorched-earth strategy in the Civil War had some lingering ill effects even fifty years later. No news on whether those still persist.
Why don’t we ever hear about Alexander the Great’s brothers? Probably because he killed them all so they wouldn’t give him trouble.
Nowadays uniquely black names (eg DeShawn) are strongly correlated with poverty and other bad outcomes. But the early 20th century had its own set of uniquely black names, and black people with those names actually lived longer than everyone else. Why the change?
FDA approves clinical trial of metformin as anti-aging drug. Can’t we just use the randomized controlled trials for diabetes and see if the metformin group lived longer? Or did those not last long enough?
People with ADHD who take medication are about 30% less likely to turn to crime than those who remain unmedicated.
Paul Krugman reviews Robert Reich on skills gaps and unemployment, argues that there’s more monopoly in the economy than we think and this is having lots of bad effects despite the apparently convincing theoretical arguments for why this shouldn’t happen.
Why not build nuclear reactors in the ocean? Well, okay, but aside from that?