Confucianism is newly popular in China after bouncing back from its Cultural Revolution-era ban. The government hopes to build up the philosophy as some kind of principled alternative to Western liberalism, although for now it still seems kind of forced. Bonus for people with too many stereotypes about the conformist East: one of the leaders of the Confucian revival decided to make his point by going around in old Confucian-style robes.
Eliezer Yudkowsky thinks AlphaGo’s victory is a pretty big sign.
Relevant to our interests: a new study on guns and homicide continues to find a correlation; goes part of the way to eliminating a reverse-causation hypothesis.
George R. R. Martin’s continent of Westeros is just Britain and an inverted Ireland mashed together.
After I complained about weighted blankets costing too much, Kate very kindly found one that only costs $90.
Can we really kill all mosquitos in the world to eliminate malaria? Obviously there are some risks here, but risks have to be weighed against benefits – if we don’t do it, mosquito-borne diseases keep killing one million people each year. Related: general staring in awe at the possibilities of CRISPR. Related: can gene drives mitigate wild animal suffering? Of course Brian Tomasik weighs in.
A lot of talk recently on the persistency of ancestry-adjusted economic success – that is, the peoples who were doing more agriculture thousands of years ago are more modernized and prosperous today. Here’s Brian Caplan (with some extra recommendations) and Dietrich Vollrath, and an NBER paper on Africa – Garett Jones has also been talking about this a lot. “You can control your country’s future ancestors!” is the new motto for immigration skepticism.
China Channel is a Firefox add-on that puts you behind the Great Firewall of China. Useful for journalists and developers who want to know how (and if) Chinese people will view their site; interesting for other people who want to know what Chinese Internet users have to go through every day. Warning: you may be authentically kicked off various websites or the whole Internet and not be able to browse normally again until you turn this off.
“Shockingly” successful new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease in mice. Compound already has some medical uses and so might be prescribable off-label (though talk to a real neurologist first before you believe this).
If you ever wanted to know what Louis XIV, Mark Antony, and James Maxwell would look like if they were pretty anime girls, now you have moehistory dot tumblr dot com.
Plomin et al on Discontinuity in the genetic and environmental causes of the intellectual disability spectrum. Severely disabled people have specific disorders not related to normal intellectual variation; mildly disabled people just got the short end of the stick in the ordinary genetic lottery.
The Netherlands is training attack eagles to solve their drone problem. Next step: train attack pterodactyls to solve their eagle problem.
Redditors recollect the best Cards Against Humanity plays ever.
Spotted Toad discusses a paper about genetic confounds to value-added teacher pay. If I understand it right (uncertain; it’s pretty complicated) your genes affect not only how much you’ve already learned, but how much you will learn in each particular year. So if we paid teachers based on how much their students’ test scores improve, we might just be rewarding teachers who get genetically-lucky children. Also, the study doesn’t really make a big deal of this and I don’t trust myself to have definitely understood this correctly, but it looks like they might have calculated what percent of variation in test scores (corrected for past test scores) is due to the school environment and found it to be 4%? That would be…something.
Man hacks a bunch of drones together to create a functioning hoverboard, flies it over a lake,
is slain by Dutch attack eagles.
A few years ago, some libertarians said they would move to New Hampshire if 20,000 other libertarians also agreed to move to New Hampshire. The theory was that New Hampshire was small and already pretty libertarian, and 20,000 people is a lot of people, so they would have a lot of influence to affect the state and build the sort of libertarian community they wanted. Now they’ve finally gotten their 20,000 and the move will be beginning soon. Needless to say this is a pretty creative way of doing activism. I generally support people branching off into legally isolated communities in order to let everyone achieve their goals simultaneously – but if I were a non-libertarian New Hampshirite right now I would be pretty upset.
The Brain Preservation Foundation’s $25,000 Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize has been won by a team who demonstrated “near perfect, long-term structural preservation of an intact mammalian brain” with obvious positive implications for cryonics. Next step is the conceptually similar Large Mammal Prize, which is offering $25,000 for a perfectly preserved pig brain – just in case any of you happen to have one lying around.
Impressive recent progress in US internet speed.
“Other people don’t use Twitter the way you do”: one random tweet selected from the website per click.
On the one hand, my theory of a vast conspiracy to replace success-based-on-merit with success-based-on-college-admissions plus college-admissions-based-on a-fuzzy-system-which-in-the-end-will-reduce-to-social-class-and-conformity was overly paranoid and politicized. On the other hand, this article.
If Clinton wins the primary, will Sanders backers be too bitter to support her in the general? I’m betting ‘no’, but an interesting question and a parable on the dangers of being too quick to insult your opponents.
Study: Low resting heart rate is associated with violence in late adolescence. This isn’t the first time people have found this, either. My totally non-serious troll theory is that this is why stimulants decrease adolescent violence.
This week in academic intolerance: Christian college kicks out professor who says Christians and Muslims worship the same god. I didn’t even know that was up for debate!
Another top doctor in another top medical journal blasts the state of nutrition science – this time it’s cardiologist Steven Nissen in Annals of Internal Medicine. Obligatory denunciation of Ancel Keys is of course included. The Washington Post has a really good post-mortem with a survey of the arguments and counterarguments. Possible summary: “Everyone agrees nutrition science is hard, but nutrition scientists are trying their best, and maybe you could lay off them for a while and also stop reporting every single preliminary result of theirs on the front page of the newspaper”.
The effect of culture: German families who watched West German as opposed to East German TV had fewer children, maybe because the West German shows promoted a culture of smaller family sizes. I freely admit I would not have predicted this and will have to adjust a lot of my beliefs.
All you people who say you’re tolerant of everybody whether they’re white or black or purple, now is your time to shine.
Tyler Cowen’s unemployment bet with Bryan Caplan.
The US is finally starting to win Math Olympiads, and all it had to do was get a couple of bright kids out of the normal school system and into places that could cultivate their talents. With a shout-out to SPARC, which is (was?) affiliated by CFAR and MIRI.
Raptors (the birds, not the dinosaur) may be deliberately spreading fire. Next step: arm pterodactyls with AK-47s to solve the fire-wielding raptor problem.
Study: the more vengeful your god, the more cooperative your society.
Study: over the past decade, the black incarceration rate has gone way down.
This week in things that don’t replicate: some of the advantages of bilingualism. Bonus for suggested adversarial collaboration, malus for the adversary saying “no way”.
Can classical conditioning of the immune system partly replace normal immunosuppressant drugs?!
New study challenges the idea that Native Americans drink more, finds in self-report survey that Native Americans drink at the same rate (and the same amount) as various other groups. But as usual, read the r/science comments, and remember that hospital records, which are a lot more trustworthy than self-report surveys, treat Native Americans for alcohol-related complaints at four times the usual rate. I continue to be wary of self-report drug use surveys.
Old and boring: Markov chains. New and exciting: neural nets trained to predict texts. From Strunk & White: “The most useful kind of paragraph is the Possessive Jesus Of Composition And Publication. The Possessive Jesus Of Composition And Publication is a paragraph of two independent legs in which the reader will probably find a series of three thousand or more emphatic statements…this sentence cannot help himself by substituting a semicolon for a comma. Instead, the sentence will always do well to examine his brother the paragraph and to write twenty ideas that are related to the paragraphs. In spring summer or winter sentences should be avoided.”
The newest study on benzodiazepines says they do not in fact raise dementia risk. Take this alongside the latest studies on cannabis not in fact affecting IQ, and maybe we should be a little more careful with correlational drug side effect research.
Speaking of careful drug side effect research! Previous correlational studies have failed to really show any problems with light drinking in pregnancy, but might have been confounded by mostly healthy people drinking more. A new study (excellent summary by Vox here) uses “Mendelian randomization” – that is, it compares people with genes that predispose them to drink more versus people with genes that predispose them to drink less. Since genes are upstream from everything else, it’s harder to confound those than actual drinking habits (I was originally concerned about them finding inter-population differences, but they seem to have controlled appropriately). The new methodology finds that light drinking does indeed harm babies, and the CDC has updated its guidelines to suggest that any women who might be pregnant, even without knowing it, should avoid drinking.
Public Policy Polling’s new South Carolina report will tell you which candidates’ supporters are predominantly male versus female, or older vs. younger. It will also tell you less frequently polled questions, like which kind of barbeque sauce they like, who they think should have won the Civil War, and whether or not interning the Japanese during World War II was a good idea. Note that only Republicans got the fun questions, so the Very Liberal category has miniscule sample size and shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Many chapters of the Koran began with mysterious combinations of letters. Theories include impenetrable divine secrets vs. the initials of the scribes who first recorded them.
A secret government AI called SKYNET is malfunctioning and sending its heavily armed robots to kill innocent people. This is not a drill.
This week’s best-titled physics blog post: The Universe Has A High (But Not Infinite) Sleep Number.
The American Enterprise Institute has determined that the average person would only get an extra $70/year if we stopped paying CEOs ridiculous salaries and gave it to the workers instead. Unfortunately, this is the American Enterprise Institute being very tricky. A commenter on r/economics points out the problems, re-does the analysis, and finds that the per capita bonus would actually be as high as $406/year. Still not going to single-handedly solve poverty, but starting to look a little more attractive.
You’ve probably already read the commentary on Scalia’s death, but did you know that there was a play about him and an opera about his friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Or that he helped push Obama to nominate (the very liberal) Elena Kagan to the Court?
Noah Smith: Some new evidence suggests, contra economic theory, that free trade with China has cost jobs without necessarily replacing them elsewhere. David Friedman, any thoughts?
Educational psychology’s omnipresent superstar theory of “grit” claims that success depends not on any innate ability but on a (teachable) passion for sticking to hard work in the face of difficulties. Now it’s been tested (abstract, news article), and…”grit” accounts for 0.5% of variation in academic achievement (compared to 40% for intelligence). To add insult to injury, “grit” turns out to be pretty much identical to plain old Conscientiousness, which like everything else is about half heritable and half non-shared environment. I assume the grit research community has sworn to diligently keep pushing on in the face of this hardship. Also, would somebody please use this methodology for growth mindset?
When the Chinese bureaucrats who invented the Three Represents, the Four Olds, and the Eight Honors get bored and stop taking pride in their work, you get the propaganda campaign in favor of the Two Whatevers.
For fans of HPMoR or Japanese light novels: Eliezer Yudkowsky has a new novella, A Girl Corrupted by the Internet is the Summoned Hero?! (sample of first few chapters available here)