International Date Line In Judaism: Some authorities posit a “zone of pure doubt” stretching from longitudes 169W to 177E and containing Tonga, Samoa, and American Samoa, where it is so confusing when to observe Shabbat that Jews should just completely avoid that whole area of the world on weekends.
Science challenge: cure Alzheimers disease. Science challenge, hard mode: cure Alzheimers’ disease with an animated .gif. One team gives it their best shot (news article, paper). Here is a sample 30 Hz stimulus (warning: flashing seizure lights!)
Speaking of flashing seizure lights, Twitter is investigating claims that Trump supporters, angry at an outspoken liberal journalist, tweeted flashing “You Deserve A Seizure” .gifs at him and actually gave him a seizure. We are finally living in the cyberpunk dystopia we were promised.
The man who put up $1.5 million to save 200 Syrian refugees, plus a profile of Canada’s program allowing private citizens to sponsor refugee immigration.
Related to recent discussion of school costs: India’s private and public hospitals are both equally good (bad), but the private hospitals cost only 1/4 as much. Why is this so different from the US picture?
Some jails are banning in-person visits in favor of buggy video calls. Needless to say, a for-profit corporation with a dystopian-sounding name is involved.
More in the “early school starting age is bad” files: earlier school starting age increases crime in US, earlier school starting age increases crime in Denmark, earlier school starting age increases obesity in Australia. Meanwhile, on the other side, James Heckman proposes spending $18,000 per pupil per year to enroll all children in public preschool from birth. (but see here)
Smeed’s Law: London traffic will always travel at 9 mph. Accurate to within 2% over more than 50 years?
Current Affairs: Banning Smoking In Public Housing Is Just Another Experiment On The Poor. I agree with the article but disagree with the title; this policy is not an experiment at all, no one’s looking for any data, it’s just a badly-thought-out law that will control poor people’s lives in an ethos of “we know your values better than you do”. I feel the same way about smoking bans in mental hospitals, which are a bad idea and lead a lot of people who needs hospitalization to reject it; all they accomplish is to make mentally ill smokers miserable for a few days before they leave and go back to their cigarettes.
Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (ie John Ioannidis’ team) is looking for interested postdocs who want to do a fellowship there.
The collapse of the Soviet Union led to mild food shortages in Cuba, and the average citizen lost about ten pounds – making the country a natural laboratory for the health benefits of losing weight.
Buzzfeed: for profit mental hospitals commit people who don’t need hospitalization to increase the bottom line. Yet another example in the genre of “stop privatizing entities with coercive power”, also featuring a big corporation with a dystopian name. Although note that there are factors incentivizing the same behavior, albeit on a lesser scale, in every hospital system.
A warning that the ingroup can be just as vulnerable to bad science as the outgroup: Future Of Life Institute says that adding women to x-risk related groups is a top priority since higher % women “raises group IQ”. But this theory seems on shaky ground after better studies show group IQ is independent of gender of members, mostly just a function of individual IQ. [EDIT: do note that the FLI article was published before the study I cite]
Life imitating XKCD: the guy who runs Snopes.com is rumored to have defrauded the website to pay for prostitutes, and I have no idea where to go to figure out if the story is true.
New essay challenging the effective animal activist movement. Mixture of good and bad claims, not to be taken uncritically, but their point about the “number of animals helped per dollar” figures being wildly exaggerated seem broadly right.
Seasteading leaders meet French Polynesian president, receive positive signals about their plan to build a seastead in the area. I’m a little confused about this: if they’re building in French Polynesian sovereign waters with the approval of the French Polynesian government, how is this better than just building a charter city on land with the approval of that land’s sovereign government?
In 1997, the New York Times and Australian federal government investigated surprisingly plausible rumors that a death cult had detonated a primitive nuclear weapon in the Australian outback
Forget fake news. If you really want to see what’s going on with the media, check out the differing ways the Washington Post versus Marginal Revolution report the same study on historical Asian-American incomes, then read the study itself.
The Reichsbürgerbewegung are kind of the German equivalent of sovereign citizens, and believe that Germany is still legally under the control of the pre-World War II Weimar government; since this government doesn’t exist they believe that legal control devolves to anyone who claims to be the legitimate successor of that government (eg themselves). Some of them go pretty far, appointing their own cabinets, legislatures, etc, consisting of fellow conspiracy theorists.
David Shor: “Democrats’ decline among non-southern white working class voters started with Bill Clinton, not the Civil Rights Act.” (+ graph)
New study analyzes partisan bias in mainstream news sources, finds there’s not very much of it, with a few totally obvious exceptions like Daily Kos and Breitbart (Graph, graph, paper, h/t Anonymous Mugwump). Probably worth pushing and popularizing this; I had hoped that increasing criticism of mainstream media bias would cause papers to clean up their act and consumers to read critically; instead it’s mostly just pushed people away from slightly-biased mainstream sources to incredibly-biased alternative sources. Related chart.
A British journalist reporting on heroin addicts cultivated a heroin addiction to try to better understand his subjects (video link, Reddit thread). He ended up addicted for at least five years, though I’m having trouble finding out if he ever recovered. Relevant to eternal debate about “there’s no such thing as addictive drugs, just people with terrible lives”.
New study suggests female doctors deliver (slightly) better care than male doctors in some situations. As far as I can tell it looks sound and isn’t missing anything obvious. A lot of speculation as to cause, mostly repeating platitudes about women being “more nurturing”, but previous studies have shown female doctors spend more time per patient and I’d look into that first.
The Aztecs, Maya, and Inca never got out of the Stone Age before being conquered, but there was Pre-Columbian Native American tribe that technically made it into the Iron Age: the Dorset Inuit, who cheated by stumbling across a deposit of rare telluric iron which was usable without smelting. Also in “Inuit are cool” news this week: Inuit may have received cold tolerance genes by interbreeding with extinct human subspecies.
My home state of Michigan takes the lead in legalizing driverless cars.
Study finds that bias is common in introductory psychology textbooks, “particularly related to failing to inform students of the controversial nature of some research fields and repeating some scientific urban legends as if true”.
Ribbonfarm on the tragic history of prison reform.
Brazil has just passed the most extreme austerity measure in history in the middle of a recession, locked in with a clause making it impossible to repeal for 10-20 years. A…bold…choice. If nothing else, it’ll provide good data for future generations of macroeconomists. Register your predictions now!
Redditor describes why Trump’s tweet threatening to cancel the F-35 in favor of an updated F-18 is such a horrible idea.
A Muslim woman who claimed that a white man threatened to set her on fire for wearing a hijab just after the election of Donald Trump is to be charged with a felony for filing a false report after a police investigation. This one makes me angry because it was in Ann Arbor (where I work) and really freaked out one of my patients; it’s important to remember that these kinds of things have real-world consequences beyond The Internet Discourse. Related: during the election, a black church was set on fire and covered with Trump graffiti; a black member of the church has now been charged with the crime. Related: pro-Trump swastikas and KKK graffiti across Nassau Community College apparently drawn by Indian-American man. I do not want to cherry-pick/Chinese-robber false hate crimes, but I think these were the three top hate crime stories I hear during the election and it concerns me that it’s not being more widely reported that all three were false. Also related: SLPC investigation of hate crimes after Trump election covered up 2,000 reports of hate incidents against white students.
Obama signs law that gives protection to atheists, which isn’t that interesting, but I’m linking the article anyway because I like the picture.
Wrong Way Corrigan was a famous aviator who crossed the Atlantic solo a little after Charles Lindbergh’s famous flight. He won his nickname after constantly petitioning the authorities for permission to try the Atlantic crossing and constantly being refused; he did however receive permission to fly from New York to California. So he set off from New York, claimed to have “accidentally” gone the wrong way, and ended up in Ireland a few days later. No one ever proved anything, the worst punishment he got was a two-week suspension of his pilot’s license, and he passed into legend as the patron saint of people who go the wrong direction – with references in pop culture works like “Gilligan’s Island” and “Animaniacs”.
Myths Of Human Genetics, mostly of the sort “trait X is coded for by exactly one gene in a simple Mendelian manner”. They’re kind of nitpicky about this, though.
Stuck with gift cards you don’t want after the holidays? CoinStar offers a cash-for-gift-cards service. I hope someone got rich off of this idea.