This month in bad graphs: Family Inequality on the weird way the New York Times confuses the trend in car accidents, and Stuart Buck on how some of the hype about rising white-working-class mortality comes from graph that exaggerates its point by using two different y-axes.
A Miami lawyer’s pants burst into flames while he was arguing in court. One hopes the judge instructed the jury to ignore the kabbalistic implications.
Tesco finalizes deal to give all unsold food to charity.
Illegal immigration through Mexico is down by almost half since last year. Some of Trump’s crueler policies might be interpretable in the context of trying to scare people out of illegal-immigrating.
Serum BDNF concentrations show strong seasonal variation and correlation with sunlight. Interesting as more evidence that BDNF matches everything we know about depression. So either the BDNF scientists are cooking the books really hard, it’s one of those things which is correlated in some complicated non-causal ways, or it’s a key to the mystery.
Jerry Coyne’s negative review of Cordelia Fine’s new book on the biology of sex/gender. Stuart Ritchie’s negative review. Greg Cochran’s negative review. Positive reviews from PZ Myers (though he possibly admits he gets his science wrong while also criticizing “the humanity” of anyone who points it out?) and of course the New York Times.
A long time ago I hosted an SSC-meetup-ish-thing in the offices of Quixey, a Silicon Valley company with a lot of connections to the rationalist and effective altruist movements. Unfortunately, Quixey is shutting down. There’s something kind of crazy about starting from nothing in 2009, getting valued at $600 million in 2015, and shutting down in 2017, but I guess that’s business. Or something.
Since Sweden etc are some of the happiest and most developed countries in the world, can we just copy their model?
In British naval parlance, ships with around 90 guns were called second-rates; since these were a little bit weaker than the flagships their name became a generic term for anything that was not quite as good as something else.
The Awl: I Talked To Some Trump Voters Too. “Except for roughly 7,200 articles on the subject, there has been scant effort made by the mainstream media to understand the kind of voters who say Trump speaks for them. So I set out on a road trip to the part of America most coastal elites don’t think about, except when they’re reading one of the fourteen daily pieces in the mainstream media where a journalist visits a town most coastal elites don’t think about.”
Related: I said a few months ago that Trump was considering choosing some exciting candidates for the FDA who might be true libertarians and really change things. Needless to say, Trump did not do that. Big Pharma is thrilled; I hope people think long and hard about the significance of an industry deeply relieved that they are not going to be deregulated. Watch for Gottleib to use vaguely libertarian rhetoric while continuing the crony capitalist system, drug prices to continue to rise, and liberals to declare this proves that libertarianism always fails.
Still related: lots of people have compared Trump to Andrew Jackson; what’s surprising is that he seems self-aware about it (or at least his handlers are). See eg Trump Adds Portrait Of President Jackson To Oval Office and Trump To Lay Wreath At Andrew Jackson’s Tomb. Pundits suspect “dog-whistle” for anti-Cherokee sentiment. Just as long as he doesn’t imitate Jackson’s attitude to the Supreme Court.
Leek & Jager: maybe most published scientific findings aren’t false.
Uber self-driving car progress report: humans still need to take control about once per-mile, with little progress made over the past few months.
TheOutgroup.org: visualizations of political polarization by graphing networks of pundits on Twitter. Recommended!
Somehow I stumbled across New-Culture.org, which I’m tempted to mock as the silliest and most contentless hippie thing I have ever seen. After more consideration, I think that I’m in favor. It seems like a rallying-flag to try to create a community, and contentless rallying flags can be a good thing if they attract the right people while preventing a community from being dependent on possibly-falsifiable statements.
Federal research bodies have started a “vast” deregulation of social science research, in the sense where you might no longer need to get the approval of fifty different ethics bodies before giving participants a written survey about how much TV they watch or whatever. As somebody with a couple of IRB horror stories myself this is actually inspiring me to think about doing more research. Kudos to everyone involved.
Tim Pool was the journalist who took up an InfoWars offer to go to Sweden and see for himself whether it’s plagued by migrant crime. Now he’s reported his results including a YouTube video and a Reddit AMA. Interesting since it’s one of the closest things yet to the “adversarial collaboration” model of journalism. Unfortunately, by the time it reached the mainstream media any signal had already been lost: Breitbart reports that he discovered Sweden was very dangerous, while Salon reports that he discovered Sweden was perfectly safe. He himself says that “what I found was interesting and in reality ‘closer to the middle’ in regards to the left/right narrative.”
Related: claims that 70% of French prisoners are Muslim are inaccurate (though the likely real number, 40%-50%, is still about five times their representation in the population).
Prison brutality: guards throw mentally ill inmate in scalding hot shower; leave him there until he dies. No punishment given.
80000 Hours does their research thing to try to identify the world’s most important problems.
A while back I blogged about how the government forced UC Berkeley to take down its library of free public videotaped lectures from its website because having audio was discriminatory against deaf people. Now lbry.io has mirrored them and put them up on their own website.
New startup plans a 150-seat battery-powered electric plane. Article focuses on the global warming impact, which makes me wonder about what I would expect to be electric planes’ big advantage – are they silent?
An unusually beautiful graph showing just how important genetics can be in various life domains.
New law proposal: lay tubes for underground broadband while you’re building roads, so that your city can have broadband later without anyone having to dig anything up. This sounds so sensible that there’s no way it can possibly happen.
Cost disease update: Navy team challenges itself to avoid the usual failure modes of military bureaucracy, designs new ramjet missile in six months with a $900 engine. “They were even able to buy the parts with a credit card, avoiding the time-consuming defense acquisition process.”
If UK countries were matched to US states in proportion to their percent of their respective nations’ population, then Scotland would be Texas, Wales would be Pennsylvania, Northern Ireland would be New Jersey, and England would be the other 47.
Remember how everyone was talking about how Trump must have inspired an anti-Semitic crime wave among his supporters? And remember how some of the incidents were traced to an anti-Trump socialist working at a leftist magazine? Well, the rest of them seem to be the fault of an Israeli Jew who may have a personality-altering brain tumor. The Atlantic has a pretty good postmortem of the whole affair.
How entomologists have become the first line of defense against delusional parasitosis. Warning: lots of creepy bug pictures.
A summary of the arguments for why multigenerational mobility is not as low as Clark thinks. I may be misunderstanding this field, but it seems to me that the randomized lottery-style experiments show there’s not much long-term transmission of wealth through non-genetic means (which makes sense since only one person can get an inheritance). But transmission of wealth through genetic means is heavily dependent on assortative mating, since three generations out your descendants only have an eighth of your genes anyway. I wonder if anyone has looked into whether the places that have been found to have unusually low intergenerational mobility (medieval Venice?) are the ones that have the most assortative mating.
Low-trust society: Russian store owner tries to hand out free bread to the poor, becomes widely suspected of plotting something.
Matt Levine quotes JP Konig on the Somali shilling (h/t Alex Guzey):
Old legitimate 1000 shilling notes and newer counterfeit 1000 notes are worth about 4 U.S. cents each. Both types of shillings are fungible—or, put differently, they are accepted interchangeably in trade, despite the fact that it is easy to tell fakes apart from genuine notes. This is an odd thing for non-Somalis to get our heads around since for most of us, an obvious counterfeit is pretty much worthless. The exchange rate between dollars and Somali shillings is a floating one that is determined by the cost of printing new fake 1000 notes. For instance, if a would-be counterfeiter can find a currency printer, say in Switzerland, that will produce a decent knock off and ship it to Somalia for 2.5 U.S. cents each (which includes the cost of paper and ink), then notes will flood into Somalia until their purchasing power falls from 4 to 2.5 U.S. cents … at which point counterfeiting is no longer profitable and the price level stabilizes.
SJWs in tech hound a top programmer out of the Drupal community for being into BDSM. On the one hand, the Drupal community leader has been hinting that there are aspects of the case he can’t reveal publicly. On the other, I feel like if you are firing someone for something you cannot make public, you should say so, instead of stating a clear reason for firing him and then mumbling about secrets when people tell you that your reason is stupid. Also a nominative determinist aspect: the guy leading the purge is named “Purer”.
A profile of Nathan Robinson and Current Affairs. If you’re not reading them you’re missing out; you can only get about 50% of the material from listening to me yell at the parts I don’t like.
Some people have reevaluated STAR*D data with symptom clustering? And found differences? In the efficacy of antidepressants? Will have to look at this one more closely sometime.
Did you know: Ten-year-old Ayn Rand was best-friends-forever with Vladimir Nabokov’s little sister, and they would meet at Nabokov’s mansion and have adorable ten-year-old-girl political debates with each other.
Marginal Revolution: Last year, 35% of colleges saw international student numbers go up, 26% saw no change, and 39% saw them go down. New York Times publishes this with the headline “Amid Trump Effect Fear, 40% of Colleges See Dip in Foreign Applicants”. This may be even more dishonest than that other NYT headline.
Breitbart claims Venezuelans are now literally using rare Pepes as currency.
Nobody knows why the ancient Romans needed quite so many mysterious dodecahedrons.
The poor woman is just trying to clean the leaves!