Hackers encode malware that infects DNA sequencing software in a strand of DNA. Make sure to run your family members through an antivirus program before ordering genetic testing.
Every time I feel like I’ve accepted how surprising optical illusions can be, somebody comes out with an even more surprising one that I have to double-check in Photoshop to confirm it’s really illusory.
Effective altruist organizations estimate it may cost about $7,500 in efficient charitable donations to save one life. But the median American believes it only takes about $40. This and more from a survey on charity discussed on 80,000 Hours.
OpenAI creates AI that can beat some of the best human players in a limited version of the complex online multiplayer game DOTA 2. A few days later, Reddit’s DOTA2 community develops strategies for defeating the AIs. Human creativity wins again!
New method of killing bacteria, a “star-shaped polymer [that rips] apart their cell walls” may be a breakthrough in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
Did you know: Pablo Picasso was once questioned by police who suspected he had stolen the Mona Lisa.
Study: Asian-Americans are treated differently due to their weight – ie fat Asians are viewed as more likely to be “real” Americans.
The list of Michigan Department Of Corrections’ list of books prisoners may not read (h/t gabrielthefool). Includes the atlas (providing maps raises escape risk), textbooks on making webpages with HTML (what if they learn to hack?), and all the Dungeons and Dragons manuals (marked as “threat to order and security of institution”, for some reason). “I shouldn’t be astounded at the level of control and dehumanization in such a list, but somehow I am.”
From the jury selection hearings for the Martin Shkreli trial. I refused to believe this was real at first, but I’ve seen it in multiple credible sources and I guess I’m satisfied. And Ross Rheingans-Yoo spoils our fun and reminds us that actually all of this is deeply disappointing.
LiveScience reaches Peak Rat Study: Why Men Love Lingerie: Rat Study Offers Hints. “Just as lingerie turns on human males, tiny jackets do the same for male rats, a new study finds.”
Did you know: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Twitter was the first source to report on Osama bin Laden’s death.
I assume this is just lawyers amusing themselves, but technically a New Zealand law could disqualify all Australians from serving in their own Parliament.
Annie Dillard’s classic essay on a solar eclipse. I wanted to write something serious and profound about my eclipse experience, but I gave up after realizing there was no way I could match this.
The mountains of Victoria, Australia, include Mount Useful, Mount Disappointment, Mount Terrible, Mount Buggery, and Mount Typo.
Voting system theorists use voting system to systematically vote on voting systems, determine that among 18 options approval voting is best, plurality voting (what the US uses) is worst.
Julia Galef’s List Of Unpopular Ideas About Social Norms. Number 3: “It should not be considered noble to remain anonymous when donating to charity, because publicizing one’s donation encourages other people to donate.”
New Yorker: Is There Any Point To Protesting? This seems like a really important question, especially given how hard it is to trace whether any recent protests have resulted in real change. The article discusses it briefly (and presents some evidence against), but then shifts topics to a less interesting (though still worth reading) tangent about whether modern decentralized protests work worse than 60s-style highly-regimented ones.
I’ve mentioned a bunch of times on here that studies show going to a therapist isn’t necessarily any better than getting a good therapy self-help workbook. Now unsurprisingly a meta-analysis of these studies shows the same thing (paper, popular article).
Just learned 80,000 Hours has a podcast. This week’s topic: pandemic preparedness. I got to talk to some biosecurity researchers at EA Global. The consensus was that we should all be really scared of bioterrorism, but that they can’t explain why – sharing their list of Top Ten Easy Ways To Create A Global Pandemic might not be the best way to promote public safety. If you want to work on this cause and have (or can get) relevant skills, contact 80,000 Hours at the link on their website.
A cartoon from a 1906 newspaper’s Forecasts For 1907 (h/t Steve Omohundro)
I’d previously heard the good news that, even though inequality was rising within developed countries, at least global inequality was on its way down. This good news may no longer be true.
Did you know: Happy, hapless, perhaps, mishap, happen, and haphazard all come from from the same Norse root “hap” – meaning “chance”.
Darktka does a really good nootropics survey – way better than mine – but with mostly expected results. Their tl;dr: “Most substances seem to have no or only slight effects when rated subjectively. Most substances with substantial effects were already well-known for their effects, some of them are prescription drugs or pharmaceuticals.” Do note how selegiline and l-deprenyl often get very different results, sometimes barely within each other’s confidence intervals, despite being different names for the same chemical.
GoogleMemoGate update: Fired memo-sender James Damore has set up a Twitter account at @Fired4Truth with 78,000 followers and is well on his way to receiving $60,000 from crowdfunding. Part of me is optimistic; maybe people will feel less afraid if there’s an expectation that other people will look after them if they’re fired. But another part of me is worried that this creates a strong financial pressure for martyrs to transform themselves into sketchy alt-right-linked celebrities obsessed with being politically incorrect – which will retroactively justify firing them, and leave anyone who defended them with egg on their face. In some ways this is a difficult debate without a clear answer. In other ways – Fired4Truth?! Really?! You really couldn’t think of a less sketchy-sounding brand?!
Related: Quillete has an article by four domain-expert scientists who support some of the Google memo’s claims; their site then gets DDoS-ed and taken down. It seems to be back online now. Remember they’re dependent on reader donations.
Vs. Traffic Court. “Traffic laws are supposed to be about safety. But many of us feel strongly that they’re mostly about money. And in that short trial, I was able to make that point…”
Viral joke going around Chinese Twitter about what they would tell Chairman Mao if he came back today, translated by Matt Schrader.
Finally, AI learns to do something useful: remove watermarks from stock images.
I like Venkatesh Rao’s work, because it gives me a feeling of reading something from way outside my filter bubble. Like it’s by a bass lure expert who writes about bass lures, secure in the knowledge that everyone he’s ever met considers bass lures a central part of their life, and who expects his readers to share a wide stock of bass-lure-related concepts and metaphors. But Rao writes about modern culture from a Bay Area techie perspective, which really ought to be my demographic. I guess filter bubbles extend along more dimensions than I thought. Anyway, everybody’s talking about The Premium Mediocre Life Of Maya Millennial, and people who know more about bass lures than I do assure me it’s really good (it also says nice things about me!)
Spotted Toad: Good And Bad Arguments Against The Obamacare Opiate Effect – ie the claim that some of the increased opiate-related mortality is due to easier access via Obamacare.
Would an ancient Roman dressed in 50s AD clothing look hopelessly out of style to an ancient Roman in the 60s AD? r/AskHistorians on fashion trends in the ancient world.
Big econ study shows that the rates of profit have skyrocketed over the past few decades, adding a twist to standard labor vs. capital narratives. Likely related to monopolies/oligopolies and restriction of competition. Takes from Tyler Cowen, Robin Hanson, Karl Smith, and Noah Smith.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, cell phone carriers fight the government over proposed changes to emergency alert systems. My position might be biased by my eclipse trip, when the state of Oregon decided it was necessary to send out Statewide Emergency Alerts telling people not to stare at the sun.
Trump’s cybersecurity advisors resign, cite both bad cybersecurity policy and general moral turpitude. Does Trump even have any advisors left at this point?
In some parts of the world, snake oil remains a popular folk treatment, and you can even buy it on Amazon.
I guess I can’t get away without linking McSweeney’s article on Taylor Swifties.
Substances don’t have to be a liquid or a gas to behave as a fluid. For example, have you considered a fluid made of fire ants? (h/t fuckyeahfluiddynamics.tumblr.com)
New study in the Lancet (study, popular article) finds that saturated fat in moderation might be good for you, carbs potentially worse. I can’t bring myself to really look into this, but the fundamental questions are always where you started and what you’re trading off against. If someone eats 100% sugar and switches some of their sugar for a little saturated fat from meat, that’s good. If someone eats 100% donuts and switches some of their donuts for a little bit of carbs from fruit, that’s also good. I’m not sure how seriously this study considered these things, but I would warn against taking it as some sort of final “SCIENCE SHOWS FAT GOOD, CARBS BAD, EVERYONE GO HOME NOW.”
QZ: All The Wellness Products Americans Love To Buy Are Sold On Both Infowars and Goop. Infowars is super-Red-Tribe and Goop is super-Blue-Tribe, so it’s fun to compare the way they pitch the same items. See eg the herb advertised on Goop as “Why Am I So Effin’ Tired” vs. on Infowars as “Brain Force Plus”. The former advertises that it “replenishes nutrients you may be lacking..sourced from ancient Ayurveda”, vs. the latter “fights back [against] toxic weapons…with the next generation of advanced neural activation”.
The first written use of the f-word in English is exactly what you expected.