Forest rings: like fairy rings, except with trees, and up to a mile wide, and no one knows why they form.
Memoirs Of The Twentieth Century was a 1733 work of speculative fiction about the world in 1997. The prediction: technology won’t advance at all over its 18th-century level, but evil Jesuits will control everything. Paging Pope Francis…
This week in pharma company chutzpah: in order to preserve their patent on a popular eyedrop, Allergan transferred the intellectual property rights to the Mohawk Indians, who as a recognized Native American tribe are immune from certain federal intellectual property laws. Will Native American pharmaceutical patent caretaking become the same sort of cultural phenomenon as Native American casinos?
Colombian airline proposes standing-room only flights to pack planes tighter and cut fares. Consumers are outraged at the possibility of getting a completely optional extra choice in the comfort vs. price tradeoff.
Newfound doubts that the paper claiming to have successfully CRISPRed human embryos did anything of the sort. Also, note that the paper saying they did CRISPR the embryos got published in Nature, and the criticism arguing that they didn’t is so far just up on the Biorxiv.
While cities grew faster than suburbs from 2000 to 2015, for the past two years the suburbs have overtaken their urban cores. New round of suburbanization incoming?
The number one food exporter in the world is the United States. The number two food exporter in the world is the Netherlands, 1/270th the size and mostly urban. How they do it, and how they’re leading the agriculturally sustainable future.
Evergreen State College, site of social-justice related protests, vandalism, and threats earlier this year, suffers major enrollment drop and budget shortfall, in what some commentators are calling the “Mizzou Effect” after similar drops at University of Missouri in a similar situation. See also kontextmachine’s take. Possibly related to various events at Berkeley not making things worse recently?
The Kellogg-Briand Pact was a 1928 League of Nations initiative which banned aggressive war. It has a pretty poor reputation today, understandable given what happened after 1928. But a team of political scientists say it made a real and lasting positive difference. See also their data here.
Adults With Autism Make More Consistent Choices. “People with autism spectrum conditions often show a reduced sensitivity to contextual information in perceptual tasks…” Note obvious predictive processing angle.
Related: Autistic Boys And Girls Found To Have Hypermasculinized Faces, Supporting The Extreme Male Brain Theory. But deeper in the article, it gets more nuanced: “Autistic spectrum disorder may constitute a disorder of sexual differentiation or androgeny rather than a disorder characterized by masculinization in both genders.” A good time to remember that autistic people are transgender at eight times the rate in the general population.
Gout decreases Parkinson’s Disease risk because uric acid has an antioxidant effect on neurons.
I mentioned last month I didn’t understand Ribbon Farm’s big post on “premium mediocrity”. Zvi writes a summary and response which helps me understand – oh, it’s just another aspect of the whole narcissism thing. Still not sure I get Zvi’s additional analysis, but maybe someone else will write a blog post explaining his explanation.
Anatomy Of A Moral Panic: how Slate, Vice, etc fell for a bogus story that Amazon’s recommendation algorithm is encouraging people to buy terrorist bomb-making supplies together. Equally interesting – Amazon, which undoubtedly knows this makes no sense, just says it will “review” the algorithm; it’s not even worth their energy to defend themselves anymore.
In case you’re wondering how accurate Twitter’s algorithmic moderation is: Japanese man banned for making death threat against mosquito.
Still in the process of looking this over, but seems interesting: two top British psychopharmacologists have a theory of what serotonin does in the brain based on 5HT1A receptors promoting “passive coping” and 5HT2A receptors promoting “active coping”. Exciting if true given that a lot of our understanding of psychopharm has been held up by an inability to get a good feel for what serotonin is actually there for.
Melting Asphalt challenges the traditional theory of ads where seeing a picture of a guy drinking beer on a beach makes you associate beer with fun, so you go out and buy some beer because of how fun it is. Proposes an alternative theory where ads are about creating shared social context. Not sure if true, but I think it’s important to have people challenging theories about how people are ridiculously stupid / infinitely persuadable, “because psychology”.
American Medical Association releases a statement supporting DACA, pointing out that “our nation’s health care workforce depends on the care provided by physicians and medical students with DACA status”.
The Cassini spacecraft carried plutonium. Saturn is made of hydrogen. You make a thermonuclear bomb by using plutonium to ignite hydrogen. So it’s nice to be reassured that no, there is no way Cassini could possibly haved turned Saturn into a giant thermonuclear bomb.
America’s First Addiction Epidemic When white explorers first came to America, the Indians had never seen distilled alcohol before, and entire tribes were destroyed by alcoholism before they even knew what was hitting them. Over centuries, entire new institutions and religions evolved to deal with the problem, providing a really neat and well-documented example of cultural evolution and maybe even gene-culture coevolution in real time. Highly recommended.
Artificial intelligence can tell from your face whether you’re gay or straight with about 80% accuracy, much better than humans. But do remember that story a few months back when they thought they could do this with criminals, and turned out to just be distinguishing mugshots from nonmugshots. Also interesting: look at their pictures of the most typically gay vs. most typically straight face. Several people on Tumblr said if they had to guess the axis, they would say it was something like “most liberal looking” vs. “most conservative looking” or possibly “higher class” vs. “lower class”. What do we make of that?
The supposed “Voynich manuscript solution” making the rounds is amateurish and unable to actually predict or decode anything. Also, it might have been a gimmick made for a TV show. Remember, claims that someone has decoded the Voynich manuscript should be met with the same level of skepticism as claims that someone has proven P ? NP; this is something thousands of experts have been trying to do for decades and any declaration of sudden success should be interpreted in that light.
Given the recent Equifax hacking, you might be interested in this guide to dealing with identity theft. Key fact: you have to hit exactly the right legal notes to make banks take action on your identity theft claim, and most ordinary people can’t navigate the process and aren’t able to get their names cleared. Some Good Samaritan created a form letter that hit exactly the right legal notes, everyone started using it, the banks became annoyed that they had to actually respond to identity theft claims now, and they successfully lobbied Congress to prohibit using form letters to report identity theft.
A new advance in open-access science: the arxiv overlay journal. You publish your paper on arxiv and then submit it to the journal; it gets peer-reviewed and officially declared a Published Paper and everything, and then the journal itself is just a set of links to the arxiv.
Second-newest convert to the AI risk movement: Hillary Clinton. “Technologists like Elon Musk, Sam Altman, and Bill Gates, and physicists like Stephen Hawking have warned that artificial intelligence could one day pose an existential security threat…every time I went out to Silicon Valley during the campaign, I came home more alarmed about this. My staff lived in fear that I’d start talking about ‘the rise of the robots’ in some Iowa town hall.”
Newest convert to the AI risk movement: Vladimir Putin. ” Vladimir Putin may secretly be on the side of Elon Musk in their indirect debate over the threat posed by artificial intelligence. As Arkady Volozh, the head of Yandex, pitched him on the technology’s potential, the Russian president inquired about when AI ‘will eat us’. The question seemed to baffle the head of Russia’s biggest tech firm, who was giving Putin a tour on the company’s Moscow HQ on Thursday.”
Suicide rates up by a third over the past ten years, mostly among the less educated.
Ridiculous juicer startup Juicero shuts down.
The mysterious attacks by an unknown sonic weapon against US diplomats in Cuba continue; authorities and scientists remain baffled.
Various tobacco control policies and programs in Europe do not affect smoking rates at all.
“Jubal Harshaw” offers a skeptical counternarrative of the opioid crisis – what if we just made the reasonable medical decision to prescribe opioids three times as often for pain, and then a constant rate of death per prescription caused opiate-related deaths to triple? And then also heroin got cheaper so more people started using it?
In “give us this day our daily bread”, the translation ‘daily’ is basically made up; nobody knows what the relevant Greek word means. Inside the dispute over translating “epiousios“.
Every species has a “type specimen” – a single individual, usually the first-discovered or best-known member of that species, who is declared by fiat to be the central example of a member of that species so that if there’s ever a debate about membership of that species the unclear examples can be compared to the type. The type specimen for humans is Carl Linnaeus.
Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, famous for his eight stages of life, was originally “Erik Homburger”. He changed his last name to Erikson to symbolize that he was the son of himself, ie had created his own identity.
Rationalist hub Less Wrong has relaunched with a new coat of paint, better moderation, and an improved technical base. Check it out.
The astronomer who discovered Charon named it after his wife Charlene – he thought “Charon” was a scientific-sounding version of her nickname “Char”. It was only later that anybody realized Charon was an appropriate Greek mythological character with a link to Pluto. TINACBNEIAC.