Paul Palaiologos Tagaris, Byzantine con man, “was appointed an Orthodox bishop, pretended to be the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, switched from Greek Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism and back again, supported both the See of Rome and the Avignon anti-popes in the Western Schism, and managed to be named Latin Patriarch of Constantinople”.
Inside the cutthroat cash-flush dog-eat-dog world of…online mattress reviews?
Canadian FDA-equivalent bans Soylent for violating standards. Particular standards weren’t mentioned, but jimrandomh’s research suggests it was a regulation saying that all meal replacements have to be low-fat – which is not supported by research and might be actively unhealthy. I’m glad I still live in a country where…
…hold that thought. FDA is trying to ban kratom, an herb many people use as a chronic pain treatment or to help overcome opiate addiction. Previously the DEA tried the same, but backed down after an outcry from kratom users and their families who say they rely on it to stay well. Conspiracy theorists note that Trump’s FDA head Scott Gottleib took $100,000 from GlaxoSmithKline, which is working on a synthetic patent-protected version of kratom that will become people’s only option if the real thing is banned.
Related: how have insulin prices increased by 10x in the past twenty years, and what does that mean for diabetics? Also: Trump nominates man whose firm tripled price of insulin to regulate drug companies. Some of the discussion I saw around this article recommended mentioning that Eli Lilly has a patient assistance program to help poor people afford their insulin, though obviously this isn’t anywhere near a solution to the real problem.
Geolibertarians frustrated with early 20th-century society’s failure to adopt Georgist land taxes built their own private intentional community, which continues to exist in the present day. Delaware’s Odd, Beautiful, Contentious Private Utopia. Interesting look at its century-long history of trying to resist assimilation and stick to its principles – including having the first desegregated schools in the region.
New poll analyzes Americans’ views of global warming, with some surprising results – only 13% of people don’t think global warming is happening, and only 30% don’t believe it’s human-caused. 23% of people think scientists mostly believe global warming’s not human-caused, suggesting that most skeptics aren’t disbelieving scientists so much as unaware of them. Also, 39% of Americans say that there is a greater-than-even-odds chance that global warming will cause the extinction of the human race.
Man speaking in slang says “give me a lawyer, dawg”; judge rules he was not exercising his right to ask for a lawyer because he actually asked for a “lawyer dog”, which does not exist.
Did you know there’s a whole field of empirical software engineering studies? Recent claimed findings include eg: “there is no evidence that [industry] experience is a significant factor in either quality of productivity [of programmers]”. Study describes itself as “exploratory” and I am totally unqualified to judge.
@beachdeath: “The CIA is releasing tens of thousands of files and videos from bin laden’s compound today, except his DVDs of ‘home on the range’ and ‘ice age: dawn of the dinosaurs’ and his copy of final fantasy vii, because those are copyrighted” is not a sentence i ever thought i would type, but 2017 continues to be full of surprises”. And a list of some of Osama’s DVDs and computer games.
Redditor asks why Google Home gives such weird readings when asked “what is the temperature inside”; top commenter notes that depending on your tone of voice, Google Home will answer this question with the temperature in the city of Side, Turkey.
A group of scientists including Friend Of The Blog Stephen Hsu launch Genomic Prediction, a company that uses genetic testing to helps families select embryos for IVF. It’s a natural outgrowth of existing tests that check for Down Syndrome and other very serious genetic diseases, but the exciting new part is where they can analyze risk for some polygenic diseases (ones that depend on contributions from hundreds or thousands of genes) as well as the usual simple stuff. Important because several socially-important traits like height and intelligence are polygenic so this advance essentially places science at the point where it could select for these traits if it were considered legal/ethical to do so (in practice, current height selection algorithms would probably do a good job; current intelligence selection algorithms are still very limited but advancing quickly). Given that Hsu has said a bunch of times that his end goal is using genetics to increase human intelligence, there’s no way him setting up a company that has exactly the right technology to do so is a coincidence, even if it’s not their first product or likely to happen any time soon.
Related: most people are really averse to genetic testing and embryo selection, even to the point where they will (in real life, not hypothetical questions) choose to give their kid a 50% chance of a horrible and invariably fatal genetic disease rather than use it.
Some of the ads Russia bought on Facebook for the 2016 election are hilarious. Some of these have a sort of “HOW DO YOU DO, FELLOW
KIDS AMERICANS” vibe to them, but maybe not much more than a lot of real political ads do
Catholic readers: is this a ridiculous misinterpretation of something, or did the Pope really say that married priests might be a good idea?
Reminds me of the recent discussion of Confucians vs. Legalists on whether people should be allowed to know laws: Georgia’s laws are available only if you pay for access; the state pursues people who publicize them for copyright violation. ACLU is on the case.
This Reddit post reminded me of my essay on Kolmogorov complicity. Many US states have legalized medical marijuana, which in practice means a boom industry of special-purpose clinics where unscrupulous doctors give medical marijuana cards to everyone who comes in, claims to have a symptom, and pays them a fee. But these doctors can’t say “We are frauds who give everyone marijuana cards”, so lots of marijuana-wanting and even marijuana-needing people won’t go to the doctor because they’re afraid they’ll get turned down.
Clash of civilizations: Armed militia shuts down comic book convention in Libya.
Gene Expression: “In Kenneth Pomeranz’s The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy he argues that the difference in per capita economic wealth between Europe and China is a relatively recent phenomenon. One of the major arguments he makes is that one has to make an apples-to-apples comparison. Comparing Northwest Europe to China is not apples-to-apples, but comparing Northwest Europe to the lower Yangzi Delta region of Central China is apples-to-apples. Using this measure Europe and China are roughly comparable up until 1800.”
Free speech watch: woman who gave President Trump’s motorcade the finger in her spare time is fired from her marketing job. This is the world that all of you “free speech only constrains the government” and “it’s just people think you’re an asshole and are showing you the door” people have built for us.
More claims that increased health spending does not increase health outcomes.
After years of self-driving cars being five years away, there’s now a date for a self-driving car being available to ordinary people for a commercial purpose: next year. It’s pretty minimal – some cooperating ride-sharing passengers in Phoenix will get self-driving cars without human backup drivers – but it’s happening.
Zvi Mowshowitz, Vladimir Slepnev, and Paul Christiano have announced a $5000 prize for “publicly posted work advancing understanding of AI alignment”. An example of an existing submission, in case you’re wondering what an entry would even look like. I know the sponsors and can vouch that they’re good honest people who are actually going to pay out the money.
Stuart Ritchie and Elliot Tucker-Drob: How Much Does Education Improve Intelligence: A Meta-Analysis. It gets a number (between 1 and 5 IQ points per grade year), but it seems kind of an uninterpretable aggregate (surely educating a naturally-IQ-100 person for fifty years wouldn’t give them an IQ of 150 to 350) – the take home point is that it’s a positive and significant number. There’s been a lot of work on “gains to IQ test scores” vs. “gains in g” which I don’t know enough about but which is probably relevant here; unclear how much past work has to be reconsidered in that light. There’s some good discussion between Gwern and Stuart (one of the authors) here.
Sci-Hub loses another lawsuit, apparently on legally shaky grounds, and now might get banned by ISPs or search engines or something. It sure would be bad if this kind of lawsuit led to a Streisand effect that made even more people aware that sci-hub exists and is a website with almost all academic papers on it available unpaywalled for free.
The Trump/GOP tax reform plan will hit grad students super-hard, maybe so hard as to make graduate studies financially impossible unless universities immediately change their compensation structure. The problem seems to be that it counts tuition waivers as taxable income, so if a college pretends it’s charging grad students a $20,000 tuition but waives the fee, those grad students will have to pay taxes of (their tax rate) x ($20,000) without actually seeing any of that income. I don’t understand why universities maintain the fiction of charging tuition and then waiving it, so I’m not sure if they can solve the problem just by not doing that. Some people think this might have very long-run positive effects of forcing universities to actually pay grad students a decent salary, but until then it may be only slight exaggeration to call this the destruction of graduate education in the United States. If you’re a grad student, contact your program to see if they have any ideas for what to do.
Related: Trump tax plan to hit colleges by changing some of their weird tax exemptions. Taxation has always been a little about punishing your party’s political enemies and giving tax breaks to its allies, but this is some next-level stuff here and it’s really blatant how much the new code shifts tax burden onto traditionally Democratic constituencies.
Related: It will also be really terrible for startup employees.
Modern people’s jaws are aligned differently due to their different eating habits. More interesting than it sounds. Also good example of nominative determinism, featuring orthodontics researcher Charles Brace.
The Open Philanthropy Project gives MIRI a $3.75 million grant, the largest it’s ever received. Some commentary here on why this is unexpected. There’s more complicated political background which I don’t think is fully written up but which this post at least hints at. Overall I view this as a really positive development.
Related: an attempt to make neural nets more transparent by investigating what pictures maximally activate each neuron of an image classifier. There’s something very creepy about this, like dissecting the world along some mysterious dimension into incomprehensible conceptual primitives. Also, some neural net is very convinced that “either an animal face or a car body” is a fundamental concept that cleaves reality at its joints, and now I’m questioning how I know for sure that it isn’t.
Related, and maybe this is that “negative effects of already-existing AI” I keep hearing we should worry about: Israel Arrests Palestinian Because Facebook Translated “Good Morning” As “Attack Them”
80000 Hours: What Are The Most Important Talent Gaps In The Effective Altruism Community? Good news for those of you who majored in “good calibration, wide knowledge and ability to work out what’s important”.
Cordelia Fine is good now? She describes James Damore’s Google memo as “more accurate and nuanced than what you sometimes find in the popular literature…[some of his ideas] are not seen as especially controversial”, and declares it “quite extrarordinary about someone losing their job for putting forward a view that is part of the scientific debate”. Interesting how hard it is to find anyone familiar with the science of gender, even the most blank-slatist and furthest left, willing to endorse the narrative treated as 100% proven and obvious in the popular media.
Speculative, but why do so many trans people dye their hair unnatural colors?
New study: naltrexone as good as suboxone for opiate addiction. Also in the same genre of “studies saying an obviously worse drug is as a good as an obviously better one” – Tylenol/ibuprofen as good as opiates for acute pain relief. And heck, let’s throw in this study showing antihistamines work better than benzodiazepines for anxiety relief. I don’t know what’s up with any of these.
Also, niacin-based skin test has decent specificity (and, I’m guessing, no sensitivity) in identifying schizophrenics (vs. mood disorder). Especially interesting if it leads to understanding the etiology or ontology of some schizophrenia subtypes.
This week’s ridiculous non-controversy: Christians are boycotting British food producer Greggs for making a nativity scene with a sausage roll as Jesus. Thanks to LukeBBZ on Twitter for pointing out the kabbalistic implications: “Lord Jesus” spelled backwards is “Susejd rol”, which I guess is close enough.