Did you know: the world’s largest Hindu temple is in the city of Robbinsville, New Jersey.
Among Antarctica’s few rivers is the Alph, so named because it runs through caverns down to a sunless sea.
Norway joins Portugal in decriminalizing all recreational drugs. I look forward to years of biased studies exaggerating the effects of this on both sides.
More on monopolies of older orphan medications: the cost of periodic paralysis cure Daranide went from pocket change to $109,500/year.
A really detailed article on how Google is using computer vision technology to provide unprecedented level of detail in Google Maps. Also: automatic identification of urban interestingness, principles of effective cartography, and the nth-level foundational work for self-driving cars.
How would you like to have your legal case judged by a guy called Justice Force Crater? Bonus: he disappeared mysteriously and was never found.
Jacobite: AI Bias Doesn’t Mean What Journalists Say It Means. Lots of people I know have been playing a giant game of chicken hoping someone else would write this article first so they didn’t have to – and it looks like Chris Stucchio and Lisa Mahapatra lost.
To Unlock The Brain’s Mysteries, Puree It. By blending a brain in a way that preserves cell nuclei, you can see how many nuclei there are per cc of brain soup and so get a more accurate count of number of brain cells.
The forgotten history of the African-American community’s pro-eugenics movement.
Alice Maz recounts her days as a Minecraft simulated tycoon. Highly recommended.
Related: Eighty common scams in the Runescape MMORPG economy. Although apparently a lot of Runescape players are clueless twelve-year-olds, and saying “Give me 1000 coins and I’ll give you a cool item” and then not giving them the item makes you some kind of wildly successful criminal mastermind.
AI researcher Rodney Brooks makes specific dated predictions on the future of AI. Too bad he doesn’t give confidence levels and so there won’t be a fair way to judge him.
The brief postal correspondence between Charles Darwin and Karl Marx. Spoiler: Marx was an embarassing-level Darwin fanboy and sent him a copy of Das Kapital along with glowing praise. Darwin politely answered that Marx’s work was “in the long run sure to add to the happiness of Mankind” but never actually read it.
Highlights of Wikipedia’s List Of US Medical Associations include the American Radium Society, Flying Doctors of America, and World Doctors Orchestra. Also, which of these would it make you most nervous to learn your doctor wasn’t in – American Board Of Legal Medicine, Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine, or Physicians For Life?
Sean Carroll on Twitter: “Does one eventually reach an age where one stops having the anxiety dream about not being allowed to graduate from high school because one signed up for a math class then never attended it?” Reposting here because I’d never heard anyone mention this as a common dream before, but I absolutely have it (though not necessarily math class). Any theories why this happens?
The US flag is probably partly based on the flag of the British East India Company, which appealed to the colonists as an model of British colonies enjoying partial independence.
You’ve probably heard that memo writer James Damore has sued Google for discrimination against conservative white men. It seems like a complicated case: political discrimination is generally legal but might not be in California (see here), and discriminating against white men seems hard to distinguish from affirmative action and various societywide diversity campaigns universal enough that I assume someone would have noticed before now if they were illegal. Some people are suggesting it’s more of a publicity stunt (possibly externally funded like Peter Thiel’s support of Hulk Hogan?) to embarrass Google and raise awareness. Which it’s doing – read the the whole 161 page lawsuit here if you want a look at the salacious accusations, which one commenter summarized as “industry-wide blacklists, cash bonuses for condemning wrongthink, calls to summarily fire white men accused of bad behavior, calls for ‘unfair’ (the exact word used) treatment of white men, openly booing the presence of white men, employees using company mailing lists to plot violent antifa actions” etc. Related: this profile of Damore’s (female, Indian-American) attorney. Also: apparently Mencius Moldbug having lunch with a Google employee “triggered a silent alarm, alerting security personnel to escort him off the premises”. Also: a commenter suggests an inside story in which the Damore memo was allowed to blow up because of office politics among top Google leadership.
Bloomberg: The Most Awful Transit Center In America Could Get Unimaginably Worse. They’re talking about Penn Station, a “debacle” which “embodies a particular kind of American failure”. And the unimaginable worseness is that the tunnels under the Hudson are decaying and might need to be closed, which would throw New York’s transportation grid into chaos.
Also Bloomberg: Study: Lobbying Doesn’t Help Companies Or Their Shareholders. This is well within a large body of work finding that money doesn’t really matter in politics, but if true it means both that popular wisdom is so wrong we should be thrown into near-Cartesian doubt about everything, and that corporations are idiots and throw away money for no reason. I put this alongside the “medical care doesn’t improve health outcomes” papers in “well, either this is false or everything else is”. Still give it a 50-50 chance of being true, though.
For the past forty years, every time new works were about to come into the public domain, Congress altered extended copyright law to keep them private. Now with the growing power of open access movements, there doesn’t seem to be any political will for this and works from 1923 will finally enter the public domain next year, followed by one year’s worth of works every year thereafter. Biggest potential loser is Disney, since Mickey Mouse would become public domain in 2024. H/T MR.
Van Bavel, Feldman-Hall & Mende-Siedlecki’s paper on ethics includes (first paragraph) a description of how a real-life trolley problem happened in Los Angeles in 2003 – transportation officials chose to switch tracks, saving dozens of lives. H/T Siberian Fox.
A Medium article by some Google AI scientists and a professor critiques that “AI can analyze your face to tell if you’re gay or not” paper from a few months ago. They find that the AI was most likely just looking at a couple of non-physiological features – glasses, makeup, facial hair style, tanning. Then they show you can get pretty accurate gay/straight classifications just by doing this manually to an image database. [This link previously was more condemnatory, but commenters have pointed out the original study specifically admitted this might be true]
Cambridge University’s Center for the Study of Existential Risk has created a Civilization 5 mod that adds superintelligent AI dynamics to the endgame.
The newest addition to GiveWell’s top charities is No Lean Season, which gives poor rural Bangladeshis enough money to pay for a bus ticket to work in the city during the season without as much farm work.
Primatologists: Bonobos prefer jerks.
NYT: As Labor Pool Shrinks, Prison Time Is Less Of A Hiring Hurdle. Included as a sort of nod to market optimism, where if there’s enough demand all of these problems like discrimination against former convicts will solve themselves. Of course, it would be nice if we didn’t have to wait for economic booms.
In the early 1900s, Sears sold over 70,000 build your own house kits, including some for really impressive mansions.
New research suggests the Sicilian Mafia originated from a sudden increase in the demand for lemons after they were found to cure scurvy; the resulting need to control lemon theft created an entire new dimension of underworld economics. Insert your own “market for lemons” or “lemon-stealing whore” joke here.
Chris Dillow of Stumbling And Mumbling joins the Hereditarian Left.
New entry to the linking perception and cognition research program: acuity of color vision correlates highly with IQ. And of course Michael Woodley is using this to try to demonstrate dysgenic effects.
New study finds more evidence that small class size improves test scores. Especially interesting: in addition to improving them the normal way by students doing better, it improves them because when public school class sizes are smaller, high-SES parents are more likely to send their kids to public schools. But there’s an effect even beyond this.
Larry Sharpe is the new (black, raised in poverty) face of the Libertarian Party. Key insane quote: “In the short run, Republicans will break, we’ll get a bunch. In the long run, we’ll absorb the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party will go away in 30 years. It won’t exist. It’ll be the Libertarian Party.”