Punding, an uncommon side effect of abusing amphetamines and other dopaminergic drugs, involves “compulsive fascination with and performance of repetitive, mechanical tasks, such as assembling and disassembling, collecting, or sorting household objects, [for example] collecting pebbles and lining them up as perfectly as possible, disassembling wristwatches and putting them back together again, building hundreds of small wooden boxes”, etc. Also: “They are not generally aware that there is a compulsive element, but will continue even when they have good reason to stop. Rylander describes a burglar who started punding, and could not stop, even though he was suffering from an increasing apprehension of being caught.”
After the US repealed net neutrality provisions, the state of Montana has made its own rule demanding neutrality from providers receiving state contracts. Not sure how much this matters for broader society – or how many internet providers the average Montana state government office has to choose from, or what they’ll do if none of them agree to be neutral.
Surprisingly, Tibetan monks are more afraid of death than any other group studied.
Trump places tariffs on solar panels (and washing machines) in a move some people warn could set back renewable energy (and laundry, I guess). Anyone have an explanation for how focusing on solar in particular isn’t just gratuitiously evil? (commenters answer)
Less-covered spaceflight news: New Zealand startup Rocket Lab reaches orbit with a low-cost rocket using an electric-pump driven engine and 3D-printed parts. In more depressing space news: Google Lunar X Prize has officially announced that everyone loses and they will not be extending the contest further.
Was looking into tinnitus for a patient recently and came across this weird (temporary?) tinnitus treatment on Reddit that everyone says works. Possible explanation for why it might work here gives interesting insight into (some) tinnitus mechanism.
One reason the US doesn’t use the metric system: the scientist shipped in from Europe to testify to Congress on the issue was kidnapped by pirates. Bonus: the pirates may also have got one of the six Standard Kilograms.
NSA removes “honesty” and “openness” from its list of core values.
Paul Addis, a San Francisco activist and attorney famous for setting the Burning Man man on fire early to protest the corporatization of the event. Burning Man founder said Addis’ arson was “the single most pure act of radical self-expression to occur at this massive hipster tail-gate party in over a decade” – but Addis was sentenced to four years in prison for arson anyway. After release, he committed suicide by jumping in front of the BART.
More from the Department Of Weird Blockchain Projects Named Luna: “Luna DNA” allows users to upload their genetic data in exchange for a crypto-token called “Luna Coin”. What could possibly go wrong?
“[Aristotle has] a slight but consistent and habitual penchant in the corpus for humorous verbal play…there seems to be only about one pun per score of Bekker pages, but…there is no class or area of study in which Aristotle totally avoids punning.” (h/t Lou Keep)
New Statesman on Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tories’ answer to Jeremy Corbyn: “He has never been seen (except perhaps by his wife) in anything other than a suit and tie. He speaks in sonorous Edwardian English and is unfailingly courteous…[In primary school], he played the stock markets using a £50 inheritance from a relative, standing up at the General Electric Company’s annual meeting and castigating a board – that included his father – for the firm’s “pathetic” dividend. A contemporary newspaper photograph showed the precocious 12-year-old solemnly reading the Financial Times beside his teddy bears…[He was married] in Canterbury Cathedral, the archbishop having authorised a Tridentine mass in ecclesiastical Latin in light of Rees-Mogg’s fervent Catholicism. The couple now have six children aged between seven months and ten, all bearing the names of Catholic popes and saints.” From his Wikipedia page: “Speaking in July 2017, Rees-Mogg conceded that ‘I’ve made no pretence to be a modern man at all, ever'”. Despite being by all accounts a colorful and likeable character, he doesn’t seem very competent and his opinions are out-of-touch and (imho) pretty dumb. Based on Jeremy Corbyn’s career path, Rees-Mogg will probably be Prime Minister within a year. Article is also interesting as an example of how left-leaning media has developed a counterproductive habit of sometimes covering the Right in terms of “We all know we should dislike this person, but look how cool they are!” This seems new and surprising and seems to require an explanation, maybe in terms of outgroup-fargroup dynamics.
After a lot of work, some people have been able to find an economic argument for why open borders would be a bad idea – but it still implies “a case against the stringency of current [immigration] restrictions” (though see here).
Credentialism watch: MIT is launching a new masters program in economics that doesn’t require a college or high school degree. Applicants need to take some free online courses and pass some non-free online tests, and then if they do well they can move on to the in-school part of the course. The program is being offered in affiliation with a group studying developmental economics and poverty, and is at least partly aimed at poor students from Third World countries. But Americans are already taking advantage of it, and it has more promise than most things in this sphere to help increase social mobility and bring down education costs.
Related: congratulations to Trinity College in Connecticut, the first (?) US college to break the $70,000/year price barrier. $100K or bust!
Related, if you think about it: It’s sometimes reported that SAT score and college GPA “only” correlate at a modest 0.35. But a book on education (h/t Timofey Pnin) points out that this is because higher-SAT-scoring students go to more elite colleges and major in more difficult subjects. Once this and some other confounders are adjusted for, the correlation rises to 0.68.
Contrary to what you might have learned in school, the tallest mountain in the solar system isn’t Olympos Mons. It’s Rheasilvia, a mountain on the asteroid Vesta whose height is almost 9% of the total radius of the asteroid.
Amazon enters the health care sector, so far just in order to provide health care for its own employees and those of a few other participating large companies. Claims that this mission will make it “free from profit-making incentives”, though some might ask how exactly profit-making incentives differ from cost-cutting incentives, which they’ll definitely have. Shares in major insurance companies fell 5% on the announcement. Interesting that the US health system has accidentally incentivized corporations to figure out solutions to rising health care costs, but I am not sure this is actually possible under current regulations other than by just providing worse care – the one cost-cutting measure that always works.
Study claims that pain tolerance predicts how many friends you have, although the theorized mechanism is something about the opiate system, and not just that social interaction is inherently painful and the number of friends you have depends on your ability to tolerate it (what does it say about me that this was my first guess?) Anyhow, Reddit seems to have mostly debunked it, which pretty closely matches my expectations for how this sort of result would fare.
For reasons lost to time, apprentice attorneys in the UK are called “devils”, their apprenticeship is called a “devilling”, and their supervisor is called a “devil-master”. May be related to similar practice of calling apprentice printers printer’s devils, likewise mysterious in origin. Theories include puns (they always got covered in ink, so they were practicing “the black arts”), superstition (originally people thought printing was really creepy and possibly satanic because you could create a book full of perfect identical letters), and racism (one of the first printer’s apprentices was an African, and everyone just assumed the only reasonable explanation for a person having black skin was that they were the Devil). A final theory is that printers’ devils were responsible for managing the box of discarded or broken letters, colorfully known as a hellbox. (h/t Eric Rall)
Campus free speech watch: FIRE demands college release its records about its firing of a professor who vocally supported Black Lives Matter.
Hawaiian Redditors describe their experiences receiving the false-alarm broadcast that Hawaii was about to be nuked. Some of these stories must be fake, but they’re still fun to read.
Your Twitter Followers Are Probably Bots. Everyone important, including honest people who don’t deliberately pay for bots to follow them, probably has bots following them on Twitter, mostly because bots follow a bunch of famous people in order to look more like real accounts. There are some techniques you can use to determine how many of your followers are bots. Complete with an analysis of how a New York attorney general who’s conducting investigations into people with fake followers on Twitter has…a bunch of fake followers on Twitter.
Marginal Revolution commenters on why automating trucking will take longer than you think.
A lot of big nutrition studies coming out recently. I’m not going to describe the results because there’s a lot of debate on how they should best be described and I don’t want to take a position without much more room to explain myself. But one is a randomized controlled trial on how adding sugar to the diet affects insulin sensitivity – this is really impressive since (for what I assume are ethical/IRB reasons) nobody had ever studied this via RCT before. The other is a large sample size study testing low-fat vs. low-carb diets over a long period with high compliance, partly sponsored by Gary Taubes-affiliated Nutritional Science Initiative.
Contrary to previous research, newer research suggests that increased incentives (eg paying people for a good score) does not increase adult IQ test performance. Related: IQ predicts self-control in chimpanzees.
Did you know: Blue is a dating-site for verified “blue check” Twitter users only. All we need is a policy of giving the children of two bluecheck users their own bluecheck and then we can have a true hereditary aristocracy.
List Of Substances Administered To Adolf Hitler. If you’ve ever thought “Man, some of that Nazi stuff sounds like it came from a guy who was on a cocktail of methamphetamine, cocaine, adrenaline, testosterone, strychnine, heroin, oxycodone, morphine, barbituates, and human fecal bacteria”, well, you’re not wrong.
Related: the story of the most-unfortunately-named person in American history: Dr. Gay Hitler.
New meta-analysis: no evidence mindfulness works for anything. I suspect this is true the way it’s commonly practiced and studied (“if you’re feeling down, listen to this mindfulness tape for five minutes a day!”), less true for more becoming-a-Buddhist-monk-level stuff.
KnowYourMeme: “Hamilkin refers to a subculture of people who identify with characters from the musical Hamilton to the point where they believe they are those characters, spiritually.” Sort of wonder if closer examination would reveal this to consist entirely of eight very vocal twelve-year olds, three schizophrenics, several thousand trolls pretending to believe it for the lolz, and a bunch of writers exaggerating it for clicks – but I also sort of wonder this about flat-earthers and the alt-right.
More in the “contra poverty traps” research agenda: children whose parents are kicked off disability insurance are less likely to use disability insurance themselves as adults.
George Strait, the best-selling country singer of all time, is Jeff Bezos’ cousin. Also interesting: “Bezos” is a Cuban name, although Jeff himself is not of Cuban descent and got it from his stepfather.
The naming convention for the Trojan asteroids dictates that asteroids in front of Jupiter are named for Greek heroes from the Trojan War, and asteroids behind Jupiter are named for Trojan heroes. Two asteroids – 617 Patroclus and 624 Hektor – were named before the convention arose and are “on the wrong side” (h/t Alice Maz)
Just when everyone agreed ego depletion was debunked and dead, Baumeister et al strike back with a pre-registered study that continues to show the effect. Haven’t gotten a chance to look at it seriously yet, but glad that pre-registration etc are catching on.
Redditors who work in gun shops talk about their job and recount their weird experiences.
Russian lifehack: “Moscow residents say they have found that the only way to get the [government] to clear snow is to write the name of opposition leader Alexei Navalny on it”. Sort of related: in the 1970s, the West Virginia government refused to fund a necessary bridge in the town of Vulcan. The people of Vulcan appealed to the USSR to provide the funding; after the USSR expressed interest in helping, West Virginia approved it immediately.
Greg Cochran: most likely cause of the global decrease in frog populations is a fungal disease, possibly spread by researchers investigating the most likely cause of the global decrease in frog populations.
Related to a discussion from a while ago: update in the field of sexual-orientation-detecting neural networks replicates that they are clearly more accurate than humans in using faces to guess whether or not people are gay. Their claim that, given five images, they can detect gay men with 91% accuracy seems unbelievable; waiting to hear further research.
Lincoln Network releases their survey on viewpoint diversity in the tech industry. Key points include a self-described moderate saying “I’ve never heard of anyone who left tech because of their views. That’s ridiculous”, and 59% of self-identified very conservative people saying they know people who avoided or left jobs in tech because they felt they weren’t welcome due to their political views. People in five out of six political categories (including liberals, but not very-liberals) say they feel less comfortable sharing viewpoints with colleagues after Google diversity memo issue. Keep in mind high likelihood of sampling bias, though this shouldn’t affect results aggregated by political group as much.
The Tiffany Problem is an issue sometimes encountered by authors and other creative types, where trying to be realistic makes a work feel more unrealistic. Named after a medievalist who included a character named Tiffany (common medieval name), only to be told her book was unrealistic because obviously nobody would be named that back then.
In 1957, Mad Magazine published an article on a made-up system of measurement written by a 19-year old Donald Knuth.
Nobody really knows what the languages of the now-extinct Tasmanian aborigines sounded like, but various scholars have created Palawi kana, a conlang intended to resemble them as much as possible, and it’s even caught on a little in Tasmanian schools and government. Also, am I just pattern-matching, or do a suspicious number of unrelated languages use some version of “mina” to mean “me”?
Related: fascinated by this unsourced claim on Wikipedia that the Ewe of Nigeria believe themselves to be descendants of the one guy who didn’t participate in building the Tower of Babel, and their language to be the perfect language. Anyone know more about this belief, or how common stories like these are for different groups’ languages?
California state government is considering a bill that would mandate very strong pro-housing pro-development policies in almost all major urban areas. By the usual boring standard of state government issues, this is a unfathomably huge deal and could end the housing crisis single-handedly. Possible unintended consequence: since it works by mandating pro-development policies within a certain radius of mass transit, expect no more mass transit ever if it passes. Other possible unintended consequence: I’m less sure than many of my friends that pro-development policies are always good in all cases – but right now the pendulum is so far in the other direction that I’m happy to have one state shake things up a little (okay, maybe a lot) and put the fear of God into NIMBYs so they’ll compromise more elsewhere. Needless to say, Berkeleyans are already writing op-eds about how it will “cause massive damage to the global environment for thousands of years, possibly enough to tip the balance to the extinction of the entire human race.” No word yet on whether the bill has any chance of getting passed in the real world. Some discussion on Marginal Revolution.