funeral-disease on how old names are vs. how old we think they are. People with what we think of “old person names” like Mildred and Gladys are in their 90s or 100s by now; ordinary 70 year olds are more likely to have names like Carol or Sandra that we think of as 40-ish. Our idea of how old names are seems to be 20 or 30 years behind the time – why did they get set in stone a generation ago?
MIT and the private sector invest $50 million into an effort they say will produce a working fusion plant within 15 years.
Washington Post: How Twelve Experts Would End Inequality If They Ran America.
In my post on the Dark Ages, I hacked together some really simple graphs showing that western European cultural production plummeted during the 500 – 1000 AD period. Now Anatoly Karlin, Emil Kierkegaard, and Gwern have the much better and more complete version.
You’ve heard of Pig Latin and Dog Latin, but did you know there was also Botanical Latin?
Latest social psych effect to get questioned: the Pygmalion effect, where telling teachers that certain students are smart really increases the students’ performance. In retrospect, this was always kind of dumb.
A Cellular Basis Of Human Intelligence: “Here, we find that high IQ scores and large temporal cortical thickness associate with larger, more complex dendrites of human pyramidal neurons…these findings provide the first evidence that human intelligence is associated with neuronal complexity…”.
Daily Nous shows a 2011 survey on Who Philosophers Are Less Willing To Hire. Expected bias against conservatives is certainly there, but did you know that 20% of philosophers were be unwilling to hire transgender people? The prejudice against transgender people in philosophy was almost as strong as the prejudice against Republicans. I am seriously shocked by this.
Blogger at the World Bank is extremely unimpressed with GiveDirectly’s analysis of the impact of their cash transfer program; when spillover effects are treated correctly it is not clear it had any positive impact. And GiveWell (which is not the same organization as GiveDirectly, but does help fund them) responds, mostly saying they are waiting for a better study this November which should help clarify the issue.
The FAA has banned flight sharing apps (aka “Uber for planes”), but Congress is considering overruling them and permitting the service.
Learning Others’ Political Views Reduces The Ability To Assess And Use Their Expertise In Nonpolitical Domains -ie if you learn your plumber disagrees with you about politics, you’re less likely to trust his plumbing.
Japan Has Found A Semi-Infinite Deposite Of Rare Earth Minerals. Good news for business which will now be able to make high-tech components without having to beg China, bad news for mathematicians who are going to have to come up with a theory of what “semi-infinite” means.
One Step For Animals is a charity and associated shiny professional-looking website that makes the “eat less chicken for animal rights” argument.
I still think most of those predictive text jokes are fake, but the fake predictive text interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson is a work of art regardless of its authenticity.
Is Alex Tabarrok The Most Honest Economist In Academia?. “The libertarian went looking for the reason for entrepreneurial decline. The answer went against everything he believed. He published the results anyway.” In a functional society, this story would have all the oomph of “man adopts puppy, does not drown it”. Tabarrok’s own commentary here.
SB 827, the bill that would force cities to allow high-density housing near transit stops, is dead, through proponents are cautiously optimistic that maybe one day something like it might eventually get some support, or something.
Potential Reporting Bias In Neuroimaging Studies Of Sex Differences. Studies of brain sex differences are more likely to be published if they do show such differences. Doubt that grand political narratives are involved here beyond the tendency for every field to have a bias towards reporting positive results.
A claim that the Iraqi elections have been tainted by fake sex tapes intended to discredit female candidates. Not sure if this is true since I can’t find it on a reputable site and a lot of the people involved are blaming Israel (which is kind of a red flag for Middle Eastern fake news). If so, would disconfirm my prediction that fake video software isn’t going to be geopolitically important. Sort of related: the CIA considered making a fake Saddam gay sex tape.
Wikipedia had a sudden transition between a pre-2007 period of rapid growth and a post-2007 period of slow decline. Why? Everything useful already written? Bad decisions about community norms? Or “a more general set of social dynamics at work that we do not think existing research explains in a satisfying way”?
The average American thinks the average company makes a 36% profit – it actually makes about 8%. The AEI speculates that a lot of “raise the minimum wage, the companies can just take the losses out of the buckets of cash the greedy owners are hoarding for themselves” type of arguments come from this misunderstanding.
Yet another California secession movement has started gathering signatures for the ballot.
Friend of the blog Sarah Constantin has started the Longevity Research Institute, an anti-aging nonprofit. Currently they’re focusing on mouse studies of promising anti-aging agents. They also have a blog with Sarah’s assessment of some existing longevity strategies.
Related-ish: anti-aging researcher Aubrey de Grey discovered a new lower-bound in a decades-old unsolved math problem in his spare time.
NPR: When Teens Cyberbully Themselves. “Researchers found that 9 percent of the teens had bullied themselves online”. Also: “She set up ghost accounts on Instagram and posted mean comments about herself, saying things like, ‘I think you’re creepy and gay’ and ‘Don’t sit next to me again,’…She said these things because she feared being mocked by her peers [and] thought their teasing wouldn’t be so bad if she beat them to the punch”.
VC firm Bessemer’s anti-portfolio lists all their worst mistakes and missed opportunities, eg investing in Facebook. “Jeremy Levine spent a weekend at a corporate retreat in the summer of 2004 dodging persistent Harvard undergrad Eduardo Saverin’s rabid pitch. Finally, cornered in a lunch line, Jeremy delivered some sage advice ‘Kid, haven’t you heard of Friendster? Move on. It’s over!'”
Alyssa Vance: Massachusetts transit authority takes bold step of firing contractor that went way behind schedule and over budget for their mass transit project; puts fear of God into other contractors who agree to complete project for less than original cost.
Iowa passes “most restrictive in the US” anti-abortion law outlawing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected (usually six weeks, plausibly before many people know they’re pregnant). Likely (and desired by legislators) result is Supreme Court challenge that tests/redefines boundaries of Roe v. Wade.
Hotel Concierge, everyone’s favorite Tumblr cultural commentator who is definitely not secretly The Last Psychiatrist, has another magnum opus out – Shame And Society. My favorite excerpt: “Make no mistake, the performative sadness is not consequent to the pursuit of hedonism; it is a justification.” Deserves a lot closer reading and more discussion than I probably have the time and energy to give it.
Pharma’s Broken Business Model – pharma’s rate of return on research has been steadily declining for the past (at least) twenty-five years, so that it’s now lower than the cost of capital and will be negative by 2020. “Pharma as we know it will shrink out of existence, and no, there is nothing we can do to stop it.”
Liberalism Of The Month for May is Ordoliberalism, an economic philosophy that dominated post-war Germany and “emphasizes the need for the state to ensure that the free market produces results close to its theoretical potential”. That sounds pretty attractive to me, but for some reason it seems to get bogged down in stuff about trade unionism that doesn’t seem to clearly follow.
QZ has a big article out on how an economic reanalysis shows the consensus was wrong and China was taking our manufacturing jobs all along (with automation having a much smaller role). Still haven’t gotten a chance to look into it in depth, curious what the economists here think.
Is Kanye West’s newfound support for Donald Trump a performance art piece? I know nothing about the music scene and have no intuitions in this area, so somebody else is going to have to tell me if this is at all plausible.
AskReddit: some meteor flashes can look like the entire sky just switches color to become white or green for a few seconds.
The New York Times wedding section covered friend of the blog Patri Friedman’s wedding to Brit Benjamin.