In 532, the Byzantines and Persians signed what they called The Perpetual Peace, so named because it was expected to last forever. It lasted eight years. After the ensuing war, the Byzantines and Persians, now less optimistic, named their new treaty The Fifty Year Peace. It lasted ten years.
Patrick Collison and Michael Nielson on diminishing returns from science. Some of you have already seen my thoughts on this, but I’ll post them here in a week or two.
Wikipedia has a page on Armenia/Azerbaijan relations in the Eurovision Song Contest. Highlights include the time Azerbaijan’s secret police rounded up everyone who voted for Armenia, the time Armenia claimed Azerbaijan cut off the broadcast to prevent people from seeing Armenia winning, and accusations from Azerbaijani officials that vapid Armenian love song “Don’t Deny” was dog-whistling a point about the Armenian Genocide.
Everything You Know About State Education Rankings Is Wrong. Most rating systems rank state education success based on a combined measure which includes amount of money spent as a positive outcome, making it tautological to “prove” that more funding improves state performance. See also economists’ Stan Liebowitz and Matthew Kelly corrected ranking table, which also adjusts for some confounders.
The most significant Christian schism of the past five hundred years happened last month, when the Russian Orthodox Church severed ties with the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople due to an argument about Ukraine.
California may allow marijuana, and it may allow alcohol, but at least it’s taking a strong stance against cocktails that include CBD, for some reason.
Recent news in scientific publishing: two statisticians launch RESEARCHERS.ONE (site, Andrew Gelman blog post), a “souped-up Arxiv with pre- and post-publication review”. And Elsevier files a lawsuit forcing a Swedish ISP to ban Sci-Hub; the ISP complies but also bans Elsevier. Also: preregistration works.
Related?: A Chinese barbecue restaurant named itself The Lancet after a top medical journal, and is offering discounts for researchers based on the impact factor of the journals they’ve published in. (h/t Julia Galef)
Experimental archaeology is the practice of doing things we think ancient people might have done to learn more about the details. For example, the Trireme Trust built and rowed a functional Greek trireme to learn more about how triremes worked.
Researchers crack the brain’s code for storing faces (paper, news article), describing it as “a high-dimensional analogy of the familiar RGB code for colors, allowing realistic faces to be accurately decoded with…a small number of cells”.
The Alpine-Himalayan orogenic belt connects the Pyrenees, Alps, Carpathians, Caucasus, Zagros, Tian Shan, and Himalayan ranges.
In what might be the most impressive temper tantrum of all time, the Saudis, angry about Qatar’s support for regional enemy Iran, are planning to dig a giant canal to turn Qatar into an island.
Did you know there are still object-level arguments about libertarianism sometime? It’s true! See Bryan Caplan’s delightfully named Optimality Vs. Fire. Another interesting Caplan: The Triumph Of Ayn Rand’s Worst Idea.
I am always a sucker for the “X as dril tweets” genre, so here is philosophers as dril tweets. EG:
— drilosophers (@drilosophers) November 17, 2018
If you want to see all of (someone’s idiosyncratic and dubious selection of what counts as) the rationality-related subreddits in one place, there’s now a Rationality Reddit Feed. Also, gwern has a subreddit now.
Sarah Kliff at Vox is trying to bring transparency to ER prices with a database of what each hospital’s fees are (though it doesn’t look like it’s the kind of transparency where you’re allowed to see the database, apparently for medical privacy law reasons). If you have a recent ER bill, you can submit here, or you can see some of Vox’s reporting on the issue here.
Related: if you missed your previous opportunity to write about effective altruism for Vox, they’re hiring another effective altruism writer/reporter. You can see some of the excellent work by their current EA reporter here.
Science disproves your intrusive thoughts: Most Initial Conversations Go Better Than People Think.
Scandal at meta-analysis producer the Cochrane Collaboration as board members resign en masse. The story seems to go like this: The Collaboration did a meta-analysis showing that HPV vaccines are safe and effective. Cochrane board member Peter Gøtzsche (previously featured here as author of my favorite study on the placebo effect) wrote a savage takedown in the British Medical Journal saying the HPV review did not meet Cochrane standards and should not have been published. The Collaboration’s Board was apparently angry that he took this dispute public and a bare majority voted to expel him. Then the other half of the board stepped down in protest. So much for the one organization we were previously able to trust 🙁
And another academic scandal: Eiko Fried and James Coyne are two of my favorite psychologists and crusaders for high standards in psychology. They’ve recently been having a bad time. As far as I can understand it, Coyne is (by his own admission) well known for being extremely blunt and not afraid of personal attacks on people he thinks deserve it. Fried wrote an article about how a climate of personal attacks and nastiness in the psychology community have gone too far, and most of his examples were of Coyne. Coyne wrote some things accusing Fried of tone policing, but also sued Fried for “cyberbullying” and spread rumors that he was “aligned with racism”. Now Fried has 100% won the lawsuit, the rumors against him have been debunked, various people have come out saying they were harassed by Coyne (and apparently there was also a case of “assault and battery”!) and various institutions Coyne is affiliated with have unaffiliated with him (or said they were never as affiliated as he claimed). I’m really disappointed in this, but it’s helped crystallize some things for me. First, that although cyberbullying is a big problem, mindlessly cracking down on it is dangerous for exactly the reasons shown here – a cyberbully trying to silence their victim by suing them for cyberbullying (and the “aligned with racism” slur is a parallel warning on the dangers of moral panics). And second, that complaints about “tone policing” can often be a smokescreen for just genuinely being a bad actor.
“Superpermutations” is a term for mathematical objects containing every possible permutation of some number of items. The field recently received a jolt when a proof of the lower bound of an important theorem was discovered to have been posted by an anonymous user on a 4chan thread about how many different ways you could watch anime episodes. Now in an equally weird twist of fate, the upper bound of the same theorem has been proven by sci-fi writer Greg Egan, author of Permutation City.
This article is called YouTubers Will Enter Politics And The Ones Who Do Are Probably Going To Win, but it focuses on Kim Kataguiri (age 22, the youngest person ever elected to Brazil’s Congress) and other right-wing YouTubers who won positions in the recent Brazilian elections.
The world’s new tallest statue is India’s Statue Of Unity, a 600-foot high (and impressively realistic) depiction of independence hero Sardar Patel.
In 1861, a Tokugawa-era author published the first Japanese book ever on the newly-contacted land of America, called Osanaetoki Bankokubanashi. Although beautifully illustrated, the content was a bit fanciful…
..and by “a bit fanciful”, I mean that this is a depiction of John Adams asking a mountain fairy to help avenge the death of his mother, who was eaten by a giant snake. I assumed the book had to be fake, but Kyoto University seems to endorse it as real. You can find more of Kapur’s commentary here and the rest of the book here.
Karl Friston, previously the subject of a bemused SSC post, is now the subject of an only-somewhat-bemused Wired story. The way this story presents the free energy principle makes it much more of an obvious match for control theory, so much that I’m wondering if I’m misunderstanding it. Related: some computational neuroscience principles used to make a curiosity-driven AI.
Mathematical proofs small enough to fit on Twitter: every odd integer is the difference of two squares.
From the subreddit: the most successful fraudster of all time may have been Jho Low, a financier who offered to manage Malaysia’s $4 billion dollar sovereign wealth fund, took the $4 billion, and walked away with it.
Ever wonder why charities (and other organizations) that say they have enough funding but complain they can’t find enough good employees don’t just raise the salaries they’re offering until they can? Here’s an 80,000 Hours survey on the topic. The main insight is that if a group has 20 employees and can’t find a 21st, then if they want to raise the open position’s salary by X in order to attract more people, they need to raise all their existing employees’ salaries by X or those employees will reasonably complain they’re getting paid less for the same work. So the cost of raising the salary they’re offering for an empty position is less like X and more like 21X.
Sorry, non-Californians, more on the CA ballot propositions – here’s a table of how the state voted on each vs. how SFers voted vs. how LAers voted vs. what the relevant newspapers endorsed. It looks like everyone is pretty much in alignment except the San Francisco Chronicle, which hates everything.
Many Indo-European languages use euphemisms for “bear”, sometime several layers of euphemism, because of a fear that speaking the bear’s true name might summon it. The English word “bear” is a euphemism originally meaning “brown one”. Inside the quest to reconstruct the bear’s True Name. NB: do not read this article aloud or you might get eaten by bears.