The Obama Presidential Library is starting to come together. It’s very modern-looking, but not in a bad way. Related: did you know that Dan Quayle has the only (?) unofficial vice-presidential library? And that Jefferson Davis has a presidential library of his own? (albeit sponsored by Mississippi, not the US)
Ben Landau-Taylor is a stirrup denialist.
How did the descendants of the Mayan Indians end up in the Eastern Orthodox Church?
Scientist Mark Edwards became a hero when he first discovered and exposed toxic levels of lead in Flint, Michigan. For the past few years, he’s been saying that the water is better now and the crisis is over, “and that turned him from a hero into a pariah”.
Does Parental Quality Matter? Study using three sources of parental variation that are mostly immune to genetic confounding find that “the strong parent-child correlation in education is largely causal”. For example, “the parent-child correlation in education is stronger with the parent that spends more time with the child”.
Although most big cities have many “sister cities”, Paris and Rome both have legally enshrined sister city monogamy, because “only Paris is worthy of Rome; only Rome is worthy of Paris”.
80,000 Hours’ advice on going into a career in AI policy. “If you’re a thoughtful American interested in developing expertise and technical abilities in the domain of AI policy, then this may be one of your highest impact options, particularly if you have been to or can get into a top grad school in law, policy, international relations or machine learning.”
I’ve written before about how people underestimate the interpersonal differences in visual imagination, but I was surprised by this poll which apparently found that many people imagine in black-and-white, in outlines, or just in faded pastel colors. Huh? For me a shape as simple as a red star would be near-perfect (though it feels somehow insubstantial, or perhaps strobing in and out at a very fast rate.)
Almost a third of the world’s Bitcoin mining happens in a rural area of Washington State where a bunch of hydroelectric dams make electricity extra-cheap. How crypto is transforming the Mid-Columbia Basin.
Far-right anti-Muslim Dutch politician converts to Islam. Says he tried to write a book proving Islam was bad, but the research went the opposite way he expected. Maybe the most impressive example of open-mindedness of all time – but some followers are still holding out hope it’s just a weird stunt.
Because everyone is terrible and everything sucks forever, some people are trying to factory-farm octopuses.
Before and after pictures of tech leaders like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Sergey Brin suggest they’re taking supplemental testosterone. And though it may help them keep looking young, Palladium points out that there might be other effects from having some of our most powerful businessmen on a hormone that increases risk-taking and ambition. They ask whether the new availability of testosterone supplements is prolonging Silicon Valley businessmen’s “brash entrepreneur” phase well past the point where they would normally become mature respectable elders. But it also hints at an almost opposite take: average testosterone levels have been falling for decades, so at this point these businessmen would be the only “normal” (by 1950s standards) men out there, and everyone else would be unprecedently risk-averse and boring. Paging Peter Thiel and everyone else who takes about how things “just worked better” in Eisenhower’s day.
New study: ID laws have not stopped any voter fraud, but they also haven’t disenfranchised anyone or had disproportionate race-based effects. They just do nothing and don’t matter. (EDIT: Here’s another study that does find disenfranchisement)
A parable on the difficulty of science: P. Apterus is a strikingly-colored insect. Researchers who studied them successfully in Europe moved to Harvard and found their insects failed to metamorphisize properly. Eventually they tracked this to the paper towels lining their cage; in the US, these are made with wood from a species of fir with anti-insect hormones that survive the paper-making process.
Also from Reason: Celebrate, Don’t Mourn, The End Of What’s Always Been A Bad Plan (on California high-speed rail). Related: before the end, even the politician behind the rail initiative denounced it as “almost a crime”. And Cato presents the generalized case against trains. “The bottom line is that states and cities should not even ask whether urban or intercity passenger rail projects are feasible. I can tell you at the start that they are not: unless you are in Tokyo or Hong Kong, buses, cars, and planes are always superior to passenger rail.” Interested to hear the local transit geeks’ opinion on this.
Related (I am lying, it’s not really related at all): the metaphysics of public transit.
In happier California-canceling-things news, the University of California has declined to renew its
Danegeld subscription to academic journal rent-seeker publisher Elsevier. This is a bold move which has the chance to start a virtuous feedback loop, but it’s going to be a big hassle for California academics who are no longer able to access a lot of the journals in their fields (hopefully they all know how to use sci-hub).
It’s fun to beat up on PETA, but first at least read PETA’s argument that some of the worst stories about them are deliberately spread by meat industry lobby groups.
Related: Ozy is offering a $500 bounty for a good guide on how to best switch from factory-farmed fish to more animal-friendly wild-caught fish.
This letter from the New York State budget director has gone viral; it describes how terrible a choice rejecting Amazon’s HQ was for New York’s finances. I’m sure the budget director is right that the economic benefits Amazon would have brought to the state were much greater than the subsidies necessary to lure them there, but he misses the point: subsidizing them is still defecting against other states in a negative-sum way. Doing it is the economically correct choice in the same way that paying Danegeld or bribing corrupt politicians is the economically correct choice, and refusing to do so is a self-sacrificing but morally admirable step towards a better world (if done in a way that encourages other states to participate in the new equilibrium).
Did you know: a terrorist group made up of Holocaust survivors vowed to kill six million Germans in revenge for Nazi atrocities, but were caught and arrested after only non-fatally poisoning two thousand.
China’s SesameCredit social monitoring system, widely portrayed as dystopian, has an 80% approval rate in China (vs. 19% neutral and 1% disapproval). The researchers admit that although all data is confidential and they are not affiliated with the Chinese government, their participants might not believe that confidently enough to answer honestly.
I know how much you guys love attacking EAs for “pathological altruism” or whatever terms you’re using nowadays, so here’s an article where rationalist community member John Beshir describes his experience getting malaria on purpose to help researchers test a vaccine.
New Orleans has reduced its homeless population by 90% (albeit after a post-Katrina high). Their secret? Giving them homes.
The orchestra study – one of the most famous studies proving gender discrimination, cited over a thousand times – doesn’t stand up to basic scrutiny (and here’s a r/TheMotte reader independently noticing the same thing). And another famous study proving gender discrimination in tech, recently cited in the New York Times, appears not to actually exist. I would call this a new low, but it really isn’t, it’s pretty par for the course. Meanwhile, there’s a mountain of good evidence showing gender discrimination is not a major driver of gender imbalance in tech, and it might as well be a local election in Timbuktu for all the media coverage it gets.
The Stranger‘s list of errors and corrections for 2018 (comedy).
Entendrepreneur (which may have named itself) is a really really neat online pun and portmanteau generator.
A new generation of nuclear energy startups are pushing liquid molten salt reactors, scalable safe nuclear reactors that don’t produce waste and can’t melt down. Potential as a green energy solution is obvious. But what happened to the hype around thorium five years ago?
Did you know there’s now a working Ebola vaccine?
You probably knew that the “wasabi” around today mostly isn’t real wasabi, but did you know the same is true of soy sauce? This BBC feature on the attempt to save real soy sauce from extinction is annoyingly-designed but very good. It’s also very Japanese: “To lock the planks into place, Fujii Seiokesho’s craftsmen told Yamamoto not to use glue, but bamboo. After talking to a neighbour, Yamamoto learned that his grandfather had planted a bamboo grove decades earlier for exactly that reason, knowing that someone in the family would one day need to build more barrels.” Real soy sauce from this guy’s company is apparently available on Amazon; I’m going to get some and try it and report back.
Some evidence against the theory that missing fathers cause earlier menarche.
Before you point to sugar as the Lone Dietary Villain, keep in mind that the British may eat less sugar today than they did in 1913, when obesity was very rare.
John Nerst of EverythingStudies’ political compass.
We’ve reached max environmental determinism! We’re reaching levels of environmental determinism that shouldn’t even be possible! Does Positive Thinking In Pregnancy Boost Children’s Math Skills?
This article on The Takeover Of The American Mind is a pretty standard-issue anti-SJW piece, but I’m linking it for the second graph, which shows SJWness of Google searches by state. The leaders are Rhode Island, Vermont, Maryland, Connecticut, and Massachussets – which (aside from Maryland) I take as evidence for the neo-Puritan hypothesis.
I wonder how things are going in the alternate universe where Donald Trump ended up as First Lady of Venezuela.
New study uses genetics to determine that the correlation between brain size and intelligence is causal.
r/TheMotte on the Cardinal George Pell case.
I know it’s off-brand of me to like this, but these colorful scarves representing local climates over time are really pretty and an interesting teaching aid on climate change.
Know Your GABA Receptor Subunits. Cannot 100% vouch that this is all true, but on a quick skim it looks basically right to me, and a lot more comprehensible than anything else I’ve read on the subject.
Bryan Caplan has won yet another bet, this one on US vs. EU unemployment.
Did you know: The first cellular automaton was given by the Archangel Uriel to John Dee in the 1500s, and was only fully decoded by Jim Reeds (note nominative determinism, especially if Jim = Gym = γυμνός!) in 1996.
Sarah Constantin, who used to work in the personalized medicine industry, describes which parts of it she’s disillusioned with, and which parts still might work.
For a fun time, compare Nathan Robinson’s review of Ray Dalio’s Principles with Peter McCluskey’s review of the same book. It’s less that they disagree on any particular point and more that they have totally different personalities and totally different ideas about what a book review is supposed to do.
This 17th century anti-Dutch pamphlet really goes all in on the subtitles, subsubtitles, and subsubsubtitles. Also, note the figure on the left; possible origin story for the Trump family?