[Epistemic status: I have not independently verified each link. On average, about two of the links in each links post turn out to be wrong or misleading, as found by commenters. I correct these as I see them, but can’t guarantee I will have caught them all by the time you read this.]
List Of Places With “Silicon” In The Name Because They Are Branding Themselves As The Next Silicon Valley. I knew the UK had a “Silicon Roundabout”, but I didn’t know there was a Silicon Bayou, Silicon Taiga, Silicon Fen, and even a Welsh “Cwm Silicon”.
You probably knew that sperm count and fertility were declining rapidly and mysteriously. Now scientists have narrowed down the search for a cause by finding that something similar is happening in dogs.
Econ professor on Twitter picks apart a bad study in JAMA trying to claim that car accidents spike on 4/20 because weed.
Did you know: Saudi prince Khaled bin Talal participated in a trophy hunt in South Africa in the 1990s. He regretted his actions, went vegan, became a major investor in vegan food companies around the world, and is now opening his own chain of vegan restaurants across the Middle East.
The Lancet publishes a great article on antidepressant tapering arguing that tapers should be much slower, and should be hyperbolic rather than linear. Great article, though I think it underemphasizes that 90% of people have no problem with antidepressant tapering no matter what you do, and you don’t have to put people on a drawn-out year-long taper unless they fail the usual regimen.
Some people have different theories of consciousness? And they’re going to try to test them? By experiment? Using an adversarial collaboration? Pretty weird.
Some effective altruists suggest you save up to donate later. Others warn against “value drift”, eg later you might drop out of effective altruism and not care at all. Now they have empirical data: of 22 people who were donating 10% of their income five years ago (or doing other equivalent work), only 8 continue to do so today. Moral of the story: if you’re going to put something off until later, keep in mind it will be a different you with different values who decides what to do with it.
From Less Wrong: a good post explaining how exponential curves like Moore’s Law can be best understood as a series of S-curves on top of each other.
Study suggests victimized employees are vulnerable to being seen as bullies themselves, with real bullies given passes. It concludes that we must be extra-vigilant against “victim-blaming”. This might be the right lesson from a god’s-eye view, but seems like exactly the wrong lesson when implemented by people like the subjects of the study, which it will be. The words “victim-blaming” are what people use to shut down discussion about whether you might be wrong about who the victim vs. the bully is. If studies show people are frequently wrong about this, then launching a campaign to shut down that discussion just means preventing anyone from questioning or correcting frequently-wrong people.
I was on board with the narrative that “prostitution leads to human trafficking” was a lie spread by anti-sex-worker authoritarians like Kamala Harris. But a study suggests that legalized prostitution does increase human trafficking and that “the scale effect dominates the substitution effect”. Interested to hear pro-legalization people’s perspective on this. [EDIT: here is a critique]
Reddit survey of drug users: How Much Better/Worse Would Your Life Be If [Various Drugs] Ceased To Exist? Tobacco, heroin, and synthetic cannabinoids do worst; LSD, amphetamines, and the Internet do best.
This is a great interpretation and modern translation of “Yankee Doodle”. Bonus fact: “macaroni” meant “high fashion” because everything Italian was considered cool at the time.
I honestly thought this study had been done a long time ago, but I guess it hadn’t been, and now it is: e-cigarettes are definitely more helpful for smoking cessation than normal nicotine replacement.
A really good and deep exploration of cost disease in subway construction, though with only partial applicability for cost disease in other things.
This blog on brain size (warning: some racist language elsewhere on the blog) has a weird obsession with the size of Oprah’s head, and claims she is probably the largest-headed woman in the world.
I don’t claim to 100% understand this, but it looks like it’s an app called rationally.io for designing replicable experiments, so I guess I have to link it.
Nutrition scientist Stephan Guyenet (author of The Hungry Brain, reviewed here on SSC) and his colleagues are launching Red Pen Reviews, a site where top nutritionists review and grade the latest books on nutrition.
Servant Of The People was a popular Ukranian TV comedy about a mild-mannered schoolteacher who gets elected President of Ukraine after making a video about politics that goes viral. Earlier this week, actor Volodymyr Zelensky, who played the starring role, was elected President of Ukraine in real life.
Website TheSpiritLevelDelusion has been critiquing popular-in-the-media book The Spirit Level from Day 1. Now, ten years later, they demonstrate that using the book’s own methodology none of the trends it highlights have continued to hold, potentially because they were p-hacked to fit the data as it existed when the book was published.
Related: 25 years later, Scott Aaronson reviews how John Horgan’s article The Death Of Proof has fared over the past 25 years. Summary: not well, proof continues to be an important part of math, Horgan admits he was wrong on this one.
Burger King introduces vegetarian Whopper made with Impossible Burger vs. McDonalds is main holdout against new farm welfare standards. If you’re a meat-eater who supports animal welfare, consider switching your fast food business to Burger King for a while.
French European Affairs minister denies viral rumor that she named her cat “Brexit” because “it wakes me up meowing like crazy every morning because it wants to go out, but as soon as I open the door, it just sits there undecided and then looks angry when I put it outside.”
The big politics news is, of course, the Mueller Report, and how much its finding of no illegal collusion between Trump and Russia discredits a media that had been talking rather a lot about how much illegal collusion between Trump and Russia there definitely was. The “it does discredit the media” case is made most strongly by Matt Taibbi in Russiagate is WMDGate Times A Million; for the “it doesn’t discredit the media” perspective, see eg The Atlantic‘s The Mueller Probe Was An Unmitigated Success. I prefer the pro-discreditation narrative, just because the media will never face any negative consequences for things like the constant hyping of The Spirit Level and anything else that agrees with their biases, over and over again, times ten million. So when Fate tempts us with a remote chance that the media might actually face some negative publicity for getting something wrong, I am 100% in favor of everyone being as angry and punitive as possible, even though honestly I didn’t follow the whole Mueller thing and find it hard to pay attention to. If you want people with more reasonable opinions on this, you can check the first and second Mueller Report threads from The Motte.
On March 24, Donald Trump tweeted “Good Morning, Have A Great Day!” You can learn a lot about our society by reading the 67,000 ensuing comments
I recently learned about SketchyMed, a site that makes mnemonic-device-esque videos to help medical students study. Eliezer once claimed that the only place it looked like our civilization was really exerting effort was predicting stock prices; this makes me think that “studying for medical licensing exams” is a second example. May be worth watching to see the technique in action even if you are not a med student. See eg their video about salmonella.
Deep roots: which European ethnicity settled each area of the United States centuries ago determines how much inequality it has today, with the level of inequality in the American region corresponding to the level in the European home country. Appears to be a cultural rather than purely genetic effect since it holds for black people in each area as well. See the study and the article describing it.
Related: Noah Smith twittereviews “Replenished Ethnicity”, a book theorizing that continuing Mexican immigration prevented Mexicans from fully assimilating, and now that Mexican immigration has slowed, we should expect Mexicans to assimilate to the same degree other groups like the Irish did.
Education can probably increase IQ, but only up until age 20. Does this mean the effect is something real about brain development, and not just that education helps you ace IQ tests? And some good Twitter discussion.
More on cost disease / wage decoupling / civilizational decline/ housing crisis: as per these tweets, the average rent in NYC went from 15% of average income in 1950 to 65% today.
In India, private companies can do surgical procedures for 2% to 3% the amount American hospitals charge, apparently with equally good or better outcomes. Now India’s universal health care plan is trying to cut costs further and scale the model to the entire population.
Previous studies found that variation in height across European countries was primarily due to differential selection across ethnic groups. A new paper finds that these studies were confounded by methodological error and we don’t know whether there was selection or not. Relevant partly because height is determined similarly to IQ and other socially relevant traits.
I’ve been a big supporter of “housing-first” policies on homelessness (ie don’t try to force homeless people to become model citizens, just give them housing), so I guess I owe it to present this article pushing back against them. It argues that some small fraction of homeless people are loud or violent or defecate in inappropriate places, and that cities which have tried housing them have found that when they put them in nice apartment buildings, they ruin the apartment for everyone else (including other homeless people). One obvious solution is giving houses in nice apartment buildings to everyone except that small fraction, but I think people worry that looks too much like trying to separate the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, so it’s politically difficult. The actual “solution” that DC (the city profiled here) has proposed is to mandate that any apartment building that accepts homeless people must provide them with lots of on-site social services. This sounds like a great way to ensure no apartment building ever accepts homeless people ever again (or that they get ghetto-ified from normal apartments with a healthy mixture of different classes into a few slums that specialize in meeting onerous requirements).
Related, from The Motte: Dueling GoFundMe Campaigns Highlight A San Francisco NIMBY Battle (one is to fight against an attempt to open a homeless shelter in a nice area, the other is to fight for the shelter).
New paper analyzes data from an unnamed online dating website (realistically, OKCupid), discusses differences among cities.
If you were into astronomy thirty years ago, you’re probably familiar with the Nemesis theory: the sun has a brown dwarf partner whose orbit sometimes sends deadly comets hurtling at Earth causing regular extinctions. But I hadn’t realized that the theory has since fallen apart as scientists failed to find it with sky surveys that should have been good enough to find it if it existed (also, extinctions don’t seem to happen that regularly).
538 analyzes their past predictions, finds they have nearly perfect calibration.
In all these years of people using “BUT WHO WOULD BUILD THE ROADS?” as their knockdown objection to libertarianism, I never realized that the Nordic countries already have privately funded roads and they work great.
The government knows how much tax you owe well enough to arrest you if you try to cheat them, so how come they can’t just tell you that number and save you the trouble of preparing your taxes? They could, but the companies that make tax preparation software have good lobbyists and have gotten Congress to ban them from doing that. Now they’re trying to enshrine this system permanently. Related: TurboTax is blocking search engines from indexing what little help that they are legally required to provide.
Boston Corbett, the man who killed Lincoln’s assassin, was a colorful character. (Puritanism level: literally named “Boston”)
The Azolla Event was a time 50 million years ago when so many freshwater ferns grew in the Arctic Ocean that when they sank into the sea, it locked up a substantial fraction of Earth’s carbon, caused an anti-greenhouse effect, and initiated an ice age. Very, very related: Rogue Geoengineer Dumps Iron Into The Pacific to Create Massive Algal Bloom (from 2012, but rogue geoengineering is always in fashion).
There will be a free Introduction To Effective Altruism workshop in Berkeley from May 18 – 19.
80,000 Hours Podcast interviews two economists working on charter cities (transcript available on the bottom). It looks like Zambia is going to go ahead with one.
VR researcher Hamish Todd lists his predictions for the future of VR/AR/MR (no individual confidence levels, but he predicts globally that 80% of them will be right).