April 18th, 2014

The Healthy Hazda do not have the “healthy” bacteria in their gut

Interesting:

Researchers have known for decades that the biota in our gut vary depending on what we eat. But the Hadza microbiome still turned out to be surprisingly different.

To study the difference between the ancient and modern gut, researchers analyzed stool samples from 16 Italian urbanites and 27 Hadza foragers, of both genders.

The Italians’ gut flora was generally what they expected in Western diets, with some Mediterranean influences. The Hadza’s poop, however, was like stepping into a lost continent of microbe ...

April 10th, 2014

Hacker School bans competitive feigned surprise regarding your ignorance

This is great:

If you have ability and a strong work ethic, people will notice. You will learn a lot from their reaction. If they react by treating with you with respect, they have strong character. If they react by taking every opportunity to belittle and undermine you, they perceive you as a threat to them. If you aren’t prone to petty jealousy and spiteful thinking, it will be difficult to empathize with people who are. Sadly, you must handle these ...

April 6th, 2014

You don’t have to run faster than the bear

You just need to run faster than the guy next to you.

Source

April 4th, 2014

Zero is a function

Is zero a number or a function? Probably a function:

I also wish to re-state zero is a function. It separates positive and negative numbers, real and imaginary numbers. So if smart people wish to argue 0^0 = 1 or NOT then same said people should arguably disagree that 1^(1/2) =1 … Or NOT Because -1 x -1 = 1

Source

April 4th, 2014

Germany versus America

Written by a German who has been living in America for a long time:

The German system gives more power to the parties, since they decide which candidates to place on the list from which the parliamentarians will later be drawn. Parties finance the election campaigns; the candidates themselves do not need to raise substantial amounts of money. In return, there is a very high party loyalty in the German parliament. Parliamentarians vote their conscience only on rare, very important ...

April 4th, 2014

Low expectations for sitcoms

I agree with “low expectations”. Sitcoms are slowly dying out: in 2000 there were 36 in prime time major networks, by 2013 there were only 16. They are being replaced by reality shows. Sitcoms were invented to fill time while being low-cost, but reality shows are even cheaper and can draw just as much audience. The rise of unscripted reality shows (when they are unscripted, which is rare) suggests that Keith Johnstone might have been correct when he suggested that ...

April 4th, 2014

The war on science

Doesn’t the Entire Earth Have the Same Climate?

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) demonstrated his inability to grasp the idea that the world’s climate varies across different regions (which, in fairness, is a sensible line of questioning—if we were living on the forest moon of Endor):

Rohrabacher: Do you believe that tornadoes and hurricanes today are more ferocious and more frequent than they were in the past?

Holdren: There is no evidence relating to tornadoes. None of all. And I don’t know any ...

April 4th, 2014

Work should be fun

Interesting:

It’s also quite scary when you consider that we’re entering an era of technological unemployment. More and more jobs are being automated: they aren’t going to provide money, social validation, or occupation for anyone any longer. We saw this first with agriculture and the internal combustion engine and artificial fertilizers, which reduced the rural workforce from around 90% of the population in the 17th-18th century to around 1% today in the developed world. We’ve seen it in steel, coal, and ...

April 4th, 2014

Woman takes a grant, is then called a hypocrite for criticizing university

If true, then this is a worrisome attitude for someone who offers scholarships to college students. Shouldn’t college kids be encouraged to make thoughtful dissents against the institutions they find themselves in?

Even more damningly, the administration seems to conflate “promoting civility” with “quashing dissent.” Over email, the current Coastal student told me, “I’ve been reluctant to write in the school newspaper and [be] critical thereof because students have warned me they’ve been called in by administration after publishing op-ed ...

April 1st, 2014

The impact on gender relations of unpaid labor in open source?

Interesting:

A note on meritocracy

It’s difficult to go much further without mentioning the undercurrent belief in meritocracy that is particularly pervasive in open source communities, especially around participation in GitHub.

Meritocracy is the belief that those with merit float to the top – that they should be given more opportunities and be paid higher.

We prize the idea of meritocracy and weigh merit on contribution to OSS. Those who contribute the most, goes the general belief, have the most merit and are ...

March 31st, 2014

A genuinely new thought about the history of human expansion

I thought I knew every theory of possible human expansion, but this was entirely new for me:

Dr. Guidon remains defiant about her findings. At her home on the grounds of a museum she founded to focus on the discoveries in Serra da Capivara, she said she believed that humans had reached these plateaus even earlier, around 100,000 years ago, and might have come not overland from Asia but by boat from Africa.

Humans traveled by boat from Africa to South America ...

March 30th, 2014

Debtors prisons raise the risk of corruption in the USA

The problem with putting people in jail for debts is that the courts themselves get corrupted by the confluence of money and power. This is a step down a dark road:

In the spring of 2009, Burdette was doing well. For a year she had worked at the Piggly Wiggly in Childersburg, where nearly a quarter of the 5,200 citizens live in poverty. Burdette’s cashier job didn’t pay much, but it helped her get by.

One May afternoon, she was ringing up ...

March 28th, 2014

Sensitivity training: I have a knife and you have a gun

I am curious what Frances Hocutt believes sensitivity training can achieve? Is it an appropriate tool for changing a culture?

I wanted to lead a research team and solve pressing problems in medicine, energy, or the environment while treating my employees fairly. I thought about being able to hire people like my incredibly competent but PhD-less co-worker into management roles. I thought about instituting management and diversity training for PhD-level chemists. I thought about inviting some of the women ...

March 20th, 2014

To what extent can artists be political?

An interesting bit, suggesting an unresolveable divide between art and politics:

What gets in the way of artists’ making substantive political contributions? The collection’s title essay proposes that artists’ class position opposes their interests to those of typical protesters, even when both are concerned with economic survival. Because artists, unlike wage laborers, have a direct stake in what they produce and face no workplace discipline other than what they impose on themselves, their political attitudes are structurally different from those ...

March 1st, 2014

Russia mobilizes troops to occupy parts of the Ukraine

Russia mobilizes troops to occupy parts of the Ukraine.

I am speculating. What could Putin really hope to accomplish? And at what expense?

I am looking at Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukraine

Ethnic groups (2001)

77.8% Ukrainians

17.3% Russians

4.9% others / unspecified

The Russians are concentrated in the eastern-most provinces, and also in the Crimea.

Russia has 145 million people, the Ukraine has 46 million people, so in terms of the ratio of people, Russia invading the Ukraine would be a bit like the USA invading Mexico. Russia also has a ...

February 9th, 2014

The culture of girls and computers

Interesting:

It Really Is about Girls (and Boys)

Twelve-year-old girls today don’t generally get to have the experiences that I did. Parents are warned to keep kids off the computer lest they get lured away by child molesters or worse—become fat! That goes doubly for girls, who then grow up to be liberal arts majors. Then, in their late teens or early twenties, someone who feels the gender skew in technology communities is a problem drags them to a LUG meeting ...

February 1st, 2014

Why government spying matters

Interesting:

I live in a country generally assumed to be a dictatorship. One of the Arab spring countries. I have lived through curfews and have seen the outcomes of the sort of surveillance now being revealed in the US. People here talking about curfews aren’t realizing what that actually FEELS like. It isn’t about having to go inside, and the practicality of that. It’s about creating the feeling that everyone, everything is watching. A few points: 1) the purpose of this surveillance ...

January 29th, 2014

Nothing but a false accusation based upon ignorance of Evidence Based Management

Interesting: This argument would be stronger if it had something to say about those cases where there is no known best practice. We all know there are some demographic segments are poorly served by the current medical industry. If a middle aged woman with mild but painful neurological symptoms goes to see her doctor, there is little the doctor can do for her and she will be lucky if the doctor takes her seriously. The reality is there are many ...

January 25th, 2014

Black business owner framed by the police

What a shocking story. The police used an informant who went in and planted crack cocaine in the store to frame a business owner. Thankfully the business owner had video that showed the whole thing was a frame-up. The prosecutor was aware that the video exonerated the accused, and yet the prosecutor never stopped pursuing the accused.

Andrews opened up Dabb City Smoke Shop in Scotia, New York last January. By April he was arrested for selling crack cocaine. ...

January 23rd, 2014

Marriage does not cure poverty

Interesting:

The case for marriage promotion begins with some perfectly real correlations. Across a variety of measures — household income, self-reported life satisfaction, childrearing outcomes — married couples seem to do better than pairs of singles (and much better than single parents), particularly in populations towards the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder. So it is natural to imagine that, if somehow poor people could be persuaded to marry more, they too would enjoy those improvements in household income, life satisfaction, ...

January 17th, 2014

50 years of social change for women

Interesting:

Megan Mullally: I had a lot of boyfriends and a lot of flings. I think flings are great. That’s something women should investigate a little more thoroughly. The trick is, you have to not care. I was in my late 30s when I first started having successful flings and didn’t get emotionally attached to the guy. But you have to be at a point in your life when you’re not needy, when you’re not looking for a husband or a long-term ...

January 17th, 2014

The rising power of the far-right in Greece

Interesting:

Yanis Varoufakis: We are talking about the greatest diminution of human life prospects since the 1930′s during the Peacetime. It’s inescapable. Wherever you turn your eyes and ears towards, you see and hear signs of a country that has fallen into a hole. I can give you several rather sad examples.

You walk around Athens at night and you can’t fail to notice that there are several apartments that are not lit, but where people live ...

January 16th, 2014

What makes a great tutor?

Interesting:

Naturally, Lepper went to work building a team of researchers, and they ran studies and wrote papers on tutoring for the next decade.

All the research had the same basic plan. First, they would pick a topic in basic math. Say, fractions. They’d find kids in need of remedial tutoring in that topic and tutors with experience teaching it. They’d pre-test the kids for both math skills and motivation. The tutoring sessions would be videotaped. And they’d test the kids ...

January 14th, 2014

Girls get math

I was in Barnes and Noble and I saw this book. I wondered what would make a math book specific to girls so I opened it up and found that it was full of pep talks. I am curious if a similar approach would work for boys? Most boys are scared away from math because they assume it is too hard for them.

Source

January 12th, 2014

Impostor Syndrome in science

Interesting:

A person can have experiences that directly lead her to feel like an impostor, such as repeated remarks about her age, probing questions into her expertise despite a strong technical background, or jokes about a woman’s science capabilities. She can be reminded that she is no more than an object to some, by reading about studies showing women’s bodies are interpreted as objects but men’s as people. And a person can internalize these experiences and feel less competent, such ...

January 12th, 2014

Old Viking game

This was an interesting write up about an old Viking game.

Viking warriors storm into the torch-lit camp of a rival clan. Outnumbered, the ambushed Norsemen are far from their boats. Their one goal: flee to a nearby castle while keeping their king alive.

At first glance, Hnefatafl (prounounced “nef-ah-tah-fel”) might just look like a knock-off version of chess with Norse helms and impressive beards, but the game is at least 600 years older—already well-known by 400 A.D.—and is perhaps a ...

January 11th, 2014

What is wrong with Virginia Republicans?

Politicians doing stupid things is a fairly universal story, but this one is so extreme I had to link to it: Virginia Republican Wants to Outlaw Oral Sex Between Teenagers. How can anyone be this stupid?

You’d think that, after Ken Cuccinelli and his batshit insane “outlaw oral and anal sex” platform lost the governor’s race, conservatives would have realized that any enemy of BJs, etc. is an enemy of freedom. But, sigh, no — Virginia state legislator Thomas ...

January 10th, 2014

In France the head of government is not the head of state so he can argue that he has a right to privacy:

“It’s a real passion that has … turned their lives upside down and makes them take insane risks,” the magazine wrote.

The report in Closer, which angered many in Britain for publishing topless pictures the Duchess of Cambridge in 2012, sparked a furious rebuke from the president, who, however, failed to deny the liaison.

A source close to the president ...

January 9th, 2014

Sexual harassment on the Internet

Interesting:

“Ignore the barrage of violent threats and harassing messages that confront you online every day.” That’s what women are told. But these relentless messages are an assault on women’s careers, their psychological bandwidth, and their freedom to live online. We have been thinking about Internet harassment all wrong.

I was 12 hours into a summer vacation in Palm Springs when my phone hummed to life, buzzing twice next to me in the dark of my hotel room. I squinted at the ...

January 9th, 2014

When do we learn to remember?

Interesting:

Bauer and Larkina uncovered a paradox – at ages 5 to 7, the children remembered over 60 per cent of the events they’d chatted about at age 3. However, their recall for these events was immature in the sense of containing few evaluative comments and few mentions of time and place. In contrast, children aged 8 and 9 recalled fewer than 40 per cent of the events they’d discussed at age 3, but those memories they did recall were more ...

January 9th, 2014

Megan McArdle knows who she is

The most ironic book ever written has just been published. Megan McArdle has long embodied the sad fact that some people fail upwards: they screw up every job they get and then they are promoted. And now she has just written a book called The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success. At least she is, for once, writing about a subject she knows well.

Source

January 8th, 2014

Scandinavian culture respects women

Interesting:

“This year my colleague did something really bitchy to us: she got pregnant” says the guy sitting across the dinner table in my French New Year’s Eve 2014. I almost choked on my slice of camembert. I’ve been living in Norway for 4 years and never have I ever heard such negative comments associated with pregnancy. “She left for 3 months on maternity leave. I mean seriously! And then you wonder why employers don’t want to hire women in their ...

January 8th, 2014

The oldest known vertebrate animal with a jaw

Interesting:

Scientists say they have discovered a fossil of the oldest known vertebrate animal with a jaw — a strange chimera of a fish that could unseat the shark as a representative of extremely “primitive” jawed fishes and turn our evolutionary understanding of humans’ ocean-dwelling ancestors on its head.

The new fossil described in the journal Nature, called Entelognathus primordialis, is a 419-million-year-old armored fish from the end of the Silurian period, right before the start of the Devonian, known as the ...

January 8th, 2014

Slow evolution in sharks

Interesting:

For the first time, researchers have fully sequenced the genome of a cartilaginous fish and the study could potentially give brand new information on the evolution of bony vertebrates.

To be published Thursday, the study examined an elephant shark genome, which was relatively small. The genome contained just shy of a billion DNA base pairs, whereas a human genome contains about three billion.

The study also marks the first time a cartilaginous fish, which include sharks, rays and skates, had its entire ...

January 7th, 2014

What drives wage differentials among the genders?

Interesting:

As women have increased their productivity enhancing characteristics and as they “look” more like men, the human capital part of the wage difference has been squeezed out. What remains is largely how firms reward individuals who differ in their desire for various amenities. These amenities are various aspects of workplace flexibility. Workplace flexibility is a complicated, multidimensional concept. The term includes the number of hours to be worked and also the need to work particular hours, to be “on call,” ...

January 6th, 2014

Why do women go to college and choose poor paying careers?

The convergence of college majors, between men and women, is most notable during the 1970s and ended in the mid 1980s. Changes in divorce law were among the driving forces for the changes in women’s behavior. Interesting:

Why do women today invest in a college education at much higher rates than men, whereas fifty years ago men graduated more frequently? And given their high college attendance rates today, why do women continue to select disproportionately into lower-paying majors? The main objective ...

January 2nd, 2014

A girl can wait and if she is attractive good things may happen to her

It is interesting to note how many brilliant men can write with great insight on the technical subjects which they have mastered, yet when it comes to the subject of women, the depth of their analysis is reduced to naive assumptions. So, for instance, via Hacker News I discovered this essay by John McCarthy.

I don’t see a date on this essay, but I am assuming it was written in the 1960s? It has many assumptions that sound 60sish.

This is true:

“A ...

December 25th, 2013

The axiom of choice

Interesting that this was controversial:

Informally put, the axiom of choice says that given any collection of bins, each containing at least one object, it is possible to make a selection of exactly one object from each bin. In many cases such a selection can be made without invoking the axiom of choice; this is in particular the case if the number of bins is finite, or if a selection rule is available: a distinguishing property that happens to hold ...

December 3rd, 2013

Edsger Dijkstra on the fear of radical novelties

This is truly outstanding. Edsger Dijkstra speech from 1988, “On the cruelty of really teaching computing science” needs to be more widely read.

The usual way in which we plan today for tomorrow is in yesterday’s vocabulary. We do so, because we try to get away with the concepts we are familiar with and that have acquired their meanings in our past experience. Of course, the words and the concepts don’t quite fit because our future differs from our past, ...

November 29th, 2013

Sex and hazing

I got a laugh out of this comment:

I have no hard numbers/data to back this up, but in my estimation the incidence of homosexuality in fraternities is much higher than in the male population at large.

Probably true.

Source

November 25th, 2013

Texting is changing the English language.

And the other day there was news of the new predicate “because”.

Say you find yourself limping to the finish of a wearing workday. You text your girlfriend: “I know we made a reservation for your bday tonight but wouldn’t it be more romantic if we ate in instead?” If she replies,

we could do that

Then you can ring up Papa John’s and order something special. But if she replies,

we could do that.

Then you ...

November 20th, 2013

The unchanging tone of race relations in the USA

Interesting:

An “outright Marxist!” That’s what Rafael Cruz, Senator Ted Cruz’s father, declared of President Obama on the campaign trail in April 2013. His accusation is common on the right. Google “Obama Marxist” and you will get about 4.95 million results. “Obama communist” yields 40 million. It’s a strange charge against a man who vigorously supported the bail-out of Wall Street banks as a Senator, and expanded it to other major firms as President. Yet ...

November 20th, 2013

Small innovations in English miss the big ones

Interesting, but more is needed. The thing I hate most about Indo-European languages are the need to emphasize whether something are singular or plural. Why not make everything plural? Why are these something so important that they need to be mandatory in every single sentence? If we defaulted to all plural, all the time, these would fade away, just like gender faded out of the language during the 1300s.

The word “because,” in ...

November 19th, 2013

How does a frontier society have slavery?

I am confused by this:

“The land was thinly peopled by recent immigrants who could move again.”

If this is true, then how can this region have serfs, or slavery, or a nobility that easily dominates society? Why can’t people just run away, if they find their conditions difficult. Elsewhere I read that 50 years later the nobles began to emigrate further east, to Kuban, which was the new frontier. But why couldn’t the serfs run away in the same manner? It ...

November 15th, 2013

Humans can outrun anything

There is no animal on the planet that can match a humans ability to run long distances.

Four villagers in north-east Kenya have chased down and captured two cheetahs which were killing their goats.

The owner of the goats told the BBC that the cheetahs had been picking off his animals one by one, day by day.

The men waited until the hottest part of the day before launching the chase over a distance of four miles (6.4km).

The cheetahs got so ...

November 14th, 2013

Remembering World War I

I am impressed by this speech by the former Prime Minister, The Hon. P.J. Keating MP:

We do not know this Australian’s name and we never will. We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, nor precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe. We do not know his age or ...

November 14th, 2013

You can not understand another person’s sorrow

My father died in 2007. I miss him very much and I think about him every day. This is very true:

A colleague who lost his teenage son due to a traffic accident 3 years ago, told us about the ‘black halo’ which remains above his head, and which only others who have lost a child are able to see. I do not doubt for a second that this is the case – that people who have not lost a ...

November 14th, 2013

Richard Cohen talks about a white man married to a black woman

Very strange. Richard Cohen says “Today’s GOP is not racist” but then he says “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children”. This is the year 2013. What does the word “racist” mean?

Iowa not only is a serious obstacle for Christie and other Republican moderates, it also suggests something more ominous: the Dixiecrats of old. Officially the ...

November 7th, 2013

Political factors for alcoholism

This is interesting, but potentially reverses cause and effect:

A further obstacle to AA’s growth in Russia is something more philosophical: At a basic level, its premise of sobriety through mutual support just doesn’t make sense to a lot of Russians. In the past, this has taken the form of anti-Western suspicion—“What are the Americans trying to get out of this?” is a question Moseeva used to hear regularly. But more fundamentally, the group-therapy dynamic collides with a skepticism about ...

November 7th, 2013

Russian nationalist nostalgia

Interesting:

Sergey had the old tsarist imperial flag hanging on his wall, the white-gold-black tricolour that nationalists have taken as their banner. ‘I believe Russia is a great empire that other powers want to tear away parts from. We need to restore our power, retake our lost lands,’ he would say. Then in the same breath: ‘I want a Russia for Russians, all these churki from the Caucasus and Central Asia need to go home.’ This has always been the paradox ...

October 31st, 2013

What a story is really about

Interesting:

There’s a short story by Tom Godwin, famous in science fiction circles, called “The Cold Equations.” It’s about the pilot of a spaceship carrying medicine to a remote planet. The ship has just enough fuel to arrive at that particular destination, where its cargo will save six lives. En route, the pilot discovers a stowaway, an adolescent girl, and knowing that her additional weight will make completing the trip impossible, the agonized man informs her that she will have to ...

October 23rd, 2013

Did Pericles influence Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address?

This I did not know:

“If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences…if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition. The freedom we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life. There, far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbour for doing what he likes…”[13] These lines ...

October 20th, 2013

Conformity in America

Interesting:

On coming to America I had the same hopes as have most European immigrants and the same disillusionment, though the latter affected me more keenly and more deeply. The immigrant without money and without connections is not permitted to cherish the comforting illusion that America is a benevolent uncle who assumes a tender and impartial guardianship of nephews and nieces. I soon learned that in a republic there are myriad ways by which the strong, the cunning, the rich can ...

October 19th, 2013

The fall of party bosses gave rise to the era of money politics

Interesting:

Through the next decade, reformers tried to get control over money. Though they had gotten rid of the bosses, getting money out of politics proved daunting. This put power in the hands of business, which by hook or crook, Citizens United or not, was going to pursue its interests through the political system. But in general its interests were fairly narrow and were not particularly ideological. Where before business gave to party bosses, it now donated to candidates and political ...

October 17th, 2013

Interesting:

We all learned this in DARE class. About the rats in a cage who can self-administer morphine who get addicted to the stuff, and then just hit that lever until they die. A seemingly keystone argument in the war against drugs. Professor Avram Goldstein, the creator of that study, has said: “A rat addicted to heroin is not rebelling against society, is not a victim of socioeconomic circumstances, is not a product of a dysfunctional family, and is not a ...

October 16th, 2013

We would be smarter if we forgot more

This is very clever:

Then tell me what’s so wonderful about having fifty sets of marriage and divorce laws?

In 1752, Great Britain and her colonies (some two centuries later than Catholic Europe) abandoned the Julian calendar and adopted the astronomically more cor rect Gregorian calendar (see Chapter 1). Nearly half a century later, Pike was still giving rules for solving com plex calendar-based problems for the Julian calendar as well as for the Gregorian. Isn’t it nice to have forgotten ...

October 16th, 2013

The Catholic injustice in Ireland

These women where trapped in a Church run, state approved system of slave labor and sexual that continued until 1996. Woman were not paid, and their children, alleged to have been conceived during their time in the laundries, were taken from them and given up for adoption. While most of the more than 10,000 woman detailed in the 1,000 page report are now dead, buried in unmarked and forgotten graves, the children of these woman ...

October 16th, 2013

The limits of human knowing

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/5273453/Fifty-years-on…

Such was the intensity of debate that it might be supposed that these were age-old themes: but in fact, the idea of separating academic disciplines into groups known as science and humanities was no older than the 19th century. The term “scientist” was only coined in 1833, and it was not until 1882 that another Rede Lecturer, ...

October 16th, 2013

Can humans ever be rational?

Interesting:

McRaney spends several thousand words explaining the “backfire effect,” which he nicely summarized in one sentence: “When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.”

As I detailed in a recent column, the backfire effect makes it difficult for the press to effectively debunk misinformation. We present facts and evidence, and it often does nothing to change people’s minds. In fact, it can make people dig in even more. Humans also engage in motivated reasoning, a tendency ...

October 16th, 2013

“Equality of opportunity” echoes another famous phrase in American politics, “separate but equal”

Interesting:

But if you are a utilitarian, the case for social mobility is incoherent even on theoretical grounds. Under ordinary assumptions of diminishing marginal utility and a social welfare function that aggregates individual utilities, for any distribution of wealth, overall welfare is maximized when each individual knows her place with perfect certainty from the start. A person who expects to land on the bottom of the distribution might prefer that some uncertainty be added into the mix, but that benefit will ...

October 15th, 2013

Humans are not robots

Interesting:

Part of John Stuart Mill’s argument for freedom urges us to strive to elevate ourselves far above the level of these lesser robots. He never uses the word “robot,” since that word only entered the English language in 1923, in the English translation of a 1920 Czech play by Karel Capek. But John did use the word “automaton,” in exactly the sense I just defined. Here is what he has to say in On Liberty, chapter III, “Of Individuality, as ...

October 15th, 2013

Assume a can opener

Economics is a false science, full of glib assumptions, whereas physics is a real science, based on hard facts. Or maybe that is false. Maybe people explaining interesting engineering or physics puzzles engage in simplifying assumptions just as much as economists do?

I decided to idealize the problem like this: the slinky is an ideal spring with mass distributed uniformly throughout. It is also a spring that can pass through itself. These assumptions make analyzing the problem easier.

Assume a can ...

October 9th, 2013

No man is clever enough to know all the evil he does

So true.

Source

October 7th, 2013

When can intuition succeed?

Interesting:

How big is this upper bound? Mathematicians have often made errors in proofs. But it’s rarer for ideas to be accepted for a long time and then rejected. But we can divide errors into 2 basic cases corresponding to type I and type II errors: Mistakes where the theorem is still true, but the proof was incorrect (type I) Mistakes where the theorem was false, and the proof was also necessarily incorrect (type II) Before someone comes up with a final answer, ...

October 4th, 2013

Acid in the oceans is a great danger

Interesting:

In the starkest warning yet of the threat to ocean health, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) said: “This [acidification] is unprecedented in the Earth’s known history. We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure. The next mass extinction may have already begun.” It published its findings in the State of the Oceans report, collated every two years from global monitoring and other research studies.

Alex Rogers, professor ...

September 30th, 2013

Old male writers write bad sex scenes

This is a funny parody:

Even I am not immune to the trend. You see, I’ve written a Fond Memories of Vagina of my own. I don’t have a lot of experience having sex with women, but I do know tech support. That’s all sex is, right? Fluid mechanics, carnal physics, the movement of hot bodies through sexy space. In closing, I give you a sex scene from my erectnological thriller, The Webmaster:

He inserted his male attachment into the female adapter, ...

September 26th, 2013

Genius or LSD?

I seem to recall some friend of mine tripping on acid one time and saying stuff that sort of sounded like this:

As a by-product of this same view, I received a telephone call one day at the graduate college at Princeton from Professor Wheeler, in which he said, “Feynman, I know why all electrons have the same charge and the same mass” “Why?” “Because, they are all the same electron!” And, then he explained on the telephone, “suppose that the ...

September 22nd, 2013

Education in the USA is strangely focused on sports

Interesting:

“I’ve been in hundreds of classrooms,” says Singleton, who has spent 15 years as a principal and helped turn around other struggling schools. “This was the worst I’ve seen in my career. The kids were in control. The language was filthy. The teachers were not prepared.” By suspending sports, Singleton realized, he could save $150,000 in one year. A third of this amount was being paid to teachers as coaching stipends, on top of the smaller costs:$27,000 for ...

September 19th, 2013

Gaofen dineng: high scores but low ability

Gaofen dineng is a good description of Obama administration, full of high IQ people who are well education and who make catastrophically bad decisions.

In the USA there has been a move to inflict more school work on children. There is a feeling that when children play, time is being wasted. If the lack of play leads to less creative thinking, then surely we are creating a future catastrophe, raising a generation whose thinking is limited and rigid?

This is ...

September 15th, 2013

The usual visual grammar was in place

Russel Brand sounds surprisingly intelligent:

It must have been a while since I’ve attended a fancy, glitzy event, because as soon as I got to the GQ awards I felt like something was up. The usual visual grammar was in place – a carpet in the street, people in paddocks awaiting a brush with something glamorous, blokes with earpieces, birds in frocks of colliding colours that if sighted in nature would indicate the presence of poison. I’m not trying to pass ...

September 15th, 2013

Police shoot up neighborhood

In the good old days, there was the rule that the safety of bystanders mattered more than anything. Nowadays neighborhoods exist for target practice.

NEW YORK (AP) – Two police officers fired on a man who was acting erratically and dodging cars on a busy Manhattan street Saturday night, wounding two bystanders and sending people running for cover, authorities said. Police said the man made movements suggesting he had a weapon, though he turned out to be unarmed. The officers’ ...

September 13th, 2013

Does social media re-invent the old forces of conformity?

Very well said. I am beginning to think the era of outrage is a permanent one.

And that’s just in the last few months. Going back further one can find the same story playing out over and over where an unpopular comment draws popular outrage, leading the offender’s employer to (quite rationally) seek to disassociate itself as quickly as possible.

What’s odd about these sorts of incidents is that, while a single offhand comment can ruin a person’s career, professional pundits ...

September 11th, 2013

Sex crimes in Asia

These numbers are horrifying if true:

The survey questioned 10,000 men from six different Asian countries. In order to foster honest responses, participants were able to register their answers on hand held computers after researchers left them alone in a room. And of course, the survey didn’t just come out and ask men “Hey, do any cool rapes lately?”; it asked questions about whether the men had ever had sex with a woman even though they knew she didn’t want to ...

September 10th, 2013

Girl treated badly in high school programming class

This sounds awful:

My daughter traveled with me to DrupalCon in Denver for “spring break”, attended the expo at OSCON 2012, and even attended and watched me moderate a panel at the first Women in Advanced Computing (WiAC ’12) conference at USENIX Federated Conferences Week. Thanks to my career, my daughter’s Facebook friends list includes Linux conference organizers, an ARM developer and Linux kernel contributor, open source advocates, and other tech journalists. My daughter is bright, confident, independent, tech saavy, and ...

August 26th, 2013

The government controls the Internet

The utopian era on the Internet is over. I like this essay because it attacks the innocence that created that earlier utopianism. The government always had the power to control the Internet, and as the Internet has become more important to society, the government caught up and brought the Wild West under control.

The technocracy, hoisted by its own petard – out-technocracied! We’ve been lionizing the Internet full-time for two decades (with good reason, of course) while clucking at the ...

August 24th, 2013

Interesting:

Feeling uncertain, I began to research loneliness and came across several alarming recent studies. Loneliness is not just making us sick, it is killing us. Loneliness is a serious health risk. Studies of elderly people and social isolation concluded that those without adequate social interaction were twice as likely to die prematurely. The increased mortality risk is comparable to that from smoking. And loneliness is about twice as dangerous as obesity.

Social isolation impairs immune function and boosts inflammation, which can lead ...

August 24th, 2013

Why are the Democrats vispy?

Interesting:

For the purposes of argument, I will accept Rao’s assessment of the structures of the two parties. The question then arises: Why? After all, basic stereotypes would suggest that Republicans, not Democrats, would be the stodgy ones. One story is that the Democrats are working on “maintaining the ’90s status-quo” (in Rao’s words). But I think it goes back earlier than that. After all, Reagan was an extremist for his time, whereas Clinton was always a moderate.

My theory (which maybe ...

August 22nd, 2013

The TSA pointlessly harasses people

This story describes agents of the government acting with a discretion that can not be reconciled with the rule of law:

I got in line for security at the airport and handed the agent my ID. Another agent came over and handed me a paper slip, which he said was being used to track the length of the security lines. He said, “just hand this to someone when your stuff goes through the x-ray machines, and we’ll know how long you ...

August 22nd, 2013

The problems with Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary psychology starts with the premise that human behavior is determined by human evolution — supposedly everything we do should increase our chances of reproducing our genes. This is a reasonable hypothesis to start with, but EvPysch then fails to explain the edge cases:

1.) Why are some people gay? How does that increase reproduction of their genes?

2.) Why do some people adopt other people’s children? How does that increase reproduction of the adoptive parent’s genes?

3.) Why do some people choose ...

August 20th, 2013

Groklaw closes down over concerns of NSA spying

Privacy is vital to being human, which is why one of the worst punishments there is is total surveillance:

One way of beginning to understand privacy is by looking at what happens to people in extreme situations where it is absent. Recalling his time in Auschwitz, Primo Levi observed that “solitude in a Camp is more precious and rare than bread.” Solitude is one state of privacy, and even amidst the overwhelming death, starvation, and horror of the ...

August 15th, 2013

Life as a wage slave grinds you up

Interesting:

In 1969, publisher John Martin offered to pay Charles Bukowski \$100 each and every month for the rest of his life, on one condition: that he quit his job at the post office and become a writer. 49-year-old Bukowski did just that, and in 1971 his first novel, Post Office, was published by Martin’s Black Sparrow Press.

15 years later, Bukowski wrote the following letter to Martin and spoke of his joy at having escaped full time employment.

(Source: Reach for the ...

August 9th, 2013

Does the USA have a constitutional obligation to protect journalism?

I am worried that Congress can simply define “journalism” however it likes, such that all constitutional protections of a free press are disposed of.

But onto the “who’s really a journalist” argument. Some elected officials feel the language in the bill isn’t specific enough. One in particular, Dianne Feinstein, repeated the stupid but inevitable phrase that always accompanies discussions related to shield laws: Feinstein suggested that the definition comprise only journalists who make salaries, saying it should be applied just to ...

August 9th, 2013

Muriel’s Wedding is the anti-romcom

I don’t usually like movies in the “Rom-Com” genre, but friends told me that Muriel’s Wedding was good, so I got it from Netflix. This movie is not really a rom-com, it’s more a sober examination of longing and desperation. Muriel hates herself and lies to everyone, even her best friend. She lies to create the illusion that she is the person she wants to be. Her father is a politician and her father also lies a great deal. Her ...

August 9th, 2013

Boredom at work

Interesting:

The work was interesting at first. We coded until the sun came up, and pushed the limits of our abilities. We solved hard problems and learned tons. We had passionate discussions on the direction of the company and how to get there. There were ups and downs, fulfilling work and crap work, but it was always interesting.

Eventually, those discussions stopped. Shots were called in private meetings and passed down. Ideas from the rest of the org chart didn’t surface ...

August 9th, 2013

Women regret quitting their careers

Interesting:

One woman featured in the Times story in 2003 — who was also interviewed for 60 Minutes — is now divorced from her primary-earning husband and is working part time to support herself while she lives in an apartment that looks out onto a parking lot. Others felt bored and unfulfilled with their full-time momhood and gradually threw themselves into volunteering (which is exactly like working except you don’t earn money). One grew to resent her husband’s expectation that she ...

August 5th, 2013

The earth is warming back to where it was 50 million years ago

My sense is that, to the extent that global warming is harmful, it is harmful because of the speed at which it is happening. In the past, the Earth was much warmer. Given time, the flora and fauna of Earth can adapt. But if the warming happens in 1,000 years, then the flora and fauna have no chance to adapt.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, paleobiologist Richard Norris and colleagues show that the ancient greenhouse world had few ...

August 4th, 2013

Hugo Schwyzer tried to murder one of his girlfriends

Many years ago, when the blogosphere was a much smaller place, Hugo Schwyzer responded to something I wrote about relationships, and he accused me of not understanding the bliss of community and monogamous, loving relationships. I’ve always regarded the guy as extremely strange, like most of what he wrote was an attempt to convince himself, rather than the rest of the world. I’m reminded of how Hemingway often wrote about how great monogamy was, even as he worked his way ...

August 3rd, 2013

Brad Delong is shockingly stupid where Larry Summers is concerned

For me, this ends my willingness to read Brad Delong. I became aware of him back in 1996 when we both participated in the discussions on The Left Business Observer run by Doug Henwood. Some people on that list accused him of being a right-winger, but when Delong got all huffy and quit because someone said something mean, I think Henwood summed it up pretty well by saying “Delong is an elite social democrat.” When Delong first got a weblog ...

August 2nd, 2013

The Strange Kathy Sierra Saga

Online threats seem very common. We should all work against online threats, but we should all remember they are very common. I have never understood why the Kathy Sierra incident was seen as unique and unusual. I suppose she did a good job of advertising it, as she had an extremely popular blog:

I have been trying to determine how to continue talking about the Kathy Sierra incident without whipping a dead horse and without adding to an already ...

August 2nd, 2013

Online dating in 1880

Interesting:

In the Victorian era, telegraph operators were the first people to live with virtual reality.

Here’s how the 1880 novel Wired Love: A Romance of Dots and Dashes — the story of Nattie Rogers, a young telegraph operator — begins:

Miss Nattie Rogers, telegraph operator, lived, as it were, in two worlds. The one her office, dingy and curtailed as to proportions, but from whence she could wander away through the medium of that slender telegraph wire, on a sort of electric ...

July 27th, 2013

Who offers mercy

I think its safe to say that the Nazi’s never offered such compassionate mercy:

Somehow Schmeling rose on the count of nine, and Baer went in for the finish. Weary and defenseless, the German dropped his gloves and swayed slowly on his heels. Baer could have thrown another right and knocked Schmeling out. Instead he turned pleadingly toward referee Arthur Donovan to stop the fight. Baer didn’t want to kill Schmeling, just embarrass the Nazis. Donovan stepped between the two ...

July 10th, 2013

It is a rare group that does not establish some informal networks of communication through the friends that are made in it

I’m reading Jo Freeman again and again being impressed with how exactly correct she got everything back in 1971.

During the years in which the women’s liberation movement has been taking shape, a great emphasis has been placed on what are called leaderless, structureless groups as the main — if not sole — organizational form of the movement. The source of this idea was a natural reaction against the over-structured society in which most of us found ourselves, and the ...

July 5th, 2013

Dr. Curran said there was no apparent danger to nonhomosexuals from contagion

Kind of epic how wrong Dr. Curran was, yes?

The cause of the outbreak is unknown, and there is as yet no evidence of contagion. But the doctors who have made the diagnoses, mostly in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area, are alerting other physicians who treat large numbers of homosexual men to the problem in an effort to help identify more cases and to reduce the delay in offering chemotherapy treatment.

The sudden appearance of the cancer, called ...

July 4th, 2013

Katy Perry is Abercrombie & Fitch turned into music

Have you ever watched a Katy Perry video? I think if Abercrombie & Fitch was a music group, instead of a clothing retailer, then Katy Perry is what Abercrombie & Fitch would sound like. I don’t think she believes in anything she sings, I have the sense she’s some kind genius marketer who writes songs that are suppose to trigger the various fantasies that a 15 year old white girl, who is growing up in a very wealthy, all white ...

July 3rd, 2013

Profile pictures with spouse and children?

I see a whole lot of profile pictures that show a person with their spouse or child.

Source

June 17th, 2013

82 year old Catholic nun protests nuclear power so she must be a terrorist

Interesting:

On Thursday August 2, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli appeared in court for a pretrial bail hearing. The government asked that all three be detained. One prosecutor called them a potential “danger to the community” and asked that all three be kept in jail until their trial. The US Magistrate allowed them to be released.

Sr. Megan Rice walked out of the jail and promptly admitted to gathered media that the three had indeed gone onto the property and ...

June 17th, 2013

The wealth of the world now concentrates into fewer cities

Interesting:

Two mournful friends dropped by our flat in Paris last Sunday. They are a well-paid couple from the caste known in Paris as “bobos”: people with bourgeois incomes and bohemian tastes. In the popular narrative, bobos have invaded Paris, driving out pure bohemians and the working class. But my bobo friends had a new story: they themselves were being driven out of Paris. To get enough space for their kids, they were leaving for the suburbs. When they’d told the ...

June 13th, 2013

You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide

by danah boyd:

People often feel immune from state surveillance because they’ve done nothing wrong. This rhetoric is perpetuated on American TV. And yet the same media who tells them they have nothing to fear will turn on them if they happen to be in close contact with someone who is of interest to – or if they themselves are the subject of – state interest. And it’s not just about now, but it’s about always.

And here’s where the implications ...

May 10th, 2013

This is great.

And that’s the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn’t always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn’t even something — it’s nothing. And you can’t combat nothing. You can’t fill it up. You can’t cover it. It’s just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.

It would be like having a bunch ...

May 8th, 2013

Category bias in Wikipedia

Is Wikipedia objective?

I recall taking a class on journalism and we argued about whether or not true objectivity could ever exist. Some people pointed out that it was possible to write an article that consisted only of factual statements, and therefore such an article proved that objectivity was possible.

There were several counter-arguments: what about the factual statements that were not included? You could factually say “The nation of x invaded the nation of y and slaughtered 10,000 innocents.” That makes ...

My name is Lawrence Krubner. I run WP Questions .

January 10, 2012 1:09 pm

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