Origins of narcissism in children
"Narcissism levels have been increasing among Western youth, and contribute to societal problems such as aggression and violence. The origins of narcissism, however, are not well understood. Here, we report, to our knowledge, the first prospective longitudinal evidence on the origins of narcissism in children. We compared two perspectives: social learning theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by parental overvaluation) and psychoanalytic theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by lack of parental warmth). We timed the study in late childhood (ages 7–12), when individual differences in narcissism first emerge. In four 6-mo waves, 565 children and their parents reported child narcissism, child self-esteem, parental overvaluation, and parental warmth. Four-wave cross-lagged panel models were conducted. Results support social learning theory and contradict psychoanalytic theory: Narcissism was predicted by parental overvaluation, not by lack of parental warmth. Thus, children seem to acquire narcissism, in part, by internalizing parents’ inflated views of them (e.g., “I am superior to others” and “I am entitled to privileges”). Attesting to the specificity of this finding, self-esteem was predicted by parental warmth, not by parental overvaluation. These findings uncover early socialization experiences that cultivate narcissism, and may inform interventions to curtail narcissistic development at an early age."

--- Psychometrics based on self-reports, rather than any sort of second-party evaluation of actual behavior. Look for replication data?
to:NB  psychology  narcissism  graphical_models  time_series  statistics  personality  mental_testing 
12 hours ago
Latent structure in random sequences drives neural learning toward a rational bias
"People generally fail to produce random sequences by overusing alternating patterns and avoiding repeating ones—the gambler’s fallacy bias. We can explain the neural basis of this bias in terms of a biologically motivated neural model that learns from errors in predicting what will happen next. Through mere exposure to random sequences over time, the model naturally develops a representation that is biased toward alternation, because of its sensitivity to some surprisingly rich statistical structure that emerges in these random sequences. Furthermore, the model directly produces the best-fitting bias-gain parameter for an existing Bayesian model, by which we obtain an accurate fit to the human data in random sequence production. These results show that our seemingly irrational, biased view of randomness can be understood instead as the perfectly reasonable response of an effective learning mechanism to subtle statistical structure embedded in random sequences."

--- I'll be very surprised to see how "overusing alternating patterns and avoiding repeating ones" can be made to fall out from any sort of Bayesian model that doesn't have it built in from the start. (In particular, the natural Bayesian model is that an unknown sequence is exchangeable, which would tend to imply more repeating patterns.)
to:NB  probability  cognitive_science  bayesianism 
12 hours ago
Equality bias impairs collective decision-making across cultures
"We tend to think that everyone deserves an equal say in a debate. This seemingly innocuous assumption can be damaging when we make decisions together as part of a group. To make optimal decisions, group members should weight their differing opinions according to how competent they are relative to one another; whenever they differ in competence, an equal weighting is suboptimal. Here, we asked how people deal with individual differences in competence in the context of a collective perceptual decision-making task. We developed a metric for estimating how participants weight their partner’s opinion relative to their own and compared this weighting to an optimal benchmark. Replicated across three countries (Denmark, Iran, and China), we show that participants assigned nearly equal weights to each other’s opinions regardless of true differences in their competence—even when informed by explicit feedback about their competence gap or under monetary incentives to maximize collective accuracy. This equality bias, whereby people behave as if they are as good or as bad as their partner, is particularly costly for a group when a competence gap separates its members."

--- My immediate doubt is that if people are actually making a binding group decision, they'll have to carry it out after they reach their agreement, and _that_ is more likely when everyone feels they've had their say...
to:NB  decision-making  experimental_psychology  experimental_sociology  social_life_of_the_mind  collective_cognition  re:democratic_cognition  to_read 
13 hours ago
Breakdown of the brain’s functional network modularity with awareness
"Neurobiological theories of awareness propose divergent accounts of the spatial extent of brain changes that support conscious perception. Whereas focal theories posit mostly local regional changes, global theories propose that awareness emerges from the propagation of neural signals across a broad extent of sensory and association cortex. Here we tested the scalar extent of brain changes associated with awareness using graph theoretical analysis applied to functional connectivity data acquired at ultra-high field while subjects performed a simple masked target detection task. We found that awareness of a visual target is associated with a degradation of the modularity of the brain’s functional networks brought about by an increase in intermodular functional connectivity. These results provide compelling evidence that awareness is associated with truly global changes in the brain’s functional connectivity."
to:NB  to_read  neuroscience  functional_connectivity  consciousness  community_discovery 
13 hours ago
[1412.6572] Explaining and Harnessing Adversarial Examples
"Several machine learning models, including neural networks, consistently misclassify adversarial examples---inputs formed by applying small but intentionally worst-case perturbations to examples from the dataset, such that the perturbed input results in the model outputting an incorrect answer with high confidence. Early attempts at explaining this phenomenon focused on nonlinearity and overfitting. We argue instead that the primary cause of neural networks' vulnerability to adversarial perturbation is their linear nature. This explanation is supported by new quantitative results while giving the first explanation of the most intriguing fact about them: their generalization across architectures and training sets. Moreover, this view yields a simple and fast method of generating adversarial examples. Using this approach to provide examples for adversarial training, we reduce the test set error of a maxout network on the MNIST dataset."
to:NB  machine_learning  neural_networks  classifiers  to:blog 
4 days ago
A simple comprehensive model for the analysis of covariance structures: Some remarks on applications - McDonald - 2011 - British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology - Wiley Online Library
"To facilitate applications of a model for the analysis of covariance structures, some useful matrix identities and reparametorizations are given. Examples are given to illustrate the applicability of the model to longitudinal data, to treatments of ordered variables and to fitting the Rasch model for binary data."

--- Possibly useful for the intersection of confirmatory factor analysis and the rotation problem.
to:NB  factor_analysis  statistics  inference_to_latent_objects  re:g_paper 
4 days ago
The Rise of Writing | Cambridge University Press
"Millions of Americans routinely spend half their working day or more with their hands on keyboards and their minds on audiences - writing so much, in fact, that they have less time and appetite for reading. In this highly anticipated sequel to her award-winning Literacy in American Lives, Deborah Brandt moves beyond laments about the decline of reading to focus on the rise of writing. What happens when writing overtakes reading as the basis of people's daily literate experience? How does a societal shift toward writing affect the ways that people develop their literacy and understand its value? Drawing on recent interviews with people who write every day, Brandt explores this major turn in the development of mass literacy and examines the serious challenges it poses for America's educational mission and civic health."
to:NB  networked_life  writing  literacy  sociology  books:noted 
9 days ago
CRAN - Package markovchain
"Functions and S4 methods to create and manage discrete time Markov chains (DTMC) more easily. In addition functions to perform statistical (fitting and drawing random variates) and probabilistic (analysis of DTMC proprieties) analysis are provided."
markov_models  R  to_teach:statcomp 
10 days ago
New Evidence on the Impact of Financial Crises in Advanced Countries
"This paper examines the aftermath of financial crises in advanced countries in the four decades before the Great Recession. We construct a new series on financial distress in 24 OECD countries for the period 1967–2007. The series is based on assessments of the health of countries’ financial systems from a consistent, real-time narrative source; and it classifies financial distress on a relatively fine scale, rather than treating it as a 0-1 variable. We find that output declines following financial crises in modern advanced countries are highly variable, on average only moderate, and often temporary. One important driver of the variation in outcomes across crises appears to be the severity and persistence of the financial distress itself."
to:NB  finance  financial_crises  macroeconomics  economics  via:jbdelong 
10 days ago
The second laws of quantum thermodynamics
"The second law of thermodynamics places constraints on state transformations. It applies to systems composed of many particles, however, we are seeing that one can formulate laws of thermodynamics when only a small number of particles are interacting with a heat bath. Is there a second law of thermodynamics in this regime? Here, we find that for processes which are approximately cyclic, the second law for microscopic systems takes on a different form compared to the macroscopic scale, imposing not just one constraint on state transformations, but an entire family of constraints. We find a family of free energies which generalize the traditional one, and show that they can never increase. The ordinary second law relates to one of these, with the remainder imposing additional constraints on thermodynamic transitions. We find three regimes which determine which family of second laws govern state transitions, depending on how cyclic the process is. In one regime one can cause an apparent violation of the usual second law, through a process of embezzling work from a large system which remains arbitrarily close to its original state. These second laws are relevant for small systems, and also apply to individual macroscopic systems interacting via long-range interactions. By making precise the definition of thermal operations, the laws of thermodynamics are unified in this framework, with the first law defining the class of operations, the zeroth law emerging as an equivalence relation between thermal states, and the remaining laws being monotonicity of our generalized free energies."
to:NB  thermodynamics  quantum_mechanics  physics 
11 days ago
Evidence for recent, population-specific evolution of the human mutation rate
"As humans dispersed out of Africa they adapted to new environmental challenges, including changes in exposure to mutagenic solar radiation. Humans in temperate latitudes have acquired light skin that is relatively transparent to UV light, and some evidence suggests that their DNA damage response pathways have also experienced local adaptation. This raises the possibility that different populations have experienced different selective pressures affecting genome integrity. Here, I present evidence that the rate of a particular mutation type has recently increased in the European population, rising in frequency by 50% during the 40,000–80,000 y since Europeans began diverging from Asians. A comparison of SNPs private to Africa, Asia, and Europe in the 1000 Genomes data reveals that private European variation is enriched for the transition 5′-TCC-3′ → 5′-TTC-3′. Although it is not clear whether UV played a causal role in changing the European mutational spectrum, 5′-TCC-3′ → 5′-TTC-3′ is known to be the most common somatic mutation present in melanoma skin cancers, as well as the mutation most frequently induced in vitro by UV. Regardless of its causality, this change indicates that DNA replication fidelity has not remained stable even since the origin of modern humans and might have changed numerous times during our recent evolutionary history."
to:NB  historical_genetics  human_genetics  genetics  human_evolution 
11 days ago
Coding principles of the canonical cortical microcircuit in the avian brain
"Mammalian neocortex is characterized by a layered architecture and a common or “canonical” microcircuit governing information flow among layers. This microcircuit is thought to underlie the computations required for complex behavior. Despite the absence of a six-layered cortex, birds are capable of complex cognition and behavior. In addition, the avian auditory pallium is composed of adjacent information-processing regions with genetically identified neuron types and projections among regions comparable with those found in the neocortex. Here, we show that the avian auditory pallium exhibits the same information-processing principles that define the canonical cortical microcircuit, long thought to have evolved only in mammals. These results suggest that the canonical cortical microcircuit evolved in a common ancestor of mammals and birds and provide a physiological explanation for the evolution of neural processes that give rise to complex behavior in the absence of cortical lamination."

--- Ummm, isn't the "canonical microcircuit" reasonably hypothetical in mammals?
to:NB  to_read  neuroscience  neural_computation  birds  neural_coding_and_decoding 
11 days ago
Aronow , Green , Lee : Sharp bounds on the variance in randomized experiments
"We propose a consistent estimator of sharp bounds on the variance of the difference-in-means estimator in completely randomized experiments. Generalizing Robins [Stat. Med. 7 (1988) 773–785], our results resolve a well-known identification problem in causal inference posed by Neyman [Statist. Sci. 5 (1990) 465–472. Reprint of the original 1923 paper]. A practical implication of our results is that the upper bound estimator facilitates the asymptotically narrowest conservative Wald-type confidence intervals, with applications in randomized controlled and clinical trials."
to:NB  variance_estimation  experimental_design  causal_inference  statistics 
11 days ago
Székely , Rizzo : Partial distance correlation with methods for dissimilarities
"Distance covariance and distance correlation are scalar coefficients that characterize independence of random vectors in arbitrary dimension. Properties, extensions and applications of distance correlation have been discussed in the recent literature, but the problem of defining the partial distance correlation has remained an open question of considerable interest. The problem of partial distance correlation is more complex than partial correlation partly because the squared distance covariance is not an inner product in the usual linear space. For the definition of partial distance correlation, we introduce a new Hilbert space where the squared distance covariance is the inner product. We define the partial distance correlation statistics with the help of this Hilbert space, and develop and implement a test for zero partial distance correlation. Our intermediate results provide an unbiased estimator of squared distance covariance, and a neat solution to the problem of distance correlation for dissimilarities rather than distances."
to:NB  dependence_measures  statistics  hilbert_space  conditional_independence_tests 
11 days ago
Terror Cells - The Baffler
--- For full context, this needs to be read in conjunction with the chapter in Ehrenreich's _Brightsided_ about the intense propaganda she got, after her diagnosis of breast cancer, to keep up a positive attitude because that would boost her immune system and so help fight the cancer; with a heavy subtext of blaming the victim. Ugly stuff, based on bad biology.
--- That said, when I was trying to educate myself about signal transduction in the late 1990s, I don't recall any hesitation in my references when talking about cellular decision-making. (Maybe they were eccentric.)
cancer  molecular_biology  immunology  ehrenreich.barbara 
12 days ago
Purple Reign - The Baffler
Yahoo's continued survival does somewhat amaze me. (And yet AOL still exists and makes more than $9e7/yr.)
journalism  yahoo  corporate_stupidity  why_oh_why_cant_we_have_a_better_press_corps 
12 days ago
The spontaneous emergence of conventions: An experimental study of cultural evolution
"How do shared conventions emerge in complex decentralized social systems? This question engages fields as diverse as linguistics, sociology, and cognitive science. Previous empirical attempts to solve this puzzle all presuppose that formal or informal institutions, such as incentives for global agreement, coordinated leadership, or aggregated information about the population, are needed to facilitate a solution. Evolutionary theories of social conventions, by contrast, hypothesize that such institutions are not necessary in order for social conventions to form. However, empirical tests of this hypothesis have been hindered by the difficulties of evaluating the real-time creation of new collective behaviors in large decentralized populations. Here, we present experimental results—replicated at several scales—that demonstrate the spontaneous creation of universally adopted social conventions and show how simple changes in a population’s network structure can direct the dynamics of norm formation, driving human populations with no ambition for large scale coordination to rapidly evolve shared social conventions."
to:NB  to_read  centola.damon  self-organization  institutions  social_networks  re:do-institutions-evolve 
12 days ago
Intelligence Emerging | The MIT Press
"Emergence—the formation of global patterns from solely local interactions—is a frequent and fascinating theme in the scientific literature both popular and academic. In this book, Keith Downing undertakes a systematic investigation of the widespread (if often vague) claim that intelligence is an emergent phenomenon. Downing focuses on neural networks, both natural and artificial, and how their adaptability in three time frames—phylogenetic (evolutionary), ontogenetic (developmental), and epigenetic (lifetime learning)—underlie the emergence of cognition. Integrating the perspectives of evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence, Downing provides a series of concrete examples of neurocognitive emergence. Doing so, he offers a new motivation for the expanded use of bio-inspired concepts in artificial intelligence (AI), in the subfield known as Bio-AI.
"One of Downing’s central claims is that two key concepts from traditional AI, search and representation, are key to understanding emergent intelligence as well. He first offers introductory chapters on five core concepts: emergent phenomena, formal search processes, representational issues in Bio-AI, artificial neural networks (ANNs), and evolutionary algorithms (EAs). Intermediate chapters delve deeper into search, representation, and emergence in ANNs, EAs, and evolving brains. Finally, advanced chapters on evolving artificial neural networks and information-theoretic approaches to assessing emergence in neural systems synthesize earlier topics to provide some perspective, predictions, and pointers for the future of Bio-AI."
to:NB  books:noted  artificial_intelligence  neural_networks  genetic_algorithms  cognitive_science  emergence 
12 days ago
Why Democracy Is Oppositional — John Medearis | Harvard University Press
"Is infrequent voting the most we can expect from a free citizenry? Would democracy be more robust if our political discourse were more deliberative? John Medearis’s trenchant and trend-bucking work of political philosophy argues that democracies face significant challenges that go beyond civic lethargy and unreasonable debate. Democracy is inherently a fragile state of affairs, he reminds us. Revisiting fundamental questions about the system in theory and practice, Why Democracy Is Oppositional helps us see why preserving democracy has always been—and will always be—a struggle.
"As citizens of democracies seek political control over their destinies, they confront forces that threaten to dominate their lives. These forces may take the form of runaway financial markets, powerful special interests, expanding militaries, or dysfunctional legislatures. But citizens of democracies help create the very institutions that overwhelm them. Hostile threats do not generally come from the outside but are the product of citizens’ own collective activities. Medearis contends that democratic action perpetually arises to reclaim egalitarian control over social forces and institutions that have become alienated from large numbers of citizens. Democracy is therefore necessarily oppositional. Concerted, contentious political activities of all kinds are fundamental to it, while consensus and easy compromise are rarities."
in_NB  books:noted  political_philosophy  democracy  re:democratic_cognition 
14 days ago
Photography and the Art of Chance — Robin Kelsey | Harvard University Press
"Photography has a unique relationship to chance. Anyone who has wielded a camera has taken a picture ruined by an ill-timed blink or enhanced by an unexpected gesture or expression. Although this proneness to chance may amuse the casual photographer, Robin Kelsey points out that historically it has been a mixed blessing for those seeking to make photographic art. On the one hand, it has weakened the bond between maker and picture, calling into question what a photograph can be said to say. On the other hand, it has given photography an extraordinary capacity to represent the unpredictable dynamism of modern life. By delving into these matters, Photography and the Art of Chance transforms our understanding of photography and the work of some of its most brilliant practitioners.
"The effort to make photographic art has involved a call and response across generations. From the introduction of photography in 1839 to the end of the analog era, practitioners such as William Henry Fox Talbot, Julia Margaret Cameron, Alfred Stieglitz, Frederick Sommer, and John Baldessari built upon and critiqued one another’s work in their struggle to reconcile aesthetic aspiration and mechanical process. The root problem was the technology’s indifference, its insistence on giving a bucket the same attention as a bishop and capturing whatever wandered before the lens. Could such an automatic mechanism accommodate imagination? Could it make art? Photography and the Art of Chance reveals how daring innovators expanded the aesthetic limits of photography to create art for a modern world."
to:NB  books:noted  photography  art_history 
14 days ago
Imperialism and the Origins of Mexican Culture — Colin M. MacLachlan | Harvard University Press
"With an empire stretching across central Mexico, unmatched in military and cultural might, the Aztecs seemed poised on the brink of a golden age in the early sixteenth century. But the arrival of the Spanish changed everything. Imperialism and the Origins of Mexican Culture chronicles this violent clash of two empires and shows how modern Mestizo culture evolved over the centuries as a synthesis of Old and New World civilizations.
"Colin MacLachlan begins by tracing Spain and Mesoamerica’s parallel trajectories from tribal enclaves to complex feudal societies. When the Spanish laid siege to Tenochtitlán and destroyed it in 1521, the Aztecs could only interpret this catastrophe in cosmic terms. With their gods discredited and their population ravaged by epidemics, they succumbed quickly to Spanish control—which meant submitting to Christianity. Spain had just emerged from its centuries-long struggle against the Moors, and zealous Christianity was central to its imperial vision. But Spain’s conquistadores far outnumbered its missionaries, and the Church’s decision to exclude Indian converts from priesthood proved shortsighted. Native religious practices persisted, and a richly blended culture—part Indian, part Christian—began to emerge.
"The religious void left in the wake of Spain’s conquests had enduring consequences. MacLachlan’s careful analysis explains why Mexico is culturally a Mestizo country while ethnically Indian, and why modern Mexicans remain largely orphaned from their indigenous heritage—the adopted children of European history."
to:NB  books:noted  imperialism  early_modern_european_history  native_american_history  cultural_exchange 
14 days ago
[1503.02780] Replication, Communication, and the Population Dynamics of Scientific Discovery
"Many published research results are false (Ioannidis 2005), and controversy continues over the roles of replication and publication policy in improving the reliability of research. We develop a mathematical model of scientific discovery in the context of replication, publication bias, and variation in research quality. This model provides a formal framework for reasoning about the normative structure of science. We show that replication may serve as a ratchet that gradually separates true hypotheses from false, but the same factors that make initial findings unreliable also make replications unreliable. The most important factors in improving the reliability of research are the rate of false positives and the base rate of true hypotheses, and we offer suggestions for accomplishing these goals. Our results also clarify recent debates on the communication of replications. Surprisingly, publication bias is not always an obstacle, but instead may have positive impacts---suppression of negative novel findings is often beneficial. We also find that communication of negative replications serves the scientific community even when replicated studies have diminished power. Our model is only a start, but it speaks directly to ongoing debates about the design and conduct of science."

--- What happens in this model if they set the base rate of true hypotheses to 0?
to:NB  to_read  sociology_of_science  re:neutral_model_of_inquiry  science_as_a_social_process  sociology  re:democratic_cognition 
16 days ago
Naghshvar , Javidi : Active sequential hypothesis testing
"Consider a decision maker who is responsible to dynamically collect observations so as to enhance his information about an underlying phenomena of interest in a speedy manner while accounting for the penalty of wrong declaration. Due to the sequential nature of the problem, the decision maker relies on his current information state to adaptively select the most “informative” sensing action among the available ones.
"In this paper, using results in dynamic programming, lower bounds for the optimal total cost are established. The lower bounds characterize the fundamental limits on the maximum achievable information acquisition rate and the optimal reliability. Moreover, upper bounds are obtained via an analysis of two heuristic policies for dynamic selection of actions. It is shown that the first proposed heuristic achieves asymptotic optimality, where the notion of asymptotic optimality, due to Chernoff, implies that the relative difference between the total cost achieved by the proposed policy and the optimal total cost approaches zero as the penalty of wrong declaration (hence the number of collected samples) increases. The second heuristic is shown to achieve asymptotic optimality only in a limited setting such as the problem of a noisy dynamic search. However, by considering the dependency on the number of hypotheses, under a technical condition, this second heuristic is shown to achieve a nonzero information acquisition rate, establishing a lower bound for the maximum achievable rate and error exponent. In the case of a noisy dynamic search with size-independent noise, the obtained nonzero rate and error exponent are shown to be maximum."
to:NB  hypothesis_testing  learning_theory  statistics  javidi.tara 
16 days ago
Power Density | The MIT Press
"In this book, Vaclav Smil argues that power density is a key determinant of the nature and dynamics of energy systems. Any understanding of complex energy systems must rely on quantitative measures of many fundamental variables. Power density—the rate of energy flux per unit of area—is an important but largely overlooked measure. Smil provides the first systematic, quantitative appraisal of power density, offering detailed reviews of the power densities of renewable energy flows, fossil fuels, thermal electricity generation, and all common energy uses.
"Smil shows that careful quantification, critical appraisals, and revealing comparisons of power densities make possible a deeper understanding of the ways we harness, convert, and use energies. Conscientious assessment of power densities, he argues, proves particularly revealing when contrasting the fossil fuel–based energy system with renewable energy conversions.
"Smil explains that modern civilization has evolved as a direct expression of the high power densities of fossil fuel extraction. He argues that our inevitable (and desirable) move to new energy arrangements involving conversions of lower-density renewable energy sources will require our society—currently dominated by megacities and concentrated industrial production—to undergo a profound spatial restructuring of its energy system."

--- The last bit seems like a non sequitur; with electrical power transmission, power/area doesn't depend on the ultimate free energy source, though the latter might have to be more spread out. But Smil is an extremely smart guy, so he's probably thinking of something that's just not occurring to me at the moment.
Also, I feel like I've encountered this "energy density" before as a complexity measure, but just where is eluding me.
to:NB  books:noted  energy  physics  smil.vaclav 
16 days ago
The Least Likely Man: Marshall Nirenberg and the Discovery of the Genetic Code | The MIT Press
"The genetic code is the Rosetta Stone by which we interpret the 3.3 billion letters of human DNA, the alphabet of life, and the discovery of the code has had an immeasurable impact on science and society. In 1968, Marshall Nirenberg, an unassuming government scientist working at the National Institutes of Health, shared the Nobel Prize for cracking the genetic code. He was the least likely man to make such an earth-shaking discovery, and yet he had gotten there before such members of the scientific elite as James Watson and Francis Crick. How did Nirenberg do it, and why is he so little known? In The Least Likely Man, Franklin Portugal tells the fascinating life story of a famous scientist that most of us have never heard of.
"Nirenberg did not have a particularly brilliant undergraduate or graduate career. After being hired as a researcher at the NIH, he quietly explored how cells make proteins. Meanwhile, Watson, Crick, and eighteen other leading scientists had formed the “RNA Tie Club” (named after the distinctive ties they wore, each decorated with one of twenty amino acid designs), intending to claim credit for the discovery of the genetic code before they had even worked out the details. They were surprised, and displeased, when Nirenberg announced his preliminary findings of a genetic code at an international meeting in Moscow in 1961.
"Drawing on Nirenberg’s “lab diaries,” Portugal offers an engaging and accessible account of Nirenberg’s experimental approach, describes counterclaims by Crick, Watson, and Sidney Brenner, and traces Nirenberg’s later switch to an entirely new, even more challenging field. Having won the Nobel for his work on the genetic code, Nirenberg moved on to the next frontier of biological research: how the brain works."
to:NB  books:noted  molecular_biology  genetics  history_of_science 
17 days ago
Liberalism in Practice | The MIT Press
"At the core of liberal theory is the idea—found in thinkers from Hobbes to Rawls—that the consent of the governed is key to establishing political legitimacy. But in a diverse liberal polity like the United States, disagreement runs deep, and a segment of the population will simply regard the regime as illegitimate. In Liberalism in Practice, Olivia Newman argues that if citizens were to approach politics in the spirit of public reason, couching arguments in terms that others can reasonably accept, institutional and political legitimacy would be enhanced.
"Liberal theory has relied on the assumption of a unified self, that individuals are unified around a single set of goals, beliefs, attitudes, and aptitudes. Drawing on empirical findings in psychology, Newman argues instead that we are complex creatures whose dispositions and traits develop differently in different domains; we hold different moral commitments in different parts of our lives. She argues further that this domain differentiation allows us to be good liberal citizens in the public domain while remaining true to private commitments and beliefs in other domains. Newman proposes that educational and institutional arrangements can use this capacity for differentiation to teach public reason without overwhelming conflicting commitments. The psychology and pedagogy of public reason proposed by Newman move beyond John Rawls’s strictly political liberalism toward what Newman terms practical liberalism. Although we cannot resolve every philosophical problem bedeviling theories of liberalism, we can enjoy the myriad benefits of liberalism in practice."
to:NB  liberalism  social_life_of_the_mind  books:noted 
17 days ago
The Hungry Mind — Susan Engel | Harvard University Press
"Despite American education’s recent mania for standardized tests, testing misses what really matters about learning: the desire to learn in the first place. Curiosity is vital, but it remains a surprisingly understudied characteristic. The Hungry Mind is a deeply researched, highly readable exploration of what curiosity is, how it can be measured, how it develops in childhood, and how it can be fostered in school.
"Children naturally possess an active interest in knowing more about the world around them. But what begins as a robust trait becomes more fragile over time, and is shaped by experiences with parents, teachers, peers, and the learning environment. Susan Engel highlights the centrality of language and question-asking as crucial tools for expressing curiosity. She also uncovers overlooked forms of curiosity, such as gossip—an important way children satisfy their interest in other people. Although curiosity leads to knowledge, it can stir up trouble, and schools too often have an incentive to squelch it in favor of compliance and discipline.
"Balanced against the interventions of hands-on instructors and hovering parents, Engel stresses the importance of time spent alone, which gives children a chance to tinker, collect, read about the things that interest them, and explore their own thoughts. In addition to providing a theoretical framework for the psychology of curiosity, The Hungry Mind offers educators practical ways to put curiosity at the center of the classroom and encourage children’s natural eagerness to learn."
to:NB  books:noted  curiosity  education  psychology  mental_testing 
17 days ago
Living Originalism — Jack M. Balkin | Harvard University Press
"Originalism and living constitutionalism, so often understood to be diametrically opposing views of our nation’s founding document, are not in conflict—they are compatible. So argues Jack Balkin, one of the leading constitutional scholars of our time, in this long-awaited book. Step by step, Balkin gracefully outlines a constitutional theory that demonstrates why modern conceptions of civil rights and civil liberties, and the modern state’s protection of national security, health, safety, and the environment, are fully consistent with the Constitution’s original meaning. And he shows how both liberals and conservatives, working through political parties and social movements, play important roles in the ongoing project of constitutional construction.
"By making firm rules but also deliberately incorporating flexible standards and abstract principles, the Constitution’s authors constructed a framework for politics on which later generations could build. Americans have taken up this task, producing institutions and doctrines that flesh out the Constitution’s text and principles. Balkin’s analysis offers a way past the angry polemics of our era, a deepened understanding of the Constitution that is at once originalist and living constitutionalist, and a vision that allows all Americans to reclaim the Constitution as their own."

--- Isn't this just one of the basic paradoxes of original intent? ("We wanted _you_ to figure that part out.") But Balkin is a good writer, despite being a law professor and having consumed well over the LD50 of Yale lit-crit.
to:NB  books:noted  law  us_politics  balkin.jack_m. 
17 days ago
Underdogs — Aaron B. O'Connell | Harvard University Press
"The Marine Corps has always considered itself a breed apart. Since 1775, America’s smallest armed service has been suspicious of outsiders and deeply loyal to its traditions. Marines believe in nothing more strongly than the Corps’ uniqueness and superiority, and this undying faith in its own exceptionalism is what has made the Marines one of the sharpest, swiftest tools of American military power. Along with unapologetic self-promotion, a strong sense of identity has enabled the Corps to exert a powerful influence on American politics and culture.
"Aaron O’Connell focuses on the period from World War II to Vietnam, when the Marine Corps transformed itself from America’s least respected to its most elite armed force. He describes how the distinctive Marine culture played a role in this ascendancy. Venerating sacrifice and suffering, privileging the collective over the individual, Corps culture was saturated with romantic and religious overtones that had enormous marketing potential in a postwar America energized by new global responsibilities. Capitalizing on this, the Marines curried the favor of the nation’s best reporters, befriended publishers, courted Hollywood and Congress, and built a public relations infrastructure that would eventually brand it as the most prestigious military service in America.
"But the Corps’ triumphs did not come without costs, and O’Connell writes of those, too, including a culture of violence that sometimes spread beyond the battlefield. And as he considers how the Corps’ interventions in American politics have ushered in a more militarized approach to national security, O’Connell questions its sustainability."

--- Cf. Rick's _Making the Corps_?
to:NB  books:noted  american_history  us_military 
17 days ago
Cross-language differences in the brain network subserving intelligible speech
"How is language processed in the brain by native speakers of different languages? Is there one brain system for all languages or are different languages subserved by different brain systems? The first view emphasizes commonality, whereas the second emphasizes specificity. We investigated the cortical dynamics involved in processing two very diverse languages: a tonal language (Chinese) and a nontonal language (English). We used functional MRI and dynamic causal modeling analysis to compute and compare brain network models exhaustively with all possible connections among nodes of language regions in temporal and frontal cortex and found that the information flow from the posterior to anterior portions of the temporal cortex was commonly shared by Chinese and English speakers during speech comprehension, whereas the inferior frontal gyrus received neural signals from the left posterior portion of the temporal cortex in English speakers and from the bilateral anterior portion of the temporal cortex in Chinese speakers. Our results revealed that, although speech processing is largely carried out in the common left hemisphere classical language areas (Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas) and anterior temporal cortex, speech comprehension across different language groups depends on how these brain regions interact with each other. Moreover, the right anterior temporal cortex, which is crucial for tone processing, is equally important as its left homolog, the left anterior temporal cortex, in modulating the cortical dynamics in tone language comprehension. The current study pinpoints the importance of the bilateral anterior temporal cortex in language comprehension that is downplayed or even ignored by popular contemporary models of speech comprehension."

--- I think this would be a very tricky study to do properly. You'd ideally want to compare native-Chinese processing Chinese to native-English speakers processing English, but somehow ensure that the subjects were equally likely to be native speakers of either language. (Kids with exactly one ex-pat parent in Hong Kong?)
to:NB  fmri  graphical_models  causal_inference  neuroscience  linguistics 
17 days ago
Interplay of approximate planning strategies
"Humans routinely formulate plans in domains so complex that even the most powerful computers are taxed. To do so, they seem to avail themselves of many strategies and heuristics that efficiently simplify, approximate, and hierarchically decompose hard tasks into simpler subtasks. Theoretical and cognitive research has revealed several such strategies; however, little is known about their establishment, interaction, and efficiency. Here, we use model-based behavioral analysis to provide a detailed examination of the performance of human subjects in a moderately deep planning task. We find that subjects exploit the structure of the domain to establish subgoals in a way that achieves a nearly maximal reduction in the cost of computing values of choices, but then combine partial searches with greedy local steps to solve subtasks, and maladaptively prune the decision trees of subtasks in a reflexive manner upon encountering salient losses. Subjects come idiosyncratically to favor particular sequences of actions to achieve subgoals, creating novel complex actions or “options.”"
to:NB  cognitive_science  computational_complexity  planning  decision-making  heuristics  to_read  psychology  experimental_psychology  bounded_rationality 
17 days ago
On convex relaxation of graph isomorphism
"We consider the problem of exact and inexact matching of weighted undirected graphs, in which a bijective correspondence is sought to minimize a quadratic weight disagreement. This computationally challenging problem is often relaxed as a convex quadratic program, in which the space of permutations is replaced by the space of doubly stochastic matrices. However, the applicability of such a relaxation is poorly understood. We define a broad class of friendly graphs characterized by an easily verifiable spectral property. We prove that for friendly graphs, the convex relaxation is guaranteed to find the exact isomorphism or certify its inexistence. This result is further extended to approximately isomorphic graphs, for which we develop an explicit bound on the amount of weight disagreement under which the relaxation is guaranteed to find the globally optimal approximate isomorphism. We also show that in many cases, the graph matching problem can be further harmlessly relaxed to a convex quadratic program with only n separable linear equality constraints, which is substantially more efficient than the standard relaxation involving 2n equality and n2 inequality constraints. Finally, we show that our results are still valid for unfriendly graphs if additional information in the form of seeds or attributes is allowed, with the latter satisfying an easy to verify spectral characteristic."
to:NB  graph_theory  computational_complexity  optimization  convexity  network_data_analysis  re:network_differences 
17 days ago
Defining the Anthropocene : Nature : Nature Publishing Group
"Time is divided by geologists according to marked shifts in Earth’s state. Recent global environmental changes suggest that Earth may have entered a new human-dominated geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Here we review the historical genesis of the idea and assess anthropogenic signatures in the geological record against the formal requirements for the recognition of a new epoch. The evidence suggests that of the various proposed dates two do appear to conform to the criteria to mark the beginning of the Anthropocene: 1610 and 1964. The formal establishment of an Anthropocene Epoch would mark a fundamental change in the relationship between humans and the Earth system."

--- My never-to-be-written piece on Galileo was going to be titled "1610: The Year We Made Contact", so naturally I approve of the former date.
to:NB  geology  anthropocene  the_earth_as_transformed_by_human_action  we_are_as_gods_and_might_as_well_get_good_at_it 
17 days ago
Mechanosensory interactions drive collective behaviour in Drosophila : Nature : Nature Publishing Group
"Collective behaviour enhances environmental sensing and decision-making in groups of animals1, 2. Experimental and theoretical investigations of schooling fish, flocking birds and human crowds have demonstrated that simple interactions between individuals can explain emergent group dynamics3, 4. These findings indicate the existence of neural circuits that support distributed behaviours, but the molecular and cellular identities of relevant sensory pathways are unknown. Here we show that Drosophila melanogaster exhibits collective responses to an aversive odour: individual flies weakly avoid the stimulus, but groups show enhanced escape reactions. Using high-resolution behavioural tracking, computational simulations, genetic perturbations, neural silencing and optogenetic activation we demonstrate that this collective odour avoidance arises from cascades of appendage touch interactions between pairs of flies. Inter-fly touch sensing and collective behaviour require the activity of distal leg mechanosensory sensilla neurons and the mechanosensory channel NOMPC5, 6. Remarkably, through these inter-fly encounters, wild-type flies can elicit avoidance behaviour in mutant animals that cannot sense the odour—a basic form of communication. Our data highlight the unexpected importance of social context in the sensory responses of a solitary species and open the door to a neural-circuit-level understanding of collective behaviour in animal groups."

--- Metaphorical application of the finding that "wild-type flies can elicit avoidance behaviour in mutant animals that cannot sense the odour" is left as an exercise.
to:NB  experimental_biology  experimental_psychology  social_life_of_the_mind  collective_cognition  drosophila  neuroscience 
17 days ago
Ongoing hydrothermal activities within Enceladus : Nature : Nature Publishing Group
"Detection of sodium-salt-rich ice grains emitted from the plume of the Saturnian moon Enceladus suggests that the grains formed as frozen droplets from a liquid water reservoir that is, or has been, in contact with rock1, 2. Gravitational field measurements suggest a regional south polar subsurface ocean of about 10 kilometres thickness located beneath an ice crust 30 to 40 kilometres thick3. These findings imply rock–water interactions in regions surrounding the core of Enceladus. The resulting chemical ‘footprints’ are expected to be preserved in the liquid and subsequently transported upwards to the near-surface plume sources, where they eventually would be ejected and could be measured by a spacecraft4. Here we report an analysis of silicon-rich, nanometre-sized dust particles5, 6, 7, 8 (so-called stream particles) that stand out from the water-ice-dominated objects characteristic of Saturn. We interpret these grains as nanometre-sized SiO2 (silica) particles, initially embedded in icy grains emitted from Enceladus’ subsurface waters and released by sputter erosion in Saturn’s E ring. The composition and the limited size range (2 to 8 nanometres in radius) of stream particles indicate ongoing high-temperature (>90 °C) hydrothermal reactions associated with global-scale geothermal activity that quickly transports hydrothermal products from the ocean floor at a depth of at least 40 kilometres up to the plume of Enceladus."
to_read  astronomy  enceladus  saturn  physics 
17 days ago
Large-scale discovery of novel genetic causes of developmental disorders : Nature : Nature Publishing Group
"Despite three decades of successful, predominantly phenotype-driven discovery of the genetic causes of monogenic disorders1, up to half of children with severe developmental disorders of probable genetic origin remain without a genetic diagnosis. Particularly challenging are those disorders rare enough to have eluded recognition as a discrete clinical entity, those with highly variable clinical manifestations, and those that are difficult to distinguish from other, very similar, disorders. Here we demonstrate the power of using an unbiased genotype-driven approach2 to identify subsets of patients with similar disorders. By studying 1,133 children with severe, undiagnosed developmental disorders, and their parents, using a combination of exome sequencing3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and array-based detection of chromosomal rearrangements, we discovered 12 novel genes associated with developmental disorders. These newly implicated genes increase by 10% (from 28% to 31%) the proportion of children that could be diagnosed. Clustering of missense mutations in six of these newly implicated genes suggests that normal development is being perturbed by an activating or dominant-negative mechanism. Our findings demonstrate the value of adopting a comprehensive strategy, both genome-wide and nationwide, to elucidate the underlying causes of rare genetic disorders."
to:NB  genomics  human_genetics  neuroscience  medicine  genetics 
17 days ago
Evaluation of Probabilistic Forecasts: Proper Scoring Rules and Moments
"The paper provides an overview of probabilistic forecasting and discusses a the- oretical framework for evaluation of probabilistic forecasts which is based on proper scoring rules and moments. An artificial example of predicting second-order autore- gression and an example of predicting the RTSI stock index are used as illustrations."
to:NB  to_read  prediction  statistics  calibration 
17 days ago
The U.S. job skills mismatch and up-skilling - Washington Center for Equitable Growth
Why would employers raise the skills they require, as opposed to just offering lower wages? Two hypothesis spring to mind:
1. Caution on the part of those doing the actual hiring decisions. If a new hire doesn't work out, "How was I to know someone with their credentials wouldn't work out?" is a lot more defensible than "Well, they were willing to do the job for $5/hr less than anyone else with the minimum qualifications".
2. Bossing around those with more formal credentials and qualifications is itself a good for employers.
economics  financial_crisis_of_2007--  class_struggles_in_america 
17 days ago
Empire of Chance — Anders Engberg-Pedersen | Harvard University Press
"Napoleon’s campaigns were the most complex military undertakings in history before the nineteenth century. But the defining battles of Austerlitz, Borodino, and Waterloo changed more than the nature of warfare. Concepts of chance, contingency, and probability became permanent fixtures in the West’s understanding of how the world works. Empire of Chance examines anew the place of war in the history of Western thought, showing how the Napoleonic Wars inspired a new discourse on knowledge.
"Soldiers returning from the battlefields were forced to reconsider basic questions about what it is possible to know and how decisions are made in a fog of imperfect knowledge. Artists and intellectuals came to see war as embodying modernity itself. The theory of war espoused in Carl von Clausewitz’s classic treatise responded to contemporary developments in mathematics and philosophy, and the tools for solving military problems—maps, games, and simulations—became models for how to manage chance. On the other hand, the realist novels of Balzac, Stendhal, and Tolstoy questioned whether chance and contingency could ever be described or controlled."
to:NB  history_of_ideas  19th_century_history  war  probability  to_be_shot_after_a_fair_trial 
17 days ago
Inequality — Anthony B. Atkinson | Harvard University Press
"Inequality is one of our most urgent social problems. Curbed in the decades after World War II, it has recently returned with a vengeance. We all know the scale of the problem—talk about the 99% and the 1% is entrenched in public debate—but there has been little discussion of what we can do but despair. According to the distinguished economist Anthony Atkinson, however, we can do much more than skeptics imagine.
"Atkinson has long been at the forefront of research on inequality, and brings his theoretical and practical experience to bear on its diverse problems. He presents a comprehensive set of policies that could bring about a genuine shift in the distribution of income in developed countries. The problem, Atkinson shows, is not simply that the rich are getting richer. We are also failing to tackle poverty, and the economy is rapidly changing to leave the majority of people behind. To reduce inequality, we have to go beyond placing new taxes on the wealthy to fund existing programs. We need fresh ideas. Atkinson thus recommends ambitious new policies in five areas: technology, employment, social security, the sharing of capital, and taxation. He defends these against the common arguments and excuses for inaction: that intervention will shrink the economy, that globalization makes action impossible, and that new policies cannot be afforded."
to:NB  books:noted  economics  inequality  economic_policy 
17 days ago
How to Do Things with Pornography — Nancy Bauer | Harvard University Press
"Feminist philosophers have made important strides in altering the overwhelmingly male-centric discipline of philosophy. Yet, in Nancy Bauer’s view, most are still content to work within theoretical frameworks that are fundamentally false to human beings’ everyday experiences. This is particularly intolerable for a species of philosophy whose central aspiration is to make the world a less sexist place. How to Do Things with Pornography models a new way to write philosophically about pornography, women’s self-objectification, hook-up culture, and other contemporary phenomena. Unafraid to ask what philosophy contributes to our lives, Bauer argues that the profession’s lack of interest in this question threatens to make its enterprise irrelevant.
"Bauer criticizes two paradigmatic models of Western philosophizing: the Great Man model, according to which philosophy is the product of rare genius; and the scientistic model, according to which a community of researchers works together to discover once-and-for-all truths. The philosopher’s job is neither to perpetuate the inevitably sexist trope of the philosopher-genius nor to “get things right.” Rather, it is to compete with the Zeitgeist and attract people to the endeavor of reflecting on their settled ways of perceiving and understanding the world."

--- I cant decide if choosing this topic, of all possible ones, to make a stand for philosophy that's relevant to actual life is mad, or inspired, or both. So it's at least worked as marketing...
to:NB  books:noted  pr0n  philosophy  moral_philosophy 
17 days ago
The Destruction of the Medieval Chinese Aristocracy — Nicolas Tackett | Harvard University Press
"The complete disappearance by the tenth century of the medieval Chinese aristocracy, the “great clans” that had dominated China for centuries, has long perplexed historians. In this book, Nicolas Tackett resolves the enigma of their disappearance by using new, digital methodologies to analyze a dazzling array of sources. He systematically exploits the thousands of funerary biographies excavated in recent decades—most of them never before examined by scholars—while taking full advantage of the explanatory power of Geographic Information System (GIS) and social network analysis. Tackett supplements these analyses with an extensive use of anecdotes culled from epitaphs, prose literature, and poetry, bringing to life the women and men of a millennium ago.
"The Destruction of the Medieval Chinese Aristocracy demonstrates that the great Tang aristocratic families were far more successful than previously believed in adapting to the social, economic, and institutional transformations of the seventh and eighth centuries. Their political influence collapsed only after a large proportion of them were physically eliminated during the three decades of extreme violence that followed Huang Chao’s sack of the capital cities in 880 CE."

--- This sounds absolutely fascinating.
to:NB  books:noted  china  social_networks  history  tang  archaeology 
17 days ago
Inventing the Individual — Larry Siedentop | Harvard University Press
"Here, in a grand narrative spanning 1,800 years of European history, a distinguished political philosopher firmly rejects Western liberalism’s usual account of itself: its emergence in opposition to religion in the early modern era. Larry Siedentop argues instead that liberal thought is, in its underlying assumptions, the offspring of the Church. Beginning with a moral revolution in the first centuries CE, when notions about equality and human agency were first formulated by St. Paul, Siedentop follows these concepts in Christianity from Augustine to the philosophers and canon lawyers of the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, and ends with their reemergence in secularism—another of Christianity’s gifts to the West.
"Inventing the Individual tells how a new, equal social role, the individual, arose and gradually displaced the claims of family, tribe, and caste as the basis of social organization. Asking us to rethink the evolution of ideas on which Western societies and government are built, Siedentop contends that the core of what is now the West’s system of beliefs emerged earlier than we commonly think. The roots of liberalism—belief in individual freedom, in the fundamental moral equality of individuals, in a legal system based on equality, and in a representative form of government befitting a society of free people—all these were pioneered by Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages who drew on the moral revolution carried out by the early Church. These philosophers and canon lawyers, not the Renaissance humanists, laid the foundation for liberal democracy in the West."

--- I fail to see why that last is an either/or, rather than a both/and.
to:NB  history_of_ideas  history_of_religion  european_history  books:noted  liberalism  individualism  christianity 
17 days ago
The Eternal Criminal Record — James B. Jacobs | Harvard University Press
"For over sixty million Americans, possessing a criminal record overshadows everything else about their public identity. A rap sheet, or even a court appearance or background report that reveals a run-in with the law, can have fateful consequences for a person’s interactions with just about everyone else. The Eternal Criminal Record makes transparent a pervasive system of police databases and identity screening that has become a routine feature of American life.
"The United States is unique in making criminal information easy to obtain by employers, landlords, neighbors, even cyberstalkers. Its nationally integrated rap-sheet system is second to none as an effective law enforcement tool, but it has also facilitated the transfer of ever more sensitive information into the public domain. While there are good reasons for a person’s criminal past to be public knowledge, records of arrests that fail to result in convictions are of questionable benefit. Simply by placing someone under arrest, a police officer has the power to tag a person with a legal history that effectively incriminates him or her for life.
"In James Jacobs’s view, law-abiding citizens have a right to know when individuals in their community or workplace represent a potential threat. But convicted persons have rights, too. Jacobs closely examines the problems created by erroneous record keeping, critiques the way the records of individuals who go years without a new conviction are expunged, and proposes strategies for eliminating discrimination based on criminal history, such as certifying the records of those who have demonstrated their rehabilitation."

--- It'd be interesting to see if he discusses private information brokers, who as I understand it don't have to update their records even if someone's arrest or conviction history is officially expunged.
to:NB  books:noted  law  administration  crime  public_policy 
17 days ago
The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism — David M. Kotz | Harvard University Press
"The financial and economic collapse that began in the United States in 2008 and spread to the rest of the world continues to burden the global economy. David Kotz, who was one of the few academic economists to predict it, argues that the ongoing economic crisis is not simply the aftermath of financial panic and an unusually severe recession but instead is a structural crisis of neoliberal, or free-market, capitalism. Consequently, continuing stagnation cannot be resolved by policy measures alone. It requires major institutional restructuring.
"Kotz analyzes the reasons for the rise of free-market ideas, policies, and institutions beginning around 1980. He shows how the neoliberal capitalism that resulted was able to produce a series of long although tepid economic expansions, punctuated by relatively brief recessions, as well as a low rate of inflation. This created the impression of a “Great Moderation.” However, the very same factors that promoted long expansions and low inflation—growing inequality, an increasingly risk-seeking financial sector, and a series of large asset bubbles—were not only objectionable in themselves but also put the economy on an unsustainable trajectory. Kotz interprets the current push for austerity as an attempt to deepen and preserve neoliberal capitalism. However, both economic theory and history suggest that neither austerity measures nor other policy adjustments can bring another period of stable economic expansion. Kotz considers several possible directions of economic restructuring, concluding that significant economic change is likely in the years ahead."

--- Endorsed by Sam Bowles.
to:NB  books:noted  financial_crisis_of_2007--  whats_gone_wrong_with_america  economics  political_economy  inequality 
17 days ago
American Apocalypse — Matthew Avery Sutton | Harvard University Press
"The first comprehensive history of modern American evangelicalism to appear in a generation, American Apocalypse shows how a group of radical Protestants, anticipating the end of the world, paradoxically transformed it.
"Matthew Avery Sutton draws on extensive archival research to document the ways an initially obscure network of charismatic preachers and their followers reshaped American religion, at home and abroad, for over a century. Perceiving the United States as besieged by Satanic forces—communism and secularism, family breakdown and government encroachment—Billy Sunday, Charles Fuller, Billy Graham, and others took to the pulpit and airwaves to explain how Biblical end-times prophecy made sense of a world ravaged by global wars, genocide, and the threat of nuclear extinction. Believing Armageddon was nigh, these preachers used what little time was left to warn of the coming Antichrist, save souls, and prepare the nation for God’s final judgment.
"By the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan and conservative Republicans appropriated evangelical ideas to create a morally infused political agenda that challenged the pragmatic tradition of governance through compromise and consensus. Following 9/11, the politics of apocalypse continued to resonate with an anxious populace seeking a roadmap through a world spinning out of control. Premillennialist evangelicals have erected mega-churches, shaped the culture wars, made and destroyed presidential hopefuls, and brought meaning to millions of believers. Narrating the story of modern evangelicalism from the perspective of the faithful, Sutton demonstrates how apocalyptic thinking continues to exert enormous influence over the American mainstream today."
to:NB  books:noted  history_of_religion  apocalypticism  american_history  us_politics  pure_products_of_america 
17 days ago
After Physics — David Z Albert | Harvard University Press
"After Physics presents ambitious new essays about some of the deepest questions at the foundations of physics, by the physicist and philosopher David Albert. The book’s title alludes to the close connections between physics and metaphysics, much in evidence throughout these essays. It also alludes to the work of imagining what it would be like for the project of physical science—considered as an investigation into the fundamental laws of nature—to be complete.
"Albert argues that the difference between the past and the future—traditionally regarded as a matter for metaphysical or conceptual or linguistic or phenomenological analysis—can be understood as a mechanical phenomenon of nature. In another essay he contends that all versions of quantum mechanics that are compatible with the special theory of relativity make it impossible, even in principle, to present the entirety of what can be said about the world as a narrative sequence of “befores” and “afters.” Any sensible and realistic way of solving the quantum-mechanical measurement problem, Albert claims in yet another essay, is ultimately going to force us to think of particles and fields, and even the very space of the standard scientific conception of the world, as approximate and emergent. Novel discussions of the problem of deriving principled limits on what can be known, measured, or communicated from our fundamental physical theories, along with a sweeping critique of the main attempts at making sense of probabilities in many-worlds interpretations of quantum mechanics, round out the collection."

--- Albert's books on the philosophy of QM and of statistical mechanics are full of good ideas, though their style grates on me. (I've been told it's like mine.)
to:NB  books:noted  physics  philosophy_of_science  barely-comprehensible_metaphysics  albert.david_z.  quantum_mechanics 
17 days ago
The Promise of Party in a Polarized Age — Russell Muirhead | Harvard University Press
"At the root of America’s broken politics is hyperbolic partisanship. It distorts perceptions, inflames disagreements, and poisons the democratic process. Citizens pine for a time when liberals and conservatives compromised with one another—or they yearn for a post-partisan future when the common good trumps ideology and self-interest. Russell Muirhead argues that better partisanship, not less partisanship, is the solution to America’s political predicament. Instead of striving to overcome our differences, we should learn how to engage them.
"The political conflicts that provide fodder for cable news shows are not simply manufactured from thin air. However sensationalized they become in the retelling, they originate in authentic disagreements over what constitutes the common welfare. Republicans vest responsibility in each citizen for dealing with bad decisions and bad luck, and want every individual and family to enjoy the benefits of good decisions and good luck. Democrats ask citizens to stand together to insure one another against the worst consequences of misfortune or poor judgment, and especially to insure children against some of the consequences of their parents’ bad decisions or lack of opportunities. These are fundamental differences that fantasies of bipartisan consensus cannot dissolve.
"Disagreement without parties is disempowering, Muirhead says. The remedy is not for citizens and elected officials to learn to “just get along” but for them to bring a skeptical sensibility even to their own convictions, and to learn to disagree as partisans and govern through compromise despite those disagreements."
in_NB  books:noted  us_politics  political_science  democracy  re:democratic_cognition 
17 days ago
The Myth of Race — Robert Wald Sussman | Harvard University Press
"Biological races do not exist—and never have. This view is shared by all scientists who study variation in human populations. Yet racial prejudice and intolerance based on the myth of race remain deeply ingrained in Western society. In his powerful examination of a persistent, false, and poisonous idea, Robert Sussman explores how race emerged as a social construct from early biblical justifications to the pseudoscientific studies of today.
"The Myth of Race traces the origins of modern racist ideology to the Spanish Inquisition, revealing how sixteenth-century theories of racial degeneration became a crucial justification for Western imperialism and slavery. In the nineteenth century, these theories fused with Darwinism to produce the highly influential and pernicious eugenics movement. Believing that traits from cranial shape to raw intelligence were immutable, eugenicists developed hierarchies that classified certain races, especially fair-skinned “Aryans,” as superior to others. These ideologues proposed programs of intelligence testing, selective breeding, and human sterilization—policies that fed straight into Nazi genocide. Sussman examines how opponents of eugenics, guided by the German-American anthropologist Franz Boas’s new, scientifically supported concept of culture, exposed fallacies in racist thinking.
"Although eugenics is now widely discredited, some groups and individuals today claim a new scientific basis for old racist assumptions. Pondering the continuing influence of racist research and thought, despite all evidence to the contrary, Sussman explains why—when it comes to race—too many people still mistake bigotry for science.
"Robert Wald Sussman is Professor of Physical Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis."
to:NB  books:noted  race  racism  debunking  anthropology 
17 days ago
Recovery from Financial Crises: Evidence from 100 Episodes (Reinhart and Rogoff)
"Examining the evolution of real per capita GDP around 100 systemic banking crises reveals that a significant part of the costs of these crises lies in the protracted and halting nature of the recovery. On average it takes about eight years to reach the pre-crisis level of income; the median is about 6.5 years. Five to six years after the onset of the current crisis only Germany and the United States (out of 12 systemic crisis cases) have reached their 2007–2008 peaks in per cap- ita income. In a sample that covers 63 crises in advanced economies and 37 in larger emerging markets, more than 40 percent of the post-crisis episodes experienced double dips. The analysis summarized here adds another dimension to an observation we have been emphasizing on the basis of our earlier work—namely, that the sub- prime crisis is not an anomaly in the context of the pre-WWII era. Postwar business cycles are not the right comparator for the severe crises that have swept advanced economies in recent years."

--- Of course, experience tells us that we can conclude nothing from their papers until someone else has debugged their spreadsheets.
economics  financial_crisis_of_2007--  macroeconomics  economic_history  reinhart.carmen_m.  rogoff.kenneth_s. 
17 days ago
The Relation between Kin and Multilevel Selection: An Approach Using Causal Graphs
"Kin selection and multilevel selection are alternative approaches for studying the evolution of social behaviour, the relation between which has long been a source of controversy. Many recent theorists regard the two approaches as ultimately equivalent, on the grounds that gene frequency change can be correctly expressed using either. However, this shows only that the two are formally equivalent, not that they offer equally good causal representations of the evolutionary process. This article articulates the notion of an ‘adequate causal representation’ using causal graphs, and then seeks to identify circumstances under which kin and multilevel selection do and do not satisfy the test of causal adequacy."
to:NB  to_read  causality  graphical_models  philosophy_of_science  evolutionary_biology  levels_of_selection  via:nybooks 
19 days ago
Cohort of birth modifies the association between FTO genotype and BMI
"A substantial body of research has explored the relative roles of genetic and environmental factors on phenotype expression in humans. Recent research has also sought to identify gene–environment (or g-by-e) interactions, with mixed success. One potential reason for these mixed results may relate to the fact that genetic effects might be modified by changes in the environment over time. For example, the noted rise of obesity in the United States in the latter part of the 20th century might reflect an interaction between genetic variation and changing environmental conditions that together affect the penetrance of genetic influences. To evaluate this hypothesis, we use longitudinal data from the Framingham Heart Study collected over 30 y from a geographically relatively localized sample to test whether the well-documented association between the rs993609 variant of the FTO (fat mass and obesity associated) gene and body mass index (BMI) varies across birth cohorts, time period, and the lifecycle. Such cohort and period effects integrate many potential environmental factors, and this gene-by-environment analysis examines interactions with both time-varying contemporaneous and historical environmental influences. Using constrained linear age–period–cohort models that include family controls, we find that there is a robust relationship between birth cohort and the genotype–phenotype correlation between the FTO risk allele and BMI, with an observed inflection point for those born after 1942. These results suggest genetic influences on complex traits like obesity can vary over time, presumably because of global environmental changes that modify allelic penetrance."
to:NB  genetics 
21 days ago
Precisely cyclic sand: Self-organization of periodically sheared frictional grains
"The disordered static structure and chaotic dynamics of frictional granular matter has occupied scientists for centuries, yet there are few organizational principles or guiding rules for this highly hysteretic, dissipative material. We show that cyclic shear of a granular material leads to dynamic self-organization into several phases with different spatial and temporal order. Using numerical simulations, we present a phase diagram in strain–friction space that shows chaotic dispersion, crystal formation, vortex patterns, and most unusually a disordered phase in which each particle precisely retraces its unique path. However, the system is not reversible. Rather, the trajectory of each particle, and the entire frictional, many–degrees-of-freedom system, organizes itself into a limit cycle absorbing state. Of particular note is that fact that the cyclic states are spatially disordered, whereas the ordered states are chaotic."
to:NB  self-organization  physics  non-equilibrium 
21 days ago
"The consciousness myth" | Galen Strawson - Academia.edu
To be fair to Crick's title, I think it's fair to say that most people still regard the idea that "mere" matter can be conscious as astonishing, however much it may have been asborbed as a possibility among the learned.
history_of_ideas  history_of_philosophy  consciousness  philosophy_of_mind  strawson.galen  via:auerbach 
21 days ago
On Making Better Porn | The Book of Life
"When people eat badly, we don’t try to stop them eating at all. We hope to improve their diet. The aim isn’t to abolish food, just because some food is terrible. We want good food to be more widely and easily available. The same move could apply to online sex sites. We can’t abolish porn. So the goal is to get good pornography. Better porn isn’t stuff that’s even more thrilling or exciting. It is ‘better’ in the sense of being better for us – less at odds with the rest of our lives."
pr0n  moral_psychology  cultural_criticism  literary_criticism  have_read  via:tsuomela  ethics  sfw  well_mostly_s_for_most_w  may_depend_how_w_feels_about_baroque_art 
21 days ago
Neyman: "Two Aspects of the Representative Method" (1934)
This is a pretty amazing paper, not just for introducing confidence intervals, but also for setting the pattern for a huge area of statistics pretty much down to the present.
to:NB  have_read  statistics  estimation  surveys  sampling  confidence_sets  neyman.jerzy 
22 days ago
Open Standards and the Digital Age History, Ideology, and Networks | Twentieth century American history | Cambridge University Press
"How did openness become a foundational value for the networks of the twenty-first century? Open Standards and the Digital Age answers this question through an interdisciplinary history of information networks that pays close attention to the politics of standardization. For much of the twentieth century, information networks such as the monopoly Bell System and the American military’s Arpanet were closed systems subject to centralized control. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, engineers in the United States and Europe experimented with design strategies to create new digital networks. In the process, they embraced discourses of “openness” to describe their ideological commitments to entrepreneurship, technological innovation, and participatory democracy. The rhetoric of openness has flourished - for example, in movements for open government, open source software, and open access publishing - but such rhetoric also obscures the ways the Internet and other “open” systems still depend heavily on hierarchical forms of control."
to:NB  networks  internet  the_present_before_it_was_widely_distributed  20th_century_history  the_wired_ideology 
23 days ago
[1502.07576] Comparison Issues in Large Graphs: State of the Art and Future Directions
"Graph comparison is fundamentally important for many applications such as the analysis of social networks and biological data and has been a significant research area in the pattern recognition and pattern analysis domains. Nowadays, the graphs are large, they may have billions of nodes and edges. Comparison issues in such huge graphs are a challenging research problem.
"In this paper, we survey the research advances of comparison problems in large graphs. We review graph comparison and pattern matching approaches that focus on large graphs. We categorize the existing approaches into three classes: partition-based approaches, search space based approaches and summary based approaches. All the existing algorithms in these approaches are described in detail and analyzed according to multiple metrics such as time complexity, type of graphs or comparison concept. Finally, we identify directions for future research."
to:NB  network_data_analysis  network_differences  re:network_differences  to_read  via:vaguery 
25 days ago
The atoms of neural computation
"Does the brain depend on a set of elementary, reusable computations?"
--- There is a FAQ on arxiv, http://arxiv.org/abs/1410.8826, but not the actual paper.
to:NB  have_read  neural_computation  neuroscience  design_for_a_brain  marcus.gary 
26 days ago
[1502.05934] Achieving All with No Parameters: Adaptive NormalHedge
"We study the classic online learning problem of predicting with expert advice, and propose a truly parameter-free and adaptive algorithm that achieves several objectives simultaneously without using any prior information. The main component of this work is an improved version of the NormalHedge.DT algorithm (Luo and Schapire, 2014), called AdaNormalHedge. On one hand, this new algorithm ensures small regret when the competitor has small loss and almost constant regret when the losses are stochastic. On the other hand, the algorithm is able to compete with any convex combination of the experts simultaneously, with a regret in terms of the relative entropy of the prior and the competitor. This resolves an open problem proposed by Chaudhuri et al. (2009) and Chernov and Vovk (2010). Moreover, we extend the results to the sleeping expert setting and provide two applications to illustrate the power of AdaNormalHedge: 1) competing with time-varying unknown competitors and 2) predicting almost as well as the best pruning tree. Our results on these applications significantly improve previous work from different aspects, and a special case of the first application resolves another open problem proposed by Warmuth and Koolen (2014) on whether one can simultaneously achieve optimal shifting regret for both adversarial and stochastic losses."
to:NB  to_read  learning_theory  low-regret_learning  re:growing_ensemble_project 
26 days ago
Learned Patriots: Debating Science, State, and Society in the Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Empire, Yalçinkaya
"In Learned Patriots, M. Alper Yalçinkaya examines what it meant for nineteenth-century Ottoman elites themselves to have a debate about science. Yalçinkaya finds that for anxious nineteenth-century Ottoman politicians, intellectuals, and litterateurs, the chief question was not about the meaning, merits, or dangers of science. Rather, what mattered were the qualities of the new “men of science.” Would young, ambitious men with scientific education be loyal to the state? Were they “proper” members of the community? Science, Yalçinkaya shows, became a topic that could hardly be discussed without reference to identity and morality."
to:NB  books:noted  ottoman_empire  history_of_science  19th_century_history  history_of_ideas 
27 days ago
Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories
"Conspiracy theories can form a monological belief system: A self-sustaining worldview comprised of a network of mutually supportive beliefs. The present research shows that even mutually incompatible conspiracy theories are positively correlated in endorsement. In Study 1 (n = 137), the more participants believed that Princess Diana faked her own death, the more they believed that she was murdered. In Study 2 (n = 102), the more participants believed that Osama Bin Laden was already dead when U.S. special forces raided his compound in Pakistan, the more they believed he is still alive. Hierarchical regression models showed that mutually incompatible conspiracy theories are positively associated because both are associated with the view that the authorities are engaged in a cover-up (Study 2). The monological nature of conspiracy belief appears to be driven not by conspiracy theories directly supporting one another but by broader beliefs supporting conspiracy theories in general."

--- I'd want to look very carefully at the numerical data to make sure this isn't being driven by a few people who are crazy (even once you allow for their being into conspiracy theories). In fact, this sounds like a situation where you'd really want to look carefully at protocols collected from the interviewees... Last tag conditional on the authors responding positively to my query about access to the data.
to:NB  have_skimmed  surveys  hierarchical_statistical_models  conspiracy_theories  sociology  to_teach:undergrad-ADA  psychology  natural_history_of_truthiness 
28 days ago
How Robust Are Probabilistic Models of Higher-Level Cognition?
"An increasingly popular theory holds that the mind should be viewed as a near-optimal or rational engine of probabilistic inference, in domains as diverse as word learning, pragmatics, naive physics, and predictions of the future. We argue that this view, often identified with Bayesian models of inference, is markedly less promising than widely believed, and is undermined by post hoc practices that merit wholesale reevaluation. We also show that the common equation between probabilistic and rational or optimal is not justified."
in_NB  psychology  cognitive_science  bayesianism  marcus.gary_f.  have_read 
28 days ago
What can individual differences tell us about the specialization of function?
"Can the study of individual differences inform debates about modularity and the specialization of function? In this article, we consider the implications of a highly replicated, robust finding known as positive manifold: Individual differences in different cognitive domains tend to be positively inter- correlated. Prima facie, this fact, which has generally been interpreted as reflecting the influence of a domain-general cognitive factor, might be seen as posing a serious challenge to a strong view of modularity. Drawing on a mixture of meta-analysis and computer simulation, we show that positive manifold derives instead largely from between-task neural overlap, suggesting a potential way of reconciling individual differences with some form of modularity."

--- Journal version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02643294.2011.609813
--- The model simulated from is, I think, just another version of Thompson's ability sampling model.
in_NB  have_read  iq  factor_analysis  marcus.gary_f.  neuropsychology  re:g_paper 
28 days ago
Data Science at the Command Line - O'Reilly Media
"This hands-on guide demonstrates how the flexibility of the command line can help you become a more efficient and productive data scientist. You’ll learn how to combine small, yet powerful, command-line tools to quickly obtain, scrub, explore, and model your data."
books:noted  unix  to_teach:statcomp 
29 days ago
Over at Project Syndicate: Making Do with More (Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality...)
Brad channeling Keynes, and indeed _The German Ideology_. But notice: he's talking about how prosperity is moving us into areas where we know markets generically fail badly, and are very artificial creatures of state power at best...
economics  market_failures_in_everything  delong.brad 
4 weeks ago
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