nhaliday + cocktail   290

2019 Growth Theory Conference - May 11-12 | Economics Department at Brown University
Guillaume Blanc (Brown) and Romain Wacziarg (UCLA and NBER) "Change and Persistence in the Age of Modernization:
Saint-Germain-d’Anxure, 1730-1895∗"

Figure 4.1.1.1 – Fertility
Figure 4.2.1.1 – Mortality
Figure 5.1.0.1 – Literacy

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/1127999888359346177
https://archive.is/1EnZg
Short pre-modern lives weren't overwhelmingly about infant mortality:

From this weekend's excellent Deep Roots conference at @Brown_Economics, new evidence from a small French town, an ancestral home of coauthor Romain Wacziarg:
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European Carpe Diem poems made a lot more sense when 20-year-olds were halfway done with life:
...
--
...
N.B. that's not a correction at all, it's telling the same story as the above figure:

Conditioned on surviving childhood, usually living to less than 50 years total in 1750s France and in medieval times.
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6 weeks ago by nhaliday
Measures of cultural distance - Marginal REVOLUTION
A new paper with many authors — most prominently Joseph Henrich — tries to measure the cultural gaps between different countries.  I am reproducing a few of their results (see pp.36-37 for more), noting that higher numbers represent higher gaps:

...

Overall the numbers show much greater cultural distance of other nations from China than from the United States, a significant and under-discussed problem for China. For instance, the United States is about as culturally close to Hong Kong as China is.

[ed.: Japan is closer to the US than China. Interesting. I'd like to see some data based on something other than self-reported values though.]

the study:
Beyond WEIRD Psychology: Measuring and Mapping Scales of Cultural and Psychological Distance: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3259613
We present a new tool that provides a means to measure the psychological and cultural distance between two societies and create a distance scale with any population as the point of comparison. Since psychological data is dominated by samples drawn from the United States or other WEIRD nations, this tool provides a “WEIRD scale” to assist researchers in systematically extending the existing database of psychological phenomena to more diverse and globally representative samples. As the extreme WEIRDness of the literature begins to dissolve, the tool will become more useful for designing, planning, and justifying a wide range of comparative psychological projects. We have made our code available and developed an online application for creating other scales (including the “Sino scale” also presented in this paper). We discuss regional diversity within nations showing the relative homogeneity of the United States. Finally, we use these scales to predict various psychological outcomes.
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8 weeks ago by nhaliday
Shuffling - Wikipedia
The Gilbert–Shannon–Reeds model provides a mathematical model of the random outcomes of riffling, that has been shown experimentally to be a good fit to human shuffling[2] and that forms the basis for a recommendation that card decks be riffled seven times in order to randomize them thoroughly.[3] Later, mathematicians Lloyd M. Trefethen and Lloyd N. Trefethen authored a paper using a tweaked version of the Gilbert-Shannon-Reeds model showing that the minimum number of riffles for total randomization could also be 5, if the method of defining randomness is changed.[4][5]
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11 weeks ago by nhaliday
The Existential Risk of Math Errors - Gwern.net
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:

1. Mistakes where the theorem is still true, but the proof was incorrect (type I)
2. Mistakes where the theorem was false, and the proof was also necessarily incorrect (type II)

Before someone comes up with a final answer, a mathematician may have many levels of intuition in formulating & working on the problem, but we’ll consider the final end-product where the mathematician feels satisfied that he has solved it. Case 1 is perhaps the most common case, with innumerable examples; this is sometimes due to mistakes in the proof that anyone would accept is a mistake, but many of these cases are due to changing standards of proof. For example, when David Hilbert discovered errors in Euclid’s proofs which no one noticed before, the theorems were still true, and the gaps more due to Hilbert being a modern mathematician thinking in terms of formal systems (which of course Euclid did not think in). (David Hilbert himself turns out to be a useful example of the other kind of error: his famous list of 23 problems was accompanied by definite opinions on the outcome of each problem and sometimes timings, several of which were wrong or questionable5.) Similarly, early calculus used ‘infinitesimals’ which were sometimes treated as being 0 and sometimes treated as an indefinitely small non-zero number; this was incoherent and strictly speaking, practically all of the calculus results were wrong because they relied on an incoherent concept - but of course the results were some of the greatest mathematical work ever conducted6 and when later mathematicians put calculus on a more rigorous footing, they immediately re-derived those results (sometimes with important qualifications), and doubtless as modern math evolves other fields have sometimes needed to go back and clean up the foundations and will in the future.7

...

Isaac Newton, incidentally, gave two proofs of the same solution to a problem in probability, one via enumeration and the other more abstract; the enumeration was correct, but the other proof totally wrong and this was not noticed for a long time, leading Stigler to remark:

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TYPE I > TYPE II?
“Lefschetz was a purely intuitive mathematician. It was said of him that he had never given a completely correct proof, but had never made a wrong guess either.”
- Gian-Carlo Rota13

Case 2 is disturbing, since it is a case in which we wind up with false beliefs and also false beliefs about our beliefs (we no longer know that we don’t know). Case 2 could lead to extinction.

...

Except, errors do not seem to be evenly & randomly distributed between case 1 and case 2. There seem to be far more case 1s than case 2s, as already mentioned in the early calculus example: far more than 50% of the early calculus results were correct when checked more rigorously. Richard Hamming attributes to Ralph Boas a comment that while editing Mathematical Reviews that “of the new results in the papers reviewed most are true but the corresponding proofs are perhaps half the time plain wrong”.

...

Gian-Carlo Rota gives us an example with Hilbert:

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Olga labored for three years; it turned out that all mistakes could be corrected without any major changes in the statement of the theorems. There was one exception, a paper Hilbert wrote in his old age, which could not be fixed; it was a purported proof of the continuum hypothesis, you will find it in a volume of the Mathematische Annalen of the early thirties.

...

Leslie Lamport advocates for machine-checked proofs and a more rigorous style of proofs similar to natural deduction, noting a mathematician acquaintance guesses at a broad error rate of 1/329 and that he routinely found mistakes in his own proofs and, worse, believed false conjectures30.

[more on these "structured proofs":
https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/52435/does-anyone-actually-publish-structured-proofs
https://mathoverflow.net/questions/35727/community-experiences-writing-lamports-structured-proofs
]

We can probably add software to that list: early software engineering work found that, dismayingly, bug rates seem to be simply a function of lines of code, and one would expect diseconomies of scale. So one would expect that in going from the ~4,000 lines of code of the Microsoft DOS operating system kernel to the ~50,000,000 lines of code in Windows Server 2003 (with full systems of applications and libraries being even larger: the comprehensive Debian repository in 2007 contained ~323,551,126 lines of code) that the number of active bugs at any time would be… fairly large. Mathematical software is hopefully better, but practitioners still run into issues (eg Durán et al 2014, Fonseca et al 2017) and I don’t know of any research pinning down how buggy key mathematical systems like Mathematica are or how much published mathematics may be erroneous due to bugs. This general problem led to predictions of doom and spurred much research into automated proof-checking, static analysis, and functional languages31.

[related:
https://mathoverflow.net/questions/11517/computer-algebra-errors
I don't know any interesting bugs in symbolic algebra packages but I know a true, enlightening and entertaining story about something that looked like a bug but wasn't.

Define sinc𝑥=(sin𝑥)/𝑥.

Someone found the following result in an algebra package: ∫∞0𝑑𝑥sinc𝑥=𝜋/2
They then found the following results:

...

So of course when they got:

∫∞0𝑑𝑥sinc𝑥sinc(𝑥/3)sinc(𝑥/5)⋯sinc(𝑥/15)=(467807924713440738696537864469/935615849440640907310521750000)𝜋

hmm:
Which means that nobody knows Fourier analysis nowdays. Very sad and discouraging story... – fedja Jan 29 '10 at 18:47

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Because the most popular systems are all commercial, they tend to guard their bug database rather closely -- making them public would seriously cut their sales. For example, for the open source project Sage (which is quite young), you can get a list of all the known bugs from this page. 1582 known issues on Feb.16th 2010 (which includes feature requests, problems with documentation, etc).

That is an order of magnitude less than the commercial systems. And it's not because it is better, it is because it is younger and smaller. It might be better, but until SAGE does a lot of analysis (about 40% of CAS bugs are there) and a fancy user interface (another 40%), it is too hard to compare.

I once ran a graduate course whose core topic was studying the fundamental disconnect between the algebraic nature of CAS and the analytic nature of the what it is mostly used for. There are issues of logic -- CASes work more or less in an intensional logic, while most of analysis is stated in a purely extensional fashion. There is no well-defined 'denotational semantics' for expressions-as-functions, which strongly contributes to the deeper bugs in CASes.]

...

Should such widely-believed conjectures as P≠NP or the Riemann hypothesis turn out be false, then because they are assumed by so many existing proofs, a far larger math holocaust would ensue38 - and our previous estimates of error rates will turn out to have been substantial underestimates. But it may be a cloud with a silver lining, if it doesn’t come at a time of danger.

https://mathoverflow.net/questions/338607/why-doesnt-mathematics-collapse-down-even-though-humans-quite-often-make-mista

more on formal methods in programming:
https://www.quantamagazine.org/formal-verification-creates-hacker-proof-code-20160920/
https://intelligence.org/2014/03/02/bob-constable/

https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/375342/what-are-the-barriers-that-prevent-widespread-adoption-of-formal-methods
Update: measured effort
In the October 2018 issue of Communications of the ACM there is an interesting article about Formally verified software in the real world with some estimates of the effort.

Interestingly (based on OS development for military equipment), it seems that producing formally proved software requires 3.3 times more effort than with traditional engineering techniques. So it's really costly.

On the other hand, it requires 2.3 times less effort to get high security software this way than with traditionally engineered software if you add the effort to make such software certified at a high security level (EAL 7). So if you have high reliability or security requirements there is definitively a business case for going formal.

WHY DON'T PEOPLE USE FORMAL METHODS?: https://www.hillelwayne.com/post/why-dont-people-use-formal-methods/
You can see examples of how all of these look at Let’s Prove Leftpad. HOL4 and Isabelle are good examples of “independent theorem” specs, SPARK and Dafny have “embedded assertion” specs, and Coq and Agda have “dependent type” specs.6

If you squint a bit it looks like these three forms of code spec map to the three main domains of automated correctness checking: tests, contracts, and types. This is not a coincidence. Correctness is a spectrum, and formal verification is one extreme of that spectrum. As we reduce the rigour (and effort) of our verification we get simpler and narrower checks, whether that means limiting the explored state space, using weaker types, or pushing verification to the runtime. Any means of total specification then becomes a means of partial specification, and vice versa: many consider Cleanroom a formal verification technique, which primarily works by pushing code review far beyond what’s humanly possible.

...

The question, then: “is 90/95/99% correct significantly cheaper than 100% correct?” The answer is very yes. We all are comfortable saying that a codebase we’ve well-tested and well-typed is mostly correct modulo a few fixes in prod, and we’re even writing more than four lines of code a day. In fact, the vast… [more]
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july 2019 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Moore's Law and AI
Hint to technocratic planners: invest more in physicists, chemists, and materials scientists. The recent explosion in value from technology has been driven by physical science -- software gets way too much credit. From the former we got a factor of a million or more in compute power, data storage, and bandwidth. From the latter, we gained (perhaps) an order of magnitude or two in effectiveness: how much better are current OSes and programming languages than Unix and C, both of which are ~50 years old now?

...

Of relevance to this discussion: a big chunk of AlphaGo's performance improvement over other Go programs is due to raw compute power (link via Jess Riedel). The vertical axis is ELO score. You can see that without multi-GPU compute, AlphaGo has relatively pedestrian strength.
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may 2019 by nhaliday
ellipsis - Why is the subject omitted in sentences like "Thought you'd never ask"? - English Language & Usage Stack Exchange
This is due to a phenomenon that occurs in intimate conversational spoken English called "Conversational Deletion". It was discussed and exemplified quite thoroughly in a 1974 PhD dissertation in linguistics at the University of Michigan that I had the honor of directing.

Thrasher, Randolph H. Jr. 1974. Shouldn't Ignore These Strings: A Study of Conversational Deletion, Ph.D. Dissertation, Linguistics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

...

"The phenomenon can be viewed as erosion of the beginning of sentences, deleting (some, but not all) articles, dummies, auxiliaries, possessives, conditional if, and [most relevantly for this discussion -jl] subject pronouns. But it only erodes up to a point, and only in some cases.

"Whatever is exposed (in sentence initial position) can be swept away. If erosion of the first element exposes another vulnerable element, this too may be eroded. The process continues until a hard (non-vulnerable) element is encountered." [ibidem p.9]

Dad calls this and some similar omissions "Kiplinger style": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiplinger
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march 2019 by nhaliday
A cross-language perspective on speech information rate
Figure 2.

English (IREN = 1.08) shows a higher Information Rate than Vietnamese (IRVI = 1). On the contrary, Japanese exhibits the lowest IRL value of the sample. Moreover, one can observe that several languages may reach very close IRL with different encoding strategies: Spanish is characterized by a fast rate of low-density syllables while Mandarin exhibits a 34% slower syllabic rate with syllables ‘denser’ by a factor of 49%. Finally, their Information Rates differ only by 4%.

Is spoken English more efficient than other languages?: https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/2550/is-spoken-english-more-efficient-than-other-languages
As a translator, I can assure you that English is no more efficient than other languages.
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[some comments on a different answer:]
Russian, when spoken, is somewhat less efficient than English, and that is for sure. No one who has ever worked as an interpreter can deny it. You can convey somewhat more information in English than in Russian within an hour. The English language is not constrained by the rigid case and gender systems of the Russian language, which somewhat reduce the information density of the Russian language. The rules of the Russian language force the speaker to incorporate sometimes unnecessary details in his speech, which can be problematic for interpreters – user74809 Nov 12 '18 at 12:48
But in writing, though, I do think that Russian is somewhat superior. However, when it comes to common daily speech, I do not think that anyone can claim that English is less efficient than Russian. As a matter of fact, I also find Russian to be somewhat more mentally taxing than English when interpreting. I mean, anyone who has lived in the world of Russian and then moved to the world of English is certain to notice that English is somewhat more efficient in everyday life. It is not a night-and-day difference, but it is certainly noticeable. – user74809 Nov 12 '18 at 13:01
...
By the way, I am not knocking Russian. I love Russian, it is my mother tongue and the only language, in which I sound like a native speaker. I mean, I still have a pretty thick Russian accent. I am not losing it anytime soon, if ever. But like I said, living in both worlds, the Moscow world and the Washington D.C. world, I do notice that English is objectively more efficient, even if I am myself not as efficient in it as most other people. – user74809 Nov 12 '18 at 13:40

Do most languages need more space than English?: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/2998/do-most-languages-need-more-space-than-english
Speaking as a translator, I can share a few rules of thumb that are popular in our profession:
- Hebrew texts are usually shorter than their English equivalents by approximately 1/3. To a large extent, that can be attributed to cheating, what with no vowels and all.
- Spanish, Portuguese and French (I guess we can just settle on Romance) texts are longer than their English counterparts by about 1/5 to 1/4.
- Scandinavian languages are pretty much on par with English. Swedish is a tiny bit more compact.
- Whether or not Russian (and by extension, Ukrainian and Belorussian) is more compact than English is subject to heated debate, and if you ask five people, you'll be presented with six different opinions. However, everybody seems to agree that the difference is just a couple percent, be it this way or the other.

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A point of reference from the website I maintain. The files where we store the translations have the following sizes:

English: 200k
Portuguese: 208k
Spanish: 209k
German: 219k
And the translations are out of date. That is, there are strings in the English file that aren't yet in the other files.

For Chinese, the situation is a bit different because the character encoding comes into play. Chinese text will have shorter strings, because most words are one or two characters, but each character takes 3–4 bytes (for UTF-8 encoding), so each word is 3–12 bytes long on average. So visually the text takes less space but in terms of the information exchanged it uses more space. This Language Log post suggests that if you account for the encoding and remove redundancy in the data using compression you find that English is slightly more efficient than Chinese.

Is English more efficient than Chinese after all?: https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=93
[Executive summary: Who knows?]

This follows up on a series of earlier posts about the comparative efficiency — in terms of text size — of different languages ("One world, how many bytes?", 8/5/2005; "Comparing communication efficiency across languages", 4/4/2008; "Mailbag: comparative communication efficiency", 4/5/2008). Hinrich Schütze wrote:
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february 2019 by nhaliday
Does left-handedness occur more in certain ethnic groups than others?
Yes. There are some aboriginal tribes in Australia who have about 70% of their population being left-handed. It’s also more than 50% for some South American tribes.

The reason is the same in both cases: a recent past of extreme aggression with other tribes. Left-handedness is caused by recessive genes, but being left-handed is a boost when in hand-to-hand combat with a right-handed guy (who usually has trained extensively with other right-handed guys, as this disposition is genetically dominant so right-handed are majority in most human populations, so lacks experience with a left-handed). Should a particular tribe enter too much war time periods, it’s proportion of left-handeds will naturally rise. As their enemy tribe’s proportion of left-handed people is rising as well, there’s a point at which the natural advantage they get in fighting disipates and can only climb higher should they continuously find new groups to fight with, who are also majority right-handed.

...

So the natural question is: given their advantages in 1-on-1 combat, why doesn’t the percentage grow all the way up to 50% or slightly higher? Because there are COSTS associated with being left-handed, as apparently our neural network is pre-wired towards right-handedness - showing as a reduced life expectancy for lefties. So a mathematical model was proposed to explain their distribution among different societies

THE FIGHTING HYPOTHESIS: STABILITY OF POLYMORPHISM IN HUMAN HANDEDNESS

http://gepv.univ-lille1.fr/downl...

Further, it appears the average left-handedness for humans (~10%) hasn’t changed in thousands of years (judging by the paintings of hands on caves)

Frequency-dependent maintenance of left handedness in humans.

Handedness frequency over more than 10,000 years

[ed.: Compare with Julius Evola's "left-hand path".]
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july 2018 by nhaliday
Psychopathy by U.S. State by Ryan Murphy :: SSRN
Rentfrow et al. (2013) constructs a cross-section of the “Big Five” personality traits and demonstrates their relationship with outcomes variables for the continental United States and the District of Columbia. Hyatt et al. (Forthcoming) creates a means of describing psychopathy in terms of the Big Five personality traits. When these two findings are combined, a state-level estimate of psychopathy is produced. Among the typical predictions made regarding psychopathy, the variable with the closest univariate relationship with this new statistical aggregate is the percentage of the population in the state living in an urban area. There is not a clear univariate relationship with homicide rates.

Washington, D.C., harbors the greatest share of psychopaths in the US, "a fact that can be readily explained either by its very high population density or by the type of person who may be drawn a literal seat of power."
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june 2018 by nhaliday
Which Countries Create the Most Ocean Trash? - WSJ
China and Indonesia Are Top Sources of Plastic Garbage Reaching Oceans, Researchers Say
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Why do stars twinkle?
According to many astronomers and educators, twinkle (stellar scintillation) is caused by atmospheric structure that works like ordinary lenses and prisms. Pockets of variable temperature - and hence index of refraction - randomly shift and focus starlight, perceived by eye as changes in brightness. Pockets also disperse colors like prisms, explaining the flashes of color often seen in bright stars. Stars appear to twinkle more than planets because they are points of light, whereas the twinkling points on planetary disks are averaged to a uniform appearance. Below, figure 1 is a simulation in glass of the kind of turbulence structure posited in the lens-and-prism theory of stellar scintillation, shown over the Penrose tile floor to demonstrate the random lensing effects.

However appealing and ubiquitous on the internet, this popular explanation is wrong, and my aim is to debunk the myth. This research is mostly about showing that the lens-and-prism theory just doesn't work, but I also have a stellar list of references that explain the actual cause of scintillation, starting with two classic papers by C.G. Little and S. Chandrasekhar.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
light - Why doesn't the moon twinkle? - Astronomy Stack Exchange
As you mention, when light enters our atmosphere, it goes through several parcels of gas with varying density, temperature, pressure, and humidity. These differences make the refractive index of the parcels different, and since they move around (the scientific term for air moving around is "wind"), the light rays take slightly different paths through the atmosphere.

Stars are point sources
…the Moon is not
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Behaving Discretely: Heuristic Thinking in the Emergency Department
I find compelling evidence of heuristic thinking in this setting: patients arriving in the emergency department just after their 40th birthday are roughly 10% more likely to be tested for and 20% more likely to be diagnosed with ischemic heart disease (IHD) than patients arriving just before this date, despite the fact that the incidence of heart disease increases smoothly with age.

Figure 1: Proportion of ED patients tested for heart attack
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Asabiyyah in Steve King’s Iowa – Gene Expression
What will happen if and when institutions collapse? I do not believe much of America has the social capital of Orange City, Iowa. We have become rational actors, utility optimizers. To some extent, bureaucratic corporate life demands us to behave in this manner. Individual attainment and achievement are lionized, while sacrifice in the public good is the lot of the exceptional saint.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
How sweet it is! | West Hunter
This has probably been going on for a long, long, time. It may well go back before anatomically modern humans. I say that because of the greater honeyguide, which guides people to beehives in Africa. After we take the honey, the honeyguide eats the grubs and wax. A guiding bird attracts your attention with wavering, chattering ‘tya’ notes compounded with peeps and pipes. It flies towards an occupied hive and then stops and calls again. It has only been seen to guide humans.

I would not be surprised to find that this symbiotic relationship is far older than the the domestication of dogs. But it is not domestication: we certainly don’t control their reproduction. I wouldn’t count on it, but if you could determine the genetic basis of this signaling behavior, you might be able to get an idea of how old it is.

Honeyguides may be mankind’s oldest buds, but they’re nasty little creatures: brood parasites, like cuckoos.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
The Long-run Effects of Agricultural Productivity on Conflict, 1400-1900∗
This paper provides evidence of the long-run effects of a permanent increase in agricultural productivity on conflict. We construct a newly digitized and geo-referenced dataset of battles in Europe, the Near East and North Africa covering the period between 1400 and 1900 CE. For variation in permanent improvements in agricultural productivity, we exploit the introduction of potatoes from the Americas to the Old World after the Columbian Exchange. We find that the introduction of potatoes permanently reduced conflict for roughly two centuries. The results are driven by a reduction in civil conflicts

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/12/monday-assorted-links-135.html#comment-159746885
#4 An obvious counterfactual is of course the potato blight (1844 and beyond) in Europe. Here’s the Wikipedia page ‘revolutions of 1848’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutions_of_1848
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Random Thought Depository — digging-holes-in-the-river: This is a video about...
“Much of the science of modern orthodontics is devoted to creating - through rubber bands, wires, and braces - the perfect “overbite.” An overbite refers to the way our top layer of incisors hang over the bottom layer, like a lid on a box. This is the ideal human occlusion. The opposite of an overbite is an “edge-to-edge” bite seen in primates such as chimpanzees, where the top incisors clash against the bottom ones, like a guillotine blade.

What the orthodontists don’t tell you is that the overbite is a very recent aspect of human anatomy and probably results from the way we use our table knives. Based on surviving skeletons, this has only been a “normal” alignment of the human jaw for 200 to 250 years in the Western world. Before that, most human beings had an edge-to-edge bite, comparable to apes. The overbite is not a product of evolution - the time frame is far too short. Rather, it seems likely to be a response to the way we cut our food during our formative years. The person who worked this out is Professor Charles Loring Brace (born 1930), a remarkable American anthropologist whose main intellectual passion was Neanderthal man. Over decades, Brace built up the world’s largest database on the evolution of hominid teeth. He possibly held more ancient human jaws in his hand than anyone else in the twentieth century.

It’s not that your teeth are too big: your jaw is too small: https://aeon.co/ideas/its-not-that-your-teeth-are-too-big-your-jaw-is-too-small
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Religion in ancient Rome - Wikipedia
Religious persecution in the Roman Empire: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_persecution_in_the_Roman_Empire
The religion of the Christians and Jews was monotheistic in contrast to the polytheism of the Romans.[16] The Romans tended towards syncretism, seeing the same gods under different names in different places of the Empire. This being so, they were generally tolerant and accommodating towards new deities and the religious experiences of other peoples who formed part of their wider Empire.[17] This general tolerance was not extended to religions that were hostile to the state nor any that claimed exclusive rights to religious beliefs and practice.[17]

By its very nature the exclusive faith of the Jews and Christians set them apart from other people, but whereas the former group was in the main contained within a single national, ethnic grouping, in the Holy Land and Jewish diaspora—the non-Jewish adherents of the sect such as Proselytes and God-fearers being considered negligible—the latter was active and successful in seeking converts for the new religion and made universal claims not limited to a single geographical area.[17] Whereas the Masoretic Text, of which the earliest surviving copy dates from the 9th century AD, teaches that "the Gods of the gentiles are nothing", the corresponding passage in the Greek Septuagint, used by the early Christian Church, asserted that "all the gods of the heathens are devils."[18] The same gods whom the Romans believed had protected and blessed their city and its wider empire during the many centuries they had been worshipped were now demonized[19] by the early Christian Church.[20][21]

Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians_in_the_Roman_Empire
"The exclusive sovereignty of Christ clashed with Caesar's claims to his own exclusive sovereignty."[4]:87 The Roman empire practiced religious syncretism and did not demand loyalty to one god, but they did demand preeminent loyalty to the state, and this was expected to be demonstrated through the practices of the state religion with numerous feast and festival days throughout the year.[6]:84-90[7] The nature of Christian monotheism prevented Christians from participating in anything involving 'other gods'.[8]:60 Christians did not participate in feast days or processionals or offer sacrifices or light incense to the gods; this produced hostility.[9] They refused to offer incense to the Roman emperor, and in the minds of the people, the "emperor, when viewed as a god, was ... the embodiment of the Roman empire"[10], so Christians were seen as disloyal to both.[4]:87[11]:23 In Rome, "religion could be tolerated only as long as it contributed to the stability of the state" which would "brook no rival for the allegiance of its subjects. The state was the highest good in a union of state and religion."[4]:87 In Christian monotheism the state was not the highest good.[4]:87[8]:60

...

According to the Christian apologist Tertullian, some governors in Africa helped accused Christians secure acquittals or refused to bring them to trial.[15]:117 Overall, Roman governors were more interested in making apostates than martyrs: one proconsul of Asia, Arrius Antoninus, when confronted with a group of voluntary martyrs during one of his assize tours, sent a few to be executed and snapped at the rest, "If you want to die, you wretches, you can use ropes or precipices."[15]:137

...

Political leaders in the Roman Empire were also public cult leaders. Roman religion revolved around public ceremonies and sacrifices; personal belief was not as central an element as it is in many modern faiths. Thus while the private beliefs of Christians may have been largely immaterial to many Roman elites, this public religious practice was in their estimation critical to the social and political well-being of both the local community and the empire as a whole. Honoring tradition in the right way — pietas — was key to stability and success.[25]
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november 2017 by nhaliday
GPS and Relativity
The nominal GPS configuration consists of a network of 24 satellites in high orbits around the Earth, but up to 30 or so satellites may be on station at any given time. Each satellite in the GPS constellation orbits at an altitude of about 20,000 km from the ground, and has an orbital speed of about 14,000 km/hour (the orbital period is roughly 12 hours - contrary to popular belief, GPS satellites are not in geosynchronous or geostationary orbits). The satellite orbits are distributed so that at least 4 satellites are always visible from any point on the Earth at any given instant (with up to 12 visible at one time). Each satellite carries with it an atomic clock that "ticks" with a nominal accuracy of 1 nanosecond (1 billionth of a second). A GPS receiver in an airplane determines its current position and course by comparing the time signals it receives from the currently visible GPS satellites (usually 6 to 12) and trilaterating on the known positions of each satellite[1]. The precision achieved is remarkable: even a simple hand-held GPS receiver can determine your absolute position on the surface of the Earth to within 5 to 10 meters in only a few seconds. A GPS receiver in a car can give accurate readings of position, speed, and course in real-time!

More sophisticated techniques, like Differential GPS (DGPS) and Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) methods, deliver centimeter-level positions with a few minutes of measurement. Such methods allow use of GPS and related satellite navigation system data to be used for high-precision surveying, autonomous driving, and other applications requiring greater real-time position accuracy than can be achieved with standard GPS receivers.

To achieve this level of precision, the clock ticks from the GPS satellites must be known to an accuracy of 20-30 nanoseconds. However, because the satellites are constantly moving relative to observers on the Earth, effects predicted by the Special and General theories of Relativity must be taken into account to achieve the desired 20-30 nanosecond accuracy.

Because an observer on the ground sees the satellites in motion relative to them, Special Relativity predicts that we should see their clocks ticking more slowly (see the Special Relativity lecture). Special Relativity predicts that the on-board atomic clocks on the satellites should fall behind clocks on the ground by about 7 microseconds per day because of the slower ticking rate due to the time dilation effect of their relative motion [2].

Further, the satellites are in orbits high above the Earth, where the curvature of spacetime due to the Earth's mass is less than it is at the Earth's surface. A prediction of General Relativity is that clocks closer to a massive object will seem to tick more slowly than those located further away (see the Black Holes lecture). As such, when viewed from the surface of the Earth, the clocks on the satellites appear to be ticking faster than identical clocks on the ground. A calculation using General Relativity predicts that the clocks in each GPS satellite should get ahead of ground-based clocks by 45 microseconds per day.

The combination of these two relativitic effects means that the clocks on-board each satellite should tick faster than identical clocks on the ground by about 38 microseconds per day (45-7=38)! This sounds small, but the high-precision required of the GPS system requires nanosecond accuracy, and 38 microseconds is 38,000 nanoseconds. If these effects were not properly taken into account, a navigational fix based on the GPS constellation would be false after only 2 minutes, and errors in global positions would continue to accumulate at a rate of about 10 kilometers each day! The whole system would be utterly worthless for navigation in a very short time.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Scotland’s many subcultures - Demos Quarterly
surname method

Turning to our analysis of the YouGov results, it was much to our surprise that the strongest majority support for independence was not among ‘pure’ historic Scots, but among people of Irish Catholic descent: with the latter being only 6 per cent net against independence, and historic Scots 16 per cent against. On the surface one might suppose this group would take its political lead from the Labour Party, for which it votes more consistently than any other group in Scotland.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Indiana Jones, Economist?! - Marginal REVOLUTION
In a stunningly original paper Gojko Barjamovic, Thomas Chaney, Kerem A. Coşar, and Ali Hortaçsu use the gravity model of trade to infer the location of lost cities from Bronze age Assyria! The simplest gravity model makes predictions about trade flows based on the sizes of cities and the distances between them. More complicated models add costs based on geographic barriers. The authors have data from ancient texts on trade flows between all the cities, they know the locations of some of the cities, and they know the geography of the region. Using this data they can invert the gravity model and, triangulating from the known cities, find the lost cities that would best “fit” the model. In other words, by assuming the model is true the authors can predict where the lost cities should be located. To test the idea the authors pretend that some known cities are lost and amazingly the model is able to accurately rediscover those cities.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Biopolitics | West Hunter
I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

What if some ideology or political tradition did? what could they do? What problems could they solve, what capabilities would they have?

Various past societies knew a few things along these lines. They knew that there were significant physical and behavioral differences between the sexes, which is forbidden knowledge in modern academia. Some knew that close inbreeding had negative consequences, which knowledge is on its way to the forbidden zone as I speak. Some cultures with wide enough geographical experience had realistic notions of average cognitive differences between populations. Some people had a rough idea about regression to the mean [ in dynasties], and the Ottomans came up with a highly unpleasant solution – the law of fratricide. The Romans, during the Principate, dealt with the same problem through imperial adoption. The Chinese exam system is in part aimed at the same problem.

...

At least some past societies avoided the social patterns leading to the nasty dysgenic trends we are experiencing today, but for the most part that is due to the anthropic principle: if they’d done something else you wouldn’t be reading this. Also to between-group competition: if you fuck your self up when others don’t, you may be well be replaced. Which is still the case.

If you were designing an ideology from scratch you could make use of all of these facts – not that thinking about genetics and selection hands you the solution to every problem, but you’d have more strings to your bow. And, off the top of your head, you’d understand certain trends that are behind the mountains of Estcarp, for our current ruling classes : invisible and unthinkable, That Which Must Not Be Named. .

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/biopolitics/#comment-96613
“The closest…s the sort of libertarianism promulgated by Charles Murray”
Not very close..
A government that was fully aware of the implications and possibilities of human genetics, one that had the usual kind of state goals [ like persistence and increased power] , would not necessarily be particularly libertarian.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/biopolitics/#comment-96797
And giving tax breaks to college-educated liberals to have babies wouldn’t appeal much to Trump voters, methinks.

It might be worth making a reasonably comprehensive of the facts and preferences that a good liberal is supposed to embrace and seem to believe. You would have to be fairly quick about it, before it changes. Then you could evaluate about the social impact of having more of them.

Rise and Fall: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/
Every society selects for something: generally it looks as if the direction of selection pressue is more or less an accident. Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this. I mean, they would have known how, if they’d wanted to, just as they knew how to select for destriers, coursers, and palfreys. It was still possible to know such things in the Middle Ages, because Harvard did not yet exist.

A rising empire needs quality human capital, which implies that at minimum that budding imperial society must not have been strongly dysgenic. At least not in the beginning. But winning changes many things, possibly including selective pressures. Imagine an empire with substantial urbanization, one in which talented guys routinely end up living in cities – cities that were demographic sinks. That might change things. Or try to imagine an empire in which survival challenges are greatly reduced, at least for elites, so that people have nothing to keep their minds off their minds and up worshiping Magna Mater. Imagine that an empire that conquers a rival with interesting local pathogens and brings some of them home. Or one that uses up a lot of its manpower conquering less-talented subjects and importing masses of those losers into the imperial heartland.

If any of those scenarios happened valid, they might eventually result in imperial decline – decline due to decreased biological capital.

Right now this is speculation. If we knew enough about the GWAS hits for intelligence, and had enough ancient DNA, we might be able to observe that rise and fall, just as we see dysgenic trends in contemporary populations. But that won’t happen for a long time. Say, a year.

hmm: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100350
“Although nations and empires in the past could have decided to select men for bravery or intelligence, there’s not much sign that anyone actually did this.”

Maybe the Chinese imperial examination could effectively have been a selection for intelligence.
--
Nope. I’ve modelled it: the fraction of winners is far too small to have much effect, while there were likely fitness costs from the arduous preparation. Moreover, there’s a recent
paper [Detecting polygenic adaptation in admixture graphs] that looks for indications of when selection for IQ hit northeast Asia: quite a while ago. Obvious though, since Japan has similar scores without ever having had that kind of examination system.

decline of British Empire and utility of different components: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/rise-and-fall/#comment-100390
Once upon a time, India was a money maker for the British, mainly because they appropriate Bengali tax revenue, rather than trade. The rest of the Empire was not worth much: it didn’t materially boost British per-capita income or military potential. Silesia was worth more to Germany, conferred more war-making power, than Africa was to Britain.
--
If you get even a little local opposition, a colony won’t pay for itself. I seem to remember that there was some, in Palestine.
--
Angels from on high paid for the Boer War.

You know, someone in the 50’s asked for the numbers – how much various colonies cost and how much they paid.

Turned out that no one had ever asked. The Colonial Office had no idea.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Grown-Ass Dogs Don’t Care About Your Stupid Baby Talk
You know that thing you do where you talk to your dog like it’s a baby? New research shows that puppies respond well to this silly form of speech, but older dogs could give a crap. So, stop doing it when your dog grows up.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Health Services as Credence Goods: A Field Experiment by Felix Gottschalk, Wanda Mimra, Christian Waibel :: SSRN
A test patient who does not need treatment is sent to 180 dentists to receive treatment recommendations. In the experiment, we vary two factors: First, the information that the patient signals to the dentist. Second, we vary the perceived socioeconomic status (SES) of the test patient. Furthermore, we collected data to construct several measures of short- and long-term demand and competition as well as dentist and practice characteristics. We find that the patient receives an overtreatment recommendation in _more than every fourth visit_. A low short-term demand, indicating excess capacities, leads to significantly more overtreatment recommendations. Physician density and their price level, however, do not have a significant effect on overtreatment. Furthermore, we observe significantly less overtreatment recommendations for the patient with higher SES compared to lower SES under standard information. More signalled information however does not significantly reduce overtreatment.

How much dentists are ethically concerned about overtreatment; a vignette-based survey in Switzerland: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4474445/
Are Dentists Overtreating Your Teeth?: https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/28/are-dentists-overtreating-your-teeth/
Have you had a rash of fillings after years of healthy teeth? The culprit may be “microcavities,” and not every dentist thinks they need to be treated, reports today’s Science Times.
How Dentists Rip Us Off: https://www.dentistat.com/ReaderDigestArticle.pdf

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130356647
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Tax Evasion and Inequality
This paper attempts to estimate the size and distribution of tax evasion in rich countries. We combine stratified random audits—the key source used to study tax evasion so far—with new micro-data leaked from two large offshore financial institutions, HSBC Switzerland (“Swiss leaks”) and Mossack Fonseca (“Panama Papers”). We match these data to population-wide wealth records in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. We find that tax evasion rises sharply with wealth, a phenomenon that random audits fail to capture. On average about 3% of personal taxes are evaded in Scandinavia, but this figure rises to about 30% in the top 0.01% of the wealth distribution, a group that includes households with more than $40 million in net wealth. A simple model of the supply of tax evasion services can explain why evasion rises steeply with wealth. Taking tax evasion into account increases the rise in inequality seen in tax data since the 1970s markedly, highlighting the need to move beyond tax data to capture income and wealth at the top, even in countries where tax compliance is generally high. We also find that after reducing tax evasion—by using tax amnesties—tax evaders do not legally avoid taxes more. This result suggests that fighting tax evasion can be an effective way to collect more tax revenue from the ultra-wealthy.

Figure 1

America’s unreported economy: measuring the size, growth and determinants of income tax evasion in the U.S.: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10611-011-9346-x
This study empirically investigates the extent of noncompliance with the tax code and examines the determinants of federal income tax evasion in the U.S. Employing a refined version of Feige’s (Staff Papers, International Monetary Fund 33(4):768–881, 1986, 1989) General Currency Ratio (GCR) model to estimate a time series of unreported income as our measure of tax evasion, we find that 18–23% of total reportable income may not properly be reported to the IRS. This gives rise to a 2009 “tax gap” in the range of $390–$540 billion. As regards the determinants of tax noncompliance, we find that federal income tax evasion is an increasing function of the average effective federal income tax rate, the unemployment rate, the nominal interest rate, and per capita real GDP, and a decreasing function of the IRS audit rate. Despite important refinements of the traditional currency ratio approach for estimating the aggregate size and growth of unreported economies, we conclude that the sensitivity of the results to different benchmarks, imperfect data sources and alternative specifying assumptions precludes obtaining results of sufficient accuracy and reliability to serve as effective policy guides.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Croppies Lie Down - Wikipedia
"Croppies Lie Down" is a loyalist anti-rebel folksong dating from the 1798 rebellion in Ireland celebrating the defeat and suppression of the rebels. The author has been reported as George Watson-Taylor.[1]

This song illustrates the deep divisions which existed in Ireland at the time of the 1798 rebellion. Irish Catholics, and to a lesser extent Dissenters, were legally excluded from political and economic life. The United Kingdom was at war with revolutionary France at the time, and Irish republicans were encouraged by rumours that France would invade the island. The lyrics describe the rebels as treacherous cowards and those fighting them as brave defenders of the innocent. "Croppies" meant people with closely cropped hair, a fashion associated with the French revolutionaries, in contrast to the wigs favoured by the aristocracy. In George Borrow's 1862 travel book Wild Wales, the author comes upon an Anglo-Irish man singing the tune.

...

Oh, croppies ye'd better be quiet and still
Ye shan't have your liberty, do what ye will
As long as salt water is formed in the deep
A foot on the necks of the croppy we'll keep
And drink, as in bumpers past troubles we drown,
A health to the lads that made croppies lie down
Down, down, croppies lie down.

https://twitter.com/gcochran99/status/901517356266004480
Scotch, Irish, Scotch-Irish, Welsh, English. I can sing "croppies lie down" to myself.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/new-mexico/#comment-4390
Here’s a good old Anglo-Irish song:

...

Personally, I’m surprised that the Irish didn’t kill them all.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is_There_for_Honest_Poverty
"Is There for Honest Poverty", commonly known as "A Man's a Man for A' That", is a 1795[1] Scots song by Robert Burns, famous for its expression of egalitarian ideas of society, which may be seen as expressing the ideas of liberalism that arose in the 18th century.

https://www.scotsconnection.com/t-forathat.aspx

http://www.forathat.com/a-mans-a-man-for-a-that.html
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Two theories of home heat control - ScienceDirect
People routinely develop their own theories to explain the world around them. These theories can be useful even when they contradict conventional technical wisdom. Based on in-depth interviews about home heating and thermostat setting behavior, the present study presents two theories people use to understand and adjust their thermostats. The two theories are here called the feedback theory and the valve theory. The valve theory is inconsistent with engineering knowledge, but is estimated to be held by 25% to 50% of Americans. Predictions of each of the theories are compared with the operations normally performed in home heat control. This comparison suggests that the valve theory may be highly functional in normal day-to-day use. Further data is needed on the ways this theory guides behavior in natural environments.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Social Animal House: The Economic and Academic Consequences of Fraternity Membership by Jack Mara, Lewis Davis, Stephen Schmidt :: SSRN
We exploit changes in the residential and social environment on campus to identify the economic and academic consequences of fraternity membership at a small Northeastern college. Our estimates suggest that these consequences are large, with fraternity membership lowering student GPA by approximately 0.25 points on the traditional four-point scale, but raising future income by approximately 36%, for those students whose decision about membership is affected by changes in the environment. These results suggest that fraternity membership causally produces large gains in social capital, which more than outweigh its negative effects on human capital for potential members. Alcohol-related behavior does not explain much of the effects of fraternity membership on either the human capital or social capital effects. These findings suggest that college administrators face significant trade-offs when crafting policies related to Greek life on campus.

- III. Methodology has details
- it's an instrumental variable method paper

Table 5: Fraternity Membership and Grades

Do High School Sports Build or Reveal Character?: http://ftp.iza.org/dp11110.pdf
We examine the extent to which participation in high school athletics has beneficial effects on future education, labor market, and health outcomes. Due to the absence of plausible instruments in observational data, we use recently developed methods that relate selection on observables with selection on unobservables to estimate bounds on the causal effect of athletics participation. We analyze these effects in the US separately for men and women using three different nationally representative longitudinal data sets that each link high school athletics participation with later-life outcomes. We do not find consistent evidence of individual benefits reported in many previous studies – once we have accounted for selection, high school athletes are no more likely to attend college, earn higher wages, or participate in the labor force. However, we do find that men (but not women) who participated in high school athletics are more likely to exercise regularly as adults. Nevertheless, athletes are no less likely to be obese.

Online Social Network Effects in Labor Markets: Evidence From Facebook's Entry into College Campuses: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3381938
My estimates imply that access to Facebook for 4 years of college causes a 2.7 percentile increase in a cohort's average earnings, relative to the earnings of other individuals born in the same year.

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2019/05/might-facebook-boost-wages.html
What Clockwork_Prior said. I was a college freshman when facebook first made its appearance and so I know that facebook's entry/exit cannot be treated as a quasi-random with respect to earnings. Facebook began at harvard, then expanded to other ivy league schools + places like stanford/MIT/CMU, before expanding into a larger set of universities.

Presuming the author is using a differences-in-differences research design, the estimates would be biased as they would essentially be calculating averaging earnings difference between Elite schools and non elite schools. If the sample is just restricted to the period where schools were simply elite, the problem still exist because facebook originated at Harvard and this becomes a comparison of Harvard earnings v.s. other schools.
study  economics  econometrics  natural-experiment  endo-exo  policy  wonkish  higher-ed  long-term  planning  social-capital  human-capital  labor  gender  cohesion  sociology  social-structure  trivia  cocktail  🎩  effect-size  intervention  compensation  money  education  ethanol  usa  northeast  causation  counterfactual  methodology  demographics  age-generation  race  curvature  regression  convexity-curvature  nonlinearity  cost-benefit  endogenous-exogenous  branches  econotariat  marginal-rev  commentary  summary  facebook  internet  social  media  tech  network-structure  recruiting  career  hmm  idk  strategy  elite  time  confounding  pdf  broad-econ  microfoundations  sports  null-result  selection  health  fitness  fitsci  org:ngo  white-paper  input-output  obesity 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Peer review is younger than you think - Marginal REVOLUTION
I’d like to see a detailed look at actual journal practices, but my personal sense is that editorial review was the norm until fairly recently, not review by a team of outside referees.  In 1956, for instance, the American Historical Review asked for only one submission copy, and it seems the same was true as late as 1970.  I doubt they made the photocopies themselves. Schmidt seems to suggest that the practices of government funders nudged the academic professions into more formal peer review with multiple referee reports.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
National Greatness | West Hunter
As production rose, availability increased. At first, penicillin was largely reserved for US and British military needs. Later, it became available to US and British civilians, and soon after for general usage.

But there was a time window of several months in which American-produced penicillin was available for American wounded but not for French casualties. Fortunately, it happens that penicillin is rapidly excreted in urine. It can be recovered. Between January and April 1945, Rhône-Poulenc extracted penicillin from the urine of wounded American servicemen being treated in hospitals around Paris, penicillin which was then used to treat the wounded of the French Army. They typically recovered about 100 doses from 300 liters of urine.

When American piss is the elixir of life – that is national greatness.

USSR, innovation, and Japan: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/national-greatness/#comment-11653
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september 2017 by nhaliday
W. Tecumseh Fitch | West Hunter
I have occasionally seen work by W. Tecumseh Fitch, but I just learned two important things about him:

A. He’s Sherman’s great-great-great-grandson, and
B. He put a Chinese alligator on heliox. We’ve all wondered about that, but he actually did it.
west-hunter  scitariat  commentary  discussion  trivia  cocktail  science  people  big-peeps  old-anglo  usa  history  early-modern  pre-ww2  revolution  war  mostly-modern  statesmen 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Historically significant lunar eclipses - Wikipedia
On 30 June 1503, Christopher Columbus beached his two last caravels and was stranded in Jamaica. The indigenous people of the island welcomed Columbus and his crew and fed them, but Columbus' sailors cheated and stole from the natives. After six months, the natives halted the food supply.[8]

Columbus had on board an almanac authored by Regiomontanus of astronomical tables covering the years 1475–1506; upon consulting the book, he noticed the date and the time of an upcoming lunar eclipse. He was able to use this information to his advantage. He requested a meeting for that day with the Cacique, the leader, and told him that his god was angry with the local people's treatment of Columbus and his men. Columbus said his god would provide a clear sign of his displeasure by making the rising full Moon appear "inflamed with wrath".

The lunar eclipse and the red moon appeared on schedule, and the indigenous people were impressed and frightened. The son of Columbus, Ferdinand, wrote that the people:

“ with great howling and lamentation came running from every direction to the ships laden with provisions, praying to the Admiral to intercede with his god on their behalf... ”
Columbus timed the eclipse with his hourglass, and shortly before the totality ended after 48 minutes, he told the frightened indigenous people that they were going to be forgiven.[8] When the moon started to reappear from the shadow of the Earth, he told them that his god had pardoned them.[9]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Conservation of Coercion - American Affairs Journal
The two faces of the Kapauku Papuans, and the way their anarchist-friendly political order rested on a deeply illiberal social order, neatly express how Technology and the End of Authority, by the Cato Institute scholar Jason Kuznicki, is both an interesting and a maddening book. Kuznicki states that he was inspired to write the book when he wondered why so many classical political philosophers, despite their disagreements over a vast number of topics, nevertheless all believed the nature and proper role of the state was the most important question concerning the proper organization of human affairs. Even libertarian and anarchist political theorists obsess about states, filling books with discussions of when and why we ought to reject them as illegitimate. The nature of their opposition implicitly concedes that the state, its value and purpose, is the central question for us to grapple with.

In contrast, Kuznicki invites us, if not to ignore the state, then at least to banish it from the forefront of our thinking. He asks us to consider states as just one tool among many that human societies have deployed to solve various sorts of problems. The state is neither God nor the Devil, but something pragmatic and unromantic—like a sewage system, or a town dump. Yes, we want it to function smoothly lest the place start to stink, but good taste demands that we not focus obsessively on its operation. Statecraft, like sanitation engineering, is a dirty job that somebody has to do, but unlike sanitation engineering it should also be a mildly embarrassing one. The notion that political means are a locus of the good, or that the state is imbued with the highest purposes of society, is as ridiculous as the notion that a city exists for its sewers rather than vice versa. So, Kuznicki suggests, we should treat anybody attempting to derive the correct or legitimate purposes of the state with the same skepticism with which we would view somebody waxing philosophical about a trash compactor. The real center of society, the topics worth debating and pondering, are all the other institutions—like markets, churches, sports teams, scientific schools, and families—whose existence the correct operation of the state supports.

...

The second implication of Kuznicki’s statecraft-as-engineering is that any determination about the proper role and behavior of government must remain unsettled not only by historical and cultural context, but also by the ambient level of technology. Kuznicki explores this at some length. He does not mean to make the common argument that the particular set of technologies deployed within a society can be more or less conducive to particular forms of government—as mass democracy might be encouraged by technologies of communication and travel, or as centralized autocracy might tend to arise in societies relying on large-scale irrigation for intensive agriculture. Rather, if the state is a tool for solving an array of otherwise intractable social problems, Kuznicki surmises, a newly discovered technological solution to such a problem could remove it from the state’s set of concerns—perhaps permanently.

...

What are the qualities of a society which make it more or less likely to be able to solve these dilemmas as they come up? Social scientists call societies that support commitment and enforcement mechanisms sufficient to overcome such dilemmas “high trust.” Some sources of social trust are mundane: for instance, it seems to make a big difference for a society to simply have a high enough median wealth that someone isn’t liable to be ruined if he or she takes a gamble on trusting a stranger and ends up getting cheated. Others are fuzzier: shared participation in churches, clubs, and social organizations can also significantly increase the degree of solidarity and trust in a community. Thinkers from Tocqueville to Robert Nisbet have pointed out the ways in which the ascendant state makes war upon and seeks to displace the “little platoons” of civil society. It is not well appreciated today that the reverse is also true: a “thick” culture rooted in shared norms and shared history can make the state less necessary by helping to raise the ambient level of social trust above whatever threshold makes it possible for citizens to organize and discipline themselves without state compulsion.

...

The story of the diamontaires ends with the whole system, private courts and all, falling apart following an influx of non-Hasidic actors into the New York diamond industry. But lack of trust and solidarity aren’t just problems if we want private courts. Yes, a very high degree of social trust can help to replace or displace state institutions, but any amount of trust tends to make governments more efficient and less corrupt. It isn’t a coincidence that many of the most successful governments on earth, whether efficient and well-run welfare states on the Scandinavian model or free-market havens boasting low taxes and few regulations, have been small, tight-knit, often culturally and linguistically homogeneous. Conversely, history’s most successful multiethnic polities have tended to be empires or confederations with a very high degree of provincial or local autonomy. Government is not a problem that scales gracefully: certainly not with number of citizens, but perhaps also not with number of constituent cultures. Those who love cosmopolitanism (among whom I count myself) talk a great deal about the incidental benefits it brings, and a great deal less about its drawbacks. I and other cosmopolitans love to exalt the dynamism that comes from diversity and the way it can help a society avoid falling into complacency. We are less willing to discuss the tiny invisible tax on everything and everybody that reduced social trust imposes, and the ways in which that will tend to make a nation more sclerotic.

In the absence of trust, every private commercial or social interaction becomes just a little bit more expensive, a little bit less efficient, and a little bit less likely to happen at all. Individuals are more cautious in their dealings with strangers, businesses are less likely to extend credit, everybody is a little more uncertain about the future, and people adjust their investment decisions accordingly. Individuals and businesses spend more money on bike locks, security systems, and real estate they perceive to be “safe,” rather than on the consumption or investment they would otherwise prefer. Critics of capitalism frequently observe that a liberal economic order depends upon, and sometimes cannibalizes, precapitalist sources of loyalty and affection. What if the same is true of political freedom more generally?

Some might object that even to consider such a thing is to give in to the forces of bigotry. But the whole point of taking a flinty-eyed engineer’s approach to state-building is that we don’t have to like the constraints we are working with, we just have to deal with them. The human preference for “people like us”—whether that means coreligionists or people who share our musical tastes, and whether we choose to frame it as bigotry or as game-theoretic rationality—is a stubborn, resilient reality. Perhaps in the future some advanced genetic engineering or psychological conditioning will change that. For now we need to recognize and deal with the fact that if we wish to have cosmopolitanism, we need to justify it on robust philosophical grounds, with full awareness of the costs as well as the benefits that it brings to bear on every member of society.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Why Are There No New Major Religions? - The Atlantic
State persecution, aided by religious authorities, is in fact a major reason why new faiths fail in parts of the world where government polices religious doctrine. “New religions have always existed; they are an organic phenomenon like weeds in a garden. In some societies they are considered weeds and will be uprooted; in other societies they will be allowed to grow and take root and become plants,” said Palmer, the scholar of new religion. To the Indonesian government, Millah Abraham is a weed.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Gulf Stream Myth
1. Fifty percent of the winter temperature difference across the North Atlantic is caused by the eastward atmospheric transport of heat released by the ocean that was absorbed and stored in the summer.
2. Fifty percent is caused by the stationary waves of the atmospheric flow.
3. The ocean heat transport contributes a small warming across the basin.

Is the Gulf Stream responsible for Europe’s mild winters?: http://ocp.ldeo.columbia.edu/res/div/ocp/gs/pubs/Seager_etal_QJ_2002.pdf
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Handcuffing the Cops: Miranda's Harmful Effects on Law Enforcement | NCPA
http://content.csbs.utah.edu/~fowles/STANFIN.pdf
After the Supreme Court’s 1966 decision in Miranda v. Arizona, critics charged that it would “handcuff the cops.” In this article, Professors Cassell and Fowles find this claim to be supported by FBI data on crime clearance rates. National crime clearance rates fell precipitously in the two years immediately after Miranda and have remained at lower levels in the decades since. Multiple regression analysis reveals that other possibly confounding factors— such as the rising crime rate and baby boom children reaching crime prone-years in the 1960s— do not account for much of the post-Miranda decline in clearance rates. Rather, the cause of the decline was most likely the Supreme Court’s broad new restrictions on police questioning. The authors conclude that Miranda has in fact “handcuffed” the police and that society should begin to explore ways of loosening these shackles.

https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1/status/954516255381258240
https://archive.is/2FHGV
BREAKING: #Chicago Police Department solved just 17.2% of murders in 2017, according to #police figures obtained by @WBEZ. That's the department's lowest murder-clearance rate in at least a half century.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Prevalence of doping use in elite sports: a review of numbers and methods. - PubMed - NCBI
These period prevalences have been found in specific sub-groups of elite athletes, and the available data suggest that the prevalence of doping is considerably different between sub-groups with varying types of sport, levels and nationalities. The above-mentioned figure of 14-39% is likely to be a more accurate reflection of the prevalence of intentional doping in elite sports than that provided by doping control test results (estimate of doping: 1-2% annually) or questionnaire-based research (estimations between 1 and 70% depending on sport, level and exact definitions of intent and doping).
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july 2017 by nhaliday
A genome-wide polygenic approach to HIV uncovers link to inflammatory bowel disease and identifies potential novel genetic variants | bioRxiv
We further showed that the genetic overlap between HIV acquisition and schizophrenia is likely driven in part by their shared overlap with cannabis use and sexual behavior.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Defection – quas lacrimas peperere minoribus nostris!
https://quaslacrimas.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/discussion-of-defection/

Kindness Against The Grain: https://srconstantin.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/kindness-against-the-grain/
I’ve heard from a number of secular-ish sources (Carse, Girard, Arendt) that the essential contribution of Christianity to human thought is the concept of forgiveness. (Ribbonfarm also has a recent post on the topic of forgiveness.)

I have never been a Christian and haven’t even read all of the New Testament, so I’ll leave it to commenters to recommend Christian sources on the topic.

What I want to explore is the notion of kindness without a smooth incentive gradient.

The Social Module: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/the-social-module/
Now one could propose that the basic principle of human behavior is to raise the SP number. Sure there’s survival and reproduction. Most people would forget all their socialization if left hungry and thirsty for days in the jungle. But more often than not, survival and reproduction depend on being high status; having a good name among your peers is the best way to get food, housing and hot mates.

The way to raise one’s SP number depends on thousands of different factors. We could grab most of them and call them “culture”. In China having 20 teenage mistresses as an old man raises your SP; in Western polite society it is social death. In the West making a fuss about disobeying one’s parents raises your SP, everywhere else it lowers it a great deal. People know that; which is why bureaucrats in China go to great lengths to acquire a stash of young women (who they seldom have time to actually enjoy), while teenagers in the West go to great lengths to be annoying to their parents for no good reason.

...

It thus shouldn’t surprise us that something as completely absurd as Progressivism is the law of the land in most of the world today, even though it denies obvious reality. It is not the case that most people know that progressive points are all bogus, but obey because of fear or cowardice. No, an average human brain has much more neurons being used to scan the social climate and see how SP are allotted, than neurons being used to analyze patterns in reality to ascertain the truth. Surely your brain does care a great deal about truth in some very narrow areas of concern to you. Remember Conquest’s first law: Everybody is Conservative about what he knows best. You have to know the truth about what you do, if you are to do it effectively.

But you don’t really care about truth anywhere else. And why would you? It takes time and effort you can’t really spare, and it’s not really necessary. As long as you have some area of specialization where you can make a living, all the rest you must do to achieve survival and reproduction is to raise your SP so you don’t get killed and your guts sacrificed to the mountain spirits.

SP theory (I accept suggestions for a better name) can also explains the behavior of leftists. Many conservatives of a medium level of enlightenment point out the paradox that leftists historically have held completely different ideas. Leftism used to be about the livelihood of industrial workers, now they agitate about the environment, or feminism, or foreigners. Some people would say that’s just historical change, or pull a No True Scotsman about this or that group not being really leftists. But that’s transparent bullshit; very often we see a single person shifting from agitating about Communism and worker rights, to agitate about global warming or rape culture.

...

The leftist strategy could be defined as “psychopathic SP maximization”. Leftists attempt to destroy social equilibrium so that they can raise their SP number. If humans are, in a sense, programmed to constantly raise their status, well high status people by definition can’t raise it anymore (though they can squabble against each other for marginal gains), their best strategy is to freeze society in place so that they can enjoy their superiority. High status people by definition have power, and thus social hierarchy during human history tends to be quite stable.

This goes against the interests of many. First of all the lower status people, who, well, want to raise their status, but can’t manage to do so. And it also goes against the interests of the particularly annoying members of the upper class who want to raise their status on the margin. Conservative people can be defined as those who, no matter the absolute level, are in general happy with it. This doesn’t mean they don’t want higher status (by definition all humans do), but the output of other brain modules may conclude that attempts to raise SP might threaten one’s survival and reproduction; or just that the chances of raising one’s individual SP is hopeless, so one might as well stay put.

...

You can’t blame people for being logically inconsistent; because they can’t possibly know anything about all these issues. Few have any experience or knowledge about evolution and human races, or about the history of black people to make an informed judgment on HBD. Few have time to learn about sex differences, and stuff like the climate is as close to unknowable as there is. Opinions about anything but a very narrow area of expertise are always output of your SP module, not any judgment of fact. People don’t know the facts. And even when they know; I mean most people have enough experience with sex differences and black dysfunction to be quite confident that progressive ideas are false. But you can never be sure. As Hume said, the laws of physics are a judgment of habit; who is to say that a genie isn’t going to change all you know the next morning? At any rate, you’re always better off toeing the line, following the conventional wisdom, and keeping your dear SP. Perhaps you can even raise them a bit. And that is very nice. It is niceness itself.

Leftism is just an easy excuse: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/leftism-is-just-an-easy-excuse/
Unless you’re not the only defector. You need a way to signal your intention to defect, so that other disloyal fucks such as yourself (and they’re bound to be others) can join up, thus reducing the likely costs of defection. The way to signal your intention to defect is to come up with a good excuse. A good excuse to be disloyal becomes a rallying point through which other defectors can coordinate and cover their asses so that the ruling coalition doesn’t punish them. What is a good excuse?

Leftism is a great excuse. Claiming that the ruling coalition isn’t leftist enough, isn’t holy enough, not inclusive enough of women, of blacks, of gays, or gorillas, of pedophiles, of murderous Salafists, is the perfect way of signalling your disloyalty towards the existing power coalition. By using the existing ideology and pushing its logic just a little bit, you ensure that the powerful can’t punish you. At least not openly. And if you’re lucky, the mass of disloyal fucks in the ruling coalition might join your banner, and use your exact leftist point to jump ship and outflank the powerful.

...

The same dynamic fuels the flattery inflation one sees in monarchical or dictatorial systems. In Mao China, if you want to defect, you claim to love Mao more than your boss. In Nazi Germany, you proclaim your love for Hitler and the great insight of his plan to take Stalingrad. In the Roman Empire, you claimed that Caesar is a God, son of Hercules, and those who deny it are treacherous bastards. In Ancient Persia you loudly proclaimed your faith in the Shah being the brother of the Sun and the Moon and King of all Kings on Earth. In Reformation Europe you proclaimed that you have discovered something new in the Bible and everybody else is damned to hell. Predestined by God!

...

And again: the precise content of the ideological point doesn’t matter. Your human brain doesn’t care about ideology. Humans didn’t evolve to care about Marxist theory of class struggle, or about LGBTQWERTY theories of social identity. You just don’t know what it means. It’s all abstract points you’ve been told in a classroom. It doesn’t actually compute. Nothing that anybody ever said in a political debate ever made any actual, concrete sense to a human being.

So why do we care so much about politics? What’s the point of ideology? Ideology is just the water you swim in. It is a structured database of excuses, to be used to signal your allegiance or defection to the existing ruling coalition. Ideology is just the feed of the rationalization Hamster that runs incessantly in that corner of your brain. But it is immaterial, and in most cases actually inaccessible to the logical modules in your brain.

Nobody ever acts on their overt ideological claims if they can get away with it. Liberals proclaim their faith in the potential of black children while clustering in all white suburbs. Communist party members loudly talk about the proletariat while being hedonistic spenders. Al Gore talks about Global Warming while living in a lavish mansion. Cognitive dissonance, you say? No; those cognitive systems are not connected in the first place.

...

And so, every little step in the way, power-seekers moved the consensus to the left. And open societies, democratic systems are by their decentralized nature, and by the size of their constituencies, much more vulnerable to this sort of signalling attacks. It is but impossible to appraise and enforce the loyalty of every single individual involved in a modern state. There’s too many of them. A Medieval King had a better chance of it; hence the slow movement of ideological innovation in those days. But the bigger the organization, the harder it is to gather accurate information of the loyalty of the whole coalition; and hence the ideological movement accelerates. And there is no stopping it.

Like the Ancients, We Have Gods. They’ll Get Greater: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/04/like-the-ancients-we-have-gods-they-may-get… [more]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Small penis rule - Wikipedia
The small penis rule is an informal strategy used by authors to evade libel lawsuits. It was described in a New York Times article in 1998:

“ "For a fictional portrait to be actionable, it must be so accurate that a reader of the book would have no problem linking the two," said Mr. Friedman. Thus, he continued, libel lawyers have what is known as "the small penis rule". One way authors can protect themselves from libel suits is to say that a character has a small penis, Mr. Friedman said. "Now no male is going to come forward and say, 'That character with a very small penis, that's me!'"[1] ”
The small penis rule was referenced in a 2006 dispute between Michael Crowley and Michael Crichton. Crowley alleged that after he wrote an unflattering review of Crichton's novel State of Fear, Crichton libeled him by including a character named "Mick Crowley" in the novel Next. The character is a child rapist, described as being a Washington, D.C.-based journalist and Yale graduate with a small penis.[2]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Links 6/17: Silinks Is Golden | Slate Star Codex
Vox tries its hand at an explainer about the Sam Harris / Charles Murray interview. Some criticism from Gene Expression, The Misrepresentation Of Genetic Science In The Vox Piece On Race And IQ. From Elan, The Cherry-Picked Science In Vox’s Charles Murray Article. From Sam Harris, an accusation that the article just blatantly lies about the contents of the publicly available podcast (one of the authors later apologizes for this, but Vox hasn’t changed the article). From Professor Emeritus Richard Haier, who called it a “junk science piece” and tried to write a counterpiece for Vox (they refused to publish it, but it’s now up on Quillette). And even from other Vox reporters who thought it was journalistically shoddy. As for me, I think the article was as good as it could be under the circumstances – while it does get some things wrong and is personally unfair to Murray, from a scientific point of view I’m just really glad that the piece admits that IQ is real, meaningful, and mostly hereditary. This was the main flashpoint of the original debate twenty-five years ago, it’s more important than the stuff on the achievement gap, and the piece gets it entirely right. I think this sort of shift from debating the very existence of intelligence to debating the details is important, very productive, and worth praising even when the details are kind of dubious. This should be read in the context of similar recent articles like NYMag’s Yes, There Is A Genetic Component To Intelligence and Nature’s Intelligence Research Should Not Be Held Back By Its Past.

interesting comment thread on media treatment of HBD and effect on alt-right: http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/14/links-617-silinks-is-golden/#comment-510641

AskHistorians: Did Roman legionnaires get PTSD? “For the Romans, people experiencing intrusive memories were said to be haunted by ghosts…those haunted by ghosts are constantly depicted showing many symptoms which would be familiar to the modern PTSD sufferer.”

The best new blog I’ve come across recently is Sam[]zdat, which among other things has been reviewing various great books. Their Seeing Like A State review is admittedly better than mine, but I most appreciated The Meridian Of Her Greatness, based on a review of Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation. Go for the really incisive look at important ideas and social trends, stay for the writing style.

What lesson should we draw about Democrats’ prospects from the Republicans’ 7 point win in the Montana special election? (point, counterpoint).

An analysis showing Donald Trump’s speech patterns getting less fluent and more bizarre over the past few years – might he be suffering from mild age-related cognitive impairment? Also, given that this can be pretty subtle (cue joke about Trump) and affect emotional stability in complicated ways, should we be more worried about electing seventy-plus year old people to the presidency?

PNAS has a good (albeit kind of silly) article on claims that scientific progress has slowed.

New study finds that growth mindset is not associated with scholastic aptitude in a large sample of university applicants. Particularly excited about this one because an author said that my blog posts about growth mindset inspired the study. I’m honored to have been able to help the progress of science!
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Allahakbarries - Wikipedia
Allahakbarries was an amateur cricket team founded by author J. M. Barrie, and was active from 1890 to 1913. The team was named in the mistaken belief that Allah akbar meant Heaven help us in Arabic (rather than God is great).[1] Notable figures to have featured for the side included Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, P. G. Wodehouse,[2] G. K. Chesterton, Jerome K. Jerome, A. A. Milne, E. W. Hornung, Henry Justice Ford, A. E. W. Mason, Walter Raleigh, E. V. Lucas, Maurice Hewlett, Owen Seaman, Bernard Partridge, Augustine Birrell, Paul Du Chaillu, Henry Herbert La Thangue, George Cecil Ives, and George Llewelyn Davies, as well as the son of Alfred Tennyson.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Dadly adaptations | West Hunter
If we understood how this works, we might find that individuals and populations vary in their propensity to show paternal care ( for genetic reasons). I would guess that paternal care was ancestral in modern humans, but it’s easy enough to lose something like this when selective pressures no longer favor it. Wolves have paternal care, but dogs have lost it.

This could have something to do with better health in married men. High testosterone levels aren’t cost-free.

It’s possible that various modern environmental factors interfere with the triggers for dadliness. That would hardly be surprising, since we don’t really know how they work.

All this has a number of interesting social implications. Let’s see how many of them you guys can spot.

Poles in the Tent: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/poles-in-the-tent/
I’m considering a different question: what was the impact of men’s contribution on their children’s survival and fitness? That’s not quite the same as the number of calories contributed. Food is not a single undifferentiated quantity: it’s a category, including a number of different kinds that can’t be freely substituted for each other. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates can all serve as fuel, but you need protein to build tissue. And amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are not all fungible. Some we can’t synthesize (essential amino acids) others can only be synthesized from a limited set of precursors, etc. Edible plants often have suboptimal mixes of amino acids ( too many Qs, not enough Us) , but I’ve never heard of this being a problem with meat. Then you have to consider essential fatty acids, vitamins, and trace elements.

In principle, if high-quality protein were the long pole in the tent, male provisioning of meat, which we see in chimpanzees, might matter quite a bit more than you would think from the number of calories alone. I’m not say that is necessarily the case, but it might be, and it’s worth checking out.

Sexual selection vs job specialization: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/sexual-selection-vs-job-specialization/
Pretty much every species is subject to sexual selection: heritable characteristics that lead to more mates or better mates can be favored by natural selection. Typically, sexual selection favors different strategies in males and females. Generally, males can gain fitness with increased mating opportunities, while females gain more from high-quality mates or mates that confer resources. Since the variance in reproduction is usually greater in males than females, sexual selection is usually stronger in males, although it exists and is significant in both sexes.

Usually, though, males and females of a given species have very similar ways of making a living. A male deer and a female deer both eat grass or arugula or whatever. Sexual selection may drive them to evolve in different directions, but finding something to eat mostly drives them in the same direction.

Humans are an exception. In the long past, men hunted and women gathered. The mix varied: in Arctic regions, men produce almost all the food (while women made and repaired gear, as well as raising children). In groups like the Bushmen, women produced most of the calories, but done rightly you would count more than calories: if most of the local plants had low protein or low-quality protein (wrong amino acid mix), meat from hunting could be important out of proportion to its caloric value.

This has been going for a long time, so there must have been selection for traits that aided provisioning ability in each sex. Those job-related selective pressures probably changed with time. For example, male strength may have become less valuable when the Bushmen developed poison arrows.

I was looking for an intelligent discussion of this question – but I ran into this and couldn’t force myself to read further: ” It should not simply be assumed that the exclusion of women from hunting rests upon “natural” physiological differences. ”

God give me strength.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/sexual-selection-vs-job-specialization/#comment-96323
What does Greg think about the “plows vs hoes” theory? (As seen here, although Sarah Constantin didn’t invent it.)

The claim is that some societies adopted farming (Europe, the Middle East, Asia) while some societies adopted horticulture (Oceana, sub-Saharan Africa, various primitive peoples) and that this had an affect on gender relations.

Basically: farming is backbreaking work, which favours males, giving them a lot of social capital. You end up with a patriarchal kind of society, where the men do stuff and the women are mostly valuable for raising offspring.

...

It’s kinda true, in places. There is a connection I haven’t seen explicated: the ‘hoe culture” has to have some factor keeping population density low, so that labor is scarcer than land. Tropical diseases like malaria might be part of that. Then again, crops like yams don’t store well, better to keep them in the ground until eating. That means it’s hard to tax people – easy with grain bins. No taxes -> no State – > high local violence. At times, VD may also help limit density, cf Africa’s ‘sterility belt’.

I am not a Moron: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/i-am-not-a-moron/
So said Augustin Fuentes on Twitter, a few days ago. He’s the same guy that said “Genes don’t do anything by themselves; epigenetics and complex metabolic and developmental systems are at play in how bodies work. The roundworm C. elegans has about 20,000 genes while humans have about 23,000 genes, yet it is pretty obvious that humans are more than 15-percent more complex than roundworms. So while genes matter, they are only a small part of the whole evolutionary picture. Focusing just on DNA won’t get you anywhere.”

Fuentes was claiming that we don’t really know that, back in prehistory, men did most of the hunting while women gathered.

...

Someone (Will@Evolving _Moloch) criticized this as a good candidate for the most misleading paragraph ever written. The folly of youth! When you’ve been around as long as I have, sonny, you will realize how hard it is to set records for stupidity.

Fuente’s para is multidimensional crap, of course. People used to hunt animals like red deer, or bison, or eland: sometimes mammoths or rhinos. Big animals. Back in the day, our ancestors used stabbing spears, which go back at least half a million years. Stand-off weapons like atlatls, or bows, or JSOW, are relatively recent. Hunters took big risks & suffered frequent injuries. Men are almost twice as strong as women, particularly in upper-body strength, which is what matters in spear-chucking. They’re also faster, which can be very important which your ambush fails.
So men did the hunting. This isn’t complicated.

Which contemporary hunter-gather societies followed this pattern, had men do almost all of the big-game hunting? All of them.

...

Look, feminists aren’t happy with human nature, the one that actually exists and is the product of long-term evolutionary pressures. Too bad for them. When they say stuff like “It should not simply be assumed that the exclusion of women from hunting rests upon “natural” physiological differences. “, they just sound like fools.. ‘natural physiological differences” exist. They’re as obvious a punch in the kisser.

Suppose you wanted to construct a society with effective sexual equality – which is probably just a mistake, but suppose it. The most effective approach would surely entail knowing and taking into account how the world actually ticks. You’d be better off understanding that about 6,000 genes (out of 20,000) show significant expression differences between the sexes, than by pretending that we’re all the same. You would to make it so: by hook or by crook, by state force and genetic engineering.

Similarly, if you want to minimize war, pretending that people aren’t warlike is a poor start – about as sensible as fighting forest fires by pretending that trees aren’t flammable.

My advice to Augustin Fuentes, about not being a moron: show, don’t tell.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/i-am-not-a-moron/#comment-97721
Since DNA is the enduring part, the part that gets transmitted from one generation to the next, the part that contains the instructions/program that determine development and specify everything – he’s wrong. Stupid, like you. Well, to be fair, ignorant as well: there are technical aspects of genetics that Agustin Fuentes is unlikely to know anything about, things that are almost never covered in the typical education of an anthropologist. I doubt if he knows what a Fisher wave is, or anything about selfish genetic elements, or coalescent theory, or for that matter the breeder’s equation.

There are a number of complex technical subjects, things that at least some people understand: those people can do stuff that the man in the street can’t. In most cases, amateurs don’t jump in and pretend to know what’s going on. For example you don’t hear much concerning amateur opinions concerning detonation physics or group theory. But they’re happy to have opinions about natural selection, even though they know fuck-all about it.

https://twitter.com/FinchesofDarwin/status/922924692389818368
https://archive.is/AcBgh
"Significantly fewer females are present at hunts than males...females tend to appear at the hunting site once the capture has been made..."

“Women in Tech”: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/women-in-tech/
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june 2017 by nhaliday
spaceships - Can there be a space age without petroleum (crude oil)? - Worldbuilding Stack Exchange
Yes...probably

What was really important to our development of technology was not oil, but coal. Access to large deposits of high-quality coal largely fueled the industrial revolution, and it was the industrial revolution that really got us on the first rungs of the technological ladder.

Oil is a fantastic fuel for an advanced civilisation, but it's not essential. Indeed, I would argue that our ability to dig oil out of the ground is a crutch, one that we should have discarded long ago. The reason oil is so essential to us today is that all our infrastructure is based on it, but if we'd never had oil we could still have built a similar infrastructure. Solar power was first displayed to the public in 1878. Wind power has been used for centuries. Hydroelectric power is just a modification of the same technology as wind power.

Without oil, a civilisation in the industrial age would certainly be able to progress and advance to the space age. Perhaps not as quickly as we did, but probably more sustainably.

Without coal, though...that's another matter

What would the industrial age be like without oil and coal?: https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/45919/what-would-the-industrial-age-be-like-without-oil-and-coal

Out of the ashes: https://aeon.co/essays/could-we-reboot-a-modern-civilisation-without-fossil-fuels
It took a lot of fossil fuels to forge our industrial world. Now they're almost gone. Could we do it again without them?

But charcoal-based industry didn’t die out altogether. In fact, it survived to flourish in Brazil. Because it has substantial iron deposits but few coalmines, Brazil is the largest charcoal producer in the world and the ninth biggest steel producer. We aren’t talking about a cottage industry here, and this makes Brazil a very encouraging example for our thought experiment.

The trees used in Brazil’s charcoal industry are mainly fast-growing eucalyptus, cultivated specifically for the purpose. The traditional method for creating charcoal is to pile chopped staves of air-dried timber into a great dome-shaped mound and then cover it with turf or soil to restrict airflow as the wood smoulders. The Brazilian enterprise has scaled up this traditional craft to an industrial operation. Dried timber is stacked into squat, cylindrical kilns, built of brick or masonry and arranged in long lines so that they can be easily filled and unloaded in sequence. The largest sites can sport hundreds of such kilns. Once filled, their entrances are sealed and a fire is lit from the top.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Suspicious Banana on Twitter: ""platonic forms" seem more sinister when you realize that integers were reaching down into his head and giving him city planning advice https://t.co/4qaTdwOlry"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5040_(number)
Plato mentions in his Laws that 5040 is a convenient number to use for dividing many things (including both the citizens and the land of a state) into lesser parts. He remarks that this number can be divided by all the (natural) numbers from 1 to 12 with the single exception of 11 (however, it is not the smallest number to have this property; 2520 is). He rectifies this "defect" by suggesting that two families could be subtracted from the citizen body to produce the number 5038, which is divisible by 11. Plato also took notice of the fact that 5040 can be divided by 12 twice over. Indeed, Plato's repeated insistence on the use of 5040 for various state purposes is so evident that it is written, "Plato, writing under Pythagorean influences, seems really to have supposed that the well-being of the city depended almost as much on the number 5040 as on justice and moderation."[1]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato%27s_number
"Now for divine begettings there is a period comprehended by a perfect number, and for mortal by the first in which augmentations dominating and dominated when they have attained to three distances and four limits of the assimilating and the dissimilating, the waxing and the waning, render all things conversable and commensurable [546c] with one another, whereof a basal four-thirds wedded to the pempad yields two harmonies at the third augmentation, the one the product of equal factors taken one hundred times, the other of equal length one way but oblong,-one dimension of a hundred numbers determined by the rational diameters of the pempad lacking one in each case, or of the irrational lacking two; the other dimension of a hundred cubes of the triad. And this entire geometrical number is determinative of this thing, of better and inferior births."[3]

Shortly after Plato's time his meaning apparently did not cause puzzlement as Aristotle's casual remark attests.[6] Half a millennium later, however, it was an enigma for the Neoplatonists, who had a somewhat mystic penchant and wrote frequently about it, proposing geometrical and numerical interpretations. Next, for nearly a thousand years, Plato's texts disappeared and it is only in the Renaissance that the enigma briefly resurfaced. During the 19th century, when classical scholars restored original texts, the problem reappeared. Schleiermacher interrupted his edition of Plato for a decade while attempting to make sense of the paragraph. Victor Cousin inserted a note that it has to be skipped in his French translation of Plato's works. In the early 20th century, scholarly findings suggested a Babylonian origin for the topic.[7]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagoreanism
https://www.jstor.org/stable/638781

Socrates: Surely we agree nothing more virtuous than sacrificing each newborn infant while reciting the factors of 39,916,800?

Turgidas: Uh

different but interesting: https://aeon.co/essays/can-we-hope-to-understand-how-the-greeks-saw-their-world
Another explanation for the apparent oddness of Greek perception came from the eminent politician and Hellenist William Gladstone, who devoted a chapter of his Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age (1858) to ‘perceptions and use of colour’. He too noticed the vagueness of the green and blue designations in Homer, as well as the absence of words covering the centre of the ‘blue’ area. Where Gladstone differed was in taking as normative the Newtonian list of colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). He interpreted the Greeks’ supposed linguistic poverty as deriving from an imperfect discrimination of prismatic colours. The visual organ of the ancients was still in its infancy, hence their strong sensitivity to light rather than hue, and the related inability to clearly distinguish one hue from another. This argument fit well with the post-Darwinian climate of the late 19th century, and came to be widely believed. Indeed, it prompted Nietzsche’s own judgment, and led to a series of investigations that sought to prove that the Greek chromatic categories do not fit in with modern taxonomies.

Today, no one thinks that there has been a stage in the history of humanity when some colours were ‘not yet’ being perceived. But thanks to our modern ‘anthropological gaze’ it is accepted that every culture has its own way of naming and categorising colours. This is not due to varying anatomical structures of the human eye, but to the fact that different ocular areas are stimulated, which triggers different emotional responses, all according to different cultural contexts.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation
- Ekelund, Hébert, Tollison

This paper seeks to explain the initial successes and failures of Protestantism on economic grounds. It argues that the medieval Roman Catholic Church, through doctrinal manipulation, the exclusion of rivals, and various forms of price discrimination, ultimately placed members seeking the Z good "spiritual services" on the margin of defection. These monopolistic practices encouraged entry by rival firms, some of which were aligned with civil governments. The paper hypothesizes that Protestant entry was facilitated in emergent entrepreneurial societies characterized by the decline of feudalism and relatively unstable distribution of wealth and repressed in more homogeneous, rent-seeking societies that were mostly dissipating rather than creating wealth. In these societies the Roman Church was more able to continue the practice of price discrimination. Informal tests of this proposition are conducted by considering primogeniture and urban growth as proxies for wealth stability.

Causes and Consequences of the Protestant Reformation: https://pseudoerasmus.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/becker-pfaff-rubin-2016.pdf
- Sascha O. Becker, Steven Pfaff, Jared Rubin

The Protestant Reformation is one of the defining events of the last millennium. Nearly 500 years after the Reformation, its causes and consequences have seen a renewed interest in the social sciences. Research in economics, sociology, and political science increasingly uses detailed individual-level, city-level, and regional-level data to identify drivers of the adoption of the Reformation, its diffusion pattern, and its socioeconomic consequences. We take stock of this research, pointing out what we know and what we do not know and suggesting the most promising areas for future research.

Table 1: Studies of the Supply and Demand-Side Factors of the Reformation
Table 2: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Human Capital
Table 3: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Work and Work Ethic
Table 4: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Economic Development
Table 5: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Governance
Table 6: Studies on the “Dark” Consequences of the Reformation

LUTHER AND SULEYMAN: http://www.jstor.org.sci-hub.tw/stable/40506214
- Murat Iyigun

Various historical accounts have suggested that the Ottomans' rise helped the Protestant Reformation as well as its offshoots, such as Zwinglianism, Anabaptism, and Calvinism, survive their infancy and mature. Utilizing a comprehensive data set on violent confrontations for the interval between 1401 and 1700 CE, I show that the incidence of military engagements between the Protestant Reformers and the Counter-Reformation forces between the 1520s and 1650s depended negatively on the Ottomans' military activities in Europe. Furthermore, I document that the impact of the Ottomans on Europe went beyond suppressing ecclesiastical conflicts only: at the turn of the sixteenth century, Ottoman conquests lowered the number of all newly initiated conflicts among the Europeans roughly by 25 percent, while they dampened all longer-running feuds by more than 15 percent. The Ottomans' military activities influenced the length of intra-European feuds too, with each Ottoman-European military engagement shortening the duration of intra-European conflicts by more than 50 percent. Thus, while the Protestant Reformation might have benefited from - and perhaps even capitalized on - the Ottoman advances in Europe, the latter seems to have played some role in reducing conflicts within Europe more generally.

Religious Competition and Reallocation: The Political Economy of Secularization in the Protestant Reformation: http://www.jeremiahdittmar.com/files/RRR_20170919.pdf
- Davide Cantoni, Jeremiah Dittmar, Noam Yuchtman*

Using novel microdata, we document an unintended, first-order consequence of the Protestant Reformation: a massive reallocation of resources from religious to secular purposes. To understand this process, we propose a conceptual framework in which the introduction of religious competition shifts political markets where religious authorities provide legitimacy to rulers in exchange for control over resources. Consistent with our framework, religious competition changed the balance of power between secular and religious elites: secular authorities acquired enormous amounts of wealth from monasteries closed during the Reformation, particularly in Protestant regions. This transfer of resources had important consequences. First, it shifted the allocation of upper-tail human capital. Graduates of Protestant universities increasingly took secular, especially administrative, occupations. Protestant university students increasingly studied secular subjects, especially degrees that prepared students for public sector jobs, rather than church sector-specific theology. Second, it affected the sectoral composition of fixed investment. Particularly in Protestant regions, new construction from religious toward secular purposes, especially the building of palaces and administrative buildings, which reflected the increased wealth and power of secular lords. Reallocation was not driven by pre-existing economic or cultural differences. Our findings indicate that the Reformation played an important causal role in the secularization of the West.

look at Figure 4, holy shit

History: Science and the Reformation: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v550/n7677/full/550454a.html?WT.mc_id=TWT_NatureNews&sf126429621=1
The scientific and religious revolutions that began 500 years ago were not causally related, but were both stimulated by printing, argues David Wootton.
https://twitter.com/whyvert/status/923940525673103360
https://archive.is/JElPv
No, the Reformation did not cause the scientific revolution. Nice brief article. 👍

No RCT = No causal claims, for or against ;)
Though I'm open to a regression discontinuity design! cc: @pseudoerasmus
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may 2017 by nhaliday
[1705.03394] That is not dead which can eternal lie: the aestivation hypothesis for resolving Fermi's paradox
If a civilization wants to maximize computation it appears rational to aestivate until the far future in order to exploit the low temperature environment: this can produce a 10^30 multiplier of achievable computation. We hence suggest the "aestivation hypothesis": the reason we are not observing manifestations of alien civilizations is that they are currently (mostly) inactive, patiently waiting for future cosmic eras. This paper analyzes the assumptions going into the hypothesis and how physical law and observational evidence constrain the motivations of aliens compatible with the hypothesis.

http://aleph.se/andart2/space/the-aestivation-hypothesis-popular-outline-and-faq/

simpler explanation (just different math for Drake equation):
Dissolving the Fermi Paradox: http://www.jodrellbank.manchester.ac.uk/media/eps/jodrell-bank-centre-for-astrophysics/news-and-events/2017/uksrn-slides/Anders-Sandberg---Dissolving-Fermi-Paradox-UKSRN.pdf
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/07/fermi-paradox-resolved.html
Overall the argument is that point estimates should not be shoved into a Drake equation and then multiplied by each, as that requires excess certainty and masks much of the ambiguity of our knowledge about the distributions. Instead, a Bayesian approach should be used, after which the fate of humanity looks much better. Here is one part of the presentation:

Life Versus Dark Energy: How An Advanced Civilization Could Resist the Accelerating Expansion of the Universe: https://arxiv.org/abs/1806.05203
The presence of dark energy in our universe is causing space to expand at an accelerating rate. As a result, over the next approximately 100 billion years, all stars residing beyond the Local Group will fall beyond the cosmic horizon and become not only unobservable, but entirely inaccessible, thus limiting how much energy could one day be extracted from them. Here, we consider the likely response of a highly advanced civilization to this situation. In particular, we argue that in order to maximize its access to useable energy, a sufficiently advanced civilization would chose to expand rapidly outward, build Dyson Spheres or similar structures around encountered stars, and use the energy that is harnessed to accelerate those stars away from the approaching horizon and toward the center of the civilization. We find that such efforts will be most effective for stars with masses in the range of M∼(0.2−1)M⊙, and could lead to the harvesting of stars within a region extending out to several tens of Mpc in radius, potentially increasing the total amount of energy that is available to a future civilization by a factor of several thousand. We also discuss the observable signatures of a civilization elsewhere in the universe that is currently in this state of stellar harvesting.
preprint  study  essay  article  bostrom  ratty  anthropic  philosophy  space  xenobio  computation  physics  interdisciplinary  ideas  hmm  cocktail  temperature  thermo  information-theory  bits  🔬  threat-modeling  time  scale  insight  multi  commentary  liner-notes  pdf  slides  error  probability  ML-MAP-E  composition-decomposition  econotariat  marginal-rev  fermi  risk  org:mat  questions  paradox  intricacy  multiplicative  calculation  street-fighting  methodology  distribution  expectancy  moments  bayesian  priors-posteriors  nibble  measurement  existence  technology  geoengineering  magnitude  spatial  density  spreading  civilization  energy-resources  phys-energy  measure  direction  speculation  structure 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Archimedes Palimpsest - Wikipedia
Using this method, Archimedes was able to solve several problems now treated by integral calculus, which was given its modern form in the seventeenth century by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz. Among those problems were that of calculating the center of gravity of a solid hemisphere, the center of gravity of a frustum of a circular paraboloid, and the area of a region bounded by a parabola and one of its secant lines. (For explicit details, see Archimedes' use of infinitesimals.)

When rigorously proving theorems, Archimedes often used what are now called Riemann sums. In "On the Sphere and Cylinder," he gives upper and lower bounds for the surface area of a sphere by cutting the sphere into sections of equal width. He then bounds the area of each section by the area of an inscribed and circumscribed cone, which he proves have a larger and smaller area correspondingly. He adds the areas of the cones, which is a type of Riemann sum for the area of the sphere considered as a surface of revolution.

But there are two essential differences between Archimedes' method and 19th-century methods:

1. Archimedes did not know about differentiation, so he could not calculate any integrals other than those that came from center-of-mass considerations, by symmetry. While he had a notion of linearity, to find the volume of a sphere he had to balance two figures at the same time; he never figured out how to change variables or integrate by parts.

2. When calculating approximating sums, he imposed the further constraint that the sums provide rigorous upper and lower bounds. This was required because the Greeks lacked algebraic methods that could establish that error terms in an approximation are small.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
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