nhaliday + the-trenches   160

Why read old philosophy? | Meteuphoric
(This story would suggest that in physics students are maybe missing out on learning the styles of thought that produce progress in physics. My guess is that instead they learn them in grad school when they are doing research themselves, by emulating their supervisors, and that the helpfulness of this might partially explain why Nobel prizewinner advisors beget Nobel prizewinner students.)

The story I hear about philosophy—and I actually don’t know how much it is true—is that as bits of philosophy come to have any methodological tools other than ‘think about it’, they break off and become their own sciences. So this would explain philosophy’s lone status in studying old thinkers rather than impersonal methods—philosophy is the lone ur-discipline without impersonal methods but thinking.

This suggests a research project: try summarizing what Aristotle is doing rather than Aristotle’s views. Then write a nice short textbook about it.
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june 2018 by nhaliday
Prisoner's dilemma - Wikipedia
caveat to result below:
An extension of the IPD is an evolutionary stochastic IPD, in which the relative abundance of particular strategies is allowed to change, with more successful strategies relatively increasing. This process may be accomplished by having less successful players imitate the more successful strategies, or by eliminating less successful players from the game, while multiplying the more successful ones. It has been shown that unfair ZD strategies are not evolutionarily stable. The key intuition is that an evolutionarily stable strategy must not only be able to invade another population (which extortionary ZD strategies can do) but must also perform well against other players of the same type (which extortionary ZD players do poorly, because they reduce each other's surplus).[14]

Theory and simulations confirm that beyond a critical population size, ZD extortion loses out in evolutionary competition against more cooperative strategies, and as a result, the average payoff in the population increases when the population is bigger. In addition, there are some cases in which extortioners may even catalyze cooperation by helping to break out of a face-off between uniform defectors and win–stay, lose–switch agents.[8]

Nature boils down to a few simple concepts.

Haters will point out that I oversimplify. The haters are wrong. I am good at saying a lot with few words. Nature indeed boils down to a few simple concepts.

In life, you can either cooperate or defect.

Used to be that defection was the dominant strategy, say in the time when the Roman empire started to crumble. Everybody complained about everybody and in the end nothing got done. Then came Jesus, who told people to be loving and cooperative, and boom: 1800 years later we get the industrial revolution.

Because of Jesus we now find ourselves in a situation where cooperation is the dominant strategy. A normie engages in a ton of cooperation: with the tax collector who wants more and more of his money, with schools who want more and more of his kid’s time, with media who wants him to repeat more and more party lines, with the Zeitgeist of the Collective Spirit of the People’s Progress Towards a New Utopia. Essentially, our normie is cooperating himself into a crumbling Western empire.

Turns out that if everyone blindly cooperates, parasites sprout up like weeds until defection once again becomes the standard.

The point of a post-Christian religion is to once again create conditions for the kind of cooperation that led to the industrial revolution. This necessitates throwing out undead Christianity: you do not blindly cooperate. You cooperate with people that cooperate with you, you defect on people that defect on you. Christianity mixed with Darwinism. God and Gnon meet.

This also means we re-establish spiritual hierarchy, which, like regular hierarchy, is a prerequisite for cooperation. It is this hierarchical cooperation that turns a household into a force to be reckoned with, that allows a group of men to unite as a front against their enemies, that allows a tribe to conquer the world. Remember: Scientology bullied the Cathedral’s tax department into submission.

With a functioning hierarchy, men still gossip, lie and scheme, but they will do so in whispers behind closed doors. In your face they cooperate and contribute to the group’s wellbeing because incentives are thus that contributing to group wellbeing heightens status.

Without a functioning hierarchy, men gossip, lie and scheme, but they do so in your face, and they tell you that you are positively deluded for accusing them of gossiping, lying and scheming. Seeds will not sprout in such ground.

Spiritual dominance is established in the same way any sort of dominance is established: fought for, taken. But the fight is ritualistic. You can’t force spiritual dominance if no one listens, or if you are silenced the ritual is not allowed to happen.

If one of our priests is forbidden from establishing spiritual dominance, that is a sure sign an enemy priest is in better control and has vested interest in preventing you from establishing spiritual dominance..

They defect on you, you defect on them. Let them suffer the consequences of enemy priesthood, among others characterized by the annoying tendency that very little is said with very many words.

To recap, we started with a secular definition of Logos and noted that its telos is existence. Given human nature, game theory and the power of cooperation, the highest expression of that telos is freely chosen universal love, tempered by constant vigilance against defection while maintaining compassion for the defectors and forgiving those who repent. In addition, we must know the telos in order to fulfill it.

In Christian terms, looks like we got over half of the Ten Commandments (know Logos for the First, don’t defect or tempt yourself to defect for the rest), the importance of free will, the indestructibility of evil (group cooperation vs individual defection), loving the sinner and hating the sin (with defection as the sin), forgiveness (with conditions), and love and compassion toward all, assuming only secular knowledge and that it’s good to exist.

Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma is an Ultimatum Game: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2012/07/iterated-prisoners-dilemma-is-ultimatum.html
The history of IPD shows that bounded cognition prevented the dominant strategies from being discovered for over over 60 years, despite significant attention from game theorists, computer scientists, economists, evolutionary biologists, etc. Press and Dyson have shown that IPD is effectively an ultimatum game, which is very different from the Tit for Tat stories told by generations of people who worked on IPD (Axelrod, Dawkins, etc., etc.).


For evolutionary biologists: Dyson clearly thinks this result has implications for multilevel (group vs individual selection):
... Cooperation loses and defection wins. The ZD strategies confirm this conclusion and make it sharper. ... The system evolved to give cooperative tribes an advantage over non-cooperative tribes, using punishment to give cooperation an evolutionary advantage within the tribe. This double selection of tribes and individuals goes way beyond the Prisoners' Dilemma model.

implications for fractionalized Europe vis-a-vis unified China?

and more broadly does this just imply we're doomed in the long run RE: cooperation, morality, the "good society", so on...? war and group-selection is the only way to get a non-crab bucket civilization?

Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma contains strategies that dominate any evolutionary opponent:


analogy for ultimatum game: the state gives the demos a bargain take-it-or-leave-it, and...if the demos refuses...violence?

The nature of human altruism: http://sci-hub.tw/https://www.nature.com/articles/nature02043
- Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher

Some of the most fundamental questions concerning our evolutionary origins, our social relations, and the organization of society are centred around issues of altruism and selfishness. Experimental evidence indicates that human altruism is a powerful force and is unique in the animal world. However, there is much individual heterogeneity and the interaction between altruists and selfish individuals is vital to human cooperation. Depending on the environment, a minority of altruists can force a majority of selfish individuals to cooperate or, conversely, a few egoists can induce a large number of altruists to defect. Current gene-based evolutionary theories cannot explain important patterns of human altruism, pointing towards the importance of both theories of cultural evolution as well as gene–culture co-evolution.


Why are humans so unusual among animals in this respect? We propose that quantitatively, and probably even qualitatively, unique patterns of human altruism provide the answer to this question. Human altruism goes far beyond that which has been observed in the animal world. Among animals, fitness-reducing acts that confer fitness benefits on other individuals are largely restricted to kin groups; despite several decades of research, evidence for reciprocal altruism in pair-wise repeated encounters4,5 remains scarce6–8. Likewise, there is little evidence so far that individual reputation building affects cooperation in animals, which contrasts strongly with what we find in humans. If we randomly pick two human strangers from a modern society and give them the chance to engage in repeated anonymous exchanges in a laboratory experiment, there is a high probability that reciprocally altruistic behaviour will emerge spontaneously9,10.

However, human altruism extends far beyond reciprocal altruism and reputation-based cooperation, taking the form of strong reciprocity11,12. Strong reciprocity is a combination of altruistic rewarding, which is a predisposition to reward others for cooperative, norm-abiding behaviours, and altruistic punishment, which is a propensity to impose sanctions on others for norm violations. Strong reciprocators bear the cost of rewarding or punishing even if they gain no individual economic benefit whatsoever from their acts. In contrast, reciprocal altruists, as they have been defined in the biological literature4,5, reward and punish only if this is in their long-term self-interest. Strong reciprocity thus constitutes a powerful incentive for cooperation even in non-repeated interactions and when reputation gains are absent, because strong reciprocators will reward those who cooperate and punish those who defect.


We will show that the interaction between selfish and strongly reciprocal … [more]
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Anisogamy - Wikipedia
Anisogamy is a fundamental concept of sexual dimorphism that helps explain phenotypic differences between sexes.[3] In most species a male and female sex exist, both of which are optimized for reproductive potential. Due to their differently sized and shaped gametes, both males and females have developed physiological and behavioral differences that optimize the individual’s fecundity.[3] Since most egg laying females typically must bear the offspring and have a more limited reproductive cycle, this typically makes females a limiting factor in the reproductive success rate of males in a species. This process is also true for females selecting males, and assuming that males and females are selecting for different traits in partners, would result in phenotypic differences between the sexes over many generations. This hypothesis, known as the Bateman’s Principle, is used to understand the evolutionary pressures put on males and females due to anisogamy.[4] Although this assumption has criticism, it is a generally accepted model for sexual selection within anisogamous species. The selection for different traits depending on sex within the same species is known as sex-specific selection, and accounts for the differing phenotypes found between the sexes of the same species. This sex-specific selection between sexes over time also lead to the development of secondary sex characteristics, which assist males and females in reproductive success.


Since this process is very energy-demanding and time consuming for the female, mate choice is often integrated into the female’s behavior.[3] Females will often be very selective of the males they choose to reproduce with, for the phenotype of the male can be indicative of the male’s physical health and heritable traits. Females employ mate choice to pressure males into displaying their desirable traits to females through courtship, and if successful, the male gets to reproduce. This encourages males and females of specific species to invest in courtship behaviors as well as traits that can display physical health to a potential mate. This process, known as sexual selection,[3] results in the development of traits to ease reproductive success rather than individual survival, such as the inflated size of a termite queen. It is also important for females to select against potential mates that may have a sexually transmitted infection, for the disease could not only hurt the female’s reproductive ability, but also damage the resulting offspring.[7]

Although not uncommon in males, females are more associated with parental care.[8] Since females are on a more limited reproductive schedule than males, a female often invests more in protecting the offspring to sexual maturity than the male. Like mate choice, the level of parental care varies greatly between species, and is often dependent on the number of offspring produced per sexual encounter.[8]


Since females are often the limiting factor in a species reproductive success, males are often expected by the females to search and compete for the female, known as intraspecific competition.[4] This can be seen in organisms such as bean beetles, as the male that searches for females more frequently is often more successful at finding mates and reproducing. In species undergoing this form of selection, a fit male would be one that is fast, has more refined sensory organs, and spatial awareness.[4]

Darwinian sex roles confirmed across the animal kingdom: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/2/e1500983.full
Since Darwin’s conception of sexual selection theory, scientists have struggled to identify the evolutionary forces underlying the pervasive differences between male and female behavior, morphology, and physiology. The Darwin-Bateman paradigm predicts that anisogamy imposes stronger sexual selection on males, which, in turn, drives the evolution of conventional sex roles in terms of female-biased parental care and male-biased sexual dimorphism. Although this paradigm forms the cornerstone of modern sexual selection theory, it still remains untested across the animal tree of life. This lack of evidence has promoted the rise of alternative hypotheses arguing that sex differences are entirely driven by environmental factors or chance. We demonstrate that, across the animal kingdom, sexual selection, as captured by standard Bateman metrics, is indeed stronger in males than in females and that it is evolutionarily tied to sex biases in parental care and sexual dimorphism. Our findings provide the first comprehensive evidence that Darwin’s concept of conventional sex roles is accurate and refute recent criticism of sexual selection theory.

Coevolution of parental investment and sexually selected traits drives sex-role divergence: https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms12517
Sex-role evolution theory attempts to explain the origin and direction of male–female differences. A fundamental question is why anisogamy, the difference in gamete size that defines the sexes, has repeatedly led to large differences in subsequent parental care. Here we construct models to confirm predictions that individuals benefit less from caring when they face stronger sexual selection and/or lower certainty of parentage. However, we overturn the widely cited claim that a negative feedback between the operational sex ratio and the opportunity cost of care selects for egalitarian sex roles. We further argue that our model does not predict any effect of the adult sex ratio (ASR) that is independent of the source of ASR variation. Finally, to increase realism and unify earlier models, we allow for coevolution between parental investment and investment in sexually selected traits. Our model confirms that small initial differences in parental investment tend to increase due to positive evolutionary feedback, formally supporting long-standing, but unsubstantiated, verbal arguments.

Parental investment, sexual selection and sex ratios: http://www.kokkonuts.org/wp-content/uploads/Parental_investment_review.pdf
The second argument takes the reasonable premise that anisogamy produces a male-biased operational sex ratio (OSR) leading to males competing for mates. Male care is then predicted to be less likely to evolve as it consumes resources that could otherwise be used to increase competitiveness. However, given each offspring has precisely two genetic parents (the Fisher condition), a biased OSR generates frequency-dependent selection, analogous to Fisherian sex ratio selection, that favours increased parental investment by whichever sex faces more intense competition. Sex role divergence is therefore still an evolutionary conundrum. Here we review some possible solutions. Factors that promote conventional sex roles are sexual selection on males (but non-random variance in male mating success must be high to override the Fisher condition), loss of paternity because of female multiple mating or group spawning and patterns of mortality that generate female-biased adult sex ratios (ASR). We present an integrative model that shows how these factors interact to generate sex roles. We emphasize the need to distinguish between the ASR and the operational sex ratio (OSR). If mortality is higher when caring than competing this diminishes the likelihood of sex role divergence because this strongly limits the mating success of the earlier deserting sex. We illustrate this in a model where a change in relative mortality rates while caring and competing generates a shift from a mammalian type breeding system (female-only care, male-biased OSR and female-biased ASR) to an avian type system (biparental care and a male-biased OSR and ASR).

LATE FEMINISM: https://jacobitemag.com/2017/08/01/late-feminism/
Woman has had a good run. For 200,000 years humankind’s anisogamous better (and bigger) half has enjoyed a position of desirability and safety befitting a scarce commodity. She has also piloted the evolutionary destiny of our species, both as a sexual selector and an agitator during man’s Promethean journey. In terms of comfort and agency, the human female is uniquely privileged within the annals of terrestrial biology.

But the era of female privilege is ending, in a steady decline that began around 1572. Woman’s biological niche is being crowded out by capital.


Strictly speaking, the breadth of the coming changes extend beyond even civilizational dynamics. They will affect things that are prior. One of the oldest and most practical definitions for a biological species defines its boundary as the largest group of organisms where two individuals, via sexual reproduction, can produce fertile offspring together. The imminent arrival of new reproductive technologies will render the sexual reproduction criteria either irrelevant or massively expanded, depending upon one’s perspective. Fertility of the offspring is similarly of limited relevance, since the modification of gametes will be de rigueur in any case. What this looming technology heralds is less a social revolution than it is a full sympatric speciation event.

Accepting the inevitability of the coming bespoke reproductive revolution, consider a few questions & probable answers regarding our external-womb-grown ubermenschen:

Q: What traits will be selected for?

A: Ability to thrive in a global market economy (i.e. ability to generate value for capital.)

Q: What material substrate will generate the new genomes?

A: Capital equipment.

Q: Who will be making the selection?

A: People, at least initially, (and who coincidentally will be making decisions that map 1-to-1 to the interests of capital.)

_Replace any of the above instances of the word capital with women, and you would have accurate answers for most of our species’ history._


In terms of pure informational content, the supernova seen from earth can be represented in a singularly compressed way: a flash of light on a black field where there previously was none. A single photon in the cone of the eye, at the limit. Whether … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Uniformitarianism - Wikipedia
Uniformitarianism, also known as the Doctrine of Uniformity,[1] is the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere.[2][3] It refers to invariance in the principles underpinning science, such as the constancy of causality, or causation, throughout time,[4] but it has also been used to describe invariance of physical laws through time and space.[5] Though an unprovable postulate that cannot be verified using the scientific method, uniformitarianism has been a key first principle of virtually all fields of science.[6]

In geology, uniformitarianism has included the gradualistic concept that "the present is the key to the past" (that events occur at the same rate now as they have always done); many geologists now, however, no longer hold to a strict theory of gradualism.[7] Coined by William Whewell, the word was proposed in contrast to catastrophism[8] by British naturalists in the late 18th century, starting with the work of the geologist James Hutton. Hutton's work was later refined by scientist John Playfair and popularised by geologist Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology in 1830.[9] Today, Earth's history is considered to have been a slow, gradual process, punctuated by occasional natural catastrophic events.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Books 2017 | West Hunter
Arabian Sands
The Aryans
The Big Show
The Camel and the Wheel
Civil War on Western Waters
Company Commander
Double-edged Secrets
The Forgotten Soldier
Genes in Conflict
Hive Mind
The horse, the wheel, and language
The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History
Habitable Planets for Man
The genetical theory of natural selection
The Rise of the Greeks
To Lose a Battle
The Jewish War
Tropical Gangsters
The Forgotten Revolution
Egil’s Saga
Time Patrol

Russo: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/books-2017/#comment-98568
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Lynn Margulis | West Hunter
Margulis went on to theorize that symbiotic relationships between organisms are the dominant driving force of evolution. There certainly are important examples of this: as far as I know, every complex organism that digests cellulose manages it thru a symbiosis with various prokaryotes. Many organisms with a restricted diet have symbiotic bacteria that provide essential nutrients – aphids, for example. Tall fescue, a popular turf grass on golf courses, carries an endosymbiotic fungus. And so on, and on on.

She went on to oppose neodarwinism, particularly rejecting inter-organismal competition (and population genetics itself). From Wiki: [ She also believed that proponents of the standard theory “wallow in their zoological, capitalistic, competitive, cost-benefit interpretation of Darwin – having mistaken him… Neo-Darwinism, which insists on [the slow accrual of mutations by gene-level natural selection], is in a complete funk.”[8] ‘


You might think that Lynn Margulis is an example of someone that could think outside the box because she’d never even been able to find it in the first place – but that’s more true of autistic types [like Dirac or Turing], which I doubt she was in any way. I’d say that some traditional prejudices [dislike of capitalism and individual competition], combined with the sort of general looniness that leaves one open to unconventional ideas, drove her in a direction that bore fruit, more or less by coincidence. A successful creative scientist does not have to be right about everything, or indeed about much of anything: they need to contribute at least one new, true, and interesting thing.

“A successful creative scientist does not have to be right about everything, or indeed about much of anything: they need to contribute at least one new, true, and interesting thing.” Yes – it’s like old bands. As long as they have just one song in heavy rotation on the classic rock stations, they can tour endlessly – it doesn’t matter that they have only one or even no original members performing. A scientific example of this phenomena is Kary Mullins. He’ll always have PCR, even if a glowing raccoon did greet him with the words, “Good evening, Doctor.”

Nobel Savage: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v21/n13/steven-shapin/nobel-savage
Dancing Naked in the Mind Field by Kary Mullis

jet fuel can't melt steel beams: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/lynn-margulis/#comment-98201
You have to understand a subject extremely well to make arguments why something couldn’t have happened. The easiest cases involve some purported explanation violating a conservation law of physics: that wasn’t the case here.

Do I think you’re a hotshot, deeply knowledgeable about structural engineering, properties of materials, using computer models, etc? A priori, pretty unlikely. What are the odds that you know as much simple mechanics as I do? a priori, still pretty unlikely. Most likely, you’re talking through your hat.

Next, the conspiracy itself is unlikely: quite a few people would be involved – unlikely that none of them would talk. It’s not that easy to find people that would go along with such a thing, believe it or not. The Communists were pretty good at conspiracy, but people defected, people talked: not just Whittaker Chambers, not just Igor Gouzenko.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
[1509.02504] Electric charge in hyperbolic motion: The early history and other geometrical aspects
We revisit the early work of Minkowski and Sommerfeld concerning hyperbolic motion, and we describe some geometrical aspects of the electrodynamic interaction. We discuss the advantages of a time symmetric formulation in which the material points are replaced by infinitesimal length elements.

SPACE AND TIME: An annotated, illustrated edition of Hermann Minkowski's revolutionary essay: http://web.mit.edu/redingtn/www/netadv/SP20130311.html
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Review of Yuval Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
Yuval Harari's prominent book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind gets a thorough and well deserved fisking by C.R. Hallpike.

For Harari the great innovation that separated us from the apes was what he calls the Cognitive Revolution, around 70,000 years ago when we started migrating out of Africa, which he thinks gave us the same sort of modern minds that we have now. 'At the individual level, ancient foragers were the most knowledgeable and skilful people in history...Survival in that area required superb mental abilities from everyone' (55), and 'The people who carved the Stadel lion-man some 30,000 years ago had the same physical, emotional, and intellectual abilities we have' (44). Not surprisingly, then, 'We'd be able to explain to them everything we know - from the adventures of Alice in Wonderland to the paradoxes of quantum physics - and they could teach us how their people view the world' (23).

It's a sweet idea, and something like this imagined meeting actually took place a few years ago between the linguist Daniel Everett and the Piraha foragers of the Amazon in Peru (Everett 2008). But far from being able to discuss quantum theory with them, he found that the Piraha couldn't even count, and had no numbers of any kind, They could teach Everett how they saw the world, which was entirely confined to the immediate experience of the here-and-now, with no interest in past or future, or really in anything that could not be seen or touched. They had no myths or stories, so Alice in Wonderland would have fallen rather flat as well.


Summing up the book as a whole, one has often had to point out how surprisingly little he seems to have read on quite a number of essential topics. It would be fair to say that whenever his facts are broadly correct they are not new, and whenever he tries to strike out on his own he often gets things wrong, sometimes seriously. So we should not judge Sapiens as a serious contribution to knowledge but as 'infotainment', a publishing event to titillate its readers by a wild intellectual ride across the landscape of history, dotted with sensational displays of speculation, and ending with blood-curdling predictions about human destiny. By these criteria it is a most successful book.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Karl Pearson and the Chi-squared Test
Pearson's paper of 1900 introduced what subsequently became known as the chi-squared test of goodness of fit. The terminology and allusions of 80 years ago create a barrier for the modern reader, who finds that the interpretation of Pearson's test procedure and the assessment of what he achieved are less than straightforward, notwithstanding the technical advances made since then. An attempt is made here to surmount these difficulties by exploring Pearson's relevant activities during the first decade of his statistical career, and by describing the work by his contemporaries and predecessors which seem to have influenced his approach to the problem. Not all the questions are answered, and others remain for further study.

original paper: http://www.economics.soton.ac.uk/staff/aldrich/1900.pdf

How did Karl Pearson come up with the chi-squared statistic?: https://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/97604/how-did-karl-pearson-come-up-with-the-chi-squared-statistic
He proceeds by working with the multivariate normal, and the chi-square arises as a sum of squared standardized normal variates.

You can see from the discussion on p160-161 he's clearly discussing applying the test to multinomial distributed data (I don't think he uses that term anywhere). He apparently understands the approximate multivariate normality of the multinomial (certainly he knows the margins are approximately normal - that's a very old result - and knows the means, variances and covariances, since they're stated in the paper); my guess is that most of that stuff is already old hat by 1900. (Note that the chi-squared distribution itself dates back to work by Helmert in the mid-1870s.)

Then by the bottom of p163 he derives a chi-square statistic as "a measure of goodness of fit" (the statistic itself appears in the exponent of the multivariate normal approximation).

He then goes on to discuss how to evaluate the p-value*, and then he correctly gives the upper tail area of a χ212χ122 beyond 43.87 as 0.000016. [You should keep in mind, however, that he didn't correctly understand how to adjust degrees of freedom for parameter estimation at that stage, so some of the examples in his papers use too high a d.f.]
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october 2017 by nhaliday
“Editor’s Introduction to The New Economic History and the Industrial Revolution,” J. Mokyr (1998) | A Fine Theorem
I taught a fun three hours on the Industrial Revolution in my innovation PhD course this week. The absolutely incredible change in the condition of mankind that began in a tiny corner of Europe in an otherwise unremarkable 70-or-so years is totally fascinating. Indeed, the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath are so important to human history that I find it strange that we give people PhDs in social science without requiring at least some study of what happened.

My post today draws heavily on Joel Mokyr’s lovely, if lengthy, summary of what we know about the period. You really should read the whole thing, but if you know nothing about the IR, there are really five facts of great importance which you should be aware of.

1) The world was absurdly poor from the dawn of mankind until the late 1800s, everywhere.
2) The average person did not become richer, nor was overall economic growth particularly spectacular, during the Industrial Revolution; indeed, wages may have fallen between 1760 and 1830.
3) Major macro inventions, and growth, of the type seen in England in the late 1700s and early 1800s happened many times in human history.
4) It is hard for us today to understand how revolutionary ideas like “experimentation” or “probability” were.
5) The best explanations for “why England? why in the late 1700s? why did growth continue?” do not involve colonialism, slavery, or famous inventions.
econotariat  broad-econ  economics  growth-econ  cjones-like  summary  divergence  industrial-revolution  list  top-n  mokyr-allen-mccloskey  hi-order-bits  aphorism  wealth  wealth-of-nations  malthus  revolution  innovation  the-trenches  science  europe  the-great-west-whale  britain  conceptual-vocab  history  early-modern  technology  long-short-run  econ-metrics  data  time-series  conquest-empire  india  asia  scale  attaq  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  roots  cycles  flux-stasis  whiggish-hegelian 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Early History of Electricity and Magnetism
The ancient Greeks also knew about magnets. They noted that on rare occasions "lodestones" were found in nature, chunks of iron-rich ore with the puzzling ability to attract iron. Some were discovered near the city of Magnesia (now in Turkey), and from there the words "magnetism" and "magnet" entered the language. The ancient Chinese discovered lodestones independently, and in addition found that after a piece of steel was "touched to a lodestone" it became a magnet itself.'


One signpost of the new era was the book "De Magnete" (Latin for "On the Magnet") published in London in 1600 by William Gilbert, a prominent medical doctor and (after 1601) personal physician to Queen Elizabeth I. Gilbert's great interest was in magnets and the strange directional properties of the compass needle, always pointing close to north-south. He correctly traced the reason to the globe of the Earth being itself a giant magnet, and demonstrated his explanation by moving a small compass over the surface of a lodestone trimmed to a sphere (or supplemented to spherical shape by iron attachments?)--a scale model he named "terrella" or "little Earth," on which he was able to duplicate all the directional properties of the compass. (here and here)
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Ptolemy's Model of the Solar System
It follows, from the above discussion, that the geocentric model of Ptolemy is equivalent to a heliocentric model in which the various planetary orbits are represented as eccentric circles, and in which the radius vector connecting a given planet to its corresponding equant revolves at a uniform rate. In fact, Ptolemy's model of planetary motion can be thought of as a version of Kepler's model which is accurate to first-order in the planetary eccentricities--see Cha. 4. According to the Ptolemaic scheme, from the point of view of the earth, the orbit of the sun is described by a single circular motion, whereas that of a planet is described by a combination of two circular motions. In reality, the single circular motion of the sun represents the (approximately) circular motion of the earth around the sun, whereas the two circular motions of a typical planet represent a combination of the planet's (approximately) circular motion around the sun, and the earth's motion around the sun. Incidentally, the popular myth that Ptolemy's scheme requires an absurdly large number of circles in order to fit the observational data to any degree of accuracy has no basis in fact. Actually, Ptolemy's model of the sun and the planets, which fits the data very well, only contains 12 circles (i.e., 6 deferents and 6 epicycles).
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Reynolds number - Wikipedia
The Reynolds number is the ratio of inertial forces to viscous forces within a fluid which is subjected to relative internal movement due to different fluid velocities, in what is known as a boundary layer in the case of a bounding surface such as the interior of a pipe. A similar effect is created by the introduction of a stream of higher velocity fluid, such as the hot gases from a flame in air. This relative movement generates fluid friction, which is a factor in developing turbulent flow. Counteracting this effect is the viscosity of the fluid, which as it increases, progressively inhibits turbulence, as more kinetic energy is absorbed by a more viscous fluid. The Reynolds number quantifies the relative importance of these two types of forces for given flow conditions, and is a guide to when turbulent flow will occur in a particular situation.[6]

Re = ρuL/μ

(inertial forces)/(viscous forces)
= (mass)(acceleration) / (dynamic viscosity)(velocity/distance)(area)
= (ρL^3)(v/t) / μ(v/L)L^2
= Re

NB: viscous force/area ~ μ du/dy is definition of viscosity
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Fermat's Library | Cassini, Rømer and the velocity of light annotated/explained version.
Abstract: The discovery of the finite nature of the velocity of light is usually attributed to Rømer. However, a text at the Paris Observatory confirms the minority opinion according to which Cassini was first to propose the ‘successive motion’ of light, while giving a rather correct order of magnitude for the duration of its propagation from the Sun to the Earth. We examine this question, and discuss why, in spite of the criticisms of Halley, Cassini abandoned this hypothesis while leaving Rømer free to publish it.
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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
newtonian gravity - Newton's original proof of gravitation for non-point-mass objects - Physics Stack Exchange
This theorem is Proposition LXXI, Theorem XXXI in the Principia. To warm up, consider the more straightforward proof of the preceding theorem, that there's no inverse-square force inside of a spherical shell:


The crux of the argument is that the triangles HPI and LPK are similar. The mass enclosed in the small-but-near patch of sphere HI goes like the square of the distance HP, while the mass enclosed in the large-but-far patch of sphere KL, with the same solid angle, goes like the square of the distance KP. This mass ratio cancels out the distance-squared ratio governing the strength of the force, and so the net force from those two patches vanishes.

For a point mass outside a shell, Newton's approach is essentially the same as the modern approach:


One integral is removed because we're considering a thin spherical shell rather than a solid sphere. The second integral, "as the semi-circle AKB revolves about the diameter AB," trivially turns Newton's infinitesimal arcs HI and KL into annuli.

The third integral is over all the annuli in the sphere, over 0≤ϕ≤τ/20≤ϕ≤τ/2 or over R−r≤s≤R+rR−r≤s≤R+r. This one is a little bit hairy, even with the advantage of modern notation.

Newton's clever trick is to consider the relationship between the force due to the smaller, nearer annulus HI and the larger, farther annulus KL defined by the same viewing angle (in modern notation, dθdθ). If I understand correctly he argues again, based on lots of similar triangles with infinitesimal angles, that the smaller-but-nearer annulus and the larger-but-farther annulus exert the same force at P. Furthermore, he shows that the force doesn't depend on the distance PF, and thus doesn't depend on the radius of the sphere; the only parameter left is the distance PS (squared) between the particle and the sphere's center. Since the argument doesn't depend on the angle HPS, it's true for all the annuli, and the theorem is proved.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Why was the Catholic Church so opposed to heliocentrism (for example, in the Renaissance)? Why did they not simply claim that God lived in the Sun, so we go around Him? - Quora
The main reason the Catholic Church opposed the teaching of heliocentrism as a fact was that it was contrary to the science of the time.

Amongst the modern myths about early science is the persistent idea that the opposition to heliocentrism was one of "science" versus "religion". According to this story, early modern astronomers like Copernicus and Galileo "proved" the earth went around the sun and the other scientists of the time agreed. But the Catholic Church clung to a literal interpretation of the Bible and rejected this idea purely out of a fanatical faith, insisting that the earth had to be the centre of the cosmos because man was the pinnacle of all creation. Pretty much everything in this popular story is wrong.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Medicine as a pseudoscience | West Hunter
The idea that venesection was a good thing, or at least not so bad, on the grounds that one in a few hundred people have hemochromatosis (in Northern Europe) reminds me of the people who don’t wear a seatbelt, since it would keep them from being thrown out of their convertible into a waiting haystack, complete with nubile farmer’s daughter. Daughters. It could happen. But it’s not the way to bet.

Back in the good old days, Charles II, age 53, had a fit one Sunday evening, while fondling two of his mistresses.

Monday they bled him (cupping and scarifying) of eight ounces of blood. Followed by an antimony emetic, vitriol in peony water, purgative pills, and a clyster. Followed by another clyster after two hours. Then syrup of blackthorn, more antimony, and rock salt. Next, more laxatives, white hellebore root up the nostrils. Powdered cowslip flowers. More purgatives. Then Spanish Fly. They shaved his head and stuck blistering plasters all over it, plastered the soles of his feet with tar and pigeon-dung, then said good-night.


Friday. The king was worse. He tells them not to let poor Nelly starve. They try the Oriental Bezoar Stone, and more bleeding. Dies at noon.

Most people didn’t suffer this kind of problem with doctors, since they never saw one. Charles had six. Now Bach and Handel saw the same eye surgeon, John Taylor – who blinded both of them. Not everyone can put that on his resume!

You may wonder how medicine continued to exist, if it had a negative effect, on the whole. There’s always the placebo effect – at least there would be, if it existed. Any real placebo effect is very small: I’d guess exactly zero. But there is regression to the mean. You see the doctor when you’re feeling worse than average – and afterwards, if he doesn’t kill you outright, you’re likely to feel better. Which would have happened whether you’d seen him or not, but they didn’t often do RCTs back in the day – I think James Lind was the first (1747).

Back in the late 19th century, Christian Scientists did better than others when sick, because they didn’t believe in medicine. For reasons I think mistaken, because Mary Baker Eddy rejected the reality of the entire material world, but hey, it worked. Parenthetically, what triggered all that New Age nonsense in 19th century New England? Hash?

This did not change until fairly recently. Sometime in the early 20th medicine, clinical medicine, what doctors do, hit break-even. Now we can’t do without it. I wonder if there are, or will be, other examples of such a pile of crap turning (mostly) into a real science.

good tweet: https://twitter.com/bowmanthebard/status/897146294191390720
The brilliant GP I've had for 35+ years has retired. How can I find another one who meets my requirements?

1 is overweight
2 drinks more than officially recommended amounts
3 has an amused, tolerant atitude to human failings
4 is well aware that we're all going to die anyway, & there are better or worse ways to die
5 has a healthy skeptical attitude to mainstream medical science
6 is wholly dismissive of "a|ternative” medicine
7 believes in evolution
8 thinks most diseases get better without intervention, & knows the dangers of false positives
9 understands the base rate fallacy

EconPapers: Was Civil War Surgery Effective?: http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/htrhcecon/444.htm
contra Greg Cochran:
To shed light on the subject, I analyze a data set created by Dr. Edmund Andrews, a Civil war surgeon with the 1st Illinois Light Artillery. Dr. Andrews’s data can be rendered into an observational data set on surgical intervention and recovery, with controls for wound location and severity. The data also admits instruments for the surgical decision. My analysis suggests that Civil War surgery was effective, and increased the probability of survival of the typical wounded soldier, with average treatment effect of 0.25-0.28.

Medical Prehistory: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/medical-prehistory/
What ancient medical treatments worked?

In some very, very limited conditions, bleeding?
Bad for you 99% of the time.

Colchicine – used to treat gout – discovered by the Ancient Greeks.

Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm)
Wrap the emerging end of the worm around a stick and slowly pull it out.
(3,500 years later, this remains the standard treatment.)

Some of the progress is from formal medicine, most is from civil engineering, better nutrition ( ag science and physical chemistry), less crowded housing.

Nurses vs doctors: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/nurses-vs-doctors/
Medicine, the things that doctors do, was an ineffective pseudoscience until fairly recently. Until 1800 or so, they were wrong about almost everything. Bleeding, cupping, purging, the four humors – useless. In the 1800s, some began to realize that they were wrong, and became medical nihilists that improved outcomes by doing less. Some patients themselves came to this realization, as when Civil War casualties hid from the surgeons and had better outcomes. Sometime in the early 20th century, MDs reached break-even, and became an increasingly positive influence on human health. As Lewis Thomas said, medicine is the youngest science.

Nursing, on the other hand, has always been useful. Just making sure that a patient is warm and nourished when too sick to take care of himself has helped many survive. In fact, some of the truly crushing epidemics have been greatly exacerbated when there were too few healthy people to take care of the sick.

Nursing must be old, but it can’t have existed forever. Whenever it came into existence, it must have changed the selective forces acting on the human immune system. Before nursing, being sufficiently incapacitated would have been uniformly fatal – afterwards, immune responses that involved a period of incapacitation (with eventual recovery) could have been selectively favored.

when MDs broke even: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/nurses-vs-doctors/#comment-58981
I’d guess the 1930s. Lewis Thomas thought that he was living through big changes. They had a working serum therapy for lobar pneumonia ( antibody-based). They had many new vaccines ( diphtheria in 1923, whopping cough in 1926, BCG and tetanus in 1927, yellow fever in 1935, typhus in 1937.) Vitamins had been mostly worked out. Insulin was discovered in 1929. Blood transfusions. The sulfa drugs, first broad-spectrum antibiotics, showed up in 1935.

DALYs per doctor: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/
The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden – the number of years lost. I’m wondering just much harm premodern medicine did, per doctor. How many healthy years of life did a typical doctor destroy (net) in past times?


It looks as if the average doctor (in Western medicine) killed a bunch of people over his career ( when contrasted with doing nothing). In the Charles Manson class.

Eventually the market saw through this illusion. Only took a couple of thousand years.

That a very large part of healthcare spending is done for non-health reasons. He has a chapter on this in his new book, also check out his paper “Showing That You Care: The Evolution of Health Altruism” http://mason.gmu.edu/~rhanson/showcare.pdf
I ran into too much stupidity to finish the article. Hanson’s a loon. For example when he talks about the paradox of blacks being more sentenced on drug offenses than whites although they use drugs at similar rate. No paradox: guys go to the big house for dealing, not for using. Where does he live – Mars?

I had the same reaction when Hanson parroted some dipshit anthropologist arguing that the stupid things people do while drunk are due to social expectations, not really the alcohol.

I don’t think that being totally unable to understand everybody around you necessarily leads to deep insights.

What I’ve wondered is if there was anything that doctors did that actually was helpful and if perhaps that little bit of success helped them fool people into thinking the rest of it helped.
Setting bones. extracting arrows: spoon of Diocles. Colchicine for gout. Extracting the Guinea worm. Sometimes they got away with removing the stone. There must be others.
Quinine is relatively recent: post-1500. Obstetrical forceps also. Caesarean deliveries were almost always fatal to the mother until fairly recently.

Opium has been around for a long while : it works.

If pre-modern medicine was indeed worse than useless – how do you explain no one noticing that patients who get expensive treatments are worse off than those who didn’t?
were worse off. People are kinda dumb – you’ve noticed?
My impression is that while people may be “kinda dumb”, ancient customs typically aren’t.
Even if we assume that all people who lived prior to the 19th century were too dumb to make the rational observation, wouldn’t you expect this ancient practice to be subject to selective pressure?
Your impression is wrong. Do you think that there some slick reason for Carthaginians incinerating their first-born?

Theodoric of York, bloodletting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvff3TViXmY

details on blood-letting and hemochromatosis: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/dalys-per-doctor/#comment-100746

Starting Over: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/starting-over/
Looking back on it, human health would have … [more]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
During the Renaissance, the focus, especially in the arts, was on representing as accurately as possible the real world whether on a 2 dimensional surface or a solid such as marble or granite. This required two things. The first was new methods for drawing or painting, e.g., perspective. The second, relevant to this topic, was careful observation.

With the spread of cannon in warfare, the study of projectile motion had taken on greater importance, and now, with more careful observation and more accurate representation, came the realization that projectiles did not move the way Aristotle and his followers had said they did: the path of a projectile did not consist of two consecutive straight line components but was instead a smooth curve. [1]

Now someone needed to come up with a method to determine if there was a special curve a projectile followed. But measuring the path of a projectile was not easy.

Using an inclined plane, Galileo had performed experiments on uniformly accelerated motion, and he now used the same apparatus to study projectile motion. He placed an inclined plane on a table and provided it with a curved piece at the bottom which deflected an inked bronze ball into a horizontal direction. The ball thus accelerated rolled over the table-top with uniform motion and then fell off the edge of the table Where it hit the floor, it left a small mark. The mark allowed the horizontal and vertical distances traveled by the ball to be measured. [2]

By varying the ball's horizontal velocity and vertical drop, Galileo was able to determine that the path of a projectile is parabolic.


Galileo's Discovery of the Parabolic Trajectory: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24949756

Galileo's Experimental Confirmation of Horizontal Inertia: Unpublished Manuscripts (Galileo
Gleanings XXII): https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/229718
- Drake Stillman

MORE THAN A DECADE HAS ELAPSED since Thomas Settle published a classic paper in which Galileo's well-known statements about his experiments on inclined planes were completely vindicated.' Settle's paper replied to an earlier attempt by Alexandre Koyre to show that Galileo could not have obtained the results he claimed in his Two New Sciences by actual observations using the equipment there described. The practical ineffectiveness of Settle's painstaking repetition of the experiments in altering the opinion of historians of science is only too evident. Koyre's paper was reprinted years later in book form without so much as a note by the editors concerning Settle's refutation of its thesis.2 And the general literature continues to belittle the role of experiment in Galileo's physics.

More recently James MacLachlan has repeated and confirmed a different experiment reported by Galileo-one which has always seemed highly exaggerated and which was also rejected by Koyre with withering sarcasm.3 In this case, however, it was accuracy of observation rather than precision of experimental data that was in question. Until now, nothing has been produced to demonstrate Galileo's skill in the design and the accurate execution of physical experiment in the modern sense.

Pant of a page of Galileo's unpublished manuscript notes, written late in 7608, corroborating his inertial assumption and leading directly to his discovery of the parabolic trajectory. (Folio 1 16v Vol. 72, MSS Galileiani; courtesy of the Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze.)


(The same skeptical historians, however, believe that to show that Galileo could have used the medieval mean-speed theorem suffices to prove that he did use it, though it is found nowhere in his published or unpublished writings.)


Now, it happens that among Galileo's manuscript notes on motion there are many pages that were not published by Favaro, since they contained only calculations or diagrams without attendant propositions or explanations. Some pages that were published had first undergone considerable editing, making it difficult if not impossible to discern their full significance from their printed form. This unpublished material includes at least one group of notes which cannot satisfactorily be accounted for except as representing a series of experiments designed to test a fundamental assumption, which led to a new, important discovery. In these documents precise empirical data are given numerically, comparisons are made with calculated values derived from theory, a source of discrepancy from still another expected result is noted, a new experiment is designed to eliminate this, and further empirical data are recorded. The last-named data, although proving to be beyond Galileo's powers of mathematical analysis at the time, when subjected to modern analysis turn out to be remarkably precise. If this does not represent the experimental process in its fully modern sense, it is hard to imagine what standards historians require to be met.

The discovery of these notes confirms the opinion of earlier historians. They read only Galileo's published works, but did so without a preconceived notion of continuity in the history of ideas. The opinion of our more sophisticated colleagues has its sole support in philosophical interpretations that fit with preconceived views of orderly long-term scientific development. To find manuscript evidence that Galileo was at home in the physics laboratory hardly surprises me. I should find it much more astonishing if, by reasoning alone, working only from fourteenth-century theories and conclusions, he had continued along lines so different from those followed by profound philosophers in earlier centuries. It is to be hoped that, warned by these examples, historians will begin to restore the old cautionary clauses in analogous instances in which scholarly opinions are revised without new evidence, simply to fit historical theories.

In what follows, the newly discovered documents are presented in the context of a hypothetical reconstruction of Galileo's thought.


As early as 1590, if we are correct in ascribing Galileo's juvenile De motu to that date, it was his belief that an ideal body resting on an ideal horizontal plane could be set in motion by a force smaller than any previously assigned force, however small. By "horizontal plane" he meant a surface concentric with the earth but which for reasonable distances would be indistinguishable from a level plane. Galileo noted at the time that experiment did not confirm this belief that the body could be set in motion by a vanishingly small force, and he attributed the failure to friction, pressure, the imperfection of material surfaces and spheres, and the departure of level planes from concentricity with the earth.5

It followed from this belief that under ideal conditions the motion so induced would also be perpetual and uniform. Galileo did not mention these consequences until much later, and it is impossible to say just when he perceived them. They are, however, so evident that it is safe to assume that he saw them almost from the start. They constitute a trivial case of the proposition he seems to have been teaching before 1607-that a mover is required to start motion, but that absence of resistance is then sufficient to account for its continuation.6

In mid-1604, following some investigations of motions along circular arcs and motions of pendulums, Galileo hit upon the law that in free fall the times elapsed from rest are as the smaller distance is to the mean proportional between two distances fallen.7 This gave him the times-squared law as well as the rule of odd numbers for successive distances and speeds in free fall. During the next few years he worked out a large number of theorems relating to motion along inclined planes, later published in the Two New Sciences. He also arrived at the rule that the speed terminating free fall from rest was double the speed of the fall itself. These theorems survive in manuscript notes of the period 1604-1609. (Work during these years can be identified with virtual certainty by the watermarks in the paper used, as I have explained elsewhere.8)

In the autumn of 1608, after a summer at Florence, Galileo seems to have interested himself in the question whether the actual slowing of a body moving horizontally followed any particular rule. On folio 117i of the manuscripts just mentioned, the numbers 196, 155, 121, 100 are noted along the horizontal line near the middle of the page (see Fig. 1). I believe that this was the first entry on this leaf, for reasons that will appear later, and that Galileo placed his grooved plane in the level position and recorded distances traversed in equal times along it. Using a metronome, and rolling a light wooden ball about 4 3/4 inches in diameter along a plane with a groove 1 3/4 inches wide, I obtained similar relations over a distance of 6 feet. The figures obtained vary greatly for balls of different materials and weights and for greatly different initial speeds.9 But it suffices for my present purposes that Galileo could have obtained the figures noted by observing the actual deceleration of a ball along a level plane. It should be noted that the watermark on this leaf is like that on folio 116, to which we shall come presently, and it will be seen later that the two sheets are closely connected in time in other ways as well.

The relatively rapid deceleration is obviously related to the contact of ball and groove. Were the ball to roll right off the end of the plane, all resistance to horizontal motion would be virtually removed. If, then, there were any way to have a given ball leave the plane at different speeds of which the ratios were known, Galileo's old idea that horizontal motion would continue uniformly in the absence of resistance could be put to test. His law of free fall made this possible. The ratios of speeds could be controlled by allowing the ball to fall vertically through known heights, at the ends of which it would be deflected horizontally. Falls through given heights … [more]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Isaac Newton: the first physicist.
[...] More fundamentally, Newton's mathematical approach has become so basic to all of physics that he is generally regarded as _the father of the clockwork universe_: the first, and perhaps the greatest, physicist.

The Alchemist

In fact, Newton was deeply opposed to the mechanistic conception of the world. A secretive alchemist [...]. His written work on the subject ran to more than a million words, far more than he ever produced on calculus or mechanics [21]. Obsessively religious, he spent years correlating biblical prophecy with historical events [319ff]. He became deeply convinced that Christian doctrine had been deliberately corrupted by _the false notion of the trinity_, and developed a vicious contempt for conventional (trinitarian) Christianity and for Roman Catholicism in particular [324]. [...] He believed that God mediated the gravitational force [511](353), and opposed any attempt to give a mechanistic explanation of chemistry or gravity, since that would diminish the role of God [646]. He consequently conceived such _a hatred of Descartes_, on whose foundations so many of his achievements were built, that at times _he refused even to write his name_ [399,401].

The Man

Newton was rigorously puritanical: when one of his few friends told him "a loose story about a nun", he ended their friendship (267). [...] He thought of himself as the sole inventor of the calculus, and hence the greatest mathematician since the ancients, and left behind a huge corpus of unpublished work, mostly alchemy and biblical exegesis, that he believed future generations would appreciate more than his own (199,511).

[...] Even though these unattractive qualities caused him to waste huge amounts of time and energy in ruthless vendettas against colleagues who in many cases had helped him (see below), they also drove him to the extraordinary achievements for which he is still remembered. And for all his arrogance, Newton's own summary of his life (574) was beautifully humble:

"I do not know how I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy, playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself, in now and then finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

Before Newton


1. Calculus. Descartes, in 1637, pioneered the use of coordinates to turn geometric problems into algebraic ones, a method that Newton was never to accept [399]. Descartes, Fermat, and others investigated methods of calculating the tangents to arbitrary curves [28-30]. Kepler, Cavalieri, and others used infinitesimal slices to calculate volumes and areas enclosed by curves [30], but no unified treatment of these problems had yet been found.
2. Mechanics & Planetary motion. The elliptical orbits of the planets having been established by Kepler, Descartes proposed the idea of a purely mechanical heliocentric universe, following deterministic laws, and with no need of any divine agency [15], another anathema to Newton. _No one imagined, however, that a single law might explain both falling bodies and planetary motion_. Galileo invented the concept of inertia, anticipating Newton's first and second laws of motion (293), and Huygens used it to analyze collisions and circular motion [11]. Again, these pieces of progress had not been synthesized into a general method for analyzing forces and motion.
3. Light. Descartes claimed that light was a pressure wave, Gassendi that it was a stream of particles (corpuscles) [13]. As might be guessed, Newton vigorously supported the corpuscular theory. _White light was universally believed to be the pure form_, and colors were some added property bequeathed to it upon reflection from matter (150). Descartes had discovered the sine law of refraction (94), but it was not known that some colors were refracted more than others. The pattern was the familiar one: many pieces of the puzzle were in place, but the overall picture was still unclear.

The Natural Philosopher

Between 1671 and 1690, Newton was to supply definitive treatments of most of these problems. By assiduous experimentation with prisms he established that colored light was actually fundamental, and that it could be recombined to create white light. He did not publish the result for 6 years, by which time it seemed so obvious to him that he found great difficulty in responding patiently to the many misunderstandings and objections with which it met [239ff].

He invented differential and integral calculus in 1665-6, but failed to publish it. Leibniz invented it independently 10 years later, and published it first [718]. This resulted in a priority dispute which degenerated into a feud characterized by extraordinary dishonesty and venom on both sides (542).

In discovering gravitation, Newton was also _barely ahead of the rest of the pack_. Hooke was the first to realize that orbital motion was produced by a centripetal force (268), and in 1679 _he suggested an inverse square law to Newton_ [387]. Halley and Wren came to the same conclusion, and turned to Newton for a proof, which he duly supplied [402]. Newton did not stop there, however. From 1684 to 1687 he worked continuously on a grand synthesis of the whole of mechanics, the "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica," in which he developed his three laws of motion and showed in detail that the universal force of gravitation could explain the fall of an apple as well as the precise motions of planets and comets.

The "Principia" crystallized the new conceptions of force and inertia that had gradually been emerging, and marks the beginning of theoretical physics as the mathematical field that we know today. It is not an easy read: Newton had developed the idea that geometry and equations should never be combined [399], and therefore _refused to use simple analytical techniques in his proofs_, requiring classical geometric constructions instead [428]. He even made his Principia _deliberately abstruse in order to discourage amateurs from feeling qualified to criticize it_ [459].

[...] most of the rest of his life was spent in administrative work as Master of the Mint and as President of the Royal Society, _a position he ruthlessly exploited in the pursuit of vendettas_ against Hooke (300ff,500), Leibniz (510ff), and Flamsteed (490,500), among others. He kept secret his disbelief in Christ's divinity right up until his dying moment, at which point he refused the last rites, at last openly defying the church (576). [...]
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august 2017 by nhaliday
All models are wrong - Wikipedia
Box repeated the aphorism in a paper that was published in the proceedings of a 1978 statistics workshop.[2] The paper contains a section entitled "All models are wrong but some are useful". The section is copied below.

Now it would be very remarkable if any system existing in the real world could be exactly represented by any simple model. However, cunningly chosen parsimonious models often do provide remarkably useful approximations. For example, the law PV = RT relating pressure P, volume V and temperature T of an "ideal" gas via a constant R is not exactly true for any real gas, but it frequently provides a useful approximation and furthermore its structure is informative since it springs from a physical view of the behavior of gas molecules.

For such a model there is no need to ask the question "Is the model true?". If "truth" is to be the "whole truth" the answer must be "No". The only question of interest is "Is the model illuminating and useful?".
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Introduction to Scaling Laws

Galileo’s Discovery of Scaling Laws: https://www.mtholyoke.edu/~mpeterso/classes/galileo/scaling8.pdf
Days 1 and 2 of Two New Sciences

An example of such an insight is “the surface of a small solid is comparatively greater than that of a large one” because the surface goes like the square of a linear dimension, but the volume goes like the cube.5 Thus as one scales down macroscopic objects, forces on their surfaces like viscous drag become relatively more important, and bulk forces like weight become relatively less important. Galileo uses this idea on the First Day in the context of resistance in free fall, as an explanation for why similar objects of different size do not fall exactly together, but the smaller one lags behind.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Low-Hanging Fruit: Nyekulturny | West Hunter
The methodology is what’s really interesting.  Kim Lewis and Slava Epstein sorted individual soil bacteria into chambers of a device they call the iChip, which is then buried in the ground – the point being that something like 98% of soil bacteria cannot be cultured in standard media, while in this approach, key compounds (whatever they are) can diffuse in from the soil, allowing something like 50% of soil bacteria species to grow.  They then tested the bacterial colonies (10,000 of them) to see if any slammed S. aureus – and some did.


I could be wrong, but I wonder if part of the explanation is that microbiology – the subject – is in relative decline, suffering because of funding and status competition with molecular biology and genomics (sexier and less useful than microbiology) . That and the fact that big pharma is not enthusiastic about biological products.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Deep Secrets | West Hunter
I noticed some pundits talking about Trump getting his top-secret briefings. They were musing about the emotional impact of learning the Government’s ‘deep secrets’.

I wonder. I remember being read into a special access program and thinking “Is that all there is’?

There is important information that the U.S. government knows that isn’t on Wiki – details of nuclear weapons, for example – but on the whole I suspect that there are more truly interesting facts (some of them scary) that I know and the Feds don’t than the other way around.

Nazi Germany and the bomb: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/deep-secrets/#comment-85262
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july 2017 by nhaliday
The Greatest Generation | West Hunter
But  when you consider that people must have had 48 chromosomes back then, rather than the current measly 46, much is explained.

Theophilus Painter, a prominent cytologist, had investigated human chromosome number in 1923. He thought that there were 24 in sperm cells, resulting in a count of 48, which is entirely reasonable. That is definitely the case for all our closest relatives (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans).

The authorities say that that Painter made a mistake, and that humans always had 46 chromosomes. But then, for 30 years after Painter’s work, the authorities said that people had 48.  Textbooks in genetics continued to say that Man has 48 chromosomes up until the mid 1950s.  Many cytologists and geneticists studied human chromosomes during that period, but they knew that there were 48, and that’s what they saw. Now they know that there are 46, and that’s what every student sees.

Either the authorities are fallible and most people are sheep, or human chromosome number actually changed sometime after World War II.  No one could believe the first alternative: it would hurt our feelings, and therefore cannot be true.  No, we have a fascinating result: people today are fundamentally different from the Greatest Generation, biologically different: we’re two chromosomes shy of a load. .    So it’s not our fault !


funny comment: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/the-greatest-generation/#comment-62920
“some social environments are better than others at extracting the best from its people”

That’s very true – we certainly don’t seem to be doing a very good job of it. It’s a minor matter, but threatening brilliant engineers with death or professional ruin because of their sexist sartorial choices probably isn’t helping…

I used to do some engineering, and if someone had tried on that on me, I’ve have told him to go fuck itself. Is that a lost art?

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july 2017 by nhaliday
List of Chinese inventions - Wikipedia
China has been the source of many innovations, scientific discoveries and inventions.[1] This includes the Four Great Inventions: papermaking, the compass, gunpowder, and printing (both woodblock and movable type). The list below contains these and other inventions in China attested by archaeology or history.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Germ theory of disease - Wikipedia
The germ theory was proposed by Girolamo Fracastoro in 1546, and expanded upon by Marcus von Plenciz in 1762. Such views were held in disdain, however, and Galen's miasma theory remained dominant among scientists and doctors. The nature of this doctrine prevented them from understanding how diseases actually progressed, with predictable consequences. By the early nineteenth century, smallpox vaccination was commonplace in Europe, though doctors were unaware of how it worked or how to extend the principle to other diseases. Similar treatments had been prevalent in India from just before 1000 A.D.[2] [N 1] A transitional period began in the late 1850s as the work of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch provided convincing evidence; by 1880, miasma theory was struggling to compete with the germ theory of disease. Eventually, a "golden era" of bacteriology ensued, in which the theory quickly led to the identification of the actual organisms that cause many diseases.[3][4] Viruses were discovered in the 1890s.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Columbia | West Hunter
I remember this all pretty well: I’d still welcome the chance to strangle the key NASA players. I remember how they forbade lower-level people at NASA to talk to the Air Force and ask for recon assets – how they peddled ass-covering bullshit about how nothing could possibly have been done. A lie.

One of the dogs that didn’t bark was the fact that NASA acted as if relevant DOD assets did not exist. For example, if you could have put a package into a matching low orbit with those consumables in shortest supply, say CO2 absorbers and/or cheeseburgers, there would would have been considerably more time available to assemble a rescue mission. For some forgotten reason the Air Force has hundreds of missiles (Minuteman-IIIs) that can be launched on a moment’s notice – it wouldn’t be that hard to replace a warhead with a consumables package. A moment’s thought tells you that some such capability is likely to exist – one intended to rapidly replaced destroyed recon sats, for example. Certainly worth considering, worth checking, before giving up on the crew. Just as the Air Force has recon assets that could have been most helpful in diagnosing the state of the ship – but NASA would rather die than expose itself to Air Force cooties. Not that the Air Force doesn’t have cooties, but NASA has quite a few of its own already.

If we ever had a real reason for manned space travel – I can imagine some – the first thing you’d need to do is kill everyone in the NASA manned space program. JPL you could keep.

usefulness of LEO:

Book Review: Whitey On the Moon: http://www.henrydampier.com/2015/02/book-review-whitey-moon/

Homicidal stat of the day: The US spends more in 1 year of providing Medicaid to hispanics than the entire inflation-adjusted cost of the Apollo program.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The Advent of Cholera | West Hunter
Two main factors interfered with an effective policy response to cholera (not counting ever-present human stupidity and obstinacy): bad science and 19th century liberalism.

Scientists at the time had convinced themselves that the germ theory of disease was just wrong. Yellow fever’s decimation of the French force in Haiti made it important, and when yellow fever hit Barcelona in 1822, French scientists were all over it. They concluded that there was no possibility of contact between yellow fever victims in Barcelona, and ruled out contagion. Mosquito transmission didn’t occur to them.

Worse yet, they generalized their error: they concluded that contagion was never the answer, and accepted miasmas as the cause, a theory which is too stupid to be interesting. Sheesh, they taught the kids in medical school that measles wasn’t catching – while ordinary people knew perfectly well that it was. You know, esoteric, non-intuitive truths have a certain appeal – once initiated, you’re no longer one of the rubes. Of course, the simplest and most common way of producing an esoteric truth is to just make it up.

On the other hand, 19th century liberals (somewhat like modern libertarians, but way less crazy) knew that trade and individual freedom were always good things, by definition, so they also opposed quarantines – worse than wrong, old-fashioned ! And more common in southern, Catholic, Europe: enough said! So, between wrong science and classical liberalism, medical reformers spent many years trying to eliminate the reactionary quarantine rules that still existed in Mediterranean ports.

some history: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3559034/
In some countries, the suspension of personal liberty provided the opportunity—using special laws—to stop political opposition. However, the cultural and social context differed from that in previous centuries. For example, the increasing use of quarantine and isolation conflicted with the affirmation of citizens’ rights and growing sentiments of personal freedom fostered by the French Revolution of 1789. In England, liberal reformers contested both quarantine and compulsory vaccination against smallpox. Social and political tensions created an explosive mixture, culminating in popular rebellions and uprisings, a phenomenon that affected numerous European countries (29). In the Italian states, in which revolutionary groups had taken the cause of unification and republicanism (27), cholera epidemics provided a justification (i.e., the enforcement of sanitary measures) for increasing police power.


Anticontagionists, who disbelieved the communicability of cholera, contested quarantine and alleged that the practice was a relic of the past, useless, and damaging to commerce. They complained that the free movement of travelers was hindered by sanitary cordons and by controls at border crossings, which included fumigation and disinfection of clothes (Figures 1,​,22,​,3).3). In addition, quarantine inspired a false sense of security, which was dangerous to public health because it diverted persons from taking the correct precautions. International cooperation and coordination was stymied by the lack of agreement regarding the use of quarantine. The discussion among scientists, health administrators, diplomatic bureaucracies, and governments dragged on for decades, as demonstrated in the debates in the International Sanitary Conferences (31), particularly after the opening, in 1869, of the Suez Canal, which was perceived as a gate for the diseases of the Orient (32). Despite pervasive doubts regarding the effectiveness of quarantine, local authorities were reluctant to abandon the protection of the traditional strategies that provided an antidote to population panic, which, during a serious epidemic, could produce chaos and disrupt public order (33).
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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
Lucio Russo - Wikipedia
In The Forgotten Revolution: How Science Was Born in 300 BC and Why It Had to Be Reborn (Italian: La rivoluzione dimenticata), Russo promotes the belief that Hellenistic science in the period 320-144 BC reached heights not achieved by Classical age science, and proposes that it went further than ordinarily thought, in multiple fields not normally associated with ancient science.

La Rivoluzione Dimenticata (The Forgotten Revolution), Reviewed by Sandro Graffi: http://www.ams.org/notices/199805/review-graffi.pdf

Before turning to the question of the decline of Hellenistic science, I come back to the new light shed by the book on Euclid’s Elements and on pre-Ptolemaic astronomy. Euclid’s definitions of the elementary geometric entities—point, straight line, plane—at the beginning of the Elements have long presented a problem.7 Their nature is in sharp contrast with the approach taken in the rest of the book, and continued by mathematicians ever since, of refraining from defining the fundamental entities explicitly but limiting themselves to postulating the properties which they enjoy. Why should Euclid be so hopelessly obscure right at the beginning and so smooth just after? The answer is: the definitions are not Euclid’s. Toward the beginning of the second century A.D. Heron of Alexandria found it convenient to introduce definitions of the elementary objects (a sign of decadence!) in his commentary on Euclid’s Elements, which had been written at least 400 years before. All manuscripts of the Elements copied ever since included Heron’s definitions without mention, whence their attribution to Euclid himself. The philological evidence leading to this conclusion is quite convincing.8


What about the general and steady (on the average) impoverishment of Hellenistic science under the Roman empire? This is a major historical problem, strongly tied to the even bigger one of the decline and fall of the antique civilization itself. I would summarize the author’s argument by saying that it basically represents an application to science of a widely accepted general theory on decadence of antique civilization going back to Max Weber. Roman society, mainly based on slave labor, underwent an ultimately unrecoverable crisis as the traditional sources of that labor force, essentially wars, progressively dried up. To save basic farming, the remaining slaves were promoted to be serfs, and poor free peasants reduced to serfdom, but this made trade disappear. A society in which production is almost entirely based on serfdom and with no trade clearly has very little need of culture, including science and technology. As Max Weber pointed out, when trade vanished, so did the marble splendor of the ancient towns, as well as the spiritual assets that went with it: art, literature, science, and sophisticated commercial laws. The recovery of Hellenistic science then had to wait until the disappearance of serfdom at the end of the Middle Ages. To quote Max Weber: “Only then with renewed vigor did the old giant rise up again.”


The epilogue contains the (rather pessimistic) views of the author on the future of science, threatened by the apparent triumph of today’s vogue of irrationality even in leading institutions (e.g., an astrology professorship at the Sorbonne). He looks at today’s ever-increasing tendency to teach science more on a fideistic than on a deductive or experimental basis as the first sign of a decline which could be analogous to the post-Hellenistic one.

Praising Alexandrians to excess: https://sci-hub.tw/10.1088/2058-7058/17/4/35
The Economic Record review: https://sci-hub.tw/10.1111/j.1475-4932.2004.00203.x

listed here: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:c5c09f2687c1

Was Roman Science in Decline? (Excerpt from My New Book): https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/13477
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Lost and Found | West Hunter
I get the distinct impression that someone (probably someone other than Varro) came up with an approximation of germ theory 1500 years before Girolamo Fracastoro. But his work was lost.

Everybody knows, or should know, that the vast majority of Classical literature has not been preserved. Those lost works contained facts and ideas that might have value today – certainly there are topics that we understand much better because of insights from Classical literature. For example, Reich and Patterson find that some of the Indian castes have existed for something like three thousand years: this is easier to believe when you consider that Megasthenes wrote about the caste system as early as 300 BC.

We don’t put much effort into recovering lost Classical literature. But there are ways in which we could push harder – by increased funding for work on the Herculaneum scrolls, or the Oxyrhynchus papyri collection, for example. Some old-fashioned motivated archaeology might get lucky and find another set of Amarna cuneiform letters, or a new Antikythera mechanism.

Here we have yet another case in which a discovery was possible for a long time before it was actually accepted. Aristotle is the villain here: he clearly endorses spontaneous generation of many plants and animals. On the other hand, I don’t remember him saying that people should accept all of his conclusions uncritically and without further experimentation for the next couple of thousand years, which is what happened. So maybe we’re all guilty.


Part of the funny here (not even counting practical experience) is that almost every educated man over these two millennia had read, and indeed studied deeply, a work with a fairly clear statement of the actual fly->egg->maggot->fly process. As I as I can tell, only one person (Redi) seems to have picked up on this.

“But the more Achilles gazed, the greater rose his desire for vengeance, and his eyes flashed terribly, like coals beneath his lids, as he lifted the god’s marvellous gifts and exulted. When he had looked his fill on their splendour, he spoke to Thetis winged words; ‘Mother, the god grants me a gift fit for the immortals, such as no mortal smith could fashion. Now I shall arm myself for war. Yet I fear lest flies infest the wounds the bronze blades made, and maggots breed in the corpse of brave Patroclus, and now his life is fled, rot the flesh, and disfigure all his body.’ ”

You’d think a blind man would have noticed this.

Anyhow, the lesson is clear. Low hanging fruit can persist for a long time if the conventional wisdom is wrong – and sometimes it is.


Transmission of the Greek Classics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmission_of_the_Greek_Classics

By way of comparison, the complete Loeb Classical Library (which includes all the important classical texts) has 337 volumes for Ancient Greek --- and those aren't 100,000 word-long door-stoppers.
$65/year for individuals (I wonder if public libraries have subscriptions?)


1/ Thinking about what Steven Greenblatt described in The Swerve as a mass extinction of ancient books (we have little of what they wrote)
2/ If I could go back in time to, say, 100 AD or 200 AD I would go with simple tech for making books last for a thousand years. Possible?

I’ve put a lot of content out there over the years. Probably on the order of 5 million words across my blogs. Some publications here and there. Lots of tweets. But very little of it will persist into future generations. Digital is evanescent.

But so is paper. I believe that even good hardcover books probably won’t last more than a few hundred years.

Perhaps we should go back to some form of cuneiform? Stone and metal will last thousands of years.

How long does a paperback book last?: https://www.quora.com/How-long-does-a-paperback-book-last

A 500 years vault for books?: https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/137583/a-500-years-vault-for-books
There are about four solutions that have actually worked in history

1. The desert method
2. Give them to an institution which will preserve them
3. The opposite of secrecy: duplicate them extensively

4. Transcribe them to durable materials

It is hard to keep books for a really long time because paper, parchment and papyrus are easily destroyed. However books have been produced on much more durable materials. Nowadays a holographic copy can be laser etched into stainless steel. In Sumer, 5300 years ago they pressed them into clay tablets. If the document was important, they fired the clay; otherwise they just let it dry. The fired versions are close to indestructible.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  ideas  speculation  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  innovation  low-hanging  spreading  disease  parasites-microbiome  🔬  archaeology  discovery  epidemiology  canon  multi  literature  fiction  agriculture  india  asia  pop-structure  social-structure  ethnography  the-trenches  nihil  flux-stasis  science  medieval  europe  the-great-west-whale  letters  info-dynamics  being-right  scale  wiki  reference  trivia  cocktail  curiosity  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  article  q-n-a  qra  data  database  project  toys  religion  christianity  civilization  twitter  social  gedanken  gnon  backup  time  volo-avolo  brands  money  gnxp  store  stackex  traces 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Interview: Mostly Sealing Wax | West Hunter

- conformity and Google, defense and spying (China knows prob almost all our "secrets")
- in the past you could just find new things faster than people could reverse-engineer. part of the problem is that innovation is slowing down today (part of the reason for convergence by China/developing world).
- introgression from archaics of various kinds
- mutational load and IQ, wrath of khan neanderthal
- trade and antiquity (not that useful besides ideas tbh), Roman empire, disease, smallpox
- spices needed to be grown elsewhere, but besides that...
- analogy: caste system in India (why no Brahmin car repairmen?), slavery in Greco-Roman times, more water mills in medieval times (rivers better in north, but still could have done it), new elite not liking getting hands dirty, low status of engineers, rise of finance
- crookery in finance, hedge fund edge might be substantially insider trading
- long-term wisdom of moving all manufacturing to China...?
- economic myopia: British financialization before WW1 vis-a-vis Germany. North vs. South and cotton/industry, camels in Middle East vs. wagons in Europe
- Western medicine easier to convert to science than Eastern, pseudoscience and wrong theories better than bag of recipes
- Greeks definitely knew some things that were lost (eg, line in Pliny makes reference to combinatorics calculation rediscovered by German dude much later. think he's referring to Catalan numbers?), Lucio Russo book
- Indo-Europeans, Western Europe, Amerindians, India, British Isles, gender, disease, and conquest
- no farming (Dark Age), then why were people still farming on Shetland Islands north of Scotland?
- "symbolic" walls, bodies with arrows
- family stuff, children learning, talking dog, memory and aging
- Chinese/Japanese writing difficulty and children learning to read
- Hatfield-McCoy feud: the McCoy family was actually a case study in a neurological journal. they had anger management issues because of cancers of their adrenal gland (!!).

the Chinese know...: https://macropolo.org/casting-off-real-beijings-cryptic-warnings-finance-taking-economy/
Over the last couple of years, a cryptic idiom has crept into the way China’s top leaders talk about risks in the country’s financial system: tuo shi xiang xu (脱实向虚), which loosely translates as “casting off the real for the empty.” Premier Li Keqiang warned against it at his press conference at the end of the 2016 National People’s Congress (NPC). At this year’s NPC, Li inserted this very expression into his annual work report. And in April, while on an inspection tour of Guangxi, President Xi Jinping used the term, saying that China must “unceasingly promote industrial modernization, raise the level of manufacturing, and not allow the real to be cast off for the empty.”

Such an odd turn of phrase is easy to overlook, but it belies concerns about a significant shift in the way that China’s economy works. What Xi and Li were warning against is typically called financialization in developed economies. It’s when “real” companies—industrial firms, manufacturers, utility companies, property developers, and anyone else that produces a tangible product or service—take their money and, rather than put it back into their businesses, invest it in “empty”, or speculative, assets. It occurs when the returns on financial investments outstrip those in the real economy, leading to a disproportionate amount of money being routed into the financial system.
west-hunter  interview  audio  podcast  econotariat  cracker-econ  westminster  culture-war  polarization  tech  sv  google  info-dynamics  business  multi  military  security  scitariat  intel  error  government  defense  critique  rant  race  clown-world  patho-altruism  history  mostly-modern  cold-war  russia  technology  innovation  stagnation  being-right  archaics  gene-flow  sapiens  genetics  the-trenches  thinking  sequential  similarity  genomics  bioinformatics  explanation  europe  asia  china  migration  evolution  recent-selection  immune  atmosphere  latin-america  ideas  sky  developing-world  embodied  africa  MENA  genetic-load  unintended-consequences  iq  enhancement  aDNA  gedanken  mutation  QTL  missing-heritability  tradeoffs  behavioral-gen  biodet  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  trade  gibbon  disease  parasites-microbiome  demographics  population  urban  transportation  efficiency  cost-benefit  india  agriculture  impact  status  class  elite  vampire-squid  analogy  finance  higher-ed  trends  rot  zeitgeist  🔬  hsu  stories  aphorism  crooked  realne 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Asking the question | West Hunter
Sometimes simply asking the question in the first place is a key step, even when it takes a genius to actually solve the problem. So, even though he couldn’t calculate his way out of a paper bag, Antoine Gombaud, Chevalier de Méré , played an important role in birthing probability theory – by asking Pascal and Fermat to solve the the problem of points – how to divide the stakes of an unfinished series of games. Of course asking the right people is also part of the goodness.

Franciszek Pokorny, who headed the Polish General Staff’s Cipher bureau after World War I, was the first to realize that cryptography and cryptanalysis are essentially mathematical in nature – and that you therefore want to hire mathematicians, rather than classical scholars or members of the band of the battleship California. He recruited Marian Rejewski, Henryk Zygalski and Jerzy Różycki: they weren’t considered world-beaters by other Polish mathematicians – not like Arne Beurling – but they broke Enigma.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  history  mostly-modern  science  innovation  discovery  the-trenches  curiosity  info-dynamics  ideas  individualism-collectivism  stories  early-modern  eastern-europe  crypto  probability  low-hanging  alt-inst  organizing  creative 
may 2017 by nhaliday
One more time | West Hunter
One of our local error sources suggested that it would be impossible to rebuild technical civilization, once fallen. Now if every human were dead I’d agree, but in most other scenarios it wouldn’t be particularly difficult, assuming that the survivors were no more silly and fractious than people are today.  So assume a mild disaster, something like the effect of myxomatosis on the rabbits of Australia, or perhaps toe-to-toe nuclear combat with the Russkis – ~90%  casualties worldwide.

Books are everywhere. In the type of scenario I sketched out, almost no knowledge would be lost – so Neolithic tech is irrelevant. Look, if a single copy of the 1911 Britannica survived, all would be well.

You could of course harvest metals from the old cities. But even if if you didn’t, the idea that there is no more copper or zinc or tin in the ground is just silly. “recoverable ore” is mostly an economic concept.

Moreover, if we’re talking wiring and electrical uses, one can use aluminum, which makes up 8% of the Earth’s crust.

Some of those book tell you how to win.

Look, assume that some communities strive to relearn how to make automatic weapons and some don’t. How does that story end? Do I have to explain everything?

I guess so!

Well, perhaps having a zillion times more books around would make a difference. That and all the “X for Dummies” books, which I think the Romans didn’t have.

A lot of Classical civ wasn’t very useful: on the whole they didn’t invent much. On the whole, technology advanced quite a bit more rapidly in Medieval times.

How much coal and oil are in the ground that can still be extracted with 19th century tech? Honest question; I don’t know.
Lots of coal left. Not so much oil (using simple methods), but one could make it from low-grade coal, with the Fischer-Tropsch process. Sasol does this.

Then again, a recovering society wouldn’t need much at first.

reply to: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/one-more-time/#comment-69220
That’s more like it.

#1. Consider Grand Coulee Dam. Gigawatts. Feeling of power!
#2. Of course.
#3. Might be easier to make superconducting logic circuits with MgB2, starting over.

Your typical biker guy is more mechanically minded than the average Joe. Welding, electrical stuff, this and that.

If fossil fuels were unavailable -or just uneconomical at first- we’d be back to charcoal for our Stanley Steamers and railroads. We’d still have both.

The French, and others, used wood-gasifier trucks during WWII.

Teslas are of course a joke.
west-hunter  scitariat  civilization  risk  nihil  gedanken  frontier  allodium  technology  energy-resources  knowledge  the-world-is-just-atoms  discussion  speculation  analysis  biophysical-econ  big-picture  🔬  ideas  multi  history  iron-age  the-classics  medieval  europe  poast  the-great-west-whale  the-trenches  optimism  volo-avolo  mostly-modern  world-war  gallic  track-record  musk  barons  transportation  driving  contrarianism  agriculture  retrofit  industrial-revolution  dirty-hands  books  competition  war  group-selection  comparison  mediterranean  conquest-empire  gibbon  speedometer  class  threat-modeling  duplication  iteration-recursion  trivia  cocktail  encyclopedic  definite-planning  embodied  gnosis-logos  kumbaya-kult 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Chinese innovations | West Hunter
I’m interested in hearing about significant innovations out of contemporary China. Good ones. Ideas, inventions, devices, dreams. Throw in Outer China (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore).

super nationalistic dude ("IC") in the comments section (wish his videos had subtitles):

on the carrier-killer missiles: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/chinese-innovations/#comment-91280
You could take out a carrier task force with a nuke 60 years ago.
Then the other side can nuke something and point to the sunk carrier group saying “they started first”.

Hypersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, or the mysterious anti-ship ballistic missiles China has avoid that.
They avoid that because the law of physics no longer allow radar.

I was thinking about the period in which the United States was experiencing rapid industrial growth, on its way to becoming the most powerful industrial nation. At first not much science, buts lots and lots of technological innovation. I’m not aware of a corresponding efflorescence of innovative Chinese technology today, but then I don’t know everything: so I asked.

I’m still not aware of it. So maybe the answer is ‘no’.

hmm: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/chinese-innovations/#comment-91389
I would say that a lot of the most intelligent faction is being siphoned over into government work, and thus not focused in technological innovation. We should expect to see societal/political innovation rather than technological if my thesis is true.

There’s some evidence of that.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  china  asia  sinosphere  technology  innovation  frontier  novelty  🔬  discovery  cultural-dynamics  geoengineering  applications  ideas  list  zeitgeist  trends  the-bones  expansionism  diaspora  scale  wealth-of-nations  science  orient  chart  great-powers  questions  speedometer  n-factor  microfoundations  the-world-is-just-atoms  the-trenches  dirty-hands  arms  oceans  sky  government  leviathan  alt-inst  authoritarianism  antidemos  multi  poast  nuclear  regularizer  hmm  track-record  survey  institutions  corruption 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Battle for the Planet of Low-Hanging Fruit | West Hunter
Peter Chamberlen the elder [1560-1631] was the son of a Huguenot surgeon who had left France in 1576. He invented obstetric forceps , a surgical instrument similar to a pair of tongs, useful in extracting the baby in a  difficult birth.   He, his brother, and  his brother’s descendants preserved and prospered from their private technology for 125 years. They  went to a fair amount of effort to preserve the secret: the pregnant patient was blindfolded, and all others had to leave the room.  The Chamberlens specialized in difficult births  among the rich and famous.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  history  early-modern  mostly-modern  stories  info-dynamics  science  meta:science  technology  low-hanging  fourier  europe  germanic  IEEE  ideas  the-trenches  alt-inst  discovery  innovation  open-closed 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Low-Hanging Poop | West Hunter
Obviously, sheer disgust made it hard for doctors to embrace this treatment.  There’s a lesson here: in the search for low-hanging fruit,  reconsider approaches that are embarrassing, or offensive, or downright disgusting.
west-hunter  scitariat  stories  discussion  medicine  meta:medicine  being-right  info-dynamics  epistemic  emotion  sanctity-degradation  education  low-hanging  error  bounded-cognition  embodied  policy  ideas  the-trenches  alt-inst  innovation  discovery 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Positively wrong | West Hunter
Wanting something to be true doesn’t make it true – but sometimes, desperately wanting something to be true pays off. Sometimes because you’re actually right (by luck), and that passion helps you put in the work required to establish it, sometimes because your deluded quest ends up finding something else of actual value – sometimes far more valuable than what you were looking for.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  rant  history  early-modern  age-of-discovery  usa  europe  the-great-west-whale  mediterranean  space  big-peeps  innovation  discovery  error  social-science  realness  info-dynamics  truth  wire-guided  is-ought  the-trenches  alt-inst  creative 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Low-Hanging Fruit: Consider the Ant | West Hunter
Which ought to be a reminder that biomimetics is a useful approach to invention:  If you can’t think of anything yourself, steal from the products of evolution.  It’s like an an Edisonian approach, only on steroids.

Along those lines, it is well known, to about 0.1% of the population, that some ants have agriculture. Some protect and herd aphids: others gather leaves as the feedstock for an edible fungus. Those leaf-cutting ants also carry symbiotic fungicide-producing  bacteria that protect against weed fungi [ herbicides invented well before atrazine or 2-4D]  Speaking of, if you really, really want to cause trouble, introduce leaf-cutting ants to Africa.
west-hunter  scitariat  discussion  proposal  low-hanging  innovation  bio  nature  agriculture  technology  ideas  discovery  the-trenches  alt-inst  science  model-organism  track-record 
april 2017 by nhaliday
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