nhaliday + trivia   268

WHO | Priority environment and health risks
also: http://www.who.int/heli/risks/vectors/vector/en/

Environmental factors are a root cause of a significant disease burden, particularly in developing countries. An estimated 25% of death and disease globally, and nearly 35% in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, is linked to environmental hazards. Some key areas of risk include the following:

- Unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene kill an estimated 1.7 million people annually, particularly as a result of diarrhoeal disease.
- Indoor smoke from solid fuels kills an estimated 1.6 million people annually due to respiratory diseases.
- Malaria kills over 1.2 million people annually, mostly African children under the age of five. Poorly designed irrigation and water systems, inadequate housing, poor waste disposal and water storage, deforestation and loss of biodiversity, all may be contributing factors to the most common vector-borne diseases including malaria, dengue and leishmaniasis.
- Urban air pollution generated by vehicles, industries and energy production kills approximately 800 000 people annually.
- Unintentional acute poisonings kill 355 000 people globally each year. In developing countries, where two-thirds of these deaths occur, such poisonings are associated strongly with excessive exposure to, and inappropriate use of, toxic chemicals and pesticides present in occupational and/or domestic environments.
- Climate change impacts including more extreme weather events, changed patterns of disease and effects on agricultural production, are estimated to cause over 150 000 deaths annually.

Note the high point at human origin (Africa, Middle East) and Asia. Low points in New World and Europe/Russia. Probably key factor in explaining human psychological variation (Haidt axes, individualism-collectivism, kinship structure, etc.). E.g., compare Islam/Judaism (circumcision, food preparation/hygiene rules) and Christianity (orthodoxy more than orthopraxy, no arbitrary practices for group-marking).

I wonder if the dietary and hygiene laws of Christianity get up-regulated in higher parasite load places (the US South, Middle Eastern Christianity, etc.)?

Also the reason for this variation probably basically boils down how long local microbes have had time to adapt to the human immune system.

obv. correlation: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:074ecdf30c50

Tropical disease: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_disease
Tropical diseases are diseases that are prevalent in or unique to tropical and subtropical regions.[1] The diseases are less prevalent in temperate climates, due in part to the occurrence of a cold season, which controls the insect population by forcing hibernation. However, many were present in northern Europe and northern America in the 17th and 18th centuries before modern understanding of disease causation. The initial impetus for tropical medicine was to protect the health of colonialists, notably in India under the British Raj.[2] Insects such as mosquitoes and flies are by far the most common disease carrier, or vector. These insects may carry a parasite, bacterium or virus that is infectious to humans and animals. Most often disease is transmitted by an insect "bite", which causes transmission of the infectious agent through subcutaneous blood exchange. Vaccines are not available for most of the diseases listed here, and many do not have cures.

cf. Galton: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:f72f8e03e729
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july 2018 by nhaliday
Does left-handedness occur more in certain ethnic groups than others?
Yes. There are some aboriginal tribes in Australia who have about 70% of their population being left-handed. It’s also more than 50% for some South American tribes.

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


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



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

Frequency-dependent maintenance of left handedness in humans.

Handedness frequency over more than 10,000 years

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

Washington, D.C., harbors the greatest share of psychopaths in the US, "a fact that can be readily explained either by its very high population density or by the type of person who may be drawn a literal seat of power."
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june 2018 by nhaliday
Is the human brain analog or digital? - Quora
The brain is neither analog nor digital, but works using a signal processing paradigm that has some properties in common with both.
Unlike a digital computer, the brain does not use binary logic or binary addressable memory, and it does not perform binary arithmetic. Information in the brain is represented in terms of statistical approximations and estimations rather than exact values. The brain is also non-deterministic and cannot replay instruction sequences with error-free precision. So in all these ways, the brain is definitely not "digital".
At the same time, the signals sent around the brain are "either-or" states that are similar to binary. A neuron fires or it does not. These all-or-nothing pulses are the basic language of the brain. So in this sense, the brain is computing using something like binary signals. Instead of 1s and 0s, or "on" and "off", the brain uses "spike" or "no spike" (referring to the firing of a neuron).
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Bragging Rights: Does Corporate Boasting Imply Value Creation? by Pratik Kothari, Don M. Chance, Stephen P. Ferris :: SSRN
We examine all S&P 500 firms over 1999-2014 that publicly characterize their annual performance with extreme positive language. We find that only 18% of such firms increase shareholder value, while nearly 75% have insignificant performance, and the remaining 7% actually destroy shareholder value. Our evidence suggests that firms often base their positive claims on high raw returns or strong relative accounting performance. In comparison to firms that generate positive abnormal returns without boasting, our sample firms tend to have superior accounting performance. These results show that boasting about performance is rarely associated with value creation and is consistent with executive narcissism.
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Which Countries Create the Most Ocean Trash? - WSJ
China and Indonesia Are Top Sources of Plastic Garbage Reaching Oceans, Researchers Say
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january 2018 by nhaliday
orbit - Best approximation for Sun's trajectory around galactic center? - Astronomy Stack Exchange
The Sun orbits in the Galactic potential. The motion is complex; it takes about 230 million years to make a circuit with an orbital speed of around 220 km/s, but at the same time it oscillates up and down with respect to the Galactic plane every ∼70∼70 million years and also wobbles in and out every ∼150∼150 million years (this is called epicyclic motion). The spatial amplitudes of these oscillations are around 100 pc vertically and 300 pc in the radial direction inwards and outwards around an average orbital radius (I am unable to locate a precise figure for the latter).
nibble  q-n-a  overflow  space  oscillation  time  cycles  spatial  trivia  manifolds 
december 2017 by nhaliday
Why do stars twinkle?
According to many astronomers and educators, twinkle (stellar scintillation) is caused by atmospheric structure that works like ordinary lenses and prisms. Pockets of variable temperature - and hence index of refraction - randomly shift and focus starlight, perceived by eye as changes in brightness. Pockets also disperse colors like prisms, explaining the flashes of color often seen in bright stars. Stars appear to twinkle more than planets because they are points of light, whereas the twinkling points on planetary disks are averaged to a uniform appearance. Below, figure 1 is a simulation in glass of the kind of turbulence structure posited in the lens-and-prism theory of stellar scintillation, shown over the Penrose tile floor to demonstrate the random lensing effects.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not that your teeth are too big: your jaw is too small: https://aeon.co/ideas/its-not-that-your-teeth-are-too-big-your-jaw-is-too-small
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Why ancient Rome kept choosing bizarre and perverted emperors - Vox
Why so many bizarre emperors were able to run a vast empire
Many of these emperors had extremely small circles of advisers who often did the grunt work of running the vast empire. "The number of people who had direct access to the emperor ... was actually rather small," says Ando. The emperors ruled through networks of officials, and those officials were often more competent. They propped up the insanity at the top.

What's more, most people scattered across the vast Roman Empire didn't pay much attention. "It didn't matter how nutty Caligula was," Ando says, "unless he did something crazy with tax policy." While those living in military provinces could have been affected by an emperor's decree, those in far-flung civilian provinces might have barely noticed the change from one emperor to another.

All that underlines the real truth about imperial power in Rome: yes, there were some crazy emperors, and some of the rumors were probably true. But the most bizarre thing about the Roman Empire wasn't the emperors — it was the political structure that made them so powerful in the first place.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Hyperbolic angle - Wikipedia
A unit circle {\displaystyle x^{2}+y^{2}=1} x^2 + y^2 = 1 has a circular sector with an area half of the circular angle in radians. Analogously, a unit hyperbola {\displaystyle x^{2}-y^{2}=1} {\displaystyle x^{2}-y^{2}=1} has a hyperbolic sector with an area half of the hyperbolic angle.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
The Evil Dead | West Hunter
Someone asked me to go over a chapter he wrote, about the impact of certain customs on human health. One of them was the health advantages of quick burial: the problem is, usually there aren’t any.   People seem to think that the organisms causing decomposition are pathogenic, but they’re not.  People killed by trauma (earthquakes,  floods, bullets) are dead enough, but not a threat.  Sometimes, the body of someone that died of an infectious disease is contagious – smallpox scabs have been known to remain infectious for a long, long time – but most causative agents are unable to survive for long after the host’s death. Now if you’re dissecting someone,  especially if they’re fresh, you probably don’t want to nick yourself with the scalpel – but if you just walk past the corpse and refrain from playing with it, you’re usually OK.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Religion in ancient Rome - Wikipedia
Religious persecution in the Roman Empire: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_persecution_in_the_Roman_Empire
The religion of the Christians and Jews was monotheistic in contrast to the polytheism of the Romans.[16] The Romans tended towards syncretism, seeing the same gods under different names in different places of the Empire. This being so, they were generally tolerant and accommodating towards new deities and the religious experiences of other peoples who formed part of their wider Empire.[17] This general tolerance was not extended to religions that were hostile to the state nor any that claimed exclusive rights to religious beliefs and practice.[17]

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Turning to our analysis of the YouGov results, it was much to our surprise that the strongest majority support for independence was not among ‘pure’ historic Scots, but among people of Irish Catholic descent: with the latter being only 6 per cent net against independence, and historic Scots 16 per cent against. On the surface one might suppose this group would take its political lead from the Labour Party, for which it votes more consistently than any other group in Scotland.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Indiana Jones, Economist?! - Marginal REVOLUTION
In a stunningly original paper Gojko Barjamovic, Thomas Chaney, Kerem A. Coşar, and Ali Hortaçsu use the gravity model of trade to infer the location of lost cities from Bronze age Assyria! The simplest gravity model makes predictions about trade flows based on the sizes of cities and the distances between them. More complicated models add costs based on geographic barriers. The authors have data from ancient texts on trade flows between all the cities, they know the locations of some of the cities, and they know the geography of the region. Using this data they can invert the gravity model and, triangulating from the known cities, find the lost cities that would best “fit” the model. In other words, by assuming the model is true the authors can predict where the lost cities should be located. To test the idea the authors pretend that some known cities are lost and amazingly the model is able to accurately rediscover those cities.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
functions - What are the use cases for different scoping constructs? - Mathematica Stack Exchange
As you mentioned there are many things to consider and a detailed discussion is possible. But here are some rules of thumb that I apply the majority of the time:

Module[{x}, ...] is the safest and may be needed if either

There are existing definitions for x that you want to avoid breaking during the evaluation of the Module, or
There is existing code that relies on x being undefined (for example code like Integrate[..., x]).
Module is also the only choice for creating and returning a new symbol. In particular, Module is sometimes needed in advanced Dynamic programming for this reason.

If you are confident there aren't important existing definitions for x or any code relying on it being undefined, then Block[{x}, ...] is often faster. (Note that, in a project entirely coded by you, being confident of these conditions is a reasonable "encapsulation" standard that you may wish to enforce anyway, and so Block is often a sound choice in these situations.)

With[{x = ...}, expr] is the only scoping construct that injects the value of x inside Hold[...]. This is useful and important. With can be either faster or slower than Block depending on expr and the particular evaluation path that is taken. With is less flexible, however, since you can't change the definition of x inside expr.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Biopolitics | West Hunter
I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

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

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


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

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

“The closest…s the sort of libertarianism promulgated by Charles Murray”
Not very close..
A government that was fully aware of the implications and possibilities of human genetics, one that had the usual kind of state goals [ like persistence and increased power] , would not necessarily be particularly libertarian.

And giving tax breaks to college-educated liberals to have babies wouldn’t appeal much to Trump voters, methinks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

study  economics  micro  field-study  markets  trust  healthcare  dental  crooked  supply-demand  incentives  class  signaling  🎩  trivia  cocktail  europe  germanic  medicine  meta:medicine  integrity  ethics  free-riding  data  scale  inequality  news  org:rec  org:health  info-econ  pdf  org:mag  left-wing 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Tax Evasion and Inequality
This paper attempts to estimate the size and distribution of tax evasion in rich countries. We combine stratified random audits—the key source used to study tax evasion so far—with new micro-data leaked from two large offshore financial institutions, HSBC Switzerland (“Swiss leaks”) and Mossack Fonseca (“Panama Papers”). We match these data to population-wide wealth records in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. We find that tax evasion rises sharply with wealth, a phenomenon that random audits fail to capture. On average about 3% of personal taxes are evaded in Scandinavia, but this figure rises to about 30% in the top 0.01% of the wealth distribution, a group that includes households with more than $40 million in net wealth. A simple model of the supply of tax evasion services can explain why evasion rises steeply with wealth. Taking tax evasion into account increases the rise in inequality seen in tax data since the 1970s markedly, highlighting the need to move beyond tax data to capture income and wealth at the top, even in countries where tax compliance is generally high. We also find that after reducing tax evasion—by using tax amnesties—tax evaders do not legally avoid taxes more. This result suggests that fighting tax evasion can be an effective way to collect more tax revenue from the ultra-wealthy.

Figure 1

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

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


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

Scotch, Irish, Scotch-Irish, Welsh, English. I can sing "croppies lie down" to myself.

Here’s a good old Anglo-Irish song:


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

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


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september 2017 by nhaliday
Two theories of home heat control - ScienceDirect
People routinely develop their own theories to explain the world around them. These theories can be useful even when they contradict conventional technical wisdom. Based on in-depth interviews about home heating and thermostat setting behavior, the present study presents two theories people use to understand and adjust their thermostats. The two theories are here called the feedback theory and the valve theory. The valve theory is inconsistent with engineering knowledge, but is estimated to be held by 25% to 50% of Americans. Predictions of each of the theories are compared with the operations normally performed in home heat control. This comparison suggests that the valve theory may be highly functional in normal day-to-day use. Further data is needed on the ways this theory guides behavior in natural environments.
study  hci  ux  hardware  embodied  engineering  dirty-hands  models  thinking  trivia  cocktail  map-territory  realness  neurons  psychology  cog-psych  social-psych  error  usa  poll  descriptive  temperature  protocol 
september 2017 by nhaliday
man page - Wikipedia
The name of the command or function, followed by a one-line description of what it does.
In the case of a command, a formal description of how to run it and what command line options it takes. For program functions, a list of the parameters the function takes and which header file contains its definition.
A textual description of the functioning of the command or function.
Some examples of common usage.
A list of related commands or functions.
explanation  programming  engineering  documentation  howto  terminal  unix  wiki  reference  cheatsheet  trivia  info-foraging 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Social Animal House: The Economic and Academic Consequences of Fraternity Membership by Jack Mara, Lewis Davis, Stephen Schmidt :: SSRN
We exploit changes in the residential and social environment on campus to identify the economic and academic consequences of fraternity membership at a small Northeastern college. Our estimates suggest that these consequences are large, with fraternity membership lowering student GPA by approximately 0.25 points on the traditional four-point scale, but raising future income by approximately 36%, for those students whose decision about membership is affected by changes in the environment. These results suggest that fraternity membership causally produces large gains in social capital, which more than outweigh its negative effects on human capital for potential members. Alcohol-related behavior does not explain much of the effects of fraternity membership on either the human capital or social capital effects. These findings suggest that college administrators face significant trade-offs when crafting policies related to Greek life on campus.

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

Table 5: Fraternity Membership and Grades
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Your Sky
Welcome to Your Sky, the interactive planetarium of the Web. You can produce maps in the forms described below for any time and date, viewpoint, and observing location. If you enter the orbital elements of an asteroid or comet, Your Sky will compute its current position and plot it on the map. Each map is accompanied by an ephemeris for the Sun, Moon, planets, and any tracked asteroid or comet. A control panel permits customisation of which objects are plotted, limiting magnitudes, colour scheme, image size, and other parameters; each control is linked to its description in the help file.
nibble  tools  calculator  simulation  space  sky  navigation  time  objektbuch  data  visualization  trivia 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Peer review is younger than you think - Marginal REVOLUTION
I’d like to see a detailed look at actual journal practices, but my personal sense is that editorial review was the norm until fairly recently, not review by a team of outside referees.  In 1956, for instance, the American Historical Review asked for only one submission copy, and it seems the same was true as late as 1970.  I doubt they made the photocopies themselves. Schmidt seems to suggest that the practices of government funders nudged the academic professions into more formal peer review with multiple referee reports.
econotariat  marginal-rev  commentary  data  gbooks  trends  anglo  language  zeitgeist  search  history  mostly-modern  science  meta:science  institutions  academia  publishing  trivia  cocktail  links 
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
west-hunter  scitariat  medicine  pharma  drugs  low-hanging  history  mostly-modern  the-trenches  britain  usa  world-war  military  multi  poast  russia  communism  japan  asia  innovation  stories  trivia  cocktail  embodied  nationalism-globalism 
september 2017 by nhaliday
Atrocity statistics from the Roman Era
Christian Martyrs [make link]
Gibbon, Decline & Fall v.2 ch.XVI: < 2,000 k. under Roman persecution.
Ludwig Hertling ("Die Zahl de Märtyrer bis 313", 1944) estimated 100,000 Christians killed between 30 and 313 CE. (cited -- unfavorably -- by David Henige, Numbers From Nowhere, 1998)
Catholic Encyclopedia, "Martyr": number of Christian martyrs under the Romans unknown, unknowable. Origen says not many. Eusebius says thousands.


General population decline during The Fall of Rome: 7,000,000 [make link]
- Colin McEvedy, The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History (1992)
- From 2nd Century CE to 4th Century CE: Empire's population declined from 45M to 36M [i.e. 9M]
- From 400 CE to 600 CE: Empire's population declined by 20% [i.e. 7.2M]
- Paul Bairoch, Cities and economic development: from the dawn of history to the present, p.111
- "The population of Europe except Russia, then, having apparently reached a high point of some 40-55 million people by the start of the third century [ca.200 C.E.], seems to have fallen by the year 500 to about 30-40 million, bottoming out at about 20-35 million around 600." [i.e. ca.20M]
- Francois Crouzet, A History of the European Economy, 1000-2000 (University Press of Virginia: 2001) p.1.
- "The population of Europe (west of the Urals) in c. AD 200 has been estimated at 36 million; by 600, it had fallen to 26 million; another estimate (excluding ‘Russia’) gives a more drastic fall, from 44 to 22 million." [i.e. 10M or 22M]

The geometric mean of these two extremes would come to 4½ per day, which is a credible daily rate for the really bad years.

why geometric mean? can you get it as the MLE given min{X1, ..., Xn} and max{X1, ..., Xn} for {X_i} iid Poissons? some kinda limit? think it might just be a rule of thumb.

yeah, it's a rule of thumb. found it it his book (epub).
org:junk  data  let-me-see  scale  history  iron-age  mediterranean  the-classics  death  nihil  conquest-empire  war  peace-violence  gibbon  trivia  multi  todo  AMT  expectancy  heuristic  stats  ML-MAP-E  data-science  estimate  magnitude  population  demographics  database  list  religion  christianity  leviathan 
september 2017 by nhaliday
W. Tecumseh Fitch | West Hunter
I have occasionally seen work by W. Tecumseh Fitch, but I just learned two important things about him:

A. He’s Sherman’s great-great-great-grandson, and
B. He put a Chinese alligator on heliox. We’ve all wondered about that, but he actually did it.
west-hunter  scitariat  commentary  discussion  trivia  cocktail  science  people  big-peeps  old-anglo  usa  history  early-modern  pre-ww2  revolution  war  mostly-modern  statesmen 
september 2017 by nhaliday
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
Mainspring - Wikipedia
A mainspring is a spiral torsion spring of metal ribbon—commonly spring steel—used as a power source in mechanical watches, some clocks, and other clockwork mechanisms. Winding the timepiece, by turning a knob or key, stores energy in the mainspring by twisting the spiral tighter. The force of the mainspring then turns the clock's wheels as it unwinds, until the next winding is needed. The adjectives wind-up and spring-powered refer to mechanisms powered by mainsprings, which also include kitchen timers, music boxes, wind-up toys and clockwork radios.

torque basically follows Hooke's Law
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Historically significant lunar eclipses - Wikipedia
On 30 June 1503, Christopher Columbus beached his two last caravels and was stranded in Jamaica. The indigenous people of the island welcomed Columbus and his crew and fed them, but Columbus' sailors cheated and stole from the natives. After six months, the natives halted the food supply.[8]

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

Some might object that even to consider such a thing is to give in to the forces of bigotry. But the whole point of taking a flinty-eyed engineer’s approach to state-building is that we don’t have to like the constraints we are working with, we just have to deal with them. The human preference for “people like us”—whether that means coreligionists or people who share our musical tastes, and whether we choose to frame it as bigotry or as game-theoretic rationality—is a stubborn, resilient reality. Perhaps in the future some advanced genetic engineering or psychological conditioning will change that. For now we need to recognize and deal with the fact that if we wish to have cosmopolitanism, we need to justify it on robust philosophical grounds, with full awareness of the costs as well as the benefits that it brings to bear on every member of society.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Earth-Moon system
nice way of expressing Kepler's law (scaled by AU, solar mass, year, etc.) among other things

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august 2017 by nhaliday
Why Are There No New Major Religions? - The Atlantic
State persecution, aided by religious authorities, is in fact a major reason why new faiths fail in parts of the world where government polices religious doctrine. “New religions have always existed; they are an organic phenomenon like weeds in a garden. In some societies they are considered weeds and will be uprooted; in other societies they will be allowed to grow and take root and become plants,” said Palmer, the scholar of new religion. To the Indonesian government, Millah Abraham is a weed.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
The Gulf Stream Myth
1. Fifty percent of the winter temperature difference across the North Atlantic is caused by the eastward atmospheric transport of heat released by the ocean that was absorbed and stored in the summer.
2. Fifty percent is caused by the stationary waves of the atmospheric flow.
3. The ocean heat transport contributes a small warming across the basin.

Is the Gulf Stream responsible for Europe’s mild winters?: http://ocp.ldeo.columbia.edu/res/div/ocp/gs/pubs/Seager_etal_QJ_2002.pdf
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august 2017 by nhaliday
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