Sat Apr 30 17:43:20 EDT 2022

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid

    Jonathan Haidt

    It's been clear for quite a while now that red America and blue America are becoming like two different countries claiming the same territory, with two different versions of the Constitution, economics, and American history. But Babel is not a story about tribalism; it's a story about the fragmentation of everything. It's about the shattering of all that had seemed solid, the scattering of people who had been a community. It's a metaphor for what is happening not only between red and blue, but within the left and within the right, as well as within universities, companies, professional associations, museums, and even families.
    ...
    By 2013, social media had become a new game, with dynamics unlike those in 2008. If you were skillful or lucky, you might create a post that would "go viral" and make you "internet famous" for a few days. If you blundered, you could find yourself buried in hateful comments. Your posts rode to fame or ignominy based on the clicks of thousands of strangers, and you in turn contributed thousands of clicks to the game.

    For criticism of Haidt's article see: Let Me Challenge Your Thinking.

    There are many problems with social media, but just as many, or more, benefits as well. Social media's huge scope and success make it a convenient and conventional scapegoat to go after. Haidt's article is just one more exaggerated and tiresome attack.

    My free advice is to be very careful about using the phrase "uniquely stupid." It's a very high bar to prove. And a barely resistible target for a critic.

  • AllSides | Balanced news via media bias ratings for an unbiased news perspective

    Don't be fooled by media bias & misinformation.

    AllSides Media Bias Ratings™ make the political leanings of hundreds of media sources transparent so that you can get the full picture and think for yourself.

  • Fixing stock buybacks

    There's a better path than regulation to fix stock buybacks.

    The incentive compensation of senior corporate executives should consist primarily of restricted equity (i.e., restricted stock and restricted stock options). That is, restricted in the sense that the individual cannot sell the shares or exercise the options for six to 12 months after their last day in office.

    Under this plan, most incentive compensation would be driven by total shareholder returns instead of short-term accounting-based measures of performance such as return on capital, or earnings per share.

  • Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) Tools & Resources

    Open source intelligence (OSINT) is the act of gathering and analyzing publicly available data for intelligence purposes.
    Open source data is any information that is readily available to the public or can be made available by request.

  • The Bayesian Brain: An Introduction to Predictive Processing

    During every moment of your life, your brain gathers statistics to adapt its model of the world, and this mode's only job is to generate predictions. Your brain is a prediction machine. Just as the heart's main function is to pump blood through the body, so the brain's main function is to make predictions about the body. For example, your brain predicts incoming sensory data: what you're about to perceive from within (interoception) as from without (exteroception).
    ...
    In particular, your brain updates its statistical model of the world by integrating prediction errors in accordance with Bayes’ theorem; hence the name Bayesian brain.
    ...
    Predictive processing provides a framework for understanding all areas of neuroscience and cognitive science at a computational level. Although the Bayesian brain theory is still in its fledgling stage, confirmatory evidence is flowing in on a weekly basis from a vast range of different fields.

  • Artificial intelligence beats eight world champions at bridge

    Victory marks milestone for AI as bridge requires more human skills than other strategy games.

    Rather than learning by playing billions of rounds of a game, it first learns the game's rules and then improves its play through practice. It is a hybrid of rules-based and deep learning systems. "The NooK approach learns in a way that is much closer to human beings," Muggleton said.

  • Dunbar's number and how speaking is 2.8x better than picking fleas

    Humans, says Dunbar, must have a method of social grooming that is 2.8x more effective than the method used by the nonhuman primates. But what is it?
    What is our ultra efficient bonding mechanism, better than caring, grooming, and picking fleas? It is LANGUAGE.

  • Atheism is not as rare or as rational as you think

    Many atheists think of themselves as intellectually gifted individuals, guiding humanity on the path of reason. Scientific data shows otherwise.

    There is little scientific reason to believe that rationality and science are key causal contributors to atheism in the aggregate. This makes it all the more ironic that public-facing atheists who speak so reverently of science tend to be the most vocal advocates of the faulty notion that rationality is a prime driver of atheism. They've got the science wrong.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Fri Apr 22 19:01:04 EDT 2022

Health Matters

Some recent items related to health issues.

  • 7,000 steps can save your life

    Mortality risk was reduced by 50% for older adults who increased their daily steps from around 3,000 to around 7,000, according to new medical research.
    ...
    Walking strengthens your heart, improves bone density, relaxes your mind, and helps with muscle-building and pain management.

  • 'Good' cholesterol may protect brain from Alzheimer's disease

    One indicator is better performance on tests of memory and thinking (or "cognitive") skills. Of 141 participants who completed a series of these cognitive tests, those with higher levels of small HDL particles in their cerebrospinal fluid had better scores. And that was independent of age, sex, education or whether they carried the APOE4 gene, which boosts Alzheimer's risk.

  • Can Robots Save Nursing Homes?

    Arshia Khan asked a group of older adults in Minnesota what they would like in a nursing home, and their answer surprised her. They wanted standup comedy, but not just any comedy: They wanted off-color jokes.
    ...
    There followed a risqué joke about the robot's relationship with its charging plug, and another about an unhappy date with a Tesla (too conceited). After each, the robot giggled. "I went on a date with a Roomba last week," the robot said, gesticulating with its arms. Pause. "It totally sucked."

    Later this year, pending approval from the university's institutional review board, 16 of Dr. Khan's robots will go to eight nursing homes around the state - though without the off-color jokes.

  • The "Paxlovid Rebound" Problem is Real

    A puzzling phenomenon: Patients report a rebound of COVID-19 symptoms after taking the antiviral Paxlovid.

    Through the magic of Twitter, the truth actually became obvious in real time — no puzzle-solving needed. The FDA was well aware of this rebound in viral loads in a substantial proportion of people treated with Paxlovid, around days 10-14 after starting treatment. For some reason, though, they didn’t think to tell us doctors about it. It’s not in the Fact Sheet for Health Care Providers, and there is only one line even vaguely referencing this possibility in the Fact Sheet for Patients:
        Talk to your healthcare provider if you do not feel better or if you feel worse after 5 days.

  • Why the WHO took two years to say COVID is airborne

    Early in the pandemic, the World Health Organization stated that SARS-CoV-2 was not transmitted through the air. That mistake and the prolonged process of correcting it sowed confusion and raises questions about what will happen in the next pandemic.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Wed Mar 30 18:49:23 EDT 2022

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • Understanding Human Decision-Making: Neuroeconomics

    We are now even beginning to see evidence that the structure of our brains, not just the activity in the brain, influences how we generate subjective values. To see how this works consider how differently each of us might view a lottery ticket that offered a 50 percent chance of winning $100. Some might be willing to trade that ticket for a sure win of $40 despite the fact that the average value of such a lottery ticket was $50 (0.5 x $100). Economists refer to that as risk aversion, and it turns out that the thickness of a tiny patch of parietal cortex does quite a good job predicting how risk averse each of us is (Gilaie-Dotan, S. et al., 2014). Indeed, it seems that changes in risk aversion as we age (we famously become more risk averse as we age) correlated better with the age-related thinning of this brain area than with age itself (Grubb et al., 2016).

  • Quantum computing has a hype problem

    Quantum computing startups are all the rage, but it's unclear if they'll be able to produce anything of use in the near future.

    The only problem? Actually making a quantum computer that could do it. That depends on implementing an idea pioneered by Shor and others called quantum-error correction, a process to compensate for the fact that quantum states disappear quickly because of environmental noise (a phenomenon called "decoherence"). In 1994, scientists thought that such error correction would be easy because physics allows it. But in practice, it is extremely difficult.

  • The Latecomers Guide to Crypto

    Here, a group of around fifteen cryptocurrency researchers and critics have done what the New York Times apparently won't.
    Crypto is a lot of things - including terribly explained. We're here to clear things up.

    On March 20, 2022, the New York Times published a 14,000-word puff piece on cryptocurrencies, both online and as an entire section of the Sunday print edition. Though its author, Kevin Roose, wrote that it aimed to be a "sober, dispassionate explanation of what crypto actually is", it was a thinly-veiled advertisement for cryptocurrency that appeared to have received little in the way of fact-checking or critical editorial scrutiny. It uncritically repeated many questionable or entirely fallacious arguments from cryptocurrency advocates, and it appears that no experts on the topic were consulted, or even anyone with a less-than-rosy view on crypto. This is grossly irresponsible.

  • The Crypto Syllabus

    The Crypto Syllabus will furnish intellectual resources to help understand many of the phenomena grouped under the "crypto" label, from blockchains to NFTs to DAOs to CBDCs. It's a collaboration between The Syllabus, a knowledge curation initiative, and its sibling institution, a new non-profit called The Center for the Advancement of Infrastructural Imagination (CAII).

  • WT.Social Factchecking Websites

    Web links to fact check various topics, brought to you by Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales.

  • Wuhan Lab Leak: Case closed?

    Maybe not yet, but we are getting awfully close.

    There's essentially only one important remaining piece of evidence pointing to a lab leak, the fact that Covid first appeared in Wuhan, which contains a virus research lab. That's consistent with both a lab leak from a natural sample or a lab leak from gain-of-function research. All of the other so-called evidence pointing to a lab leak has been thoroughly discredited.
    ...
    First, the virus emerging in Wuhan is nowhere near as a much of a weird coincidence as one might think. Second, evidence pointing to a zoonotic origin is a bit stronger than Yglesias assumes.

  • Just one drink per day can shrink your brain, study says

    On average, people at age 50 who drank a pint of beer or 6-ounce glass of wine (two alcohol units) a day in the last month had brains that appeared two years older than those who only drank a half of a beer (one unit), according to the study, which published Friday in the journal Nature.

  • The 1619 Project Unrepentantly Pushes Junk History

    Nikole Hannah-Jones' new book sidesteps scholarly critics while quietly deleting previous factual errors.

    We see the same pattern in how Hannah-Jones handles the most controversial claim in the original 1619 Project. Her opening essay there declared that "one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery." In early 2020, Silverstein begrudgingly amended the passage online to read "some of the colonists" (emphasis added) after Northwestern University historian Leslie M. Harris revealed that she had cautioned Hannah-Jones against making this claim as one of the newspaper's fact-checkers, only to be ignored.

  • Focused Protection From the Great Barrington Declaration Never Made Sense

    On top of this, the predictions about Focused Protection, made by the authors of the GBD, were clearly wrong. Shortly after the GBD was published, Prof Bhattacharya, who co-authored the declaration, said that Sweden was implementing Focused Protection ("what they're doing is focused protection"). Remember, the GBD predicted that Focused Protection would result in herd immunity within 3-6 months. However, after a huge number of cases and more than 8 months of a high burden, Sweden's Covid-19 figures dropped only to shortly shoot up again during the Omicron wave. The prediction of 3-6 months for herd immunity was, it appears, simply incorrect.

  • The journey of humanity: Roots of inequality in the wealth of nations

    This essay explores the journey of humanity since the emergence of Homo sapiens 300,000 years ago. It analyses the critical role of Unifed Growth Theory in re-solving two fundamental mysteries that had characterized this journey: (i) The mystery of growth-why did living standards stagnate for most of human history and what led to their sudden soar 200 years ago? (ii) the mystery of inequality--what are the roots of the major surge in inequality across nations and why have these gaps widened dramatically over the past 200 years?
    ...
    The prevailing wisdom had been that living standards had risen gradually throughout history in a process that accelerated over time. However, as depicted in Figure 1, this viewpoint is a distorted and misleading depiction of human history. While the modern technological frontier does reflect gradual progress that accelerated over time, technological advancement did not improve living standards over most of human existence. The dramatic jump in living conditions in the past two centuries has been the product of a sharp disruption of an epochs of stagnation not of a process that gained momentum incrementally over the course of human history.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Mon Feb 28 16:26:14 EST 2022

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • How We Broke the Supply Chain

    Rampant outsourcing, financialization, monopolization, deregulation, and just-in-time logistics are the culprits.

    Almost none of these stories will explain how these shortages and price hikes were also brought to life through bad public policy coupled with decades of corporate greed. We spent a half-century allowing business executives and financiers to take control of our supply chains, enabled by leaders in both parties. They all hailed the transformation, cheering the advances of globalization, the efficient network that would free us from want. Motivated by greed and dismissive of the public interest, they didn't mention that their invention was supremely ill-equipped to handle inevitable supply bottlenecks. And the pandemic exposed this hidden risk, like a domino bringing down a system primed to topple.
    ...
    THE ROOTS OF THE SUPPLY SHOCK lie in a basic bargain made between government and big business, on behalf of the American people but without their consent. In 1970, Milton Friedman argued in The New York Times that "the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits." Manufacturers used that to rationalize a financial imperative to benefit shareholders by seeking the lowest-cost labor possible. As legendary General Electric CEO Jack Welch put it, "Ideally, you'd have every plant you own on a barge," able to escape any nation's wage, safety, or environmental laws.

  • Alcohol, violence and injury-induced mortality

    Evidence from a modern-day prohibition.

    This paper evaluates the impact of a sudden and unexpected nation-wide alcohol sales ban in South Africa. We find that this policy causally reduced injury-induced mortality in the country by at least 14% during the five weeks of the ban. We argue that this estimate constitutes a lower bound on the true impact of alcohol on injury-induced mortality. We also document a sharp drop in violent crimes, indicating a tight link between alcohol and aggressive behavior in society. Our results underscore the severe harm that alcohol can cause and point towards a role for policy measures that target the heaviest drinkers in society.

  • New Study Disavows Marshmallow Test's Predictive Powers

    But the latest Bing follow-up study, by a team of researchers that included Mischel, casts doubt that a preschooler's response to a marshmallow test can predict anything at all about her future.

    Following the Bing children into their 40s, the new study finds that kids who quickly gave in to the marshmallow temptation are generally no more or less financially secure, educated or physically healthy than their more patient peers. The amount of time the child waited to eat the treat failed to forecast roughly a dozen adult outcomes the researchers tested, including net worth, social standing, high interest-rate debt, diet and exercise habits, smoking, procrastination tendencies and preventative dental care, according to the study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.

  • What Was the TED Talk?

    Some Thoughts on the "Inspiresting"

    In other words, in the TED episteme, the function of a story isn't to transform via metaphor or indirection, but to actually manifest a new world. Stories about the future create the future. Or as Chris Anderson, TED's longtime curator, puts it, "We live in an era where the best way to make a dent on the world… may be simply to stand up and say something." And yet, TED's archive is a graveyard of ideas. It is a seemingly endless index of stories about the future - the future of science, the future of the environment, the future of work, the future of love and sex, the future of what it means to be human - that never materialized. By this measure alone, TED, and its attendant ways of thinking, should have been abandoned.

  • What Spotify data show about the decline of English

    To investigate the evolution of music tastes across the world, The Economist trawled through the top 100 tracks in 70 countries according to Spotify. Examining 13,000 hits in 70 languages along with other data like genre, lyrical language and nationality of artist, we sought to group countries according to musical similarity.

    On these 320,000 records, we employed a principal-components analysis to assess the degree of musical kinship between countries, and then a clustering algorithm (known as k-means) to group them. Three broad clusters emerged: a contingent in which English is dominant; a Spanish-language ecosystem; and a third group that mostly enjoys local songs in various tongues. Across all, one trend emerged: the hegemony of English is in decline.
    ...
    There is no doubt that, despite its decline, English is still king. Of the 50 most-streamed tracks on Spotify over the past five years, 47 were in English. And the genres it incubated are being widely adopted elsewhere. There is now excellent rap available in Arabic, Russian and, of course, Spanish.

  • Beatlemania

    Why did the Beatles become a worldwide sensation? Why do some cultural products succeed and others fail? Why are some musicians, poets, and novels,, unsuccessful or unknown in their lifetimes, iconic figures decades or generation after their deaths? Why are success and failure so unpredictable? On one view, the simplest and most general explanation is best, and it points to quality, appropriately measured: success is a result of quality, and the Beatles succeeded because of the sheer quality of their music. On another view, social influences are critical: timely enthusiasm or timely indifference can make the difference for all, including the Beatles, leading extraordinary books, movies, and songs to fail even if they are indistinguishable in quality from those that succeed. Informational cascades are often necessary for spectacular success; in some cases, they are both necessary and sufficient. For those who emphasize social influences and informational cascades, success and failure are not inevitable; they depend on seemingly small or serendipitous factors. History is only run once, so this proposition is difficult to prove. ...

  • Reimagining Chess with AlphaZero

    We use AlphaZero, a system that learns to play chess from scratch, to explore what variations of chess would look like at superhuman level.

    Atomic changes to the rules of classical chess alter game balance with the material value of the pieces being altered accordingly, resulting in either more draws or more decisive outcomes. The findings of our quantitative and qualitative analysis demonstrate the rich possibilities that lie beyond the rules of modern chess.

  • Pizza Isn't Italian

    It's as American as Dixieland Jazz


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Thu Feb 24 23:03:53 EST 2022

Foreign Policy

Some recent items related to U.S. foreign policy matters.

  • Why Biden didn't negotiate seriously with Putin

    Robert Wright Nonzero Newsletter

    Wait, let me get this straight. So the leaders of the big NATO countries didn't especially want Ukraine to join NATO? And agreeing to not let Ukraine join NATO-agreeing to not do what they didn't want to do anyway-might have kept Russia from invading Ukraine? But they didn't do that? And doing that wasn't even seriously discussed? Like, virtually no influential American commentators argued that doing this would make sense? How could that be?

    Good question! Regular readers of this newsletter may expect me to answer it by launching immediately into an indictment of "the Blob" (the foreign policy establishment) and lamenting the Blob's lack of "cognitive empathy" (understanding how your adversary, or anyone else, views the world).

  • This is Putin''s war, but America and NATO aren't innocent bystanders

    Thomas L. Friedman

    In my view, there are two huge logs fueling this fire. The first log was the ill-considered decision by the U.S. in the 1990s to expand NATO after - indeed, despite - the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    And the second and far bigger log is how Mr. Putin cynically exploited NATO's expansion closer to Russia's borders to rally Russians to his side to cover for his huge failure of leadership. Mr. Putin has utterly failed to build Russia into an economic model that would actually attract its neighbors, not repel them, and inspire its most talented people to want to stay, not get in line for visas to the West.
    ...
    The mystery was why the U.S. - which throughout the Cold War dreamed that Russia might one day have a democratic revolution and a leader who, however haltingly, would try to make Russia into a democracy and join the West - would choose to quickly push NATO into Russia's face when it was weak.

  • Against Intervention and Regime Change

    Scott Horton and Bill Kristol Debate

    3,000 people were killed on September 11th, 2001. As Paul Wolfowitz admitted, the main reason Osama bin Laden cited for attacking America was the U.S. military bases left in Saudi Arabia for the so-called "dual containment" policy against Iraq and Iran in the 1990s after Iraq War I, the Persian Gulf War.

    Bin Laden's plan was to provoke the United States into invading Afghanistan so he could replicate the mujahideen's earlier success against the USSR, with U.S. support, in the 1980s, this time against us; to bog us down, bleed us to bankruptcy and to create a "choking life" for the American people under the tyranny of our security state.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Mon Jan 31 16:16:52 EST 2022

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • America's Generation Gap on Ukraine

    Peter Beinart

    It sounds bizarre today but in the late 1990s, when the Clinton administration was considering expanding NATO to include merely Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic-barely anyone at that time was proposing admitting Ukraine-titans of American foreign policy cried out in opposition. George Kennan, the living legend who had fathered America's policy of containment against the Soviet Union, called NATO expansion "a strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions." Thomas Friedman, America's most prominent foreign policy columnist, declared it the "most ill-conceived project of the post-Cold War era." Daniel Patrick Moynihan, widely considered the most erudite member of the US Senate, warned, "We have no idea what we're getting into." John Lewis Gaddis, the dean of America's Cold War historians, noted that, "historians-normally so contentious-are in uncharacteristic agreement: with remarkably few exceptions, they see NATO enlargement as ill-conceived, ill-timed, and above all ill-suited to the realities of the post-Cold War world."
    ...
    In 2014, Henry Kissinger, the personification of the American foreign policy establishment, argued, "The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country." If "Ukraine is to survive and thrive," he insisted, "it must not be either side's outpost against the other - it should function as a bridge between them." Instead of joining NATO, Ukraine "should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland" in which it "cooperates with the West in most fields but carefully avoids institutional hostility toward Russia."

  • The Histrionics and Melodrama Around 1/6 Are Laughable, but They Serve Several Key Purposes

    Glenn Greenwald, Jan 6

    That the January 6 riot was some sort of serious attempted insurrection or "coup" was laughable from the start, and has become even more preposterous with the passage of time and the emergence of more facts. The United States is the most armed, militarized and powerful regime in the history of humanity. The idea that a thousand or so Trump supporters, largely composed of Gen X and Boomers, who had been locked in their homes during a pandemic - three of whom were so physically infirm that they dropped dead from the stress - posed anything approaching a serious threat to "overthrow" the federal government of the United States of America is such a self-evidently ludicrous assertion that any healthy political culture would instantly expel someone suggesting it with a straight face.

    Putting the events of January 6 into their proper perspective is not to dismiss the fact that it was a lamentable event - any more than opposing the exploitation of 9/11 and exaggeration of the domestic threat of Muslim extremism, which I spent a full decade doing, meant that one was denying the heinousness of that attack. The day after the 1/6 riot, I wrote in this space that "the introduction of physical force into political protest is always lamentable, usually dangerous, and, except in the rarest of circumstances that are plainly inapplicable here, unjustifiable." I still believe that to be the case. There was nothing virtuous about the 1/6 riot.
    ...
    The Democratic Party, eager to cling to their majoritarian control of the White House and both houses of Congress, knows it has no political program that is appealing and thus hopes that this concocted drama will help them win - just as they foolishly believed about Russiagate.

  • Founders Fund

    We believe that the shift away from backing transformational technologies and toward more cynical, incrementalist investments broke venture capital.

  • Cover Your Tracks

    See how trackers view your browser.

    Test Your Browser.

  • Dark Patterns

    Dark Patterns are tricks used in websites and apps that make you do things that you didn't mean to, like buying or signing up for something. The purpose of this site is to spread awareness and to shame companies that use them.

    For more details see Types of dark pattern.

  • Is Old Music Killing New Music?

    Ted Gioia

    Just consider these facts: the 200 most popular tracks now account for less than 5% of total streams. It was twice that rate just three years ago. And the mix of songs actually purchased by consumers is even more tilted to older music-the current list of most downloaded tracks on iTunes is filled with the names of bands from the last century, such as Creedence Clearwater and The Police.

    But maybe it's just that More and more musicians are releasing their own music on sites like TikTok.

  • Boomy

    Create original songs using AI Software.

  • People Have Been Having Less Sex-whether They're Teenagers or 40-Somethings

    Between 2009 and 2018, the proportion of adolescents reporting no sexual activity, either alone or with partners, rose from 28.8 percent to 44.2 percent among young men and from 49.5 percent in 2009 to 74 percent among young women. The researchers obtained the self-reported information from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior and used responses from 4,155 people in 2009 and 4,547 people in 2018. These respondents to the confidential survey ranged in age from 14 to 49 years.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Thu Jan 20 13:35:48 EST 2022

Science Matters

Some recent items related to science matters.

  • Social Media Bans of Scientific Misinformation Aren't Helpful, Researchers Say

    There are more effective ways to fight scientific misinformation than banning and removing content, according to the report.

    Instead of removal, the Royal Society researchers advocate developing what they call "collective resilience." Pushing back on scientific disinformation may be more effective via other tactics, such as demonetization, systems to prevent amplification of such content, and fact-checking labels. The report encourages the UK government to continue fighting back against scientific misinformation but to emphasize society-wide harms that may arise from issues like climate change rather than the potential risk to individuals for taking the bait. Other strategies the Royal Society suggests are continuing the development of independent, well-financed fact-checking organizations; fighting misinformation "beyond high-risk, high-reach social media platforms"; and promoting transparency and collaboration between platforms and scientists. Finally, the report mentions that regulating recommendation algorithms may be effective.

  • The Attack of Zombie Science

    They look like scientific papers. But they're distorting and killing science.

    As scientists and science communicators, we see the harm that a system preoccupied with productivity and quantity of publications is doing to science and to the way science is perceived by the public. Such a system tends to reward zombie science, and research groups are going into it as a response to a perceived need for self-preservation. Zombie science, whether well intentioned or an attempt to game the system, consumes funding and bestows an aura of scientific credibility on results that are not answering real scientific questions.

  • Sorry Antivaxxer

    Profiles of anti-vaxxers, many who have gotten sick and/or died.

    The purpose of this site is educational, except for a few exceptions, everyone listed on this site was/is an anti-vaxxer activist who helpe spread COVID-19 misinformation on social media. Share to stop others from making the same mistake. GET VACCINATED!

  • The Institute for Replication (I4R)

    Improve the credibility of science by systematically reproducing and replicating research findings in leading academic journals.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Thu Dec 30 13:11:51 EST 2021

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • Watch as NBC News Tells Four Blatant Lies in a Two-Minute Clip

    Glenn Greenwald: The same corporate outlets that most vocally profess concern over disinformation are the ones spreading it most casually. NBC's Assange report is the perfect case study.

    Within the span of two minutes, these NBC personalities told four blatant lies about the Assange case. I do not mean that they asserted dubious opinions or questionable narratives or even misleading claims. I mean that they outright lied about four separate matters that are crucial to understanding the Biden administration's attempted extradition and prosecution of Assange. These lies were not just misleading but pernicious, as they were designed not merely to mislead the public but to provoke them to believe that one of the gravest attacks on press freedom in years - the imprisonment of a journalist for the crime of reporting true and accurate information about the crimes of power centers - is something viewers should applaud rather than denounce.

  • Ameca Humanoid Robot AI Platform

    Video of robot with amazing human facial expressions

    U.K.-based company Engineered Arts has unveiled a remarkably human-like android with a promotional video released on social media of it "waking up." In the video, the robot known as "Ameca" can be seen expressing what appears to be surprise as it opens its eyes and looks around.

  • What Makes Quantum Computing So Hard to Explain?

    Scott Aaronson

    Yes, they might someday solve a few specific problems in minutes that (we think) would take longer than the age of the universe on classical computers. But there are many other important problems for which most experts think quantum computers will help only modestly, if at all.
    ...
    The goal in devising an algorithm for a quantum computer is to choreograph a pattern of constructive and destructive interference so that for each wrong answer the contributions to its amplitude cancel each other out, whereas for the right answer the contributions reinforce each other. If, and only if, you can arrange that, you'll see the right answer with a large probability when you look. The tricky part is to do this without knowing the answer in advance, and faster than you could do it with a classical computer.
    ...
    Over the past few decades, conjectured quantum speedups have repeatedly gone away when classical algorithms were found with similar performance.

  • The Hardware Lottery

    History tells us that scientific progress is imperfect. Intellectual traditions and available tooling can prejudice scientists away from some ideas and towards others. This adds noise to the marketplace of ideas and often means there is inertia in recognizing promising directions of research. In the field of artificial intelligence (AI) research, this article posits that it is tooling which has played a disproportionately large role in deciding which ideas succeed and which fail.

  • Why bitcoin is worse than a Madoff-style Ponzi scheme

    A Ponzi scheme is a zero-sum enterprise. But bitcoin is a negative-sum phenomenon that you can't even pursue a claim against, argues Robert McCauley.

  • Islamic State using China to vilify Taliban

    Since the Taliban took Kabul, Islamic State sympathizers across South Asia have increased attacks on the movement over its ties to China.

    Since its founding in 2014, the Islamic State has always been hostile to China. China's well-documented repression of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang features often in IS propaganda, especially in South Asia.

    Seeking international legitimacy and finance, the Taliban is carefully cultivating China. Beijing has reciprocated, inviting Taliban officials to visit several times since 2014.

    Now Afghan Uyghurs say they are being harassed by the new Taliban government, apparently at Beijing's behest.

  • Defiant in war and isolation, Hamas plays long game in Gaza

    After surviving four wars and a nearly 15-year blockade, Hamas has only become more resilient, and Israel has been forced to accept that its sworn enemy is here to stay.

    It has largely accepted Hamas' rule in Gaza because a prolonged invasion is seen as too costly. At the same time, Hamas furnishes Israeli leaders with a convenient boogeyman -- how can the Palestinians be allowed statehood if they are divided between two governments, one of which steadfastly opposes Israel's very existence?

    Meanwhile, Hamas' willingness to use violence - in the form of rockets, protests along the border or incendiary balloons - has helped it to wrest concessions from Israel.

  • Are Zionists more antisemitic than anti-Zionists?

    Peter Beinart

    Probably. The evidence suggests not only that anti-Zionism doesn't equal antisemitism but that while some anti-Zionists are indeed antisemites, Jew-hatred in the United States and Europe is more prevalent among supporters of the Jewish state.
    ...
    But the very xenophobia that leads some Europeans-especially Eastern Europeans-to dislike Jews can also make them admire Israel. Israel, after all, has exactly the kind of immigration policy that many European xenophobes want for their own countries: an immigration policy that welcomes members of the dominant group and keeps out pretty much everyone else. Moreover, if you're a xenophobe who dislikes the Jews in your country because they dilute ethnic and religious purity, Israel offers them a place to go and be with their own kind.

  • How millions of jobless Americans can afford to ditch work

    People have left the workforce for myriad reasons in the past two years - layoffs, health insecurity, child care needs, and any number of personal issues that arose from the disruption caused by the pandemic. But among those who have left and are not able to - or don't want to - return, the vast majority are older Americans who accelerated their retirement.

    Earlier this month, ADP Chief Economist Nela Richardson said the strong stock market along with soaring home prices "has given some higher income people options. We already saw a large portion of the Boomer workforce retiring. And they're in a better position now."

  • The Supply Chain's Inconvenient Truth

    When retailers realized that consumers were buying more goods than ever, they placed more orders than ever with wholesalers. When wholesalers received more orders than ever from retailers, they placed even more orders than ever with manufacturers. And when manufacturers received more orders than ever, they did the same thing and ordered even more from the suppliers.
    ...
    Unfortunately, the only way the Supply Chain will normalize is when demand finally tapers off. Until then, we as an industry will continue to play catch up. The system itself is overstressed. It is being asked to perform beyond its capacity with extreme constraints on space, equipment, and labor.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Wed Dec 22 14:23:00 EST 2021

Health Matters

Some recent items related to health issues.

  • Exercise plasma boosts memory and dampens brain inflammation via clusterin

    Intravenously injected CLU binds to brain endothelial cells and reduces neuroinflammatory gene expression in a mouse model of acute brain inflammation and a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Patients with cognitive impairment who participated in structured exercise for 6 months had higher plasma levels of CLU. These findings demonstrate the existence of anti-inflammatory exercise factors that are transferrable, target the cerebrovasculature and benefit the brain, and are present in humans who engage in exercise.

  • Giant Study Finds Viagra Is Linked to Almost 70% Lower Risk of Alzheimer's

    It's important to note that observed associations like this - even on a huge scale - are not the same as proof of a causative effect. For example, it's possible that the people in the cohort who took sildenafil might have something else to thank for their improved chances of not developing Alzheimer's.

  • The NIH director on why Americans aren't getting healthier, despite medical advances

    Particularly with obesity and diabetes, those risk factors have been getting worse instead of better. We haven't, apparently, come up with strategies to turn that around.

    On top of that, the other main reason for seeing a drop in life expectancy - other than obesity and COVID - is the opioid crisis.

  • Study can't confirm lab results for many cancer experiments

    Eight years ago, a team of researchers launched a project to carefully repeat early but influential lab experiments in cancer research.

    They recreated 50 experiments, the type of preliminary research with mice and test tubes that sets the stage for new cancer drugs. The results reported Tuesday: About half the scientific claims didn't hold up.

  • Social Distance Zapper $11.

    Watch with wonder as the Social Distance Zapper extends from one foot folded to five feet extended! Keep the anti-maskers at bay with just three LR44 batteries to power this 4.5 v zapper.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Tue Nov 30 14:36:57 EST 2021

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • Sleeping Woke: Cancel Culture and Simulated Religion

    Many on the political left are now trying to make sense of it, and push back against its excesses. A rift has formed; on one side, the more traditional left arguing for liberal values. On the other, social justice activists who are concerned primarily with deconstructing systems of oppression. What makes this an extraordinary moment in history is that, while this war is raging, Wokeism is simultaneously being adopted at an astonishing speed by late-stage capitalism. In much the same way Christianity was absorbed by a declining Roman Empire, it is moving from the fringes into the very heart of power.

  • Tetlock and the Taliban

    How a humiliating military loss proves that so much of our so-called "expertise" is fake, and the case against specialization and intellectual diversity

    For all that has been said about Afghanistan, no one has noticed that this is precisely what just happened to political science. The American-led coalition had countless experts with backgrounds pertaining to every part of the mission on their side: people who had done their dissertations on topics like state building, terrorism, military-civilian relations, and gender in the military. General David Petraeus, who helped sell Obama on the troop surge that made everything in Afghanistan worse, earned a PhD from Princeton and was supposedly an expert in "counterinsurgency theory." Ashraf Ghani, the just deposed president of the country, has a PhD in anthropology from Columbia and is the co-author of a book literally called Fixing Failed States. This was his territory. It's as if Wernher von Braun had been given all the resources in the world to run a space program and had been beaten to the moon by an African witch doctor.

    Meanwhile, the Taliban did not have a Western PhD among them. Their leadership was highly selected though. As Ahmed Rashid notes in his book The Taliban, in February 1999, the school that provided the leadership for the movement "had a staggering 15,000 applicants for some 400 new places making it the most popular madrassa in northern Pakistan." Yet they certainly didn't publish in or read the top political science journals. Consider this a data point in the question of whether intelligence or subject-matter expertise is more important.

  • How AlphaZero Learns Chess

    AlphaZero's learning process is, to some extent, similar to that of humans. A new paper from DeepMind, which includes a contribution from the 14th world chess champion Vladimir Kramnik, provides strong evidence for the existence of human-understandable concepts in AlphaZero's network, even though AlphaZero has never seen a human game of chess.
    ...
    Kramnik commented to Chess.com:
    Secondly, I believe it is quite fascinating to discover that there are certain patterns that AlphaZero finds meaningful, which actually make little sense for humans. That is my impression. That actually is a subject for further research, in fact, I was thinking that it might easily be that we are missing some very important patterns in chess, because after all, AlphaZero is so strong that if it uses those patterns, I suspect they make sense. That is actually also a very interesting and fascinating subject to understand, if maybe our way of learning chess, of improving in chess, is actually quite limited. We can expand it a bit with the help of AlphaZero, of understanding how it sees chess."

  • Are We on the Verge of Chatting with Whales?

    An ambitious project is attempting to interpret sperm whale clicks with artificial intelligence, then talk back to them.

    The Israeli computer scientist, teaching at Imperial College London, England, might not seem the ideal candidate for a project involving the communication of sperm whales. But his skills as an expert in machine learning could be key to an ambitious endeavor that officially started in March 2020: an interdisciplinary group of scientists wants to use artificial intelligence (AI) to decode the language of these marine mammals. If Project CETI (for Cetacean Translation Initiative) succeeds, it would be the first time that we actually understand what animals are chatting about-and maybe we could even have a conversation with them.

  • There is no shortage of US truck drivers

    The problem is retention. Many of those licensed drivers are no longer behind the wheel because they can find better working conditions and pay elsewhere. Jobs in factories, construction sites, and warehouses pay similar wages, and don't require people to work 70-hour weeks, sleep in parking lots, or wait in line for hours without pay or bathroom breaks to pick up a container at an overwhelmed port.

    The real shortage is of good trucking jobs that can attract and retain workers in a tight labor market. The annual turnover of drivers at big trucking companies averaged 94% between 1995 and 2017, according to ATA statistics. That means those companies have to re-fill almost every driver position every year to replace the people who are leaving. A third of drivers quit within their first three months on the job. The problem is particularly acute for long-haul truck drivers who carry goods great distances across state lines.

  • Where electric cars could help save coal

    The thinking is straightforward: More electric cars would mean more of a market for the lignite coal that produces most of North Dakota's electricity, and if a long-shot project to store carbon emissions in deep underground wells works out, it might even result in cleaner air as well. The thinking is straightforward: More electric cars would mean more of a market for the lignite coal that produces most of North Dakota's electricity, and if a long-shot project to store carbon emissions in deep underground wells works out, it might even result in cleaner air as well.

    "EVs will be soaking up electricity," said Jason Bohrer, head of a coal trade group that has launched a statewide campaign to promote electric vehicles and charging stations along North Dakota's vast distances. "So coal power plants, our most resilient and available power plants, can continue to be online."

  • Can't Keep a Great City Down: What the 2020 Census Tells Us About New York

    Results from the 2020 census confirmed that New York City's population grew significantly in the decade up to 2020, by 629,000. Spurred by a long economic boom, the city's population growth happened via natural increase, the excess of births over deaths. Contrary to the Census Bureau's pre-census population estimates, which had projected significant population drops at the end of the decade due to growing net out-migration, about the same number of people migrated to the city, either domestically or internationally, as left during the decade.

  • Surveyed academics explain why they remain in academia:
    • More than 20 percent chose the sunk-cost problem: "I've invested so much."
    • Almost 25 percent chose the "It's my identity" option.
    • The largest number of responses, nearly 45 percent selected "What else can I do?"
    • Perhaps the most-telling response: Not even 10 percent said they stay in academe because "My work matters".
  • The Vox Formula: Telling Privileged People What They Already Believe

    In combining that smugness with a youthful, Whiggish optimism that equates information with progress, Klein figured out how to commodify being in the know in the social media age. After all, the point is not to know things so much as it is to broadcast that you know them. And the folks at Vox realized there was a goldmine to be had if they could turn sharing a Vox article on social media into the method whereby someone signaled their identity, the way a certain kind of person used to walk around with a New Yorker magazine peeking out of her handbag. In other words, Vox capitalized on one of the mainstays of the journalism status revolution: the anxiety members of broader elite classes have about whether they are elite enough.


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