Planet Rationalist

July 28, 2014

The Psy-Fi Blog

Bad Behavior: From A to Z ... and Back Again

Talking Shop

A common reaction to pointing out to investors (or indeed, anyone) that they're as biased as a Fox reporter at a convention of transgender liberal pacifists is for them to respond, not unreasonably, by asking what they should do about it (that's the investors, not the reporters). It turns out that it's a lot easier to say what's wrong than to actually do anything about it.

The A to Z of Behavioral Bias is an attempt to address that issue, but it does rather show that there's no such thing as a common source of biases; bad behavior comes from many sources and requires many solutions. Or does it?

Toxic Arms Races

To generalize, perhaps beyond the point of reason, there are two sorts of bad behavior amongst investors. The first kind occurs because the modern investing industry is designed to be toxic for creatures like ourselves who evolved methods to deal with risk and uncertainty and duplicity in a completely different world. The same argument can be ...

by timarr at Mon, 28 Jul 2014 05:00 Instapaperify

Scott H Young

Does Speaking Another Language Change How You Think?

A number of readers have asked me, now that I’m learning language number six, whether learning new languages changes how you think. Do you become more passionate while thinking in Spanish? More respectful thinking in Korean? More open to enjoying experiences thinking in French?

The answer is both yes and no.

Does Language Fundamentally Alter Thought?

One extreme view is that language forms the fundamental basis of our thinking and, therefore, certain linguistic systems make particular thoughts unthinkable or completely different. Known popularly as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, this idea is also probably false.

Language is a tool that fills the needs of its speakers. When an easy word or expression is lacking, one is imported or invented from other languages. Modern, major world languages which have millions of speakers must cope with the full diversity of human experience and activity. Assuming I was equally fluent, discussing chemistry, philosophy or sitcom television in Mandarin shouldn’t have any real difference from discussing it in Spanish.

This all means that the strong version that people suggest ...

by Scott Young at Mon, 28 Jul 2014 00:55 Instapaperify

July 27, 2014

Uploads by Adam Ford

Katja Grace - Artificial Intelligence, Anthropics & Cause Prioritization

Effectiveness or altruism? SIA doomsday: The filter is ahead:
From: Adam Ford
Views: 7
0 ratings
Time: 30:10 More in Science & Technology

by Adam Ford at Sun, 27 Jul 2014 23:44 Instapaperify

Grey Matters: Blog

Tackle That Math Problem!

Have you ever been stumped by a math puzzle or problem? Mathematician James Tanton understands that feeling, and he's designed an entire course to help you attack those seemingly impossible challenges! I've mentioned James Tanton before (see previous mentions here), especially in the context of his Curriculum Inspirations video puzzles. On the main Curriculum Inspirations page, he's included a

by Pi Guy at Sun, 27 Jul 2014 21:04 Instapaperify

Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking #113 - The Turing Test

J&M take a critical look at the Turing test as a standard for consciousness and at an artificial intelligence named “Eugine Goostman” which reportedly passed the test. Also, what it would mean for an AI to be conscious, and how we could ever tell.

by NYC Skeptics at Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:39 Instapaperify


Will the “true 21st century” bring us back to feudalism?

Almost exactly a century ago, a lone gunman set in motion events that transformed the world -- ending the lives of millions and shattering empires. With that anniversary in mind, I pondered the clear fact that the last three centuries all seem to have started on their FOURTEENTH YEAR. The brutal arc and themes of the 20th Century - a concave pit that hit its nadir in 1943 - all of it began with shots fired in Sarajevo in the summer of 1914. And 1714 and 1814 were years of similar, transforming portent.

Century-Begin-2014 See my explanation... along with speculation where we might be heading, if 2014 proves to be the "real beginning" of the 21st Century. And sure… that great, over-arching, 21st Century theme might turn out to be pragmatic, adult problem-solving, science and reason! Heck, throw in the Age of Aquarius! I’m all for all of that.

But let’s be frank, the odds have always been against those traits ever getting the upper hand for long. Too many deep, animal drives have propelled most ...

by David Brin at Sun, 27 Jul 2014 18:54 Instapaperify

A War Against Expertise

== The real war is against reality ==

WAR-EXPERTISEAll right, I keep returning to this recurring theme, but it needs to be hammered... it's about the War on Science… and against all smartypants professions

Forty-three years ago, when Richard Nixon was president, almost forty percent of scientists and twenty-six percent of U.S. journalists (the people in society who interview and question the widest samplings of Americans) called themselves Republicans, only slightly fewer than called themselves Democrats.

scientist-republicansToday, just 7% of U.S. journalists so identify and less than 6% of U.S. scientists. (The latter figure is in free fall and includes folks like me, who have kept their GOP registration for tactical reasons.)

What's changed? Similar steep declines are seen in nearly all of the professions that require extensive knowledge and skill, from teaching and medicine to economics, law, law-enforcement and civil service to university professors in almost every field, even to the U.S. military officer corps.

When I ask my GOP friends (and I remain a registered Republican) to explain this ...

by David Brin at Sun, 27 Jul 2014 17:39 Instapaperify

Andrew Gelman

Stan 2.4, New and Improved

We’re happy to announce that all three interfaces (CmdStan, PyStan, and RStan) are up and ready to go for Stan 2.4. As usual, you can find full instructions for installation on the

Here are the release notes with a list of what’s new and improved:

New Features
* L-BFGS optimization (now the default)
* completed higher-order autodiff (added all probability functions,
  matrix functions, and matrix operators);  tested up to 3rd order
* enhanced effective range of normal_cdf to prevent underflow/overflow
* added von Mises RNG
* added ability to use scalars in all element-wise operations
* allow matrix division for mixing scalars and matrices 
* vectorization of outcome variates in multivariate normal with efficiency boosts
* generalization of multivariate normal to allow rwo vectors as means

* move bin/print and bin/stanc to CmdStan;  no longer generating main
  when compiling model from Stan C++

New Developer
* Added Jeffrey Arnold as core Stan developer
* Added Mitzi Morris as core Stan developer

Bug Fixes
* modified error messages so that they're all 1-indexed instead of 0-indexed ...

Sun, 27 Jul 2014 16:44 Instapaperify

Science-Based Medicine

How “they” view “us” revisited: Mike Adams goes off the deep end


This post might look familiar to some of you who know me from what I like to call my not-so-secret other blog (NSSSOB). However, what happened last week was important enough that I wanted to make sure that it was covered on SBM, just as Steve Novella covered it on his own blog on Friday. (Fear not, there will be fresh material tomorrow, as always.) Another reason that I wanted to recycle and update this for SBM is because I believe the incident involving über-quack Mike Adams provides to me a “teachable moment” related to my talk at TAM two weeks ago, which was entitled “How ‘They’ View ‘Us’” and based on a a post of mine here on SBM entitled, appropriately enough, href=””>How “they” view “us”.

A lot of you probably already know what I’m talking about, because this stuff developed over the last week, starting with a post by the One Crank To Rule Them All, Mike Adams. (You’ll see the appropriateness of The ...

by David Gorski at Sun, 27 Jul 2014 16:00 Instapaperify

Improve Your Learning and Memory.

Educational Reform. Why It Is Not Working.

The chart below is telling: SAT scores have been flat for over 40 years while education spending has increased 140%. Though this is Texas, I have seen similar data for other states.

 At the national level, federal government educational spending has skyrocketed, with no comparable improvement in educational outcomes.

 Clearly, the data debunk the supposition that more money is needed to fix education. What about changing standards and curricula? What have we got to show for all the reforms in the last 40 years such as Head Start, New Math, Nation at Risk, Goals 2000, Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, charter schools, Next Generation Science Standards, and Common Core?

Could it be that we are trying to apply right answers to the wrong problems? If money, revised standards and curricula, and high-stakes testing are not the real problems, what is?

I think the real problem is that students generally lack learning competencies. Amazingly, schools tell students more about what to learn than how to learn. I think that such schooling has it ...

by Dr. Bill, "Memory Medic" at Sun, 27 Jul 2014 15:00 Instapaperify


Mind Hacks

Seeing ourselves through the eyes of the machine

I’ve got an article in The Observer about how our inventions have profoundly shaped how we view ourselves because we’ve traditionally looked to technology for metaphors of human nature.

We tend to think that we understand ourselves and then create technologies to take advantage of that new knowledge but it usually happens the other way round – we invent something new and then use that as a metaphor to explain the mind and brain.

As history has moved on, the mind has been variously explained in terms of a wax tablets, a house with many rooms, pressures and fluids, phonograph recordings, telegraph signalling, and computing.

The idea that these are metaphors sometimes gets lost which, in some ways, is quite worrying.

It could be that we’ve reached “the end of history” as far as neuroscience goes and that everything we’ll ever say about the brain will be based on our current “brain as calculation” metaphors. But if this is not the case, there is a danger that we’ll sideline aspects of ...

by vaughanbell at Sun, 27 Jul 2014 10:21 Instapaperify

Andrew Gelman

Stan found using directed search


X and I did some “Sampling Through Adaptive Neighborhoods” ourselves the other day and checked out the nearby grave of Stanislaw Ulam, who is buried with his wife, Françoise Aron, and others of her family.


The above image of Stanislaw and Françoise Ulam comes from this charming mini-biography from Roland Brasseur, which I found here.

P.S. The Cimetière Montparnasse is full of famous people, including the great political scientist Raymond Aron (who perhaps has no close relation to Françoise Aron, given that his grave is listed as being in a different block of the cemetery), but the only other one we saw that day was Henri Poincaré.

The post Stan found using directed search appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.

Sun, 27 Jul 2014 08:17 Instapaperify

Fallacy Files

A Prize Puzzle for a Rainy Day

It looks to be a rainy day in Centerville. Dark clouds block the sun and distant thunder rolls. The weather girl on TV gives a 90% chance of precipitation. The following facts are true of those hardy Centervillians who decide to brave the weather....

Sun, 27 Jul 2014 01:00 Instapaperify

ChangingMinds Blog

In search of the perfect phone

My mind has been changed much about phones. Here's how it happens.

Sun, 27 Jul 2014 00:00 Instapaperify

July 26, 2014

Andrew Gelman

NYC workshop 22 Aug on open source machine learning systems

The workshop is organized by John Langford (Microsoft Research NYC), along with Alekh Agarwal and Alina Beygelzimer, and it features Liblinear, Vowpal Wabbit, Torch, Theano, and . . . you guessed it . . . Stan!

Here’s the current program:

8:55am: Introduction
9:00am: Liblinear by CJ Lin.
9:30am: Vowpal Wabbit and Learning to Search (John Langford and Hal Daumé III)
10:00am: Break w/ refreshments
10:30am: Torch
11:00am: Theano and PyLearn (Bart van Merrienboer and Frederic Bastien)
11:30am: Stan (Bob Carpenter)
Noon: Lunch on your own
1:00pm: Summary: The systems as they exist
1:20pm: Panel: Can projects coordinate?
2:00pm: Break w/ refreshments
2:30pm: Discussion time for individual projects
4:00pm: Liblinear future plans
4:10pm: Vowpal Wabbit future plans
4:20pm: Torch future plans
4:30pm: Theano and PyLearn future plans
4:40pm: Stan future plans
4:50pm: Conclusion

It’s open to all (I think) as long as you let them know you’ll be coming; just email

The post NYC workshop 22 Aug on open ...

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 21:59 Instapaperify


Take an Appreciation Break to Boost Your Self-Esteem

​Take an Appreciation Break to Boost Your Self-Esteem

Throughout the day, life bombards us with everything we do wrong, and it takes its toll on our self-esteem. Try to fit in an appreciation break during the day to help regain some balance.


by Dave Greenbaum at Sat, 26 Jul 2014 20:00 Instapaperify


US State Department: Let in cryptographers and other scientists

Predictably, my last post attracted plenty of outrage (some of it too vile to let through), along with the odd commenter who actually agreed with what I consider my fairly middle-of-the-road, liberal Zionist stance.  But since the outrage came from both sides of the issue, and the two sides were outraged about the opposite things, I guess I should feel OK about it.

Still, it’s hard not to smart from the burns of vituperation, so today I’d like to blog about a very different political issue: one where hopefully almost all Shtetl-Optimized readers will actually agree with me (!).

I’ve learned from colleagues that, over the past year, foreign-born scientists have been having enormously more trouble getting visas to enter the US than they used to.  The problem, I’m told, is particularly severe for cryptographers: embassy clerks are now instructed to ask specifically whether computer scientists seeking to enter the US work in cryptography.  If an applicant answers “yes,” it triggers a special process where the applicant hears nothing back for months ...

by Scott at Sat, 26 Jul 2014 19:01 Instapaperify

Mind Hacks

Awaiting a theory of neural weather

In a recent New York Times editorial, psychologist Gary Marcus noted that neuroscience is still awaiting a ‘bridging’ theory that elegantly connects neuroscience with psychology.

This reflects a common belief in cognitive science that there is a ‘missing law’ to be discovered that will tell us how mind and brain are linked – but it is quite possible there just isn’t one to be discovered.

Marcus writes:

What we are really looking for is a bridge, some way of connecting two separate scientific languages — those of neuroscience and psychology.

Such bridges don’t come easily or often, maybe once in a generation, but when they do arrive, they can change everything. An example is the discovery of DNA, which allowed us to understand how genetic information could be represented and replicated in a physical structure. In one stroke, this bridge transformed biology from a mystery — in which the physical basis of life was almost entirely unknown — into a tractable if challenging set of problems, such as sequencing genes, working out the proteins that they encode ...

by vaughanbell at Sat, 26 Jul 2014 18:34 Instapaperify


Aunt Pythia’s amazing advice

Well hello there, cutie, and welcome. Aunt Pythia loves you today, even more than usual!

For some reason she can’t pinpoint, but probably has to do with a general feeling of happiness and fulfillment, Aunt Pythia is even more excited than usual to be here and to toss off unreasonably smug and affectionate opinions and advice. Buckle up and get ready for the kisses and the muffins.

The kisses are harder to picture but they are even more delicious.

The kisses are harder to picture but they are even more delicious.

Everyone set? OK, fabulous, let’s get going. Oh and by the way, at the bottom of the column please please

think of something to ask Aunt Pythia at the bottom of the page!

I am almost out of questions!!!

By the way, if you don’t know what the hell Aunt Pythia is talking about, go here for past advice columns and here for an explanation of the name Pythia.


Dear Aunt Pythia,

How should one deal with sexism and harassment at conferences?

As a white heterosexual male mathematician, I don’t experience much ...

by Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe at Sat, 26 Jul 2014 17:52 Instapaperify


Top 10 Mind Hacks To Help You Save More Money

Top 10 Mind Hacks To Help You Save More Money

You already know the common strategies for saving money: Automatically set aside a portion of your paycheck, stick to a budget, plan your purchases, and so on. But there are also simple (if surprising) psychology tricks that can help us save even more. Here are ten such mind hacks.


by Melanie Pinola at Sat, 26 Jul 2014 15:00 Instapaperify


Mind Hacks

Out on a limb too many

Two neuropsychologists have written a fascinating review article about the desire to amputate a perfectly healthy limb known variously as apotemnophilia, xenomelia or body integrity identity disorder

The article is published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment although some who have these desires would probably disagree that it is a disease or disorder and are more likely to compare it to transexualism.

The article also discusses the two main themes in the research literature: an association with sexual fetish for limb aputation (most associated with the use of the name apotemnophilia) and an alteration in body image linked to differences in the function of the parietal lobe in the brain (most associated with the use of the name xenomelia).

It’s a fascinating review of what we know about this under-recognised form of human experience but it also has an interesting snippet about how this desire first came to light not in the scientific literature, but in the letters page of Penthouse magazine:

A first description of this condition traces back to a ...

by vaughanbell at Sat, 26 Jul 2014 11:55 Instapaperify

Neurophilosophy | The Guardian

Robo rehab | Mo Costandi

Robot-assisted rehabilitation is gaining traction in hospital stroke units, but exoskeleton-type devices may actually discourage patients from performing their exercises.

Hundreds of millions of people tuned in to the World Cup Opening Ceremony in São Paulo last month, to watch artists such as Jennifer Lopez and Shakira perform before the first match kicked off. But the real highlight - which was apparently ignored by most of the media outlets covering the event - was a one-minute performance by Juliano Pinto, the 29-year-old paraplegic who kicked the official ball a short distance with the aid of a robotic exoskeleton controlled by a device plugged directly into his brain.

Exoskeletons and other robotic rehabilitation devices are the subject of my latest feature article, which was published recently in the journal Nature, as part of this Outlook supplement on stroke. Rehabilitation roboticists refer to exoskeletons as 'active' devices, because they contain moving parts that help the paralysed patient restore the function of their arms or legs. At the moment, they are still far too expensive to be used widely, and ...

by Mo Costandi at Sat, 26 Jul 2014 11:15 Instapaperify

Slate Star Codex

More Links For July 2014

The most embarassing part of the Slavoj Zizek plagiarism scandal isn’t that Zizek committed plagiarism. It isn’t even that he plagiarized a white supremacist website. It’s the way the plagiarism was discovered. Steve Sailer was reading a Zizek book and noticed that part of it actually made sense. He wrote:

A reader inclined toward deconstructionism might note that Žižek summarizes MacDonald’s controversial argument quite lucidly. In fact, the superstar professor achieves a higher degree of clarity while expounding MacDonald’s message than in any other passage I’ve read by Žižek. I’m guessing that the last two sentences are Žižek’s denunciation of the preceding argument he quite ably recounted. But it’s striking how much more opaque Žižek’s prose suddenly becomes when he switches to elucidating what are, presumably, his own ideas, such as they are.

… and the idea of Zizek being comprehensible for even a couple of sentences so surprised Steve’s commenters that they looked up the relevant passage to see if it was plagiarized, and ...

by Scott Alexander at Sat, 26 Jul 2014 02:30 Instapaperify


The Moon Landing: 45 Years Later

MOON-LANDING-1969Summertime takes me back to 1969, when -- despite national and international traumas that make today's seem petty -- the world did manage to come together over one topic... how glorious that humankind was forging forth into the Final Frontier.

Yet now, I share with millions of other boomers a head-scratching perplexity. Why don’t more of today’s youth care about outer space?

The easy answer would be to seize upon a simple nostrum -- about each era rejecting the obsessions of the one before it. But then, in that case, why is the very opposite true about popular music? Back in the hippie era, music divided the generations! But today? Well, my kids adore classic 60s and 70s Rock. In a surf shop or bike store, all I have to do is mention a few of the concerts that I snuck into, long ago, and the brash young fellers are at my feet, saying “tell us more, gramps!”

life2moonandbackSo why do they yawn, when we turn to the NASA Channel, or when we talk about ...

by David Brin at Sat, 26 Jul 2014 00:08 Instapaperify

July 25, 2014


If You Can't Decide Between Buying Two Things, Consider Neither

If You Can't Decide Between Buying Two Things, Consider Neither

When you're trying to be a careful shopper, comparing two similar products is a given. Sometimes, though, if you're having a tough time deciding which one you actually want, the best decision might be to just save your money.


by Patrick Allan at Fri, 25 Jul 2014 23:00 Instapaperify


Weekend Reads: Should We Only Work 4 Days a Week?

Calendar designed by Phil Goodwin from the Noun Project

Calendar designed by Phil Goodwin from the Noun Project

As we do every Friday, we’ve collected our best stuff from the past week for your weekend reading pleasure.

What We’re Reading

The 2nd richest man in the world thinks you should only work 3-4 days a week (and his employees are testing it out for us).

How creative hobbies make us better at, well, basically everything.

If we constantly think “failure is good” what does that make the CEO who cuts over 10,000 jobs?

From 99U

In the “Information Age” everything gets measured. So how can we stay sane? “The real work,” Brain Pickings founder Maria Popova says, “is how not to hang your self-worth, your sense of success and merits, the fullness of your heart, and the stability of your soul on numbers.” Read the rest of our conversation with the internet’s hardest working curator.

Post-its made for your phone, a Stay Home Club tee, and the best headphones for those 12-hour days. Every now and then we round up ...

by behanceteam at Fri, 25 Jul 2014 21:22 Instapaperify

Less Wrong

New LW Meetup: Perth

Submitted by FrankAdamek • 1 votes • 0 comments
New meetups (or meetups with a hiatus of more than a year) are happening in:
Irregularly scheduled Less Wrong meetups are taking place in:

The remaining meetups take place in cities with regular scheduling, but involve a change in time or location, special meeting content, or simply a helpful reminder about the meetup:

Locations with regularly scheduled meetups: Austin, Berkeley, Berlin, Boston, Brussels, Buffalo, Cambridge UK, Canberra, Columbus, London, Madison WI, Melbourne, Mountain View, New York, Philadelphia, Research Triangle NC, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Sydney, Toronto, Vienna, Washington DC, Waterloo, and West Los Angeles. There's also a 24/7 online study hall for coworking LWers.

If you'd like to talk with other LW-ers ...

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 19:08 Instapaperify

The Bulletproof Executive

The Disease Delusion with Dr. Jeffrey Bland – Podcast #139

Dr. Jeffrey Bland has been an internationally recognized leader in the nutritional medicine field for over 35 years and is known for his ability to synthesize complex scientific concepts in a manner that is both personable and accessible. Jeffrey is on Bulletproof Radio discussing the disease delusion in America and his sought-after book by the […]

by Dave Asprey at Fri, 25 Jul 2014 19:08 Instapaperify

Kurzweil AI

New clues to how synapses in the brain are programmed

Cerebellar granule cells, parallel fibers, and flattened dendritic trees of Purkinje cells (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Washington University School of Medicine researchers have identified a group of proteins that program synapses in the brain, controlling neural development and learning, with implications for conditions such as autism.

In a study of the cerebellum (which plays a central role in controlling the coordination of movement and is essential for “procedural motor learning”) of mice, published in the journal Neuron, they found that a complex of proteins known as NuRD (nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase) plays an important role in development of the cerebellum.

When the researchers blocked the NuRD complex, cells in the cerebellum called granule cells (the most numerous neurons in the brain) failed to form connections with Purkinje neurons. These circuits are important for the cerebellum’s control of movement coordination and learning.

Programming gene activity in synapses

They found that NuRD exerts influence at the epigenetic level, which means factors other than DNA that affect gene activity. For example, NuRD affects the configurations of molecules that ...

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 17:08 Instapaperify


Headphones Are Shortening Your Career

Headphones designed by Emily Haasch from the Noun Project

Headphones designed by Emily Haasch from the Noun Project

It’s said that the average “prime” of a creative career is just 10 years. After that, the ideas dry up and with them the motivation to work outside the box. How can we extend our creative potential to last 20, 30, or even 50 years? Over at Wired UK, John Hegarty shares his insights on the matter:

Remove the headphones. Inspiration is everywhere — you just have to see it. If you accept that creative people are “transmitters” — they absorb all kinds of stimuli, thoughts and ideas and they reinterpret them and send them back to the world as pieces of inspiration — then it’s obvious that the more you see, connect and juxtapose, the more interesting your work will be.

The more you stay connected and stimulated, the greater the relevance of your work. By walking around in a digital cocoon you push the world away; great creative people constantly embrace it. You need to nourish your soul and your imagination.

Headphones—whether metaphorical or ...

by Tanner Christensen at Fri, 25 Jul 2014 17:00 Instapaperify

h+ Magazine

Video Friday: Max Tegmark — Humanism in a Cosmic Perspective

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 9.24.02 AM

Max Tegmark’s keynote speech from the 2014 AHA Conference 2014

I found Max’s presentation here to be inspirational and optimistic. It’s vast far future vision that presents a science based alternative to the notion that humans are unimportant in the scheme of the universe.

We humans have again and again underestimated not only the size of the cosmos—a planet, a solar system, a galaxy, a universe, maybe a hierarchy of parallel universes—but we’ve also repeatedly underestimated the power of the human mind to understand our cosmos. 

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 9.28.50 AM


See also and

by Peter Rothman at Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:33 Instapaperify

Andrew Gelman

“An Experience with a Registered Replication Project”

Anne Pier Salverda writes:

I came across this blog entry, “An Experience with a Registered Replication Project,” and thought that you would find this interesting.

It’s written by Simone Schnall, a social psychologist who is the first author of an oft-cited Psych Science(!) paper (“Cleanliness reduces the severity of moral judgments”) that a group of researchers from Michigan State failed to replicate as part of a big replication project.

Schnall writes about her experience as the subject of a “failed recplication”. I like the tone of her blog entry. She discusses some issues that she has with how the replication of her work, and the publication of that work in a special issue of a journal was handled. A lot of what she writes is very reasonable.

Schnall believes that her finding did not replicate because there were ceiling effects in a lot of the items in the (direct) replication of her study. So far so good; people can mistakes in analyzing data from replication studies too. But then she writes the following:

It ...

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:52 Instapaperify


NeuroLogica Blog

Mike Adams is a Dangerous Loon

Where do I even begin? Mike Adams, the self-proclaimed “healthranger” who runs the crank alt-med site naturalnews, has sunk to a new low, even though he was already scraping bottom.

Adams combines the worst CAM propaganda with a blend of conspiracy theories from across the spectrum, while selling supplements and other nonsense. He portrays himself as someone who is engaged in a righteous battle against the forces of evil – so hardly someone who is engaged in rational discourse.

In a recent rant, however, he has become a parody even of himself. This time he is raving about Monsanto and GMOs, writing:

Monsanto is widely recognize (sic) as the most hated and most evil corporation on the planet. Even so, several internet-based media websites are now marching to Monsanto’s orders, promoting GMOs and pursuing defamatory character assassination tactics against anyone who opposes GMOs, hoping to silence their important voices.

He doesn’t stop there, he goes full Godwin – right for the Nazi analogies, which he repeats throughout his article, complete with pictures of the Holocaust ...

by Steven Novella at Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:14 Instapaperify


Nerding out: RSA on an iPython Notebook

Yesterday was a day filled with secrets and codes. In the morning, at The Platform, we had guest speaker Columbia history professor Matthew Connelly, who came and talked to us about his work with declassified documents. Two big and slightly depressing take-aways for me were the following:

  • As records have become digitized, it has gotten easy for people to get rid of archival records in large quantities. Just press delete.
  • As records have become digitized, it has become easy to trace the access of records, and in particular the leaks. Connelly explained that, to some extent, Obama’s harsh approach to leakers and whistleblowers might be explained as simply “letting the system work.” Yet another way that technology informs the way we approach human interactions.

After class we had section, in which we discussed the Computer Science classes some of the students are taking next semester (there’s a list here) and then I talked to them about prime numbers and the RSA crypto system.

I got really into it and wrote up an iPython ...

by Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe at Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:59 Instapaperify

Overcoming Bias

Conflicting Abstractions

My last post seems an example of an interesting general situation: when abstractions from different fields conflict on certain topics. In the case of my last post, the topic was the relative growth rate feasible for a small project hoping to create superintelligence, and the abstractions that seem to conflict are the ones I use, mostly from economics, and abstractions drawn from computer practice and elsewhere used by Bostrom, Yudkowsky, and many other futurists.

What typically happens when it seems that abstractions from field A suggests X, while abstraction from field B suggests not X? Well first, since both X and not X can’t be true, each field would likely see this as a threat to their good reputation. If they were forced to accept the existence of the conflict, then they’d likely try to denigrate the other field. If one field is higher status, the other field would expect to lose a reputation fight, and so they’d be especially eager to reject the claim that a conflict exists.

And in fact ...

by Robin Hanson at Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:45 Instapaperify

Science-Based Medicine

Why People Continue to use SCAMs

Rodin's The Thinker
I remain curious as to why people use, and continue to use, useless pseudo-medicines. I read the literature, but I find the papers unsatisfactory. They seem incomplete, and I suspect there are as many reasons people choose a pseudo-medicine as those use them.

There are numerous surveys on what SCAMs people use. Designing and offering these surveys to every possible medical condition is a growth industry: the old, the young, cancer patients, AIDS patients. All need be asked which SCAM they use. It seems to be a ready way to get a quick entry in your CV, but which SCAM is used does not speak to the why a particular SCAM is being used. Why try acupunctures, say, instead of reflexology?

There are numerous reasons suggested for why people partake of SCAMS as a general concept: dissatisfaction with standard medical care is a common one but is not always supported in the literature. Gullibility, ignorance, and stupidity are often credited, none of them are particularly valid. Dr. Novella covered the topic in 2012. There is ...

by Mark Crislip at Fri, 25 Jul 2014 07:33 Instapaperify