Planet Rationalist

October 21, 2014


An Unstable World? Part One: Russia

Some folks have lately asked why I seem so calm, when every week brings news of yet another brewing disaster, with the world apparently spinning into chaos.  So much for Francis Fukayama's famous line - around 1990 - that the rapid and unstoppable spread of liberal democracy would soon bring an "end of history."

unstable-worldA few years earlier, I had made a different prediction. That the Cold War and the communist empire would soon shatter... (few believed it even remotely possible)... but that our struggles would thereupon move on to strife between a rising world-liberal culture... and one branch or another of machismo... traditionally male dominated cultures upset over the prospect of seeing their women become like ours.

At the time, I could not say which it would be... Latin, Hindi or Muslim machismo, though I guessed the lattermost of these. With the saving grace that - thereupon - the other two would swing our way.
But never mind that. Lately I've heard a lot of: "Brin, you warned us, way back a year ago, that 2014 ...

by David Brin at Tue, 21 Oct 2014 02:09 Instapaperify

Slate Star Codex

In The Future, Everyone Will Be Famous To Fifteen People

[Epistemic status: not very serious]
[Content note: May make you feel overly scrutinized]

Sometimes I hear people talking about how nobody notices them or cares about anything they do. And I want to say…well…

Okay. The Survey of Earned Doctorates tells us that the United States awards about a hundred classics PhDs per year. I get the impression classics is more popular in Europe, so let’s say a world total of five hundred. If the average classicist has a fifty year career, that’s 25,000 classicists at any given time. Some classicists work on Rome, so let’s say there are 10,000 classicists who focus solely on ancient Greece.

Estimates of the population of classical Greece center around a million people, but classical Greece lasted for several generations, so let’s say there were ten million classical Greeks total. That gives us a classicist-to-Greek ratio of 1:1000.

It would seem that this ratio must be decreasing: world population increases, average world education level increases, but the number of classical Greeks ...

by Scott Alexander at Tue, 21 Oct 2014 00:48 Instapaperify - Program Feed

Future of Finance: Expanding Role of Non-banks

Future of Finance: Expanding Role of Non-banks
We have witnessed a depletion of trust and a loss of faith in markets, a deficit that still needs to be addressed. Meanwhile banks are adapting to new market and regulatory realities and are being challenged by the expansion of nonbanks while technology raises the prospect for enhancing financial inclusion but also the potential for disruption. There are evident implications for financial stability, economic growth, and social cohesion from these changes. As a result, economists and policymakers are increasingly coming to the view that economic concerns cannot be divorced from financial changes and ethical concerns. The central question is: how do we make the financial sector not only safer but of better service to all members of society? This seminar will facilitate a discussion of these issues, bringing together leading policymakers and other thinkers on the topic from a broad range of fields including the financial sector, academia and religion.
Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2014 03:00:00 -0700
Location: , , International Monetary Fund
Program and discussion: http://fora ...

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 00:26 Instapaperify

Overcoming Bias

Thrown’s Kit’s Self-Deception

Back in July 2010 Kerry Howley published a nice New York Times Magazine article on the tensions between my wife and I resulting from my choice to do cryonics. The very next month, August 2010, is the date when, in Howley’s new and already-celebrated book Thrown, her alter-ego Kit first falls in love with MMA fighting:

Not until my ride home, as I began to settle back into my bones and feel the limiting contours of perception close back in like the nursery curtains that stifled the views of my youth, did it occur to me that I had, for the first time in my life, found a way out of this, my own skin. … From that moment onward, the only phenomenological project that could possibly hold interest to me was as follows: capture and describe that particular state of being to which one Sean Huffman had taken me.

I’ve read the book, and also several dozen reviews. Some reviews discuss how Kit is a semi-fictional character, and a few mention Kit’s ...

by Robin Hanson at Tue, 21 Oct 2014 00:15 Instapaperify - Program Feed

Future of Finance: The Changing Role of Banks

Future of Finance: The Changing Role of Banks
As recovery takes hold and we put the crisis behind us challenges and opportunities are being posed for the financial sector and finance as a whole. We have witnessed a depletion of trust and a loss of faith in markets, a deficit that still needs to be addressed. Meanwhile banks are adapting to new market and regulatory realities and are being challenged by the expansion of nonbanks while technology raises the prospect for enhancing financial inclusion but also the potential for disruption. There are evident implications for financial stability, economic growth, and social cohesion from these changes. As a result, economists and policymakers are increasingly coming to the view that economic concerns cannot be divorced from financial changes and ethical concerns. The central question is: how do we make the financial sector not only safer but of better service to all members of society?
Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2014 03:00:00 -0700
Location: , , International Monetary Fund
Program and discussion:

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 00:00 Instapaperify

October 20, 2014 - Program Feed

Future of Finance: Ethics and Finance

Future of Finance: Ethics and Finance
Especially in the wake of the crisis, we are witnessing a depletion of trust and a loss of faith in markets - with evident implications for financial stability, economic growth, and social cohesion. As a result, economists and policymakers are increasingly coming to the view that economic concerns cannot be divorced from ethical concerns. This discussion reflects upon the continued tendency of the financial sector to prize short-term personal gain over longer-term social purpose; it will also explore implications of the idea that financial markets (and capitalism in general) are only sustainable if there is trust in the system, which in turn requires standards of ethics and integrity
Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2014 03:00:00 -0700
Location: , , International Monetary Fund
Program and discussion:

Mon, 20 Oct 2014 23:37 Instapaperify

Mental Mishaps

Controlling My Intrusive Thoughts

I know I have little control over many things in my life, but I’d like to control the contents of my mind. My thoughts seem to have their own ideas about who is in charge. My mind runs in unintended directions and unwanted thoughts intrude at the worst possible times. But I’m not giving up. I’ve been working on a few methods to take control of my intrusive thoughts.

read more

by Ira Hyman at Mon, 20 Oct 2014 22:45 Instapaperify


Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation

By Leo Babauta

My son, who is officially an adult in a matter of days, is facing a small crisis: the project he’s working on is not going well, and he’s ready to give up not only on the project but the career he was excited about not too long ago.

I can feel the horrible mixture of discouragement, disappointment, difficulty, despair he must be feeling, because I’ve felt it too.

I’ve felt this punch in the gut whenever projects or new ventures didn’t go well.

I’ve given up, and felt the disappointment in myself.

And I’ve pushed through this discouragement, and felt so much better. Pushing through was always better.

So I’m here to talk about how I push past what Seth Godin calls The Dip — that slump that we all hit when things get hard, which is (sometimes) before the place where things get great.

How do we know if we’re in a slump or if we should just quit? We don’t. There ...

by zenhabits at Mon, 20 Oct 2014 20:53 Instapaperify

h+ Magazine

The Confusion Between Correlation and Causation

An example of unidirectional cause and effect: bad weather means umbrella sales rise, but buying umbrellas won’t make it rain. Mariusz Olszewski/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Here’s an historical tidbit you may not be aware of. Between the years 1860 and 1940, as the number of Methodist ministers living in New England increased, so too did the amount of Cuban rum imported into Boston – and they both increased in an extremely similar way. Thus, Methodist ministers must have bought up lots of rum in that time period!

Actually no, that’s a silly conclusion to draw. What’s really going on is that both quantities – Methodist ministers and Cuban rum – were driven upwards by other factors, such as population growth.

In reaching that incorrect conclusion, we’ve made the far-too-common mistake of confusing correlation with causation.

What’s the difference?

Two quantities are said to be correlated if both increase and decrease together (“positively correlated”), or if one increases when the other decreases and vice-versa (“negatively correlated”).

Correlation is readily detected through statistical measurements ...

by Peter Rothman at Mon, 20 Oct 2014 20:52 Instapaperify

Uploads by Quirkology


How to Deal (or Not Deal) with Phone Calls

No Phone by Scott Lewis from The Noun Project

No Phone by Scott Lewis from The Noun Project

Do you get pissed off whenever someone asks you to setup a “quick call” to chat? Gary Vaynerchuk bets that you do:

We have gotten to a place where everything happens on our time. You watch the TV show when you want to watch it, not because it airs on Wednesday at 8 (7 central). You text because you can respond to that person on your time.

In a thoughtful tirade against phone calls, Dharmesh Shah, founder of HubSpot, left some important takeaways for how to deal with phone calls (and by extension, meetings), including:

To avoid the awkwardness around small-talk, try to outline what the topic of the conversation is going to be.  It makes you feel less guilty for transitioning into the purpose of the call.

Use email to get your high-level thoughts communicated first, and then use a phone call to add a personal touch or to have a higher bandwidth conversation.

If your work requires phone calls, that’s understandable. But remember ...

by Hamza Khan at Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:00 Instapaperify

h+ Magazine

The Transhumanist Party: Could It Change Our Future?

The noted transhumanist Zoltan Istvan recently published an article in the Huffington Post entitled: Should a Transhumanist Run for US President? Istvan is preparing to run for the Presidency of the United States in 2016, as a member of his newly formed Transhumanist Party, a political organization dedicated to using  science and technology improve human beings and their society. In addition to promoting ideals like prosperity and security his political agenda is as follows:

1) Attempt to do everything possible to make it so this country’s amazing scientists and technologists have resources to overcome human death and aging within 15-20 years—a goal an increasing number of leading scientists think is reachable.

2) Create a cultural mindset in America that embracing and producing radical technology and science is in the best interest of our nation and species.

3) Create national and global safeguards and programs that protect people against abusive technology and other possible planetary perils we might face as we transition into the transhumanist era.

Although the universal benefits of such goals are ...

by Peter Rothman at Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:53 Instapaperify



How To Come Out As a Biohacker To Your Doctor

One of the most common questions I get from executive coaching clients and people I meet on the street is “how do I tell my doctor that I want to get this special test?” or “how do I explain that I don’t want to fix something, I want to take ownership of my own biology?” […]

by Dave Asprey at Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:00 Instapaperify


Andrew Gelman

On deck this week

Mon: Three ways to present a probability forecast, and I only like one of them

Tues: Try a spaghetti plot

Wed: I ain’t got no watch and you keep asking me what time it is

Thurs: Some questions from our Ph.D. statistics qualifying exam

Fri: Solution to the helicopter design problem

Sat: Solution to the problem on the distribution of p-values

Sun: Solution to the sample-allocation problem

The post On deck this week appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.

Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:00 Instapaperify

NeuroLogica Blog

Defending Sick Children

One of the most difficult issues that skeptical physicians face is dealing with children sick with cancer whose parents refuse standard therapy. These cases are always highly charged, because the stakes are extremely high. Obviously the stakes are highest for the child as their life is literally on the line. The stakes are also high for society, however, because they force a specific decision regarding the relative rights of parents vs the responsibility of the state to care for minors.

Two recent cases once again raise these issues. One comes from Western Australia where 10-year-old Tamara Stitt was diagnosed with liver cancer. Her oncologist recommended chemotherapy. Her parents were (understandably) concerned about the side effects of chemotherapy.

He said he and his wife decided against chemotherapy for their daughter because of its horrific side effects and because he felt threatened by doctors.

Mrs Stitt testified that she believed her daughter had a 100 per cent chance of being cured with natural therapies, and she had initially responded well to such treatment.

Her parents decided against ...

by Steven Novella at Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:32 Instapaperify


Learn the Rules & Then Break Them


Scott Dadich’s spread for an article on Ridley Scott in Wired Magazine.

Editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine Scott Dadich says it’s time to start getting it wrong. In the field of technology design, we have figured out how to do it right. We have beautiful, sleek devices that are an ease to use – and it’s getting boring:

…once a certain maturity has been reached, someone comes along who decides to take a different route. Instead of trying to create an ever more polished and perfect artifact, this rebel actively seeks out imperfection—sticking a pole in the middle of his painting, intentionally adding grungy feedback to a guitar solo, deliberately photographing unpleasant subjects. Eventually some of these creative breakthroughs end up becoming the foundation of a new set of aesthetic rules, and the cycle begins again.

Dadich emphasizes that it’s not about throwing out design rules and starting from scratch. You need to master the rules so you can effectively break them. In his work for Wired Magazine, Dadich would apply his ...

by Stephanie Kaptein at Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:40 Instapaperify


Big Data’s Disparate Impact

Take a look at this paper by Solon Barocas and Andrew D. Selbst entitled Big Data’s Disparate Impact.

It deals with the question of whether current anti-discrimination law is equipped to handle the kind of unintentional discrimination and digital redlining we see emerging in some “big data” models (and that we suspect are hidden in a bunch more). See for example this post for more on this concept.

The short answer is no, our laws are not equipped.

Here’s the abstract:

This article addresses the potential for disparate impact in the data mining processes that are taking over modern-day business. Scholars and policymakers had, until recently, focused almost exclusively on data mining’s capacity to hide intentional discrimination, hoping to convince regulators to develop the tools to unmask such discrimination. Recently there has been a noted shift in the policy discussions, where some have begun to recognize that unintentional discrimination is a hidden danger that might be even more worrisome. So far, the recognition of the possibility of unintentional discrimination lacks technical and ...

by Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe at Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:03 Instapaperify


You Can Have an Easy Life or an Awesome One. Choose Wisely.

A few years back after one of my more impassioned lectures, a young buck in the back row raised his hand. “Mr. Victore,” he said, “I understand what you’re saying about taking risks in your career, but I’ve got rent to pay.”

I was shocked by his defeatist attitude, saddened at how the practicalities of life had already beaten this young creative soul down so that his biggest ambition in life was to pay rent.

Gone was adventurous youth. This kid was no longer the hero of his own life, willing to face his fears and slay the dragons that kept him from his reward. He was already sheepishly waving a white flag out the window of his mini van.

“What’s your name?” I asked. “Thomas,” he said.

“Thomas, here’s your tombstone: Here lies Thomas, he would have done great work, but he had to pay the rent.”

“Here lies Thomas, he would have done great work, but he had to pay the rent.”

Which brings us to my point: Everything ...

by behanceteam at Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:00 Instapaperify

Bad Science

Weirdly long and fun Absolute FM radio interview

Taking epidemiology to the streets: here’s a long, long interview I did last week on Absolute FM (lovely Geoff Lloyd’s lovely Hometime Show). Posting here because it’s unusually good and long for pop media. In between the rock classics, we talk about screening, Ebola, government statistics, and good quality sperm. My lovely new book – I […]

by Ben Goldacre at Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:43 Instapaperify

Science-Based Medicine

What naturopaths say to each other when they think no one’s listening


The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.

— John Wooden


Regular readers might have gathered from reading this blog that we are not particularly fond of naturopaths. Actually, naturopaths themselves might be perfectly nice people; rather it’s naturopathy we don’t like, mainly because it is a cornucopia of quackery based on prescientific vitalism mixed with a Chinese restaurant menu “one from column A, two from column B” approach to picking quackery and pseudoscience to apply to patients. Indeed, Scott Gavura features as an excellent recurring series “Naturopathy vs. Science,” which has included editions such as the Facts Edition, Prenatal Vitamins, Vaccination Edition, Allergy Edition, and, of course, the Infertility Edition. Of course, as I’ve pointed out, any “discipline” that counts homeopathy as an integral part of it, as naturopathy does to the point of requiring many hours of homeopathy instruction in naturopathy school and including it as part of its licensing examination, cannot ever be considered to be science-based, and this blog is ...

by David Gorski at Mon, 20 Oct 2014 07:35 Instapaperify - Program Feed

Walter Mischel, The Marshallow Test, and Self-Control

Walter Mischel, The Marshallow Test, and Self-Control
A child is presented with a marshmallow and given a choice: Eat this one now, or wait and enjoy two later. What will she do? And what are the implications for her behavior later in life? A renowned psychologist, the world's leading expert on self-control, and designer of the famous Marshmallow Test, Mischel has proven that the ability to delay gratification is critical for a successful life, predicting higher SAT scores, better social and cognitive functioning, a healthier lifestyle and a greater sense of self-worth. But is willpower prewired, or can it be taught? In The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control, Mischel explains how self-control can be applied to challenges in everyday life-from weight control to quitting smoking, overcoming heartbreak, making major decisions, and planning for retirement. With profound implications for the choices we make in parenting, education, public policy and self-care, The Marshmallow Test may change the way you think about who we are and what we can be. In conversation with Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, an ...

Mon, 20 Oct 2014 03:19 Instapaperify

Psych Your Mind

Does Forgiveness Have a Dark Side?

Forgivenessis widely considered to be a psychologically healthy and morally virtuous approach to coping with victimization. Research suggests that people who forgive more easily are happier and healthierthan those who hold grudges. In addition, forgiveness interventions have been shown to reduce stress reactivity, increase optimism, and facilitate reconciliation with offenders.
Read More->

by Juli at Mon, 20 Oct 2014 02:47 Instapaperify

October 19, 2014

Less Wrong


Lessons from Doctor Who: “Scared Is a Super Power”

Lessons from Doctor Who: “Scared Is a Super Power”

Mindfulness teaches us that our physical reactions don't need to reflect our mental states. We can't ignore our heart racing, but we can choose our reaction. A recent episode of Doctor Who explains this lesson well.


by Dave Greenbaum at Sun, 19 Oct 2014 23:00 Instapaperify


How Far Conservatism Has Changed

All right, it is an important U.S. political season.  As a registered Republican and a frequent speaker at libertarian gatherings, I remain hopeful that this will be the year that several million temperamentally conservative-but-calmly-rational Americans will wake up to the way their movement and the GOP have been hijacked. And that only a shattering drubbing at the polls will send the American right back to the drawing boards -- learning to do politics again. Including negotiation about real problems. 

Oh, but it will be so hard! 
The oligarchs who have done the hijacking have ordered up so many narratives, from "birther" paranoia to climate denialism, from preaching "oligarchy is gooood for you" to utter lies about U.S. history. I will explicate the best and most hilariously most damning example below -- the George Soros Effect.  
thats-not-austinBut first -- In That's Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America's Right WingProfessor Michael Austin examines dozens of books, articles, speeches, and radio broadcasts by such figures as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity ...

by David Brin at Sun, 19 Oct 2014 17:39 Instapaperify

Matt Ridley - Blog RSS

Ebola needs beds on the ground

My Times column on Ebola:


It is not often I find myself agreeing with apocalyptic warnings, but the west African ebola epidemic deserves hyperbole right now.

Anthony Banbury, head of the UN ebola emergency response mission, says: “Time is our enemy. The virus is far ahead of us.” Dr David Nabarro, special envoy of the UN secretary-general, says of ebola: “I have never encountered a public health crisis like this in my life.”

However, this is a case where the hype could serve a purpose if it motivates action and thereby proves itself wrong.

Two things could happen over the next few months. The more probable is that the brave aid workers, soldiers and medical teams heading for the region, and brave local health workers and burial teams, will gradually get on top of the epidemic in the three affected countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the infection rate will peak and start to drop, and the crisis will pass.

There will be cases in other countries, including Britain (and panicky reactions), but they will ...

Sun, 19 Oct 2014 16:16 Instapaperify


Andrew Gelman

“Your Paper Makes SSRN Top Ten List”

I received the following email from the Social Science Research Network, which is a (legitimate) preprint server for research papers:

Dear Andrew Gelman:

Your paper, “WHY HIGH-ORDER POLYNOMIALS SHOULD NOT BE USED IN REGRESSION DISCONTINUITY DESIGNS”, was recently listed on SSRN’s Top Ten download list for: PSN: Econometrics, Polimetrics, & Statistics (Topic) and Political Methods: Quantitative Methods eJournal.

As of 02 September 2014, your paper has been downloaded 17 times. You may view the abstract and download statistics at:

Top Ten Lists are updated on a daily basis. . . .

The paper (with Guido Imbens) is here.

What amused me, though, was how low the number was. 17 downloads isn’t so many. I guess it doesn’t take much to be in the top 10!

The post “Your Paper Makes SSRN Top Ten List” appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.

Sun, 19 Oct 2014 13:54 Instapaperify


Aunt Pythia’s advice

Quick, get on the bus! Hurry!

Aunt Pythia is gonna be super fast this morning because she’s got crepes to make and apples to pick.

And then many, many apple pies to bake.

And then many, many apple pies to bake.

Are you ready? Belts buckled? OK great, let’s do this. And afterwards:

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

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,

Now I’m dying to know – what are some Dan Savage answers that you disagree with?? Say, what are your top 3?

An obliging – and curious! – good friend

Dear Ao-ac-gf,

First, let me say I’m glad this is a written word thing and I don’t have to pronounce your name.

Second, I only disagree with Dan Savage on (pretty much) one thing. And he’s a gay man, and without meaning to offend may I say he has ...

by Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe at Sun, 19 Oct 2014 12:31 Instapaperify

Science-Based Medicine

Questions and Answers about Chiropractic: The Bottom Line


I am often asked, “What do chiropractors do?” That’s not an easy question to answer. The answer is usually expected to be, “They treat back trouble.” But as alternative medicine practitioners, chiropractors do a lot of things, and they treat a variety of ailments, based largely on a scientifically-invalid vertebral subluxation theory which proposes that nerve interference resulting from a misaligned vertebra or a dysfunctional spinal segment can affect general health.

As a co-host of the Chirobase web site, I frequently answer questions about chiropractic, some of which are published in a section titled “Consumer Strategy/Consumer Protection.” In this post, I’ll focus on these:

  • Are Subluxations Causing My Health Problems?
  • Is a Misaligned Atlas Causing My Back Pain?
  • What is that “Thumper” My Chiropractor Uses on My Back?
  • How Does a Chiropractor Locate Subluxations?
  • Should I Let a Chiropractor Adjust My Baby?
  • Why Is Every Chiropractor’s Treatment Different?
  • Can Neck Manipulation Cause a Stroke?
  • Should I Go to a Chiropractic College?
  • Are There Any Good Chiropractors?
  • Is It Possible to Reform ...

by Sam Homola at Sun, 19 Oct 2014 07:00 Instapaperify


Red/Black Gambling Game

If you draw cards from a shuffled deck, earning $1 for every black card turned over, and losing $1 for every red card, when should you stop?

Sun, 19 Oct 2014 00:00 Instapaperify

ChangingMinds Blog

Better than sex

What is better than sex? Read on for research that shows you what...

Sun, 19 Oct 2014 00:00 Instapaperify

October 18, 2014


Remind Yourself “It Must Not Be Easy” When Dealing With Difficult People

Remind Yourself “It Must Not Be Easy” When Dealing With Difficult People

We all have to deal with difficult people we can't avoid. Seeing things from their perspective helps create empathy and understand their perspective. Use the phrase "It must not be easy" to help you see their side before you react.


by Dave Greenbaum at Sat, 18 Oct 2014 23:00 Instapaperify

Science-Based Medicine

Ebola conspiracy theories: Same as it ever was


Does anyone remember the H1N1 influenza pandemic? As hard as it is to believe, that was five years ago. One thing I remember about the whole thing is just how crazy both the antivaccine movement and conspiracy theorists (but I repeat myself) went attacking reasonable public health campaigns to vaccinate people against H1N1. It was truly an eye-opener, surpassing even what I expected based on my then five year experience dealing with the antivaccine movement and quacks. Besides the usual antivaccine paranoia that misrepresented and demonized the vaccine as, alternately, ineffective, full of “toxins,” a mass depopulation plot, and many other equally ridiculous fever dream nonsense, there was the quackery. One I remember quite well was the one where it was claimed that baking soda would cure H1N1. Then there was one of the usual suspects, colloidal silver, being sold as a treatment for H1N1. Then who could forget the story of Desiree Jennings, the young woman who claimed to have developed dystonia from the H1N1 vaccine but was a fraud? Truly, pandemics bring out ...

by David Gorski at Sat, 18 Oct 2014 16:00 Instapaperify


Evolving Thoughts

A nineteenth century view on classification

The principle upon which I understand the Natural System of Botany to be founded is, that the affinities of plants may be determined by a consideration of all the points of resemblance between their various parts, properties, and qualities; that thence an arrangement may be deduced in which those species will be placed next each […]

by John Wilkins at Sat, 18 Oct 2014 09:17 Instapaperify

Slate Star Codex

More Links For October 2014

Bad Conlanging Ideas Tumblr, or best conlanging ideas Tumblr?

No, Aristotle is not your dumb straw man opponent of empiricism.

One thing you have to learn in every freshman biology course, and the better sort of freshman philosophy course, is that evolution doesn’t necessarily go “from worse organisms to better organisms” or even “from less complex organisms to more complex organisms” in any meaningful fashion. On the other hand, organisms from more “evolutionarily deep” areas are more likely to invade less “evolutionarily deep” areas than vice versa. So maybe there’s something to the idea of evolutionary “progress” after all, albeit probably not in the way a lot of people would think.

Last links post I made fun of Russia’s wood shortage by saying it was like Saudi Arabia having a sand shortage. Alyssa Vance helpfully informed me that Saudi Arabia did, in fact, have a sand shortage.

Andrea Rossi’s e-Cat cold fusion machine passes another round of probably rigged tests, including one where it was able to change isotope ratios in ...

by Scott Alexander at Sat, 18 Oct 2014 07:01 Instapaperify

Marginal Revolution: Science

From the comments, on a fusion reactor

Geoff Olynyk writes:

So for once I can intelligently comment on a Marginal Revolution article. (I have a Ph.D. in applied plasma physics and fusion energy; I worked on the “conventional” fusion reactor design, the tokamak). Lockheed hasn’t released many details of their concept (at least, not enough details that it can actually be evaluated in technical detail), but it looks like it’s a combination of a magnetic mirror and a levitated dipole. The magnetic mirror was studied in detail in the 1960s and 1970s and didn’t work out (due to [detailed plasma physics reasons]) and the levitated dipole has a fundamental flaw as a power-producing reactor in that the superconducting magnets are inside the neutron shielding – neutrons destroy the magnets.

It’s tough as a scientist to be able to comment on things like this, because it’s “science by press release”, i.e. there’s a big media hype but the actual researchers don’t release enough technical details to actually evaluate it. One wants to remain cautiously optimistic ...

Sat, 18 Oct 2014 06:12 Instapaperify