Planet Rationalist

July 30, 2016

Pseudoscience – Friendly Atheist

Dr. Jill Stein Responds to Vaccine Controversy By Saying She’s Just Asking Questions

Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President, finally received her big chance yesterday to straighten out the growing concern about her position on vaccines. Instead of settling the issue, she just made everything worse.

by Bo Gardiner at Sat, 30 Jul 2016 14:30 Instapaperify

Becoming Eden» productivity

What Has Changed my Political Beliefs

I think it’s safe to say that political beliefs are one of the most sticky types of beliefs we commonly hold. By some measures partisan polarization is at record highs for the modern era (though these figures are also debated). Politics are also beliefs that provoke some of the strongest arguments between differing viewpoints, and the strongest consolidation among shared viewpoints. Eliezer warned us to be particularly careful when grappling with these ideas.

But, as good rationalists, all of our beliefs should be subject to updating upon receiving further information – and when I look at my political beliefs over the years, I see that they have indeed changed, in some ways massively, in other ways slow and subtly. I thought it would be an interesting to lay out what the drivers of these changes were, as a case study in the art of changing one’s mind.

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid

Glance over at the tag cloud for this blog, and you will see that it very clearly has a person-oriented approach ...

by William Eden at Sat, 30 Jul 2016 01:22 Instapaperify

July 29, 2016


These Are the Four Stages of Your Brain on Math

Have you ever wondered what your brain is really doing as you sweat your way through a math test? Now you can see for yourself, thanks to a new brain imaging study from Carnegie Mellon University that captured the brain activity of people in the act of solving math problems.


by Jennifer Ouellette at Fri, 29 Jul 2016 23:05 Instapaperify


More Wrong Things I Said in Papers

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled PostBQP Postscripts, owning up to not one but four substantive mathematical errors that I’d made over the years in my published papers, and which my students and colleagues later brought to my sheepish attention.  Fortunately, none of these errors affected the papers’ main messages; they just added interesting new twists to the story.  Even so, I remember feeling at the time like undergoing this public repentance was soul-cleansing intellectual hygiene.  I also felt like writing one big “post of shame” was easier than writing a bunch of separate errata and submitting them to journals, while also reaching a wider audience (and, therefore, doing an even better soul-cleansing job).

So I resolved that, anytime I’d saved up enough errata, I’d do another sackcloth-and-ashes post.  Which brings us to today.  Without further ado:

I. Quantum Money Falling Down

My and Paul Christiano’s explicit public-key quantum money scheme—the one based on low-degree polynomials—has now been fully broken.  To clarify, our abstract hidden-subspace scheme ...

by Scott at Fri, 29 Jul 2016 21:49 Instapaperify


July Q&A: Aging, Gut Health, Red Meat Substitutes & More! – #331

Why you should listen – In this episode of Bulletproof Radio, we’ve selected the best questions that Bulletproof fans submitted through our voicemail, Facebook and the Bulletproof® Forums, for a great Q&A. Listen to Dave and Bulletproof Coach trainer Dr. Mark Atkinson talk about personal development, aging solutions, gut health and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, red […]

by Dave Asprey at Fri, 29 Jul 2016 19:00 Instapaperify


The Question That Boosts Motivation And Performance

Self-affirmations are not the best type of self-talk to help motivate you.

spark motivation ebook 

by Jeremy Dean at Fri, 29 Jul 2016 18:20 Instapaperify


Yes… this really matters

Enjoying convention season? Okay, I was actually scheduled to speak at one of the side events in Philadelphia, but had to drop out. No worries. Well, none that I don’t share with millions of fellow citizens.

Meanwhile, out in the real world…stuff continues… for example…

The world is on pace to set another high temperature benchmark, with 2016 becoming the third year in a row of record heat. NASA scientists announced on Tuesday that global temperatures so far this year were much higher than in the first half of 2015.

Seriously. Many of the decisions we face are not about “left” or “right” in any traditional political way. It is largely about facts and science versus believers in 'truthy" incantations. 

It is about sanity. And survival. And at some point you are going to have to ponder whether your favorite, comfy incantation-magical-spells (of either left or right) are really worth risking the planet and your children.

== The most-important choice. ==

Way back ages ago, Michael Dukakis tried to prevent the Epoch of Bushes by ...

by David Brin at Fri, 29 Jul 2016 17:25 Instapaperify

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

Can you learn a skill by observing someone else? –

For instance, does watching an artist draw improve your drawing skill, even if you're not drawing along with them?

by Max Li at Fri, 29 Jul 2016 14:33 Instapaperify

How success people know the right path to success? –

I have been working with Google since last couple of years hence I get to know the Googlers from a very close perspective. Now comes the interesting part. Last year a new Googler joined beside me and ...

by CodeYogi at Fri, 29 Jul 2016 12:49 Instapaperify

NeuroLogica Blog

An Artificial Leaf

solar sell1We are currently in a transition period from an economy based largely on fossil fuels to one based largely on renewable or carbon neutral fuels. Even if we put aside the question of global warming, there are many good reasons to make this transition. Fossil fuel pollution results in billions of dollars of health care costs and lost productivity each year. For any nation, the ability to create more of their own fuel and be less dependent on oil imports can have economic benefits.

Of course, if you accept the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming, we may just avoid some unwanted consequences of dumping billions of tons of previously sequestered carbon back into the atmosphere (40 billion tons in 2015 alone).

One interesting technology is often called an artificial leaf, because it uses light energy not to generate electricity directly (photovoltaics) but to synthesize fuel or fuel precursors from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and other inputs (photosynthesis).

Photosynthesis is what plants do, hence the term “artificial leaf.” Plants use this process to make ...

by Steven Novella at Fri, 29 Jul 2016 12:20 Instapaperify


Efficient Guttering

What is the optimal way to bend a flat sheet to make an efficient gutter?

Fri, 29 Jul 2016 00:00 Instapaperify

July 28, 2016

The Righteous Mind

How the Democrats Can Use Moral Foundations Theory Against Trump

Tom Edsall of the New York Times just published a column giving responses from me and other professors and political strategists to this question: Given the many claims and promises Donald Trump has made which will be impossible to fulfill, how should the Democrats refute them?  (E.g., Trump’s claim that he would grow the economy by 6% per year, or end birthright citizenship.) Edsall printed the best parts of my response, but as long as I have a blog where I can post my entire response, here it is:


Hi Tom,

Your question presupposes that the Democrats should be trying to create better arguments. Yes, they should, but that is not the place to start. One of the basic principles of psychology is that the mind is divided into parts that sometimes conflict, like a small rider (conscious verbal reasoning) sitting atop a large elephant (the other 98% of mental processes, which are automatic and intuitive). The elephant is much stronger, and is quite smart in its own way. If the elephant wants ...

by Jonathan Haidt at Thu, 28 Jul 2016 23:23 Instapaperify


Combining Two Free Activities Can Reduce Depression By 40% in Two Months

Reduce depression by combining two activities well-known to make you feel better.

spark motivation ebook 

by Jeremy Dean at Thu, 28 Jul 2016 18:20 Instapaperify


Effie Brown: The Identity Crisis – What Does It Mean to be a Leader?

About this presentation

Effie Brown has been an executive producer for 20 years and has made over 23 films and 200 pieces of digital content. Yet, when creating these films and managing teams of up to 100 people, a jarring reality hovered over her head – she didn’t really want to be a leader. In fact, when asked what does she identify with her response is often “I identify with the other.” However, she’s managed to use both the advantages and disadvantages of this identity to create her greatest works.

In this talk, Brown teaches us how to embrace being an outsider in our leadership roles. “Know thyself, know what lens you’re leading from, and the what and why of it all,” she says. 

About Effie Brown

Los Angeles-based producer Effie Brown received a degree in Film Production and Theater from Loyola Marymount University before going on to participate in Film Independent’s Project Involve, an intensive fellowship for people seeking a career in the film industry. She started her career at Tim ...

by Kiana S. at Thu, 28 Jul 2016 18:05 Instapaperify


Scott H Young

How to Start Your Own Ultralearning Project (Part One)

Ultralearning is deep self-education to learn hard things in less time. I’ve written before about how I’ve used this approach to learn MIT computer science, multiple languages and cognitive science.

I’ve touched on some of the aspects of ultralearning in previous articles. It focuses on learning depth-first, breaking impasses down into prerequisites you can finish step-by-step, creatively using resources and balancing theory with practice.

In this article, I want to show you how to start your own ultralearning project. To make things easier, I’ve split this article into two parts: the first part, explaining why you should start an ultralearning project and how to design it. The second part, coming next week, will tell you how to find time to work on it and how to improve your ability to focus.

Why Ultralearning?

Ultralearning projects are hard work. Not only do they require you to take time out of your life, but they’re also mentally demanding. Given this, a good question to ask might be, why bother ultralearning at all ...

by Scott Young at Thu, 28 Jul 2016 16:34 Instapaperify


Defuse Arguments with Your Partner Through Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness can mean many different things and has many different benefits , but it isn’t limited to your own improvement. You can also use mindfulness to defuse emotionally charged moments between you and your partner. Here’s what we mean.


by Heather Yamada-Hosley at Thu, 28 Jul 2016 14:00 Instapaperify


HoloLens Hack Fools the Brain Into Fixing Itself

Microsoft’s amazing HoloLens is the world’s first stand-alone headset that lets users see virtual objects and environments as if they existed in the real world. This device’s entertainment potential is practically unlimited , but as a Hackathon team recently demonstrated, it can also be used to rewire a malfunctioning brain.


by George Dvorsky at Thu, 28 Jul 2016 06:13 Instapaperify

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

Should the power of an explanation have limited scope? –

Should the power of an explanation, especially in science (though I'm interested if this changes anything), have a limited scope? Meaning that in abduction an explanation that explains more isn't ...

by MATHEMETICIAN at Thu, 28 Jul 2016 01:01 Instapaperify

July 27, 2016

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

What's the fastest way to improve with delayed feedback? –

I have in mind habits and skills like meditation, exercises, diet, posture, and so on, that require significant effort to practice, and that don't show tangible results until after an extended period ...

by abnry at Wed, 27 Jul 2016 21:49 Instapaperify


Plan Worthwhile Day Trips by Minding Your Travel Time

Day trips are the perfect way to travel on a budget and explore your own backyard. This simple rule of thumb will make sure they always turn out to be invigorating, fulfilling experiences, not draining ventures.


by Patrick Allan at Wed, 27 Jul 2016 21:30 Instapaperify

Pseudoscience – Friendly Atheist

Dr. Jill Stein Is Anti-Science, Bad for the Environment, and Deserves Her Anti-Vax Label

I’m a strong progressive with socialist leanings. I’m an environmentalist working for biodiversity. I’m a naturalist and organic gardener, who lectures about gardening for wildlife. And it's precisely for these reasons that I won't be voting for Green Party candidate Jill Stein for President.

by Bo Gardiner at Wed, 27 Jul 2016 21:00 Instapaperify



10 Secrets for Success on the Bulletproof Diet

The Bulletproof Diet is the place to start if you want to feel amazing and kick more ass. But this approach to nutrition is an abrupt departure from the Standard American Diet (SAD). So, if you’re having a tough time wrapping your head around the diet or just need some simple, step-by-step instructions on how […]

The post 10 Secrets for Success on the Bulletproof Diet appeared first on Bulletproof.

by Mallory Leone at Wed, 27 Jul 2016 16:00 Instapaperify


The Danger of Making a Backup Plan

Whatever your creative ambition is, you know it could fail. Tough, but true. Your book proposal might get rejected, your start-up might tank. Your client pitch might fall flat. That’s an uncomfortable prospect for anyone, and a sensible antidote is often to make a backup plan. You tell yourself that if the book proposal flops, then you’ll start applying for staff writer positions. Or if your start-up fails, then you’ll take that job at your friend’s company.

A backup plan is like an emotional safety net – it’s comforting and helps combat the fear of failure. And yet, ironically, the very act of devising this secondary plan could make it more likely that your primary goal will fail.

The very act of devising this secondary plan could make it more likely that your primary goal will fail.

Business scholars at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Pennsylvania advised recently that this adverse effect is most likely if your primary goal takes effort (which of course is true of most ...

by seanblanda at Wed, 27 Jul 2016 14:57 Instapaperify


Modified "Complexity vs"

Complexity: fmt; tweak Starcraft quote; add a von Neumann-attributed quote which was hard to track down & surprisingly recent

by gwern at Wed, 27 Jul 2016 14:21 Instapaperify


Reform the CFAA

The Consumer Fraud and Abuse Act is badly in need of reform. It currently criminalizes violations of terms of services for websites, even when those terms of service are written in a narrow way and the violation is being done for the public good.

Specifically, the CFAA keeps researchers from understanding how algorithms work. As an example, Julia Angwin’s recent work on recidivism modeling, which I blogged about here, was likely a violation of the CFAA:

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 7.45.43 AM

A more general case has been made for CFAA reform in this 2014 paper, Auditing Algorithms: Research Methods for Detecting Discrimination on Internet Platforms, written by Christian Sandvig, Kevin Hamilton, Karrie Karahalios, and Cedric Langbort.

They make the case that discrimination audits – wherein you send a bunch of black people and then white people to, say, try to rent an apartment from Donald Trump’s real estate company in 1972 – have clearly violated standard ethical guidelines (by wasting people’s time and not letting them in on the fact that they’re involved in a study), but since ...

by Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe at Wed, 27 Jul 2016 12:01 Instapaperify

BPS Research Digest

The "Relocation Bump" – how moving house creates lasting memories

Why is our youth, from adolescence to early adulthood, so ripe with memories compared with other times in life? Research has firmly established this "reminiscence bump", with various explanatory theories: it contains many unforgettable first times; the young mind is sharper; and we reflect on these early events to reinforce our sense of identity. The trouble is, it’s tricky to disentangle the role played by these different factors because they all co-occur in youth.

To shed new light on the issue, a research team from the University of New Hampshire has pointed their torch elsewhere. They investigated memories originating later in life, and they’ve found that the period between age 40 and 60 contains its own reminiscence bumps, usually formed around major life transitions. This suggests that youth may have the largest trove of memories, but the psychological reasons for this can also play out at other times of life .

The research, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, asked participants over the age of 65 to recall five memorable experiences they ...

by Research Digest at Wed, 27 Jul 2016 09:00 Instapaperify

July 26, 2016


Will Trump “veer to Center?”…and… Al Franken For 'Designated Trump!'

I'll offer some crit on the democrats at the end.  But first...

Following up on the Republican convention, were you puzzled by… or even cynically dismissive of… The Donald's LGBT remark and Ivanka's feminist riff? I take a less jaundiced view, deeming those to be much more than just perfunctory toss-offs. Indeed, they were likely significant moments, testing the waters for how big a “veer to the center” the Trumps can get away with in the general election campaign.

Both of them know that their confederate followers love to wrap themselves in virtue and to shout: "we're not the bigots, liberals are!" Remember, there’s almost no evidence in Donald Trump’s past suggesting that this cynical, Svengali-manipulator actually believes any of the racist stuff he’s been spouting. (Sexism, sure. But even that may be complicated.)

I’ve long held it plausible that he might backtrack from any polemical device that no longer suits his purpose. He’s done it before.  (Remember the ‘birther” stuff?)

Recall how last year – before ...

by David Brin at Tue, 26 Jul 2016 23:45 Instapaperify

Pseudoscience – Friendly Atheist

Miss Cleo, Famed TV “Psychic,” is Dead

Miss Cleo, the self-proclaimed psychic whose commercials were everywhere a couple of decades ago, has died of cancer at age 53, according to TMZ.

by Hemant Mehta at Tue, 26 Jul 2016 19:04 Instapaperify


Patrolling with the Health Ranger, Mike Adams – #330

Why you should listen – Mike Adams, known as the “Health Ranger,” is an outspoken consumer health advocate, award-winning investigative journalist, internet activist and science lab director. He is the founder and editor of, the internet’s most-trafficked natural health news website. He is also the creator of, and several other websites covering […]

by Dave Asprey at Tue, 26 Jul 2016 19:00 Instapaperify

Point of Inquiry

Wendy Kaminer: Dangerous Spaces for Free Speech

Free speech on college campuses has become a topic of impassioned debate, as the lines between hate speech and harassment, or peaceful protest and public disturbance, are rather blurry and hotly contested. Particularly since the protest movements of the 1960s, college campuses have long been a kind of testing ground for different norms and boundaries of free expression. At the same time, some institutions of higher learning have speech codes which many feel are serving to silence debate and discussion among students in the name of protecting feelings.

Our guest this week, Wendy Kaminer, is among those who believe that things like speech codes and trigger warnings have gotten out of control. Kaminer is a lawyer and writer who has dedicated much of her life’s work to defending free speech. She and host Lindsay Beyerstein engage in a spirited discussion about the grayest areas concerning speech and censorship on campus and in the culture at large.

Kaminer will also be one of the many fantastic speakers at the fourth Women in Secularism conference, September ...

Tue, 26 Jul 2016 18:44 Instapaperify


Overhyped Brain Training Turns Out To Have Unexpected Benefit

Until now brain training has proved more of a fad than a useful a treatment.

spark motivation ebook 

by Jeremy Dean at Tue, 26 Jul 2016 17:20 Instapaperify

Deworming might have huge impact, but might have close to zero impact

We try to communicate that there are risks involved with all of our top charity recommendations, and that none of our recommendations are a “sure thing.”

Our recommendation of deworming programs (the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative and the Deworm the World Initiative), though, carries particularly significant risk (in the sense of possibly not doing much/any good, rather than in the sense of potentially doing harm). In our 2015 top charities announcement, we wrote:

Most GiveWell staff members would agree that deworming programs are more likely than not to have very little or no impact, but there is some possibility that they have a very large impact. (Our cost-effectiveness model implies that most staff members believe there is at most a 1-2% chance that deworming programs conducted today have similar impacts to those directly implied by the randomized controlled trials on which we rely most heavily, which differed from modern-day deworming programs in a number of important ways.)

The goal of this post is to explain this view and why we still recommend deworming.

Some basics ...

by Sean at Tue, 26 Jul 2016 16:48 Instapaperify


Martina Flor: An Introvert’s Approach to Kicking Ass

When you speak to Martina Flor you’ll immediately notice just how aw-shucks friendly she is. She’ll never boast about her industry-leading lettering ability and is reluctant to go to into the sort of bold proclamations that “iconoclastic” creative minds tend to spout. But the soft-spoken Argentinian-native is the furthest thing from passive. Call it an introvert’s approach to kicking ass.

Her well-established freelance lettering business is thriving and is the result of some super-aggressive career path (and world map) navigation as she bounced from in-house designer to agencies across two continents the same way she bounces around in conversation — quietly but unmistakably confident.

Whether it’s going freelance or launching a fun side project, Flor dives in and hopes for the net to appear. And lately, it always does. In an era of over-the-top self-promotion and social media sniping, is there still space for the friendly woman that believes in the altruism of creative education? We spoke with the Berlin-based letterer on how she built an enviable career, one which mixes fun ...

by seanblanda at Tue, 26 Jul 2016 15:45 Instapaperify

Scientific American Content: Mind Matters

Kindness Contagion

Witnessing kindness inspires kindness, causing it to spread like a virus

--

by Jamil Zaki at Tue, 26 Jul 2016 15:45 Instapaperify

NeuroLogica Blog

Marketing Conspiracies and Conspiracy Marketing

selling pseudoscience6_nA recent article by Spenser Davis details how Alex Jones uses his conspiracy mongering to sell conspiracy-themed supplements and products. This phenomenon goes way past Alex Jones. This meme from Destroyed by Science lists a few of the more popular websites that combine conspiracy theories and dubious supplements and other products.

In my opinion, Jones pales in comparison to Natural News. This online empire closely connects conspiracies about medicine and the government with specific alternative health products and supplements.

The marriage of conspiracy theories and selling snake oil and pseudoscience is an obvious one. My question, however, is in which direction does the arrow of causation go?

Springtime for Charlatans

Pseudoscience, scientific illiteracy in general, and conspiracy thinking are goldmines for the sellers of dubious products. Think about it – what better potential customer is there than someone who is willing to believe fantastical claims, does not require claims to be scientifically plausible, let alone supported by solid science, and is skeptical of the regulatory system designed to protect consumers from fraud?

Ironically, conspiracy and alternative ...

by Steven Novella at Tue, 26 Jul 2016 12:10 Instapaperify


Modified ""

Zeo: caffeine: start working out implications of estimates

by gwern at Tue, 26 Jul 2016 01:41 Instapaperify

July 25, 2016

zen habits

Mental Badassery: Becoming Aware of the Stories We Tell Ourselves

By Leo Babauta

There’s a hidden mechanism that creates unhappiness, difficulty changing habits, relationship problems, frustration, anger and disappointment.

Barely anyone is aware of this hidden mechanism, even though it’s happening all the time, in all of us.

It’s the stories we tell ourselves.

We do it all day long: we tell ourselves a story about what’s happening in our lives, about other people, about ourselves. When I call them “stories” … that doesn’t mean they’re false, or that they aren’t based on the truth. It just means we’ve constructed a narrative based on our experiences, a perspective on the world around us, an interpretation of facts as we see them. Not false, but not necessarily the entire truth — just one perspective.

A different person could look at the same situation and tell a very different situation.

A few examples:

  1. You might have a story about how your boss is very supportive and praises you a lot, which means you are doing a good job and like your ...

by zenhabits at Mon, 25 Jul 2016 20:13 Instapaperify