Planet Rationalist

July 02, 2015


Sci Fi News: from Cli-Fi to Post-humanism

On ZDNet, Simon Bisson offers up a cool list  of “26 essential science fiction novels to get you ready for tomorrow.”  It’s a great list, with works by Vinge, Brunner, Sterling, Stross, Naam, Stephenson, Nagata and others… though in a couple of cases I am a bit biased.

An interesting article asks10 science-fiction, speculative fiction, urban fantasy and dystopian authors to answer a single question: What will the next 10 years bring? 

How about a museum for the future? Actor John Rhys-Davies spends less than one minute entertainingly haranguing us all to support the new Museum of Science Fiction, planned for Washington DC!  

Isaac Asimov reads aloud his short story "The Last Question" in one sitting. It appeared in the November 1956 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly and Asimov said it was "by far my favorite story of all those I have written."

Here’s a cute rumination.  You are offered eight different – mutually exclusive – superpower pills....Would you take the red pill, the blue pill, or the black pill? This notion is turned ...

by David Brin at Thu, 02 Jul 2015 15:39 Instapaperify

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

Why am I feeling overwhelmed by the feeling of confidence? –

I've been having self-esteem issues for years now. And have been trying in vain to overcome it for the over-all well-being and improvement of my life. I think I finally got it into my head that ...

by Val Croft at Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:23 Instapaperify

Art Markman, PhD

Why Do People Engage in Extreme Rituals?

It is pledge season at fraternities and sororities all over the US.  New initiates into these groups spend a chunk of their first semester engaging in all kinds of activities from the mundane (wearing an article of clothing to distinguish them from other members of the group) to the extreme.  Occasionally, stories of hazing rituals make the news when a student is injured. 

Fraternities and Sororities are hardly the only groups in the world that engage in extreme rituals.  Anthropologists have documented all kind of practices from a variety of cultures that can be hard to understand for outside observers.

Clearly, these rituals have to serve some function.  The speculation is that the most extreme rituals create some kind of social bonding among the individuals who participate in them as well as those who observe them.  A fascinating paper by Dimitris Xygalatas and several co-authors in the August, 2013 issue of Psychological Science presents a field study that provides some data to back up this proposal.

This study was done in Mauritius.  The people there ...

by Art Markman at Thu, 02 Jul 2015 13:35 Instapaperify

Andrew Gelman

Humility needed in decision-making

Brian MacGillivray and Nick Pidgeon write:

Daniel Gilbert maintains that people generally make bad decisions on risk issues, and suggests that communication strategies and education programmes would help (Nature 474, 275–277; 2011). This version of the deficit model pervades policy-making and branches of the social sciences.

In this model, conflicts between expert and public perceptions of risk are put down to the difficulties that laypeople have in reasoning in the face of uncertainties rather than to deficits in knowledge per se.

Indeed, this is the “Nudge” story we hear a lot: the idea is that our well-known cognitive biases are messing us up, and policymakers should be accounting for this.

But MacGillivray and Pidgeon take a more Gigerenzian view:

There are three problems with this stance.

First, it relies on a selective reading of the literature. . . .

Second, it rests on some bold extrapolations. For example, it is not clear how the biases Gilbert identifies in the classic ‘trolley’ experiment play out in the real world. Many such reasoning ‘errors’ are mutually contradictory — for example ...

Thu, 02 Jul 2015 13:00 Instapaperify


What is Sidewalks Labs’ business model?

You might have heard about Sidewalk Labs, which is backed by Google and plans to repurpose phone booths all over New York City as wifi hubs. They are also planning to install large advertising screens on the sides of the phone booths to display dynamic advertising to passersby. A few comments and questions.

  • When you use that wifi, they can track what you do.
  • Even if you don’t use it, if you walk by with a wifi-enabled device (smart phone), the phone booth will sense your device and tag you.
  • Presumably this is not charity. They will expect to make ad revenue with their screens.
  • Best guess: they will tailor the advertisements depending on who is walking by and what they’re doing.
  • The overall negotiation then is that we are willing to exchange free wifi for having our experience in a public space tracked by a private company. I’m not sure we are all thinking that’s a good deal.
  • They plan to do it in other cities, using street lamps and ...

by Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe at Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:49 Instapaperify


Essential Objects: Tools That Make You Want to Work (Even on a Monday)

Like a brand new pair of running shoes gets you excited to go the gym, the best office supplies get you excited to get back to work—even on a Monday. We rounded up 10 of the objects that keep us whistling on our way to work every day of the week.

Outdoor Voices Tote

We’re all about making things happen, and this durable, recycled Baggu canvas tote couldn’t be a better helper. Outdoor Voices says their motto is “Doing things is better than not doing things,” which makes us feel like they just get us.

Bin Bin Wastepaper Basket

Sometimes it’s just better to scrap it and move on. This clever, and surprisingly sturdy, garbage bin by Canoe looks exactly like the failed memoirs and broken dreams we’ll be throwing into it.

Mogolo Laptop Lid

This foldable keyboard cover slips over your screen to prevent any spills or accidental key-presses. Though technically called the “Kid Lid,” it’s perfect for extra temporary desk space while traveling or ...

by 99uteam at Thu, 02 Jul 2015 11:00 Instapaperify

Two Time-Tricks to Help Avoid Creativity’s Rabbit Holes

By Yasmine Gateau

By Yasmine Gateau

Creative blocks are an obvious foe to work; however, getting lost in creativity can be just as inefficient. Although we strive to reach those moments where we can get completely lost in our work, we also lose all sense of time. We usually don’t view this a problematic as we deem the time as productive. However, when we use our creativity as our profession and have multiple clients, losing track of time can be a huge pitfall. During the FITC Conference, director and illustrator Ash Thorp explains how he avoids getting trapped within his own creativity:

I set a timer, an alarm on my phone. I just sit there and tell Siri, ‘set an alarm for 8:30, set an alarm for 9:00, set an alarm for 11:30.’ Basically, every moment that I have to break a chapter. So at 11:00 if I have a call, I set an alarm on my phone. We’re creative people, so when I get in the mood of creating, time flies ...

by 99uteam at Thu, 02 Jul 2015 11:00 Instapaperify

zen habits

Neither Averting Nor Craving in Each Moment

By Leo Babauta

I’ve been trying to more deeply study the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths lately, and because of that I constantly notice my cravings and aversions.

Who cares, you might ask?

Well, it turns out that as a result of these cravings and aversions, there are lots of little annoyances, anger, frustrations, stresses, worries, fears of missing out, distractions, procrastinations, disappointments and more that we all face in almost every moment. We don’t always notice they’re there, but they are there.

Try this: take a moment throughout today to notice when you’re completely happy and content in the moment, to just sit in the moment without thinking of anything but what’s in front of you, to not reach for some distraction. See if you’re not annoyed by something, worried about something, frustrated by something, rushed to go do something else.

If you can sample 10 moments throughout your day, and you don’t find more than one or two moments with those kind of “negative” states of ...

by zenhabits at Thu, 02 Jul 2015 07:22 Instapaperify

Kurzweil AI

Walking in nature lowers risk of depression, scientists find in MRI study

A new study has found quantifiable evidence that supports the common-sense idea that walking in nature could lower your risk of depression.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting (El Camino Real in Palo Alto, California, a noisy street with three to four lanes in both directions), showed decreased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination — repetitive thought focused on negative emotions.

“These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world,” said co-author Gretchen Daily, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “Our findings can help inform the growing movement worldwide to make cities more livable, and to make nature more accessible to all who live in them.”

“This finding is exciting because it demonstrates the impact of nature experience on an aspect ...

Thu, 02 Jul 2015 03:11 Instapaperify

July 01, 2015 - Program Feed

Welcome Remarks

Welcome Remarks
  • Margaret Low Smith, President, AtlanticLIVE
  • Peter Scher, Chairman of the Washington D.C. Region and Head of Corporate Responsibility, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Date: Thu, 18 Jun 2015 15:00:00 -0700
Location: San Francisco, California, W Hotel, Atlantic
Program and discussion:

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:31 Instapaperify

Living in the City of the Future

Living in the City of the Future
  • The Honorable Mike Rawlings, Mayor, Dallas, Texas
  • Arvind Satyam, Managing Director, Global Business Development, Smart + Connected Communities Initiative, Internet of Everything Group, Cisco
  • With Steve Clemons, Washington Editor at Large, The Atlantic

Date: Thu, 18 Jun 2015 15:05:00 -0700
Location: San Francisco, California, W Hotel, Atlantic
Program and discussion:

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:30 Instapaperify

Funding Change

Funding Change
  • Michael Seibel, Partner, Y Combinator
  • With Steve Clemons

Date: Thu, 18 Jun 2015 17:15:00 -0700
Location: San Francisco, California, W Hotel, Atlantic
Program and discussion:

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:29 Instapaperify

The Dynamic City: Where Big Data Meets the Streets

The Dynamic City: Where Big Data Meets the Streets
  • Joy Bonaguro, Chief Data Officer, City and County of San Francisco, California
  • Stephen Goldsmith, Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government, Harvard Kennedy School
  • With Alexis Madrigal, Contributing Editor, The Atlantic

Date: Thu, 18 Jun 2015 16:00:00 -0700
Location: San Francisco, California, W Hotel, Atlantic
Program and discussion:

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:28 Instapaperify

Closing the Digital Divide

Closing the Digital Divide
  • The Honorable Ralph Becker, Mayor, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • The Honorable Sly James, Mayor, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Erica Swanson, Head of Community Impact Programs, Google Fiber
  • With Alexis Madrigal

Date: Thu, 18 Jun 2015 16:45:00 -0700
Location: San Francisco, California, W Hotel, Atlantic
Program and discussion:

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:28 Instapaperify

How Technology Is Rebuilding Detroit

How Technology Is Rebuilding Detroit
Sponsor Session by JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • Robert Linn, Data Director, Detroit Land Bank Authority
  • Jerry Paffendorf, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer, LOVELAND Technologies
  • With Daryl Shore, Vice President, Program Officer, Global Philanthropy, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Date: Thu, 18 Jun 2015 15:40:00 -0700
Location: San Francisco, California, W Hotel, Atlantic
Program and discussion:

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:26 Instapaperify

Click Here to Give Back

Click Here to Give Back
  • Jase Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, Neighborly

Date: Thu, 18 Jun 2015 16:30:00 -0700
Location: San Francisco, California, W Hotel, Atlantic
Program and discussion:

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:25 Instapaperify

Sentient Developments

Woman Gives Birth Using Ovarian Tissue Frozen In Childhood

In a medical first, a woman has given birth to a healthy baby boy from a transplant of her own frozen ovarian tissue preserved when she was just 13-years-old. It's a remarkable breakthrough that's poised to benefit young people who lose their fertility because of cancer treatments.

As reported in The Telegraph, the unnamed 28-year-old woman, who suffers from sickle-cell anemia, had to have her ovary tissue surgically removed prior to chemotherapy. She was only 13-years-old at the time and had never experienced menstruation, but the doctors had the sense to cryopreserve her ovarian tissue (specifically her right ovary and dozens of tissue fragments) with the hopes that it could be used to restore her fertility in the future — which, as a new study published in Human Reproduction point out, is exactly what happened.

by George at Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:19 Instapaperify

Are Limited Lifespans An Evolutionary Adaptation?

Since the time of Darwin, evolutionary biologists have wondered why the lifespans of different species vary so significantly. A new model now suggests that the life expectancy of any given species is a function of evolutionary pressures — a conclusion that hints at the potential for powerful anti-aging interventions in humans.

The new paper, which now appears in Physical Review Letters, challenges popular conceptions about the nature of aging and why it manifests at different rates in different organisms, including species that are closely related.

By running variations of their model hundreds of thousands of times, a research team led by Yaneer Bar-Yam from the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), in collaboration with the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, observed that evolution favors shorter lifespans in environments where resources are scarce and when pressures to procreate are particularly intense. The simulations appeared to show that lifespans of animals — humans included — are genetically conditioned, and not the result of gradual wear-and-tear. It's a surprising result, one that gives added credence to the burgeoning ...

by George at Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:17 Instapaperify

It's About To Get A Lot Harder To Experiment On Chimps

The Jane Goodall Institute, in collaboration with other animal welfare groups, has successfully petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare a new rule under which all chimpanzees—both wild and captive—must be protected as an endangered species.

Wild chimpanzees have been listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1990, so it seemed odd and inappropriate to a coalition of animal welfare organizations, including the Jane Goodall Institute, that research chimps were not granted the same consideration. According to ESA rules, captive chimps cannot be assigned separate legal status from their wild counterparts owing to their captive state. In an effort to change this, the coalition petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 2010 to list all chimps as endangered. This instigated a formal review of the ESA and the new ruling.

by George at Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:16 Instapaperify

Are These "Double-Muscled" Pigs the Future of Meat?

By editing a single gene, researchers from South Korea and China have engineered pigs that produce about twice the amount of muscle as normal pigs. The goal is to produce leaner meat and at higher yields, but early results show it could be a long time before this jacked-up pork appears on your dinner plate.

by George at Wed, 01 Jul 2015 20:58 Instapaperify

The Work of Michael Shermer


Why cops kill
magazine cover

The ongoing rash of police using deadly force against minority citizens has triggered a search for a universal cause—most commonly identified as racism. Such soul searching is understandable, especially in light of the racist e-mails uncovered in the Ferguson, Mo., police department by the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

To whatever extent prejudice still percolates in the minds of a few cops in a handful of pockets of American society (nothing like 50 years ago), it does not explain the many interactions between white police and minority citizens that unfold without incident every year or the thousands of cases of assaults on police that do not end in police deaths (49,851 in 2013, according to the FBI). What in the brains of cops or citizens leads either group to erupt in violence?

An answer may be found deep inside the brain, where a neural network stitches together three structures into what neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp calls the rage circuit: (1) the periaqueductal ...

by Skeptic Webmaster at Wed, 01 Jul 2015 19:00 Instapaperify

Ulterior Motives

How Does Physical Experience Affect Learning?

Go to a typical classroom, and it looks like a show. A teacher stands in front of the room. The teacher talks and demonstrates things from the front of the room. Unlike a show at a theater, the audience (the students) do get a chance to talk on occasion. But, most of the work students do is done from their seats.

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 18:58 Instapaperify


Upgrade Your July 4th With Blueberry Gelato and Hot Sauce!

Happy Independence Day! As far as holidays go, the Fourth of July is pretty great. In addition to celebrating American independence, tradition dictates that you spend a good portion of the day out in the sun, soaking up vitamin D and eating delicious burgers, hot dogs, and steaks – grass-fed and cooked right, of course. […]

The post Upgrade Your July 4th With Blueberry Gelato and Hot Sauce! appeared first on Bulletproof.

by Dave Asprey at Wed, 01 Jul 2015 16:00 Instapaperify

Mind Hacks

For argument’s sake

ebook cover
I have (self) published an ebook For argument’s sake: evidence that reason can change minds. It is the collection of two essays that were originally published on Contributoria and The Conversation. I have revised and expanded these, and added a guide to further reading on the topic. There are bespoke illustrations inspired by Goya (of owls), and I’ve added an introduction about why I think psychologists and journalists both love stories that we’re irrational creatures incapable of responding to reasoned argument. Here’s something from the book description:

Are we irrational creatures, swayed by emotion and entrenched biases? Modern psychology and neuroscience are often reported as showing that we can’t overcome our prejudices and selfish motivations. Challenging this view, cognitive scientist Tom Stafford looks at the actual evidence. Re-analysing classic experiments on persuasion, as well as summarising more recent research into how arguments change minds, he shows why persuasion by reason alone can be a powerful force.

All in, it’s close to 7000 words and available from Amazon now

by tomstafford at Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:20 Instapaperify



Advertisement or… negotiation?

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of meeting Anna Bernasek and Dan Mongan, who came to the Alt Banking group meeting to tell us about their book All You Can Pay: How Companies Use Our Data To Empty Our Wallets.

While they were discussing their book, the topic of online advertisement naturally came up. Dan and Anna made an interesting point in that discussion which I’ve been chewing on ever since. Namely, they provocatively suggested that we should never use the word “advertising” to describe the complicated and sophisticated process of tailored and targeted offers to an individual internet browser. Instead, we should call it a “negotiation.” Let me explain their reasoning.

They started by introducing the concept of a “consumer surplus.” This is the difference between what a given consumer would be willing to pay for a product versus what the price actually is for that product. If the difference is positive, the consumer buys the product and has a theoretical bit of “extra” money in their wallet, which corresponds to the happy ...

by Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe at Wed, 01 Jul 2015 12:01 Instapaperify

Marginal Revolution: Science

More on Asteroid Defense

In a very good piece on the risk from asteroids the Washington Post quotes me going all crunchy-granola:

Tabarrok says his hope is that private efforts in space will one day soon focus on mining asteroids for valuable resources. If you have miners and private developers working with asteroids in space, that could inadvertently make it easier to defend the planet against an asteroid collision.

And of course, there is the option that people on Earth could somehow get the motivation to work together, and asteroid defense might ultimately be a reason for unifying the world, says Tabarrok.

“The idea that the whole planet is potentially under threat from an asteroid does make us think that the world is our home, and we’re all in this together – Spaceship Earth, to get a little crunchy granola. And that makes us think a little more about our fellow travelers, our fellow world residents, that we’re all in this together.”

I may have to turn in my hard-headed economist card.

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 11:25 Instapaperify

Decision Science News

How long do prison escapees go before being caught?



Click to enlarge

The recent prison break in upstate New York got us wondering how long prison escapes tend to last. We found some data on prison escapes in New York State. See the dot plot above.

We then found a table in the Atlantic, which cites this paper, on perhaps more skillful inmates who managed to stay on the run a bit longer, though 80% of them were back in prison inside a week.

The upshot from both analyses is the same: if you escape from prison, you’re probably going to be re-captured within a day.


The post How long do prison escapees go before being caught? appeared first on Decision Science News.

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 04:55 Instapaperify


Quantum query complexity: the other shoe drops

Two weeks ago I blogged about a breakthrough in query complexity: namely, the refutation by Ambainis et al. of a whole slew of conjectures that had stood for decades (and that I mostly believed, and that had helped draw me into theoretical computer science as a teenager) about the largest possible gaps between various complexity measures for total Boolean functions. Specifically, Ambainis et al. built on a recent example of Göös, Pitassi, and Watson to construct bizarre Boolean functions f with, among other things, near-quadratic gaps between D(f) and R0(f) (where D is deterministic query complexity and R0 is zero-error randomized query complexity), near-1.5th-power gaps between R0(f) and R(f) (where R is bounded-error randomized query complexity), and near-4th-power gaps between D(f) and Q(f) (where Q is bounded-error quantum query complexity). See my previous post for more about the definitions of these concepts and the significance of the results (and note also that Mukhopadhyay and Sanyal independently obtained weaker results).

Because my ...

by Scott at Wed, 01 Jul 2015 03:06 Instapaperify

June 30, 2015 - Program Feed

How I Became a National Geographic Photographer

How I Became a National Geographic Photographer
After struggling with dyslexia Robert Clark found his calling behind the camera. Follow his journey from newspapers to National Geographic as he photographs high school football, mummies, 9/11, and Darwin's theory of evolution.
Date: Tue, 30 Jun 2015 03:00:00 -0700
Location: , , National Geographic Live
Program and discussion:

Tue, 30 Jun 2015 20:32 Instapaperify


Transcript – Dr. Julie Holland: Sex, Ecstasy & Antidepressants – #231

Dr. Julie Holland: Sex, Ecstasy & Antidepressants – #231 Click here to download PDF of this transcript   Dave Asprey:    Hey, everyone. It’s Dave Asprey with Bulletproof Radio. Today’s cool fact of the day is that when women who were unhappy or stressed were diagnosed with hysteria, a common treatment was for their physician to give […]

The post Transcript – Dr. Julie Holland: Sex, Ecstasy & Antidepressants – #231 appeared first on Bulletproof.

by Dave Asprey at Tue, 30 Jun 2015 19:00 Instapaperify

Dr. Julie Holland: Sex, Ecstasy & Antidepressants – #231

Why you should listen –  Dr. Julie Holland comes on Bulletproof Radio today to discuss hacking orgasms, medicinal ecstasy, getting off antidepressants, and why testosterone is important for women. Enjoy the show! Click here to download the mp3 of Dr. Julie Holland: Sex, Ecstasy & Antidepressants – #231 Julie Holland, M.D., is a psychiatrist who specializes in […]

The post Dr. Julie Holland: Sex, Ecstasy & Antidepressants – #231 appeared first on Bulletproof.

by Dave Asprey at Tue, 30 Jun 2015 19:00 Instapaperify


What You Probably Don't Know About the Most Famous Case in Neuroscience

In 1845, a meter-long iron rod pierced the skull of Vermont railway worker Phineas Gage. The resulting changes to his personality forever changed our perception of the human brain. But what happened next to Gage is rarely covered in textbooks — a problematic oversight, say psychologists.


by George Dvorsky at Tue, 30 Jun 2015 17:40 Instapaperify


Mind Hacks

Pope returns to cocaine

Image from Wikipedia. Click for source,According to a report from BBC News the Pope ‘plans to chew coca leaves’ during his visit to Bolivia. Although portrayed as a radical encounter, this is really a return to cocaine use after a long period of abstinence in the papal office.

Although the leaves are a traditional, mild stimulant that have been used for thousands of years, they are controversial as they’re the raw material for synthesising powder cocaine.

The leaves themselves actually contain cocaine in its final form but only produce a mild stimulant effect because they have a low dose that is released relatively gently when chewed.

The lab process to produce the powder is largely concerned with concentrating and refining it which means it can be taken in a way to give the cocaine high.

The Pope is likely to be wanting to chew coca leaves to show support for the traditional uses of the plant, which, among other things, are used to help with altitude sickness but have become politicised due to the ‘war on drugs’.

Because of ...

by vaughanbell at Tue, 30 Jun 2015 16:44 Instapaperify

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

What is the ultimate personal organization system? –

I have so far tried many task- and/or life-management systems and apps, solo and in conjunction. And while they are all great in one way or another I have failed to find an app or a combination of ...

by Doğaç Yavuz at Tue, 30 Jun 2015 15:18 Instapaperify Science

The real state of neuromarketing

Remember the hype about neuromarketing, the use of brain imaging and other technologies to directly measure consumer preference or the effect of advertisements on our unconscious? In The Guardian, Vaughan "Mind Hacks" Bell looks at the latest in neuromarketing and breaks it down into "advertising fluff, serious research, and applied neuroscience." From The Guardian:

First, it’s important to realise that the concept of neuroscience is used in different ways in marketing. Sometimes, it’s just an empty ploy aimed at consumers – the equivalent of putting a bikini-clad body next to your product for people who believe they’re above the bikini ploy. A recent Porsche advert (video above) apparently showed a neuroscience experiment suggesting that the brain reacts in a similar way to driving their car and flying a fighter jet, but it was all glitter and no gold. The images were computer-generated, the measurements impossible, and the scientist an actor.

In complete contrast, neuromarketing is also a serious research area. This is a scientifically sound, genuinely interesting field in cognitive science, where the ...

Tue, 30 Jun 2015 14:00 Instapaperify

Andrew Gelman

Where does Mister P draw the line?

Bill Harris writes:

Mr. P is pretty impressive, but I’m not sure how far to push him in particular and MLM [multilevel modeling] in general.

Mr. P and MLM certainly seem to do well with problems such as eight schools, radon, or the Xbox survey. In those cases, one can make reasonable claims that the performance of the eight schools (or the houses or the interviewees, conditional on modeling) are in some sense related.

Then there are totally unrelated settings. Say you’re estimating the effect of silicone spray on enabling your car to get you to work: fixing a squeaky door hinge, covering a bad check you paid against the car loan, and fixing a bald tire. There’s only one case where I can imagine any sort of causal or even correlative connection, and I’d likely need persuading to even consider trying to model the relationship between silicone spray and keeping the car from being repossessed.

If those two cases ring true, where does one draw the line between them? For ...

Tue, 30 Jun 2015 13:44 Instapaperify

Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

What Would It Take to Refute Radical Embodied Cognition?

People often send us papers and data via Twitter that they believe rule out a radical, non-representational theory of cognition. Because I have yet to agree about any of these studies, these people then often ask in exasperated tones 'well, what would you accept as evidence?'. 

My current best answer is "about 20 years of hard work". 

First, no single study will ever refute radical embodied cognition, for the same reason single studies should never be trusted. Replicate or get out. 

Second, no argument from theory will ever manage it. Theory is important, but without data an elegant theory is just that; elegant. We need accurate theories, and that means data.

Third, most studies are motivated by and interpreted within a more traditional cognitive science framework. This means that even a series of studies replicating an effect REC hasn't investigated and interpreting it as requiring representations, etc is not enough. Just because everyone is asking the wrong question doesn't make it the right question. 

There's really only one way to refute ...

by Andrew Wilson at Tue, 30 Jun 2015 13:26 Instapaperify

NeuroLogica Blog

Lessons From GM Wheat Failure

So-called “whiffy wheat” was genetically modified to release a pheromone that repels aphids. The obvious purpose of this modification was to reduce pests without the need for insecticides, and thereby reduce insecticide use.

The trait worked well in the lab. The wheat released sufficient amounts of a warning pheromone that aphids release when attacked. The pheromone both warns aphids to stay away, and also attracts predators, such as a parasitic wasp. The pheromone was derived from the peppermint plant.

The laboratory success meant the wheat was ready for field trials where the GM crop is put to the test in close to real world conditions. The results of those field trials were just published, and unfortunately they showed that the new trait essentially didn’t work – the aphids were not significantly decreased compared to controls, nor was yield increased.

The scientists discuss a few possible reasons for the failure. One is that during the field trials, cold wet summers made for low baseline levels of aphids, below the threshold where fields would normally be sprayed ...

by Steven Novella at Tue, 30 Jun 2015 13:08 Instapaperify