Planet Rationalist

May 29, 2016

Mind Hacks

Spike activity 28-05-2016

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:

One of the earliest hominin constructions ever found hundreds of metres deep into a cave. Fascinating piece in The Atlantic.

Aeon has a fascinating piece on how we come to have knowledge of our own minds.

PET brain metabolism linked to return of consciousness in vegetative state patients. The ‘predict’ headline on the article is a bit misleading in everyday terms – it’s only one study so not good enough evidence to make clinical predictions – but fascinating work covered by Stat.

The Guardian has a piece on psychology’s study pre-registration revolution.

ABC Radio’s The Science Show has an excellent hour-long tribute to Oliver Sacks – in his own words.

How do we choose a romantic partner? Interesting review of studies from The Conversation.

Social Minds has a fascinating post on arguing that it’s about time we identified cognitive phenotypes for the social deficits in autism.

by vaughanbell at Sun, 29 May 2016 23:53 Instapaperify

The science of the Psychoactive Drugs Act

The world’s stupidest drugs law, the Psychoactive Drugs Act, has come into effect in the UK last week and it claims to prohibit the creation and supply of all psychoactive substances not already covered by pre-existing drugs laws.

Apart from taking us further down the futile road of prohibition it is premised on something that’s scientifically impossible – testing if a seized drug is psychoactive from looking at its chemical structure.

The government claimed that they had ‘solved’ this problem and they’ve just released their forensic strategy document which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t actually solve it.

What it does do, however, is worthy of attention as it likely raises a whole new set of problems.

We learn from forensic strategy that the test for ‘psychoactivity’ is to submit mystery substances to receptor binding assays – a lab test where the substance is added to cells ‘in a dish’ which have receptors for certain neurotransmitters to see if substances bind to and activate the receptors.

Your brain has many, many different forms of receptors, so the ...

by vaughanbell at Sun, 29 May 2016 23:32 Instapaperify

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

Environmental cleanliness: what is cognitively fresh? –

The concept of freshness has developed over the last century to involve a range of sensations and responses to tastes, smells and feelings associated with foods, the environment and cleaning products. ...

by Comte at Sun, 29 May 2016 23:14 Instapaperify


Sci Fi Visions

"I define science fiction as the art of the possible. Fantasy is the art of the impossible. Science fiction, again, is the history of ideas, and they are always ideas that work themselves out and become real and happen in the world. And fantasy comes along and says, 'We're going to break all the laws of physics.' Most people don't realize it, but the series of films which have made more money than any other series of films in the history of the universe is the James Bond series. They're all science fiction, too-romantic, adventurous, frivolous, fantastic science fiction!" 
         --  Ray Bradbury’s definition of science fiction(See my own article, asking How to Define Science Fiction.)

Hold on for pocket reviews of some of the more interesting, recent Science Fiction novels.  But first...

Many of you are fans of Eric Flint's marvelous "1632" universe. Perhaps not the most likely alternate history series but by-far the most successful. And fun. Well, okay, I finally broke down and wrote a little story that ...

by David Brin at Sun, 29 May 2016 21:45 Instapaperify

Mind Hacks

Serendipity in psychological research

micDorothy Bishop has an excellent post ‘Ten serendipitous findings in psychology’, in which she lists ten celebrated discoveries which occurred by happy accident.

Each discovery is interesting in itself, but Prof Bishop puts the discoveries in the context of the recent discussion about preregistration (declaring in advance what you are looking for and how you’ll look). Does preregistration hinder serendipity? Absolutely not says Bishop, not least because the context of ‘discovery’ is never a one-off experiment.

Note that, in all cases, having made the initial unexpected observation – either from unstructured exploratory research, or in the course of investigating something else – the researchers went on to shore up the findings with further, hypothesis-driven experiments. What they did not do is to report just the initial observation, embellished with statistics, and then move on, as if the presence of a low p-value guaranteed the truth of the result.

(It’s hard not to read into these comments a criticism of some academic journals which seem happy to publish single experiments reporting surprising findings.)

Bishop’s list ...

by tomstafford at Sun, 29 May 2016 17:24 Instapaperify


rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

What are the pros and cons of giving students assignments to write Wikipedia articles? –

I have already asked this question here, but did not receive any response. I thought this site might be a better place to ask it. The Wikimedia Foundation initiated an education program at U.S. ...

by user2521204 at Sun, 29 May 2016 16:57 Instapaperify

Fallacy Files

The Fifth Puzzle of the Unmatched Socks (and Shoes)

Mr. Red, Mr. Green, and Mr. Red-Green went bowling one evening. As befitted their names, Mr. Red wore red shoes and socks, Mr. Green green shoes and socks, and Mr. Red-Green red and green two-tone shoes and socks (these guys aren't known for their fashion sense). None of the three men wore bowling shoes, so each had to rent a pair from the bowling alley. While renting the shoes, the three men remarked upon the fact that they all wore the same size shoe....

Sun, 29 May 2016 04:00 Instapaperify

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

concepts for living and its implications –

Please forgive me if you find this question to be placed in the wrong forum. However if you stay patient I explain why I placed it here. But first my question: Is there any reference list/science of ...

by Quicker at Sun, 29 May 2016 03:08 Instapaperify

May 28, 2016


The Memrise Blog

The Membusito in Spain: Season 1


We reached sunny San Sebastián in record time, excited for our first stint in Spain, and where better to start than in the European Capital of Culture for 2016. We kicked off with a bang by headlining with the Membus in the Olatu Talka festival, proudly representing Memrise for the event celebrating “Languages in their diversity”.

While a band of Catalonian accordion players serenaded the square, we welcomed the crowds of curious visitors onto the bus. Alongside the kids competing to be our next driver, we had an array of international fans, such as Carmen, an Italian Memrise user and one of our kickstarter backers, who had travelled all the way from Milan to visit us!

The festivities ended with some impressive human pyramid shows, at which point we convened on the upper deck for the best seats in the house.

Slack for iOS Upload (1)

We were also very excited to have some new team-members on board, including Klamer, a local filmmaker who turned out to be the best person to know in San Sebastián. As well as taking ...

by Memrise at Sat, 28 May 2016 16:27 Instapaperify

Dan Ariely

Ask Ariely: On Switching Stylists, Blood Loss, and a Broadcasting Behavior

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to


Dear Dan,

I am 65 and have been going to the same hair salon for ten years. I have gotten to know well the experienced stylist who cuts my hair. Recently, she had to cancel two appointments, so I got my hair cut by her former protégé, who works at the same shop. I discovered that I like the way the protégé cuts my hair better. I don’t see any way of switching to the younger stylist because of the social problems it will cause me and the stylists themselves. Both of them work the same hours on the same days.

I guess at my age, I just have to live with it. But I wonder, using my situation as an example, how can someone make such a ...

by mrtrower at Sat, 28 May 2016 11:30 Instapaperify

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

What is the ACT-R model of learning? –

I am reading this paper titled: Effect of Temporal Spacing between Advertising Exposures In this paper, the author mentions the ACT-R model and how it explains an optimal information- retrieval ...

by Dawny33 at Sat, 28 May 2016 05:58 Instapaperify

Insight junkie

Life update, May edition

Lots of changes!

The main ones being that my partner and I finally moved out of his mother's house and into an apartment, and I quit my call center job because I was starting to have pre-breakdown symptoms.

The new apartment is fairly small, but we're happy with it. We're much less happy with our neighbours, who have turned out to have... issues. Ranging from the fighting that we can hear through the walls to having friends living in a tent in their backyard to having what we suspect might be is a bicycle-stealing racket to the girlfriend getting stabbed one evening.

As for the job situation, I'm working from home doing video captioning and trying to also to work as an online researcher for a website called Wonder, although on the latter I'm running up hard against my perfectionism (as per usual, *sigh*).

Sat, 28 May 2016 04:26 Instapaperify

Beeminder Blog

New Premium Feature: Weekends Off

cute honey bee tells you to enjoy the weekend

Beeple of the world want to take their weekends off, and for a long time the best answer we’ve had is “well, if you just make sure to get green by Friday night, then you can safely take Saturday and Sunday off”, which is highly unsatisfying to the truly akratic. Because if I had the discipline to “just get green by Friday” how badly would I really need Beeminder’s nudge in the first place? And so for years I’ve been having good intentions to get enough work done to take the weekend off, and then wound up with at least a few hours of work each day of my so-called rest time.

“With a Plan Bee or higher subscription you can tick a checkbox in your goal’s settings and we’ll schedule next week’s break for you every Friday.”

Until about half a year ago when I started scheduling breaks for myself every Friday. Which has been working pretty great, but I’d still forget sometimes, and then I wouldn ...

by dreeves at Sat, 28 May 2016 04:18 Instapaperify


Science wonders... and nonsense...

We'll do a weekend science roundup with some interesting twists.  First...

Are black holes quantum computers?  Might the mega-sun black hole at the center of our galaxy be an uber quantum engine, actually operating on whatever information falls into it?  This physicist thinks that gravitons may thread across the event horizon, providing the ‘hair’ that John Wheeler claimed Black Holes cannot have.  They do this by forming a critical Bose-Einstein condensate… or so a new model suggests, and the insight may open up yet another approach to designing quantum computers.  Now the bigger question… is that where THIS simulation is currently being run?

Speaking of great computers… MacObserver runs an interesting podcast interesting interview podcast series.  This one with yours truly covers a wide range, from my education at Caltech and UCSD to how I got drawn over to the Dark Side -- arts like fiction. Also where some of us hard science fiction authors imagine "things" heading. And why the stars are our destination. (Oh also, some talk about Apple stuff!)

== Skewering BOTH left ...

by David Brin at Sat, 28 May 2016 01:57 Instapaperify

May 27, 2016


CrossFit Master Shana Alverson: Make Strong The New Skinny

One of the 50 fittest women in the world comes on Bulletproof Radio to talk about how strong is the new skinny and how she became a major player in the CrossFit community. On this episode of Bulletproof Radio you’ll get a look inside the mind of a real CrossFit master and she’s sassy too. […]

by Jon Lanman at Fri, 27 May 2016 23:54 Instapaperify

Glenn Elzinga: Grass Fed Beef from the Mountains of Idaho

Alderspring Ranch produces some of the best tasting and highest quality grass fed beef in North America. Glenn Elzinga, expert organic rancher and owner of Alderspring Ranch, shares what goes into creating Bulletproof approved beef and why it’. For over 20 years Glenn and Caryl Elzinga have worked hard and stayed true to the land […]

by Jon Lanman at Fri, 27 May 2016 22:25 Instapaperify

Overcoming Bias

Rating Ems vs AIs

Everyone without exception believes his own native customs, and the religion he was brought up in, to be the best (Herodotus 440BC).

I’ve given about sixty talks so far on the subject of my book The Age of Em. A common response is to compare my scenario to one where instead of ems, it is non-emulation-based software that can first replace humans on most all jobs. While some want to argue about which tech may come first, most prefer to evaluate which tech they want to come first.

Most who compare to ems to non-em-AI seem to prefer the latter. Some say they are concerned because they see ems as having a lower quality of life than we do today (more on that below). But honestly I mostly hear about humans losing status. Even though both meat humans and ems can both be seen as our descendants, people identify more with meat as “us” and see ems as “them.” So they lament meat no longer being the top dog in-charge center-of-attention.

The two scenarios ...

by Robin Hanson at Fri, 27 May 2016 20:20 Instapaperify


Erin Oprea – Tabatas: Like Getting HIIT by a 4×4 – #313

Why You Should Listen – Erin Oprea is a former Marine of nine years, including two tours in Iraq. She lead the first all-female platoon attached to the infantry in a war zone and now is a trainer for over ten years with celebrity clients Carrie Underwood, LeeAnn Womack, Kellie Pickler, Jana Kramer and Jennifer […]

by Dave Asprey at Fri, 27 May 2016 19:00 Instapaperify


Blog – Cal Newport

Jim Clark on Productivity: Don’t Spend Your Day on Social Media, Instead Spend Your Day Building the Next Big Thing

A Pioneer Pontificates

Jim Clark knows how to create valuable things. He’s one of the few people in the recent history of American business to start three different billion dollar companies.

Clark also knows about technology: all three of his billion dollar companies were Silicon Valley startups.

We should, in other words, take his thoughts seriously when he discusses productivity in the digital age, which he did, a few years ago, in an interview with Stanford president John Hennessy (see above).

Around 41 minutes into the event, Clark delivers the following heterodox judgment on social media:

“I just don’t appreciate social networking, which has blown up in recent years. In part, because [I recently attended a panel on social media where a panelist was] just raving about people spending twelve hours a day on Facebook…so I asked a question to the guy who was raving: the guy whose spending twelve hours a day on Facebook, do you every think he’ll be able to do what you’ve done? That’s the ...

by Study Hacks at Fri, 27 May 2016 17:13 Instapaperify

Improve Your Learning and Memory.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard

I have written several earlier posts on the value of teaching and learning cursive. A recent infographic provides a nice summary of the advantages of handwriting over the keyboard. Handwriting engages the brain more deeply in creative thinking.

Among its many advantages claimed in the infographic, handwriting:
  •  Provides children with a clearer understanding of how letters form words, sentences, and meanings.
  • Teaches reading skills
  • Improves memory retention
  • Promotes critical and creative thinking (note taking, mind maps, etc.)

And now there is a slick newway of teaching cursive, invented by Linda Shrewsbury. She analyzed all the alphabet letters to see if there were common pen strokes that were common to many letters. She found that handwriting all the letters could be mastered by learning just four simple pen strokes. So she wrote a book, Cursive Logic, that explains how to learn cursive by first learning these four basic strokes. Instead of spending hours, days, and weeks learning how to copy each letter in an attractive and readable way, you practice the four strokes (which can be ...

by W. R. Klemm at Fri, 27 May 2016 16:54 Instapaperify


Shifting Foundations...

Been busy! The hot new Evonomics site has run part II of my extensive exploration of "micropayments," which may be... the next billion dollar industry.

Today  advertising noxiously controls the Internet. Is there a way out? Last time I showed how all past micropayment systems failed.  This time, I discuss the "secret sauce" that may empower the next one to work -- and save modern journalism.

== The ground beneath us trembles... ==

David Sloan Wilson and Sigrun Aasland assert, on the Evonomics site: "It’s no secret that the Scandinavian nations are doing something right. They consistently lead the world in measures of happiness and quality of life."  

Sure, but how the Nordic countries achieve their success–and whether they can be copied by other nations–is another matter. "One reason that the Nordic nations work well might be because they have not—yet—succumbed to the siren’s song of free market fundamentalism."  What the Nordic counties' success suggests to Wilson and Aasland is that centralized planning won’t work and neither will unregulated markets. Something ...

by David Brin at Fri, 27 May 2016 16:28 Instapaperify

zen habits

Two Ways to Form Habits Effortlessly

By Leo Babauta

Forming new habits can be life-changing — if you start meditating, create a simple exercise habit, and eat more vegetables, you health and happiness can be transformed in a matter of months.

But sticking to a habit can be difficult, because life gets in the way. And we get discouraged when the habit gets disrupted.

How can we form habits without all the struggle?

I’m going to share two strategies that I’ve found to be priceless:

  1. Slipping into the habit; and
  2. Leveraging your smartphone

They’re so painless you will barely feel them. And your life can be changed as a result, with very little effort.

Slipping Into the Habit

The first strategy is not to try to create a full habit, but to slide into it effortlessly.

Let’s say you want to meditate every day. Instead of setting aside 20 minutes and a meditation space for your new habit … slip into it. When you’re getting out of bed, just pause for a few seconds and pay attention to ...

by zenhabits at Fri, 27 May 2016 16:10 Instapaperify


The Sixth Quarterly Biohacking Box – #BIO06

The sixth Biohacking Box from Quarterly, #BIO06, is filled with some of the best basic biohacking tools you can use to perform better, whether you are traveling or just trying to know more about your body and how it interacts with your environment. This Quarterly Box had the most value I have ever packed into […]

The post The Sixth Quarterly Biohacking Box – #BIO06 appeared first on Bulletproof.

by Dave Asprey at Fri, 27 May 2016 16:00 Instapaperify


Automation, Robotics, and the Economy

The Joint Economic Committee — a congressional committee with members from both the Senate and the House of Representatives — invited me to testify in a hearing yesterday on “the transformative impact of robots and automation.” The other witnesses were Andrew McAfee, an M.I.T. professor and coauthor of The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies (his written testimony is here) and Harry Holzer, a Georgetown economist who has written about the relationship between automation and the minimum wage (his written testimony is here).

My written testimony appears below, slightly edited to include a couple things that arose during the hearing. Part of the written testimony is based on an essay I wrote a few years ago with Ari Schulman called “The Problem with ‘Friendly’ Artificial Intelligence.” Video of the entire hearing can be found here.
*   *   *

Testimony Presented to the Joint Economic Committee:

The Transformative Impact of Robots and Automation

Adam Keiper
Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Editor, The New Atlantis
May 25, 2016

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member ...

by Adam Keiper at Fri, 27 May 2016 13:45 Instapaperify

NeuroLogica Blog

A Tale of Two Science News Reports


One of the recurring themes of this blog, and of the skeptical movement itself, is that science news reporting is generally poor. It is highly variable – there are some excellent science news reporters out there, but most are mediocre and some are terrible. The problem is that the average quality is simply too low.

The problem is compounded by the fact that scientists sometimes overhype or overinterpret their results, but even more common, the press office for the university at which the scientists work often sensationalize the science. At every step there is an opportunity to add hype, misinterpret the actual results, sensationalize, focus on the speculative aspect of the study rather than the actual data, or simply get the story wrong.

The race for clicks seems to be driving the quality of science reporting down, favoring clickbait headlines. Reporters don’t seem to mind getting the story wrong and then being corrected by science bloggers, for then they just get another round of clicks correcting their own bad reporting as if it were someone ...

by Steven Novella at Fri, 27 May 2016 12:12 Instapaperify


Teacher growth score “capricious” and “arbitrary”, judge rules

Holy crap, peoples! I’m feeling extremely corroborated this week, what with the ProPublica report on Monday and also the recent judge’s ruling on a teacher’s growth score. OK, so technically the article actually came out last week (hat tip Chris Wiggins), but I only found out about it yesterday.

Growth scores are in the same class of models as Value-added models, and I’ve complained about them at great length in this blog as well as in my upcoming book.

Here’s what happened.  A teacher named Sheri Lederman in Great Neck, New York got a growth score of 14 one year and 1 the next, even though her students did pretty well on state tests in both years.

Lederman decided to sue New York State for her “ineffective rating”, saying it was a problem of the scoring system, not her teaching. Albany Supreme Court justice Roger McDonough got the case and ruled last week.

McDonough decided to vacate her score, describing it as “arbitrary and capricious”. Here are more details on ...

by Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe at Fri, 27 May 2016 11:50 Instapaperify

May 26, 2016



6 Workout Supplements That Actually Work

The workout supplement industry is a dirty business. Lack of federal regulation makes purity an issue – companies that lack scruples can short-change you by adding just enough of an ingredient that it can legally go on the label, but not enough that it’ll actually improve your performance. The bigger supplement companies pay researchers to […]

The post 6 Workout Supplements That Actually Work appeared first on Bulletproof.

by Bulletproof Staff at Thu, 26 May 2016 20:29 Instapaperify


This Simple Test Can Predict Whether a Comatose Patient Will Ever Wake Up

For friends and family, fewer things are more agonizing than not knowing if or when a loved one in a coma will regain consciousness following a severe head injury or drug overdose. Researchers have shown that a common test can measure awareness in comatose patients—and even predict when they might wake up.


by George Dvorsky on Gizmodo, shared by Adam Clark Estes to io9 at Thu, 26 May 2016 19:23 Instapaperify



Modified "Embryo"

Embryo editing: Thompson: fix data generator (was storing true causal values, not edit values, leading to all-0 columns); fix multiple play TS (rereading it's a double-sampling process, TS on arms and then TS inside each arm; this forces testing 0 value edits to contrast with the 1s)

by gwern at Thu, 26 May 2016 18:01 Instapaperify




NeuroLogica Blog

What’s Killing the Bees

honeybeesYesterday I saw a bumper sticker that stated, “Save the Bees, Buy Organic.” Of course, a bumper sticker is not the place for a nuanced or thorough treatment of a complex topic. It is a venue suitable for simplistic slogans.

People like simple narratives, but reality rarely conforms to our desires. This has led to a frequent reminder, popularized by Ben Goldacre, that you will often find the situation (pretty much whatever situation you consider) is more complex than it might at first seem. That is a good rule of thumb – it is fair to assume as a default that any topic is more complex than your current understanding, or how it is being presented in the media, or how it is understood in the public consciousness.

Complex and ambiguous situations, like the fate of our pollinators, become a convenient Rorschach test for ideology. People tend to impose on this complex and not fully understood situation whatever simplistic narrative suits their beliefs and values, like the notion that organic farming will somehow save the bees ...

by Steven Novella at Thu, 26 May 2016 12:02 Instapaperify

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

Fastest way to change any beliefs? –

After years of study about how to achieve success in life and make yourself a powerful person, I found tools that help me to achieve my goals and be a better version of myself. The problem is it takes ...

by Mojtaba at Thu, 26 May 2016 11:59 Instapaperify

BPS Research Digest

It's easy to implant false childhood memories, right? Wrong, says a new review

During the 1990s, groundbreaking work by psychologists demonstrated that human memory is flexible and vulnerable and that it’s very easy for people to experience “false memories” that feel real, but which are actually a fiction. One major implication of this was in the evaluation of adults’ accounts of how they’d been abused in childhood. In a recent journal editorial, for instance, one of the pioneers of false memory research argued that the same techniques used by therapists to recover repressed memories of abuse have been shown in the lab to “produce false memories in substantial numbers of research participants”.

But there are some experts who believe the false memory researchers have gone too far. Chris Brewin and Bernice Andrews are two British psychologists with these concerns. In their new systematic review in Applied Cognitive Psychology they have taken a hard look at all the evidence, and they argue that we need to rethink the idea that false memories are so easily induced.

Key to this reevaluation is the question of what exactly is ...

by Research Digest at Thu, 26 May 2016 09:10 Instapaperify