Planet Rationalist

August 27, 2016


Science: A long, long road to… us

== Lottsa Luca ==

Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, is estimated to have lived some four billion years ago, when Earth was a mere 560 million years old.  For a long time the three great domains of life -- bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes -- seemed to have no common point of origin. But now scientists have zeroed in on 355 genes that probably originated in Luca, the joint ancestor of bacteria and archaea (and hence us eurkaryotes)… and thus they stumbled onto strong indications of conditions for the origin of all Earthly life.  Because those 355 genes point very strongly at deep sea volcanic vents – “the gassy, metal-laden, intensely hot plumes caused by seawater interacting with magma erupting through the ocean floor.”

The 355 genes ascribable to Luca include some that metabolize hydrogen as a source of energy as well as a gene for an enzyme called reverse gyrase, found only in microbes that live at extremely high temperatures.  This much is spectacular!  It means that astronomers are not the only ones using amazing inferences to peer beyond ...

by David Brin at Sat, 27 Aug 2016 21:50 Instapaperify



7th Quarterly Biohacking Box Helps Upgrade Your Environment

The seventh Biohacking Box from Quarterly (#BIO07) just dropped, and you’re going to want to read about the leading-edge biohacking items we included this time. The #BIO07 box is all about cultivating a better environment whether that’s at home or on the road. That means you’ll be more resilient and will perform better no matter […]

The post 7th Quarterly Biohacking Box Helps Upgrade Your Environment appeared first on Bulletproof.

by Mallory Leone at Sat, 27 Aug 2016 16:00 Instapaperify essays

Bayes' Theorem

Bayes' Theorem for the curious and bewildered; an excruciatingly gentle introduction.

by Eliezer S. Yudkowsky at Sat, 27 Aug 2016 00:27 Instapaperify

August 26, 2016


Modified "Embryo"

Embryo selection: give up on using fresh Okbay 2016 estimate (LD Hub export is very buggy in addition to the trait names all being different); remove redundant traits from original LD Hub genetic matrix; more work on prevalence/score/costs

by gwern at Fri, 26 Aug 2016 23:36 Instapaperify

zen habits

Short Read: The Zen Habits Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness (ebook)

Mindfulness Guide

By Leo Babauta

I’m happy to share with you a new “short read” ebook that I’ve written: the Zen Habits Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness.

I’ve written this for absolute or near beginners, who would like to bring mindfulness into their lives … or who are struggling with:

  • Procrastination
  • Creating better habits
  • Frustration, disappointment, feeling stuck
  • Relationship problems
  • Being content

I’ve found that mindfulness is the fundamental skill to deal with any of these struggles. And in this short ebook — which you can read in one sitting if you feel like it — I not only talk about why this is true, I share some simple exercises for developing the skills to deal with any of these struggles.

I don’t promise miracles, and you’ll have to do the exercises to get decent at these skills. But they work, in my experience, and I hope they help you.

The Short Ebook & the Package Deal

I’ve written this intentionally as a “short read” … and so I’m pricing it low ($4.99 ...

by zenhabits at Fri, 26 Aug 2016 22:10 Instapaperify

For Those With Alzheimer’s, a Place to Remember

Alzheimer’s disease slowly and invariably steals a person’s past. But we may be able to create environments that help recall it.

by Ira Hyman Ph.D. at Fri, 26 Aug 2016 20:28 Instapaperify


Cancer’s Ketogenic Kryptonite with Patricia Daly – #339

Why you should listen – Patricia Daly is a fully-qualified nutritional therapist based in Dublin, Ireland. Following her cancer diagnosis, she left her corporate career and started studying nutrition, specializing in the area of Integrative Cancer Care. As a Swiss native, she regularly attends training courses in Switzerland/Germany, including at the renowned Tumor Biology Center […]

by Dave Asprey at Fri, 26 Aug 2016 19:00 Instapaperify


Modified "Candy"

CJ: add my maxim

by gwern at Fri, 26 Aug 2016 18:52 Instapaperify


Pseudoscience – Friendly Atheist Survives Defamation Case As Judge Rejects Claims of Two Anti-Aging Doctors

A judge threw out a lawsuit filed by two doctors who were furious that watchdog website accurately reported about a scandal they were involved in more than 15 years ago. It wasn't defamation, said the judge, and the excellent Quackwatch website will not be Gawkered out of existence.
None of this will cure your cancer. Or make you younger. But if you'd like to lose weight in your wallet...

by Hemant Mehta at Fri, 26 Aug 2016 15:30 Instapaperify

Improve Your Learning and Memory.

The Perils of Multi-tasking

We live in the age of multitasking. Though a phenomenon of the young, older folks are being dragged into the age by the digital revolution in mobile electronic devices. Youngsters, as digital natives, are wired to multi-task, but they don't realize how multitasking impairs their impaired thinking skills. We call our phones "smart," but they can actually make us dumb. This may be one of the reasons that under performance in schools is so common.

Microsoft clip art

Older folks tend to be amazed and awed by the multitasking ability of the young. But those in all generations should realize that multitasking does not make you smarter or more productive.
In school, multitasking interferes with learning. In the workplace, multitasking interferes with productivity and promotes stress and fatigue. Multitasking creates an illusion of parallel activity, but actually it requires mental switching from one task to another. This drains the glucose fuel needed by the brain, making the brain less efficient and creating the feeling of being tired.

Neuroscientist, Dan Levitan, reminds us that multitasking ...

by W. R. Klemm at Fri, 26 Aug 2016 15:19 Instapaperify

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

Chess to enhance human cognitive abilities? –

There are texts that advise chess playing with children and mature people. Should I take them seriously? Why should chess improve your intellect. For instance, I would like to be able to read and ...

by Little Alien at Fri, 26 Aug 2016 14:26 Instapaperify

NeuroLogica Blog

Biofuels and the Law of Unintended Consequences

biofuel-carbonI admit to a certain fascination with the informal “law of unintended consequences.” I think this is a very useful concept and should always be kept in mind. Essentially this axiom holds that the world is a complex place with far more variables in play than we could ever anticipate. Therefore our actions are likely to have consequences that we did not intend.

It therefore makes sense to be cautious and humble when taking any big action (like passing a law, establishing a regulation, promoting an industry, etc.), and to build into the process monitoring the effects of the intervention and making course corrections as necessary.

A new study suggests that biofuels may be the latest entry in the book of unintended consequences. The study tries to address a very narrow question – how much of the carbon that is released into the atmosphere when biofuels are burned was offset by the taking up of carbon from the atmosphere when the plants used to create the biofuels (feedstock) were grown?

Prior analysis of the utility of ...

by Steven Novella at Fri, 26 Aug 2016 11:43 Instapaperify

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

How does transfer of skill work? –

Recently a question was asked about the benefit of playing chess on cognitive abilities. More specifically, how chess would improve understanding technical texts. The general consensus from the ...

by Robin Kramer at Fri, 26 Aug 2016 07:54 Instapaperify


Modified ""

catnip: extract & verify Todd 1963 information

by gwern at Fri, 26 Aug 2016 02:37 Instapaperify


Economics of the Election

== Ah the ‘flat tax’ ==  

Two catechisms of the American right? The bizarre notion of a “flat tax” on incomes and idolization of Russian President Putin – who happens to have instituted a flat 13% income tax a decade ago. And how’s that working out?  (Note if Gary Johnson gets on the debates, you’ll hear him convey love of a flat tax… proof that 50% of the libertarian movement’s message is lunacy paid-for by Steve Forbes and the Koch brothers.  The other half?  Actually, kinda interesting stuff and vastly more so than the loony GOP.)

One can understand the right’s bromance with Vladimir Putin on many levels, but one that’s seldom mentioned is the steady re-emergence of the Communist Party in Russia, as millions recall that they felt both powerful and equal once, across the last thousand years, and it was not under the current oligarchs. Ah but this article shows the CP’s slog will include overcoming a top echelon that is loyal to… guess who? “With the 100th anniversary of ...

by David Brin at Fri, 26 Aug 2016 02:26 Instapaperify


Modified ""

Notes: +some musings about changes in physical beauty over time

by gwern at Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:27 Instapaperify

August 25, 2016

Blog – Cal Newport

A Brief Note on Tenure


I don’t like talking about myself (outside discussions of hyper-specific productivity techniques), so I’ll keep this announcement brief…

At some point early on in my graduate student career I set two somewhat arbitrary goals for my academic trajectory: to become a professor by the age of 30 and tenured by the age of 35.

I ended up starting at Georgetown at the age of 29, and earlier this summer I earned tenure at the age of 33 (though I since turned 34).

There are many factors that help fuel an academic career, and many fell outside my direct control.

But reflecting on these past five years, it’s easy for me to identify what was by far the highest ROI activity in my professional life: deep work.

I know I’ve said similar things a million times before. And it’s not sexy. And it’s not a contrarian “hack.”

But in my case, focusing intensely on hard things that people unambiguously value, day after day, week after week, was more or less ...

by Study Hacks at Thu, 25 Aug 2016 20:10 Instapaperify


Art Markman, PhD

Trust of Strangers Requires Effort (Sometimes)

Trust is important.  Without the ability to trust strangers, society would fall apart.  You have to trust that people will generally deal with you honestly, and that they will follow through on their commitments.  After all, you do not know all the people who grow your food, make your clothes, and take care of your money in the bank.  You do not have the time to do all of these things for yourself.
Of course, most of this trust is implicit.  You do not often think about the number of strangers you rely on to get through your daily life. 
Sometimes, though, you have to place your trust in a stranger more explicitly.  Not long ago, I was sitting at an airport by a bank of outlets.  A woman walked up, plugged in a cell phone, and asked two of us sitting by the outlets to watch her phone for a few minutes while she went to check her flight.  She had to trust that we would not steal her phone, and we had to ...

by Art Markman at Thu, 25 Aug 2016 15:12 Instapaperify

Beeminder Blog

Team Black vs Team Yellow: The Two Styles of Beeminding

Karate kick in black and yellow

This is a guest post by Oliver Mayor, an avid Beeminder user for going on four years. He’s a software developer who’s interested in human-behavior-shaping technology and often has pretty deep insights related to Beeminder. We were especially impressed with his thoughts on the different modes of beeminding (and the black vs yellow characterization) and asked if he’d like to expand on it here, along with some of the story of his own Beeminder journey. We’re still thinking about what this means for how Beeminder should present itself to new users, and in terms of the new premium plans, which could be seen as paving the way for more emphasis on Team Yellow.

Although Beeminder was built on the ideas of Behavioral Economics, it supports both pledge-driven and more purely gamified ways of tracking and pursuing goals. Beeminder uses pledges to keep your goals on track. But I’ve talked to a bunch of people who don’t like that.

“Losing money just makes me want to quit!” a few friends ...

by Oliver Mayor at Thu, 25 Aug 2016 12:59 Instapaperify

NeuroLogica Blog

When Will Life Exist?

proximabThe Drake Equation is a thought experiment identifying which variables are needed to calculate the number of intelligent civilizations in the universe. Some people criticize the equation because we can only guess at the values of those variables, but that is not the point. The point was to identify the variables. This allows us to take the next step in the thought experiment, to plug in possible values and see what answers we get. Also, over time we will get better and better estimates of those variables.

Recently astronomers Loeb, Batista and Sloan published a paper in which they did a similar thought experiment, but instead of asking how common life and intelligent life is in the universe right now, they asked how common life is likely to be over the lifetime of the universe.

Their conclusion:

We find that unless habitability around low mass stars is suppressed, life is most likely to exist near ~ 0.1M stars ten trillion years from now.

Ten trillion years is a long time, given that the universe ...

by Steven Novella at Thu, 25 Aug 2016 12:02 Instapaperify


Tristan Walker: Don’t Overthink Your World-Changing Idea

About this presentation

Walker & Co. Founder and CEO, Tristan Walker didn’t always see himself trying to build a health and beauty products company. In fact, he tried to cure childhood obesity, start a bank, and build a freight truck fixing company first, which were very big, very complicated ventures he knew little about – before he created Bevelthat directly related to a familiar problem. However, when it came time for investments, he received more “no’s” than he thought possible, but managed to push himself even harder. “I knew it wasn’t a bad idea because I felt no one could work this thing better than we could,” Walker says. 

In this interview, Walker takes us through the journey of starting his company, shares how he overcame his toughest trials, and why hiring the same kind of people may even be a good thing. 

About Tristan Walker

Walker is Founder and CEO of Walker & Co. Brands, a company that makes health and beauty simple for people of color. Its flagship brand, Bevel, is the ...

by The 99U Team at Thu, 25 Aug 2016 11:00 Instapaperify

You Are Not So Smart

083 – Idiot Brain – Dean Burnett

In this episode we interview Dean Burnett, author of Idiot Brain: What Your Brain is Really Up To. Burnett’s book is a guide to the neuroscience behind the things that our amazing brains do poorly.

deanburnettIn the interview we discuss motion sickness, the pain of breakups, why criticisms are more powerful than compliments, the imposter syndrome, anti-intellectualism, irrational fears, and more. Burnett also explains how the brain is kinda sorta like a computer, but a really bad one that messes with your files, rewrites your documents, and edits your photos when you aren’t around.

Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist who lectures at Cardiff University and writes about brain stuff over at his blog, Brain Flapping hosted by The Guardian.

DownloadiTunesStitcherRSS – Soundcloud

Great Courses PlusThis episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries taught by
Neil deGrasse Tyson. Everything we now know about the universe—from the ...

by David McRaney at Thu, 25 Aug 2016 02:30 Instapaperify

Fallacy Files

Don't Check it Out

Brian "Skeptoid" Dunning has a new podcast about the meme that says you shouldn't criticize something unless you've tried it. The title for this entry doesn't refer to the podcast: Do check it out!...

Thu, 25 Aug 2016 01:00 Instapaperify

August 24, 2016

You Are Not So Smart

YANSS 082 – Crowds (rebroadcast)

This episode’s guest, Michael Bond, is the author of The Power of Others, and reading his book I was surprised to learn that despite several decades of research into crowd psychology, the answers to most questions concerning crowds can still be traced back to a book printed in 1895.

Gustave’s Le Bon’s book, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, explained that humans in large groups are dangerous, that people spontaneously de-evolve into subhuman beasts who are easily swayed and prone to violence. That viewpoint has informed the policies and tactics of governments and police forces for more than a century, and like many prescientific musings, much of it is wrong.

BondListen in this episode as Michael Bond, explains that the more research the social sciences conduct, the less the idea of a mindless, animalistic mob seems to be true. He also explains what police forces and governments should be doing instead of launching tear gas canisters from behind riot shields which actually creates the situation they are trying to prevent ...

by David McRaney at Wed, 24 Aug 2016 23:31 Instapaperify

YANSS 081 – The Climate Paradox

In this episode, psychologist Per Espen Stoknes discusses his book: What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming.

StoknesStoknes has developed a strategy for science communicators who find themselves confronted with climate change deniers who aren’t swayed by facts and charts. His book presents a series of psychology-based steps designed to painlessly change people’s minds and avoid the common mistakes scientists tend to make when explaining climate change to laypeople.

DownloadiTunesStitcherRSS – Soundcloud

Great Courses PlusThis episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries taught by
Neil deGrasse Tyson. Everything we now know about the universe—from the behavior of quarks to the birth of entire galaxies—has stemmed from scientists who’ve been willing to ponder the unanswerable. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

sssThere is no better way to create a website than with Squarespace. Creating your website with Squarespace ...

by David McRaney at Wed, 24 Aug 2016 23:02 Instapaperify


Make Your Vacation Feel Longer With Some Basic Cognitive Psychology

If you’ve ever had a week-long vacation that felt like it only lasted a couple days, it’s probably because you did a little too much planning and not enough living in the moment.


by Patrick Allan at Wed, 24 Aug 2016 21:30 Instapaperify

Muscle Memory—It’s in Your Head, Not Your Limbs

Don’t believe promises of “accelerated learning.” Four proven practices can boost retention and give you peace of mind instead.

by Richard E. Cytowic M.D. at Wed, 24 Aug 2016 20:56 Instapaperify

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

How to tell whether or not you genuinely cannot carry out the task anymore? –

Often, after a week or so of over-productivity in different aspects (great accomplishments in studying, exercising, teaching, etc.), I find myself suddenly hitting a wall and that I can't carry out ...

by Potatoesmustbefried at Wed, 24 Aug 2016 19:33 Instapaperify


rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

How do I stay motivated at a job after I've learned everything in that role? –

And there is no way to move up in the business? In life so far I could always get by with minimal effort. I've always learned really quickly (the things that interested me) while learning just ...

by Michael Cermak at Wed, 24 Aug 2016 16:59 Instapaperify


Bulletproof Takeout: How to Make Cassava Egg Rolls

Egg rolls taste delicious. But the crispy outside layer of the average egg roll, wheat flour cooked in peanut or canola oil, can rob you of your energy and leave you craving more kryptonite foods. Not very Bulletproof. Luckily, we have cool friends. Nick Kowalski of formulated and tested this amazing Bulletproof Diet-friendly egg roll recipe […]

The post Bulletproof Takeout: How to Make Cassava Egg Rolls appeared first on Bulletproof.

by Bulletproof Staff at Wed, 24 Aug 2016 16:00 Instapaperify



LSD Can Mess With the Language Centers in Your Brain

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The stereotype of late 1960s authors and musicians is that certain drugs can help to expand the mind and make the user more creative. As someone who has never taken psychedelics, I can’t know this for sure, but a recent study seems to be the first step in displaying scientific evidence in support of that claim.


by Carli Velocci at Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:13 Instapaperify