Linkfest 2018-08-28

Men’s wages since 1979, broken down by wage percentile (10th is the poorest, 95th is the richest)

Men’s wages since 1979, broken down by wage percentile (10th is the poorest, 95th is the richest)

Population Immiseration in America

I've got a draft on wages over time in the wings now, but Peter Turchin has some great graphs in this article.


Museum Visitor Falls Into Giant Hole That Looks Like a Cartoonish Painting on the Floor

I think a previous linkfest included an article on Anish Kapoor and his legal battles regarding Vantablack. I'm not surprised someone fell in this thing, it really was an accident waiting to happen.


Land expropriation: learning from the Chinese

South Africa is pondering expropriating land from Boer farmers. There are lots of different angles on this subject, this one uses China as a foil.


The Untold Story of NotPetya, the Most Devastating Cyberattack in History

A cyberattack on Maersk that reads like a thriller novel. Things like this make you appreciate the Butlerian Jihad.


Tolkien 101: On Fairy Stories

Wrapping up H.P.'s summer series on Tolkien, an extended reflection on Tolkien's essay "On Fairy Stories", which contains a great many ideas that I have seen reflected in the work of many authors I like, such as Neil Gaiman or Tim Powers.


(Almost) Everyone Hates Urbanization

Kevin Drum throws cold water on the dreams of urbanists. Everyone is too wedded to the status quo and their own self-interests to really do anything that would make a big impact. Harsh, but largely true.


Facing the Elephant

I must have really different priors than John Nerst, because I just assume everyone has hidden motives, even ones hidden from their own introspection. I am honestly not that interested in motives at all. I'm more interested in behavior, by their fruits you shall know them.


Two Cheers for Ultramontanism

Not enough attention is current paid to the first Vatican Council, which has a lot to do with where the Catholic Church finds itself today. The office of the Papacy gained much prestige and power in the nineteenth century


Tradition is Smarter Than You Are

T. Greer links Chesteron's Fence with James C. Scott and Joseph Henrich. This reminds me of something Aquinas once said, that man is barely an intellect at all, so weak are our powers of reason.


The Trouble with the View from Above

An introduction to James C. Scott.




Rudyard Kipling Does Scifi: The Secret of the Machines

This is my favorite stanza of Kipling's "The Secret of the Machines":

But remember, please, the Law by which we live, 
We are not built to comprehend a lie,
We can neither love nor pity nor forgive.
If you make a slip in handling us you die! 
We are greater than the Peoples or the Kings—
Be humble, as you crawl beneath our rods!-
Our touch can alter all created things,
We are everything on earth—except The Gods!

Progress and Polytheism: Could an Ethical West Exist Without Christianity?

An exercise in counterfactual history: what would the West be without Christianity?

 

Linkfest 2018-08-13

While I am opposed to this kind of Luddism, it does demonstrate a kind of consistency. GMO does not actually describe all kinds of genetic engineering that we apply to food. Here is the article about the damage to the research plot.


Cash transfers and labor supply: Evidence from a large-scale program in Iran

The tweet that pointed me to this article about a UBI-style program in Iran noted that probably no one is interested in this example because no one wants Iran to be the good example. There are also complicated inflation-related effects going on.


Nonfiction: White Working Class by Joan Williams

A nice book review on a subject of perennial interest here: class in America. The author of the book used a idiosyncratic definition of working class, family incomes from $41,005 to $131,962 [class isn't about money!], which produces some oddities of analysis, but the book review is nevertheless interesting.


BLUE-COLLAR BLUES

Another take on the same book about the working class from Claremont Review of Books.


The Myth of Thrusting versus Cutting Swords

Any idea of fighting you get through popular entertainment probably has more to do with stage direction than making people dead. I appreciate the work of the Association of Renaissance Martial Artists does to understand the history of martial arts in the West.


A Striking Similarity: The Revolutionary Findings of Twin Studies

Twin studies have labored under the shadow of Cyril Burt's flawed experiment for a century. Recent work is much better.


Open Borders and the Hive Mind Hypothesis

I find open borders to be a nutty idea, but I appreciated this look at the economic models behind many prominent economists' support of this radical notion. There is something to be said for trying to make the poorest people at least a little richer, but I worry that the models don't take into account likely consequences of an economic contraction in first world economies accompanied by massive migration. For example: do-it-yourself interethnic strife. People would be mad. Sure, you can argue people should be happy to provide more for others, but that isn't what is going to happen if 58% of world population migrates. Hell, even if global GDP goes up, there will be enough losers to be really mad about it.


This graph, and accompanying thread contains a massive amount of detail about agricultural productivity.


The Pre-Tolkien Fantasy Challenge

J. R. R. Tolkien casts a long shadow on modern fantasy. However, if you wish, you can find lots of books written before his influence was so prevalent.


The Fake Split of Scifi and Fantasy

I too am sympathetic to the idea that speculative fiction is really of a piece, no matter the trappings.


Linkfest 2018-08-06: Now with more science!

Barrow Steelworks  By unknown - 1877 or earlier, republished by University of Strathclyde project - http://victoria.cdlr.strath.ac.uk/browseTimeline.php?group=&year1=&year2=, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14652342

Barrow Steelworks

By unknown - 1877 or earlier, republished by University of Strathclyde project - http://victoria.cdlr.strath.ac.uk/browseTimeline.php?group=&year1=&year2=, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14652342

Somehow I had never really captured the term, Second Industrial Revolution. This is the far more interesting one that came in the late-nineteenth, early-twentieth century. This is where we got electricity and steel and mass production.


A long journey to reproducible results

Reproducibility is often an afterthought in science, which means it is often quite hard to *actually* reproduce someone's results from their method section. Sometimes it is hard even if you call the scientist and ask them how they did it. True standardization is one of the fruits of the second industrial revolution, but we have forgotten how to use it.


Plan to replicate 50 high-impact cancer papers shrinks to just 18

A high profile project runs into trouble because of a lack of attention to standardization and reproducibility when experiments were first run. If you have experience doing this, it can be easy to help the next experimenter down the line. But you only get that experience by doing it....


Not a problem limited to the sciences either. One of the ways in which you can enable replication is to make all of the intermediate products of your research available, which I think ought to be a wider practice, especially for publicly funded research. With the raw data, and the analysis script(s), you can then run the numbers yourself and see what happens. With online appendicies, this could be easy.


A fine thread on the implications of the ability to make guns at a craft scale instead of the factory scale. 3D printing isn't the real issue, it is about machining know-how and a ready market in non-gun parts that can be turned into truly functional modern firearms.


THE STRANGE HISTORY OF ONE OF THE INTERNET'S FIRST VIRAL VIDEOS

I missed this one somehow, possibly because I wouldn't have waited for it to download when I was on dial-up. I just wanted to play Quake.



Why is so little plastic actually recycled?

A Danish and Swedish report on the practical difficulties of plastic recycling.


Grandmotherhood across the demographic transition

Longer lives meant more time with grandparents.


A step closer to BMD shield: India successfully test-fires interceptor missile

Outside of the context of American politics, a number of countries are working on missile interceptor technology.


Parking rules raise your rent

How Much Should Parking Cost?

Two data driven looks at the true cost of parking requirements.


Brief evolution of European armor

Brief evolution of European armor

A nicely done graphic.


Linkfest 2018-07-30

Lord of the Rings by Frank Frazetta

Lord of the Rings by Frank Frazetta

The images from today's linkfest are Frank Frazetta illustrations of the Lord of the Rings. Frazetta was a prolific illustrator of comics, book covers, album covers, and paintings. His style is instantly recognizable to any fan of science fiction and fantasy, and perhaps is the epitome of SFF cover art. There are a lot of links this week about science fiction and fantasy works, so this just seemed right when it came through my Twitter feed. His children and grandchildren still benefit from his work, so please patronize their online shops.


THE MUD, THE BLOOD AND THE YEARS: WHY “GRIMDARK” IS THE NEW “SWORD AND SORCERY”

Warhammer 40k is the thing I had most often heard described as grimdark, but it turns out there is a wide variety of books that could be described by that label. I might have to check it out.


WHY WAS THE 20TH CENTURY NOT A CHINESE CENTURY?: AN OUTTAKE FROM "SLOUCHING TOWARDS UTOPIA?: AN ECONOMIC HISTORY OF THE LONG 20TH CENTURY"

The first of two related Brad DeLong links this week. An nice capsule history of China's relative position in the world during the twentieth century.


Curing cancer statistically via mammography

Many modern diagnostic techniques, while quite accurate in absolute terms, can have false positive results in numbers higher than true positives because the actual occurrence rate of what is being sought is low.


A slightly gloating post, but arguably deservedly so, that self-published authors are overtaking traditional publishing at a rapid pace in science fiction and fantasy, with lots of graphs. Even more damning is the fact that much of the traditional science fiction and fantasy book sales of the traditional model are The Handmaid's Tale, currently trendy as an anti-Trump book.


Congress is giving the officer promotion system a massive overhaul

I once considered a career in the military. This is a big change in how promotions, especially the end of up or out.


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Robots and Jobs: A Check on Fear

A reasonable take, based on historical data about automation.


ARISTOTLE RETURNS

I might argue he never left, but there is a genuine neo-Aristotelian moment in analytic philosophy.



Underestimating the power of gratitude – recipients of thank-you letters are more touched than we expect

I just received a handwritten thank you note from my mother, so this came at the right time.


Why did the Industrial Revolution occur in England?

Why did the Industrial Revolution occur in England?

Pseudoerasmus tweets a chart looking at how few people were employed in the English agricultural sector in the eighteenth century.


THE MEIJI RESTORATION: A PROBABLE IN-TAKE FOR "SLOUCHING TOWARDS UTOPIA?: AN ECONOMIC HISTORY OF THE LONG 20TH CENTURY"

A counter-point to DeLong's piece on China above, but with a disputed claim about agricultural productivity in Japan.


Compulsory Licensing Of Backroom IT?

I would genuinely like to know if the claim that different executions of custom IT software are  a large differentiating factor in the market right now is true.


Dollars for Docs

Public records on payments to physicians from pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies in the US.


“WHY ARE DEVELOPERS ONLY BUILDING LUXURY HOUSING?”

Some data on why it makes economic sense [for developers] to build expensive housing right now.


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The Marriage of Sam Gamgee and Rosie Cotton

A beautiful reflection on the little touches that make Tolkien so great, and why the Fellowship was comprised of bachelors.


When Ramjets Ruled Science Fiction

Some of the most fun ideas in science fiction get disproven later. Ah well.


I need this for professional purposes.


The humanities are suffering from not being vocational.

 

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Linkfest 2018-07-23: I should have been an economist

The Tech Backlash We Really Need

Embarrassing questions abound regarding the business models of social media companies.


A thread by Gwern on Great Society era social science that should probably be better known, if only to stop us from trying to reinvent wheels that we already know don't roll.


Cultural Evolution and Conservative Thought

This discussion between Tyler Cowen and Joseph Henrich is a fascinating counterpoint to a debate between Elizabeth Bruenig and Bryan Caplan on socialism. Caplan's rebuttal to Bruenig said of the greats of Western tradition:

While these “luminaries” were smart, most were also profoundly ignorant and dogmatic – and apologists for the brutal societies in which they lived.  Most had near-zero knowledge of what actually sustains the true and beautiful in our culture, namely: science, tolerance, and markets.  They have far more to learn from us – both factually and morally – than we do from them.

Whereas Cowen and Henrich came up with a bunch of cases where ancient authorities came up the same thing as modern science.


This reminds me of the actuarial global compliance system discussed by James Franklin. In principle, Franklin argues that the tools of accounting should allow us to accurately cost the things economists like to call "externalities". 


Did wages reflect growth in productivity

I went down a long rabbit hole this week learning about wages and economic growth. This is worth a post of its own, but the short answer is: it depends on how you measure it.


America’s Factory Towns, Once Solidly Blue, Are Now a GOP Haven

The share of American counties that have a large proportion of jobs in manufacturing has declined quite a bit in the last twenty years. In that time, the counties that remain have swung strongly Republican.


Trump's Trump-iest Tweets Aren't Popular

There is some reason to think that Trumpism without Trump could be more popular.


Book Review - Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist

I didn't know anyone was still seriously arguing that economic growth should cease. I have my doubts about the way our economy is built upon assumptions of eternal growth in both population and dollars, but the book under review seems...strange.


The Sources Of Russian Conduct

A pretty standard geopolitical analysis of Russia's position. I mostly agree with this.


Where there’s a will, is there a wage?

A great article on what it looks like to get a job for the truly poor.


Housing Costs Reduce the Return to Education

Cost of living means that expensive coastal cities with high wages are harder to live in that average wage numbers might suggest. This led me down another rabbit hole worthy of its own post.

LinkFest 2018-07-16

On the left, what everyone thinks machine learning is. On the right, what is actually is.

On the left, what everyone thinks machine learning is.
On the right, what is actually is.

Ways to think about machine learning

I've been a skeptic about artificial intelligence in general, and a critic of the ways the actual technology has been hyped. This is a pretty reasonable take from someone who is willing to invest a lot of money in machine learning. Machine learning is another kind of automation. We've been seeing big things come out of automation for 100 years, it makes modern life possible, but it is easy to lose perspective.

 

Why the Future of Machine Learning is Tiny

An example of what machine learning can mean in practice.

 

Snapping Spaghetti

Applied mechanics of fracture with slo-mo video! Why does a piece of spaghetti break into three or more pieces when bent? Now you can find out!

 
Manufacturing output per capita, colored by what percent of the economy manufacturing is

Manufacturing output per capita, colored by what percent of the economy manufacturing is

Manufacturing output divided by employment in manufacturing, Canada and Taiwan were missing the employment estimate

Manufacturing output divided by employment in manufacturing, Canada and Taiwan were missing the employment estimate

Global manufacturing scorecard: How the US compares to 18 other nations

Manufacturing stats are a subject of interest to me. I don't find much of interest in the Brookings manufacturing scorecard, which is just their subjective rating of various things. Rather, I plotted the manufacturing output for each country per capita, and per person employed in manufacturing, a kind of crude productivity number.

I think the *really* interesting thing here is how much Switzerland sticks out. The parts of the economy in Switzerland I am most familiar with are chemical precursors for pharmaceuticals and medical devices, which are both high value sectors.

 

When Evidence Says No, But Doctors Say Yes

This is a great article on how hard it is to find clear evidence that common therapies work, and how hard it is to disseminate that knowledge once we have it.

 

Israeli space probe to land on Moon in 2019

I was going to say this isn't surprising from a country that also made their own nuclear weapons, and then I saw the money for it came from a South African businessman. Israel and South Africa *probably* cooperated on nuclear weapons too.

 
 

Thou Shalt Not Wirehead: Religion vs Gratification

This is pretty good. I think I mostly agree, except I am also very interested in whether religion is *true*. Religion can be pretty helpful in encouraging behaviors that help you in this world, for example, the prosperity Gospel is pretty popular because it actually works out that way. If you give up drinking, gambling, and whoring, usually your life materially improves. But sometimes religion can make you do things that are the opposite of helpful in this world. For example, the Xhosa.

 

Welcome to the Party, Pal

A reflection on how the political coalitions in the United States came to be.

 

Does Free Trade Bring Lower Prices?

Dani Rodrik reminds us that we have to describe the world as it is when we make economic projections, not a model of it.

 

Donald Trump tells us truths we don’t want to hear

Matthew Paris argues that Donald Trump acts like an Emperor, and you shouldn't be surprised by that.

 

The Fear of White Power

What is the value of political correctness to a minority in society? And is its cost?

 

Shortwave Trading | Part III | Fourth Chicago Site, East Coast, Patent, Regulation, and Farmer Kevin Mystery

High volume traders are rolling their own radio networks to get a leg up on the competition.

 

Traditional Euro-bloc: what it is, how it was built, why it can't be built anymore

The perfect counter-point to my post on modern urban development. We can't just build things because we like how they look, we have to care about money, and how neighborhoods evolve, and what will actually work for the people who live there.

Linkfest 2018-07-09

The Good, the Pulp, and the Superversive

The Good, the Pulp, and the Superversive

The Good, the Pulp, and the Superversive – Introduction

Superversive is a neologism intended to be the contrary of subversive. H. P. at Every Day Should Be Tuesday tries to figure out what the term is really getting at. While there is a small group of authors that like to describe themselves using the term, broadly construed, lots of authors could plausibly fall into this mode of writing. H. P. describes it as books set in a moral universe, that can engender hope and wonder in the reader.  I think Will Wight, Timothy Zahn, and the duo of Jason Anspach and Nick Cole write books like this, but I have no idea whether any of them would want to be associated with the term, since its most vocal proponents like to make trouble.

A CEO who based his $700 million company in Pittsburgh says he's getting employees who want to work in tech but avoid the Bay Area

Luis von Ahn founded the language learning internet company Duolingo in Pittsburgh because it is cheaper to own a home. In theory, the internet is supposed to enable you to work from anywhere in the world, but the tech world has become insanely focused on Silicon Valley, to the detriment of living standards in the area. I would have thought this kind of move was a no-brainer, but all these rich guys keep acting otherwise.

Marine experiment finds women get injured more frequently, shoot less accurately than men

This article is almost three years old now, but I doubt the general landscape has changed much since.

Benefits of the American Revolution: An Exploration of Positive Externalities

An exercise in alternative history, that looks at what might have been without the American Revolution in order to assess whether it was worth it. Spurred by a question from Bryan Caplan, who is a hella smart guy, even if I wonder about him sometimes. This could be described as Whig history, but that doesn't mean it is all wrong.

British antiques expert ‘ran tomb-raiding gang’

The title is alarmist, apparently most of the thefts were as simple as stashing ancient coins in coin purse full of modern money.

The Opium War and the Humiliation of China

The Opium War still makes red-blooded Chinese mad, and I'm not sure I can blame them.

The coming 'labor shortage' in America is great news for workers

A shortage is a technical term in economics that does a lot of work. Strictly speaking, it just means a market condition were wages are going up. Most of the articles you see imply that business is idled and crops are rotting in the fields, which isn't yet the case.

MAKING A NEODYMIUM MAGNET - ELEVEN (NOT SO) EASY STEPS

Everything you ever wanted to know about making magnets.

Linkfest 2018-06-25

Confessions of a former immigration hawk

Matthew Walter calls himself a former immigration hawk, but what he says here is fairly close to what John Reilly used to say about this.

Classless Utopia versus Class Compromise

This was quite good. Class is something that Americans are not good at thinking about, but it matters a lot nonetheless.

British special forces soldier killed six Taliban in pitch-black, Viet Cong-style tunnel fight

Lest you think action movies are completely counterfactual.

Could “mid-tech” jobs elevate more people and non-coastal places?

Mid-tech here seems to mean the act of actually implementing technology. Server farms, help desks, running cables.

US could sanction Chinese officials over Xinjiang abuses

China has a Muslim terrorist problem too, and their method of handling it is not remotely squeamish. When challenged, they could plausibly claim we used to do the same thing in the past.

Alphonse Mucha F. CHAMPENOIS, 1898

Alphonse Mucha F. CHAMPENOIS, 1898

Habsburg culture is back in vogue

From my point of view, the Habsburgs have never gone out of style.

New Study Concludes That Rewarding Good Teachers and Firing Bad Ones Accomplishes Nothing

This was a huge educational fad. Good on Bill Gates and his foundation for admitting it didn't work, even though he poured lots of money into it.

Seattle renters score big as landlords dangle freebies to fill empty apartments

It is possible to slow down the growth in rent. I wish we were better about doing this sort of thing before rents get really high though, it is hard to get enough political capital to build enough to make rents go down, absent urban decay.

Linkfest 2018-06-18

Perhaps Monday is the new Friday around here.


Conan the Barbarian: A Review, an Analysis, and a Little Bit of a Misunderstood and Improperly Played - While Talking About the Pulps

I found this reading the Conan roundup from Monday. I also rate the 1982 Milius Conan higher than Rick Stump. I love that movie, and I am astounded by how well it holds up. Nonetheless, this is a fantastic reflection on Robert E. Howard and his influence on the storytelling of the twentieth century.

THERANOS DIDN'T NUKE THE DIAGNOSTICS BUSINESS

There are reputable companies working in the same space as Theranos, but since there is either no hype or no scandal, we don't hear much about them.

There’s a Place for Us: Revoice and Gay Christian Futures

There’s a Place for Us Part II: More on Revoice & Gay Christian Homemaking

I really enjoyed Eve Tushnet's two-parter on being a gay Catholic, and I think she's completely right that an obsession on avoiding even the possibility of sexual feelings has cramped the friendships of too many people. As Eve rightly notes, this is not limited to those who identify as gay or lesbian, but affects all of us to some degree. This reminds of things the Art of Manliness has written about friendship, from a completely different direction. Anytime I find two people with completely different perspectives and agendas talking about the same thing, I take notice. 

The Murder That Changed Germany

I read John Schindler extensively for a while, then I started to be concerned that he had lost his mind. I'm glad to see he can still write a cogent column. The murders of so many young women in Germany by migrants of various sorts was the kind of thing predicted after Angela Merkel so unwisely threw open the borders. This prediction was then dismissed as racist trash, and inconveniently, happened anyway.

Violent crime rises in Germany and is attributed to refugees

This Reuters report states the facts succinctly.

Why Working on the Railroad Comes With a $25,000 Signing Bonus

Railroad work is irregular, hard, and dangerous. Consequently, it also pays well. Of course, this kind of thing can be highly cyclical, and under railroad union rules, the guys who get laid off will be the ones with the least seniority. Nonetheless, this is really good work.

The Lesser Cruelty on Immigration

Ross Douthat pens the kind of column on the fuckup at the southern US border that I wish I had written. I am resolutely against mindless cruelty, but there has to be some level of cruelty in a rich nation's border enforcement, or that nation will end.

McMoon: How the Earliest Images of the Moon Were so Much Better than we Realised

The more classified stuff comes out that we did during the Cold War, the more sympathetic I am to the idea that innovation in the US has slowed down.

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Time has been kind to Francisco de Orellana.

Linkfest 2018-06-11

I meant to get this one out last Friday. Ah well.


How we can learn from the history of protectionism

It is easy to find lots of economists who are down on protectionism, but the evidence turns out to be rather mixed on exactly what its effects are. There are countries that have done poorly with this policy, and countries that have done very well indeed.

It’s Time to Think for Yourself on Free Trade

Dani Rodrik is an interesting and thoughtful economist. This example from his article is illuminating:

In some sense we all know this. Consider another thought experiment: Suppose Harry and John own two companies that compete with each other. How do you feel about each of the following four cases?
  1. Harry works really hard, saves and invests a lot, comes up with new techniques, and outcompetes John, resulting in John and his employees losing their jobs.
  2. Harry gets a competitive edge over John by finding a cheaper supplier in Germany.
  3. Harry drives John out of business by outsourcing to a supplier in Bangladesh, which employs workers in 12-hour shifts and under extremely hazardous conditions.
  4. Harry “imports” Bangladeshi workers under temporary contracts and puts them to work under conditions that violate domestic labor, environmental, and safety laws.
From a purely economic standpoint, these scenarios are what economists call “isomorphic” — they are formally indistinguishable because each creates losers as well as winners in the process of expanding the economic pie in the national economy. (That is, Harry’s gains are larger than John’s losses.)

For economists to call these four situations in some sense identical is probably important for analysis, but it probably also warps the mind to do that too regularly.

JASP

JASP is an open-source project supported by the University of Amsterdam.

JASP is an open-source project supported by the University of Amsterdam.

I haven't used JASP myself, but I saw people talking about it on Twitter. I will give it a try, and perhaps report back. I am entirely in favor of easy to use stats tools.

Burying Your Father and “Return of the Jedi” (1983)

This was a fascinating reflection on fatherhood, spurred by the climax of Return of the Jedi.

Is Global Equality the Enemy of National Equality?

I like Dani Rodrik's work, but sometimes I also think he's nuts. This is a good example of why. I think really bad things would happen if we tried to implement this suggestion of globally free labor movement.

Tolkien 101: The Animated Tolkien Movies

A roundup of the animated Tolkien adaptions over the years. The author has a whole series on this subject. Ooh, and one on Conan!

Even Dead, The Expanded Universe Is Better Than Disney Star Wars. And That's A Good Thing

I have said my piece on Disney's decision to reboot the Star Wars universe, but in the time since, I have found the new novels pretty lackluster. There was some crap in the old EU, but the crap to good stuff ratio seems poor in the new canon. Thankfully, the animated series are making up for the deficit.

The Lifespan of a Lie

A retrospective of the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, that is a case study of the failures of social science that led to the replication crisis. The first person, and the last person, Philip Zimbardo lied to was himself.

Normalizing Trade Relations With China Was a Mistake

A perennial theme here at the blog: are we sure we really knew what we were doing?

Linkfest 2018-05-19: Revenge of the Stats

It has been a long since I did one of these, but they were always popular, so I'm bringing it back.

In particular, it was an article by Megan McArdle in the Washington Post, "Democrats are about to have to pay up", that sent me down a rabbit hole of tax policy and fiscal capacity

Special Flood Hazard Zone of Flagstaff, which includes all of the historic downtown and Northern Arizona University

Special Flood Hazard Zone of Flagstaff, which includes all of the historic downtown and Northern Arizona University

I've thought about this subject before, because of a local flood control project which is ruinously expensive for a small town like mine, but it is also required for economic growth and risk mitigation. We have to go, hat in hand, to Congress to ask for $100M to complete this project, because it exceeds the fiscal capacity of the city to pay for that unassisted.

How we subsidize suburbia

I hadn't know some of the mortgage underwriting bits of this.

The Other "Subsidized Housing": Federal Aid to Suburbanization

A more detailed look at the specific Federal laws in question.

Linkfest 2017-09-09

Posting has been light of late, my home PC needs a new power supply. The replacement should be here by Tuesday.

When Correlation Is Not Causation, But Something Much More Screwy

UCLA sociologist Gabriel Rossman explains how easy it is to fool yourself with the way you collect your data.

Toyota’s Research Institute head says full autonomous driving is “not even close”

I'm a bit of a skeptic about how easy it really is to completely automate driving.

The Tater Tot Is American Ingenuity at Its Finest

The Tater Tot was made out of french fry waste products.

Moving the Finish Line: The Goal Gradient Hypothesis

This is a fancy term for the idea that the closeness of a goal can influence our motivation. This is the idea Uber uses to get drivers to work longer, and how video games are made more addictive to play. Something that doesn't get discussed here is risk. For example, a big difference between the cited example of getting $12,000 at the end of the year as a bonus, or $1,000 at the end of the month, is that bonuses are dependent on financial performance. In the real world, you might get more money from the monthly option, which chops up the risk of the company not making enough money into smaller bits.

A Simple Design Flaw Makes It Astoundingly Easy To Hack Siri And Alexa

I imagine it was easier not to take frequency into account when designing these apps. This seems easy to fix, in principle.

Voynich manuscript: the solution

This turned to a be a thick problem. You needed a lot of the right knowledge in the right head to solve it.

My shelf [and a half] of Jerry Pournelle books

My shelf [and a half] of Jerry Pournelle books

Passings.....

Jerry Pournelle, one of my all-time favorite authors, died yesterday. I followed Jerry's website and writings for 16 or 17 years. Jerry was an early adopter of the Patreon method of earning a living, as he was an early adopter of so many things. I supported him for the last eight years or so. Jerry outlasted a stroke and brain cancer, and while those slowed him down a lot, he was actively writing and blogging until the end. 

Jerry led a long and interesting life. I would have loved to read his memoirs, which he never got around to writing. Hopefully someone else will fill the gap.

 

Linkfest 2017-08-09

Patrice O'Neal explains why Radiohead's Creep speaks to the white soul

I can't argue with this.

Meet Alex, the Russian Casino Hacker Who Makes Millions Targeting Slot

In the grand tradition of Ed Thorp, a Russian mathematician figured out how to beat the house. Of course, Ed chose a slightly different way to cash in.

Ghoulish Acts & Dastardly Deeds

This is a hell of a story! A mad bomber, an initially nonchalant public, and years of official bumbling.

Man Behind Password Requirements Admits He Was Wrong

In fairness to Bill Burr, he was working under pressure, and wasn't able to do the kind of detailed analysis of leaked passwords that is possible now.

More justice, less crime

Joseph Bessette reviews Locked In by John Pfaff.

Self-Domestication

Genetic evidence for self-domestication in humans

Greg Cochran looks at the idea that modern humans have some of the features of Domestication Syndrome, the suite of behavioral traits observed in animals that are bred for tameness. A helpful commenter linked to The “Domestication Syndrome” in Mammals: A Unified Explanation Based on Neural Crest Cell Behavior and Genetics, a survey article explaining the science behind this.

More in my continuing series on technological progress.

Linkfest 2017-08-04

Director Neill Blomkamp breaks down his new sci-fi short Rakka

An interview with Neill Blomkamp where he explains the idea behind Rakka, and the business model he is working with. The Verge has a number of other interviews with Blomkamp linked from here.

I’m a Leaver who would be happy for a second referendum

Ed West explains why he would like another shot at Brexit [paywall].

In a Robot Economy, All Humans Will Be Marketers

Tyler Cowen seems to share some of my suspicions regarding the real ability of robots to put us all out of work.

Sour Note: In Ancient Rome, Lemons Were Only for the Rich

The spread of citrus was a slow affair. It took 2200 years before the major varieties we enjoy today were spread out of their places of origin.

What comes after a Ph.D.? Check out the data

A wealth of data on getting a PhD.

Reihan Salam points us to two interesting takes on the US economy.

First, the standard view, that we make more stuff with fewer people.

Second, a contrary view that this isn't really true because of the way we count the 'stuff' inside microchips.

One of the joys of following a Habsburg on Twitter is seeing things like this:

What is the safest form of energy

This is an interesting chart, but for me, the most interesting thing is that it isn't data; it is a model. The bars are computed based on a methodology that estimates deaths, not actually counting.

Aryan Wars: Controversy over new study claiming the came from the west 4,000 years ago

Razib Khan writes in India Today about new genetics results that demonstrate there really was an Aryan invasion of India.

Election 2016 County Results in 3D

I love ways of accurately showing data in more than two dimensions at a time.

Linkfest 2017-07-22

The myth of drug expiration dates

This article strikes me as rather unfair, since both the FDA and pharmaceutical manufacturers get blamed for expiration dates, but the requirement to throw away drugs after their expiration date comes from legislative bodies and the Joint Commission that provides accreditation to hospitals.

In Switzerland, You Can Be Denied Citizenship for Being Too Annoying

And rightly so, in this case.

Neill Blomkamp, the expatriate South African director of immigration allegories District 9 and Elysium, has a series of short movies on Youtube and Steam. Viewer beware, but these are pretty awesome!

And here is the trailer for Spielberg's adaption of Ernest Cline's book Ready Player One.

Linkfest 2017-07-14

The Last Barfighter: An Arcade Game That Pours You A Beer If You Win.

Genius.

Utilities fighting against rooftop solar are only hastening their own doom

This is an interesting article. I have two primary questions: do all utilities make money the same way? This article claims they only make a profit by building infrastructure. I can imagine other models are possible, and it is a big country. Second, here in the southwest, you can't store energy when the sun is shining and then sell it later when the price is high, because those is the same time here.

Battery storage: The next disruptive technology in the power sector

A citation from the above article.

Most Scientific Research Data From the 1990s Is Lost Forever

I've done a bit of digital archaeology myself, and I know that keeping data current is an on-going job. Access to current data is easier digitally, but archiving is worse. The most durable storage medium we have is fired clay.

Ancient Humans Liked Getting Tipsy, Too

As well they should.

The Strange Afterlife of Pontius Pilate

I don't find the idea that Pilate was not culpable for the death of Christ terribly obscure, but this is nonetheless an interesting article.

Apple’s Third Co-Founder Has Never Used an iPhone and Has No Regrets

Wayne sounds as weird as the other guys, just in his own unique way.

DARE to Look at the Evidence!

This isn't the first time I have heard the DARE program doesn't produce any good results.

Radical Book Club: the Decentralized Left

David Hines continues his look at the radical Left through the books they write about themselves. The ways in which protests are made to look spontaneous is particularly interesting to me.

Go Ahead, Put Salt on Your Food

The health risks of salt have been greatly exaggerated, mostly because existing summaries fail to make distinctions between people with much greater risks and the general population.

PIN analysis

An oldie but a goodie.

Linkfest 2017-07-07

Sixtus Dominus Boniface Christopher

Sixtus Dominus Boniface Christopher

Jacob Rees-Mogg announces baby Sixtus

Initially, I was sure this was a joke. Then I saw this on BBC.

Should Tyler Cowen Believe in God?

Yes. But he needs to be convinced.

Why a record number of university places might not be a good thing

Ed West cites Peter Turchin on the over-production of elites.

THE “EFFECT IS TOO LARGE” HEURISTIC

I probably would have called this the "obvious BS" heuristic.

Suffering in the land between black and white

The Charlie Gard case is not a straightforward one, and this is a good look at what Catholic teaching says on the matter.

No, research does not say that you produce more when working 40 hours per week

I admire the precision in thought here that distinguishes between peak output rate, and peak output over a given interval of time. Luis links to some empirical research that matches up with my own experiences: after a certain point in hours worked, no additional [or not much] output is produced. It also matches up with something Steve Sailer's father told him, that the peak output came from 52 hours of work in a week.

Average Work-week is Over, a few Thoughts on Productivity

This is an earlier post from Luis Pedro Coelho on productivity and working that was linked in the above post. This one is probably worth me blowing out into a whole blog post of my own.

Why I Write about Race and IQ

Glenn, John, and Philip K. Dick

Robert VerBruggen and pseudonymous blogger Ed Real explain why talking about race and IQ doesn't have to mean incipient fascism.

Linkfest 2017-06-30

Interstate Highway System

Interstate Highway System

Minimum wage fight may heat up after new study finds jobs and hours fell in Seattle

This minimum wage study in Seattle is fascinating. It is controversial, because many studies before it have found that minimum wage increases don't affect employment. However, this study has much better data that almost all previous studies, wages and hours worked by individuals, instead of proxies for those things.

That Seattle minimum wage study has some curious results.

A problem with the Seattle minimum wage study is that it only has data on employers with a site in the city. Employers with sites inside and outside Seattle are excluded, which is most of them. I included a data table from the study above so you can see for yourself what the results were, without a model applied.

Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That's OK. (For Now.)

The author of the piece points out why I don't play MMOs, despite their popularity: they are work simulators. I play games for fun. While it is true that games in general can be described in similar ways, progress in an MMO is described by an illustrative term: grinding. You have to grind out a repetitive task to move on in the game. A well designed game in another genre never seems repetitive, even when it is. The author is probably about the same age as me, since he references playing Counter-Strike in college in 1999.

How Bad Intellectual Property Laws Hurt Classic Video Game Consumers

This is a reasonable take on why videogames perhaps should have a different term of copyright than books. Alternatively, owners could charge less for older games than they do now.

The Boy Who Loved Transit

I understand how this happened, but in a just world he would have been allowed to exercise his hobby without harm.

Why did Greenland’s Vikings disappear?

A re-investigation of the archeology of Greenland. I love archeology in part because it changes every few years. Very dramatic.

NASA ‘sting’ operation against 74-year-old widow of Apollo engineer draws court rebuke

I feel like I may have linked to this already, but it is so shameful it deserves a second link.

That Time the TSA Found a Scientist’s 3-D-Printed Mouse Penis

Science doesn't easily fit into airline security categories.