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 2017-06-23

The Stock Market Speaks: How Dr. Alchian Learned to Build the Bomb

Sometimes public information is the best spy you have.

I saw a series of Tweets this week about how the boss-class is sticking it to workers, usually with the active involvement of the political Left. You expect that kind of thing from the Right, but the increasing alignment of wealth and education with Left-wing parties means the boss votes liberal. My favorite story was where the drywall guy complained that no one but illegal immigrants from Mexico wanted to work 90 hour weeks for him. I miss unions with teeth.

How the Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration

A look at the political battles that made center-Left immigration skepticism disappear.

I (Don't) Like You! But Who Cares? Gender Differences in Same Sex and Mixed Sex Teams

Hopefully it replicates.

OUR OUTDATED DEBATES

A fascinating article at First Things makes the argument that technological change is leaving our static political debates behind. For example, the double-edged sword of artificial wombs.

Social Justice and the End of Moral Certainty

A look at the progressive mindset.

8 Figures on Gun Ownership, and Attitudes, in America

There continues to be a partisan gap in America, but it is smaller than the gap in the professional activists who make the most noise on the subject. For example, the vast majority of both Democrats and Republicans are not in favor of concealed carry without a permit. 

LinkFest 2016-05-06

The 'white squatter camps' of post Apartheid South Africa

The South African apartheid regime was memorably described as "socialism for the Afrikaners, capitalism for the English-speaking whites and Indians, and fascism for the blacks." Now that the boot is on the other foot, the Afrikaners and other whites are either spiraling into poverty, or leaving if they can.

Give us a King!

Ross Douthat was always one of John J. Reilly's favorite political commentators, and here he channel's John's Spengler with a Smile theories of history.

Woman says selfie provoked argument that led to fatal shooting at Texas Walgreens

This should be a case study for people who carry guns. There is a reason cops hate DV calls.

Alton Brown: The Bitter Southerner Interview

I do love Alton Brown, and this is a really interesting interview. I enjoyed learning about Brown's personal history, but I also felt a little sad for him.

Coordinated attack feared after massive cathedral blaze

Several Orthodox chapels across the world were burned on Pascha, Easter as observed by the Eastern Christians.

Myers' Race Car versus The General Fitness Factor

Scott Alexander takes a outsider's look at the argument between Steve Hsu and P. Z. Myers on whether you can genetically engineer smarter humans. I'm rather more sympathetic to Hsu than Myers for lots of reasons, but part of what is going on here is Hsu is making an argument that what we know of genetics means this should be possible, whereas Myers' response is it would be hard to execute. Well, yeah. Thus, Myers is both correct, and completely fails to refute Hsu's point. As a footnote to Alexander's footnote, just because an allele has an advantage doesn't mean it will necessarily spread. The approximate theoretical chance of a gene with survival advantage s going to fixation [100% of the population] is 2s. s is here defined as the extra kids you have compared to others with the current alleles instead of the variant, and it tends to be really small. An s of .1 is big in this context, and thus you would expect an allele with this big of an effect to disappear from the gene pool 4 times out of 5. Most gene variants just disappear, even when they are useful.

Link fest 2015-12-11

This conservative wunderkind is taking France by storm

Marion Maréchal-Le Pen is the granddaughter of the founder of the Front National, and the niece of its current leader. She is young, and pretty, and so immediately garners a lot of attention in the press, but she seems to be an adept politician, and could rival her aunt for influence in the party. The FN is usually described as fascist, or fascist-leaning, but in fact is really just populist and nationalist. Parties of this kind are gaining lots of influence in Europe as economies wane and immigrants move in.

The FN is becoming less right-wing, and more nationalist, as time goes on. Many of their votes are starting to come from working class French who used to vote socialist. If you pay attention to what Marine Le-Pen says, she sees herself as a defender of traditional French liberté and laicité. Marion Maréchal-Le Pen is far more like an American Republican, seriously Catholic, pro-life, and relatively business friendly.

Here is what happens when you ban affirmative action in college admissions 

Last week, I reposted a very pertinent [and popular] blog post by John on the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger case, which made the argument that affirmative action policies should not be struck down as unconstitutional, unless they impose apartheid, on the grounds that the people can do any damn fool thing they please that doesn't directly contradict the Constitution or settled case law. John felt this kind of thing was a matter for the legislature and the executive, and the courts getting involved in it would probably lead in the long term to a restriction of judicial review.

Twelve years on, I think John was probably a better judge of the situation than some of the Justices. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in 2003 that she thought that racial preference programs in university admissions would no longer be needed in twenty-five years. This may not have been prudent, since that is much the same reasoning as the Court used to invalidate part of the Voting Rights Act based on the fact that it was out of date. Unfortunately, racial gaps in education are unlikely to disappear anytime soon, but rationales for racial preferences in education may suffer a different fate.

How martial a country should the United States be?

Tyler Cowen makes an extremely logical conclusion in this post on American gun ownership and the Pax Americana: the two things go together. The interest of Americans in guns and the interest of Americans in policing the world run together in a fairly natural way. The Americans who are hawks are often gun-owners, and disproportionately likely to provide their sons [and now daughters] as sacrifices on the altar of liberty. However, not all foreign policy hawks are gun-owners, or likely to have a relative in the military, hence Cowen can justly accuse them of failing to connect the dots.

The Americans at the pointy end of the spear tend to be white, Southern, and/or rural. If you don't believe me, look real close at the guys who make it through BUD/S, or even the less elite teams like the Army Rangers, and ask yourself, do they really look like America?

Where do pro-social institutions come from?

The economist Pseudoerasmus provides us with an overview of the relatively new field of cultural evolution. This is a valuable adjunct to this is the study of actual evolution, which then allows you ask interesting questions about gene-culture co-evolution.

Jump the gun and you will be shot down

This is the companion piece to the above. There is an immense amount of resistance to the idea that genes can shape behavior in a significant way. Not all of this is completely crazy, but some of it surely is. The linked article by Stuart Ritchie and its references go into the question in detail. Some of the objections raised by James and Bentall have occurred to me. For example, I have wondered whether estimates of heritability are inflated by artifacts of analysis.

The short answer is: yes, they are. Published heritability numbers are probably upper bounds. However, the kinds of studies done to date provide a lower bound that is more than zero, contrary to what James and Bentall claim in their objections. It is also true that trait heritability estimates usually apply to populations more strongly than individuals. This is true for the same reason and in the same way that stereotypes are true: on average and for the most part. Human beings are individuals, and the interaction between what is fixed and what is variable is what makes us interesting.

Armed Response Book Review

I got this book by mistake, but I ended up keeping it. Not a bad read on firearms and self-defense.

Armed Response:A Comprehensive Guide to Using Firearms for Self-Defense

By David Kenik
Merril Press 2005
180 Pages; US$19.95
ISBN 9780936783451

I ended up with the book by an Amazon accident. I had ordered the Ayoob files, a collection of columns written by Massad Ayoob, a frequent expert witness in self-defense cases. Ayoob contributed an introduction to this volume, which is possibly the reason I ended up with this book. I received this book several years ago, and I decided to just keep it. I did not actually read it until 2009, and I found the book very good. I should have read it earlier.

Armed Response is a sober, practical book that has lots of good things to think about for anyone who owns firearms. Lots of details about the workings of the law, how to properly use a firearm, and helpful suggestions. I wish I had read this book when I was actually a beginner, because the author explains a lot of common terms used by firearm owners that were mystifying to me once. I spent a number of years tracking down answers to questions that are contained in this book. That reinforces the anwers I found, and makes me willing to recommend this book, because it matches my own experience and knowledge.

You can find information about different kinds of firearms, their pros and cons. Different holsters, different ammunition, different stances. There are even suggestions for training. One would do well to heed the many warnings contained in this book. This book is intended to help keep you out of trouble of any kind. The best way to win a gunfight is not to be in one.

Lots of good references, the websites and addresses of quality accesories manufacturers, and lots and lots of experience can be found in this book. Highly recommended. Just remember, IANAL.  YANMC.  TINLA.
I am not a lawyer, you are not my client, this is not legal advice, if you want legal advice then hire yourself a lawyer. (Thanks Tom)

My other book reviews

The Wrong Way to Advocate for Your Cause

Yesterday on NPR I heard a story about a panic in a Charlottesville, VA grocery store caused when a man carried his rifle into the store. I am all for gun rights, but this was just plain foolish. Scaring people doesn't win them to your cause.

This episode is pretty interesting, and NPR did a good job covering it. You can see the urban/rural divide in play, and also the similar but distinct difference between gun folks and everyone else. To a gun lover, a man with a gun is just a man with a gun. If you are paying attention [and you should be], you will take note of the guy but not worry unless he starts acting strange. The presence of a gun is not in and of itself alarming. For the the rest of America, he is already acting strange, and even folks who aren't particularly anti-gun will likely be afraid, because those outside the gun culture can't conceive of a reason why a normal person would want to carry a gun to the grocery store. The only reason someone would have a gun is to do wrong, so the 911 calls start.

I don't know anything about the local politics in Charlottesville, but according to the Washington Post Ablemarle County is a blue island in the middle of a lot of red, much like my own home of Flagstaff. There are a lot of places in Flagstaff I would be reluctant to carry a gun openly, for fear of causing exactly this. On the other hand, there are places in Flagstaff I have openly carried a gun, and no one said anything. Flagstaff is an interesting mix of cowboy and urban liberal.

Ablemarle County 2012 Presidential Results

In twenty-first century America, I wonder whether the open carry movement really has the right idea. Some of the problem is political, but I think the greater part of it is psychological. Most people don't really have it in them to shoot someone else in self-defense. Some firearms instructors make a point of telling this to their clients who have just bought their first gun after a robbery or mugging. They have a good point. Practical self-defense training for the average person focuses on situational awareness, and techniques for running away more effectively. If you aren't prepared to actually shoot someone in self-defense, and accept the personal consequences of doing that, you shouldn't carry a gun. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has written a number of books on this subject.

Inchoately, I think many Americans realize this, and prefer to outsource their protection to the state. However, I still think there is something to the idea of the Second Amendment. It comes down to what it means to be a citizen, and the relationship between you and the state. Gun folks usually call this the difference between a citizen and a subject. A citizen who can be trusted with a deadly weapon is seen very differently from a subject who cannot be so trusted. This is precisely why gun folks get so offended about gun control, because their fellow citizens seem to be saying they cannot be trusted, in fact that they are something less than a full human being.

Conversely, the gun folks have a less than flattering description of their fellow citizens who do not have the personality to effectively defend themselves: sheep. It goes further than this, because much like in the movie Babe, sheep can't tell the difference between a sheepdog and a wolf. However, when a wolf does show up, the first thing the sheep want is protection provided by the sheepdog. This is exactly what happened in Charlottesville, because the response of the grocery store to a man carrying a gun in the store was to hire an armed security guard.

I'm not sure I know how to bridge this psychological and political divide. Cultures can change, so the balance between folks who prefer to outsource violence and do-it-yourselfers can change. However, I'm not sure we really want a society where everyone is mentally prepared for death. Robert Heinlein famously said that "an armed society is a polite society", but I think not everyone who quotes this appreciates what he really meant. The reason an armed society is a polite society is a casual insult can cost you your life. This is reason behind the elaborate hospitality rituals in many Middle Eastern societies. If you want to know what an armed,  polite society looks like, you should look to Afghanistan.

What we really need is for some Americans not to fear their fellow citizens who have a different capacity for violence, but no less virtue thereby. Conversely, some Americans need to stop frightening their fellow citizens who have different natures.

Kick-Ass Movie Review

Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Starring Nicholas Cage, Mark Strong, Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Chloë Grace Moretz

Gun PornI had long wanted to watch Kick-Ass, and we finally watched it last month. It was a blast! In one sentence, this was a modern reimagining of the superhero genre with a little gun porn thrown in. 

Much like Superbad, Kick-Ass is full of awkward humor. This is the modern style, and it is not my own, but I acknowledge that it is popular. I cringed almost every time Aaron Johnson opened his mouth. Nicholas Cage was little better. I know that this was the object, but still!

As a superhero movie, this is excellent. Matthew Vaughn did X-Men: First Class as well, and I think he did an equally good job. This is a believable origins story for a group of heroes and villains, incorporating modern tastes and venerable traditions. If you know superhero origin stories, not much here will be surprising. But I have never been in favor of innovation for the sake of innovation. 

There is just enough realism to Kick-Ass to make it feel fresh. A little assassin girl, no matter how well trained, cannot win a fist fight with a grown man who will strike back. I appreciated that. The thugs carry knives, and they will shank you. Money matters. Well done, and can we please have some more?

My other movie reviews

Harold Fish

AZ Central has a good article on the aftermath of Harold Fish's shooting of Grant Kuenzli.

He had gone through training to ready himself for such a scenario. But Fish was not prepared for what was to follow.

He was put on trial and found guilty of murder. He was imprisoned. He faced the possibility of a civil trial from Kuenzli's family. He still finds himself in deep debt to pay his attorneys, who were able to get an appellate court to toss his conviction in 2009.

"What nobody teaches is what happens when you use that firearm," Fish said, speaking from his Glendale home. "They focus on you surviving the incident."

...

Fish's conviction was tossed out by the Arizona Court of Appeals, which ruled that the jury wasn't told enough about Kuenzli's violent past or the aggressive nature of the dogs and didn't get proper instructions about what constitutes an attack.

Fish was released from prison in July 2009. Prosecutors said they would not prosecute him again.

Upon his release, Kuenzli's sister, Linda Almeter, told The Republic that she didn't want Fish free and that he never took responsibility for his act. "My brother can never reclaim his life," she said.

Fish has his freedom, but he can't recoup the dollars he spent fighting the case. He took out a second mortgage on his house. Relatives did the same with theirs, including his retired father. Fish estimates he spent about $700,000 on legal fees. He expects he'll die before all of it is paid back.

Shooting someone is very expensive.

Going to Vahalla for Sure

Matt Briggs pointed me to this article about the remarkable death of Don Alejo Garza Tamez.

One of the cartels had demanded that Garza give his ranch to them. He flatly refused. He gave his workers the day off, and fortified his home. When armed men surrounded his house the next day, he was prepared. He fired, killing four and wounding two before he was killed himself, an excellent performance against superior numbers and firepower.

Garza's death illustrates the dilemma of an armed citizenry. In a place like Northern Mexico where the cartels are powerful, armed resistance can be expected to be rewarded with death. Or worse, and more effective, they will just kill someone you care about who is an easier target. Garza apparently decided that he had nothing to lose that wasn't worth it.

Concealed Carry in Establishments that Serve Alcohol

I had been thinking about this topic since it came up in July after Gov. Brewer signed the bills. Since the laws take effect tomorrow, it gives me the excuse to think about it again.

If anyone had asked my opinion, which they did not, I would have agreed with Zanzucchi that firearms and alcohol do not mix. It is unfortunate that the State legislature felt that this would be a good idea, but the thing is done. I don't respect the NRA for the same reason I don't respect the ACLU, they both take a good thing too far.

That being said, having considered the topic, I'm not worried about an upswing in drunken altercations involving firearms. The thing is, this law applies only to people who have already completed the process for acquiring a concealed weapons permit. In the State of Arizona, this requires one to take the required training class, be fingerprinted, and have a background check for felony convictions and other prohibitors.

The training class is shorter than it used to be, which is another thing we can thank the NRA for, but at least there is a class that presents both safe gun handling and the the relevant laws one must follow.

This seems like it isn't that much work, but in reality it selects for people with higher than average intelligence, law abidingness, and conscientiousness, which are pretty much what you want in people who are armed. For proof of this, we need only consult the statistics collected by the Concealed Weapons Permit Unit to see that in the last 15 years, 138,348 permits have been issued in the State of Arizona, and 972 have been revoked. That comes to 65 acts per year that result in revocation (mostly conviction of felonies or domestic violence) versus 29.059 violent crimes last year in Arizona (with a population of 6,500,180).

On a per year, per capita basis, that gives us 47 revocable acts per year per 100,000 permit holders versus 447 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2008. That is an order of magnitude difference, pretty darn good in sociology. People who get concealed carry permits are much more law-abiding (and less crazy since that is a disqualifying condition) than other Arizona residents on average. This is clearly a good thing. It would be undeniably better if the rate were even smaller, but this is what we find.