Links 10/18: +1 Insiteful

Mark Hofmann, master forger, built a comfy career for himself forging documents that discredited Mormonism and selling them to Mormon officials who wanted to cover them up – for example, a letter in which Joseph Smith confessed that instead of seeing an angel, he had only seen a salamander. Then the murders began.
Byron White is the only person to have ever been both an NFL player and a Supreme Court Justice. He also won two Bronze Stars working naval intelligence in World War II. From his Wikipedia article: “White said that he was supposed to enroll at Harvard Law School, but got sick on the train ride there, so he got off the train in New Haven, Connecticut and went to Yale.”
Update on the mystery illness plaguing US diplomats in Cuba (and now China) – it may be a microwave-based weapon developed by the old USSR, possibly deployed from the back of a van. Still no word on who is using it against US diplomats or why.
Want to participate in a medical study? Don’t care which one? helps connect researchers to wannabe-subjects. If you have a disease, great, but even if you don’t you can be someone’s control group.
Exposure to opposing views on social media increases partisan polarization. It’s not true that if people read the other side they would appreciate or like them more. I think this is probably related to everyone giving up on convincing the other side and focusing on radicalizing the base instead. If people were trying to convince you, listening to them would make you more convinced; if people are trying to radicalize your enemies, listening to them will make you more concerned. And here’s an article about people trying to do this right.
It’s 2018, so of course a rapper is planning to build a cryptocurrency-themed city in Senegal, and of course it’s already being compared to “a real-life Wakanda”.
One way to identify a brilliant person is that, while ordinary people are afraid you’ll steal their ideas, brilliant people have so many ideas that they know they will never be able to do all of them, and practically beg you to steal them so that they get done. Luke Muehlhauser is definitely a brilliant person, and here is his list of Projects I Wish I Had Time For. Somebody please do the historical music one and send it to me.
Eleven European nations are planning to mandate that recipients of government scientific grants must publish resulting papers somewhere they are freely available to everyone, eg open-access journals. This could be an even bigger deal than it sounds, since it would ensure open-access journals were the only place you could find a lot of the most important research, and so raise their prestige. Good job governments solving coordination problems!
Inevitably, capsule hotels have come to San Francisco. The symbolism isn’t great, but I’ve stayed at capsule hotels before and can recommend them as surprisingly comfortable and convenient.
Related: a real estate startup is getting into the Bay Area group house market. This sounds kind of like dialing the Bay-Area-ness up to 11, but it…actually seems like a good idea? They acquire and maintain the houses, screen potential residents, take care of chores like cleaning and keeping provisions stocked, and occasionally hold events, and residents pay them like any other landlord. professorgerm on the subreddit describes it as “take college dorms, remove the college, and make it a subscription model with transfer options”.
This month in dog-whistling: was a low-level Trump administration official resting her arms on each other in a totally normal way during the Kavanaugh hearings? Or was it a secret white supremacist salute? Update: it was the first one, and the official involved is a half-Mexican, half-Jewish descendant of Holocaust survivors.
Iran has one of the world’s largest cash transfer programs, though it’s not quite a basic income. Now a new study finds generally positive effects on labor participation.
Robin Hanson: The Game
The Institute for Competitive Governance is trying to crowd-fund an “open source legal system”, ie “an alternative law system for places where existing legal systems either do not exist or cannot be trusted”. Some more information here. There is no way this doesn’t end up being on the blockchain somehow. Also in crowdfunding news – friend of the blog Thomas Eliot is raising money for his new illustrated translation of the Enchiridion of Epictetus. Somewhat less likely to end up on the blockchain, but it is 2018.
This month in phrenology: “A series of studies conducted by Caltech researchers show that when people are shown photos of politicians they’re not familiar with, they can make better-than-chance judgments about whether those politicians have been convicted of corruption”. In particular. politicians with wider faces are more corrupt. And here’s a photoset in case you want to remind yourself what wide- and narrow-faced politicians look like.
The partisan makeup of different occupations. Note the consistent pattern where professions that manipulate the physical world are conservative and professions that manipulate ideas are liberal (in a way that doesn’t seem to depend entirely on skills or salary).
Ben Carson (who, remember, is still the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) comes out against NIMBYism, cites econblogger Noahpinion’s article.
Why do people on hallucinogenic drugs so often see spirals or concentric circles? Because the brain maps the visual field to the visual cortex using a polar-to-Cartesian coordinate transform, and drugs cause linear abnormalities in the visual cortex through a reaction-diffusion process similar to the one that makes stripes on zebras. If this doesn’t make sense, read the link, it’s brilliant and fascinating and one of the only times I feel like some aspect of human perception has been completely explained with no mystery left anywhere. Original paper is here, zebra-stripe-generator applet is here. (h/t eukaryotewrites)
Ron Unz did a lot of interesting work on both sides of the political spectrum, and you may have cached that he’s a guy with some heterodox opinions but still pretty thoughtful. I was disappointed to learn that he’s now gone totally off the deep end into Holocaust denial and other related beliefs; this article gives a good bio and summary. This scares me because I don’t know how it happened; I often see people I respect in one domain having otherwise crazy opinions, but for some reason it’s worse when I can watch it happening in real time.
Step one: some Chinese people are going back to wearing traditional Chinese clothes, how #aesthetic. Step two: uh oh, it looks like the people wearing traditional Chinese clothing are a far-right supremacist movement. Step three: “Conspiracy theories among Han Clothing Movement participants claim that there is a secret Manchu plan for restoration [of the Qing Dynasty] that has been underway from the start of the post-1978 reform era. They argue that Manchus secretly control every important party-state institution, such as the People’s Liberation Army, the Party Propaganda Department, the Ministry of Culture and especially the National Population and Family Planning Commission which is regarded as a stronghold of Manchu influence. They believe that its one-child policy is but “an escalation of the long-term Manchu genocide that targets the Han people”.
You know the planet astrological symbols? Where Venus is a mirror, Mars is a circle with an arrow coming out of it, and nobody ever remembers the others? Well, did you know that more than thirty asteroids have their own astrological symbols for you to not remember?
Roopkund is a small lake 15,000 feet high in the Tibetan Plateau, which made headlines when explorers discovered several hundred human skeletons on its desolate shores. Scientists carbon-dated the skeletons to around 700 AD. Now somebody has gene-sequenced them, and found that they are mostly Greeks. How did hundreds of Greek people get to a remote part of Tibet and die there en masse in the eight-century AD? Wikipedia discusses the mystery.
This month in “nobody has principles”, USA Today on the implications of Kavanaugh: “’Law review editors: brace for a tidal wave of legal academic theories supporting judicial minimalism, Thayerianism, and strong — very strong — theories of precedent. Above all: the Court must do nothing without bipartisan agreement, otherwise it is illegitimate.’ The past half-century’s enthusiasm for judicial activism will vanish, as legal academia turns on a dime to promote theories that will constrain the court until a left-leaning majority returns, at which point they’ll turn on a dime again.”
Ben Hoffman: Financial investment is just a symbolic representation of investment projected onto a low-dimensional space inside a control system run by the US government. Tldr he disagrees with Nassim Taleb’s barbell strategy.
A year after China said it would “dominate” AI, it seems to be walking back its position and calling for international collaboration.
Will MacAskill’s TED talk on effective altruism. Related: 80,000 Hours synthesizes and summarizes their research finding the highest-impact careers.
“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” – Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire Of Louis Bonaparte
Confronted with the science saying it’s bad for teenagers to wake up too early, California’s legislature passes a ground-breaking bill saying that schools may not start earlier than 8:30 AM – only for it to be vetoed by governor Jerry Brown, who is apparently in the pocket of Big Morning.
This probably confuses a lot of people’s narratives: women are having more children than they were a decade ago.
Evidence that the solar cycle affects human lifespan, embryo survival, and number of children, probably because UV affects folate levels. h/t towardsagentlerworld
Commuting by bicycle has gone down over the past few years, at least in part because working from home is finally starting to rise.
no_bear_so_low does research on Google trends, including how left-wing searches are gaining on right-wing searches over time and anxiety-related searches are exploding.
Genomic Prediction launches their flagship product, a test that will assign polygenic scores to embryos and let parents decide which ones to implant. So far only being used for a few specific disorders, but the same technology would work for traits like height or intelligence. Gwern estimates that at current tech level, a process like this could probably gain three IQ points.
Americans with a science PhD can “get a fast track to influencing policy” by applying for the AAAS Science And Technology Fellowship by Nov 1.
NYT uses Facebook data to generate a map of how likely people in any one American county are to have friends in another American county. You could probably do some interesting research on migration patterns with this tool.
A clustering algorithm sorts 50,000 philosophy papers onto a 2D grid to make a map of philosophy. Somebody needs to turn this into sentimental cartography.