Miscellanea November 2015

November 2015

  • Aurora Over Clouds
  • Why Don’t We Just Throw All Our Garbage Into Volcanoes?
  • A Cabinet of Infocom Curiousities: “…Steve showed me his collection of items he had from the days of Infocom (which spanned from roughly 1981 through to the company’s eventual closing and absorption by Activision in the early 1990s).”
  • The Infocom Cabinet: Binders and Folders of Infocom, Inc. (1981-1987)
  • The origins of graphic communication: “In a 12:05 TED talk filmed in August, 2015, cave art researcher Genevieve von Petzinger asks: ‘Why are these 32 symbols found in ancient caves all over Europe?’ Von Petzinger, a paleoanthropologist associated with the University of Victoria (British Columbia), is concerned primarily with symbols in Ice Age European cave art dating to the Upper Paleolithic (40,000-10,000 BP), but she also has her eye on possible predecessors in Africa and parallels across Asia all the way to Indonesia.”
  • The Myth of Language Universals: Language diversity and its importance for cognitive science: “Talk of linguistic universals has given cognitive scientists the impression that languages are all built to a common pattern. In fact, there are vanishingly few universals of language in the direct sense that all languages exhibit them. Instead, diversity can be found at almost every level of linguistic organization. …The article summarizes decades of cross-linguistic work by typologists and descriptive linguists, showing just how few and unprofound the universal characteristics of language are, once we honestly confront the diversity offered to us by the world’s 6-8000 languages. …While there are significant recurrent patterns in organization, these are better explained as stable engineering solutions satisfying multiple design constraints, reflecting both cultural-historical factors and the constraints of human cognition. Linguistic diversity then becomes the crucial datum for cognitive science: we are the only species with a communication system which is fundamentally variable at all levels…”
  • The Norwegian Secret To Enjoying A Long Winter: Apparently the secret to tolerating winter is to live in a place with a spectacularly beautiful winter. I’d like winter more if it was all sledding all the time.
  • Star Castle 2600
  • Pokemon or Big Data?
  • Not Even Scientists Can Easily Explain P-values: “P-value is the value widely taken in science as a marker for whether a result is statistically significant, and they’ve “taken a beating” for not being a good measure of that after all. “P-values have taken quite a beating lately. These widely used and commonly misapplied statistics have been blamed for giving a veneer of legitimacy to dodgy study results, encouraging bad research practices and promoting false-positive study results. …We want to know if results are right, but a p-value doesn’t measure that. It can’t tell you the magnitude of an effect, the strength of the evidence or the probability that the finding was the result of chance. So what information can you glean from a p-value? The most straightforward explanation I found came from Stuart Buck, vice president of research integrity at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Imagine, he said, that you have a coin that you suspect is weighted toward heads. (Your null hypothesis is then that the coin is fair.) You flip it 100 times and get more heads than tails. The p-value won’t tell you whether the coin is fair, but it will tell you the probability that you’d get at least as many heads as you did if the coin was fair.”
  • Hoverboard: XKCD Game
  • 12 Things We Loved About Jessica Jones (And 4 We Didn’t)
  • Macbook charger teardown: The surprising complexity inside Apple’s power adapter
  • The Authoritarians: A 261-pp. PDF: “…authoritarian followers have a little volcano of hostility bubbling away inside them looking for a (safe, approved) way to erupt. …Prejudice has little to do with the groups it targets, and a lot to do with the personality of the holder. Want to guess who has such wide-ranging prejudices? Authoritarian followers dislike so many kinds of people, I have called them ‘equal opportunity bigots.’ …the premise behind ‘Posse’ runs right down Main Street in the authoritarian aggression mind-set. When the authorities say, ‘Go get ‘em,’ the high RWAs saddle up. Who can ‘em be? Nearly everybody, it turns out. …I offered as targets the very right-wing [Canadian political parties]. These were the parties of choice for most authoritarian followers at the time, yet high RWAs proved more willing to persecute even the movements they liked than did others. …Finally, just to take this to its ludicrous extreme, I asked for reactions to a ‘law to eliminate right-wing authoritarians.’ …authoritarian followers still favored, more than others did, a law to persecute themselves.”
  • Why the Economic Fates of America’s Cities Diverged

  • Hello London
  • Saving a School on the Blackfeet Reservation: Having a dual-immersion program in Blackfoot language is presented as evidence of a school’s success. Good.
  • Why the Public Can’t Read the Press
  • The real-life election of 1800 was even wilder than Hamilton the musical lets on: Lest you think the Founders were peerless geniuses who created a perfect Constitution.
  • The case for letting children vote
  • XKCD: Fire Ants
  • Pickle Cat
  • GDP Growth over the Very Long Run: GDP per Capita Growth around the World Since the Year 1 CE
  • The Beggar CEO and Sucker Culture
  • Buddhist morality is Medieval: “Traditional Buddhist morality developed in feudal theocratic cultures. Mostly, it is typical for such societies: …crude, arbitrary, patriarchal, and often cruel. …Buddhist modernizers replaced traditional morality with Victorian Christian morality in the late 1800s, and with leftish secular morality in the the 1980s. …I’ll go through two of Keown’s examples briefly, plus three others: sex, gender, and slavery. …Buddhism is extraordinarily anti-sexual. Rejection of sex is the first and most important aspect of its central principle, renunciation. Buddhism recommends complete celibacy for lay people as well as monastics. …Details depend on the tradition, but commonly verboten are solo and partner masturbation, oral and anal sex, sex between men, sex during daytime, and sex with a woman who is pregnant or nursing. Abortion is murder, and sends you straight to hell. On the other hand, polygamy is taken for granted, and married men having sex with prostitutes is explicitly OK… [Sexual equality] simply does not exist in Buddhism. …[Buddhist societies] no idea of human rights—ones all humans have, simply for being human. …The most fundamental human right is to not be enslaved. Slavery is explicitly approved in many Buddhist scriptures. …According to scripture, the Buddha himself (after enlightenment) accepted slaves as gifts to the sangha, and he did not free them.”
  • Jaguars fall, everyone dies: “The world probably won’t end on Friday, but it’s still a good time to remind yourself that Mesoamerican eschatology is really really neat. The Aztecs believed that the creator-god, Ometeotl, created four main gods for the four cardinal directions. These four gods tried to create the world, but it was too dark and they kept screwing up and dropping stuff into the Great Void, where it was eaten by Cipactli the Crocodile Demon With Extra Mouths Upon Every Joint And Teeth Protruding From Her Entire Body. The gods realized they had to get their act together. They slew the Crocodile Demon and placed the world atop her body. They created mankind out of ashes. And they elected Tezcatlipoca, God of Darkness And Killing Everybody, to become the sun so they could see what they were doing a little better. But – and this is what happens when you don’t have a God of Staffing Decisions – the God of Darkness made a predictably terrible sun.”

  • Time travel: An isochronic map shows where to go, how long it took to get there – and what changes were on the way
  • The best Christmas movies aren’t about Christmas
  • America Is Too Dumb for TV News: “What we call right-wing and liberal media in this country are really just two different strategies of the same kind of nihilistic lizard-brain sensationalism. The ideal CNN story is a baby down a well, while the ideal Fox story is probably a baby thrown down a well by a Muslim terrorist or an ACORN activist. Both companies offer the same service, it’s just that the Fox version is a little kinkier. When you make the news into this kind of consumer business, pretty soon audiences lose the ability to distinguish between what they think they’re doing, informing themselves, and what they’re actually doing, shopping. And who shops for products he or she doesn’t want?”
  • Unhappy Meals: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. ” Such a classic.


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