February 5, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


Denmark’s Cold War struggle for scientific control of Greenland – Geopolitics is strange. Tiny Denmark and the US battle over a sheet of ice that is nowhere near either of them.


Make Individual Ice Cream Cakes with a Muffin Tin – I can’t recall why I marked this for inclusion, but they do look tasty.


Avoid the “Backfire Effect” In an Argument By Appealing to Worldviews – Decent enough article, but it is still predicated on the notion that your goal is to convince people of the righteousness of your worldview. I think that a better plan is to try to understand each other’s worldviews and then let the chips fall where they may.


Johnny Depp spent $30K a month on wine: ex-manager – Curious as to how a super-high earning actor can end up bankrupt? Once again, if you aren’t saving, it isn’t because you aren’t earning enough. It’s because you are spending too much.


Bankruptcy Rates among NFL Players with Short-Lived Income Spikes – It isn’t just Johnny. It looks like NFL players aren’t always great savers either. I’m shocked.


Releasing Raptors Off The Great Wall of China – A short video about raptors in China.


Is Spotify Going Bankrupt In 2017? Wall Street Delivers Another Red Flag – Things don’t look good for the popular streaming service.


Mesa Verde’s Sun Temple Reveals Geometrical ‘Genius,’ Physicist Says – This seems less like science and more like ‘you see what you want to see’ to me.


I tried the caffeine bracelet that promises to be the next best thing to a coffee IV drip – Want the caffeine from coffee but don’t want to drink it? Now you can wear it.


To Live Your Best Life, Do Mathematics – It all adds up.


The Purpose of Sleep? To Forget, Scientists Say – I swear that they discover the purpose of sleep every couple of years and it is always different. Instead of jumping to a conclusion on this one, I’m going to sleep on it.

Art and Culture

Political dating sites are hot – Another opportunity to avoid having to deal with people that might question your world view.


Hater: Meet someone who hates the same stuff – Here’s a new approach to dating. Focus less on common interests and more on common dislikes. It seems vaguely appropriate given how important opposition seems to be to people’s worldviews these days, but I think it will fail.


Why Prejudice Alone Doesn’t Explain the Gender Gap in Science – With the movie Hidden Figures bringing this topic back to people’s minds, I thought this was worth looking at. Sadly, the topic has become almost taboo to discuss because people quickly get uncomfortable when there is a disparity between virtually any two groups of people.


Bibliomania: the strange history of compulsive book buying – I wonder how the makeup of compulsive book buyers will shift with the move towards electronic books.


15+ of the Coolest Bookstores to Visit Around the World – Some pretty cool looking shops. Oddly, Amazon didn’t make this list despite having a much better selection and the ability to share reviews of books with a huge number of people.


The Statue of Liberty Was Originally a Muslim Woman – She was apparently conceived as an Egyptian peasant but later made it to become a Goddess in New York. Kind of like Moses, but not really.


The Problem With Being Too Agreeable – Think that being really agreeable will make you more popular? This article says maybe not. There is a point at which being nicer makes you less well liked. I would be more agreeable, but I’m focused on staying popular.


English has 3,000 words for being drunk – I wonder how many fewer words the English would have for being drunk if their weather wasn’t so consistently awful.


Paris compost urinals open near Gare de Lyon station – I don’t understand this. Why don’t they just make enough bathrooms? Can the French not be civilized? Maybe the influx of immigrants will help.


The man who sold his back to an art dealer – I guess tattoos are art. And I guess you can sell art. So it stands to reason that you can sell your tattoo.


Scientists try to mitigate methane, from cows – OK, this wasn’t something I was wondering about, but I was surprised to learn that 90% of cattle methane is burped out rather than farted out. I never would have known that if we didn’t have diligent scientists.


Why Did Humans Evolve Big Penises But Tiny Testicles? – Scientists have been busy with things I have never wondered about. The answer, for those not wanting to click through to see sketches of various male primate genitalia, is that the small testicles are because humans are monogamous. The big penises thing is just a myth, at least according to the scientists.


Planet Earth makes its own water from scratch deep in the mantle – I didn’t find this very persuasive. I’m still more in the comet camp, but I’ll keep an open mind.


Why Whales Leap Into the Air – I thought that we had established that they did it for fun, but this article says that it is a way to yell to other whales. How much information can you encode into a big splash?


NASA: Earth’s Last Full Magnetic-Pole Reversal Occurred 780,000 Years Ago –“We Are Over Due” – Are you serious? If you aren’t worried enough about global warming, supervolcanoes, asteroids, solar flares, and pandemics, here’s another one for you. I’m anxiously waiting to see how the Group of Self-Important Scientists adjust the doomsday clock in light of this news. I hope that there is still time.


Scientists find ‘oldest human ancestor’ – It isn’t an interesting article. It is just an example that even stodgy sites like the BBC have turned to click-bait headlines as a way to drive traffic. The article is about a microscopic fossil.


A Ticket for Your Thoughts: Method for Predicting Movie Trailer Recall and Future Ticket Sales Using Neural Similarity among Moviegoers – I couldn’t find the actual study and the abstract looked both confusing and interesting. I’d swear that they are recommending hooking up people at theaters with portable electroencephalography systems to measure something they call cross-brain correlation to predict which trailers will be memorable. My advice is simpler – stop turning the previews up to ear-splitting volume levels so that I won’t associate your upcoming movies with pain and discomfort.


The Effectiveness of Using Sexual Appeals in Advertising – Shocker! Men recall advertisement with sexual content more than women. Sadly for advertisers, they remember the ad, but not what it was an ad for.


Product Line Bundling: Why Airlines Bundle High-End While Hotels Bundle Low-End – Ever wonder why expensive flights include lots of extras like food and drink but expensive hotels charge for breakfast, wi-fi, etc? Here’s your chance to finally find out.


Forget Autonomous Cars—Autonomous Ships Are Almost Here – That’s cool, I guess. Of course, it’ll suck for castaway stories.


Backblaze Hard Drive Stats for 2016 – Curious as to which drives tend to fail or how likely failures are? Here’s some data. Incidentally, Backblaze is the company we use for backups. Just a reminder – if you have important digital files (pictures, videos, documents) and you aren’t using some type of offsite backup system, you’re being foolish.


Bat Bot: It’s the ‘holy grail’ of flying robots – Just a reminder, I have a birthday coming up.


Former Mozilla Engineer Warns of 3rd Party Antivirus Software – I use Windows Defender on most of my machines, but it was fouled up on my main machine so I had to switch it off and changed to Avast. I haven’t noticed a problem with browser updates.

Politics and Policy

Politics is Not Usually About Policy – Excellent blog post by David Henderson on people’s political views being driven more by tribal loyalties than policy preferences. I think that it explains why a huge number of free trader supporters on the right became protectionists when the mood of the party shifted.


The High Cost of a Home Is Turning American Millennials Into the New Serfs – I find that there is a significant overlap between people that support policies that raise home prices and people that complain about high home prices. I think that is because the people that support those policies disproportionately live in places that put them into effect and then suffer the unintended consequences.


Carr: Dems would honor killer, not victim – I included this not because it was good, but because it was so awful. The basic message is that immigrants are awful because Nicolas Guaman, an immigrant, killed someone in a drunk driving accident. Of course, a rational argument would compare drunk driving behavior between immigrant and non-immigrant populations or use some other method to show that in aggregate they are a net harm to society. Instead, the argument falls back a classic emotional appeal by anecdote. If you thought that the refugee/skittles argument was a good one, this sort of weak argument might also appeal to you.


Syrian Refugees and the Precautionary Principle – This is a nice refutation of the precautionary principle that drives the arguments about refugees made above. To be fair, it isn’t just the anti-immigrant crowd that loves this sophistry. It drives a lot of policy on both sides of the partisan divide.


California Should Be More Like Texas – I’m just a sucker for any article that busts on California by comparing it to Texas.


The Data That Turned the World Upside Down – An argument that it was better data analysis that won the election for Trump.


Artificial intelligence and the law – Lots of questions need to be resolved. It a driverless ship crashes into your house, who’s fault is it?


Frederick Douglass Describes The “Composite Nation” – Frederick Douglass teaches lesson still not widely understood almost 150 years later. “Let the Chinaman come; he will help to augment the national wealth. He will help to develop our boundless resources; he will help to pay off our national debt. He will help to lighten the burden of national taxation. He will give us the benefit of his skill as a manufacturer and tiller of the soil, in which he is unsurpassed.”


Will Liberals Learn to Love the 10th Amendment? – I love these sorts of shifts that cause people to see a different perspective. I hope that the sanctuary cities thing is going cause people to view Scalia a little differently. OK, there is almost no chance of that, but I’ll at least take some pleasure at pointing out the inconsistencies of their views.


A Price Is a Signal Wrapped up in an Incentive – A short video explaining the value of prices as a source of information and a guide to change behavior.


U.S. Federal Reserve Explores The Potential of Blockchain, Lacks Vision – I’m still not sure whether blockchains are one of the coolest topics around or whether it’s just a fad or niche. This article didn’t help answer that question.


Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills? – Aside from the best 4% of performing stocks, they say no. Of course, the trick then becomes knowing which stocks are in that 4%. My simple solution is to just buy them all.


Baptists and Bootleggers in the Organized Effort to Restrict the Use of Cash – There is a growing movement to ban cash, despite the fact that most consumers don’t want that. This is a nice explanation of why unpopular things (like prohibition) happen. I’d like a compromise. Let’s just get rid of the penny and nickel.


Universal Basic Income – It is getting a lot of talk, but it still isn’t popular among economists. I fear the impact it would have on work incentives.