October 15, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


Butterfly swarm shows up on Denver radar system – I love living in a world with so many butterflies that they sometimes show up as clouds on radar systems. I want to see this happen in my area.


Three Chinese women stuck at South Korea airport unable to confirm identities after plastic surgery – This isn’t a problem I ever really thought about. What if you don’t look your passport photo anymore?


Chinese scientists can identify you by your walk – I guess they needed this because of the plastic surgery women. More seriously, this is interesting stuff. You are getting increasingly less anonymous. I wonder what impact this will have on masked protesters.


Dubai Airport Plans to Put Tunnels with Face-scanning Aquariums as Security Checkpoints for All – “Not only those boarding departure flights but also those catching connecting flights at Dubai will have to walk through the tunnels with face-scanning aquariums.” I understand that the biggest challenge is training the fish to recognize faces.


The Enormous Spreadsheet that Runs the World’s Mail – When you send a letter to another country, how to the intermediate countries get paid? This video describes the process and the spreadsheet at the heart of that process.


America’s Top Fears 2017 – Corruption of government officials came in at #1. Health care #2. Last year, Terrorist Attack was #2 and Terrorism was #4. Neither made it onto this year’s list.


Camp Chef’s Italia Pizza Oven is Worthy of Your Dough – I think everyone should have a pizza oven.


Wolf Puppies Are Adorable. Then Comes the Call of the Wild. – Wolves don’t make good pets. This article talks about why. It’s something about them being wild animals.


‘My wife thinks I’m crazy:’ Grower of gargantuan fruit nabs new record with world’s largest squash – He grew a one ton squash. I read the article, but I still don’t understand why. It’s his third world record squash. I guess everyone needs a hobby.

Health – Physical and Mental

Study fails to discover why old women exist – There are three popular theories. #1 – it’s hard for evolution to make women alive and healthy while raising children and then die shortly afterwards. #2 – Men can still have children when they are old and maybe women get some of those genes. #3 – Old women are helpful and improve the success of the community overall. This study didn’t find evidence of any of the three. I’m trying to imagine the conversation he has with his mother over Thanksgiving when she asks what he is studying.


Why Adults Need to Play More Often – I wouldn’t have thought that the benefits of playing as an adult needed any explanation, but here’s one.


You Must Get Started on Your Swedish Death Cleaning – It’s a book about straightening out your stuff before you die. When you are done cleaning up, don’t forget to build your coffin. And if you could dig a hole about six feet deep, that would be great.


Magic mushrooms ‘reboot’ brain in depressed people – study – This was curious. It appears that a treatment of psychedelics can rewire the brain enough to permanently fix some problems with depression. I’ve found that eating at Mellow Mushroom helps with depression, but the results are only temporary.


SSC JOURNAL CLUB: SEROTONIN RECEPTORS – This is a little geeky, but an excellent read. It goes into much more detail about dopamine and serotonin than most articles. It does a much better job of discussing the magic mushroom study than the prior article. I also loved the explanation of “Algernon’s Law”.


Forget getting rich – sex and sleep are the real keys to happiness – OK, but if you are rich enough, you can sleep all day and, when you wake up, hire people for sex.

Art and Culture

Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades – Disgusting on so many levels. How can a person be that depraved? Why were so many people silent for so long? I guess this should be a surprise. Our current President bragged about his ability sexually abuse women. His opponent destroyed the reputation of women that made allegations of sexual abuse against her husband, who was forced to settle with one accuser. Despite all that, they are both popular with women and “women’s rights” advocates. Another weird thing is how many people that are criticizing Harvey turn around and defend Roman Polanski after he admitted raping a young girl and then fled the country to escape punishment. It’s no wonder that Harvey thought that he would be forgiven if he kept supporting causes popular among women’s groups.


From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories – I couldn’t make it through this. The stories were just too disturbing. What a loathsome person.


What to know about the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the Ben Affleck allegations, and how Matt Damon fits in – Look like Ben Affleck, while criticizing Harvey (that name sure has taken a beating lately), is facing allegations of his own misbehavior. Matt Damon’s name was also sullied during the week, but that appears to have been a misunderstanding.


Celebrity Misbehavior – “Casual empiricism suggests that celebrities engage in more anti-social and other socially unapproved behavior than noncelebrities. I consider a number of reasons for this stylized fact, including one new theory, in which workers who are less substitutable in production are enabled to engage in greater levels of misbehavior because their employers cannot substitute away from them.”


Leonard Nimoy – Both Sides Now – What the hell was going on the 60s? This wasn’t nearly as bad as sexually assaulting someone, but still. Why?


It’s No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry – This is an interesting retake on “Take on Me”. It was redone as an acoustic ballad. The video isn’t nearly as cool as the original, but the song is surprisingly good in a different way. It is certainly better the Leonard Nimoy singing “Both Sides Now”, but what isn’t?


The Strength of Absent Ties: Social Integration via Online Dating – Most heterosexual couples still meet through friends, but meeting online is a close second. Meeting online is dominant for same-sex couples. Interracial marriages increased sharply with the advent of online dating sites twenty years ago.


Has adult sleep duration declined over the last 50+ years? – Surprisingly, the answer is no. It seems like we’re busier than people used to be, but maybe we make up for it by having more meetings to sleep through.


Easter Islanders Falsely Blamed For Their Own Demise – That story about the Easter Islanders destroying their own habitat? It looks like that might be wrong. This guy blames rats.


Who Would Agree to Have Sex With a Total Stranger? – According to this, one of the biggest differences between men and women is their willingness to have sex with strangers. In studies, about 75% of men will but virtually no women will. The article goes into much more detail. The difference is essentially unchanged even when the stranger danger aspects are mitigate.


The scientist who spots fake videos – This is going to be an increasingly important skill as it gets easier and easier to create fake photos and videos. I’ve heard that it is already possible for amateurs to fool people with faked pictures.


Bringing Portraits to Life – Don’t think we need better ways to spot faked videos? Check this out. They are taking still images of people and then animating them based on the actions of third person. Wow!


Google Pixel Buds Speaking Translator|Translate Language Instantly – It’s Babel Fish 1.0. This is really, really cool. Really cool. I need this before our next exchange student arrives.


How Computers Compress Text: Huffman Coding and Huffman Trees – Want to understand how computers compress text? Probably not, but if you do, here’s a simple explanation.


Fibonacci Numbers hidden in the Mandelbrot Set – Numberphile – Last video got you in a mood for nerdy videos? How about watching Dr. Holly Krieger show you how Fibonacci sequences appear in the Mandelbrot Set. Don’t worry, she explains what Fibonacci numbers are and what the Mandelbrot Set is. I hadn’t seen her videos before. She’s no Vi Hart, but I’m excited to go watch more.


Why Stanford Researchers Tried to Create a ‘Gaydar’ Machine – Remember my references to gender preference determining facial recognition software? This article tells the story of the guys that made it.


U.S. signals tougher stance with tech companies on encryption – This is another move in the fundamental debate over whether we are entitled to privacy or whether that is too dangerous. Should we be able to encrypt things? If so, that means that terrorists and pedophiles can encrypt things. If not, that means that none of our communications and records are very secure. It’s a little like the free speech debate. You can just have a right for good people to have free speech.


Why Commodore Failed – A Conversation with Commodore UK’s David John Pleasance & Trevor Dickinson – Commodore was one of the dominant PC brands in the 80s. Then it died. Here’s an insider’s perspective on why.


An Apple Genetically Engineered to Never Brown Will Hit Stores This Fall – New apples that don’t brown as quickly are about to hit the shelves. They’ve shut down the gene that “controls polyphenol oxidase production”. I guess that’s the stuff that makes apples go brown. Anyway, this cool because it will make sliced apples easier to deal with and should lead to a reduction in food waste.


Why SQL is beating NoSQL, and what this means for the future of data – This is a good article defending SQL.

Politics and Policy

Russia reportedly used Pokémon Go in an effort to inflame racial tensions – Are we living inside a badly written dystopian future novel?


5 Ways White People Can Fight White Supremacy – This was so stupid that I posted it to complain about its stupidity. “[Racism] is a contagion carried and spread by white people among white people.” There you have it. Racism isn’t a universal problem that we all need to struggle with. According to the author, it’s only a white person problem. It appears that the author could stand to do a little self-reflection.


President Reagan’s Radio Address on Canadian Elections and Free Trade on November 26, 1988 – Just a little nostalgia for when we had a President that was a vocal supporter of free trade. “Over the past 200 years, not only has the argument against tariffs and trade barriers won nearly universal agreement among economists but it has also proven itself in the real world where we have seen free trading nations prosper while protectionist countries fall behind.” Instead, we have a President that has jacked up the cost of lumber at a time when many people in Houston, California, and Puerto Rico are rebuilding after natural disasters. He did so by sticking high tariffs on Canadian lumber to help US lumber companies price gouge people rebuilding their homes. To be bipartisan, he did so with the support of former President Jimmy Carter, who owns tree farms and stands to profit from the tariff.


Prejudice Reduction: What Works? A Review and Assessment of Research and Practice – The conclusion is essentially “we don’t know.” From the study: “We conclude that the causal effects of many widespread prejudice-reduction interventions, such as workplace diversity training and media campaigns, remain unknown.”


I Tweeted About My Toddler and Someone Called Child Protective Services – This was an interesting story about the abuse of child protective services as a means of harassing parents. The evidence used to start the investigation was a tweet saying “3-year-old for sale. $12 or best offer.” This isn’t an easy problem to solve. The more you encourage CPS not to pursue obviously frivolous charges, the more often they’ll miss cases of serious abuse.


Salt Lake Police Fire Cop Who Arrested Nurse Over Blood Draw – Remember the jerk cop that arrested the nurse for not letting him draw blood from an accident victim? He got fired from his police job. He had already been fired from his EMT job. It looks like body cameras are a good thing because he would probably not have been punished if we didn’t have the footage. Incidentally, his union is still angry that the footage was released. When the union uses the phrase “protect and serve”, they are deliberately vague about just who they are protecting and serving, but it seems pretty obvious that is isn’t citizens like the nurse in this story.


Obamacare Was Built With the Flaws Trump Now Exploits – Setting aside the debate over the goals and merits of the legislation, the Affordable Care Act was one of the worst crafted major pieces of legislation I can recall. I assume that is due to the rush to get it passed and the razor thin margins on which that happened. As a result, the law was unworkable without significant (and probably illegal) executive intervention. It’s a mess. I don’t know what will or should be done, but we definitely need some form of health care reform – hopefully bipartisan and better thought out.


We Brought Charles Murray to Campus. Guess What Happened. – OK, this is turning into a repetitive old meme, but I still find the intolerance closed minds of college “liberals” to be depressing. Schools are failing students if they aren’t teaching them how to appropriately disagree with people. What sort of employees will these kids become if shout downs are their way of dealing with people they disagree with?

Economics, Business, and Money

Ceteris Numquam Paribus – Prof. Deirdre McCloskey – This is from an econ blog written by a teen. This entry is about a very interesting professor. “She is known as a “conservative” economist, Chicago-School style (she taught at the University of Chicago from 1968 to 1980), but protests, “I’m a literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive-Episcopalian, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. Not ‘conservative’! I’m a Christian libertarian.”” She’s actually a very interesting writer and I’m delighted to see some teen interested enough in libertarian economists to blog about them.


We’re Number 11, We’re Number 11! Eh? – We’ve tied Canada for 11th in this year’s Economic Freedom of the World index. Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Ireland took the top 5 spots. We improved a bit from last year, primarily from sound money and de-regulation but lost ground on freedom to trade.


The flaws a Nobel Prize-winning economist wants you to know about yourself – A nice little summary of behavioral economics, for which Richard Thaler just won the economics “Nobel” prize.


Silicon Valley Is Not Your Friend – Yet another article calling for the breakup of the tech giants. This time the angle is that they “don’t have our best interests at heart.” First, no company has your best interests at heart. Second, the author calls for them to be regulated by the government, but the government doesn’t have our best interests at heart either. It helps to remember that every organization, whether public or private, is guided by people and those people have their own interests and they don’t necessarily align with yours.