A blog about biology, self-improvement, and the future

Happy New Year! More links abound. As always, these are “new” only in the sense that I read them recently; some of them are actually quite old.

  • More on the Blackmail Paradox: David Henderson and Robin Hanson in favour of legalising blackmail, Tyler Cowen, Scott Sumner and Paul Christiano against. Hanson has written a lot on this; see the linked post for extra links if you want to go digging. Currently I feel the theoretical arguments probably support legalising blackmail, but this feels like one of those Secret-Of-Our-Success-y cases where tradition says blackmail should be illegal and we don’t have a compelling enough case to risk screwing around with it.
  • Given Aumann’s agreement theorem, should you persist in disagreeing with a painted rock? Should you double-crux with one?
  • However, it is unfortunate that for billions of people worldwide, the quadratic formula is also their first (and perhaps only) experience of a rather complicated formula which they must memorize. Countless mnemonic techniques abound, from stories of negative bees considering whether or not to go to a radical party, to songs set to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel.”
  • I’m pretty confused about flossing and I think you should be too.
  • A classic in observer selection effects from Nick Bostrom: cars in the next lane really do go faster.
  • Rather than steal a load of cool links from another linkpost, here’s the post itself. I can’t vouch for their epistemic standards though.
  • There are at least 4,500 speakers of Kannada in Canada. All of whom are presumably delighted that you’ve brought up how funny that is.
  • Wikipedia has a dedicated talk page for arguing about the spelling of alumin(i)um. I don’t have strong feelings about it1, but it’s undeniably entertaining. See also Wikipedia’s list of lamest edit wars.
  • A university in Serbia is accused of plagiarising a research ethics code from another university. On the one hand, this is obviously pretty funny, but on the other if I’d produced a research ethics code I thought was good I think I’d want as many people as possible to copy it, with or without credit.
  • I’ve seen some bad websites in my time, but this one achieves the dubious feat of being genuinely physically painful to read. I’m not sure why I’m sharing this.
  • British naming habits have changed a lot in the last 30 years.
  • Andrew Gelman points out that the opposite of “black box” is not, in fact, white box.
  • I always vaguely assumed that “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee” was some sort of memento mori thing, but it turns out I was totally wrong about this, as reading the whole poem makes clear. I might memorise this one. I also never realised before that “for whom the bell tolls” and “no man is an island” are quotes from the same poem, so TIL.

  1. This is a lie, but it’s one I endorse.