Dale Worley's Journal|
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in
Dale Worley's LiveJournal:
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|Thursday, October 6th, 2016|
|Monday, September 19th, 2016|
|All hail Haber-Bosch!
I finally ran into a clear statement of some facts that knew were generally true: The Haber-Bosch process
for producing "fixed nitrogen" has had a huge effect on the ecosystem, food production, and human life: "Nearly 80% of the nitrogen found in human tissues originated from the Haber-Bosch process." The application of artificial fertilizer, pesticides, and crops bred to thrive in those conditions "quadrupled the productivity of agricultural land". "With average crop yields remaining at the 1900 level the crop harvest in the year 2000 would have required nearly four times more land and the cultivated area would have claimed nearly half of all ice-free continents, rather than under 15% of the total land area that is required today."
|Sunday, September 18th, 2016|
|Holy Sapir-Whorf, Batman!
Geographical Origins and Economic Consequence of Language Structures
Oded Galor, Omer Ozak, and Assaf Sarid
This research explores the economic causes and consequences of language structures. It advances the hypothesis and establishes empirically that variations in pre-industrial geographical characteristics that were conducive to higher return to agricultural investment, larger gender gap in agricultural productivity, and more hierarchical society, are at the root of existing cross-language variations in the presence of the future tense, grammatical gender, and politeness distinctions. Moreover, the research suggests that while language structures have largely reflected the coding of past human experience and in particular the range of ancestral cultural traits in society, they independently affected human behavior and economic outcomes.
|Monday, August 29th, 2016|
|Nerd Amusement of the Day: Best spam evar!!!
Today I received in my inbox the message that reveals what we've all suspected:
From: "Christina Wiese <email@example.com>" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Christina Wiese <email@example.com>" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Easy way to join illuminati fraternity, if interested kindly
contact the supreme leader: email@example.com
Date: Mon, 29 Aug 2016 11:43:11 +0000
|Monday, August 22nd, 2016|
|Summary of "Albion's Seed"
I'm impressed by the thesis of David Hackett Fischer's book, Albion's Seed
, which describes the origins of four of the US's regional cultures in separate waves of immigration from separate areas of the British Isles. Finally, I found a book review
that adequately summarizes Fischer's arguments. The review is long but amusingly written, and still a lot shorter than the book (972 pages). Bonus: Slyly disguised links that compare US regional cultures with groups in the game Civilization.
In school, we tend to think of the original American colonists as “Englishmen”, a maximally non-diverse group who form the background for all of the diversity and ethnic conflict to come later. Fischer’s thesis is the opposite. Different parts of the country were settled by very different groups of Englishmen with different regional backgrounds, religions, social classes, and philosophies. The colonization process essentially extracted a single stratum of English society, isolated it from all the others, and then plunked it down on its own somewhere in the Eastern US.
|Wednesday, July 6th, 2016|
|Wednesday, June 8th, 2016|
|Sunday, April 17th, 2016|
|Sunday, March 13th, 2016|
|Adventures in programming
From "The Daily WTF"
Let's talk about Ebay.
|Thursday, March 3rd, 2016|
|Productivity growth continues, but unevenly
The OECD did a study on the slowing productivity growth in advanced economies. It turns out the situation is a mixed bag; some businesses are growing their productivity quite handily, but many are not
But digging into the data, the OECD’s economists conclude that businesses are still innovating in ways that increase their productivity. In manufacturing, the 100 most productive firms in each sector saw output per worker increase at an annual rate of 3.5% between 2001 and 2009, compared to just 0.5% for other firms. In services, the gaps are even wider. “Frontier” producers boosted worker productivity by 5% each year, compared with 0.3% among other firms. In both manufacturing and services, the gap between the most productive firms and the rest widened towards the end of the period, in the year immediately after the financial crisis hit.
“The main source of the productivity slowdown is not so much a slowing of innovation by the most globally advanced firms, but rather a slowing of the pace at which innovations spread out throughout the economy—a breakdown of the diffusion machine,” the OECD said.
|Friday, February 19th, 2016|
|Interesting Scalia anecdote
Lawrence Lessig notes that Scalia really did mean it
when he said he didn't want judges inventing things:
Justice Antonin Scalia was an “originalist” committed to interpreting the Constitution in the way it would have been understood at the time it was adopted. He was also a conservative who was, as any of us are regardless of our politics, committed to particular outcomes that he hoped the law would support. [...]
In one case, for example, the question was how long someone arrested without a warrant could be held before presented to a judge. The presumptive conservative answer was quite long. But the question Scalia asked me was, "How long would he have been held at the framing?" And after reading scores of case reports from the time around the founding, my answer to him was not what he wanted to hear: The suspect should be presented to a judge as soon as possible, even if that meant waking the judge up. "OK, that's our position," Scalia told me, maybe reluctantly. "I don't believe in an originalism of convenience."
|Thursday, February 18th, 2016|
|How not to do it
Matt Levine discusses proper etiquette
One important lesson from the last few years of bank scandals is: Don't put it in writing. A lot of people got that wrong. Fine. But the really surprising thing is the number of people who came so close to getting it right, but for one small mistake. They knew not to put it in writing, and they told their colleagues not to put it in writing. Their mistake -- it is a subtle one -- is that they told their colleagues not to put it in writing in writing.
|Monday, February 15th, 2016|
|Haters gotta hate
Stephen Carter reports on a liberal version of a ubiquitous scourge
When the news broke Saturday that Justice Antonin Scalia had died at age 79, my Twitter feed began to fill with hate. Not disagreement or disrespect -- actual hate. He was an ignorant waste of flesh, wrote one young fool. His death was the best news in decades, cheered another.
|Sunday, February 14th, 2016|
|Nerd Amusement of the Day: Standing near merging black holes
Thursday's announcement of the detection of gravitational waves led me to look up the paper. The abstract notes that 3 solar masses of energy were radiated during the black hole merger, in about 0.5 second. This turns out to be 5e54 ergs, or 5,000 foe, where a foe is 1e51 ergs, a measure of energy output of supernovas. The gravitational wave output of the merger was about 50 times the total energy of the most energetic supernovas. This leads to the inevitable What If?
question:What would you notice if you were standing on an Earth-like planet 1 AU from the merging black holes?( TL;DRCollapse )
|Friday, February 12th, 2016|
|Nerd Amusement of the Day: What do your Neanderthal genes do?
What's impressive is not the details that were found, but that the details could be found at all. Or for that matter, that the question was even asked.The phenotypic legacy of admixture between modern humans and Neandertals
Many modern human genomes retain DNA inherited from interbreeding with archaic hominins, such as Neandertals, yet the influence of this admixture on human traits is largely unknown. We analyzed the contribution of common Neandertal variants to over 1000 electronic health record (EHR) – derived phenotypes in ~28,000 adults of European ancestry. We discovered and replicated associations of Neandertal alleles with neurological, psychiatric, immunological, and dermatological phenotypes. Neandertal alleles together explained a significant fraction of the variation in risk for depression and skin lesions resulting from sun exposure (actinic keratosis), and individual Neandertal alleles were significantly associated with specific human phenotypes, including hypercoagulation and tobacco use. Our results establish that archaic admixture influences disease risk in modern humans, provide hypotheses about the effects of hundreds of Neandertal haplotypes, and demonstrate the utility of EHR data in evolutionary analyses.
|Thursday, February 11th, 2016|
|Seriously mass-production, easy-to-use looting of paywalled journal articles
"Meet the Robin Hood of Science
The tale of how one researcher has made nearly every scientific paper ever published available for free to anyone, anywhere in the world. ... On September 5th, 2011, Alexandra Elbakyan, a researcher from Kazakhstan, created Sci-Hub, a website that bypasses journal paywalls, illegally providing access to nearly every scientific paper ever published immediately to anyone who wants it. ... As the number of papers in the LibGen database expands, the frequency with which Sci-Hub has to dip into publishers’ repositories falls and consequently the risk of Sci-Hub triggering its alarm bells becomes ever smaller. Elbakyan explains, “We have already downloaded most paywalled articles to the library ... we have almost everything!” ... The efficiency of the system is really quite astounding, working far better than the comparatively primitive modes of access given to researchers at top universities, tools that universities must fork out millions of pounds for every year. ... In one fell swoop, a network has been created that likely has a greater level of access to science than any individual university, or even government for that matter, anywhere in the world. Sci-Hub represents the sum of countless different universities' institutional access — literally a world of knowledge.
Sell Elsevier short...
|Weird cat story
There’s a new paper out that extend the[s] record of host manipulation by toxoplasma. We already new that toxoplasma infections cause mice to lose fear of cat urine – turns out that toxoplasma infections also cause chimpanzees to develop a morbid attraction to leopard urine, a marker of their main predator. Uninfected chimps avoid it. Interestingly, infected chips don’t seem attracted to lion or tiger urine, which suggests a specific strains of toxo.
Note that the author of this post
has some rather strange opinions.