Friday, July 25, 2014

Looking for jealousy in animals

SciAm reports:
Man's best friend does not like anything muscling in on that friendship. The first experimental test of jealousy in dogs shows that canines nip even at stuffed pooches when these fakes take away the attention of the dogs' owners.

This new findings support the view that jealousy is a primordial emotion seen not only in humans, but in other animals as well, researchers said. The results also show that jealousy does not require especially complex minds, the scientists said. ...

The owners were instructed to treat the fake dog and the jack-o'-lantern like they were real dogs, by petting the objects and talking to them sweetly. When it came to the book, the owners were asked to read the text out loud.

The scientists found dogs acted far more jealous when their owners displayed affection to the stuffed dog compared with the other items. The canines were nearly twice as likely to push or touch the owner when the owner was playing with the fake dog compared with the jack-o'-lantern, and more than three times as likely to do so when compared with the book. Furthermore, about one-third of the dogs tried to get between their owners and the stuffed toy. And while one-quarter of the dogs snapped at the fake dog, only one did so at the jack-o'-lantern and book.
This is anthropomorphism. Maybe it would be jealousy if the dog destroyed the fake dog, but I am not sure this has anything to do with jealous. Maybe the dog just wanted to be petted by the owner.

Yes, the dog liked being petted, and asked for it when he say that the owner was petting a fake dog. But maybe the dog was just deducing that the owner was available for petting. I might decide that I want an ice cream cone after seeing someone else with an ice cream cone, but that does not mean that I am jealous.

A professor says:
The sociologist, Davis (1948) defined jealousy as a fear and rage reaction fitted to protect, maintain, and prolong the intimate association of love. In a pair-bonding species like our own that lives in social groups, jealousy is a logical prediction from evolutionary theory. In fact, if jealousy did not exist as a universal human characteristic, it would represent an oddity that demanded scientific explanation.

The function of jealousy is somewhat different between the two sexes. In males, jealousy revolves around the issue of uncertainty of paternity. Whereas women have always known if an infant is hers or not, until the advent of modern DNA testing techniques men could never be certain that a child was the product of their loins.

Although paternal uncertainty is a problem in all primate species, true jealousy may be unique to the evolution of the human line. ...

Based on evolutionary logic, it was predicted that male jealousy would be more concerned with sexual infidelity and female jealousy would be more concerned with emotional infidelity. Buss, Larson, Westen, & Semmelroth (1992) used a series of forced choice experiments to demonstrate that men indicated greater distress to a partner’s sexual, rather than emotional infidelity, whereas women showed the reverse response displaying greater distress to a partner’s emotional infidelity rather than their sexual infidelity.
This video claims to demonstrate jealousy in capuchins (New World monkeys). Others say that it shows fairness or entitlement. But there is a leaner explanation -- maybe the monkey just prefers grapes to cucumbers and is trying to get grapes. Further research has attempted to address the objections, but it is still limited. It always finds a monkey that prefers grapes to cucumber, showing the monkey that it could be getting a grape instead of cucumber, and watch the monkey reject the cucumber in an effort to get a grape.

I have posted similar criticism of mindreading crows, cats, and rats, and suggested that many people have a cognitive bias for rich explanations.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Whites not supposed to agree with NSA

To be politically correct now, you have to post pictures of your black nanny on your FB page, and Check Your Privilege before commenting on NSA surveillance.

Could have fooled me. I thought that it was mainly white males who complain about the NSA. And I am surprised a white feminist professor would admit that she did not know how to take care of her baby, and had to rely on a black nanny.

Mathematician Peter Woit writes:
Among the many disturbing aspects of the behavior of the NSA revealed by the Snowden documents, the most controversial one directly relevant to mathematicians was the story of the NSA’s involvement in a flawed NIST cryptography standard (for more see here and here). The New York Times reported:
Classified N.S.A. memos appear to confirm that the fatal weakness, discovered by two Microsoft cryptographers in 2007, was engineered by the agency. The N.S.A. wrote the standard and aggressively pushed it on the international group, privately calling the effort “a challenge in finesse.”
The standard was based on the mathematics of elliptic curves, so this is a clearly identifiable case where mathematicians seem to have been involved in using their expertise to subvert the group tasked with producing high quality cryptography. ...

Read carefully (and I think it was written very carefully…), note that George never directly denies that the NSA back-doored Dual-EC-DRBG, just claims there is no “proven weakness”. In other words, since how they chose the elliptic curves is a classified secret, no one can prove anything about how this was done. All the public has is the Snowden documents which aren’t “proof”.
We don't need the Snowden documents. The public also has the 2007 Microsoft paper explaining the possible backdoor. If you are an al qaeda terrorist, then you might not want to use the NSA function to generate your private keys. If you are not an international terrorist, then there is no proven or fatal weakness.

I would comment on Woit's blog, but he is deleting comments that disagree with him.

The Clinton administration did propose a Clipper Chip with an NSA backdoor in 1993. Or more precisely, a system for key escrow, not a backdoor. It is plausible that the NSA designed in a backdoor to Dual-EC-DRBG that it could use and no one else. But so what? It is just a stupid pseudo-random number generator. If you don't like it, then don't use it.

Update: Woit deleted this comment from me:
It is true that you can choose your own (P,Q) if you do not trust what NSA did. It is just a pseudo-random number generator. You can also toss coins if you wish, or use dozens of other pseudo-random number generators. Your main complaint is that the NSA did not fully explain itself. Guess what -- the NSA never fully explains itself.
He does quote hysterical anti-NSA comments, such as from Ron Rivest. But there is no mention of how Rivest's company sold out to create data insecurities for millions.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10,000-hour rule disproved

The NY Times reports on new research in the nature-nurture debate:
Scientists have long argued over the relative contributions of practice and native talent to the development of elite performance. This debate swings back and forth every century, it seems, but a paper in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science illustrates where the discussion now stands and hints — more tantalizingly, for people who just want to do their best — at where the research will go next.

The value-of-practice debate has reached a stalemate. In a landmark 1993 study of musicians, a research team led by K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist now at Florida State University, found that practice time explained almost all the difference (about 80 percent) between elite performers and committed amateurs. The finding rippled quickly through the popular culture, perhaps most visibly as the apparent inspiration for the “10,000-hour rule” in Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling “Outliers” — a rough average of the amount of practice time required for expert performance.

The new paper, the most comprehensive review of relevant research to date, comes to a different conclusion. Compiling results from 88 studies across a wide range of skills, it estimates that practice time explains about 20 percent to 25 percent of the difference in performance in music, sports and games like chess. In academics, the number is much lower — 4 percent — in part because it’s hard to assess the effect of previous knowledge, the authors wrote.
The NY Times podcast described this as "dispiriting". Apparently a lot of people prefer a fantasy in which they could be LeBron James if only they practiced enough. That fantasy seems more dispiriting to me.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Feminist attack on R.P. Feynman

A SciAm blog writes:
What about someone who is scrupulously honest about his scientific contributions but whose behavior towards women or members of underrepresented minorities demonstrates that he does not regard them as being as capable, as smart, or as worthy of respect? What if, moreover, most of these behaviors are displayed outside of scientific contexts (owing to the general lack of women or members of underrepresented minorities in the scientific contexts this scientist encounters)? ...

This last description of a hypothetical scientist is not too far from famous physicist Richard Feynman, something that we know not just from the testimony of his contemporaries but from Feynman’s own accounts. ...

The predation in question here included actively targeting female students as sex partners, a behavior that rather conveys that you don’t view them primarily in terms of their potential to contribute to science. ...

About the Author: Janet D. Stemwedel is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at San José State University.
So he is considered a sexual predator because he flirted with some non-scientist women, outside a scientific context, and he is a bad guy because he was more interested in them as sex partner than their potential to contribute to science?!

There is no such thing as "San José State University". She teaches in San Jose, an American city with no accent.

Galileo's Pendulum blog also attacks Feynman because he flirted with some undergraduates without revealing that he had graduated. Some comments ask the author to explain what Feynman did wrong, but he refuses.

Another SciAm blogger was apparently fired for writing:
Also importantly, while some of Feynman's utterances and actions appear sexist to modern sensibilities, it's worth noting that they were probably no different than the attitudes of a male-dominated American society in the giddy postwar years, a society in which women were supposed to take care of the house and children and men were seen as the bread winners. ... The encouraging development is that actions by Feynman - and male society in general - that were considered acceptable or amusing in 1950 would quite rightly cause instant outrage in 2014. ... We can condemn parts of his behavior while praising his science. And we should.
The problem is that he did not sufficiently condemn sexism.

SciAm is owned by Nature mag, which just apologized for saying that female scientists might publish less if they are taking care of small children.

Update: The Wash. Post reported on SciAm firing bloggers:
Throughout its 169-year history, Scientific American has been an august and sober chronicler of the advance of human knowledge, from chemistry to physics to anthropology.

Lately, however, things have become kind of a mess.

A series of blog posts on the magazine’s Web site over the past few months has unleashed waves of criticism and claims that the publication was promoting racism, sexism and “genetic determinism.”
It is hard to figure out what is supposedly offensive about the SciAm posts, except for facts that are upsetting to leftists.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

NY Times really hates human evolution

The NY Times Book Review trashed a book on human evolution by one of its own science reporters. Appaarently that was not negative enough, and now it publishes an even worse review:
This racial divide started, Wade says, when humans began migrating out of Africa some 50,000 years ago. As groups entered diverse environments, they faced differing pressures that selected for gene variants creating different traits, including dissimilar social behaviors. Genetic selection for distinctive physical traits in different populations, such as lighter skin to maximize sunlight absorption, is well established and widely accepted. Decidedly not well established, however, is Wade’s proposal that genetic selection gives different human populations distinct behaviors. ...

As a key event he cites Europe’s adoption, starting around A.D. 1000, of the principle that law is the ultimate ruler. This, Wade argues, allowed a transition from closed, insular tribal social organizations to more open, interactive nation-states, and Europe then entered a self-reinforcing cycle: Its rules-based, trade-oriented culture selected for gene variants generating trusting and productive social behavior, and these genes in turn made the culture more trusting and rewarding of hard work. ...

While warning us to avoid filtering science through politics, he draws heavily from conservative historians who minimize the roles played by political power, geographic advantage, momentum, disease and dumb luck. ...

He constantly gathers up long shots, speculations and spurious claims, then declares they add up to substantiate his case.

The result is a deeply flawed, deceptive and dangerous book. Its most pernicious conceit is that it’s finally safe to talk of racial genetics because “opposition to racism is now well entrenched.” The daily news — a black teenager’s killer walks free in Florida; ...

David Dobbs is writing a book about theories of human sensitivity to experience.
So Dobbs seems to be saying that we should not discuss human evolution and diversity because of George Zimmerman trial? The jury acquitted Zimmerman of all charges because he acted in self-defense while an attacker was beating him to death. He was only put on trial because of political race-baiting by MSNBC and Pres. Barack Obama.

In the NY Times podcast, Dobbs goes more directly into a guilt-by-association attack, complaining about political conservatives, scientific racism, eugenics, sterilization, Nazis, Holocaust, etc. I previously noted other such leftist attacks.

Dobbs argues that Wade's thesis is circular, but it is not. It is true that there is no direct quantitative link from specific genes to human behaviors, but there is plenty of scientific evidence that behavioral traits are heritable, that human evolution is accelerating, and that there are huge population differences. How many of those differences are genetic in origin is debatable, but Wade's thesis is plausible and Dobbs has no contrary evidence.

Dobbs says "lighter skin to maximize sunlight absorption, is well established", but I am not sure it is correct. A 2014 paper by Peter Frost on The Puzzle of European Hair, Eye, and Skin Color argues that sexual selection led to lighter skin color, not lower sunlight in Europe.

On the podcast, Dobbs seems to side with Stephen Jay Gould in his denunciation of the heritability of intelligence.

I am all in favor of some healthy skepticism about genetic determinism, but Wade's book is largely a summary of his NY Times stories and not politically conservative. And yet reviewers must trash it by bringing up Hitler and arguing against even discussing the ideas.

If anyone was a pseudo-scientific racist, it was Gould. He was a leftist Marxist Jewish ideologue whose most famous work was shown to have been faked in order to promote his offensive racial theories. When confronted with the evidence, he just accused his critics of being racists. A 2011 NY Times story said:
In his book, Dr. Gould contended that Morton’s results were “a patchwork of fudging and finagling in the clear interest of controlling a priori convictions.” ...

But the Penn team finds Morton’s results were neither fudged nor influenced by his convictions. ...

Ralph L. Holloway, an expert on human evolution at Columbia and a co-author of the new study, was less willing to give Dr. Gould benefit of the doubt.

“I just didn’t trust Gould,” he said. “I had the feeling that his ideological stance was supreme. When the 1996 version of ‘The Mismeasure of Man’ came and he never even bothered to mention Michael’s study, I just felt he was a charlatan.”
Gould was a charlatan, and a disgrace to science.

Update: NatGeo says Like in Humans, Genes Drive Half of Chimp Intelligence, and SciAm blogs posts a non-apology apology for its favorable review of Wade's book.

Earlier this year, Nature mag apologized for publishing a letter to the editor responding to an editorial. Here was the letter:
Publish on the basis of quality, not gender

The publication of research papers should be based on quality and merit, so the gender balance of authors is not relevant in the same way as it might be for commissioned writers (see Nature 504, 188; 2013). Neither is the disproportionate number of male reviewers evidence of gender bias.

Having young children may prevent a scientist from spending as much time publishing, applying for grants and advancing their career as some of their colleagues. Because it is usually women who stay at home with their children, journals end up with more male authors on research articles. The effect is exacerbated in fast-moving fields, in which taking even a year out threatens to leave a researcher far behind.

This means that there are likely to be more men in the pool of potential referees.

Lukas Koube Sherman, Texas, USA.
Apparently science magazines now consider it misogynist to point out that women have babies.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Using gendered role models is sexist

Thew xkcd comic says:
For a long time, sexism, a lack of role models, and institutional hostility largely kept women from pursuing serious chess careers.
This seems unlikely to me. Chess is more sexist now, as there are separate chess tournaments for women. The above comment is sexist for suggesting women cannot be successful in chess unless they have same-gendered role models. I doubt that Bobby Fischer or Judit Polgar were following role models.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Te penguin is the new poster child

The climate has been changing for millions of years. Even billions. Evolution teaches that plant or animal species will find ecological niches, and adapt to them. So climate changes always seems bad for almost everyone, if you ignore adaptation.

NPR reports on a scientist who wants to use law and politics to manipulate us:
WERTHEIMER: You've been studying the Emperor penguin population in Antarctica. What's happening to them?

CASWELL: The Emperor penguin is affected by changes in the sea ice conditions. The projection is that all of the colonies - there are 45 of them known around the circumference of Antarctica. All 45 of them, by the end of the century, are going to be declining quite rapidly. ...

WERTHEIMER: The Emperor penguin is actually on the list to be considered for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Would protected status help them?

CASWELL: Listing them as an endangered species would have several really positive effects. The biggest one is that it would provide more impetus to take action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slowing or halting climate change.

WERTHEIMER: You mean the penguin might become a sort of poster child for correcting the direction in which the climate is going?

CASWELL: Yes. And identifying threats to charismatic species, like the Emperor penguin, like the polar bear, is not going to be enough. But documenting threats to species like this, along with the many other impacts of climate change, is an important contribution. And it's really something that the Endangered Species Act is quite appropriate for.
No, that is not an appropriate use of the law. The law was help prevent extinction, not to exploit cute animals for political gain.

Sure, some populations will being decline at the end of the XXI century, if they fail to adapt to change. But we will very likely have just as much wildlife as we have today, and plenty of penguins.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Europeans love American products

Europeans are always complaining about American stuff, but it sure seems to me that they love everything American. The NY Times reports:
American tech companies operate seven of the 10 most visited websites in Europe, according to comScore statistics. ...

Nonetheless, from Spain to Sweden, many of Europe’s millions of Internet users regularly complain about the dominance of American tech companies, particularly about how their data is used and shared. It also leaves them wondering why so few homegrown tech companies are globally competitive.

For many Europeans, the likes of Twitter and Amazon hold too much information about what people do online. That wariness has only grown stronger after the revelations by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, about American intelligence agencies’ spying activities and perceived easy access to the world’s tech infrastructure.
Yes, Europeans have their privacy laws, but in practice, they give up their privacy more readily than Americans.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Paternalistic medicos conceal the truth

Medical ethics experts exist primarily to justify physicians and other medicos doing what they want to do. When in doubt, they will cook up whatever explanations let them do business. Here is the latest example:
As more research is done on the human genome and more people seek genetic testing, researchers, physicians, genetic counselors and ethicists are struggling with the issues of how to present the new information to patients and whether certain findings should be presented at all.

A paper published Monday in the leading journal Pediatrics tackles a controversial discovery that can come out of genetic testing: when a child’s biological parent turns out to be someone else.

Whether that occurs through a switch at the hospital, a swap of embryos or sexual infidelity, genetic testing can bring such previously unknown facts to light. No matter the cause, it presents an ethical dilemma for medical professionals and one likely to become more common as genetic testing more more widespread. It has triggered a fierce and complex debate about whether parents — or those who might find out they are not true parents — have a right to know such information.

In the Pediatrics paper, ethicists at the University of Pennsylvania argue in favor of letting the parents of patients know that these facts can generally be found in the course of a test but will not be revealed to them.

“Because there isn’t a national consensus,” said co-author Autumn Fiester, director of education in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, “getting a proactive policy that could prevent the harms that are taking place seemed like an imperative to address.”
This seems primarily designed to protect adulterous wives.

It is funny how people adamantly deny genetic determinism, but they are scared to learn the truth about their genes. DNA tests are cheap and convenient now, but most people seem to be afraid to get them.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Google and Facebook experiment on users

It is funny how people can accept the most outrageous behavior from favored companies like Apple and Google, and show outrage against others. The NY Times reports:
Facebook is hardly the only Internet company that manipulates and analyzes consumer data. Google and Yahoo also watch how users interact with search results or news articles to adjust what is shown; they say this improves the user experience. But Facebook’s most recent test did not appear to have such a beneficial purpose. ...

In an academic paper published in conjunction with two university researchers, the company reported that, for one week in January 2012, it had altered the number of positive and negative posts in the news feeds of 689,003 randomly selected users to see what effect the changes had on the tone of the posts the recipients then wrote.

The researchers found that moods were contagious. The people who saw more positive posts responded by writing more positive posts. Similarly, seeing more negative content prompted the viewers to be more negative in their own posts.
Google is famous for experimenting on users. Eric Schmidt said:
Google is run by three computer scientists. We’re going to make all the mistakes computer scientists running a company would make. But one of the mistakes we’re not going to make is the mistake non-scientists make. We’re going to make mistakes based on facts and data and analysis.
Those experiments are to maximize advertising revenue. They may say that it improves the user experience, but their idea of an improved user experience is one where you click on more ads.

Not everyone agrees that the randomized clinical trial is always best. See this for the views of statisticians, and some criticism of Freakonomics Levitt on this point.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Tech companies blamed for having white employees

Sometimes I think that the news media hates white people.

USA Today reports:
SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook, the world's most popular social network, released statistics on the makeup of its workforce that do not reflect the demographics of its users around the globe.

The lopsided numbers are just the latest from a major Silicon Valley company to paint a stark picture of an industry sector dominated by white men and are sure to escalate an already heated debate over the lack of diversity in the tech industry.

Nearly 70% of Facebook employees are men and 57% are white. Asians make up 34% of employees.

But Hispanics represent just 4% and African Americans are just 2% of Facebook's workforce.

When it comes to technical employees, the numbers are even more grim. Eighty-five percent are male, 53% white and 41% Asian. Hispanics make up just 3% and African Americans just 1% of the workforce.
At 57% non-hispanic white, their employees are a lot less white than the general population.

And yet this is "grim" because too many of them are white?!

The more notable fact her is that Silicon Valley has imported thousands of Asian workers from overseas to replace higher-paid white workers.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Some offenses are undeniable

An AP article reports:
The nation is a long way from consensus on these questions, judging by the response to a federal ruling that the “Redskins” team name is disparaging and its trademarks should be canceled. ...

Some offenses are undeniable: Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers pro basketball team, earned universal condemnation for asking his mistress not to bring black people to his games.
Really? So everybody thinks that Sterling should be okay with his mistress bringing dates into his basketball arena?

I only heard part of the recording, but my understanding is that the mistress only asked about black men as dates. Sterling never said that he approves of whites or other races either openly dating his mistress. The mistress was the one who seemed to have a preference for black men, and who seemed to make a racial issue out of it.

I am not expressing any opinion here. I am just noting what offends people. I don't even know why anyone would consider the term "Redskins" offensive, and the article does not explain. I have never heard it used as a disparaging term. Perhaps some people are ashamed to have reddish skin, I don't know.

The main explanation I heard for Sterling was that the NBA is considered a black-majority league, and therefore black men should get to date the Jewish owner's mistress.

On an unrelated matter, This Ethiopia traffic video is amazing. No traffic lights, no signs, no lane markings, chaos. and continuous near accidents.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Leftists hate human evolution knowledge

I mentioned how a new book and its reviews have exposed anti-evolution leftists, and now the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center writes a review (warning: link requires javascript spyware):
Nicholas Wade’s new book, A Troublesome Inheritance, is only the latest in a long line of works arguing that humans can be divided into discrete races, and that between those races, there are differences in behavior, temperament, intelligence, and even political and economic structures. Although the specifics of the arguments change, what remains constant is the idea that white people of European descent are inherently smarter, better, more “civilized” than members of other races, especially black Africans and their descendants. Wade’s work is no exception.
That is a gross distortion, of course. Wade replies to a similar charge:
Let's start with Raff, who asserts, "Wade claims that the latest genomic findings actually support dividing humans into discrete races." In fact, I say the exact opposite, that the races are not and cannot be discrete or they would be different species, but it's easier to attack an invented statement.
Likewise, the colors of the rainbow are real and continuous. You can give discrete and useful definitions of colors, even tho there will be colors on the border between red and orange. Genes are discrete, but race involve 100s of genes.

The SPLC makes no attempt to rebut any of Wade's facts or science, and instead launches into a guilt-by-association character assassination:
A Troublesome Inheritance has served as a rallying point for an obscure far-right ideology called the “Dark Enlightenment.” Self-professedly “anti-democratic” and “neo-reactionary,” this movement brings together an odd assortment of fascists, neo-Nazis, men’s rights activists, and libertarians who are united by their hatred of the “politically correct” academic and media establishment (which they refer to as “the Cathedral”), and by their unshakable belief in the biological reality of their racist and sexist beliefs. The “Dark Enlightenment” overlaps to great extent with the “human biodiversity” (HBD) movement, which is made up of (mostly pseudonymous) bloggers, bolstered by the support of a few fringe scientists. Among these scientists are Cochran and Harpending, who have their own HBD blog called “West Hunter.”
Wade is a NY Times science writer, and his book is mostly a summary of science stories that have appeared in the newspaper. The NY Times is the most respected newspaper of the Jewish left, and obviously not part of some far-right conspiracy.

The SPLC article is in its "Hatewatch blog", which has the main purpose of showing how much the SPLC and its rich Jewish donors hate the "Radical Right". The article quotes “hatred toward all things European is normative among a great many strongly identified Jews.” And normative at the SPLC, I guess.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Against mandated bicycle helmets

Here are some arguments against bicycle helmet laws.
As Mikael Colville-Andersen and Hart Noecker of Rebel Metropolis have pointed out, one is much more likely to have a head injury in a car than on a bike. The absolute number of head injuries is staggering in comparison; Stromberg shows that even looking at the number of injuries per hour of travel, which compensates for the fact that there are a lot more drivers than cyclists, the rate of head injuries is not significantly different between walking, cycling or driving.

In fact, if anyone needs a helmet, it is the pedestrian, who has even higher rates of head injuries than cyclists.

... drivers were less careful around helmeted cyclists. ...

It turns out that so many people are turned off cycling by helmets that the the lives saved through the exercise and health benefits of cycling among people is greater than the number of lives saved through helmet use.

Update: CNet reports:
Brain surgeon: There's no point wearing bicycle helmets

A British brain surgeon says cycle helmets are too flimsy and can actually create more danger by creating the illusion of greater safety. ...

As the Telegraph reports, Marsh was speaking at the Hay Literary Festival. There, he threw caution to an erudite wind by saying: "I ride a bike and I never wear a helmet. In the countries where bike helmets are compulsory there has been no reduction in bike injuries whatsoever." ...

Marsh isn't alone in suggesting bike helmets shouldn't be worn. In a 2010 Tedx Talk (video above) Mikael Colville-Andersen, cycling ambassador for Copenhagen, insisted that some research found that cycle helmets actually cause more brain damage.

Moreover, he described society's obsession with safety equipment as "almost pornographic." Why, he wondered, don't pedestrians wear helmets, as they suffer more brain damage than cyclists?

For him, riding without a helmet is also a symbol of the livable city. The problem, as he sees it, is drivers, not cyclists. What would happen, he mused, if drivers were forced to wear helmets? That would surely save lives. It would also destroy car sales.

He believes that some of the biggest proponents of cycle helmets are the car industry and the auto insurance industry, as the more laws there are insisting on cycle helmets, the fewer bikes are sold.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fat not linked to heart disease

The WSJ reports:
"Saturated fat does not cause heart disease"—or so concluded a big study published in March in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. How could this be? The very cornerstone of dietary advice for generations has been that the saturated fats in butter, cheese and red meat should be avoided because they clog our arteries. For many diet-conscious Americans, it is simply second nature to opt for chicken over sirloin, canola oil over butter.

The new study's conclusion shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with modern nutritional science, however. The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics and bias.

Our distrust of saturated fat can be traced back to the 1950s, to a man named Ancel Benjamin Keys, a scientist at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Keys was formidably persuasive and, through sheer force of will, rose to the top of the nutrition world—even gracing the cover of Time magazine—for relentlessly championing the idea that saturated fats raise cholesterol and, as a result, cause heart attacks. ...

Our distrust of saturated fat can be traced back to the 1950s, to a man named Ancel Benjamin Keys, a scientist at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Keys was formidably persuasive and, through sheer force of will, rose to the top of the nutrition world—even gracing the cover of Time magazine—for relentlessly championing the idea that saturated fats raise cholesterol and, as a result, cause heart attacks. ...

One consequence is that in cutting back on fats, we are now eating a lot more carbohydrates—at least 25% more since the early 1970s. Consumption of saturated fat, meanwhile, has dropped by 11%, according to the best available government data. Translation: Instead of meat, eggs and cheese, we're eating more pasta, grains, fruit and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. ... Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease. ...

Indeed, up until 1999, the AHA was still advising Americans to reach for "soft drinks," and in 2001, the group was still recommending snacks of "gum-drops" and "hard candies made primarily with sugar" to avoid fatty foods.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Governor does not want to anticipate

California Gov. Jerry Brown is babbling nonsense:
BROWN: Well, we're in the third year of a very dry season. We're getting ready for the worst. Now, we don't want to anticipate before we know, but we need a full compliment of firefighting capacity.
Huh? A season is less than a year. We cannot be in the third year of a season. And we certainly do want to anticipate fires before they happen.
The state's climate appears to be changing. The scientists tell us that definitely. So we've got to gear up here. And after all, in California, for 10,000 years, our population was about 300,000. Now it's 38 million. We have more structures, more activist, more sparks, more combustible activity and we've got to gear up for it and as the climate changes, this is going to be a radically different future than was our historic past.
The radical change is from immigration, not the climate.
BROWN: That's a challenge. It is true that there's virtually no Republican who accepts the science that virtually is unanimous. I mean there is no scientific question. There's just political denial for various reasons, best known to those people who are in denial.
It is funny how no one can accept a unanimous opinion. There certainly is no consensus that CO2 emissions have anything to do with the current drought.

Speaking of possible brain damage:
Bill Clinton did more today than defend his wife, Hillary Clinton, from recent accusations leveled by GOP strategist Karl Rove that she suffered brain damage after falling in December 2012.

The former president revealed that his wife’s injury “required six months of very serious work to get over,” he said during a question-and-answer session at the Peterson Foundation in Washington.

“They went to all this trouble to say she had staged what was a terrible concussion that required six months of very serious work to get over,” he said. “It’s something she never low-balled with the American people, never tried to pretend it didn’t happen.”
No, the public was never told that she required 6 months of work to recover from her brain injury.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Evolutionists denounce human evolution book

I mentioned the NY Times book on race and inheritance, so I am linking to more reviews, both good and bad.

A couple of things bug me about this field.

The leftist-atheist-evolutionists (PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, etc.) vehemently denounce this book, say people shouldn't read it, and claim that it is full of errors and bad thinking. But they don't actually cite any errors and act as if evolution is the most important thing except that it must never be applied to human beings. (At least Coyne admits to some errors about race.)

There is overwhelming evidence that human behavior is heritable from twin studies and other social science, and we have extremely detailed info on the diversity of the human genome, but we have almost no evidence linking genomes to behaviors. In jargon, everyone says that the genotype determines the phenotype, but no one can explain how for human behavior.

People don't want to believe that there could be human evolution in the last 10k years or so, but there is more and more evidence of it all the time. Today's NY Times reports on research that American Indians have evolved:
Though her skull, found intact, is more narrow and angular than those of modern Indians, and her face smaller and her features more protruding, “we know that at least the maternal ancestry is shared,” said an author of the study, James Chatters, a forensic anthropologist with Applied Paleoscience, a company in Bothell, Wash.

The reasons for the differences in skull size and shape are still a mystery, but modern American Indians may have evolved to have broader, larger skulls because of adaptations to different food, social or environmental conditions, Dr. Chatters said.
Coyne's political ideology makes him reluctant to admit the legitimacy of scientific research:
I am not absolutely opposed to all work on genetic differences in behavior between ethnic groups, populations, and sexes. That is a kind of scientific taboo which, as Steve Pinker has noted, has been enforced by social opprobrium based on the possibility of racism or sexism.  I think the proper stand is that it’s okay to study those questions that are interesting (but make sure you ask yourself why you find them interesting), and realize that a). we don’t know the outcomes, and b). the fundamental equalities of all groups and all sexes don’t depend on the results of such analyses.

But Wade’s book oversteps the line, for his theories way outstrip his data.
There you have a couple of leftist axioms being applied. Facts should not be investigated unless done with the proper intent, and results must not be allowed to interfere with egalitarian political objectives. A more scientific view would be to get the facts first, and then decide what to make of them.

A White House report says:
Big data raises other concerns, as well. One significant finding of our review was the potential for big data analytics to lead to discriminatory outcomes and to circumvent longstanding civil rights protections in housing, employment, credit, and the consumer marketplace.
Yes, big data means discriminatory outcomes without any racial intent.

Update: The NY Times has just reviewed Wade for this Sunday's paper, and "At least the reviewer waited until the second sentence to bring up Hitler."
Conservative scholars like the political scientist Francis Fukuyama have long argued that social institutions and culture explain why Europe beat Asia to prosperity, and why parts of the Mideast and Africa continue to suffer destabilizing violence and misery.

Mr. Wade takes this already controversial argument a step further, contending that “slight evolutionary differences in social behavior” underlie social and cultural differences. A small but consistent divergence in a racial group’s tendency to trust outsiders — and therefore to accept central rather than tribal authority — could explain “much of the difference between tribal and modern societies,” he writes.

This is where Mr. Wade’s argument starts to go off the rails.
Wade's argument appears to be the logical consequence of the heritability of the behaviors. But difference could be at least partially explained by other factors, such as whether the dominant religion approves of cousin marriage.
At times, his theorizing is merely puzzling, as when he notes that the gene variant that gives East Asians dry earwax also produces less body odor, which would have been attractive “among people spending many months in confined spaces to escape the cold.” No explanation of why ancient Europeans, presumably cooped up just as much, didn’t also develop this trait. Later, he speculates that thick hair and small breasts evolved in Asian women because they may have been “much admired by Asian men.” And why, you might ask, did Asian men alone prefer these traits?
Sure enough, the reviewer does not believe in evolution. Maybe the earwax variant was a Chinese mutation, or maybe the populations developed different preferences. The "origin of speciess" is based largely on such differences developing.

Update: Ron Unz reviews:
I have been very pleased to see that Wade’s book is beginning to receive the major attention it so greatly deserves. American intellectuals must begin shedding a half-century of lies and dishonesty based on the dismally unscientific dogma of Stephen Jay Gould and instead start to discover what modern evolutionary biologists and genetic researchers have all known for years or even decades.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Mammography is worthless

There has probably been more fund-raising and publicity for mammograms and breast cancer awareness as any other single medical issue. It is all a scam.

The graph clearly shows that mammography adds virtually nothing to survival.

One of the premises of Obamacare is that if the feds force insurance companies to offer free preventive care like mammograms, then they will save money in the long run. Not likely.

A recent radio program explored related issues: How Reliable Are Scientific Studies?

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Badmouthing Neanderthals is unwarranted

Neanderthals are always being unfairly maligned, according to new research:
The widely held notion that Neanderthals were dimwitted and that their inferior intelligence allowed them to be driven to extinction by the much brighter ancestors of modern humans is not supported by scientific evidence, according to researcher Paola Villa at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Neanderthals thrived in a large swath of Europe and Asia between about 350,000 and 40,000 years ago. They disappeared after our ancestors, a group referred to as “anatomically modern humans,” crossed into Europe from Africa.

In the past, some researchers have tried to explain the demise of the Neanderthals by suggesting that the newcomers were superior to Neanderthals in key ways, including their ability to hunt, communicate, innovate and adapt to different environments.

But in an extensive review of recent Neanderthal research, Villa and co-author Wil Roebroeks, an archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, make the case that the available evidence does not support the opinion that Neanderthals were less advanced than anatomically modern humans. Their paper was published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Villa and Roebroeks scrutinized nearly a dozen common explanations for Neanderthal extinction that rely largely on the notion that the Neanderthals were inferior to anatomically modern humans. These include the hypotheses that Neanderthals did not use complex, symbolic communication; that they were less efficient hunters who had inferior weapons; and that they had a narrow diet that put them at a competitive disadvantage to anatomically modern humans, who ate a broad range of things.

The researchers found that none of the hypotheses were supported by the available research. For example, evidence from multiple archaeological sites in Europe suggests that Neanderthals hunted as a group, using the landscape to aid them.
Here is a recent NY Times book review badmouthing significance of Neanderthals:
When the Neanderthal genome is finally published, Paabo is justifiably proud. We can’t begrudge him the opportunity to regale us about the news conferences and honors. But readers may start to wonder what exactly the payoff was for those many years of struggle. Reconstructing a Neanderthal genome was a tour de force, we can all agree, but why does it matter? ...

Unfortunately, the list for now is just a catalog of names. Neither Paabo nor any other scientist can yet clearly link our mutations to our human nature.
Here is what Svante Paabo wrote in his book, Neanderthal Man:
Together with new data from the 1,000 Genomes Project, these two archaic genomes of high quality now allow us to create a near-complete catalog of sites in the genome where all people today are different from Neanderthals and Denisovans as well as from the apes. This catalog contains 31,389 single nucleotide changes and 125 insertions and deletions of a few nucleotides. Of these, 96 change amino acids in proteins, and perhaps 3,000 affect sequences that regulate how genes are turned on and off. There are surely some nucleotide differences, particularly in repetitive parts of the genome, that we have missed, but it is clear that the genetic “recipe” for making a modern human is not very long. The next big challenge is to find out what the consequences of these changes are.
Paabo wrote this NY Times reply:
The ancient genomes also revealed that Neanderthals and Denisovans mixed with the direct ancestors of present-day people after they came out of Africa. So if your roots are in Europe or Asia, between 1 and 2 percent of your DNA comes from Neanderthals, and if you are from Papua New Guinea or other parts of Oceania, an additional 4 percent of your DNA comes from Denisovans.
If Paabo's DNA analysis is correct, then Neanderthals did not just mix with the ancestors of present-day Europeans. Neanderthals are ancestors of present-day Europeans.

Yes, Europeans only got 2% of DNA from Neandethals. Paabo says that figuring out the 2% is the next big challenge. Maybe it will shed light on human nature, and maybe it won't.

Meanwhile NY Times science writer Nicholas Wade has a new book, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, released today. Charles Murray has an early review.
So one way or another, "A Troublesome Inheritance" will be historic. Its proper reception would mean enduring fame as the book that marked a turning point in social scientists' willingness to explore the way the world really works. But there is a depressing alternative: that social scientists will continue to predict planetary movements using Ptolemaic equations, as it were, and that their refusal to come to grips with "A Troublesome Inheritance" will be seen a century from now as proof of this era's intellectual corruption.
The analogy to Ptolemaic equations is a little misguide, and Ptolemy's method could predict those planetary movements as well as the alternatives. The intellectual corruption is in accepting ideologies that predict wrong results.

Here are more reviews.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Obama on racial offensive again

The hottest news story in the USA this morning is the secret recording of Donald Sterling.

Sterling is the owner of the LA Clippers, changed his name from Tokowitz so people would not know that he is Jewish, and was scheduled to get a lifetime achievement award from the NCAAP for work favoring black people. The recording was of an argument between him and his half-black half-Mexican mistress, and was almost certainly illegally recorded as California is an all-party consent state. The offensive parts concerned how she should promote herself in public.

President Barack Obama is now involved:
"When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything, you just let them talk," Obama said when asked to respond to Donald Sterling's reported comments.

"The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that's still there, the vestiges of discrimination," Obama said during a news conference in Malaysia, where he was traveling.

"We've made enormous strides, but you're going to continue to see this percolate up every so often," he added. "And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out some much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves."

Obama said he's confident NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will address the matter. He said the NBA has "an awful lot of African American players, it's steeped in African American culture. And I suspect that the NBA is going to be deeply concerned in resolving this."
This is offensive. The President should not be trying to dictate the private conversations of citizens. And he should not be committing tortious interference.

Obama rarely talks about racial matters, but when he does, it seems carefully calculated to promote racial animosity.

I am waiting to see if anyone says that citizens have a right to express private opinions to their friends about who they associate with.

Update: Here is a link to the audio along with some speculation about the context. The mistress seems to have personally embarrassed Sterling somehow by flaunting her dates with other men. She is also being sued by Sterling's wife for taking marital property.

Update: This story sure hit a nerve. I get the impression that blacks are upset because this confirmed suspicions that Jews just pretend to like blacks, but secretly compare them to dogs. It appears to me that Sterling's main concern ws that his girl was publicly cuckolding him. My concern is that we now have a society where a man can become an outcast on the basis of preferences expressed in pillow talk, and that we have a President who joins in the bullying.

Update: My lessons from this fiasco.

Do not donate to black charities. They will double-cross you in a heartbeat.

Do not buy a Bentley for your mistress. Hire a private investigator to see who she might have conned under other names.

If you complain about your mistress cuckolding you with high-status black men, be sure to similarly complain about other races in the same sentence.

Ditch your mistress the first time she disrespects you, or after any hint of a shakedown.

President Obama needs to send out signals to his base that he identifies with black people against white people.

When black people or liberals go on TV and say we need an open and honest discussion about race in order to counter ignorance, what they really mean is that certain viewpoints must be intimidated into silence.

If you are Jewish, do not even try to explain how Israel makes racial distinctions.

If you want to sell a basketball team, create a scandal first and the bidding will go higher.

Big brains enable self-control

Stephen Jay Gould became the most famous American scientist largely for mocking the idea that brain size could be related to intelligence. Now it is admitted that he faked his data in order to promote his Jewish Marxist beliefs.

There is actually a lot of legitimate research on brain size, and here is the latest:
So what did they find? Bigger brains correlate with greater self-control:

Our phylogenetic comparison of three dozen species supports the hypothesis that the major proximate mechanism underlying the evolution of self-control is increases in absolute brain volume. ...

Can we draw any conclusions about human evolution from this study? It's hard to generalize -- just as we cannot conclude much about cognitive evolution from comparing whales and elephants only to humans, we can't predict much about humans by looking only at the broadest phylogenetic pattern. Yet, the importance of foraging and diet breadth to the evolution of primate cognition is provocative. The study seems to weigh in favor of tool use and foraging as primary drivers of human brain evolution, instead of social dynamics.

But that contrast is surely misleading. Human tool use and foraging depend on social cooperation and social learning.
Self-control is quite different from IQ, but turns out also to be a huge predictor of success in life. It recently got a lot of publicity as part of the Tiger Mom Chinese-Jewish Triple Package.

Gould did not admit his mistakes, even when confronted. I sometimes post things that I have changed my mind about, but Gwern's mistakes has me beat. He has detailed descriptions of his changes.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Non-whites fighting over college admissions

NPR Radio complains that the non-white California Democrat cannot agree about anti-white legislation:
Six black and Latino lawmakers have since withdrawn their endorsements of Sen. Ted Lieu, who is Chinese-American, in a Los Angeles-area congressional race where he faces another Democrat in the primary. And some black and Latino Assembly members this month withheld votes from unrelated legislation about the state's carpool program by Assemblyman Al Muratsutchi, D-Torrance, who is Japanese-American.

The Senate's Democratic leader, President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, acknowledged the animosity. He said in a statement that he wanted "a serious and sober examination" of affirmative action, adding "I am deeply concerned anytime one ethnic group turns on another."
Yes, that is that trouble with race-based affirmative action policies -- they pit one ethnic group against another.
In recent statistics, the University of California system said 36 percent of its in-state freshman admissions offers for fall 2014 are to Asian-American students, 29 percent are for Latino students, 27 percent are for white students and 4 percent of offers are to black students.

At some campuses, including UC San Diego and UC Irvine, Asian-American students accounted for more than 45 percent of admitted freshmen last year.

Hispanics have slightly overtaken whites as the largest ethnic group in California, although both groups represent about 39 percent of the population. Asian-Americans — a population that includes Filipinos, Chinese, Indians, Japanese, Vietnamese, Laotians and others — comprise about 13 percent. Blacks are less than 6 percent.
So whites have dropped to No. 3 in Univ. Calif. admissions. Something is fishy here.

Another NPR story reports:
The experience with the ban in California "has been difficult because immediately following the ban on race-conscious affirmative action, the enrollment of African-Americans and Latinos plummeted in the selective higher education institutions," says Christopher Edley, former dean of the UC Berkeley law school. He adds that the school "has yet to fully recover."

Other states with bans have had similar precipitous drops in minority enrollment, but some have seen minority enrollment stay steady or even climb.
Plummeted? According to the above figures, Latinos are being admitted in higher numbers than ever, even higher than whites. And blacks are admitted (4%) at close to their population (less than 6%).

It is increasingly clear that hostility to whites and Christians is what is holding the Democrat party together. The black, hispanic, and Asian American legislators vote for their racial groups.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Math crazies in the movies

Hollywood usually portrays mathematicians as crazy, such as in Good Will Hunting, Pi, A Beautiful Mind, Proof, and others. I just saw another. The 2008 movie Revolutionary Road featured a mathematician who had electric shock treatments to eliminate his interest in math! The actor was nominated for an Oscar.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Apple lock-in strategy

A major part of Apple's success has been its ability to lock-in customers. The NY Times explains:
APPLE’S LOCK-IN STRATEGY

Apple generally offers proprietary software and services that run only on Apple hardware. For example, iMessage is Apple’s free text messaging service offered only for iPhones and iPads. Analysts have called this approach Apple’s “lock-in” strategy to keep customers loyal, a term that has been described as cynical because it has a connotation of imprisonment. But in his e-mail, even Mr. Jobs recognizes that Apple’s goal with its cloud services is to “tie all of our products together, so we further lock customers into our ecosystem.”
There is a lot of confusion about Apple's success. Some people think that Apple invented the iPod, or that it was easier to use or better than the competition. There were several portable mp3 players before Apple. The Apple iPod did not sell very well at first.

Apple managed to take over the market for two reasons. First, Apple pumped 100s of millions of dollars into advertising its iPod as the cool trendy product. The market at the time could not really justify that kind of advertising, but Apple did it anyway because it was promoting its company image, and driving people into its stores to buy Macintosh computers. None of the other companies could compete on ads.

Second, Apple managed to find a digital rights management (DRM) scheme that satisfied the record labels and that its customers accepted. The customers were locked into Apple products in a way that customers of other companies would not accept. Somehow Apple customers like being locked in to Apple.

I found competing players easier to use. I could buy non-DRM music from Amazon, and just copy it to the player just like files. I like the players made by Sandisk. They have a history of offering many useful features not available from Apple, and sell at about a quarter the price. The are other good brands also. Most people call these players ipods, whether made by Apple or not.

A startup company is offering a player for higher quality music, but the Apple fanbois are very upset that a product would be so technically superior to Apple. Here is a typical Si Valley columnist badmouthing it:
Yet, despite the enthusiasm surrounding it, Pono is an anachronistic and ill-considered solution to an all-but-nonexistent problem.

The service is modeled on how people used to listen to music five or 10 years ago, not how they listen today.

By and large, consumers are replacing stand-alone digital music players like the iPod with smartphones. And instead of plugging those players into their computers to sync their music, they're getting music on their smartphones wirelessly -- either by syncing their songs over Wi-Fi or, increasingly, streaming them from services such as Spotify, Pandora or iTunes Match.

Pono would have consumers step back in time. They would have to carry around separate phones and music players again. And they would pay $400 for that music device -- which, in an increasingly connected world, is resolutely disconnected. The only way to get music on it is by transferring it from a computer over a USB cable.

You can't buy a song when you're away from your computer and you can't stream it to the device. The company's not even working on a smartphone app that might be able to offer Pono customers some connectivity or instant gratification.
Yes, most people might be happy with low-quality audio on their smart phones. That streaming music is usually significantly worse than FM radio, while the Pono promises something much better.

This review is like telling people not to buy a Tesla car because you won't be able to buy cheap used parts at you local junkyard. The whole point to buying a Tesla is to get something much better than what is in that junkyard.

Apple's biggest success was with the iPhone, which partially stemmed from iPod success. But the iPhone is not as dominant as some people think, as Android phones outsell it about 5 to 1 worldwide. The competition is described in Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution. What is not so well known is that Google announced its amart phone before Apple did, and Apple copied Google as much as Google copied Apple. Steve Jobs went into a vindictive rage against Google, and Google removed the only features that supposed copied Apple. Apple has sued several Android phone makers, but has not sued Google.

The Apple iPhone strategy is also all about lock-in. You get locked into carriers, contracts, app store, etc.

Update: The Apple emails became public because it is losing a lawsuit for locking in its employees.

Update: Here is another foolish rant from someone who cannot believe that a non-Apple product could have superior quality music:
Digital music wouldn't have taken off the way it did if sound quality was a widespread concern. ...

Am I saying you shouldn't buy FLAC files from Neil Young's new store? No, I'm saying you should literally go back to buying CDs. ...

For research purposes, I went on a $50 shopping spree and came away with 14 albums, all downloaded in the same high-resolution format that Neil Young wants you to start buying at exponentially higher prices.
No, that is incorrect. Young will be selling music in a higher resolution than CD. It will sound about the same on cheap equipment, but that is why Young is selling a better player.

Here is an Apple fanboi giving up on the iphone: Why I'm making the jump to Android

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mathematician wants sex gossip

The mainstream news media seems to be going all-gay all the time, but I thought that I could get away from that by reading technical mathematics journals.
But the reviewer, in describing the relationship of Alexandrov and Kolmogorov as “friends and collaborators” does a disservice to Graham and Kantor, and to the unsuspecting reader of the review. Graham and Kantor make a very clear case that Alexandrov and Kolmogorov (and, also, Alexandrov and Urysohn) were lovers, and that the tenuous position of homosexuals in Russian society (which, sadly, continues to this day) shaped at least some of their political behavior, in particular Alexandrov’s and Kolmogorov’s denunciations of Luzin and Solzhenitsyn. If Glutsyuk has evidence to challenge Graham’s and Kantor’s claims, he should mention it. But simply avoiding the issue avoids one of the major themes in the book, and continues to hide an aspect of history which is too often hidden.

—Judith Roitman
University of Kansas
I can only assume that she has some sort of feminist belief that exposing homosexuality will help undermine the patriarchy.

The review was of
Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity. The author of the review did not reply, presumably because he did not think that such gossip and speculation was appropriate for a math journal. None of the Amazon reviews mention the homosexual theorizing, except for this one:
After a somewhat superficial description of the Soviet-era politics which consumed two of the principal Russian figures it deteriorates into such things as an extended description of the homosexual amours of famous Russian mathematicians including (but not limited to) Alexandrov and Kolmogorov (a couple, actually). Yuck. What's up with that?
Andrey Kolmogorov was a brilliant Soviet mathematician who is particularly known for work in probability theory.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Gene testing will allow insurance fraud

The NY Times is pushing for law restricting insurance info:
Fearing Punishment for Bad Genes ...

But many people are avoiding the tests because of a major omission in the 2008 federal law that bars employers and health insurers from seeking the results of genetic testing.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, known as GINA, does not apply to three types of insurance — life, disability and long-term care — that are especially important to people who may have serious inherited diseases. Sponsors of the act say that they were well aware of the omission, but that after a 14-year effort to write and pass the law, they had to settle for what they could get.
It then goes on to explain the story of a guy to wants to commit insurance fraud by buying cheap life insurance after being diagnosed with a fatal disease.
Dr. Robert C. Green, a genetics researcher at Harvard Medical School, studied the behavior of those who had recently learned they carried a genetic marker that predisposes them to early Alzheimer’s disease. They were five times as likely to buy long-term-care insurance as those in a control group. ...

Just three states — California, Oregon and Vermont — have broad regulations prohibiting the use of genetic information in life, long-term-care and disability insurance.
So the guy can just move to California, and cash in for millions of dollars for his heirs.

The article says that medical ethicists want to expand the federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, so that it will be easier to experiment on humans:
Fear of discrimination affects research participants as well as patients. Dr. Green said that 23 out of 94 volunteers who walked away from a sequencing study did so because of concerns about insurance.
The whole concept of insurance is to reduce risk by selling to a company that can spread risk over a group. If people can insure against a disaster they know is going to happen, it defeats the point. Or to use industry jargon:
Insurance industry representatives, by contrast, argue that they may need genetic information to make underwriting decisions.

Barring long-term-care and life insurers from obtaining applicants’ test results “could lead to adverse selection and impact the stability of rates,” the American Academy of Actuaries said in a statement.
Obamacare is also anti-insurance, because much of it pays for routing and predictable care, like check-ups.
As for Brian S., he and his wife want to have a baby. But because he has decided not to be tested for the fatal neurological disorder, they are considering in vitro fertilization with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.

That would allow any embryos carrying the dreaded mutation to be silently screened out, keeping him ignorant of his own status — and able to apply for life and long-term-care insurance without fear of being turned down.
The IVF tests do not work that way. Whoever does the test will have to known whether he carries the bad gene. He can ask now to be told, but there will be a record of the result.

I guess they did not ask the ethicists about having a baby with a 50% chance of growing up without a father. I guess they figure millions of kids do anyway. It seems crazy to me that someone would forgo a $100 test, not learn whether he has a fatal disease, spend $20k on IVF, put his family thru misery -- all so it will be easier for him to buy a life insurance policy in the future?

DNA tests scare a lot of people. It is as simple as that. The law sill not change that. Maybe someday everyone's DNA will be sequenced at birth and attached to the birth certificate. Then maybe people will accept it.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Who cares about high-frequency traders?

I listened to several interviews of Michael Lewis plug his sensalized new book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, and I don't get it. Exactly why is it such a bad thing that some big firms are making rapid trades?

Stock markets have always had market makers who profit from order imbalances, with some risk to themselves. Advancing technology has allowed the high-frequency traders to become part of the system. But Lewis does not explain how anyone is being cheated. Maybe the traders are making the market more efficient.

Lewis sounds as if he is on to something when he talks about how millions of dollars can change hands in less time than the blink of an eye. But usually liquidity is a good thing, not a bad thing, so I do not see the point. Of course someone could be illegally wiretapping, stealing information, defrauding clients, etc, and that would be a criminal matter. But I did not hear that being alleged.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Double standard for Si Valley CEOs

Perhaps the most narrow-minded and vindictive political group is the LGBT lobby.
Do you agree with everything your boss believes? Is this a requirement for working under them? The challenge issued this week to Mozilla – creators of the Firefox web browser and advocates of the "open web" – is whether their new CEO's alleged support for anti-gay marriage campaigns is at odds with their inclusive, community-driven stance.

The boss in question is programming guru Brendan Eich, creator of the hugely popular JavaScript language and general web evangelist. Mozilla have been operating under an acting CEO,
See also complaints here and on okCupid.

All Eich did was donate $1k for a 2008 initiative that merely confirmed existing federal and state marriage law as between a man and woman. 7 million people voted to pass it, and it has not been overturned or repealed. It did not affect same-sex couples getting all the state law benefits of marriage, but California did not call it marriage.

Meanwhile other Silicon Valley CEOs have leftist politics that are directly harmful to Americans and its employees. Apple, Google, and others are currently on trial for antitrust violations against employees. The Facebook CEO actively campaigns for illegal alien amnesty and cheap immigrant labor. And they all have anti-privacy policies that go far beyond what the NSA is accused of doing.

To me, inclusiveness and tolerance means not trying to get someone fired for a mainstream political opinion expressed 6 years ago.

Update: Eich has now been fired:
In Silicon Valley, where personal quirks and even antisocial personalities are tolerated as long as you are building new products and making money, a socially conservative viewpoint may be one trait you have to keep to yourself.

On Thursday, Brendan Eich, who has helped develop some of the web’s most important technologies, resigned under pressure as chief executive of Mozilla, the maker of the popular Firefox web browser, just two weeks after taking the job. The reason? In 2008, he donated $1,000 in support of Proposition 8, a California measure that banned same-sex marriage. ...

The letter, which has since been removed, concluded that “those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.” ...

Andrew Sullivan, a prominent gay writer and an early, influential proponent of making same-sex marriage legal, expressed outrage over Mr. Eich’s departure on his popular blog, saying the Mozilla chief had been “scalped by some gay activists.”

“If this is the gay rights movement today — hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else — then count me out,” Mr. Sullivan wrote.
Of course Eich did not seek to deny love or enforce misery on anyone. His position only became public from an illegal IRS leak.

Update: NY Times adds:
And Brendan Eich, who resigned as Mozilla’s chief executive on Thursday after just two weeks in the job, may not have been the person to run a company with such expanding interests. ... Instead of addressing the criticism head-on, he insisted that his personal views should not matter to Mozilla.
The spineless and intolerant Mozilla board members were Mitchell Baker and Reid Hoffman. Eich should not have to cooperate with this witch-hunt and explain his views. It should be known that Mozilla (Firefox), LinkedIn, and OkCupid are enemies of free speech. Apple, Google, and Tahoo are probably no better.

Bill Maher says:
"I think there is a gay mafia," Maher said. "I think if you cross them, you do get whacked."
The comments to Mozilla are overwhelmingly negative.

Update: The leftist Mother Jones reports:
OkCupid's co-founder and CEO Sam Yagan once donated to an anti-gay candidate. (Yagan is also CEO of Match.com.)
Yagan has apologized.

Update: The IRS has admitted responsibility for leaking the confidential tax return, and paid $50k in damages.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Helping Bangladesh a bad idea

Nate Silver has quit the NY Times, published an article on the cost of extreme weather caussed by global warming, and apologized to the global warming alarmists.

Mearnwhile, in a desperate attempt to find someone harmed by global warming, the NY Times blames us for problems on the other side of the world:
Climate scientists have concluded that widespread burning of fossil fuels is releasing heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet. While this will produce a host of effects, the most worrisome may be the melting of much of the earth’s ice, which is likely to raise sea levels and flood coastal regions.

Such a rise will be uneven because of gravitational effects and human intervention, so predicting its outcome in any one place is difficult. But island nations like the Maldives, Kiribati and Fiji may lose much of their land area, and millions of Bangladeshis will be displaced.

“There are a lot of places in the world at risk from rising sea levels, but Bangladesh is at the top of everybody’s list,” said Rafael Reuveny, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. “And the world is not ready to cope with the problems.” ...

At a climate conference in Warsaw in November, there was an emotional outpouring from countries that face existential threats, among them Bangladesh, which produces just 0.3 percent of the emissions driving climate change. Some leaders have demanded that rich countries compensate poor countries for polluting the atmosphere. A few have even said that developed countries should open their borders to climate migrants.

“It’s a matter of global justice,” said Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies and the nation’s leading climate scientist.
This is backwards thinking. Bangladesh is a dysfunctional country. Even the name sounds like some sort of wasteland, instead of a real nation. They have too many people, and they cannot even take care of themselves.
Though Bangladesh has contributed little to industrial air pollution, other kinds of environmental degradation have left it especially vulnerable.

Bangladesh relies almost entirely on groundwater for drinking supplies because the rivers are so polluted. The resultant pumping causes the land to settle. So as sea levels are rising, Bangladesh’s cities are sinking, increasing the risks of flooding. Poorly constructed sea walls compound the problem. ...

In an analysis of decades of tidal records published in October, Dr. Pethick found that high tides in Bangladesh were rising 10 times faster than the global average. He predicted that seas in Bangladesh could rise as much as 13 feet by 2100, four times the global average. In an area where land is often a thin brown line between sky and river — nearly a quarter of Bangladesh is less than seven feet above sea level — such an increase would have dire consequences, Dr. Pethick said.
The West has helped them overpopulate too much already. The world is a changing place, and so is human population. Maybe it would be a good thing if more of Bangladesh were under water. I certainly do not think that we should stop using carbon so those people can make a bigger mess of their country.

It is silly to think that some people should be compensated because they might have to move over the next century. A lot of people move every 5 years, and it is no big deal. These Third World countries are very much better off for Western industrialization. They certainly did not object, or propose to do it any differently. They benefit from better food and other goods. They should appreciate it. Industrialization was not a mistake, and there is no need to apologize for it.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturated fat is good for you

For 50 years, physicians have been giving us bad dietary advice, and they never admit that they have been wrong, in spite of all the studies that prove them wrong. Here is the latest.

NPR Radio reports:
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines urge us to limit consumption because of concerns that saturated fat raises the risk of heart disease. But after decades of research, a growing number of experts are questioning this link.

In fact, the authors of a new meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine conclude that there's insufficient evidence to support the long-standing recommendation to consume saturated fat in very low amounts.

So, let's walk through this shift in thinking: The concern over fat gathered steam in the 1960s when studies showed that saturated fat increases LDL cholesterol — the bad cholesterol — the artery-clogging stuff. The assumption was that this increased the risk of heart disease.

But after all this time, it just hasn't panned out, at least not convincingly. When researchers have tracked people's saturated fat intake over time and then followed up to see whether higher intake increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, they haven't found a clear, consistent link.

In fact, the new study finds "null associations" (to quote the authors) between total saturated fat intake and coronary risk. And a prior analysis that included more than 300,000 participants came to a similar conclusion.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Man sentenced despite acquittal

Antwuan Ball was charged with a long list of serious drug dealing crimes, acquitted by a jury of everything except one $600 sale, and sentenced to 18 years in prison based on the unproven allegations. I did not know that was possible. It seems contrary to the American right to a jury trial.

Remember that if you are ever serving on a jury. If you believe that the defendant is innocent of the most serious counts, you might have to acquit him of the minor counts as well, in order to get that outcome. Prosecutors often overcharge defendants in order to get a compromise verdict and then to persuade the judge of an extra-long sentence. Do not fall for it.

There is more legal analysis.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Democrats against individualism

Ross Douthat writes in a NY Times op-ed:
In the future, it seems, there will be only one "ism" -- Individualism -- and its rule will never end. As for religion, it shall decline; as for marriage, it shall be postponed; as for ideologies, they shall be rejected; as for patriotism, it shall be abandoned; as for strangers, they shall be distrusted. Only pot, selfies and Facebook will abide -- and the greatest of these will probably be Facebook.

That's the implication, at least, of what the polling industry keeps telling us about the rising American generation, the so-called millennials.
I don't see it. Here in California, the state is ruled by Democrats, and they are dominated by SWPLs, Jews, blacks, Latinos, and Asians. Each of those just votes the interests of his own ethnic group. Except the SWPLs, pronounced swipples, who have somehow been convinced that rainbow politics requires being anti-white. The San Fran newspaper reports:
Three Asian American state senators - including San Francisco's own Leland Yee - are asking fellow lawmakers to shelve a measure aimed at allowing California's public universities to once again consider race in admissions.

The idea behind the proposed constitutional amendment is to make more room for Latinos and African Americans, who have been falling behind in admissions in recent years.

But it appears that rainbow politics goes only so far.

Yee said he had heard - loud and clear - from Asian Americans who fear that undoing the ban on affirmative action in college admissions would hurt their children's chances of getting into the highly competitive University of California system.
Bill Clinton is a SWPL, and he has advocated affirmative action as a way of preventing California universities from having too many Asians.

California used to be largely Republican, and much more individualist. But it has been transformed by immigrants, and they have brought cultures that are anti-individualist.

Update: Yee was arrested and charged with several corrupt practices.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Religion of the Cathedral-PC-Progressive Left

I’ve composed a list of dogmas that define the religion of the Cathedral-PC-Progressive Left.

Any suggestions?

1) Poverty causes crime.
2) Progress is inevitable.
3) Greed and hate are the roots of all evil.
4) People can be born gay but they can’t be born violent or stupid.
5) Race and gender are social constructs but racism and misogyny are ever-present social realities.
6) There is no such thing as human nature, natural law, the natural order, or normal human behavior.
7) The only human action that can be judged is judging others.
8) Diversity is strength.
9) No culture is superior to any other culture.
10) All religions are equally valid.
11) There are no significant behavioral or biological differences between different groups of people. Stereotypes result from irrational biases and prejudices. Inequality results from oppression or luck.
12) There is no such thing as a harsh truth. Any statement that offends someone is false.
13) Happiness is the natural human condition. Misery always results from injustice or mental illness.
14) MLK and Nelson Mandela are the greatest human beings to ever walk the Earth.
15) Universal acceptance of these dogmas is the key to the perfectibility of the human race. People who question them should be smeared as enemies of progress, censored as hatemongers, fired from their jobs, burned as heretics, or sent to re-education facilities.
I am not sure about the usage of "Cathedral" here. It suggests some sort of rigid doctrine that is mandated by our elites and must not be questioned.

The above is not any ordinary religion, as no genuine religious believer would ever argue that all religions are equally valid. And yet if a politician were to say that his religion is superior, then he would be branded a bigot.

A. J. West defends the Cathedral:
Here's a big problem for HBD-ers to resolve.  For thousands of years, western European societies were full of superstition, religion, religious bigotry, and religious (and other) violence.  To be a heretic, or to agree with heresies or heretics, was sufficient cause for arrest and brutal murder, meaning that religious belief and religious orthodoxy were actively selected for.  To disagree with the imposition of the death sentence for a heretic, to seem unorthodox, to not rejoice at the discovery and burning of witches - all of these could lead to execution.  This went on for hundreds of years, was extremely widespread, and was strongly selected for.  This is the kind of selection that, if such things were possible, would certainly lead to higher levels of superstition or religious hatred encoded at some genetic level.

Western Europe nowadays, of course, is one of the least religious, least violent, and least superstitious places on the planet.  Murder rates in most of western Europe hover around 1 in 100,000 and a tiny proportion of the European population is killed deliberately by another person.  The death penalty is entirely absent from Europe (aside from Belarus) and torture and witch burnings are no longer practiced.

This all changed incredibly quickly, within a couple of hundred years, and it happened in clear and obvious defiance of strong selective pressures to conform to the prior pattern of violence.  Natural selection in favour of such things meant nothing in the face of expanding trade, strong states, reason, improving hygiene, and the expansion of knowledge about the universe.
This is nonsense. Europeans were not executed for those things. Yes, some witches were executed, but they could have been mentally ill, and killing them might have improved European genes.

More to the point, Christianity is the least superstitious religion on Earth. Christianizing Europe had everything to do with it becoming less violent and less superstitious. There was no strong selection pressure for greater violence, unless it can be shown that violent criminals had more offspring. I doubt it. Criminals were punished. It sure seems to me that the Europe was selecting for a more civilized people, while other continents were less effective at it.

Religion is not the same as superstition. Japan has been called the least religion nation on Earth, but it is very superstitious, as Tsunami's Ghosts Haunt Japanese Earthquake Survivors. And most of the leading anti-religion avowed atheists contend that true atheism requires various leftist political dogmas.