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Shared Circles including Yonatan Zunger

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Activity

Average numbers for the latest posts (max. 50 posts, posted within the last 4 weeks)

81
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39
reshares per post
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Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 256

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2017-03-08 17:57:01 (256 comments; 44 reshares; 310 +1s; )Open 

This is not a joke. This is the honest-to-Cthulhu name of the "health care" law the Republicans want to replace the ACA with.

"The World's Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017."

I mean, maybe it is a joke, and having come to the conclusion that they can't actually think of a law better than the ACA -- it having been a tough compromise as it was, and largely been stolen from Republican ideas in the first place -- the best they can do is offer a law that's strictly worse across the board, as an opening move to trying to negotiate to put in actual fixes to the ACA.

(Which, I'll note, every single major government program in history has required. The odds of getting a complicated thing perfectly right on the first shot are zero; but the ACA hasn't been able to get any of the obvious patches, because ever since it was passed, Congressional... more »

Most reshares: 113

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2017-03-18 21:39:15 (198 comments; 113 reshares; 363 +1s; )Open 

This is an extremely thoughtful article about the underlying political dynamics which shape the debates over health care in the US, and it's helping me understand many things going on in our country today; as the author says, "When it seems like people are voting against their interests, I have probably failed to understand their interests."

His key point is this: "[T]he bulk of needy white voters are not interested in the public safety net. They want to restore their access to an older safety net, one much more generous, dignified, and stable than the public system – the one most well-employed voters still enjoy."

That is, the US has had a social safety net for a very long time, a very generous one, publicly funded through various tax subsidies, and giving people a sense of having earned those things as well, through individual work. But unlike mostc... more »

Most plusones: 592

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2017-02-27 21:14:18 (51 comments; 56 reshares; 592 +1s; )Open 

Sometimes you've gotta find your own questline.

Latest 50 posts

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2017-03-26 23:49:29 (35 comments; 13 reshares; 96 +1s; )Open 

Update: Abramson is dumping info again as we speak. This time about the provenance of the Steele Dossier. 

Update: Abramson is dumping info again as we speak. This time about the provenance of the Steele Dossier. ___

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2017-03-26 23:27:53 (20 comments; 25 reshares; 96 +1s; )Open 

The dynamics of disinformation, propaganda, "fake news," and conspiracy theories can be studied by watching how they spread. This is a summary of a scientific study (by one of its authors, who links the full paper) into this, and it's chock-full of fascinating results. They focused on responses to mass shootings in particular, as these are a favorite target of conspiracy theories. Conspiracy stories, it turns out, spread with a very different pattern than other types of story - and botnets, quasi-replication of stories between sites, and similar patterns of signal manipulation are key to them. This (as well as other interesting commonalities between the sites which propagate these) suggests that there is something systematic and intentional behind these theories: they aren't emerging organically, they're being curated. 

The dynamics of disinformation, propaganda, "fake news," and conspiracy theories can be studied by watching how they spread. This is a summary of a scientific study (by one of its authors, who links the full paper) into this, and it's chock-full of fascinating results. They focused on responses to mass shootings in particular, as these are a favorite target of conspiracy theories. Conspiracy stories, it turns out, spread with a very different pattern than other types of story - and botnets, quasi-replication of stories between sites, and similar patterns of signal manipulation are key to them. This (as well as other interesting commonalities between the sites which propagate these) suggests that there is something systematic and intentional behind these theories: they aren't emerging organically, they're being curated. ___

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2017-03-26 07:03:32 (35 comments; 18 reshares; 174 +1s; )Open 

The Soviets were famous for covering up anything that reflected poorly on them – and nowhere more so than in secret military programs, such as the nuclear one. As a newly-declassified report shows, the entire city of Ust-Kamenogorsk was effectively used as a radiation effects testing site throughout the 1950's; downwind of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, it was steadily a target of severe fallout, including one incident in 1956 which killed 638 people from acute radiation poisoning. (For comparison, the Chernobyl disaster killed 126) The area remains so heavily contaminated that it profoundly affects people's daily lives to this day.

An event nastier than Chernobyl, covered up by the Soviets in 1950s Kazakhstan.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4346408/Russia-covered-nuclear-disaster-worse-Chernobyl.html?ito=social-twitter_mailonline___The Soviets were famous for covering up anything that reflected poorly on them – and nowhere more so than in secret military programs, such as the nuclear one. As a newly-declassified report shows, the entire city of Ust-Kamenogorsk was effectively used as a radiation effects testing site throughout the 1950's; downwind of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, it was steadily a target of severe fallout, including one incident in 1956 which killed 638 people from acute radiation poisoning. (For comparison, the Chernobyl disaster killed 126) The area remains so heavily contaminated that it profoundly affects people's daily lives to this day.

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2017-03-26 04:01:46 (44 comments; 72 reshares; 269 +1s; )Open 

There have been so many news stories about the Russia investigations in the past week – from Comey's testimony to Flynn's possibly turning state's evidence – that I sat down and tried to pull everything into one place. Here you go.

There have been so many news stories about the Russia investigations in the past week – from Comey's testimony to Flynn's possibly turning state's evidence – that I sat down and tried to pull everything into one place. Here you go.___

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2017-03-25 21:40:08 (157 comments; 109 reshares; 326 +1s; )Open 

Note: If you're reading this, see also the more detailed piece I just put up at Medium: https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/from-russia-with-oil-4d027411bcc5#.dnd8rxt3m

In the continuing saga of "News stories that I would never have believed if you told me they were going to happen when I was a kid," there are multiple reports at this point that the FBI has gotten (former National Security Adviser) Michael Flynn to flip and turn state's evidence. (Flynn, through a spokesperson, has declined to comment)

If so, this is a very big deal – Flynn was reportedly in the room for quite a few of the more interesting meetings which Abramson was providing details about yesterday.

Even more crazily, there was this story from the WSJ yesterday, in which it appears that while serving as an advisor to Trump's campaign, Flynn was in a meeting with top Turkishgo... more »

Note: If you're reading this, see also the more detailed piece I just put up at Medium: https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/from-russia-with-oil-4d027411bcc5#.dnd8rxt3m

In the continuing saga of "News stories that I would never have believed if you told me they were going to happen when I was a kid," there are multiple reports at this point that the FBI has gotten (former National Security Adviser) Michael Flynn to flip and turn state's evidence. (Flynn, through a spokesperson, has declined to comment)

If so, this is a very big deal – Flynn was reportedly in the room for quite a few of the more interesting meetings which Abramson was providing details about yesterday.

Even more crazily, there was this story from the WSJ yesterday, in which it appears that while serving as an advisor to Trump's campaign, Flynn was in a meeting with top Turkish government ministers, where the subject was a plot to kidnap Turkish cleric Fetullah Gülen, who now lives in Pennsylvania, and spirit him out of the country to hand him over to Turkish president Erdogan, who views him as his chief political foe. (Erdogan has blamed Gülen for the attempted coup against him last year, although the evidence for this is scanty to say the least; tens of thousands have been arrested there on claims they are linked to him)

https://www.wsj.com/articles/ex-cia-director-mike-flynn-and-turkish-officials-discussed-removal-of-erdogan-foe-from-u-s-1490380426

This was admitted by the former director of the CIA, who was also at the meeting and says he thought the entire idea was batshit crazy. Flynn has denied this through a spokesman, but he has recently admitted that he was working for the Turkish government at the time (!) and has retroactively filed his status as a foreign agent, indicating a salary of over $500k for his work. He is also under separate investigation by the Army as to whether he received illegal payments from the Russian government in 2015. (https://nyti.ms/2kEdksZ)

So just to make this news story clear: a retired three-star general, while simultaneously working on a Presidential campaign and as a well-paid agent of the Turkish government, was in meetings with senior Turkish officials about (completely illegally) kidnapping Turkish-Americans seen as enemies of the regime. He was also meeting with the Russian ambassador and (very possibly illegally) negotiating to lift sanctions on Russia if Trump was elected, and is currently under investigation as to whether he was a paid (but illegally undeclared) Russian agent at the time as well. (The payments are not in question; the question is whether, as they were made via RT, which is not officially a government agency, they make him a Russian agent or not.) He definitely lied to investigators about said meetings, which was caught on wiretaps (presumably of the Russian ambassador), and the revelation of that led to his resignation as National Security Advisor after only 24 days.

On top of all this, he may have been present at the "Mayflower Meetings" between Trump and senior Russian figures, with several senior Trump aides (including Sessions, Kushner, and Manafort) present as well, at which deals involving large sums of money (e.g. 0.5% of Rosneft), illegal campaign assistance (e.g. leaking DNC documents hacked by the FSB, SVR, and GRU), and changing US policy around Russian oil interests were all being discussed.

Absolutely confirmed out of this is Flynn's work as a Turkish agent (he's admitted this and filed the forms), his covert meetings with the Russian ambassador (wiretap evidence, his resignation), and his receipt of payments from the Russian government. Highly likely is the Turkish kidnapping meeting (testimony of Woolsey). Arguable in court is that the Russian payments make him an unregistered Russian agent as well as a Turkish one. Reported but not yet confirmed are the contents of the Mayflower Meetings and that Flynn has turned state's evidence. If the latter is true, then the former may soon be explained in great detail to investigators.

Just let this sink in for a moment. We already know for sure that a retired three-star Army general, who served for three weeks as National Security Advisor before being forced to resign, was a paid agent of at least one, and probably two, other governments, engaging in negotiations which range from the "somewhat illegal" (hacking, campaign collusion) to the "holy shit illegal" (kidnapping). And the fact that it's even a possibility that he flip can only mean that the investigators have even bigger fish in their sights.

There aren't many bigger fish than the National Security Advisor.

This is just getting surreal.

(ETA: I just posted a long thread on Twitter with more of this, including lots of links to the underlying news stories and sources. https://twitter.com/yonatanzunger/status/845754881256255488 )___

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2017-03-25 02:14:25 (18 comments; 31 reshares; 139 +1s; )Open 

And now something just for fun: The second movement of Beethoven's Symphony no. 7, transformed into a Rumba.

And now something just for fun: The second movement of Beethoven's Symphony no. 7, transformed into a Rumba.___

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2017-03-24 19:46:02 (107 comments; 70 reshares; 290 +1s; )Open 

A quick post because I don't have time to write a full piece right now: Seth Abramson has done a very serious job of connecting the dots, and a picture of direct Russian influence and/or control over key aspects of the Trump campaign and its policies is starting to emerge. In particular, we're starting to get names, dates, places, and subjects of meetings.

For those of you old enough to remember, this is reminding me a lot of what happened with Iran-Contra around the middle of 1987, when the big chunks of information started to come out. Suddenly it was going from conjectures to concrete timelines, graphs of people and who knew what and when. But unlike Iran-Contra, here the top-level principal – in this case, Donald Trump – was clearly directly in the room from the get-go.

I'd expect this to start to develop very seriously in news articles in the next few days.Quest... more »

A quick post because I don't have time to write a full piece right now: Seth Abramson has done a very serious job of connecting the dots, and a picture of direct Russian influence and/or control over key aspects of the Trump campaign and its policies is starting to emerge. In particular, we're starting to get names, dates, places, and subjects of meetings.

For those of you old enough to remember, this is reminding me a lot of what happened with Iran-Contra around the middle of 1987, when the big chunks of information started to come out. Suddenly it was going from conjectures to concrete timelines, graphs of people and who knew what and when. But unlike Iran-Contra, here the top-level principal – in this case, Donald Trump – was clearly directly in the room from the get-go.

I'd expect this to start to develop very seriously in news articles in the next few days. Questions of Congressional investigation, FBI investigation, and so on will obviously be highly politicized, and the Congressional situation in the near future will depend heavily on the aftermath of the AHCA vote later today. However, this may soon reach the scales where even reluctant members of Congress feel forced to act. I've never seen anything like this – not Iran-Contra, and not Watergate. We're heading into uncharted territory.___

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2017-03-24 05:21:59 (33 comments; 17 reshares; 168 +1s; )Open 

On the emotional costs of fame, and of dealing with the public.

+A.V. Flox shared this over on another network to remain nameless, and wrote a perfect intro for it, which I quote with her permission:

This is increasingly relevant to anyone who shares their life online. When I first started blogging, I wasn't read by many people, but I remember at some point calculating how much time I spent responding to people versus creating: four hours per every single creative hour. But as this piece notes, only some of these correspondences were free of expectation and even fewer were reciprocal in that I received the same amount of emotional labor that I put in.

We're not taught to cope with this, especially when the person reaching out is in an urgent situation. It took me a really long time to recognize that I don't have the capacity to be there for everyone, all the... more »

On the emotional costs of fame, and of dealing with the public.

+A.V. Flox shared this over on another network to remain nameless, and wrote a perfect intro for it, which I quote with her permission:

This is increasingly relevant to anyone who shares their life online. When I first started blogging, I wasn't read by many people, but I remember at some point calculating how much time I spent responding to people versus creating: four hours per every single creative hour. But as this piece notes, only some of these correspondences were free of expectation and even fewer were reciprocal in that I received the same amount of emotional labor that I put in.

We're not taught to cope with this, especially when the person reaching out is in an urgent situation. It took me a really long time to recognize that I don't have the capacity to be there for everyone, all the time. I would like to be and I still hold some shame around that, but it was a crucial step in refocusing my energy on developing reciprocal relationships that help replenish my own emotional resources.

I didn't know how to draw a boundary or hold it, so I stopped writing much about myself. I miss writing about what I'm living and I miss hearing from people for whom this writing resonates. Every once in a while, I'll receive a message asking me why I don't do this kind of writing anymore but rather than miss it more, I'll remember the weight and ask myself if I've learned to draw that boundary.

The truth is that I don't know. What I do know is that I don't have the stamina to really find out.___

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2017-03-23 15:13:25 (65 comments; 34 reshares; 208 +1s; )Open 

Good summary of the past day's news in US politics, complete with short (but accurate) backgrounders on each major story. 

Good summary of the past day's news in US politics, complete with short (but accurate) backgrounders on each major story. ___

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2017-03-21 06:28:09 (40 comments; 9 reshares; 217 +1s; )Open 

We can learn a lot from a skeleton: diet, work, daily life, and even what a man's face looked like, seven hundred years ago. 

We can learn a lot from a skeleton: diet, work, daily life, and even what a man's face looked like, seven hundred years ago. ___

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2017-03-19 20:57:28 (28 comments; 48 reshares; 250 +1s; )Open 

A great map of the relationships between languages in Europe. It uses the amount of shared lexicon as a measure of mutual comprehensibility, and thus "closeness." Some of this closeness comes from linguistic relatedness - you won't be surprised that Macedonian and Bulgarian are virtually identical - while some comes from geographic proximity and shared history, as when Basque and Spanish have a significant shared lexicon despite being linguistically completely unrelated.


Interconnectivity & Language

This linguistic map paints an alternative map of Europe, displaying the language families that populate the continent, and the lexical distance between the languages. The closer that distance, the more words they have in common. The further the distance, the harder the mutual comprehension.

The map shows the language families that cover the continent: large, familiar ones like Germanic, Italic-Romance and Slavic; smaller ones like Celtic, Baltic and Uralic; outliers like Semitic and Turkic; and isolates – orphan languages, without a family: Albanian and Greek.

Obviously, lexical distance is smallest within each language family, and the individual languages are arranged to reflect their relative distance to each other.

Take the Slavics: Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin are a Siamese quartet of languages, with Slovenian, another of former Yugoslavia's languages, extremely close. Slovakian is halfway between Czech and Croatian. Macedonian is almost indistinguishable from Bulgarian. Belarusian is pretty near to Ukrainian. Russia standa a bit apart, is closest to Bulgarian, but quite far from Polish.

Italian is the vibrant centre of the Italic-Romance family, as close to Portuguese as it is to French. Spanish is a bit further. Romania is an outlier, in lexical as well as geographic distance. Catalan is the missing link between Italian and Spanish.

The map also shows a number of fascinating minor Romance languages: Galician, Sardinian, Walloon, Occitan, Friulian, Picard, Franco-Provencal, Aromanian, Asturian and Romansh.

Latin, mentioned in the legend but not on the map, although no longer a living language, is an important point of reference, as it is the progenitor of all the Romance languages.

Lots of coldness in the Germanic family. The bigger members English and German, each keep to themselves. Dutch leans towards the German side, Frisian to the English side. Up north, the smaller Nordic languages cluster in close proximity; Danish, Swedish, Norwegian (both the Bokmal and Nynorsk versions).

And look at the tiny Icelandic, Faroer and Luxembourgish languages.

The Celtic family portrait is a grim picture: small language dots, separated by a lot of mutual incomprehension: the distance is quite far between Breton and Welsh, a bit closer between Irish and Scottish Gaelic, and further still between the first and second pair.


more, and additional charts & images at link...





___A great map of the relationships between languages in Europe. It uses the amount of shared lexicon as a measure of mutual comprehensibility, and thus "closeness." Some of this closeness comes from linguistic relatedness - you won't be surprised that Macedonian and Bulgarian are virtually identical - while some comes from geographic proximity and shared history, as when Basque and Spanish have a significant shared lexicon despite being linguistically completely unrelated.

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2017-03-19 04:05:47 (69 comments; 55 reshares; 390 +1s; )Open 

A clever little device: An "assassin's teapot," containing two chambers which can hold different liquids. Depending on where you put your fingers as you pour (to cover different holes, and thus create a vacuum which would hold one liquid or the other in place) you can cause either to come out. The perfect tool with which to serve yourself and your enemy.

Unless, of course, you don't get that seal perfectly right. But to cope with such cases, it's always wise to have been building up an immunity to the iocaine powder ahead of time anyway.

A clever little device: An "assassin's teapot," containing two chambers which can hold different liquids. Depending on where you put your fingers as you pour (to cover different holes, and thus create a vacuum which would hold one liquid or the other in place) you can cause either to come out. The perfect tool with which to serve yourself and your enemy.

Unless, of course, you don't get that seal perfectly right. But to cope with such cases, it's always wise to have been building up an immunity to the iocaine powder ahead of time anyway.___

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2017-03-18 23:51:43 (40 comments; 34 reshares; 286 +1s; )Open 

I know that, if you release a bowling ball and a feather from the same height in a vacuum, they will hit the ground simultaneously. That their difference under normal conditions comes entirely from the air resistance which a feather experiences. And that people have understood this for centuries.

I know that everything about spacecraft propulsion and routing depends on this fact, and that this has been verified over and over again by the fact that we can, for example, land on the Moon or Mars.

But still, watching it be done from a height of several stories in the world's biggest vacuum chamber, it's still kind of amazing that it works. And apparently the people doing the test, experienced scientists and engineers all, find it kind of amazing too.

h/t +Rick Mann

I know that, if you release a bowling ball and a feather from the same height in a vacuum, they will hit the ground simultaneously. That their difference under normal conditions comes entirely from the air resistance which a feather experiences. And that people have understood this for centuries.

I know that everything about spacecraft propulsion and routing depends on this fact, and that this has been verified over and over again by the fact that we can, for example, land on the Moon or Mars.

But still, watching it be done from a height of several stories in the world's biggest vacuum chamber, it's still kind of amazing that it works. And apparently the people doing the test, experienced scientists and engineers all, find it kind of amazing too.

h/t +Rick Mann___

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2017-03-18 21:39:15 (198 comments; 113 reshares; 363 +1s; )Open 

This is an extremely thoughtful article about the underlying political dynamics which shape the debates over health care in the US, and it's helping me understand many things going on in our country today; as the author says, "When it seems like people are voting against their interests, I have probably failed to understand their interests."

His key point is this: "[T]he bulk of needy white voters are not interested in the public safety net. They want to restore their access to an older safety net, one much more generous, dignified, and stable than the public system – the one most well-employed voters still enjoy."

That is, the US has had a social safety net for a very long time, a very generous one, publicly funded through various tax subsidies, and giving people a sense of having earned those things as well, through individual work. But unlike mostc... more »

This is an extremely thoughtful article about the underlying political dynamics which shape the debates over health care in the US, and it's helping me understand many things going on in our country today; as the author says, "When it seems like people are voting against their interests, I have probably failed to understand their interests."

His key point is this: "[T]he bulk of needy white voters are not interested in the public safety net. They want to restore their access to an older safety net, one much more generous, dignified, and stable than the public system – the one most well-employed voters still enjoy."

That is, the US has had a social safety net for a very long time, a very generous one, publicly funded through various tax subsidies, and giving people a sense of having earned those things as well, through individual work. But unlike most countries' safety nets, the American net was never intended to cover everybody – a fact which is ultimately tied to the fact that America never viewed itself as a single polity, but rather as a collection of racial polities whose natural relationship was hierarchical. That is, what we had in the US was "white socialism" – and this is what many people want back, although they don't realize exactly what it was.

Very worth reading and thinking about.
___

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2017-03-18 20:50:18 (50 comments; 33 reshares; 233 +1s; )Open 

At first I thought this was just an amusing infographic, but it's actually the header to a fascinating essay, which in turn is an excerpt from a book, all of which contains quite a few more such graphics, and more importantly, a discussion of the cultural boundaries within Europe and how they got there.

I have to say that Tsvetkov's map of "The World According to the Ancient Greeks" seems quite on point, up to and including its description of which domesticated animals they consider each of their neighbors to prefer fornicating with.

h/t +Lucas Appelmann

At first I thought this was just an amusing infographic, but it's actually the header to a fascinating essay, which in turn is an excerpt from a book, all of which contains quite a few more such graphics, and more importantly, a discussion of the cultural boundaries within Europe and how they got there.

I have to say that Tsvetkov's map of "The World According to the Ancient Greeks" seems quite on point, up to and including its description of which domesticated animals they consider each of their neighbors to prefer fornicating with.

h/t +Lucas Appelmann___

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2017-03-17 18:59:51 (22 comments; 8 reshares; 141 +1s; )Open 

Subtleties in data analysis: "Special K" being a common nickname for ketamine may have slightly skewed its popularity in searches.

Via +Lucas Appelmann​

#GeoawesomeMapOfTheDay The most googled cereal in each state via https://goo.gl/LEInd1___Subtleties in data analysis: "Special K" being a common nickname for ketamine may have slightly skewed its popularity in searches.

Via +Lucas Appelmann​

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2017-03-17 16:16:56 (40 comments; 50 reshares; 194 +1s; )Open 

This is a slightly amusing, but interesting, bit of data analysis. Bernhardsson searched for articles of the form "Why our team moved from [programming language] to [other programming language]," to get a picture of trends. He ended up with the big matrix shown below.

Now, if you view the frequency of these articles as indicating the probability with which people actually move from one to the other, you end up with a big matrix of transition probabilities. And if you have a matrix of transition probabilities, you can compute the equilibrium distribution: in this case, what programming languages people end up using after a long time. (That assumes that the probability distributions stay fixed for long enough to reach equilibrium, but interestingly, it doesn't depend on what distribution of languages you started out with.)

In case you're wondering, the present future of... more »

This is a slightly amusing, but interesting, bit of data analysis. Bernhardsson searched for articles of the form "Why our team moved from [programming language] to [other programming language]," to get a picture of trends. He ended up with the big matrix shown below.

Now, if you view the frequency of these articles as indicating the probability with which people actually move from one to the other, you end up with a big matrix of transition probabilities. And if you have a matrix of transition probabilities, you can compute the equilibrium distribution: in this case, what programming languages people end up using after a long time. (That assumes that the probability distributions stay fixed for long enough to reach equilibrium, but interestingly, it doesn't depend on what distribution of languages you started out with.)

In case you're wondering, the present future of programming languages is: 16.4% Go, 14.3% C, 13.2% Java, 11.5% C++, and 9.5% Python. This actually doesn't entirely surprise me: C and C++ continue to be the backbones of infrastructure and embedded systems; Java and Python remain the "generic default languages," and every other language people use for development tends to bounce back and forth between that and those standards; and people seem to be transitioning to Go a lot more than they transition away from it.

Of course, this assumes that the sort of things which people generate articles about is actually indicative of real life, which probably grossly overrepresents certain kinds of team.___

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2017-03-17 15:56:22 (12 comments; 3 reshares; 170 +1s; )Open 

Our infrastructure is not maintained by Lin-Manuel Miranda :-)


Our infrastructure is not maintained by Lin-Manuel Miranda :-)
___

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2017-03-12 22:46:25 (225 comments; 43 reshares; 257 +1s; )Open 

There are a few parasites which are known to affect the higher functions of the mind - rabies making dogs vicious, parasitic wasps which commandeer orb spiders, flatworms which make ants commit a strange sort of suicide atop blades of grass, where they can be eaten by sheep. And, of course, there's toxoplasma gondii, whose primary habitat is in the intestines of cats, and which can be responsible for "crazy cat lady syndrome."

But while we usually think of this as being a rare, acute condition affecting only a few people, it turns out that infection rates may be far higher than we imagined - 10-20% of Americans, and over 50% of Europeans - and that even these low-level infections may have subtle but significant effects on our personalities.

We may well be, in short, under the effect of mind-controlling parasites right now. And things as fundamental as our introversion... more »

There are a few parasites which are known to affect the higher functions of the mind - rabies making dogs vicious, parasitic wasps which commandeer orb spiders, flatworms which make ants commit a strange sort of suicide atop blades of grass, where they can be eaten by sheep. And, of course, there's toxoplasma gondii, whose primary habitat is in the intestines of cats, and which can be responsible for "crazy cat lady syndrome."

But while we usually think of this as being a rare, acute condition affecting only a few people, it turns out that infection rates may be far higher than we imagined - 10-20% of Americans, and over 50% of Europeans - and that even these low-level infections may have subtle but significant effects on our personalities.

We may well be, in short, under the effect of mind-controlling parasites right now. And things as fundamental as our introversion or extroversion, or as seemingly arbitrary as our fashion sense, may be affected.

Via +A.V. Flox​___

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2017-03-12 20:06:18 (187 comments; 62 reshares; 566 +1s; )Open 

Trying to explain the American health care system to people from other countries is a bit difficult.

Via +Valdis Klētnieks

Dystopia America ___Trying to explain the American health care system to people from other countries is a bit difficult.

Via +Valdis Klētnieks

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2017-03-12 19:42:44 (111 comments; 25 reshares; 244 +1s; )Open 

Last week, the Fourth Circuit ruled that a North Carolina police officer who let his dog severely maul a man that he knew to be innocent could not be held accountable for his actions. This is just the latest development in a long chain of them, where the old notion of "qualified immunity" – that public officials can't be sued for their official actions unless they deliberately broke the law – has been slowly twisted into carte blanche for murder and mayhem.

The result is not a pleasant one. 

Last week, the Fourth Circuit ruled that a North Carolina police officer who let his dog severely maul a man that he knew to be innocent could not be held accountable for his actions. This is just the latest development in a long chain of them, where the old notion of "qualified immunity" – that public officials can't be sued for their official actions unless they deliberately broke the law – has been slowly twisted into carte blanche for murder and mayhem.

The result is not a pleasant one. ___

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2017-03-08 20:06:55 (58 comments; 22 reshares; 256 +1s; )Open 

Last night, by an interesting coincidence, the Statue of Liberty experienced a power outage. I suspect no coincidence: She was participating in today's general strike by women from a wide range of paid and unpaid labor, in honor of International Women's Day.

If you want to support the strike, one very useful thing you can do today: Backfill for the women in your life, both at home and at work. Not just for the paid labor, and for the unpaid labor like house and child care, but for the emotional labor as well. Manage the tasks on your own, don't ask women for emotional support or reassurance today.

Honestly, sharing that labor is a pretty good idea the rest of the days, too. Slagging it off on others all the time makes you kind of a jerk.

Last night, by an interesting coincidence, the Statue of Liberty experienced a power outage. I suspect no coincidence: She was participating in today's general strike by women from a wide range of paid and unpaid labor, in honor of International Women's Day.

If you want to support the strike, one very useful thing you can do today: Backfill for the women in your life, both at home and at work. Not just for the paid labor, and for the unpaid labor like house and child care, but for the emotional labor as well. Manage the tasks on your own, don't ask women for emotional support or reassurance today.

Honestly, sharing that labor is a pretty good idea the rest of the days, too. Slagging it off on others all the time makes you kind of a jerk.___

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2017-03-08 17:57:01 (256 comments; 44 reshares; 310 +1s; )Open 

This is not a joke. This is the honest-to-Cthulhu name of the "health care" law the Republicans want to replace the ACA with.

"The World's Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017."

I mean, maybe it is a joke, and having come to the conclusion that they can't actually think of a law better than the ACA -- it having been a tough compromise as it was, and largely been stolen from Republican ideas in the first place -- the best they can do is offer a law that's strictly worse across the board, as an opening move to trying to negotiate to put in actual fixes to the ACA.

(Which, I'll note, every single major government program in history has required. The odds of getting a complicated thing perfectly right on the first shot are zero; but the ACA hasn't been able to get any of the obvious patches, because ever since it was passed, Congressional... more »

This is not a joke. This is the honest-to-Cthulhu name of the "health care" law the Republicans want to replace the ACA with.

"The World's Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017."

I mean, maybe it is a joke, and having come to the conclusion that they can't actually think of a law better than the ACA -- it having been a tough compromise as it was, and largely been stolen from Republican ideas in the first place -- the best they can do is offer a law that's strictly worse across the board, as an opening move to trying to negotiate to put in actual fixes to the ACA.

(Which, I'll note, every single major government program in history has required. The odds of getting a complicated thing perfectly right on the first shot are zero; but the ACA hasn't been able to get any of the obvious patches, because ever since it was passed, Congressional Republicans refused to consider any patches other than repeal. They had banked so heavily on opposing it that the only viable political option was for it to fail, and so they tried to make it do so. When it stubbornly refused to -- when a lot of Americans started getting access to health care for the first time, and people were no longer having nightmares about their spouses dying of cancer because they were forced to change health plans and it was now suddenly a non-covered "pre-existing condition" -- they were stuck with the fact that they actually had to make it work, or they would have some seriously pissed-off constituents. But they've been promising to destroy it for so long that they seriously don't know what to do.

And apparently, having run out of other ideas, they've turned to simply trolling the public with the World's Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017.)

Full text of the bill: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1275/text

My earlier notes on what you need to know to understand health bills: https://healthcareinamerica.us/how-to-ask-good-questions-about-health-reform-725887002c03#.nt9rj8g8s___

2017-03-06 21:36:17 (77 comments; 23 reshares; 316 +1s; )Open 

This is, I believe, a pretty solid analysis of Trump's problem with everything from releasing taxes to a Russia investigation. It's not that there's necessarily a giant body buried -- it's that there might be an awful lot of smaller bodies. An awful lot.

So, okay.

Let's say that you're Trump. You've spent your entire career in the vaguely mobbed-up world of New York real estate developers, and after being forcibly ejected from that by a series of bankruptcies, you enter the even more mobbed-up world of international financing for hotels intended for Saudi princelings and Russian oligarchs in countries with a lot of natural-resource wealth.

No one will lend you money through normal channels because, again, whenever anyone lends you money you piss it all away on gold toilets and giant shit-fights with subcontractors, so you have to rely on things like Bayrock Associates, headquarted in Trump tower, which is basically just a weird giant money pipeline from Kazakhstan to New York. And in the midst of all of this, you decide that you're just going to stop paying taxes, not pay your contractors, and basically act like a sexual-harassing parody of a 1970s boss.

It's not that Trump can't stand up to an investigation of his Russia ties, although that will produce an embarrassment of minor revelations immediately -- Felix Sater, for instance, who's a minor Russian mafioso who provided financing for Trump projects in the 1990s. It's that Trump can't stand up to literally any investigation whatsoever. Turn over literally any rock in Trump's life, and you'll find a weird squirming nest of maggots underneath it.

There might be not much to the Russia story: the worst of it might be that Roger Stone was scheduling document dumps with Wikileaks. (He has already said that he was doing this.) But if you start pulling on any loose thread in that sweater, the entire thing is going to come unraveled and a giant pile of borderline criminality is going to come spilling out.

I would be surprised if even Trump has a strict accounting of where all the bodies he's buried in his career are. Which means that he has to prevent an investigation of Russia ties whether or not he's guilty.___This is, I believe, a pretty solid analysis of Trump's problem with everything from releasing taxes to a Russia investigation. It's not that there's necessarily a giant body buried -- it's that there might be an awful lot of smaller bodies. An awful lot.

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2017-03-05 22:46:38 (58 comments; 24 reshares; 178 +1s; )Open 

Today is a day to take a break from politics, and instead talk about ancient Israelite cosmology. This was sparked by a post by Ben Stanhope, who drew a wonderful diagram of this ancient world – but it's interesting because this is much more than the ideas of a particular local religion at a particular time. It's a snapshot of ideas at a major junction point of the world, sitting between the Mediterranean west and the Mesopotamian east, just at a time when the world was in tremendous upheaval: the window between the great collapse of 1200BCE, which toppled Troy and sent refugees streaming throughout the sea, and the re-stabilization of around 750BCE, as regular trade and travel was emerging again. It's a diagram where a Greek afterlife sits adjacent to a Sumerian chaos-dragon and nobody thinks anything strange of it.

So here's a bit of a journey through the ancient world.

Today is a day to take a break from politics, and instead talk about ancient Israelite cosmology. This was sparked by a post by Ben Stanhope, who drew a wonderful diagram of this ancient world – but it's interesting because this is much more than the ideas of a particular local religion at a particular time. It's a snapshot of ideas at a major junction point of the world, sitting between the Mediterranean west and the Mesopotamian east, just at a time when the world was in tremendous upheaval: the window between the great collapse of 1200BCE, which toppled Troy and sent refugees streaming throughout the sea, and the re-stabilization of around 750BCE, as regular trade and travel was emerging again. It's a diagram where a Greek afterlife sits adjacent to a Sumerian chaos-dragon and nobody thinks anything strange of it.

So here's a bit of a journey through the ancient world.___

2017-03-05 21:37:57 (63 comments; 5 reshares; 54 +1s; )Open 

[Deletion marker: There's going to be a much better version of this post up shortly]

[Deletion marker: There's going to be a much better version of this post up shortly]___

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2017-03-04 22:11:09 (191 comments; 110 reshares; 514 +1s; )Open 

Today's news just got a bit more interesting. This morning, Donald Trump made a series of tweets about Obama tapping his phones during the election. These tweets have rather surprised experts (and especially members of Congress), since they are either (a) confused ranting based on a Breitbart article about something he actually has the power to know about, or (b) that he just publicly acknowledged that there was a classified FISA warrant to tap the phones of his campaign staff.

Now, there's no law against him admitting this; as Rep. Himes (D-CT) of the House Intelligence Committee notes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xHlhM-WrDI), he is the ultimate declassification authority and has every right to do this. But what's gotten a lot of people worried – such as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), whose official statement is below – is that while FISA may be one of the most secretive andunacc... more »

Today's news just got a bit more interesting. This morning, Donald Trump made a series of tweets about Obama tapping his phones during the election. These tweets have rather surprised experts (and especially members of Congress), since they are either (a) confused ranting based on a Breitbart article about something he actually has the power to know about, or (b) that he just publicly acknowledged that there was a classified FISA warrant to tap the phones of his campaign staff.

Now, there's no law against him admitting this; as Rep. Himes (D-CT) of the House Intelligence Committee notes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xHlhM-WrDI), he is the ultimate declassification authority and has every right to do this. But what's gotten a lot of people worried – such as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), whose official statement is below – is that while FISA may be one of the most secretive and unaccountable parts of the entire US legal system, its judges do take their legal responsibilities quite seriously, and a wiretap warrant requires a showing of probable cause.

(And especially given post-Watergate laws and post-Watergate sensitivities, walking up to a court and saying "Hi, I want to wiretap a major political party's headquarters during a Presidential election" is going to get you some very dirty looks. The bar for probable cause will not be set low.)

Now, the existence of such a warrant has been rumored for some time – here's some reporting on it from early November, before the election. (https://heatst.com/world/exclusive-fbi-granted-fisa-warrant-covering-trump-camps-ties-to-russia/) It would also explain many things about how the FBI was aware of Flynn's secret conversations with Russian officials.

But there's a difference between rumors and official confirmation – and if President Trump really did just announce its existence, then there is good reason for the public to want to know, as Sen. Sasse says, just what was in the application for this warrant, and how the applying agency established probable cause. Because this means that the investigating agency had solid evidence of criminal collaboration with a foreign power.

Note that this is very different from evidence that they talked to Russians; talking to Russians is fine. Talking to Russian politicians is fine. There are quite a lot of members of the government whose job is nothing but talking to Russian politicians. We're talking about conversations which would be evidence of serious crimes – and given that we're talking about FISA warrants, crimes which jeopardize national security.

Combined with previous reports such as this one (https://nyti.ms/2jFcK0n), a fairly clear picture is emerging: the FBI has been systematically investigating illegal connections between Trump's organization and the Russian government for some time, and back in October had sufficient evidence to get a wiretap warrant in the middle of an election season, which is no small bar. On several occasions since the election (most notably that of NatSec advisor Michael Flynn) administration officials have denied various contacts, only to be immediately contradicted by leaks which appeared to have not only confirmation of such contacts, but details.

What this adds up to is not an investigation of any single individual, but an investigation with solid evidence pointing at the breadth of the senior levels of the Trump organization being directly involved in criminal activities.

It means there's a very, very, large shoe waiting to drop. And I have no idea what will happen when it does; this is a situation literally unprecedented in American history.___

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2017-03-04 21:01:33 (33 comments; 43 reshares; 233 +1s; )Open 

This isn't a new video, but it's one worth watching every so often. It's a detailed time-lapse of European borders from 1000 to 2003. Two things are particularly striking to me about it: how occasionally long periods of relative border stability pop up (such as between 1950 and 1989), but mostly the borders are continuously in flux; and how the sizes of regions of political control vary over time, with some periods and regions favoring large, stable states, and other periods favoring tiny micro-states.

It's important to remember that our view of borders as being static, sanctioned things, any change to which implies a gross violation of norms, is very much a post-1945 view; this was the idea enshrined by the United Nations, that these borders ought to be more or less reified and that war over land was no longer acceptable. Quite a few of our modern geopolitical problems, from... more »

This isn't a new video, but it's one worth watching every so often. It's a detailed time-lapse of European borders from 1000 to 2003. Two things are particularly striking to me about it: how occasionally long periods of relative border stability pop up (such as between 1950 and 1989), but mostly the borders are continuously in flux; and how the sizes of regions of political control vary over time, with some periods and regions favoring large, stable states, and other periods favoring tiny micro-states.

It's important to remember that our view of borders as being static, sanctioned things, any change to which implies a gross violation of norms, is very much a post-1945 view; this was the idea enshrined by the United Nations, that these borders ought to be more or less reified and that war over land was no longer acceptable. Quite a few of our modern geopolitical problems, from Iraq to the Crimea, come from the fact that the borders which happened to be settled at that time bore little relationship to the natural political divisions in the area, while other problems (like Lebanon) come from the fact that these natural divisions are rarely static; populations and relationships change over time.

This map is a good reminder of just how unusual this idea of static borders really is, and just why trying to maintain it isn't easy.___

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2017-03-04 20:23:50 (81 comments; 49 reshares; 355 +1s; )Open 

This is potentially a huge deal if it works out: the energy density of batteries (in mAh per either gram or cubic centimeter) has been nearly stalled out for years, with increases of a few percent being a big deal, and that's the major limitation in portable electronic devices today. Their related tendency to explode if things go wrong is a major safety headache. For higher-drain applications like cars or building power backups, these problems are only more serious.

Goodenough and Braga's invention, if it becomes productionizable, is therefore a huge deal: a 3x increase in energy density, without the risk of explosion, fast rates of charge and discharge, a long cycle life, capable of operating down to -20C, and made from less expensive materials than today's lithium-ion batteries.

And this isn't the usual "fringe researcher claims to have solved problem that nobody... more »

This is potentially a huge deal if it works out: the energy density of batteries (in mAh per either gram or cubic centimeter) has been nearly stalled out for years, with increases of a few percent being a big deal, and that's the major limitation in portable electronic devices today. Their related tendency to explode if things go wrong is a major safety headache. For higher-drain applications like cars or building power backups, these problems are only more serious.

Goodenough and Braga's invention, if it becomes productionizable, is therefore a huge deal: a 3x increase in energy density, without the risk of explosion, fast rates of charge and discharge, a long cycle life, capable of operating down to -20C, and made from less expensive materials than today's lithium-ion batteries.

And this isn't the usual "fringe researcher claims to have solved problem that nobody else could!" which the press occasionally gets excited about (and which never pans out); Goodenough is co-inventor of the very lithium-ion batteries which this replaces, and he and Braga are two very well-respected experts in the field. They're precisely the sort of people who would be best-placed to come up with something, and to validate an idea if it were out there.

In fact, it's good enough that my main question is "what's the catch?" – because new technologies which are strictly better than the old ones along literally every single axis are pretty rare. If this is the real deal, then it's fantastic news all around, and huge kudos to both of them for an invention that could really improve the world!

h/t +Christof Harper___

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2017-03-04 01:10:31 (176 comments; 34 reshares; 234 +1s; )Open 

Beyond the history lesson in the NAACP's amicus brief - something I highly recommend you read about in the linked article - this photo contains another interesting bit of history. Note the three categories of restroom: "Ladies," "Men," and "Colored."

There's a lot we could say about the difference in register between "ladies" and "men," or default whiteness, but what I find really interesting is that gender segregation if restrooms was exclusive to white restrooms. The entire notion that this separation was required was tied up with race: protecting the sensitivities of (white) women, protecting (white) women against the horrible depredations of men (of all races), or even the loss of status and embarrassment of letting it be known that (white) women can, actually, fart. Colored women, it was implied, are immune to such things or need no... more »

Beyond the history lesson in the NAACP's amicus brief - something I highly recommend you read about in the linked article - this photo contains another interesting bit of history. Note the three categories of restroom: "Ladies," "Men," and "Colored."

There's a lot we could say about the difference in register between "ladies" and "men," or default whiteness, but what I find really interesting is that gender segregation if restrooms was exclusive to white restrooms. The entire notion that this separation was required was tied up with race: protecting the sensitivities of (white) women, protecting (white) women against the horrible depredations of men (of all races), or even the loss of status and embarrassment of letting it be known that (white) women can, actually, fart. Colored women, it was implied, are immune to such things or need no more protection against it than farm animals do.

In an era where gender segregation of restrooms is a major issue - and like with racial segregation in the past, being used as a tool to keep people excluded from society as a whole (you can't go to school, or work, or engage politically, if there's nowhere you can use the restroom without being arrested or worse!) - it's important to recall that the entire idea of gender segregation of restrooms is a fairly recent innovation. The restrooms in your home, for example, are probably still not gender-segregated, nor are the ones on aircraft. ___

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2017-03-03 00:26:25 (88 comments; 34 reshares; 343 +1s; )Open 

Dementors speak of him with reverence. His name is Sergey Kislyak, and he is the Most Forgettable Man in the World.

This entire op-ed is pure gold. 

Dementors speak of him with reverence. His name is Sergey Kislyak, and he is the Most Forgettable Man in the World.

This entire op-ed is pure gold. ___

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2017-03-02 06:36:57 (19 comments; 13 reshares; 113 +1s; )Open 

And with perfect timing after the announcement (just a few days ago!) of seven planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, two of which may be in the "Goldilocks zone" for life, +Tim Blais is out with his latest video: Whole New Worlds, for all those exoplanet hunters out there.

And with perfect timing after the announcement (just a few days ago!) of seven planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, two of which may be in the "Goldilocks zone" for life, +Tim Blais is out with his latest video: Whole New Worlds, for all those exoplanet hunters out there.___

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2017-03-01 05:24:33 (66 comments; 16 reshares; 142 +1s; )Open 

This is a thought-provoking essay on how the US government should organize its military approach to space. In essence, it suggests creating a US Space Corps which relates to the Air Force in the same way that the USMC relates to the Navy. There's a great deal more detail to it than that, and a fairly strong argument that a reorg should be made.

I'm not sure what I think about it yet - whether I agree or not - but it's definitely an idea which merits thoughtful consideration. 

This is a thought-provoking essay on how the US government should organize its military approach to space. In essence, it suggests creating a US Space Corps which relates to the Air Force in the same way that the USMC relates to the Navy. There's a great deal more detail to it than that, and a fairly strong argument that a reorg should be made.

I'm not sure what I think about it yet - whether I agree or not - but it's definitely an idea which merits thoughtful consideration. ___

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2017-03-01 05:14:36 (62 comments; 50 reshares; 303 +1s; )Open 

This is a very well-distilled explanation of an important point: the culture of a company (or of a group of friends, or of a city, or of a country) isn't captured by asking people what the culture is, but by asking "what do you need to know to get ahead."

That's not meant as a motivational statement: it's meant as a tool for understanding your group. The things which actually get someone ahead or hold them back, things which can be very ugly to look at sometimes, are the things which the society rewards and punishes. And as anyone who's ever run a team knows, you get what you incentivize; your incentives are your culture, and when they don't align with your high-flown statements, that just means that your statements are wrong.

The exercise the author presents at the end is quite a valuable one. 

This is a very well-distilled explanation of an important point: the culture of a company (or of a group of friends, or of a city, or of a country) isn't captured by asking people what the culture is, but by asking "what do you need to know to get ahead."

That's not meant as a motivational statement: it's meant as a tool for understanding your group. The things which actually get someone ahead or hold them back, things which can be very ugly to look at sometimes, are the things which the society rewards and punishes. And as anyone who's ever run a team knows, you get what you incentivize; your incentives are your culture, and when they don't align with your high-flown statements, that just means that your statements are wrong.

The exercise the author presents at the end is quite a valuable one. ___

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2017-02-27 21:14:18 (51 comments; 56 reshares; 592 +1s; )Open 

Yeah, pretty much this.

Via +Adam Boenig

Sometimes you've gotta find your own questline.___Yeah, pretty much this.

Via +Adam Boenig

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2017-02-26 21:00:04 (113 comments; 17 reshares; 407 +1s; )Open 

Not just with ancient languages. I remember studying Gaelic (long since forgotten) many years ago, and realizing about a month in that I had no idea how to ask what time it was, but could easily say things like "the soldier beat the woman to death with his rifle and threw her body in the well."

I think the author of my textbook may have had issues.

h/t +Rhys Taylor

___Not just with ancient languages. I remember studying Gaelic (long since forgotten) many years ago, and realizing about a month in that I had no idea how to ask what time it was, but could easily say things like "the soldier beat the woman to death with his rifle and threw her body in the well."

I think the author of my textbook may have had issues.

h/t +Rhys Taylor

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2017-02-24 23:56:59 (118 comments; 44 reshares; 294 +1s; )Open 

The art of Kremlinology, North Korean edition: this article is a fascinating in-depth dive into how much information experienced analysts can pull out of a single propaganda picture. This shot of Kim Jong-Un announcing an improved North Korean nuclear weapon leaks important information about bomb power, missile range, the way the program is being run, and Kim's political strategy for the near future. Key clues include the diameter of the bomb, the coat Kim is wearing, the clothes the people around him are wearing, and the positioning of the white markings on the missile hull.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/02/24/world/asia/north-korea-propaganda-photo.html

The art of Kremlinology, North Korean edition: this article is a fascinating in-depth dive into how much information experienced analysts can pull out of a single propaganda picture. This shot of Kim Jong-Un announcing an improved North Korean nuclear weapon leaks important information about bomb power, missile range, the way the program is being run, and Kim's political strategy for the near future. Key clues include the diameter of the bomb, the coat Kim is wearing, the clothes the people around him are wearing, and the positioning of the white markings on the missile hull.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/02/24/world/asia/north-korea-propaganda-photo.html___

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2017-02-24 22:17:59 (155 comments; 35 reshares; 254 +1s; )Open 

I've been noting for a while that "scaling up deportations" requires giving people in the field more unreviewable authority to declare someone un-American -- without that troublesome burden of "courts."

And indeed, here's a dive into how this is being implemented, with officers deep in the bowels of DHS given authority to order "expedited removals" of a much wider class of people. With the anticipated change in the rules for asylum screenings, and the fact that once you have been removed, it's far more difficult to retroactively challenge the order, this turns into an effective mechanism for threatening anyone who "looks foreign" with summary deportation.

NB that the accompanying plan to deport everyone to Mexico, regardless of their country of origin, is another logistical optimization: if you had to figure out someone's country... more »

I've been noting for a while that "scaling up deportations" requires giving people in the field more unreviewable authority to declare someone un-American -- without that troublesome burden of "courts."

And indeed, here's a dive into how this is being implemented, with officers deep in the bowels of DHS given authority to order "expedited removals" of a much wider class of people. With the anticipated change in the rules for asylum screenings, and the fact that once you have been removed, it's far more difficult to retroactively challenge the order, this turns into an effective mechanism for threatening anyone who "looks foreign" with summary deportation.

NB that the accompanying plan to deport everyone to Mexico, regardless of their country of origin, is another logistical optimization: if you had to figure out someone's country of origin, you'd start needing process, and might have to call into question whether they should be deported at all.

(My earlier article on the subject: https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/how-mass-deportations-work-c191da20e4f1#.2gtb9nj31)___

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2017-02-24 18:26:09 (57 comments; 27 reshares; 288 +1s; )Open 

Let's say you need to build a defense system against small drones, which might be armed with anything from cameras to bombs. You need something which can identify targets, tell friend from foe, disable them in-flight, and do so without endangering people on the ground -- crucial if (for example) a drone attack were made on a crowded urban area. The perfect system would be able to fly up to the drone, grab it, and safely land it.

A nearly perfect system for this already exists, and has for millions of years: Aquila chrysaetos, the golden eagle. And now the French Air Force is training them to hunt and kill drones.

h/t +A.V. Flox

Let's say you need to build a defense system against small drones, which might be armed with anything from cameras to bombs. You need something which can identify targets, tell friend from foe, disable them in-flight, and do so without endangering people on the ground -- crucial if (for example) a drone attack were made on a crowded urban area. The perfect system would be able to fly up to the drone, grab it, and safely land it.

A nearly perfect system for this already exists, and has for millions of years: Aquila chrysaetos, the golden eagle. And now the French Air Force is training them to hunt and kill drones.

h/t +A.V. Flox___

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2017-02-24 03:53:51 (26 comments; 68 reshares; 245 +1s; )Open 


Something which may be of interest to various security- and open-source minded folks: we just open-sourced a distributed, secure file-sharing system. Full technical details at https://upspin.io/ .

(I know most of its authors, and they're very, very, good at what they do)


Something which may be of interest to various security- and open-source minded folks: we just open-sourced a distributed, secure file-sharing system. Full technical details at https://upspin.io/ .

(I know most of its authors, and they're very, very, good at what they do)___

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2017-02-23 17:27:23 (137 comments; 20 reshares; 182 +1s; )Open 

This essay is full of so many interesting thoughts and important points that it's hard to summarize. Just read it; it's worth your while.

The best article that has, or even could be written on the fall of Milo, & the psychology of his Lost Boys of the alt-right. A truly delicious piece of writing:
Whatever anyone claims, it’s hard to shake off being run out of town by 3,000 people screaming that you’re a Nazi. It’s the sort of thing that gives everyone but the coldest sociopath at least a little pause, and most of this crew don’t have the gumption or street smarts to function outside of a Reddit forum. They’re not the flint-eyed skinheads that many anti-fascists are used to fighting. I’m not a brawler, but I’d wager that these kids could be knocked down with a well-aimed stack of explanatory pamphlets, thus resolving decades of debate about whether it’s better to punch or to reason with racists.
+Yonatan Zunger___This essay is full of so many interesting thoughts and important points that it's hard to summarize. Just read it; it's worth your while.

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2017-02-23 15:56:22 (35 comments; 9 reshares; 197 +1s; )Open 

Good news: California is almost entirely out of a drought that was the worst in centuries!

Bad news: ... Because all of the rain that didn't fall for the past however many years has been falling. At once.

Welcome to the American West, where we have two kinds of precipitation: droughts and floods.

h/t +blanche nonken

Good news: California is almost entirely out of a drought that was the worst in centuries!

Bad news: ... Because all of the rain that didn't fall for the past however many years has been falling. At once.

Welcome to the American West, where we have two kinds of precipitation: droughts and floods.

h/t +blanche nonken___

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2017-02-22 18:13:39 (70 comments; 51 reshares; 366 +1s; )Open 

Something amazing: we have not only the first detection of Earth-sized planets outside our Solar System, but a detection of seven planets around a single star only 40 light-years away - right next door by astronomical standards. These planets orbit a dim dwarf star named Trappist-1 (after the telescope which discovered it, the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope in Chile), and by happy chance, are angled in a good way for us to study them. Even better, at least one of them is in the star's "Goldilocks Zone" - at the right sort of temperature to support things like liquid water and an atmosphere.

The paper itself won't be out until Wednesday, but you can get preliminary data about the system here: http://www.trappist.one/#system . (This includes coordinates, but you'll need a strong telescope to see it; this dim star in Aquarius has an apparent magnitude of... more »

Something amazing: we have not only the first detection of Earth-sized planets outside our Solar System, but a detection of seven planets around a single star only 40 light-years away - right next door by astronomical standards. These planets orbit a dim dwarf star named Trappist-1 (after the telescope which discovered it, the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope in Chile), and by happy chance, are angled in a good way for us to study them. Even better, at least one of them is in the star's "Goldilocks Zone" - at the right sort of temperature to support things like liquid water and an atmosphere.

The paper itself won't be out until Wednesday, but you can get preliminary data about the system here: http://www.trappist.one/#system . (This includes coordinates, but you'll need a strong telescope to see it; this dim star in Aquarius has an apparent magnitude of 18.80, about as bright in the sky as the dwarf planet Eris)

The system is unusual in that three of the planets may support life: Trappist-1d, e, and f. Even more interestingly, the three are similar enough that someone from one planet could potentially survive on the others. All three have roughly terrestrial gravity -- maybe 0.7g's on d and e, and 0.6g's on f. They are of similar sizes, having surface areas 60, 80, and 110% of Earth's, respectively.

Trappist-1d is the most Earthlike: the average temperature is 288K (15C, 59F), the same as on Earth. If you looked up in the sky there with human eyes, you would see a salmon-colored star, about five and a half times the apparent diameter of our own Sun, but somewhat dimmer; at noon, it would be about 15% brighter than it is on Earth. Of course, eyes which evolved on Trappist-1d wouldn't be tuned to the yellow light of our own Sun; they would be much more likely to see light much further into the infrared and less into the blues, and the light would look a "neutral white" to local eyes, just like our own Sun does to us.

If anything has evolved to photosynthesize in the Trappist-1 system, its analogue of chlorophyll would be principally absorbing in the far infra-red, and the local plants would look dark and reddish to our eyes; the oranges and yellows that make up so much of our own vision would be as exotic to Trappists as the ultraviolet which bees see is to us.

But daily life there would be somewhat more different, because in such tight orbits (close in around a small star, with a "year" of four days on Trappist-1d), the planets would be tidally locked to the Sun, with one side always facing it, much like the Moon always faces one side to the Earth. This means that this Earthlike temperature would be the daily temperature nearly every day on the sunny side, at the equator, and it would get steadily colder as you went out to the dark side -- but how much colder depends tremendously on how thick an atmosphere the planet has. It could be anything from hundreds of degrees below zero, the temperature of exposed space, if the planet has no atmosphere, all the way up to inhabitable but chilly temperatures if the atmosphere is thick. (Further investigation will tell us more about this, since as the planet passes in front of its star, we can see which colors of light are absorbed and how much by its atmosphere)

Weather patterns on tidally locked planets are unusual; if you want a sense of it, you can consider this paper (https://arxiv.org/pdf/1109.2668.pdf) about what tidal locking would do to it. This may well cause the climate to be so unstable that the planet could never evolve life; we'll have to do more science to figure that out.

The two further-out planets are a bit less hospitable; Trappist-1e averages 251K (21C, -8F), roughly the weather of winter in Fairbanks, and 1f averages a chilly 219K (-54C, -65F), the sort of weather you associate with central Antarctica.

This means that 1dians, if they developed short-range space travel, would be able to travel to these places, but absent some really good reason, they would be more likely to be the home of isolated outposts than major settlements. (Given the small size of this system - planets closely packed around a tiny star -- this is far easier to reach than Mars is for us; at closest approach, 1d and 1e are less than three times as far apart as the Earth is from the Moon. During this peak, 1e would be huge in 1d's sky, about 20% bigger than the full Moon is in our own. But you would never see this from the light side; at closest approach, 1e is "behind" 1d, with the full 1e visible only at the center of the dark side. The inhabitants of the light side of 1d would see it only through half-phase, before it sank below the horizon.)

There are far more calculations like this we could do (especially since we apparently have information about their relative orbital periods, which would let us chart the skies there in somewhat more detail) but I have actual work to do...___

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2017-02-21 02:46:11 (48 comments; 28 reshares; 244 +1s; )Open 

And I can't quite believe this, but there's yet another positive story to share today. This is about a paper that came out recently on particle physics. Like an awful lot of papers in particle physics, it proposes an extension to the Standard Model (our best current understanding of the field, which has done remarkably well in predicting an awful lot of things) which can explain a lot of currently open questions about the universe.

However, this paper has some nice features which most papers of this sort don't. There's a sort-of tradition in particle physics (which I'm embarrassed to admit I've participated in) of publishing "pissing on trees" papers: you come up with some theory, show that it's not inconsistent with what we've observed so far about the universe (and it turns out there are an awful lot of things you can do which aren't inconsistent,... more »

And I can't quite believe this, but there's yet another positive story to share today. This is about a paper that came out recently on particle physics. Like an awful lot of papers in particle physics, it proposes an extension to the Standard Model (our best current understanding of the field, which has done remarkably well in predicting an awful lot of things) which can explain a lot of currently open questions about the universe.

However, this paper has some nice features which most papers of this sort don't. There's a sort-of tradition in particle physics (which I'm embarrassed to admit I've participated in) of publishing "pissing on trees" papers: you come up with some theory, show that it's not inconsistent with what we've observed so far about the universe (and it turns out there are an awful lot of things you can do which aren't inconsistent, even once you take the full scientific rigor of professional physicists into account), and publish it as "maybe." This is called "pissing on trees" because if it turns out later that this theory was right, then you've published one of the original papers on it, and a great deal of credit will follow; that is, you're staking out your claim ahead of time, but not really producing anything that valuable, because most of these "maybes" are pretty far-out.

This "SMASH" paper (short for "Standard Model + Axion + Seesaw + Higgs," a short description of the three kinds of extension to the SM it provides) does considerably better, though. With a fairly minimal extension to existing physics (proposing three new families of particle, each of which is considered not-outrageous) they manage to explain a bunch of difficult open problems in physics at once. And rather nicely, the SMASH hypothesis is straightforwardly testable – to the extent that several planned experiments already in the works should be able to say a definitive "yes" or "no" to it within the next decade.

I won't try to give a full explanation of the things it explains, since this gets really technical really fast. The short list is inflation (what force caused the universe to expand really rapidly in its early history, so that its current size is "really big" rather than "about the size of a grapefruit"), reheating (how inflation stops and that energy of expansion somehow gets converted into matter instead of a big, empty universe), dark matter (what is this mysterious substance which appears to form a quarter of the mass of the universe, yet be transparent to light?), baryogenesis (in particular, why is there so much more matter than antimatter in the universe? It's handy for the "not going boom all the time" business, but it's far from obvious why it should be true), and stability (why at daily-life energy scales, certain high-energy properties of physics don't cause Higgs bosons to suddenly become infinitely heavy and attractive or similar weird things which many theories fall victim to).

There are plenty of theories which explain these individually, but SMASH is nice in giving systematic answers to all of them – which makes me far more interested in it than in most papers of this sort.

Of course, it'll take a lot of experiment to see if this goes anywhere, but for once, we actually have an existing experimental roadmap which will answer that. :)___

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2017-02-21 00:49:42 (175 comments; 5 reshares; 223 +1s; )Open 

Even more promising news for the day: Trump has somehow convinced LGEN McMaster to take on the role of National Security Advisor. As the article below goes into, McMaster has a reputation for being a competent, intelligent grown-up. He is also bald, white, tall, and muscular, which means that he looks enough like Trump's idea of a military / intelligence leader that Trump may actually listen to him.

Given that it's been made clear that the NSA will not have full authority over staffing at the NSC, and eg does not have the power to kick Bannon off his council, it's been expected that it would be very hard to hire anyone good for this role - the first candidate mooted, Harward (also known as as a grown-up) basically said Hell No. But apparently McMaster will take that risk. So best of luck to him, and hopefully he'll manage to achieve something useful!

(The NSA is the... more »

Even more promising news for the day: Trump has somehow convinced LGEN McMaster to take on the role of National Security Advisor. As the article below goes into, McMaster has a reputation for being a competent, intelligent grown-up. He is also bald, white, tall, and muscular, which means that he looks enough like Trump's idea of a military / intelligence leader that Trump may actually listen to him.

Given that it's been made clear that the NSA will not have full authority over staffing at the NSC, and eg does not have the power to kick Bannon off his council, it's been expected that it would be very hard to hire anyone good for this role - the first candidate mooted, Harward (also known as as a grown-up) basically said Hell No. But apparently McMaster will take that risk. So best of luck to him, and hopefully he'll manage to achieve something useful!

(The NSA is the President's chief advisor on natsec issues, and chairs NSC meetings which the President doesn't attend. This has nothing to do with the other NSA, the National Security Agency, which is the agency that does signals intelligence and crypto and the like.) ___

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2017-02-21 00:25:38 (247 comments; 37 reshares; 421 +1s; )Open 

And in yet more amusing news for the day, apparently there is still one line in polite society that you can get in trouble for crossing. Milo Minderbinder Yiannoupolos' defense of pedophilia (how "inter-generational relationships" are often crucial to the development of young people, especially among gay men, and it just goes on from there into a sort of NAMBLA manifesto) has gotten him disinvited from CPAC and his book deal cancelled.

Twitter is currently a mass of people saying "I was fine with him before, but this is too much!," of people replying on the lines of "wait, you were fine with the doxxing of trans students, and the abuse campaigns against game developers, and all the racist and violent speech, but this you're not OK with?," and a lot of other people (myself included) just shaking our heads and saying "OK, apparently this is what it takes... more »

And in yet more amusing news for the day, apparently there is still one line in polite society that you can get in trouble for crossing. Milo Minderbinder Yiannoupolos' defense of pedophilia (how "inter-generational relationships" are often crucial to the development of young people, especially among gay men, and it just goes on from there into a sort of NAMBLA manifesto) has gotten him disinvited from CPAC and his book deal cancelled.

Twitter is currently a mass of people saying "I was fine with him before, but this is too much!," of people replying on the lines of "wait, you were fine with the doxxing of trans students, and the abuse campaigns against game developers, and all the racist and violent speech, but this you're not OK with?," and a lot of other people (myself included) just shaking our heads and saying "OK, apparently this is what it takes for people to notice that he is not a nice guy."

But let's not dwell on that! Let's instead enjoy a seasonally appropriate recipe from +John Scalzi​. Mmm, Schadenfreude Pie...

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2006/09/26/how-to-make-a-schadenfreude-pie/___

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2017-02-21 00:12:53 (20 comments; 7 reshares; 132 +1s; )Open 

Something else interesting: having an independent judiciary does, indeed, appear to strengthen democracies, even when they are facing turmoil. This is true even though judges don't have many enforcement powers of their own - it's more about how this legitimizes the rule of law itself, and makes attempts to damage it seem illegitimate to the public itself. 

Something else interesting: having an independent judiciary does, indeed, appear to strengthen democracies, even when they are facing turmoil. This is true even though judges don't have many enforcement powers of their own - it's more about how this legitimizes the rule of law itself, and makes attempts to damage it seem illegitimate to the public itself. ___

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2017-02-20 21:10:01 (53 comments; 76 reshares; 357 +1s; )Open 

It's really nice to be able to share good news for once. A new study in JAMA Pediatrics studied the effect of same-sex marriage laws on teen suicide rates. They looked at 32 different US states which changed their laws at different times, as a way of disentangling this effect from other effects.

The net result? Legalizing same-sex marriage leads to a 7% overall drop in teen suicide attempts, and a 14% drop among LGBT teens.

It turns out that being publicly told that you're an accepted member of society and not a pariah does make a difference in people's lives, especially teenagers. Who woulda thunk?

But the upshot of this is: All of you who worked on this, in one way or another? You just saved some lives. Well done.

The article itself is available online: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2604258

(NB: For clarity,... more »

It's really nice to be able to share good news for once. A new study in JAMA Pediatrics studied the effect of same-sex marriage laws on teen suicide rates. They looked at 32 different US states which changed their laws at different times, as a way of disentangling this effect from other effects.

The net result? Legalizing same-sex marriage leads to a 7% overall drop in teen suicide attempts, and a 14% drop among LGBT teens.

It turns out that being publicly told that you're an accepted member of society and not a pariah does make a difference in people's lives, especially teenagers. Who woulda thunk?

But the upshot of this is: All of you who worked on this, in one way or another? You just saved some lives. Well done.

The article itself is available online: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2604258

(NB: For clarity, that's a 7% drop in the rate, not a seven percentage point drop drop. We should be so lucky as to have any one thing eliminate seven percentage points. As a baseline, a weighted 8.6% of all high school students, and 28.5% of LGBT high school students, attempted suicide in the year before same-sex marriage legalization. Suicide is the second most common cause of death among people aged 15-24 in the US.

For those who want technical notes: The paper seems to have done a very careful job on statistics, testing a wide variety of alternate hypotheses and ruling them out from the data. One test worth calling out: the two-year leading indicator (suicide rates two years prior to law changes) was not correlated to suicide rates, indicating that this was not triggered by general changes in the state which were also leading to this; the two-year trailing indicator (two years after), however, was correlated, with the same correlation as the immediate future, indicating a lasting effect rather than a one-off.)___

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