Links (Dec 2021)

Part Of: Links sequence

Current Events

  1. Demographics on overall trends and drug use in American homeless. Argument that the 80% of homelessness is driven by housing shortage. 
  2. Claims about geopolitics of the war in Ethiopia
  3. In nuclear war simulations, most people choose the escalation option
  4. Reasons to expect a Ukraine invasion in 2022. The associated Metaculus.
  5. Which demographic groups are driving the rise in Chinese religiosity? Wealthy people who feel mistreated by the government.

Psychotherapy and counseling are becoming increasingly popular in urban China, especially among those feeling marginalized and excluded from kinship networks. This raises the notion that religion and psychotherapy may be fulfilling similar roles in Chinese society… Findings [about political unfairness index] are consistent with the hypothesis that faith in religion and faith in government are substitutes in times of crisis, disorder, and lack of control.

AI

  1. How AlphaZero learns chess
  2. An unsuccessful startup muses on why semantic search of literature AI products struggle to find business value. 
  3. An overview of Self-Assembling AI. 
  4. The ongoing consolidation of AI. Ten years ago we used LSTMs and CNNs for natural language and computer vision. Today, everything is Transformers.
  5. A review of generative models of brain dynamics.
  6. Introducing shardware. “Traditionally software people looked upon hardware people with extraordinary disdain. Now, there’s no longer a crisp boundary between hardware and software, but rather just another translation layer in the stack.”

Health

  1. The placebo effect in the United States has been growing much stronger over time. Drugs that once would have been approved may not be now – because their performance relative to that of placebo is less convincing. May explain why the truth wears off
  1. Helpful viz for the global burden of disease. 
  2. Biological age can be measured independently of chronological age. Tests for the latter are becoming more economically feasible, from $200 to $2 per test. This should accelerate progress in gerontology.
  3. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) can infiltrate the blood-brain barrier. 
  4. Aging can be accelerated in real life, not just M Night Shyamalan movies. Cancer survivors who underwent radiation therapy, compared to survivors who didn’t, literally live 21 years less. “Approximately one-third of childhood cancer survivors aged 35 years have a disease phenotype of a person aged 65 years.”
  5. You can only hope to lose 5-10% of your body weight with diet & exercise. Even then, there’s an 85% chance your weight loss attempt will fail. Why? Your hypothalamus has decided that your heaviest weight is your correct weight. And so, for every pound lost, your metabolism decreases 11 calories, and appetite increases 45 calories above baseline. The millstone just gets too heavy. (From here, orange is weight loss maintainer, blue is weight loss regressor)

COVID 

  1. Merck’s molnupiravir may accelerate viral evolution.
  2. Omicron incubation period appears to be three days. May help explain the earlier than expected peak in South Africa.
  3. Covid recently leaked from a lab in Taiwan. Speaks toward plausibility of the lab leak hypothesis
  4. An early estimate for Omicron vaccine efficacy.
  1. T-Cell vaccines may provide longer immunity. “The Emergex shot will not be available until 2025 at the earliest, the usual timeframe for vaccine development. Last year Covid vaccines were developed within months as the regulatory process was speeded up, but the emergency has passed…”

Progress

  1. FDA approved eye drops may replace reading glasses for millions. Effect lasts 6-8 hours. 
  2. Xenobots can arguably now reproduce

Neuroscience

  1. Here is a 40s video showing patients trying to remember pictures they were shown 5min previously. The buzzes in the audio denote when the electrodes detect memory-laden ripples. 

Misc

  1. Rampaging monkeys kill 250 dogs in India in revenge massacre.
  2. The gender-equality paradox is the (disputed) idea that countries with more gender equality have fewer women in STEM careers. This analysis suggests the paradox is robust to different operationalizations of gender equality, but mysteriously evaporates on different operationalizations of STEM participation. 
  3. Golden rice, the genetically modified superfood that almost saved millions
  4. Dead fish can still swim upstream

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