Links (July 2022)

Part Of: Links sequence


  1. Eating mammal meat (aka red meat) promote chronic disease in humans, but not other animals. Why? Malaria uses the biochemical used to digest red meat – sialic acid – as a vehicle to enter primates. Some 4mya, a mutation altered Australopith sialic acid. The mutation helped our ancestors evade malaria!
  2. Ultimately, of course, malaria caught up & regained the ability to infect us. Why has the sialic acid degradation been maintained since then? Domesticated mammals are a big source of disease. The longer they have been with us, the more “C19-like” zoonotic events have occurred. Living with domesticates has its benefits, but also increases risk of disease. Perhaps the inflammation produced by eating red meat provides some additional protection from mammal-born diseases. Such adaptive tuning of the immune system may increase inflammatory protection – only where it’s most needed. 
  1. Interesting advice for preventing and treating Long Covid 
  2. In general, when getting vaccinated or boosted, you may consider a morning appointment. Immune response is literally twice as strong in the morning for most people. Like everything else in the body, the immune system fluctuates at a circadian rhythm.
  3. Human RCT supports the “gravitostat” theory of fat mass regulation.  Wearing a weighted vest 8h/d for 3 weeks caused fat loss.  Possibly a parallel regulatory pathway to the one involving leptin.
  4. More evidence for the role of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the sperm crisis. 
  5. Cumulative benefits of lowering serum LDL every 39 mg/dl: 1y RRR 12%, 7y 29%, lifetime, 55%

Cognitive Science

  1. Poverty damages mental & physical health via chronic stress. But chronic stress isn’t exactly a disease. It can mold the child to make the best of a bad situation. Chronic stress damages working memory capacity (aka fluid intelligence). But poverty also IMPROVES flexibility & updating! In unpredictable environments with rapidly changing statistics, it should be advantageous to rapidly update information about the immediate environment. But retrieval and capacity are more beneficial in predictable environments, where past experiences will likely apply to the future. Study, replication
  1. Some people (the Specialists) have strong, fixed personalities. Others (the Generalists) have weaker personalities, and adapt more to early life experience. Childcare quality doesn’t affect everybody. Specialist kids aren’t affected much by your parenting. Their genetic program is locked in. “Resilience” comes at a cost. But the Generalist kids! These are the ones at an advantage if are born in a happy home, and profoundly disadvantaged otherwise.This is the differential susceptibility model, aka “biological sensitivity to context”.
  1. Why do concepts expand when their instances become rare? Range frequency effects can explain and eliminate prevalence-induced concept change (tweet thread). 
  2. Morality as Nash product maximizer. 
  3. Intelligence predicted better cognitive performance after normal sleep, but greater cognitive impairment after sleep deprivation.


  1. Handedness has nothing to do with cultural expectations. Most, but not all, fetuses preferentially suck their right thumb – and those that do subsequently become right handers (and vice versa).
  2. Did the sclera (whites of the eyes) evolve as a cooperative device, to share attentional information? The argument against
  3. UV vision in birds. Recall the evolution of color vision in primates: where duplication of long-range conopsin extended the dichromat ancestral pattern. Birds historically perceive a wider frequency range. A good example of umwelt.


  1. Most integrals are intractable (life is hard), so we must often integrate numerically. Sadly, numerical integrators are unreliable & computationally expensive. Why not use ML as a numerical method? Introducing Probabilistic Numerics
  2. GitHub CoPilot has been released, an ML tool that will help you write code for $10/month.
  3. Google may be moving from Tensorflow to JAX.
  4. While LLMs will sometimes give serious answers to nonsensical questions, they are able to identify such manipulations. 
  5. Using LLMs, Minerva advances state of the art for mathematical reasoning.


  1. Compare Hubble images vs its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope. It can also see further back (from 1.0 to 0.3b years after the Big Bang). 
  2. Progress in cancer research.
  3. Earth burns in a billion years when the sun expands. UNLESS we steal energy from Jupiter to gradually expand Earth’s orbit
  4. On the significance of the Present Moment. 
  1. Against random walk: rational predictions often update predictably


  1. War makes states: new evidence that military innovations (cavalry and iron weapons) enabled societies to build strong, bureaucratised states.
  1. The case against leapseconds
  2. The solutions of partial differential equations (PDEs) alone make a strong argument for a Universe with 3 space and 1 time dimension.
  1. The social structures required for peace were unlikely to be present before humans developed social complexity within the last 50kya. Peace is recent, but intergroup cooperation is ancient. 
  2. Rotten Tomatoes scores have changed since they were acquired by Fandango. 
  1. The Cistercian numerals, much more compact than Arabic numerals. 
  1. Deep connection between the Riemann hypothesis and particle scattering in physics. 

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