- Timelapse view from a container ship:
- Matt Levine on tenure voting.
- The rumors panned out and we indeed witnessed a NS-NS merger with an extensive electromagnetic counterpart. Two of the main papers are in the Astrophysical Journal and PRL. The gravitational-wave signal was almost a minute long, and the angular resolution by gravitational radiation alone is stunningly good (35 square degrees). No neutrinos though. Sean Carroll discusses the use of gravitational waves from binary mergers as a “standard siren” (the “audio” analog to standard candles) as a method for calibrating the cosmic distance ladder. Here is a list of all 8 notable gravitational-wave events.
- Relatedly: Recollections of the LIGO team by Caltech Prof John Preskill.
- Part of the reason 747s are being phased out is that they will soon require retrofit to keep their fuel tanks filled with nitrogen, an inert gas, to reduce the risk of explosions.
- Update on the carbon capture and sequestration project in Iceland.
is the most acutely lethal toxin known, with an estimated human median lethal dose (LD50) of 1.3–2.1 ng/kg intravenously or intramuscularly and 10–13 ng/kg when inhaled.
- Compelling arguments from Yudkowsky against confident predictions long timescales for artificial general intelligence.
- Waymo releases report on their approach and progress with self-driving cars.
- Woit covers anniversary of Weinberg’s electroweak unification.
“There are now five different lines of observational evidence pointing to the existence of Planet Nine,” Konstantin Batygin, a planetary astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, said….
…a study that examined the elliptical orbits of six known objects in the Kuiper Belt…all of those Kuiper Belt objects have elliptical orbits that point in the same direction and are tilted about 30 degrees “downward” compared to the plane in which the eight official planets circle the sun…
Using computer simulations of the solar system with a Planet Nine…there should be even more objects tilted a whopping 90 degrees with respect to the solar plane. Further investigation revealed that five such objects were already known to fit these parameters…
…Planet Nine’s influence might have tilted the planets of our solar system, which would explain why the zone in which the eight major planets orbit the sun is tilted by about 6 degrees compared to the sun’s equator….”Over long periods of time, Planet Nine will make the entire solar-system plane precess, or wobble, just like a top on a table,”…
Finally, the researchers demonstrate how Planet Nine’s presence could explain why Kuiper Belt objects orbit in the opposite direction from everything else in the solar system.
That’s only four, but other evidence is discussed here.
- BBC profile of Chinese head of state Xi Jinping.
- Smoking is bad for you, but nicotine gum, vaping, and other carcinogen-free nicotine-delivery may be net positive because they are effective weight controls. And the interactive BBC article on North Korean missile range. H/t Rob Wiblin for both.
- Ben Kuhn on stock option terms.
- Hsu et al.:
We applied novel machine learning methods (“compressed sensing”) to ~500k genomes from UK Biobank, resulting in an accurate predictor for human height which uses information from thousands of SNPs.
1. The actual heights of most individuals in our replication tests are within a few cm of their predicted height.
2. The variance captured by the predictor is similar to the estimated GCTA-GREML SNP heritability. Thus, our results resolve the missing heritability problem for common SNPs.
3. Out-of-sample validation on ARIC individuals (a US cohort) shows the predictor works on that population as well. The SNPs activated in the predictor overlap with previous GWAS hits from GIANT.
- Why can’t Diffie-Hellman be used for signing [like RSA]?
- On the CIA’s recruitment strategies at academic conferences. (H/t Tyler Alterman.) I’m still waiting to get approached at a quantum foundations conference about defecting to Russia…
- Six-step guide used by oncologists to deliver bad news to patients.
- Uber’s US marketshare now below 75%. On the other hand Lyft is now entering Canadian and the UK and got another $1B from Google. Three cheers for competition.
- Prompted by these blog posts, Fricken says
GM right now is the most vertically integrated of all the companies making meaningful progress on Robotaxis. They have a dedicated assembly line set up building off the Chevy Bolt platform, and intend to have ‘thousands’ of them on the road before the end of 2018. They’re building their own ride hailing app, called Cruise anywhere, currently only available to GM employees. They’ve got On-star, which provides in-house expertise with connected car and vehicle diagnostic services. GM’s Maven subsidiary offers car sharing services.
- This is the only article I remember ever being simultaneously shared by four of my friends on social media. So probably we’re only seeing it be cause it confirms our beliefs.
- Joel Spolsky on the siren call of code re-writes.
- I’d been wondering this for a while:
Consider two cars facing each other at a two-way stop (the cross traffic does not stop). The first car to arrive is turning left, the second to arrive is going straight. Who gets to go first: The car turning left or the car who arrived first?
Answer: the driver going straight has the right-of-way, even if he arrived later.
- Fermat’s library covers Charles Munger’s “The Psychology of Human Misjudgment”. Also, the ArXiv blog highlighted the Librarian Chrome plugin from Fermat’s Library. Did I mention the arXiv has a blog and Twitter account?
- Looks like I should have spent more time writing Wikipedia articles.
- Soviet control rooms.
- Elon Musk’s talk on the BFR (43 min, slides here):
In particular, he proposes simultaneous use for transcontinental travel through suborbital hops (2 min):
and lunar surface missions through Earth-orbit rendezvous. (/r/SpaceX coverage.)
- Relatedly, here’s Elon Musk’s answers from the recent AMA.
- More evidence that voter canvassing is exclusively about getting out the vote from people who are already on your side, not changing any minds. (H/t Eva Vivalt.)
- New theory of color linguistics.
- How do you solve the chicken-and-egg problem of building a messaging app and help your new users find their friends on the service when, for privacy reasons, you’re also trying hard to keep as little of a user’s contact info as possible?
- How to adjust icons as you scale them down to tiny resolutions.
- On US Intelligence Security Levels.
Unlike ordinary classified documents, which have 1 cover sheet, SCI [Secret Compartmented Information] documents have 2 cover sheets. The top one has the base classification (SECRET, TOP SECRET) and a prominent notice that the document is SCI material. If the person has access to SCI at that level, they can lift that first cover sheet and see what the codeword is. If they recognise the codeword, they can lift the second cover sheet. If they don’t recognise it, lifting the second cover sheet constitutes unauthorised access, for which the person can be fined and/or imprisoned.
- Tyler Cowen on Rawlsian arguments for social insurance, selective application, and normative causation.
- The Apache revolver had a fold-out knife and a grip that doubled as brass knuckles. Used in France in the early 1900s.
- Reflective satellite as art.
- Sarah Constantin on plow and hoe culture.
- How often do drugs in stage 1 clinical trials become approved [PDF]?:
- The overall likelihood of approval (LOA) from Phase I for all developmental candidates was 9.6%, and 11.9% for all indications outside of Oncology.
- Rare disease programs and programs that utilized selection biomarkers had higher success rates at each
phase of development vs. the overall dataset.
- Chronic diseases with high populations had lower LOA from Phase I vs. the overall dataset.
- Of the 14 major disease areas, Hematology had the highest LOA from Phase I (26.1%) and Oncology had the lowest (5.1%)
- Sub-indication analysis within Oncology revealed hematological cancers had 2x higher LOA from Phase I
than solid tumors.
- Oncology drugs had a 2x higher rate of first cycle approval than Psychiatric drugs, which had the lowest percent of first-cycle review approvals. Oncology drugs were also approved the fastest of all 14 disease areas.
- Phase II clinical programs continue to experience the lowest success rate of the four development phases, with only 30.7% of developmental candidates advancing to Phase III.
- Historical magnetic declination.
- Active managers final loses decade bet with Buffett. Has excuses.
- Jeff Kaufman concludes his assessment of the value of (him) going into ML safety research.
- It takes roughly a month for the nicotine-sensitive receptors in brain neurons to adjust back down following smoking cessation and about two weeks for caffeine. Interestingly the timescales on which the chemicals are metabolized, and hence the timescale of their immediate physiological impacts, are reversed: the half-life of nicotine is 1-2 hours but for caffeine it’s 3-7 hours (or even longer for certain types of people like infants and pregnant women).
- Tetris simulated in the Game of Life. I don’t begrudge folks their fun hobby project…but how can this enthusiasm and extreme attention to detail be channeled to something more useful? And of course, there is the Game of Life simulator….
- Neil Sinhababu on discrete vs. smooth morality of actions in virtue, deontological, and utilitarian frameworks.
- Robin Hanson’s cell analogy for why human-like minds may persist surprisingly long after brain hardware is made obselete. I like this. Also see him discussing hints about when policy wonk work actually influences policy rather than merely being used to justify it. (Of interest to EAs going into this space.)
- eggie on the greater difficulty in spotting large changes to the genome than small ones:
It remains difficult to observe genome variation in transposon content. The situation is improving as we get longer single-molecule reads, as these let us reach through these sequences into bits of DNA that let us anchor the position of transposons against genomes which we’ve already sequenced.
I think some people may have the idea that we can observe whole genomes easily, but consider the case of repeats like transposons. Half of the human genome is made up of these, but we still have trouble seeing when and where they are active. A new insertion of a big piece of DNA can be much more phenotypically effective than a little SNP, and yet our observational methods make the latter much easier to see than the first. It seems that structural variation in genomes is a likely place to find at least a partial solution to the missing heritability problem posed by the GWAS community.
Insertions and deletions are usually harder to spot with the short reads that make up the data that you’ll get back from your typical “sub-1000 dollar whole genome”. The reason is simple. There are vastly more possible insertions and deletions that SNPs, and these all must be considered by algorithms in order to detect them. Worse, as the length of the insertion or deletion increases to a reasonable fraction of the length of your reads, it becomes impossible to hope to resolve the event without considering an untenable space of possible indels and opening yourself to spurious matching.
Those cheap genomes have a serious blind spot— they don’t easily yield information about the large scale variation in structure (indels, copy number, inversions, translocations) that are apparently very important to evolution. I believe the field has blinded itself to the importance of large variation simply because it is hard to observe. Recent papers based on long read data have started to respond to this assumption in a serious way (https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/09/24/076562)….
In the context of humans there is ample evidence that the things we are missing with short reads are not minute, but are rather an enormous elephant in the room, see https://bioscibatzerlab.biology.lsu.edu/Publications/Sudmant_et_al_2010_Science.pdf and http://science.sciencemag.org/content/349/6253/aab3761. They report that some genomic regions are expanding by up to 50-fold between individuals. Some whole human populations feature quarter-megabase duplications not present in other groups. The scope of the studies are actually very narrow, with hundreds of individuals being considered. I would be surprised if this is anything less than the tip of the iceberg, and incredibly surprised if this turns out to be a minute detail.
- Scott Alexander on why IQ is real and very important at the societal level, but only modestly predictive, over interpreted, and often mis-measured at the individual level.
- If you live near Cambridge, MA, support the Open Biome project: GivePoop.org!
- Preparing a vinyl records and a capacitance electronic disk for imaging by electron microscope.
- Luke Muehlhauser perfectly capturing my frustration upon getting out of grade school and learning just a bit of economic history:
Basically, if I help myself to the common (but certainly debatable) assumption that “the industrial revolution” is the primary cause of the dramatic trajectory change in human welfare around 1820-1870, then my one-sentence summary of recorded human history is this:
Everything was awful for a very long time, and then the industrial revolution happened.
Interestingly, this is not the impression of history I got from the world history books I read in school. Those books tended to go on at length about the transformative impact of the wheel or writing or money or cavalry, or the conquering of this society by that other society, or the rise of this or that religion, or the disintegration of the Western Roman Empire, or the Black Death, or the Protestant Reformation, or the Scientific Revolution. But they could have ended each of those chapters by saying “Despite these developments, global human well-being remained roughly the same as it had been for millennia, by every measure we have access to.” And then when you got to the chapter on the industrial revolution, these books could’ve said: “Finally, for the first time in recorded history, the trajectory of human well-being changed completely, and this change dwarfed the magnitude of all previous fluctuations in human well-being.”
Also from Luke: Hillary Clinton on AI risk.
- Bodega is a startup that wants to use the image-processing-based item tracking found in Amazon stores to revamp snack machines into full-on corner stores. (I love the egregiously explicit cherry picking used by this journalist to manufacture controversy: ~”Sure, the company founder commissioned a survey and found that the vast majority of the population wasn’t culturally offended…but here is a single person with a clear economic conflict of interest who is!”.) Also, it is amazing to me that using cameras like this is considered more viable than RFID tags.
- Open Phil is funding AI PhD students.
- The Citoid tool is integrated into the visual editor on Wikipedia, but it can also be accessed in source-editing mode using a Wikipedia plugin.
- A thoughtful and honest mea culpa from Daniel Kahneman on the validity of priming studies.