- GiveWell has released their yearly top-charities list. CEA has announced they are running donor lotteries in addition to EA Funds. And OpenPhil gives up on finding the most neglected biological research, moves to opportunistic model of just funding good stuff when they see it (which probably has important lessons about the difficulty of transferring human knowledge).
- Uber driver’s get paid to take footage from a dash camera as raw data for self-driving cars.
- Blue Origin demos it’s sub-orbital space tourism ride, complete with a full-length video from inside the passenger viewing area:
You can identify the several minutes of weightlessness by the floating particles.
- Geoffrey Hinton on visualizing higher dimensions: ‘To deal with hyper-planes in a 14-dimensional space, visualize a 3-D space and say “fourteen” to yourself very loudly. Everyone does it.’
- The explanation for why Europe is warm for it’s lattitude is more complicated than just the gulf stream: If you turn the jet stream off in climate models, there is a still a large temperature difference.
- The primary use for my iPad is reading and annotating papers. It’s new secondary use is as a whiteboard during Skype. WebWhiteboard and AWW App both facilitate public whiteboards without needing a login/signup, and work pretty well with your browser on iPad. WebWhiteboard has a limited and dated interface, but is fairly reliable. AWW App has a more modern interface, but seems to have slow/unreliable servers. Then there are a ton of options that require signup, but I don’t know whether any are worth using.
- By way of Eric Rogstad and Tyler Cowen is this new-to-me idea: In the same way that, theoretically, the value of fiat currency is set by a given demand for a medium of exchange, the “fundamental” value of a bitcoin might be determined by a given demand for stores of value.
- Also from Cowen, Notre Dame had two econ departments until a few years ago:
Early in this decade, the University of Notre Dame’s economics department was bruised by a long series of quarrels over methods and ideology. So in 2003 the university’s leaders came up with a Solomonic solution: They split the department in two.
Some of the faculty members stayed in what became known as economics and policy studies, a heterodox department that made room for post-Keynesians, Marxians, and historians of economic thought. (Broadly speaking, that had been the character of Notre Dame’s economics program since the 1970s.) Others moved into economics and econometrics, a more-mainstream department with an emphasis on quantitative tools.
But this was not a divorce made in heaven. University officials now say that the experiment has not worked, and that they expect to dissolve the department of economics and policy studies within the next two years.
This looks like a fascinatingly explicit and discrete illustration of the sorts of fights over academic topics and hires that usually takes place gradually and subtlely. An academic analysis of this history can be found here.
- Drone crash on slope of the 2015 World Cup skiing competition:
- The journal Quantum has requested submissions of popular physics articles to be reviewed by physicist Chris Ferrie and some 13-year-olds.
- More gene therapy successes are starting to come in. (Journal article.) This one uses adeno-associated virus.
- Modems and network protocols are so adaptive they can handle just about any connection. In particular, DSL will work over wet string. (HN discussion.) One implication: ‘It shows the importance of handling faults that seem to just be “low speed”.’
- New overview of the deep hot biosphere:
Subsurface microorganisms are estimated to be extraordinarily long-lived. In our studies, they show a turnover time as slow as 1,000 years, meaning that they divide only once every few thousand years. To put it in perspective, the common gut bacterium E.coli divides once every 20 minutes.
- SEC: Statement on Cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings.
- Students rate teachers positively when they get high marks but learn less. (H/t Robin Hanson.) No connection found in meta-analysis between student evaluation and amount learned. Some good evidence for explaining why grade inflation is so rampant in universities. See however this contrary take.
- “AroundView” cameras stitch together views from multiple cameras mounted on the side of a vehicle into a pseudo-top-down view to aid with things like parking.
What’s shocking to me is how slowly they have been rolled out and, as the article mentions, how slowly simple rear cameras took to appear. Clearly the technology is trivial, and it sounds like rear cameras are only getting saturation because they will be legally required on all cars in 2018. I was pleased to see that, taking the fairly-well-justified value of $10M per life in the US, this regulation survives a cost-benefit analysis: “NHTSA estimates the backup systems will reduce the 210 fatalities that by one-third – only – despite an automaker expenditure of $750 million or more each year (15 million vehicles produced times $50 per car).”
- Although NASA has used radioisotope thermoelectric generators for nuclear-derived power on spacescraft, they have never actually operated a nuclear reactor. The first such test is coming up. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first reactor in space.
- The tower of parasites goes basically as deep as is allowed by the granularity of atoms: there exist tiny satellite viruses that hijack normal viruses. (Cf. prions.)
- Europa may be the only other object in the solar system today with significant plate tectonics besides Earth.
- On the remaining difference between “typeface” and “font”.
- Helen Toner’s anti-jet-lag 101.
- These deployable chains for driving in snow have long existed but are new to me. (See islander238 for a bit more info.)
- Baby born in US from transplanted uterus. The other organs that can be donated by living donors are kidneys, liver segments, lung lobes, portion of intestines, and … hearts! Extremely rarely, some patients with failing lungs receive a heart-lung bloc from a deceased donor “when physicians determine that the deceased donor lungs will function best if they are used in conjunction with the deceased donor heart”; the living recipient’s healthy heart is then donated to someone else. There also exist such “domino” transplants for whole-liver living donations, where a patient with amyloidosis donates their still-mostly-functioning liver to someone with liver failure, and receive a cadaver liver in return. Amyloidosis is a liver disease, but it usually takes many decades to develop, so that people over 60 can receive such livers without expecting it to lower their life expectancy compared to a regular liver transplant.
By the way, “many more women than men function as living organ donors”: 58% female vs. 42% male donors.
- Software at SpaceX:
- Partitive articles are arguably tied very directly, at a conceptual level, to the way French speakers think about words that use them (like “water”).
- SpaceX campaign thread for the Falcon Heavy demo flight. For those living under a rock, this demonstration will feature the landing and recovery of three first-stage cores, two of them near simultaneously on neighboring landing pad at Cape Canaveral! And the payload will be a red Tesla roadster delivered to heliocentric orbit. Where will you be watching from?
- Rats living in uptown vs. downtown Manhattan have distinguishable genetics. (Journal article.) I don’t think they are reporting evidence for genetic selection, but rather just remnants of the initial populations that seeded in different areas of the city. (Apparently rats don’t move much from generation to generation.)
- Volvo delays roll-out of their self-driving car to test families until 2021. But GM says it will have profitable autonomous electric vehicles mass deployed by 2019. Ford is predicting 2021.
- A map showing how much time it takes english-speakers to learn foreign languages.
- Lots of great theories, conspiracy and otherwise, on this FB thread: The seed idea is that Satoshi Nakamoto (pseudonym of the original developer of Bitcoin) was motivated by the desire to find a stable store of value because he intended to be cryonically preserved and did not trust any human institution to remain intact for a thousand years. At least a couple of the early Bitcoin developers (each potentially Nakamoto) were cryonic proponents, including Hal Finney who is currently preserved in this manner.
- UNITED STATES WAR DEPARTMENT PAMPHLET NO. 21-7: If you should be CAPTURED these are your rights.
- Colorado School of Mines introduces space mining course.
- Jimbo Wales is launching a collaborative newspaper (or, more probably, a news aggregator) called WikiTribune. Here’s the recent HN discussion. However, note these concerning points raised by Animats earlier in the year and the blatant editorial tone of front-page articles.
For another potential source of innovation in news see AllSides.
- Recent expansion of Mercedes-Benz drone delivery tests.
- Actual implementation of sideways elevators, albeit not for a customer yet.
Also, note this cautionary tale:
The elevator industry has been playing around with multi-cab systems for many years. The Otis Odyssey system (1997)  had cabs that could move both horizontally and vertically. The cabs were more like containers carried vertically in ordinary elevators and slid out sideways for horizontal movement. Otis built a full-sized prototype, but nobody ever ordered one.
Otis considered ropeless elevators, but in 1997 it looked like it would increase the energy consumption by 7X. Without counterweights, the motors have to do a lot more work. But maybe Multi can recover some of the energy via regeneration.
There are automated parking garages that can move cars sideways. Those go back to the 1960s, and tend to be high-maintenance.
The Multi system looks really complicated mechanically. All those moving parts. Worse, they’re on vertical surfaces in the shafts, where maintenance will be difficult. With regular elevators, the high-maintenance items are in the machine room. This will probably go into some prestige tower, but not be replicated much.
- DNA Test company comparison chart
and aftermarket genetic information services.
- Steve Sailor on Amish genetic selection.
- Elon Musk considers a fleet wide hack to be one of the biggest risks for autonomous vehicles:
(H/t michaelmcmillan.) There are of order 10 million drivers on the road at any given time, and of order 30 thousand people killed each year in traffic accidents. That means that even if self-driving cars eliminate traffic deaths for a decade, the gains in lives saved could be completely negated by a lunatic or terrorist who was able to compromise ~3% of cars in a surprise attack.
- First interstellar object seen in solar system.
Links for December 2017
Bookmark the permalink.