- The hyoid bone is unique in the human skeleton for being free-floating; it does not share a joint with any other bones, and is only distantly connected to the skull through the Stylohyoid ligament. It is mostly held in place by muscle and cartilage, and helps control the tongue and larynx. Unlike a human’s clavicle, a cat’s clavicle is similarly free-floating, allowing a cat’s shoulders to squeeze through openings as narrow as their skull.
…was the first of a series of missions to Mars that included rovers, and was the first successful lander since the two Vikings landed on the red planet in 1976…In addition to scientific objectives, the Mars Pathfinder mission was also a “proof-of-concept” for various technologies, such as airbag-mediated touchdown and automated obstacle avoidance, both later exploited by the Mars Exploration Rover mission. The Mars Pathfinder was also remarkable for its extremely low cost relative to other robotic space missions to Mars.
Here’s Cindy Healy talking about UNIX administration for Pathfinder.
(H/t Dan Fincke.)
- Good write-up about the boys rescued from the cave in Thailand.
18-year-old Ewin Tang has proved that the Kerenidis and Prakash recommendation algorithm does not provide an example of an exponential speed up in quantum machine learning. Here’s his advisor Scott Aaronson on the implications:
Prior to Ewin’s result, the KP algorithm was arguably the strongest candidate there was for an exponential quantum speedup for a real-world machine learning problem. The new result thus, I think, significantly changes the landscape for quantum machine learning; note that whether KP gives a real exponential speedup was one of the main open problems mentioned in John Preskill’s survey on the applications of near-term quantum computers
More Fuel For The QML Skeptic Game.
Links for June 2018
- Gates on refrigeration using intermittent power for rural vaccine delivery.
- Multiple camera views of Tomahawk Missile test, including from F-18 chase plane.
- Suggested thesis topics to maximize impact on the world for grad students. (After you select a academic subject, just click all the “areas of interest” to see the complete list of suggested thesis topics in that subject.)
From the steadfast Andrew Critch:
My non-profit, the Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative, is aiming to distribute around $750k in grants to individuals or small groups for projects to reduce x-risk, in annualized amounts up to $300k: http://existence.org/project-grants-1/
…Thanks to Jaan Tallinn for his incredible moral support, and funding for the program!
- Ground is about to be broken on the factory for constructing spaceships that will deliver human beings to Mars.
- Self-driving cars are probably worth $0.5T to $5T per year. Each day the tech is delayed costs more than a $1B.
- It’s a sorta-misconception that US corporations must strictly maximize profits (or, more generally, shareholder value). As long as the corporate leaders aren’t stealing for their own benefit, the courts generally give wide latitude to their strategies and goals, including very tenuous argument about improving communities and generating goodwill. However, the details are complicated; there have been at least a couple cases where leaders explicitly endorsed leaving huge rewards on the table in order to pursue goals that had no benefit to shareholders whatsoever, and they were successfully sued. The most recent and relevant one in 2010 pitted Craigslist founder Craig Newmark against his investor eBay. In response, some state (including the all-important Delaware) have recently created the category of benefit corporations which are for-profit (normal taxes, etc.),
Links for April-May 2018
Public service announcement: Feedback from my readers is eagerly sought. Let me know in the comments or by email what you do and don’t find interesting, and maybe a bit of background about yourself. (EDIT: 0.3% response rate? Get it together!)
Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…
- “Complete lifecycle of HIV in 3D”. This really drives home how insane the world is going to be once intelligent agents are accurately designing machines on the molecular scale.
Chris Shroeder on China’s Belt & Road Initiative:
It’s the largest global engagement strategy since the Marshall Plan — only…like 40 X as large in real dollars.
Here’s a slightly hokey 6-minute introduction from Vox (“7 out of the 10 biggest construction firms in the world are now Chinese”):
(H/t Malcom Ocean.)
Relatedly, here’s diplomat Kishore Mahbubani on the potential for conflicts between the US and China (45 minute of lecture and 45 minutes of questions):Interestingly, I’ve found when increasing video playback speed that YouTube on Chrome has fewer skips and clips that impede intelligibility than VLC does playing back the file (at the same speed). Does anyone know why? Or can anyone recommend an alternative to VLC (or a new VLC plugin)?a
(H/t Julia Peng.) Some of the important/interesting claims: (1) The Chinese people are largely accepting of authoritarianism and generally believe that their long history makes democracy less suitable there. (2) The Chinese economic rise has been meteoric, demonstrating that economic liberalism can be pretty cleanly separated from political liberalism. (3) The US ought to submit to more multi-lateralism and international rule-of-law now in order to establish norms that will constrain China later.
Links for February-March 2018
Extrapolating my current trajectory, I will combine more and more links posts into larger and larger multi-month collections until eventually I release one giant list for all time and shutdown the blog.Just kidding. I will get back to actual, non-link blogging before too long…a
- FHI report on China’a AI ambitions, based on recent translations of their policy whitepapers.
- Relatedly: 80k on China and Ben Todd specifically on why not to translate EA writing into Chinese.
- If someone’s veins are too diseased to reliably deliver intravenous fluid, an alternative is intraosseous infusion.
- New Waymo self-driving video:
- The $100M US Drone base outside Agadez, Niger.
- I support the use of FaKe LaTeX. (H/t Daniel Filan.) What’s amazing about this is that Microsoft Word could obtain most of the beauty of LaTeX if only they set some good defaults!
- Hawking obituary by Penrose. Commentators seem to agree this one gives the best summary of Hawking’s technical contributions.
- Larry Page’s Flying Taxis.
Can’t get enough Robin Hanson:
We socially unskilled people tend to prefer things to be out in the open and clear, where we can read them and understand them and react, at least at some very basic level. That’s who I am. I am a nerdy person. So personally, I prefer things to be more out in the open where I can have some idea what the heck’s going on, and I will notice them.
But I think that has given me some advantage in being a social scientist, in that when you’re really socially skilled and you move about in the social world, you just intuitively do all the right things, and you don’t think explicitly about it.
Links for January 2018
- Bryan Caplan reviews Hanson and Simler, and in several cases makes critiques similar to mine.
- Viruses face strong adaptive pressure to have small genomes and, as a consequence, their external structure is made of a small number of repeating proteins. This is why they often have a high degree of geometric symmetry.
Virus genomes also make use of overlapping genes to wring out more efficiency.
Daniel Bernstein is the author of qmail. Bernstein created qmail because he was fed us with all of the security vulnerabilities in sendmail. Ten years after the launch of qmail 1.0, and at a time when more than a million of the Internet’s SMTP servers ran either qmail or netqmail, only four known bugs had been found in the qmail 1.0 releases, and no security issues. This paper lays out the principles which made this possible
- Luke Muehlhauser excerpts Daniel Ellsberg.
One of the concepts pursued for ICBM defense:
Project Excalibur was a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) research program to develop [a space-based] x-ray laser as a ballistic missile defense (BMD). The concept involved packing large numbers of expendable x-ray lasers around a nuclear device [on an orbiting satellite]. When the device detonated, the x-rays released by the bomb would be focused by the lasers, each of which would be aimed at a target missile. In space, the lack of atmosphere to block the x-rays allowed for attacks over thousands of kilometers.
- Jeff Kaufman reports on the excellent news that Charity Navigator is beginning the slow push to accounting for effectiveness! GiveWell deserves tremendous credit for instigating this long ago.
- Useful, basic arguments for and against whether cryptocurrencies (and tokens) are good for anything.
Links for December 2017
- 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.
Links for November 2017
- For several months, Fermat’s Library has offered a Chrome extension called Librarian for browsing PDFs on the arXiv that automatically parses references to clickable journal links and bibtex entries. Very recently they added the ability to publicly comment, visible to anyone else running Librarian. Should be lower friction than commenting on (also excellent) SciRate.
Just heard about this story showing that the AZ governor means business:
Three weeks into his new job as Arizona’s governor, Doug Ducey made a move that won over Silicon Valley and paved the way for his state to become a driverless car utopia.
It was January 2015 and the Phoenix area was about to host the Super Bowl. Mr. Ducey learned that a local regulator was planning a sting on Lyft and Uber drivers to shut down the ride-hailing services for operating illegally. Mr. Ducey, a Republican who was the former chief executive of the ice cream chain Cold Stone Creamery, was furious.
“It was the exact opposite message we should have been sending,” Mr. Ducey said in an interview. “We needed our message to Uber, Lyft and other entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley to be that Arizona was open to new ideas.” If the state had a slogan, he added, it would include the words “open for business.”
Mr. Ducey fired the regulator who hatched the idea of going after ride-hailing drivers and shut down the entire agency, the Department of Weights and Measures. By April 2015, Arizona had legalized ride-sharing.
- The last time a US Air Force bomber downed an enemy plane using its tail gun was 1972, but B-52s — which have been in service for a baffling 65 years — still carried (highly modernized) tail guns up until 1991 when a US air-to-surface missile mistakenly locked on to the tail gun’s radar and nearly destroyed the plane.
Links for October 2017
- 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.
The observational data that a planet nine would explain:
“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.