aphar: (lambda)
Looks like I am not alone in being unhappy with the DSM approach:

2013: NIMH director says the DSM lacks biological validity in its diagnoses:
Patients with mental disorders deserve better. NIMH has launched the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project to transform diagnosis by incorporating genetics, imaging, cognitive science, and other levels of information to lay the foundation for a new classification system.

2017: Insel brought to NIMH a commitment to finding neurochemical and other quantifiable markers for psychiatric disorders rather than relying on behavior and self-reported feelings:
I spent 13 years at NIMH really pushing on the neuroscience and genetics of mental disorders, and when I look back on that I realize that while I think I succeeded at getting lots of really cool papers published by cool scientists at fairly large costs—I think $20 billion—I don’t think we moved the needle in reducing suicide, reducing hospitalizations, improving recovery for the tens of millions of people who have mental illness. I hold myself accountable for that.

Any volunteers to repeat the Rosenhan experiment? (Note that modern drugs are probably much more powerful than those used 40 years ago, so the experiment is much more dangerous!)
aphar: (Default)
Everyone knows that in the winter tongue sticks to cold iron.
However, this only happens to stupid kids.

У умных детей язык к холодному железу не прилипает.
aphar: (nil)

...findings confirm that conservatives, liberals, the religious and the nonreligious are each prejudiced against those with opposing views... surprisingly, each group is about equally prejudiced...
In the study, bias on both ends was largely driven by seeing the opposing groups as limiting one’s personal freedom.
...controlled for participants’ demographics and traditionalism (smart people were more supportive of “newer lifestyles” and less supportive of “traditional family ties”), intelligence didn’t correlate with overall levels of prejudice...
Knowing all this, can we change tolerance levels? You might think that the mind-expanding enterprise of education would reduce prejudice. But according to another presentation at the SPSP meeting, it does not. It does, however, teach people to cover it up. Maxine Najle, a researcher at the University of Kentucky, asked people if they would consider voting for a presidential candidate who was atheist, black, Catholic, gay, Muslim or a woman. When asked directly, participants with an education beyond high school reported a greater willingness to vote for these groups than did less-educated participants. But when asked in a more indirect way, with more anonymity, the two groups showed equal prejudice... higher education seems to instill an understanding of the appropriate levels of intolerance to express, not necessarily higher tolerance.
One of the most consistent ways to increase tolerance is contact with the other side and sharing the experience of working toward a goal.
aphar: (nil)
Ailurophobia and ailurophilia.
Almost recovered from a bout of cat allergy (spent the last Shabbos in a house with a lovely orange cat).

Cats are cute and cuddly, but scientists suspect a correlation between cat ownership in childhood and later development of schizophrenia, so think twice before getting such a risky pet.
aphar: (lambda)
The Right of Self-Defense is the most ancient right - far older than, e.g., the concept of property - and observed in the animal kingdom as well.
The only limitation generally recognized is relatively recent: the requirement that the defensive force is reasonable, i.e., commensurate with the threat (e.g., Torah prohibits killing a burglar if he poses no physical danger).

Nevertheless, Huffington post lent its pages to a preposterous claim (note that the author confused deprived with devoid):

The main problem with the notion of self-defense is it imposes on justice, for everyone has the right for a fair trial. Therefore, using a firearm to defend oneself is not legal because if the attacker is killed, he or she is devoid of his or her rights.

The detailed rebuttal is a fun read, I will only quote the conclusion:

This is balls-out/tin-foil hat insanity. The only thing thought provoking about his argument is; why isn’t he in an institution where he can get the help he needs?

All I have to add on the matter is that at the "moment of conflict", i.e., at the time of the attack, the perpetrator and the victim are in the State of nature, so the State monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force does not apply and the attacker has no rights whatsoever (including, but not limited to, the right to fair trial).


Apr. 25th, 2017 04:12 pm
aphar: (lambda)
My problem with psychiatry is the combination of the following two observations:

While I agree that psychiatry is useful, and is usually used in the interests of the patients, I think a more cautious approach to the use of psychotropic drugs is a good idea.
Specifically, using psychotropic drugs usually means that the patient has to keep taking them for life (no exit strategy).

In some cases a more cautious - clinical - approach [1] might be better (cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and other talking treatments).
Alas, it is being aggressively disputed [2] touting recent research (which makes fascinating claims like PTSD has been shown to be highly heritable despite being definitionally linked to specific experiences).

[1] vs [2] might be the usual turf struggle for funding, but I would hate to see people being medicated for life when it is possible to instead "talk them out of being ill".

PS. See also an old entry.
aphar: (lambda)
Someone posted on FB on the effect of carbon dioxide from carbonated beverages on global warming.

My response was (in two comments):

> This is a closed cycle - the CO2 in carbonated water comes from the air, so fizzy drinks industry has no effect on the atmospheric concentration of CO2.
> If you stop buying fizzy drinks, the CO2 that would have been released in the atmosphere from it would not be magically sequestered. The fizzy drinks industry will adjust and produce less, and, correspondingly, take less CO2 from the atmosphere. Thus the carbon impact of your decision to drink or not to drink will be nil. If, OTOH, you will stop driving, the oil industry will pump less oil and it will remain underground. IOW, you decision to drive or not (ceteris paribus, of course), does have an impact.

This seems to me
1. obviously true and
2. clearly explained

Is it?
aphar: (lambda)
To get the trivial issues out of the way, let me state with utmost clarity that all the problems that humanity have ever solved were solved by science and technology - from staving off the Malthusian starvation with the Green revolution, to avoiding NYC being buried by horse manure. Thus I believe we should fund STEM research - DARPA, ARPA-e, NASA and national labs - at 101% of what scientists request (and 70+% of my compatriots agree with me!).

However, given the real and perceived "war on science" by the Trump administration, we need to understand what is really going on, and how to advance our progress.

The dominant explanation of the "war on science" is Knowledge Deficit: people don't know enough. This explanation is, apparently, wrong, because there is a (weak) positive correlation between science knowledge and skepticism of recommendations of climate scientists (IOW, more knowledgeable people - as determined by a quiz - are more skeptical).

Let me try to advance an alternative view of the apparent conflict.

There are two parts to what the scientists say:

We ("the literate public") certainly trust the scientists' area of expertise - the Positive statements.
However, there is no reason to trust their Normative statements any more than that of an average intelligent person.

The poster child of this attitude is the aforementioned "manure crisis": we did not need to do what the scientists recommended to solve it, it was solved by the automotive revolution.

Similarly, there is absolutely no need for wedges, treaties &c &c.

If it ever will be stopped, the climate change will be stopped by introducing new technology, so what we need is a stiff carbon tax without grandfather clauses which will make alternative energy more economically attractive (and maybe give extra money to STEM R&D).
aphar: (Default)
What is the difference between a religious denomination and a political party?

Both start from a certain ideology (political or religious) - a world view which defines "Right" and "Wrong", and then proceed to delineate an appropriate behavior.

One might think that religions are grandfathered - they existed before the democratic process while parties came about to represent different factions. However, a cursory glance at history finds political parties long before democracy became mainstream. Of course, political parties were often defined in religious terms (e.g., Catholics vs Protestants).

Another possibility is "permanence" - one might think that a person is more committed to a religion than to a political ideology. Nope - "Paris is well worth a Mass" is just one example.

Yet another potential difference is "secularity" - political parties are supposed to be founded on a rational secular ideology. This has to be discarded on both sides - there are plenty of openly religious parties (both in word and deed) and "secular" parties which have all the accoutrements of a religion (CPSU had holy scriptures, infallible prophets, sacred rituals &c).

We could say that political parties are directed outside (towards affecting the society) while religions insider (changing the individual). However, this seems to be a cosmetic difference (fundamentalist Christians are opposed to abortion rights and "tax-and-spend" liberals give less to charities).

Some ideologies claim a basis in science (e.g., scientology and marxism). However, in practice, all of them reject contradicting evidence (cf. Confirmation bias).

So, what is the difference between a religious denomination and a political party?
aphar: (Default)
Multi-person game theory introduces a concept of Shapley value which quantifies that contribution of each person having several votes to the outcome of an election.
It is equal to the probability that the election will be decided by this person.

  1. everyone of the n voters has the same number of votes. then everyone has the same Shapley value (1/n)

  2. two persons, one has 2 votes, the other has 1. Shapley value for the first is 1, for the second is 0

  3. three persons, one has 1.9999 votes, the others have 1 each. Shapley value is 1/3 for each of them

In the United States presidential election, each state elects several electors, whose number equals to the sum of senators (2) and representatives (1+). This means that smaller states have more electors per capita. However, their Shapley value per capita is smaller than that of the larger states (this a non-obvious result of a computer simulation). This means that larger states have a larger impact on the outcome of an election.

Is this democratic? It depends, of course, on the definition of "democracy"; US, like most other countries are not direct democracies but rather republics.

Does it make sense to use the electoral college these days? It depends, of course, what you want to accomplish.
However, one should bear in mind that the sports tournament is won by the team that won the most games, not the one whose total score is the highest.
Another point to contemplate is that deciding the presidential election by popular vote only will completely disenfranchise the rural areas.
aphar: (Default)
Intellectual growth occurs when a paradigm shift is forced by a cognitive dissonance.
This is not necessarily a pleasant experience, but a necessary one.
The notion of a "Microaggression" and the defense from it provided by "Safe Areas" shields those who hide behind them from unpleasant truths, thus stunting intellectual development.

This is akin to children raised in antiseptic environments growing up allergic to many common substances.
aphar: (Default)
The Gresham's law has two non-monetary examples:
  1. Anti-Jewish bias at the best Soviet universities admissions led to filtering out the best non-Jewish students too (according to Gelfand)

  2. Soviet purges hit the better people more (e.g., Shtern vs. Zhukov and Korolev vs. Kostikov)

aphar: (Default)
Good morning children!
My name is Bill Gates, and I am your new math teacher.
Today we are counting to 10:
1, 2, 3, 95, 98, NT, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10.
aphar: (Default)
A human cell contains ~10^14 atoms; a human body contains ~ 10^14 (human) cells (plus ~10^15 symbiotic bacteria in the intestines).
Earth is ~2*10^8 larger (linearly) than an apple; an apple is ~2*10^8 larger than an atom.
Diameter of an atom is ~10^4 diameter of its nucleus; distance from the Sun to the Kuiper cliff is ~10^4 Sun's radius.


Now, if you think about it, you can produce an inexhaustible stream of such "wow" facts.
E.g., take the total human population: ~7 billion. Take the smallest country: Pitcairn islands with 56 people. The geometric average is ~600k people. So, the world is 10,000 times as big as Montenegro, which is 10,000 as populous as Pitcairn islands. Wow!
aphar: (Default)
Диалог с преподавателем истории КПСС:
- Иван Иванович, а почему Маркса конспектировать проще, чем Ленина?
- Голубчик, но ведь Маркса переводили...

То ли в гебне идиоты, то ли время уже было вегетарианское...
aphar: (Default)
30+k people die on the American roads every year.
Most accidents happen when one of more cars change lanes.
Why do they change lanes? To pass each other!
10 years ago I was in Italy (famous for its crazy drivers but having 30% smaller traffic deaths than the US) and I was stunned by the stress-free "autostrada" driving. There are just two lanes, both quite busy. The right lane has speed 90km/h (~55 mph), the left lane - 120 km/h (~75 mph). When there are 3 lanes, the speeds are, I think, 90/110/130. Speed limit is, I think, 90 km/h. No jerk tries to drive slowly in the left lane slower than "accepted". The impression is that slowing down traffic by driving in the "wrong lane" is punished by death.
How about we try the same thing?
Instead of going crazy about speed, make sure that people respect each other.
Punish severely driving in the wrong lane, defined as being passed on the right!
aphar: (Default)
Moderate Drinking and Partying increases the number of possible outcomes (e.g., the set of places where you will find yourself in the morning) and evens out their probabilities, thus increasing the entropy.
However, excess drinking collapses the space of possible outcomes to the trivial one (you will find yourself in the local morgue) thus reducing the entropy to zero.
Therefore there must be the optimal amount of drinking which maximizes the entropy, i.e., makes your life most interesting.

Now, how would we go about establishing that optimal amount for each circumstance?
aphar: (Default)
Israel is trying to curry favor with the West by minimizing the Arab casualties.
This is a total waste: no matter what the Jews do, they will be the guilty party. The world does not care whether 10 or 100 or 1,000 Arabs are killed - it is still "a massacre".
Ergo: Israel should stop the warnings and increase the use firepower, saving its soldiers.
aphar: (Default)
Imagine you buy a car.
It is a brand new car with shining reviews.
You walk up to it and try to get in - but you cannot find a door!
The salesperson tells you that this is such an advanced car that it does not have a door because you do not need it - you teleport inside.
So, you press a button and - you teleport inside! And when you are done, you teleport outside.
You are excited and delighted and you use the car.
And then the car gets dirty - you know, crumbs and trash &c - and you want to vacuum it.
So you bring out your vacuum cleaner and ... THERE IS NO DOOR.
You can teleport inside, but not when the vacuum is plugged in.
So, there is no way to clean up the car - it remains dirty and you hate it.

When I connected my Motorolla Droid phone to a computer via USB, it behaved like a USB flash drive - any OS would connect to it and I can transfer the files to and from it as I see fit.
Now, Samsung phone are not like that. You have to download a special application (which, of course, exists only for THIS and THAT OS, but not for THOSE OSes) which has about 10% of functionality a normal file browser has.

Whoever designed this, I wish that you can never open any door yourself. You should always have to call Samsung tech support and have a technician visit you on-site and open the door for you.
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