aphar: (Default)
2017-07-14 12:46 pm

talmud and life

Shabbos discusses כירה (stove) and תנור‎ (oven).
Turns out the latter is actually still in use.
What about the former?
aphar: (Default)
2017-07-13 03:33 pm


It will happen today.
In the evening.
Specifically, 2017-07-13 22:40:00.
Unix timestamp 1500000000.
aphar: (nil)
2017-06-20 11:24 am

Welfare reform proposal

The biggest fiscal danger the US is facing is the skyrocketing cost of health care and welfare.

Health Care:

  • Replace medicaid and medicare with a single payer system, available to all legal residents.

  • Commercial entities can provide secondary insurance.

  • Only palliative methods are paid for when the remaining life expectancy is low (most medicare costs are incurred during the last year of life, when the invasive methods no longer extend the life of the patient anyway).


  • UBI is given to all adult (21+yo) citizens(green card is not enough).

  • All other programs (SSI, food stamps, rent control, public housing) are discontinued. Current recipients who prefer it over UBI, can refuse UBI and stay on their current programs for up to 3 years.

  • UBI is used to pay child support when a parent does not do so on their own

UBI should encourage recipients to seek employment.
It is not supposed to ensure "care-free" existence.
A child is a luxury, not an income source.
aphar: (Default)
2017-06-15 12:08 pm

Culture differences and Marxism

ivanov-petrov posted several scans from memoirs of Russian immigrants in the USA in 1920-ies.
One note that caught my fancy was the recurring complaint that while "things" (food, cars &c) are relatively cheap, "people" (domestic help - cleaning, cooking, driving) are relatively expensive:
Car driver is more expensive than the car itself, so the happy car owner has to wash, oil and service it oneself. Ladies have to do it too. One lady admitted to me that she has two cars but no household help. (translation is mine)
This is actually a direct contradiction to Marx's prediction that "haves" and "have nots" will drift further apart and that the "have nots" will be paid exactly the minimum cost of their food, cloth and shelter.
In fact the virtual disappearance of permanent domestic help (as opposed to, say, a weekly cleaner) indicates a reduction in economic inequality (as computed by, say, Gini coefficient).

PS. The domestic help issue for the immigrants is also related to the reduction of their status from "rich" in Russia to "middle class" in the US.
aphar: (nil)
2017-06-13 01:18 pm

(no subject)

- What do you get when you cross a Kangaroo and an Elephant?
- A letter from the Scientific Ethics Committee and a withdrawal of your grant money.
aphar: (Default)
2017-06-08 05:06 pm

farewell to LJ

Меня, похоже, забанил idelsong.livejournal.com (интересно, почему?)
Пропал последний стимул ходить в жж.
Через несколько месяцев aphar.livejournal.com исчезнет (я не согласился с их новыми правилами после переезда серверов в Россию).
aphar: (nil)
2017-05-19 01:04 pm

IQ still rulez

The Illusory Theory of Multiple Intelligences: basically, when you try to measure something which has to do with cognition, you get either IQ or nothing (either your tests' results will be highly correlated with the standard IQ tests, or they will not measure anything robust).
IOW, intelligence is, essentially, one-dimensional (plus noise).
It makes The Bell Curve still relevant (summary: Part 1, Part 2).
aphar: (lambda)
2017-05-18 02:30 pm

How to Lie with Statistics - revisited

even a smart and rigorous scientist could cart himself to crazyland, just by following the rules of the road:
  • ESP ("precognition") is real
  • Listening to Beatles makes you younger

By following the accepted practice of experimental psychology research one can raise the false positive rate to 60%.
aphar: (nil)
2017-05-17 11:32 am

I have no words - Слов нет

Николай Николаевич Никулин, "Воспоминания о войне":
Однажды я случайно подслушал разговор комиссара и командира стрелкового батальона, находившегося в бою. В этом разговоре выражалась суть происходящего: «Еще денька два повоюем, добьем оставшихся и поедем в тыл на переформировку. Вот тогда-то погуляем!»
(добьем оставшихся - это они про своих подчинённых).
Once I accidentally overheard a conversation between the political officer and the commander of a infantry battalion that was in combat at that moment. The conversation reflected the essence of the proceedings: "We will fight for a couple more days, kill off the remainder, and go to the rear for fresh reinforcements. That's when we will have some fun!"
(kill off the remainder - they are talking about their own subordinates).

1942, Погостье, 311 сд, пропустившая через себя за годы войны 200,000 человек (по словам последнего начальника стройчасти Неретина) (примерно 30 штатных составов).
aphar: (nil)
2017-05-16 04:11 pm

IQ vs SES vs Genes

Genetic and Environmental Influences on Cognition Across Development and Context (DOI: 10.1177/0963721413485087).

The current consensus is that
Genes account for between approximately 50% and 70% of the variation in cognition at the population level.

Moreover, the genes explain more variance for older people (20% for newborns, 70% for 18yo).

However, the explanatory power of genes depends on the SES:
For children in low-SES contexts, the heritability of cognition approaches zero, whereas for children in advantaged contexts, genes account for as much as 80% of individual differences in cognition.
...genetic influences on cognition are maximized by environmental opportunity...
... a poverty intervention changed parenting behaviors indirectly through effects on child behaviors; there was no immediate, direct effect of the intervention on parenting behaviors. In other words, the intervention was unable to directly influence parents to provide higher quality care but was able to change child behaviors to evoke more effective care from their parents...

So, it's not all gloom and doom.
Providing a better environment for low-SES kids may increase their cognitive attainment significantly.
aphar: (lambda)
2017-05-15 11:33 am

Psychiatry: DSM vs. biological reality

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)
2017-05-12 10:48 am

Winter: tongue and iron

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)
2017-05-11 12:18 pm

Why Liberals Aren't as Tolerant as They Think


...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)
2017-05-09 09:56 am

Learned new words.

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)
2017-05-02 09:52 am

The Right of Self-Defense

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).
aphar: (lambda)
2017-04-25 04:12 pm


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)
2017-04-25 01:24 pm

saving FB conversation

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)
2017-04-21 01:38 pm

War on Science

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)
2017-01-30 02:40 pm

Religion or Politics?

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?