Links for Feb 2021

by ike5 min read1st Mar 2021No comments


AIRationalityWorld Optimization
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Note: some of the formatting was lost, see substack for full experience

Favorites: I’ve finally gotten a third article in my collection of classic Gen Z journalism. For reference, here are the first two articles in my collection: and Every sentence in all of these articles is quotable so just read them all.

This is the first time I’ve been personally scared of AI now that it’s coming after my own grift: trollish thought experiments (click through to see all 10)

Tomer Ullman @TomerUllman

I had an AI (GPT3) generate 10 "thought experiments" (based on classic ones as input), and asked @WhiteBoardG to sketch them.

February 22nd 2021

1,344 Retweets4,275 Likes “researchers achieve two-way communication with lucidly dreaming people” If this checks out, it could be one of the biggest science stories of the year.


Dr Adam Rutherford @AdamRutherford

Well this is simply the most astonishing discovery that I can recall. A bacteria that photosynthesises from INFRARED LIGHT FROM A DEEP SEA HYDROTHERMAL VENT.…

February 27th 2021

993 Retweets3,459 Likes


A note on the physics section: I don’t read all the links claiming a revolutionary breakthrough. I’m posting them because I think it’s interesting that there seems to be a few dozen revolutionary breakthroughs in physics each month, plus eventually when we figure out which one of them was actually a breakthrough I’ll be able to point back at it and look prescient. I’ve put the links I actually find interesting in the beginning of the section.

Physics: Robin Hanson is out with a paper on “Grabby Aliens” - aliens that expand very quickly and take over whatever they can reach. Many of these ideas turned out to have been explored previously by S. Jay Olson. See “Physicists have new ideas about why the energy of empty space is so much weaker than it is predicted to be” “Aliens could be sucking energy from black holes. That may be how we'll find them.” “Microsoft’s Big Win in Quantum Computing Was an ‘Error’ After All
In a 2018 paper, researchers said they found evidence of an elusive theorized particle. A closer look now suggests otherwise.” “Now, gravitational wave physicists like Kalogera say they are entering a new era of black hole astronomy, driven by a rapid increase in the number of black holes they are observing.” Physicists Discover Important and Unexpected Electronic Property of Graphene – Could Power Next-Generation Computers “Artificial “Magnetic Texture” Induced in Graphene – May Lead to Powerful Quantum Computers” 
As far as I can tell, this is an entirely different discovery as the previous link. January was just “graphene discovery enabling better computers” month, I guess. “Neutrinos Have a Newly Discovered Method of Interacting With Matter, Opening up Ways to Find Them” “Scientists Achieve 'Transformational' Breakthrough in Scaling Quantum Computers
Scientists have developed a new kind of cryogenic computer chip capable of functioning at temperatures so cold, it approaches the theoretical limit of absolute zero.” “Some Proteins Change Their Folds to Perform Different Jobs” “Searching for Dark Matter Through the Fifth Dimension – New Theoretical Physics Discovery to Help Unravel the Mysteries of Dark Matter” “The tech pioneer has found a way to combine a new program execution environment, Qiskit, with a balance of “classical” and quantum computing to deliver a 100 times speedup for tasks that depend on iterative circuit execution. Computations that take months now will take mere hours, IBM said.” “Mysterious Element 'Einsteinium' Measured by Scientists For The First Time” “Recent results from a pulsar timing array, which uses dead stars to hunt for gravitational waves, has scientists speculating about cosmic strings and primordial black holes” “Yuanming Wang, a doctoral candidate in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney, has developed an ingenious method to help track down the missing matter. She has applied her technique to pinpoint a hitherto undetected stream of cold gas in the Milky Way about 10 light years from Earth. The cloud is about a trillion kilometers long and 10 billion kilometers wide but only weighing about the mass of our Moon.” “This paper reports the design and test results of a single-flux-quantum (SFQ) bit-serial adder, which we designed with a target-clock frequency of 100 GHz, to investigate several techniques for producing ultra-high-speed computations using SFQ circuits.”


Ricard Solé @ricard_sole

Why is life complex? Can physics help understanding the origins and early avolution of life? Using statistical physics, it is possible to conjecture the phase transition from the pre- to the Darwinian world (LUCA & beyond) @NigelGoldenfeld @Sara_Imari…

February 7th 2021

104 Retweets366 Likes

Leo C. Stein 🦁 @duetosymmetry

This paper, an Editors' Suggestion in @PhysRevD, sounds very intriguing. Looking forward to reading it!… [Open access, no paywall]

February 10th 2021

11 Retweets81 Likes “The method described in the paper provides more than a tenfold improvement over existing capabilities to directly observe exoplanets, Wagner said. Most studies on exoplanet imaging have looked in infrared wavelengths of less than 10 microns, stopping just short of the range of wavelengths where such planets shine the brightest, Wagner said.” “Twenty years ago, physicists set out to investigate a mysterious asymmetry in the proton’s interior. Their results, published today, show how antimatter helps stabilize every atom’s core.”

General: “Arguments and violent clashes are not uncommon. In November 2008 the internet was flooded with videos of a fistfight between Armenian and Greek monks in one such dispute. A small section of the roof of the church is disputed between the Copts and Ethiopians. At least one Coptic monk at any given time sits there on a chair placed on a particular spot to express this claim. On a hot summer day he moved his chair some 20cm more into the shade. This was interpreted as a hostile act and violation of status quo. Eleven were hospitalized after a fight resulting from this provocation.”
”Some time in the first half of the 18th century, someone placed a ladder up against the wall of the church. No one is sure who he was, or more importantly, to which sect he belonged. The ladder remains there to this date. No one dares touch it, lest they disturb the status quo, and provoke the wrath of others.” “A new review of the scientific literature confirms that anthropogenic noise is becoming unbearable for undersea life.” “The BitMEX cofounder created a cryptocurrency exchange that has traded trillions. Now he’s wanted by U.S. authorities, and insiders wonder whether he and his partners are villains—or victims of a two-tiered justice system that favors big banks over brash outsiders.” “US toddler to release debut album recorded in the womb
Luca Yupanqui was recorded by her parents using ‘biosonic MIDI technology’” One fun thing about modern crypto exploits is that they usually involve windfalls to unrelated parties, like miners or liquidity providers. I would not be surprised if a major physics discovery in the 21st century is made by speedrunners. Penis's-a-love-story “Suppose there are two types of people perceived as being potential partners - the parameter θ measures how much they care about you. One is genuinely romantically interested (θ=2) while the other is simply being friendly (θ=1). Unfortunately, it is difficult to differentiate between the two in practice, because we cannot simply find out people’s true parameter values.” “An army of parasitic wasps has been deployed to battle moths inside a British stately home” huh, I think I know this song, and it doesn’t end well “The gravity from Jupiter pulled the comet into the solar system. At that point, according to Amir Siraj, a Harvard student who co-authored the paper with Professor Avi Loeb, "Jupiter acts as a kind of pinball machine."
The theory goes: Jupiter's gravity shot this incoming comet into an orbit that brought it very close to the sun, whose tidal forces caused the comet to break apart. Some of the comet's fragments entered Earth's orbit, and one slammed into the coast of Mexico.” Vitalik talks about making money betting on the 2020 US election. Nvidia is producing a separate line of GPUs for mining, and they’re limiting the hash rate of their main line of GPUs so it’s only useful for gamers, not miners. Interesting solution, although they should really scale up supply until they no longer have an issue with miners buying up too many GPUs and creating shortages for gamers. How come they never seem to accidentally give people more freedom? Boo French

Health: Derek Lowe explains why it’s so difficult to manufacture the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines at scale. Does RNA contain some of our memories? “Sequencing your DNA with a USB dongle and open source code” turns out you can order random supplies off the Internet and make your own vaccine. Good for them. “Scientists are developing a skin cancer treatment applied by injecting nanoparticles directly inside tumors. This method could potentially kill cancer cells via a two-pronged approach and hopefully help countless skin cancer patients avoid surgery.” “Ageing can be cured—and, in part, it soon will be” Article on the lab leak hypothesis “I was invited for a covid vaccine because the NHS thought I was 6cm tall” oops

Economics/Psychology: Nathan Robinson reviews a book advocating M4A A deep dive on various explanations for wage/productivity stagnation.

Good thread on a paper pushing back on the wisdom of cost-sharing in health care:

Amitabh Chandra @amitabhchandra2

Thinking of patients as 'rational' has lead to policies like cost-sharing and consumerism in health care. But when faced with small amounts of cost-sharing-- even $10-- patients back on valuable medicines, some drop all their medicines, and many die. 

The Health Costs of Cost-SharingFounded in 1920, the NBER is a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to conducting economic research and to disseminating research findings among academics, public policy makers, and business

February 8th 2021

199 Retweets465 Likes


AI: “But a key adversarial metric is: How many attempts does a person who is probing the model have to make before it spits out deeply offensive verbiage?” he says. “In all of my experiments, it was on the order of two or three.” [For GPT-3] “AI maths whiz creates tough new problems for humans to solve
Algorithm named after mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan suggests interesting formulae, some of which are difficult to prove true.” Google has open sourced a transformer with 1.6 trillion parameters, although the weights haven’t been released. “GPT-3’s emergence as a state-of-the-art natural language processing algorithm has drawn headlines suggesting that lawyers are soon to be replaced. As a lawyer who spent the last year studying machine learning, I decided to put GPT-3 to the test as a legal summarizer to evaluate that claim. In this experiment, I input three excerpts of legal texts into GPT-3 to summarize: LinkedIn’s Privacy Policy, an Independent Contractor Non-Disclosure Provision, and the hotly debated 47 U.S. Code § 230 (“Section 230”).” Deep learning solves Rubik’s cube

Math: “Is sqrt(2) a normal number?”


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