Suggestions needed: good articles for a meetup discussion

by AShepard1 min read14th Apr 20126 comments

8

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The Chicago LW meetup group is looking to add a bit more structure to our discussions, which have been rather freeform to this point. What are some good articles that we could read in advance and then discuss at the meetup?

Some criteria that I think a good article would have:

  • LW-related topic 
  • Relatively brief, so we will actually read it beforehand (a typical sequence post is probably a good target length)
  • Able to support/spark enough good discussion to be a centerpiece of a meetup
  • Others?
We haven't really done this before, so any suggestions or advice based on experiences at other meetups would be especially helpful (both specific articles that have worked well before, as well as best practices for having the best discussions).

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Not exactly articles, but the DC meetup had good success with a TED-talk based meetup.

The group watched talks about meritocracy and failure, death, existential risk, and how people's lives should be more awesome, and how advertising changes actual value. Each talk was spaced out by discussion.

I recommend articles by Scott Alexander (aka Yvain). Some of my favorites of his:

Dead children as unit of currency

Re the Lockerbie bomber

Really, just read everything from his blog, it's all amazing.

[-][anonymous]9y 1

In vancouver, we've been doing discussions of How to Win Friends and Influence People. One chapter a week. About half of us come in having read the stuff, but overall we get good discussions, and the people who havn't read stuff are able to pick up on the material and participate.

Also did Map and Territory sequence last time. Worked well. Doing Mysterious Answers tomorrow, it's a bit longer, we'll see how it goes.

It seems like you only really need one person to have really read and understood everything, as long as other people have seen enough to actually discuss the topic and pick up on the gaps.

It really helps for someone to summarize the main points of the article/sequence before the discussion. Like just write down a list of major points and give a short blurb on them, then discussion organically continues from there.

I think LessWrongers would like Victor Weisskopf's series of articles called "The Search for Simplicity", published in the American Journal of Physics in 1985 and 1986. They are The Simple Math of Everything applied to physics (specifically condensed matter).

They're accessible, using only simple algebraic calculations. Their goal is to connect different phenomena with just a few simple experiments and the right way of thinking about it. For example, the first article discusses how measuring the surface tension and energy to boil a liquid gives us a good estimate of the size of atoms.

A later article uses very similar ideas about the energy in atomic bonds to explain the connection between the height of the tallest mountains, the size of drops of water on a ceiling, and the wind speed needed to make ocean waves.

You can find them here, but they're unfortunately behind a pay wall, so you'll need somebody at university library to get them.

I second this request!

Everybody watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YPI6XDGPHg

Then you discuss what's more probable. That was a real case od AAAA against FR, or it's much more likely that this was doctored somehow.

Especially also in the light of a present celebrity, an actor.