Based on feedback, I’ll put a few favorites in the front, and the rest gets categorized as usual. For several, I just copied the title if that seemed like enough of a description.
https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/06/nicholas-kristof-wants-to-save-the-world-with-his-new-york-times-columns-why-are-so-many-of-them-wrong.amp Old article but good. Money quote: Kristof feels lousy when he has to “cut somebody off and say, ‘It’s terrible that you were shot in the leg,’ ” he said. “Meanwhile, I will go off and find someone who was shot in both legs.”
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/no-one-can-explain-why-planes-stay-in-the-air/ This one wins just based on the title: No One Can Explain Why Planes Stay in the Air. I kind of thought we’d have figured that out by now, you know?
https://twitter.com/xkcd/status/1333529967079120896 Turns out Google is really bad at answering questions. Favorite one is “how far from a nuclear bomb is safe? Six feet.”
https://commoncog.com/blog/cash-flow-games/ Come for the cash flow analysis, stay for the epistemology. The podcast mentioned there is also great and worth listening to.
https://twitter.com/avi_eisen/status/1337070949921853441 “Yo dog, I heard you like dogs, so I researched how dogs know other dogs are dogs so you can know a dog while it dogs”
https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-promoting-beautiful-federal-civic-architecture/ “Sec. 2. Policy. (a) Applicable Federal public buildings should uplift and beautify public spaces, inspire the human spirit, ennoble the United States, and command respect from the general public.”
https://berthub.eu/articles/posts/reverse-engineering-source-code-of-the-biontech-pfizer-vaccine/ This was an excellent article explaining how the source code of the pfizer vaccine works. Well written. Follow-up part 2: https://berthub.eu/articles/posts/part-2-reverse-engineering-source-code-of-the-biontech-pfizer-vaccine/. While I’m at it, this 2019 post is also really interesting: https://berthub.eu/articles/posts/what-is-life/
https://www.thedebrief.org/fast-movers-and-transmedium-vehicles-the-pentagons-uap-task-force/ “Along with classified briefings, multiple senior U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the matter say two classified intelligence reports on UAP have been widely distributed to the U.S. Intelligence Community. Numerous sources from various government agencies told The Debrief that these reports include clear photographic evidence of UAP.”
https://www.jpost.com/omg/former-israeli-space-security-chief-says-aliens-exist-humanity-not-ready-651405 “The Jerusalem Post was unable to reach out to this supposed Galactic Federation for comment.”
https://www.wired.com/story/a-rocket-from-1966-has-found-its-way-back-to-earths-orbit/ A rocket sent into space in 1966 reappeared and is now orbiting Earth
https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol11no1/html/v11i1a04p_0001.htm Declassified CIA report about how they kidnapped the Soviet Lunik space vehicle for a night while it was travelling between exhibitions.
https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7798 “NASA's Juno Spacecraft Updates Quarter-Century Jupiter Mystery” I couldn’t quite figure out how to sum up the mystery being solved, and evidently NASA’s headline writer couldn’t either.
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-55154525 “South Africa's lottery probed as 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 drawn and 20 win”
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55164607 “Baby girl born from record-setting 27-year-old embryo”
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/15/liechtenstein-hire-rental-scheme You used to be able to rent a country by the night on AirBnB. Is this the future capitalists want?
https://www.theonion.com/report-majority-of-psychological-experiments-conducted-1845810492/amp “Report: Majority Of Psychological Experiments Conducted In 1970s Just Crimes”
https://devblogs.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20201208-00/?p=104523 “How did Windows open a portal to another dimension when reporting a program error?”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/12/09/nws-data-limits-internet-bandwidth/ The Weather Service is having bandwidth issues and proposed limiting users.
https://www.theringer.com/2020/12/9/22164679/gamblers-podcast-phil-galfond-poker-pot-limit-omaha “Phil Galfond once turned a single $100 deposit into millions on a poker site. But to prove he was the best, he issued a challenge and dug a hole that would require a miracle to overcome.”
https://www.reuters.com/article/legal-us-otc-football/washington-football-team-really-really-wants-to-keep-mystery-settlement-secret-idUSKBN28K34G “Some years ago, the Washington Football Team entered into a settlement agreement with several other parties. Who were they? We don’t know. What was the settlement about? We also don’t know. We don’t even know precisely when the settlement was signed.”
https://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/zodiac-340-cipher-solved-solution-code-15795178.php One of the last Zodiac Killer riddles has been cracked.
https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/mystery-castle “Mystery castle was built by Boyce Luther Gulley over a 15 year period. The mystery in Mystery Castle, is what compelled Gulley to abandon his job, wife, and his one year old daughter and set off to build the castle.”
https://twitter.com/dogtheballer/status/1337776598276247554 Some really dedicated scammer pretended to be a pro basketball player and scammed several people. He bought gear, snuck into the hotels when the team was playing, etc, all in order to maintain the illusion.
https://twitter.com/SteveStuWill/status/1338159244630061058 Picture of the Sun taken through the Earth.
http://m.nautil.us/issue/93/forerunners/what-did-the-past-smell-like Interesting essay on the difficulty of historical olfactory knowledge
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-55016453 “A palm oil alternative could help save rainforests”
https://www.reuters.com/article/germany-bonds/update-1-germany-earned-7-bln-euros-from-new-bonds-this-year-idUKL8N2IV2AM Germany made over $8.5 billion this year by issuing bonds due to negative interest rates.
https://www.insider.com/fake-honey-problems-how-it-works-2020-9 did you know: depending on the estimate, anywhere from a quarter to over half of honey is fake.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/high-frequency-traders-push-closer-to-light-speed-with-cutting-edge-cables-11608028200 “High-Frequency Traders Push Closer to Light Speed With Cutting-Edge Cables: Firms aim to gain nanoseconds of advantage over rivals by using hollow-core fiber to convey data”
https://www.businessinsider.com.au/niue-nu-internet-domain-reclaim-2020-12 A tiny island nation [Niue] just launched a major effort to win back control of its top-level internet domain
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/dec/13/tome-raiders-solving-the-great-book-heist “When £2.5m of rare books were stolen in an audacious heist at Feltham in 2017, police wondered, what’s the story?”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-Woman_Supreme_Court Texas once needed to judge a case involving a fraternity, but almost every lawyer and judge in the state was a member and had to recuse. Solution: appoint an all-woman court, since the fraternity only accepted men. Spoiler: the fraternity won.
https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/12/evil-mobile-emulator-farms-used-to-steal-millions-from-us-and-eu-banks/ “Evil mobile emulator farms” used to steal millions from US and EU banks
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25525457 “What Lived Up to the Hype?”
https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/In-Houston-s-Zoom-court-proceedings-decorum-15825974.php “In Houston’s Zoom court proceedings, decorum often gets muted”
https://gizmodo.com/octopuses-like-to-punch-fish-new-research-suggests-1845929379 “Octopuses Like to Punch Fish, New Research Suggests”
https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2020/12/24/dream-investigation-results-official-report-by-the-minecraft-speedrunning-team/ Statistical analysis of Minecraft cheating
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_am_lonely_will_anyone_speak_to_me “i am lonely will anyone speak to me”
https://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2020/12/25/22199963/tesla-holiday-update-fart-sound-horn-goat-boombox “Tesla’s new Boombox feature will let car owners fart at unsuspecting neighbors”
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-55301200 “The family with no fingerprints”
https://danluu.com/essential-complexity/ Why programming tasks can be sped up significantly more than theory says.
https://ai.facebook.com/blog/rebel-a-general-game-playing-ai-bot-that-excels-at-poker-and-more “ReBeL achieves superhuman performance in heads-up no-limit Texas Hold’em while using far less domain knowledge than any prior poker bot and extends to other imperfect-information games as well, such as Liar’s Dice, for which we’ve open-sourced our implementation”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_M._Parker “He has patented a method to automatically produce a set of similar books from a template which is filled with data from database and Internet searches. He claims that his programs have written more than 200,000 books.”
https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1006531/The%20AI%20Girlfriend%20Seducing%20China’s%20Lonely%20Men/ AI girlfriend seduces almost 10% of the world population, according to the company
https://www.sciencealert.com/could-an-ai-santanet-destroy-the-world “Alternatively, if they decide to work together, they may realise their goals will only be achieved through dramatically reducing the global population or even removing grown-ups altogether.”
https://bair.berkeley.edu/blog/2020/12/20/lmmem/ ”Does GPT-2 Know Your Phone Number?”
https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/fake-polls-are-a-real-problem/ Someone made a fake poll saying that Kid Rock was leading a Senate race in Michigan, and there’s circumstantial evidence this was intended to shift prediction markets, which did in fact move significantly on the news.
https://www.currentaffairs.org/2020/12/the-socialist-ant “What can we, as humans, learn from the most proletarian of all animals? I propose that the beauty of a truly socialist society is to be found in the ways of the ant, when properly understood. But first, in light of the apparently mindless insect horde you may find occupying your driveway, we must confront the leading alternative. Are ants in fact a terrifying representation of authoritarianism? Are ants… fascists?”
https://fakenous.net/?p=2016 A short post explaining why stopping aging is good.
https://twitter.com/RokoMijicUK/status/1334564025137590278 “They are performing operations on people that turn them into p-zombies.”
http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2006/04/software-needs-philosophers.html “Software needs philosophers”
https://phys.org/news/2020-12-scientists-philosopher-team-categorize-minerals.html Turns out philosophy is useful in the natural sciences after all!
https://shkspr.mobi/blog/2020/12/utilizing-quantum-blockchain-for-6th-generation-neural-networks/ “Utilizing Quantum BlockChain for 6th Generation Neural Networks”
https://gilkalai.wordpress.com/2020/12/06/photonic-huge-quantum-advantage/ A team from China claims to have demonstrated quantum supremacy using photons. Gil Kalai is skeptical. Follow the link back to Scott Aaronson’s post and the original paper for lots of discussion and details.
https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/12/physicists-solve-150-year-old-mystery-of-equation-governing-sandcastle-physics/ “Lord Kelvin was a remarkable scientist, making many discoveries but even he would surely be surprised to find that his theory—originally considering millimeter-sized tubes—holds even at the one-atom scale. In fact, in his seminal paper Kelvin commented about exactly this impossibility. So our work has proved him both right and wrong, at the same time." I would love to be proven both right and wrong at the same time in 150 years.
https://phys.org/news/2020-12-accessing-arches-chaos-solar-fast.html “Researchers have discovered a new superhighway network to travel through the Solar System much faster than was previously possible. Such routes can drive comets and asteroids near Jupiter to Neptune's distance in under a decade and to 100 astronomical units in less than a century.”
https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/physicists-prove-anyons-exist-a-third-type-of-particle-in-the-universe New kind of particle. Whatever particles are.
https://scitechdaily.com/breakthrough-in-nuclear-physics-strong-interaction-between-stable-and-unstable-particles/ Breakthrough in Nuclear Physics: Strong Interaction Between Stable and Unstable Particles
https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/physicists-detect-the-spooky-popcorn-of-the-universe Physicists Detect the "Spooky Popcorn of the Universe"
https://www.universetoday.com/149200/black-holes-gain-new-powers-when-they-spin-fast-enough/ “Black Holes Gain New Powers When They Spin Fast Enough”
https://phys.org/news/2020-12-farthest-galaxy-universe.amp The farthest galaxy in the universe
https://twitter.com/8minutesold/status/1339160692440567809?s=20 “The coherent motion of Cen A dwarf satellite galaxies remains a challenge for ΛCDM cosmology” tweet thread explains the paper pretty well
https://scitechdaily.com/ultracold-atoms-reveal-a-surprising-new-type-of-quantum-magnetic-behavior/ “Ultracold Atoms Reveal a Surprising New Type of Quantum Magnetic Behavior”
https://www.quantamagazine.org/astronomers-get-their-wish-and-the-hubble-crisis-gets-worse-20201217/ “We don’t know why the universe appears to be expanding faster than it should. New ultra-precise distance measurements have only intensified the problem.”
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/quantum-mechanics-the-mind-body-problem-and-negative-theology/ “Quantum Mechanics, the Mind-Body Problem and Negative Theology”
https://www.sciencealert.com/physicists-have-created-time-reversed-waves-of-light Physicists Create Time-Reversed Waves of Optical Light in Head-Spinning First
https://news.fnal.gov/2020/12/fermilab-and-partners-achieve-sustained-high-fidelity-quantum-teleportation/ Fermilab and partners achieve sustained, high-fidelity quantum teleportation
https://newatlas.com/physics/modified-gravity-evidence-dark-matter/ Evidence of "modified gravity" in 150 galaxies strengthens dark matter alternative
https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-claude-shannons-information-theory-invented-the-future-20201222 “How Claude Shannon Invented the Future”
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/12/innovative-universal-flu-vaccine-shows-promises-it-first-clinical-test Initial stages of a universal flu vaccine, don’t get too excited yet.
https://theconversation.com/how-a-flu-virus-shut-down-the-us-economy-in-1872-by-infecting-horses-150052 “How a flu virus shut down the US economy in 1872 – by infecting horses”
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02783-7 There’s a tick that makes you allergic to meat, and now we understand more about how that works.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/09/well/move/to-lose-weight-with-exercise-aim-for-300-minutes-a-week.html Study claims that exercising only makes you eat up to 1000 extra calories per week, so if you can exercise for 300 minutes a week you’ll burn an excess 2000 calories or so
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/12/09/944572325/progress-toward-a-safer-psychedelic-drug-to-treat-depression-and-addiction “A chemically tweaked version of the psychedelic drug ibogaine appears to relieve depression and addiction symptoms without producing hallucinations or other dangerous side effects.”
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/11/17/935563377/why-does-pfizers-covid-19-vaccine-need-to-be-kept-colder-than-antarctica This was an interesting explainer, but the analogy takes the cake: “Think of the vaccine as a chocolate bar that melts easily.” We should compare more good things to chocolate bars!
https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.12.10.418962v1 “These improvements drop the turn-around time from days to twelve hours and the cost for whole genome sequencing (WGS) from about $1000 to $15, as well as increase data production by several orders of magnitude.”
https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.12.10.419424v1 Citations are a mess: “At least one inaccurate citation was found in 11% and 15% of articles in the feasibility study and verification set, respectively, suggesting that inaccurate citations are common in biomedical literature. The main findings were similar in both sets. The most common problem was the citation of nonexistent findings (38.4%), followed by an incorrect interpretation of findings (15.4%). One fifth of inaccurate citations were due to “chains of inaccurate citations,” in which inaccurate citations appeared to have been copied from previous papers.”
https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-russia-vaccine-alcoho/dont-mix-sputnik-vaccine-with-alcohol-says-russian-official-some-recoil-idUKKBN28J23B “This really bothers me,” said Elena Kriven, a Moscow resident. “I’m unlikely to not be able to drink for 80 days and I reckon the stress on the body of giving up alcohol, especially during what is a festive period, would be worse than the (side effects of the) vaccine and its alleged benefits,” she said.
https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4601Corporate food and beverage companies such as Coca Cola have engaged in what I will refer to as “corporate scientific activities.”
https://refoundable.com/research/life-after-erooms-law-interview-with-jack-scannell.html Fascinating interview on drug research with the inventor of Eroom’s law.
https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2020/12/29/bugs-bunny-asks-one-dose-or-two/ Some arguments in favor of the two-dose vaccine strategy. Not endorsed, but I’ve seen many people advocating a one-dose strategy and few mention arguments for two-dosing.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/mathematician-solves-centuries-old-grazing-goat-problem-exactly-20201209/ “If you tie a goat to the inside of the fence, how long a rope do you need to allow the animal access to exactly half an acre?” After 270 years, this has been solved, and we can finally budget our ropes optimally.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-busy-beaver-game-illuminates-the-fundamental-limits-of-math-20201210/ If you aren’t familiar with Busy Beavers, definitely read this.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-claude-shannons-information-theory-invented-the-future-20201222 “How Claude Shannon Invented the Future”
https://www.solipsys.co.uk/new/TheParityOfZero.html?tl23hn Is zero even? The article is more interesting than you’d expect.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/young-ravens-rival-adult-chimps-in-a-big-test-of-general-intelligence/ “A new study that that tries to address that deficit provides some of the best proof yet that ravens, including young birds of just four months of age, have certain types of smarts that are on par with those of adult great apes.”
https://phys.org/news/2020-12-river-sediment-history-climate-mongol.html River sediment history suggests it was climate change, not Mongol invasion that doomed Transoxania
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/12/he-may-have-found-the-key-to-origins-of-life-tibor-ganti-chemoton/ “He may have found the key to the origins of life. So why have so few heard of him?”
https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/fossil-record-prefers-males “Paleontologists Are Trying to Understand Why the Fossil Record Is Mostly Males”
https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2020/12/08/943812834/what-is-your-time-worth When there’s some kind of project like a new road or bridge, how does the government determine the benefit to people of faster transit? Turns out, they use a formula that says your time is worth $14 per hour. Lyft did some experiments to determine what people were willing to pay to get faster rides and found that the implied value of time is $19 per hour.
https://carcinisation.com/2020/12/11/survey-chicken/amp Why many surveys are meaningless.
https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE68D5BM20100914 Ten years ago in obvious studies backed up by data, turns out popular people get the flu earlier.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/stories-55221825 The difference between want and like - can you want something you actively dislike? Humans are weird.
https://twitter.com/paulkrugman/status/1337763007485669378 Why does the US underperform in life expectancy even though it’s rich? See the study linked, but also see RCA’s response at https://twitter.com/RCAFDM/status/1337848333088530434
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S221136812030005X Telling people that giving more information makes it easier to tell whether they’re lying makes liars give less information and truth tellers give more information, thus making it easier to tell which is which.
http://rationallyspeakingpodcast.org/show/episode-246-deaths-of-despair-effective-altruism-angus-deato.html Podcast interview of Nobel prize winner Angus Deaton. Interesting throughout. See also https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/rcts-vs-intuition, which responds to Deaton’s claim that we don’t need RCTs to determine how to reduce global poverty because the answer is obvious.
https://www.fdic.gov/analysis/cfr/working-papers/2020/cfr-wp2020-05.pdf Models to predict mortgage defaults based on large datasets fail when applied to other time periods, because which factors predict defaults change over time. Good example of forecasts failing - the past often doesn’t predict the future.
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797620966526 “We investigated whether 3- to 6-year-old children (total N = 240) could be lured to a new location within their school grounds by an unfamiliar adult confederate.”
http://m.nautil.us/blog/-larry-david-and-the-game-theory-of-anonymous-donations “Larry David and the Game Theory of Anonymous Donations”
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20201215-why-being-kind-to-others-is-good-for-your-health “Why being kind to others is good for your health”
https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2020/12/19/risk-aversion-is-not-a-thing/ Nice collection of blog posts that go into depth. Risk aversion as a mathematical construct is effectively fake, it doesn’t and can’t explain why people actually reject risks.
https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/climate-change-isnt-that-hard ‘What I’m saying is that technology has pushed down the social costs of decarbonization from “ha ha ha, this is something only crazy eco-socialists would ever think we would possibly do” to “huh, this is actually pretty doable”.’
https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20201123-the-psychology-behind-revenge-bedtime-procrastination “revenge bedtime procrastination” is definitely an interesting phrase and concept.
https://www.nber.org/papers/w28265 “What Were the Odds? Estimating the Market's Probability of Uncertain Events”