Archelon

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Open Thread, May 11 - May 17, 2015

According to this article, a traumatic brain injury turned a furniture salesman into a mathematician. (Not without side effects, but still.)

There is a bit of conventional wisdom in evolutionary biology that drastic improvements in efficacy are not available through trivial modifications (and that nontrivial modifications which are random are not improvements). This is an example of the principle that evolution is supposed to have already 'harvested' any 'low-hanging fruit'. Although I don't think much of this type of website (note the lack of external links), the story seems to be based in reality; it is thus one of the most surprising things I have ever heard. And, oddly, heartening as well---insofar as it suggests both a potential shortening of the timescale for human intelligence augmentation and the possibility that such augmentation may be relatively more accessible (than I previously thought) by comparison to computer-based artificial intelligence developments.

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Is it actually possible to express the entire universe as a single time-independent equation?

Yes.

If your original question, "what determines how much the universe changes from state to state?", is meant to refer to spacelike "states", then the answer (which requires only general relativity) is the geometry of spacetime. But the "states" in the Wheeler--DeWitt equation are spacetimes, so in that context "the universe" differs "from state to state", but it doesn't "change."

Google doesn't find "confirmation bias" in that book. (It does find "confirmation" and "bias"---the latter appearing at least twice in the phrase "bias towards verification". The "verification" terminology suggests Popper's verification|falsification dichotomy, which at least according to Johnson-Laird was the inspiration for Wason's 2-4-6 task.)

(Also, how did you get an OCR error in your quote there?)

What is the exact origin of the term 'confirmation bias'? Wikipedia asserts it was coined by Wason, but cites only a 2002 article (of which I can only see the abstract); the Wason paper linked by our own wiki article doesn't seem to use the phrase.

I'm seeing things like

P(A|B) = \frac{P(B | A)\, P(A)}{P(B)}

in the wiki (instead of rendered math), and I can't figure out why.

Farewell Aaron Swartz (1986-2013)

Another petition: To

Investigate the possible abuse of power by US District Attorney Carmen Ortiz and others in the Aaron Swartz case.

For downloading academic journal articles, Aaron Swartz faced criminal charges that (if he won) at best would have cost him $1 million in legal fees, and (if he lost) at worst could have cost him$4 million more in fines and up to 50 years in prison[1]. Even if he were guilty -- and it is not clear that he was[2] -- such absurdly harsh prosecution is not justice.

A bully whose victim is driven to suicide is not solely responsible for the victim's death, nor are prosecutors Ortiz and Heymann solely to blame for Aaron's suicide. But they do bear responsibility for their own prosecutorial abuse.

The public deserves an independent investigation into the prosecutorial excesses that contributed to Aaron's death.