All of Fly's Comments + Replies

"Eight different randomized controlled trials suggest you're wrong."

If the studies were done 20 years ago my guess is that the original trials were performed to see if aspirin reduced the risk of heart attacks. (At least that is what I recollect from that time period.) I doubt there were many people under 30 in those trials. I saw no indication in the linked article that ages were broken out so that one could determine whether people in their 20s who took aspirin for several years had less cancer 20 years later. Since few young people would be ex... (read more)

Yes. The study's full text said: "We therefore determined the effect of aspirin on risk of fatal cancer by analysis of individual patient data for deaths due to cancer during randomised trials of daily aspirin versus control (done originally for primary or secondary prevention of vascular events) in which the median duration of scheduled trial treatment was at least 4 years." Hope is not a plan.

"Cancer is pretty lethal and we're not really good at fixing it yet, so when we find something that can really reduce the risk (and there aren't many - the only other ones I can think of are the magical substances known as not-smoking and avoiding-massive-doses-of-ionizing radiation), we should be all over that like cats on yarn."

Maintaining moderately high blood levels of vitamin D may reduce over all cancer rates by up to 30%. There is also evidence for green tea significantly reducing cancer rates.

Aspirin is an anti-coagulant so wounds take l... (read more)

Vitamin D is really important. There is an established causal link between vitamin D and immune function. It doesn't just enhance your immune response - it's a prerequisite for an immune response. Anecdote: Prior to vitamin D supplementation, I caught something like 4 colds per year on average. I'm pretty sure I never did better than 2. I started taking daily D supplements about a year and half ago, and caught my first cold a few days ago. It's worth taking purely as a preventative cold medicine.
I haven't seen thoroughly convincing studies, but it's quite possible that I missed them (among the blizzard of junk studies). This is true, although I've noticed no significant effects. (When the air is cold and dry, I'm sometimes prone to nosebleeds, but they didn't get worse after I started low-dose aspirin). It's also a bug and a feature. Heart attacks and ischemic strokes are no fun at all. Not a problem for elective surgery (just stop taking it). If you need immediate surgery (e.g. because of an accident), then low-dose aspirin may be a slight risk - but it doesn't transform you into an instant hemophiliac. Eight different randomized controlled trials suggest you're wrong. I'm unsure as to whether they studied relatively young adults like me - the problem is that it'd take even more decades to notice an effect. I consider aspirin's effects in older men to be persuasive evidence that it has the same effects for women and younger men like me. (In fact, as I mentioned, my doctor saw my slightly elevated cholesterol and told me to start fish oil and low-dose aspirin when I was 25 - it was only later that I saw the article about cancer.) Citation needed. Do you really think that, in your 20s and 30s, your cells aren't accumulating damage that eventually leads to cancer, so that low-dose aspirin has nothing to prevent? Really? It's possible that the cumulative damage hypothesis, for lack of a better name, is false, but I consider it overwhelmingly likely to be true. Obviously, in making this decision, my own health is at stake - and I am very careful. In my judgment, trying to be as rational as possible, I believe that the risks of starting low-dose aspirin in my 20s are very small, and outweighed by the cumulative benefit, when I'm older, of having taken it for so long (the time-dependent nature of the benefit is important).

Consider spermatogenesis as a model. There is a primary pool of slow dividing stem cells which are maintained in that state by local signaling from neighboring cells. In these stem cells, telomerase is sufficiently active that telomere length is preserved. The primary stem cell pool slowly replenishes a pool of fast dividing secondary stem cells in which telomerase is slightly less active. These are stem cells as the pool is largely self renewing. The secondary stem cell pool also generates progenitor cells which divide and differentiate to become sperm. T... (read more)

Scientists have already demonstrated interventions that significantly extend maximum lifespan in several species. I see no reason to believe humans will be different.

My guess is that the primary cause of human aging is a combination of "depleted" stem cells combined with a gradual disruption of regulatory homeostasis. Part of the problem with "depleted" stem cells is an accumulation of silencing errors in the stem cell DNA. Another part is a gradual breakdown in local cell signaling that regulates cell fate. I believe both problems coul... (read more)

Not Telomeres?

This occurs all the time.

In 2007, 160 gynecologists were provided with the relevant health statistics needed for calculating the chances that a woman with a positive mammogram test actually has cancer. The correct answer was about 10%. The majority of them grossly overestimated the probability of cancer, answering ‘‘90%’’ or ‘‘81%.’’

When most doctors are asked to interpret probabilistic lab results they suck. The doctors just don't think that way. Instead they have learned what to say so... (read more)

My gold standard for understanding reality is science, i.e., the process of collecting data, building models, making predictions, and testing those predictions again and again and again. In the spirit of "making beliefs pay rent" if Buddist meditation leads to less distorted views of reality then I would expect that "enlightened" Buddists would make especially successful scientists. As a religious group the Jews have been far more productive than the Buddists. Apparently Buddist physicists have no special advantage at building models th... (read more)

"In what fields have Buddhist monks excelled?"
Martial arts? Some other arts. Propagating a religion. Overcoming what seem to many people to be overwhelming motivations, such as the motivation to eat or to avoid extreme amounts of pain, convincing people that they are wise, maybe some memory and rapid cognition feats.

If you count Stoics as Buddhists, as I would, governing Rome & providing that part of the content of Christianity for lack of which the ancient world seems most alien.

Do you have statistics or studies concerning the claim that Buddhist physicists are not advantaged in science? How would you even begin to rationally approach the issue? It seems complicated---you'd have to adjust for education levels, the possibility that meditators are inclined to pursue subjects other than physics, the fact that meditation takes up time that could otherwise be devoted to studying physics, different cultural backgrounds of meditations vs. controls... Intuitively, I think your claim is likely to be true, but I can't really see how you can rigorously support it. Data on the % of Buddhist physicists, if it even exists, would only be scratching the surface of what you would need to support your claim. (Not that I want to debate the claim. But if you feel it's important, I want a non-handwavey argument.) A better model for enlightenment, meditation and rationality, I'd say, is that these things give you tools that allow you to be more rational if you're so inclined. As with everything in life, it's your own goals and inclinations that determine what you do with them. An analogy is drinking coffee. Paraphrasing Paul Erdos, a mathematician is one who turns coffee into theorems. Do coffee drinkers have a special advantage in mathematics? Probably not. So perhaps Erdos was wrong; perhaps having to empty one's bladder more often actually interferes with being a good mathematician? Again, probably not. Most likely, drinking coffee leads to mathematical productivity for people who are interested in increasing mathematical productivity.
Might I suggest that as well as the inhibition you actually benefit from the cortex having more access to the information and processing that the aforementioned regions provide? Because generalised inhibition in itself isn't all that difficult, mindfulness aside. It is nuanced, well considered inhibition that takes work. It is also what lasts in the long term - because simply inhibiting the signals from those centres doesn't help eliminate the cause.

Two other factors: 1) Population sub structure matters. Suppose a population of one million is divided into mating bands with 30 individuals. Small bands tend to lose diversity so some bands would have some of the minor alleles at higher frequency. Now suppose band X has minor alleles A1, A2, and A3 at high frequency while band Y has minor alleles A4, A5, and A6 at high frequency. The two bands meet and party. The result is kids with all 6 minor alleles. Those kids have big fitness advantage and those minor allele frequencies are significantly boosted in ... (read more)

"Why in the world should who the event happens to make a difference?"

I question the surface view of the world and the universe. E.g., I wouldn't be greatly surprised to discover that "I" am a character in a game. To the extent that I understand reality, my "evidence model" is centered on myself and diminishes as the distance from that center increases.

In the center I have my own memories combined with my direct sensory perception of my immediate environment. I also have my internal mental model of myself. This model helps me e... (read more)

"all four dice were weighted"

I used three reddish, semi-transparent plastic dice with white dots (as I always did). My opponent used standard opaque, plastic ivory dice with black dots. I noticed nothing unusual about the dice and by the end of the run I was examining dice, cups, methods of rolling closely.

"Assume that a weighted die rolls the side that it favors with probability p, each of the sides adjacent to it with probability (1-p)/4, and never rolls the side opposite the favored side."

This assumption does not match my recollectio... (read more)

"the odds against you getting the exact sequence of outcomes you do get will be astronomical"

People notice and remember things they care about. Usually people care whether they win or lose, not the exact sequence of moves that produced the result. For an event to register as unusual a person must care about the outcome and recognize that the outcome is rare. The Risk game was special because I cared enough about the outcome to notice that I was losing, because the outcome (of losing) with 26 vs. 1 armies was incredibly unlikely, and because I could calculate the odds against such an outcome occurring due to chance.

re: Recognizing low probability events.

During an eighth grade science class in Oklahoma, my older sister was watching as her teacher gave a slide presentation of his former job as a forest ranger. One of the first slides was a picture of the Yellow Stone National Park entrance sign. Four young children were climbing on the sign and parked next to the sign was a green Ford Mercury. My sister jumped out of her chair yelling, "That's us." Sure enough that picture had captured a chance encounter years ago, far away, before my sister and her teacher h... (read more)

Why in the world should who the event happens to make a difference? This is anthropic bias. The fact if these things happen at all they're going to happen to someone. That fact that it was you isn't significant in any way.

" would often roll a 6, sometimes roll a number adjacent to 6..."

Assuming standard probability applied to my three dice, the odds of my rolling at least one 6 are 1 - (5/6)^3 or approximately 0.4. Assume that the "trick" die rolls a 6 half the time. (Remember I was watching as my opponent also rolled 5's, 4's, and 3's.) Then the probability that I would win a battle is at least 0.4 x 0.5 = 0.2. The attacker odds are actually higher since the attacker would usually win if the defender rolls anything but a 6. My estimate is that wit... (read more)

Yes, you do: all four dice were weighted. You did your math assuming only one of them was weighted, but if they all were then the event you saw wasn't unlikely at all. Assume that a weighted die rolls the side that it favors with probability p, each of the sides adjacent to it with probability (1-p)/4, and never rolls the side opposite the favored side. How strongly weighted do the dice have to be (that is, what should p be) for 26 consecutive victories for the defender are assured? The defender automatically wins on a 5 or 6, which come up with probability p + (1-p)/4. If the defender rolls a 2, then for the defender to win, each of the attacker's dice must either be a 1 (which it is with probability p) or a 2 (with probability (1-p)/4), so the defender wins in this case with probability (p+(1-p)/4)^3. The cases where the defender rolls a 3 or 4 are similar. Summing all the cases, we get that the defender wins with probability p + (1-p)/4 + (1-p)/4 * ((p+(1-p)(3/4))^3 + (p+(1-p)(2/4))^3 + (p+(1-p)(1/4))^3) Which simplifies to (1/64)(-9p^4-6p^3+54p+25) To win 26 times in a row with 50% probability, the defender would have to win each battle with probability 0.974. To win 26 times in a row with 95% probability, the defender would have to win each battle with probability 0.998. (1/64)(-9p^4-6p^3+54p+25) > .974 --> p > .841 (1/64)(-9p^4-6p^3+54p+25) > .998 --> p > .958 In other words, to produce the event you saw with 50% reliability would require weighted dice that worked 84% of the time. To produce the event you saw with 95% reliability would require weighted dice that worked 96% of the time. I'm unable to find any good statistics on the reliability of weighted dice, but 84% sounds about right.

re: Magician's Trick

My friends had the opportunity to trick me since we regularly played Risk (and I would have been highly amused if they had done so). Since the dice were mine and were distinctive they would have had to get trick dice that matched my own. Then they would have had to wait for the right game opportunity, e.g., my 26 armies against my opponent's last remaining army on his last territory. Knowing my friends very well, it doesn't seem likely to me that they would go to all that trouble and then never laugh about how they fooled me.

My friends ... (read more)

When you say "that is unbelievable control", you seem to be assuming the exact outcome with trick dice would be exactly and entirely predetermined. But there's no reason to think that. The trick dice would only have to make winning much more likely to pull your "impossible" odds down into the realm of the possible. What you describe as a die that "occasionally rolled every number except a 1" is what you would expect to see if the "1" side were weighted a bit - it would often roll a 6, sometimes roll a number adjacent to 6, and never roll 1. Contrariwise, it's possible that the three dice facing it could have been rigged to do poorly. If a die with the "1" side weighted faced three dice with the 6 side weighted, that could do the trick. Some amount of dice rigging could make your loss expected or reasonably likely but not guaranteed. And yes, it's unlikely your friend would (a) weight your dice, (b) waste this ability on a meaningless game of risk, and (c) keep up the act all these years, but it's not 1-in-100-billion unlikely. People playing little tricks or experimenting on their friends is something that does happen in the world as we know it, therefore it could have happened to you. Though I like Jack's explanation too.
So I'm not a mathematician but we note the outcomes of chance events all the time probably thousands to tens of thousands of times in your life depending on how much gaming you do. Given about 1000 low-likelihood events per person over their lifetime (which I'm basically making up, but I think its conservative) 1 in 100 million should experience 1 in 100 billion events, right? So basically there might be two other people with stories like yours living in the US. It is definitely a neat story, but I don't think its the kind of thing we should never have expected to happen. Its not like the quantum tunneling of macroscopic objects or anything.