All of Panorama's Comments + Replies

Open Thread, Aug. 1 - Aug 7. 2016

Medical benefits of dental floss unproven

The federal government has recommended flossing since 1979, first in a surgeon general's report and later in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued every five years. The guidelines must be based on scientific evidence, under the law.

Last year, the Associated Press asked the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture for their evidence, and followed up with written requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

When the federal government issued its latest dietary guidelines this year, the flossin

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Given there no strong evidence for flossing and we still feel like doing it maybe we should also go for newer technology that makes sense like dental probiotics []?
What should I do with this information? I want an advice.
Open thread, Jun. 13 - Jun. 19, 2016

University Innovation and the Professor's Privilege by Hans K. Hvide, Benjamin F. Jones

National policies take varied approaches to encouraging university-based innovation. This paper studies a natural experiment: the end of the “professor’s privilege” in Norway, where university researchers previously enjoyed full rights to their innovations. Upon the reform, Norway moved toward the typical U.S. model, where the university holds majority rights. Using comprehensive data on Norwegian workers, firms, and patents, we find a 50% decline in both entrepreneurs

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Open thread, Apr. 18 - Apr. 24, 2016

Related to Disguised Queries:

Concept Creep: Psychology's Expanding Concepts of Harm and Pathology by Nick Haslam

Many of psychology's concepts have undergone semantic shifts in recent years. These conceptual changes follow a consistent trend. Concepts that refer to the negative aspects of human experience and behavior have expanded their meanings so that they now encompass a much broader range of phenomena than before. This expansion takes “horizontal” and “vertical” forms: concepts extend outward to capture qualitatively new phenomena and downward to cap

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Reminds me professional opinions that avoiding trigger warnings exacerbates pathology whereas exposure diminishes is. Haslam is from my university, too, and I've chatted to him! I tend to think in black and white, and catastrophise when I think of the past. Maybe I wasn't actually 'abused'.. just overly sensitive :P I mean there was god, and there was bad.
It interesting given that we frequently see complaints that LW should reuse more concepts from the outside instead of making up it's own concepts. Concept creep automatically comes with reusing concepts.
Open Thread Feb 29 - March 6, 2016

Cryptography Pioneers Receive 2015 ACM A.M. Turing Award

Whitfield Diffie, former Chief Security Officer of Sun Microsystems and Martin E. Hellman, Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, are the recipients of the 2015 ACM A.M. Turing Award, for critical contributions to modern cryptography. The ability for two parties to communicate privately over a secure channel is fundamental for billions of people around the world. On a daily basis, individuals establish secure online connections with banks, e-commerce sites, email server

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The detection came during their initial testing of the upgraded facility before the real data run even began. The timing combined with a bit of the wording in the paper itself suggests they may be detecting events of a similar scale at a somewhat frequent basis and that more papers will be forthcoming!
Open thread, Feb. 01 - Feb. 07, 2016

Winning Arguments: Interaction Dynamics and Persuasion Strategies in Good-faith Online Discussions by Chenhao Tan, Vlad Niculae, Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Lillian Lee.

Changing someone's opinion is arguably one of the most important challenges of social interaction. The underlying process proves difficult to study: it is hard to know how someone's opinions are formed and whether and how someone's views shift. Fortunately, ChangeMyView, an active community on Reddit, provides a platform where users present their own opinions and reasoning, invite o

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Excellent! I hope there's more along this line that you can post early in next week's thread. Late week posts tend to get ignored. Highlights in the full article: Limitations to non-computational application: The study doesn't really try to, in the author's words: 'Attempt* to capture high-level linguistic properties'
Open thread, Feb. 01 - Feb. 07, 2016

Evaluating gambles using dynamics by Ole Peters, Murray Gell-Mann

Gambles are random variables that model possible changes in monetary wealth. Classic decision theory transforms money into utility through a utility function and defines the value of a gamble as the expectation value of utility changes. Utility functions aim to capture individual psychological characteristics, but their generality limits predictive power. Expectation value maximizers are defined as rational in economics, but expectation values are only meaningful in the presence of ensemble

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Open thread, Jan. 18 - Jan. 24, 2016

Evidence for a distant giant planet in the Solar System

Recent analyses have shown that distant orbits within the scattered disk population of the Kuiper Belt exhibit an unexpected clustering in their respective arguments of perihelion. While several hypotheses have been put forward to explain this alignment, to date, a theoretical model that can successfully account for the observations remains elusive. In this work we show that the orbits of distant Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) cluster not only in argument of perihelion, but also in physical space. We dem

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Open Thread, January 11-17, 2016

Why boredom is anything but boring

Implicated in everything from traumatic brain injury to learning ability, boredom has become extremely interesting to scientists.

Open Thread, January 11-17, 2016

Can Economics Change Your Mind?

Economics is sometimes dismissed as more art than science. In this skeptical view, economists and those who read economics are locked into ideologically motivated beliefs—liberals versus conservatives, for example—and just pick whatever empirical evidence supports those pre-conceived positions. I say this is wrong and solid empirical evidence, even of the complicated econometric sort, changes plenty of minds.

Can economics change your mind?

Where to start? I could write a whole ongoing blog on this question (wait…). In

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Open Thread, January 4-10, 2016

Iran's blogfather: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are killing the web

Hossein Derakhshan was imprisoned by the regime for his blogging. On his release, he found the internet stripped of its power to change the world and instead serving up a stream of pointless social trivia

"The street finds its own uses for things." -- William Gibson
Open Thread, January 4-10, 2016

Why too much evidence can be a bad thing

(—Under ancient Jewish law, if a suspect on trial was unanimously found guilty by all judges, then the suspect was acquitted. This reasoning sounds counterintuitive, but the legislators of the time had noticed that unanimous agreement often indicates the presence of systemic error in the judicial process, even if the exact nature of the error is yet to be discovered. They intuitively reasoned that when something seems too good to be true, most likely a mistake was made.

In a new paper to be published in The

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This isn't "more evidence can be bad", but "seemingly-stronger evidence can be weaker". If you do the math right, more evidence will make you more likely to get the right answer. If more evidence lowers your conviction rate, then your conviction rate was too high. Briefly, I think what's going on is that a 'yes' presents N bits of evidence for 'guilty', and M bits of evidence for 'the process is biased', where M>N. The probability of bias is initially low, but lots of yeses make it shoot up. So you have four hypotheses (bias yes/no cross guilty yes/no), the two bias ones dominate, and their relative odds are the same as when you started.
So, why not stab someone in front of everyone to ensure that they all rule you guilty?
I believe I read somewhere on LW about an investment company that had three directors, and when they decided whether to invest in some company, they voted, and invested only if 2 of 3 have agreed. The reasoning behind this policy was that if 3 of 3 agreed, then probably it was just a fad. Unfortunately, I am unable to find the link.
If you are more confident that the method is inaccurate when it is operating then it being low spread is indication that it is not operating. A TV that shows a static image that flickers when you kick it more likely is recieving actual feed than one that doesn't flicker when punched. If you have multiple TVs that all flicker at the same time it is likely that the cause was the weather rather than the broadcast
See: * "Probing the Improbable: Methodological Challenges for Risks with Low Probabilities and High Stakes" [] * [] * Jaynes on the Emperor of China fallacy [] * Schimmack's incredibility index []
Open thread, Dec. 14 - Dec. 20, 2015

The science myths that will not die

False beliefs and wishful thinking about the human experience are common. They are hurting people — and holding back science.

Open thread, Dec. 14 - Dec. 20, 2015

The Strangest, Most Spectacular Bridge Collapse (And How We Got It Wrong)

Bridge building has been bedeviling humans for a long time, probably since the 1st century. That may explain why, even when they can't carry lots of people or things, bridges are particularly good at carrying lots of meaning: breaking, burning, going too far, going nowhere; the bridges between cultures, across generations, the ones we’ll cross when we come to them. To this day, however, the meanings of Gertie's collapse and that unforgettable footage—"among the most dramatic an

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The point that you can drive an excitation without resonance is a worthwhile one, but I think this article is too long by about a factor of 3, and the weird over-literal use and repetition of "self-excitation" is detrimental.
Open thread, Dec. 14 - Dec. 20, 2015

Guess the correlation

The aim of the game is simple. try to guess how correlated the two variables in a scatter plot are. The closer your guess is to the true correlation, the better.

Who created the game? How can they be contacted?
This is almost as much fun as the calibration game.
Open thread, Dec. 14 - Dec. 20, 2015

Notes on the Oxford IUT workshop by Brian Conrad

Since he was asked by a variety of people for his thoughts about the workshop, Brian wrote the following summary. He hopes that a non-specialist may also learn something from these notes concerning the present situation. Forthcoming articles in Nature and Quanta on the workshop will be addressed at the general public. This writeup has the following structure:


What has delayed wider understanding of the ideas?

What is Inter-universal Teichmuller Theory (IUTT = IUT)?

What happened at the confe

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What's your credence that Mochizuki's proof will turn out to be correct?
Open thread, December 7-13, 2015

Please, not another bias! An evolutionary take on behavioural economics by Jason Collins

So, I want to take you to a Wikipedia page that I first saw when someone tweeted that they had found “the best page on the internet”. The “List of cognitive biases” was up to 165 entries on the day I took this snapshot, and it contains most of your behavioural science favourites … the availability heuristic, confirmation bias, the decoy effect – a favourite of marketers, the endowment effect and so on ….

But this page, to me, points to what I see as a fundamental probl

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Wake me up when evolutionary biology can predict all those 165 things from first principles and a very little input the way modern astronomy can predict the motion of planets.
I would agree that a collection of biases points to a need for a theory, but I don't think such a theory is likely to be central to the economics model simply because those deviations are irrelevant in a large number of cases. Simple rational expectations can be quite predictive of human behavior in many cases even though it is clearly completely absurd. Think of the relationship between quantum mechanics and relativity. Relativity doesn't seem to fit at all in any reasonable way into quantum mechanics, and yet relativity is quite useful and accurate for problems at the atomic level and above. Jason Collins' reasoning can be used for almost any scientific theory imaginable. If you examine any scientific discipline closely enough, you will find deviations which don't fit the standard model. But the existence of deviations does not necessarily prove the need for a new model; particularly if those deviations do not appear to be central to the model's primary predictions. I would say a rigorously tested theory of how cognitive biases develop and are maintained may provide some useful insights into economics, but that it's unlikely that they will disprove the basic model of supply and demand. There are other issues in that essay. Present bias isn't normally considered a bias. It's referred to in economics as temporal preferences. Hyperbolic discounting has from its conception [] been considered an issue of preference, and only later as one of rationality. He then discusses conspicuous consumption in the context of mating signals except that isn't a new idea either. Economics already has a theory of signalling that roughly matches with what he is referring to, and they've already considered social status as a type of signal, and that conspicuous consumption is used to signal social status. [] That also isn't an issue of rationality, but one of preference.
I don't think that the fact that Wikipedia has a list of 165 cognitive biases says more about Wikipedia than it says about behavioural economics. The core idea from Kahnmann is that humans use heuristics to make decisons. Evolution certainly affected human cognition but most designs for intelligent agents don't produce intelligent agents. The space of set of heuristics that produce intelligent agents is small. It's not clear that you can make an intelligent agent of something like a neural net that doesn't engage in something like the availability heuristic. Confirmation bias isn't something substantially different than the availability heuristic in action. When Google's dreaming neural nets reproduce quirks of the human brain it's hard to argue that those quirks exit because they provide advantages in sexual competition. That's basically saying Darwin was wrong and his critics who object to organism that don't evolve according to objectives were right. Darwin wasn't controversial because he invented evolution. Lamarks already did that decades before Darwin. Darwin was controversial because he proposed to get rid of teleology. Economics makes errors because it assumes that humans have objectives. You don't fix that by explaining how humans have different objectives. You fix it by looking at the heuristics of human beings and also studying heuristics of effective decision making in general.
Open thread, December 7-13, 2015

Paradox at the heart of mathematics makes physics problem unanswerable

Gödel’s incompleteness theorems are connected to unsolvable calculations in quantum physics.

Undecidability of the Spectral Gap (full version) by Toby Cubitt, David Perez-Garcia, Michael M. Wolf

We show that the spectral gap problem is undecidable. Specifically, we construct families of translationally-invariant, nearest-neighbour Hamiltonians on a 2D square lattice of d-level quantum systems (d constant), for which determining whether the system is gapped or gapless is an undecidabl

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Ask an unbounded question, get an uncomputable answer [] by Scott Aaronson
Open thread, Nov. 30 - Dec. 06, 2015

User behaviour: Websites and apps are designed for compulsion, even addiction. Should the net be regulated like drugs or casinos?

When I go online, I feel like one of B F Skinner’s white Carneaux pigeons. Those pigeons spent the pivotal hours of their lives in boxes, obsessively pecking small pieces of Plexiglas. In doing so, they helped Skinner, a psychology researcher at Harvard, map certain behavioural principles that apply, with eerie precision, to the design of 21st‑century digital experiences.

I can't see any plausible scenario where regulating the internet like drugs or casinos would lead to a net positive outcome.
Open thread, Nov. 30 - Dec. 06, 2015

How to build a better PhD

There are too many PhD students for too few academic jobs — but with imagination, the problem could be solved.

Open thread, Nov. 30 - Dec. 06, 2015

'My father had one job in his life, I've had six in mine, my kids will have six at the same time'

In the ‘gig’ or ‘sharing’ economy, say the experts, we will do lots of different jobs as technology releases us from the nine to five. But it may also bring anxiety, insecurity and low wages

This is still industry dependent. hospitality industry has a short time-span per job, health industry workers don't change jobs.
Open thread, Nov. 23 - Nov. 29, 2015

Meta-research: Evaluation and Improvement of Research Methods and Practices by John P. A. Ioannidis , Daniele Fanelli, Debbie Drake Dunne, Steven N. Goodman.

As the scientific enterprise has grown in size and diversity, we need empirical evidence on the research process to test and apply interventions that make it more efficient and its results more reliable. Meta-research is an evolving scientific discipline that aims to evaluate and improve research practices. It includes thematic areas of methods, reporting, reproducibility, evaluation, and incentives

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Hope this kind of work gets decent funding...
[Link] A rational response to the Paris attacks and ISIS

Why People Keep Saying, “That’s What the Terrorists Want”

When President George W. Bush later responded by occupying Iraq in 2003, millions of Americans insisted that doing so was exactly what al Qaeda wanted. When, in 2004, Spain had the opposite reaction after the Madrid train bombings, and pulled back from that conflict, Americans told me that withdrawing from Iraq was actually what al-Qaeda wanted.

Today, a similar thing is happening with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, as politicians and pundits accuse one another of “playing into the terrorist

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Much of the article is quite on point, but this portion is just restating the same thing in different terms. The whole reason 'alienated moderates' are at risk of being 'receptive to extremism' is that France was unsuccessful in its attempt to assimilate its Muslim population. --Not for lack of trying, mind you, and they even had a pretty sensible policy stance - quite far from the spineless multiculti ideology that seems to be ubiquitous in 'Anglo' countries. One critical problem is that the 'ethnic' population bears the brunt of the failing French economy and labor market, because their lack of social capital effectively makes them marginal participants in the best of cases; the end result is that these folks are now pretty much excluded from any sort of productive activity and become structurally unemployed. Young male idle hands being the devil's workshop, and all that.
Open thread, Nov. 16 - Nov. 22, 2015

Disinformation review, a weekly publication, which collects examples of the Russian disinformation attacks.

The main aim of this product is to raise the awareness about Russian disinformation campaign. And the way to achieve this goal is by providing the experts in this field, journalists, academics, officials, politicians, and anyone interested in disinformation with some real time data about the number of disinformation attacks, the number of countries targeted, the latest disinformation trends in different countries, the daily basis of this campaign,

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How do you know this isn't a disinformation attack against Russia?
This is extremely important. Truths are entangled [], and if you once tell a lie, the truth is ever after your enemy []. In politics, it is often an advantage to sell a specific lie. Sometimes the most efficient way to do that repeatedly is to allocate a huge budget for "lowering the sanity waterline". (Here [] is an example of what it looks like when someone uses a political crisis in your country to launch an insanity attack.)
Open thread, Nov. 16 - Nov. 22, 2015

Feeling like you're an expert can make you closed-minded

Victor Ottati at Loyola University and his colleagues manipulated their participants (US residents, average age in their 30s) to feel relative experts or novices in a chosen field, through easy questions like “Who is the current President of the United States?” or tough ones like “Who was Nixon's initial Vice-President?” and through providing feedback to enforce the participants’ feelings of knowledge or ignorance. Those participants manipulated to feel more expert subsequently acted less open-minde

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Open thread, Nov. 16 - Nov. 22, 2015

A Quasipolynomial Time Algorithm for Graph Isomorphism: The Details

Laszlo Babai has claimed an astounding theorem, that the Graph Isomorphism problem can be solved in quasipolynomial time. On Tuesday I was at Babai’s talk on this topic (he has yet to release a preprint), and I’ve compiled my notes here. As in Babai’s talk, familiarity with basic group theory and graph theory is assumed, and if you’re a casual (i.e., math-phobic) reader looking to understand what the fuss is all about, this is probably not the right post for you. This post is research lev

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Open thread, Nov. 02 - Nov. 08, 2015

Gene editing saves girl dying from leukaemia in world first

For the first time ever, a person’s life has been saved by gene editing.


Layla’s doctors got permission to use an experimental form of gene therapy using genetically engineered immune cells from a donor. Within a month these cells had killed off all the cancerous cells in her bone marrow.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia and other blood tumors in which B-cells become malignant are extremely well-suited to this approach. You can cook up a T-cell that will react against B-cell specific proteins, inject it, and it will sense all the B cells around it and grow up to large numbers and kill all the B-cells and B-cell derived tumor cells in the patient's body. You can live without B-cells (with a hit to immune system strength) and they have some very cell-specific proteins. Going after B-cell malignancies with modified immune cells has been success... (read more)

Open thread, Nov. 02 - Nov. 08, 2015

Is Economics Research Replicable? Sixty Published Papers from Thirteen Journals Say “Usually Not” by Andrew C. Chang and Phillip Li

We attempt to replicate 67 papers published in 13 well-regarded economics journals using author-provided replication files that include both data and code. Some journals in our sample require data and code replication files, and other journals do not require such files. Aside from 6 papers that use confidential data, we obtain data and code replication files for 29 of 35 papers (83%) that are required to provide such files as

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Note that their implicit definition of "replicable" is very narrow --- under their procedure, one can fail to be "replicable" simply by failing to reply to an e-mail from the authors asking for code. This is somewhat of a word play, since typically "failure to replicate" means that one is unable to get the same results as the authors while following the same procedure. Based on their discussion at the end of section 3, it appears that (at most) 9 of the 30 "failed replications" are due to actually running the code and getting different results.

Open thread, Nov. 02 - Nov. 08, 2015

Zombie physics: 6 baffling results that just won't die

To celebrate Halloween, Nature brings you the undead results that physicists can neither prove — nor lay to rest.

When a scientific result seems to show something genuinely new, subsequent experiments are supposed to either confirm it — triggering a textbook rewrite — or show it to be a measurement anomaly or experimental blunder. But some findings seem to remain forever stuck in the middle ground between light and shadow. Even efforts to replicate these results — normally science’s equivalent of Valyr

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Open thread, Nov. 02 - Nov. 08, 2015

NASA Study: Mass Gains of Antarctic Ice Sheet Greater than Losses

A new NASA study says that an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increased losses from its thinning glaciers.

The research challenges the conclusions of other studies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2013 report, which says that Antarctica is overall losing land ice.

According to the new analysis of satellite data, the Antarctic ice sheet showed a net gain of 112 b

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This seems significant, but I'm not sure how to interpret it... Is it good news the ice sheet isn't shrinking or bad news that the sea level rise apparently came from other sources without us noticing?
Interesting. Obviously if some place is still below freezing all year round (i.e. the bulk of East Antactica), global warming can easily increase ice mass due to increased snowfall. But I'd thought decrease in total ice mass was pretty well-established.
Open thread, Nov. 02 - Nov. 08, 2015

Laszlo Babai (University of Chicago): Graph Isomorphism in Quasipolynomial Time (Combinatorics and TCS seminar)

We outline an algorithm that solves the Graph Isomorphism (GI) problem and the related problems of String Isomorphism (SI) and Coset Intersection (CI) in quasipolynomial (exp(polylog n)) time.

The best previous bound for GI was \exp(\sqrt{n log n}), where n is the number of vertices (Luks, 1983). For SI and CI the best previous bound was similar, \exp(\sqrt{n}(log n)^c), where n is the size of the permutation domain (the speaker, 1983).

G. Ph... (read more)

Open thread, Oct. 26 - Nov. 01, 2015

The Tech Elite’s Quest to Reinvent School in Its Own Image

A Day in the Life

Like a true startup, Khan Lab School constantly changes its schedule to accommodate evolving workflow and logistical demands. Different age-groups follow different self-paced lesson plans, but here’s an example of a day at the Lab School.

9–9:15 am: Morning Meeting

A daily all-school meeting where students learn about things like current events, view the work of their fellow classmates, and focus on relationships.

9:15–9:45 Advisory

Students break out into cohorts sorted by age. They

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How many students? How many advisers? How much minutes per one? What are the remaining students doing? This is the only hour in a day where students [EDIT] learn [/EDIT] something other than math or reading. Nice to know that if you compress all the remaining subjects into one hour daily, there is enough time left for composing blog posts. I suspect this will go like most of the educational suggestions: * an article full of applause lights * social media hype *, there is no step 3; specifically you will never see the experimental results
I need some calibration here. Is this satire?
Open thread, Oct. 26 - Nov. 01, 2015

The Way to Help the Poor by Dean Karlan

You can't make money without money. That was the exciting and intuitively obvious idea behind microloans, which took off in the 1990s as a way of helping poor people out of poverty. Banks wouldn't give them traditional loans, but small amounts would carry less risk and allow entrepreneurs to jump-start small businesses. Economist Muhammad Yunus and Bangladesh's Grameen Bank figured out how to scale this innovation and won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for their work.

The trouble is that although microloans do have some

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Open thread, Oct. 26 - Nov. 01, 2015

A multi-institutional study of the impact of open textbook adoption on the learning outcomes of post-secondary students

In some educational settings, the cost of textbooks approaches or even exceeds the cost of tuition. Given limited resources, it is important to better understand the impacts of free open educational resources (OER) on student outcomes. Utilizing digital resources such as OER can substantially reduce costs for students. The purpose of this study was to analyze whether the adoption of no-cost open digital textbooks significantly predicted

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Open thread, Oct. 26 - Nov. 01, 2015

Glaring Flaws in Sugar Toxicity Study

A new study has claimed that obese children could find rapid health improvement by small sugar reductions, without caloric restrictions. According to the lead author, Robert Lustig, the new study shows that sugar may not be harmful because of how it leads to weight gain, but “rather sugar is metabolically harmful because it’s sugar.” According to the study, a diet with 10 percent sugar in place of one with 28 percent sugar can in just nine days produce a reduction in blood pressure, triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol—a

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Robert Lustig is, notably, the "fructose is poison and the source of all evil" guy. That explains the study...
Open thread, Oct. 26 - Nov. 01, 2015

Carol Dweck Revisits the 'Growth Mindset' by Carol Dweck.

Recently, someone asked what keeps me up at night. It’s the fear that the mindset concepts, which grew up to counter the failed self-esteem movement, will be used to perpetuate that movement. In other words, if you want to make students feel good, even if they’re not learning, just praise their effort! Want to hide learning gaps from them? Just tell them, “Everyone is smart!” The growth mindset was intended to help close achievement gaps, not hide them. It is about telling the truth about a studen

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This concerns me greatly. I will post more thoughts in it's own post when I get around to writing it.
Open thread, Oct. 19 - Oct. 25, 2015

Autonomous Vehicles Need Experimental Ethics: Are We Ready for Utilitarian Cars?

The wide adoption of self-driving, Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) promises to dramatically reduce the number of traffic accidents. Some accidents, though, will be inevitable, because some situations will require AVs to choose the lesser of two evils. For example, running over a pedestrian on the road or a passer-by on the side; or choosing whether to run over a group of pedestrians or to sacrifice the passenger by driving into a wall. It is a formidable challenge to define the alg

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Open thread, Oct. 19 - Oct. 25, 2015

The scientists encouraging online piracy with a secret codeword

What if you're a scientist looking for the latest published research on a particular subject, but you can't afford to pay for it?


Andrea Kuszewski, a cognitive scientist and science writer, invented the tag, which uses a code phrase: "I can haz PDF" - a play on words combining a popular geeky phrase used widely online in a meme involving cat pictures, and a common online file format.

"Basically you tweet out a link to the paper that you need, with the hashtag and then your

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Amusingly, right now the hashtag seems to be dominated by people talking about the article/phenomenon, not by people trying to get pdfs.
I'm shocked, shocked...
Open thread, Oct. 19 - Oct. 25, 2015

'Zeno effect' verified: Atoms won't move while you watch

One of the oddest predictions of quantum theory – that a system can’t change while you’re watching it – has been confirmed in an experiment by Cornell physicists.


Graduate students Yogesh Patil and Srivatsan K. Chakram created and cooled a gas of about a billion Rubidium atoms inside a vacuum chamber and suspended the mass between laser beams. In that state the atoms arrange in an orderly lattice just as they would in a crystalline solid.,But at such low temperatures, the atoms can “tunnel” fr

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Open thread, Oct. 19 - Oct. 25, 2015

UN climate reports are increasingly unreadable

The climate summary findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are becoming increasingly unreadable, a linguistics analysis suggests.

IPCC summaries are intended for non-scientific audiences. Yet their readability has dropped over the past two decades, and reached a low point with the fifth and latest summary published in 2014, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change1.

The study used the Flesch Reading Ease test, which assumes that texts with longer sentences and more compl

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Open thread, Oct. 19 - Oct. 25, 2015

Final Kiss of Two Stars Heading for Catastrophe

Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, an international team of astronomers have found the hottest and most massive double star with components so close that they touch each other. The two stars in the extreme system VFTS 352 could be heading for a dramatic end, during which the two stars either coalesce to create a single giant star, or form a binary black hole.

Open thread, Oct. 12 - Oct. 18, 2015

Blowing the whistle on the uc berkeley mathematics department

This remark that I should align more with department standards has been the resounding theme of my time at Berkeley, and Arthur Ogus's comment in the April 18th, 2014 memo was not an isolated slip. On September 22nd, 2013 he wrote in an email "But I do think it that it [sic] is very important that you not deviate too far from the department norms." On November 12th, 2014 he wrote "I hope that, on the basis of our conversation, you can further adjust to the norms of our department

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Schools comparable to Berkeley have one of three common organizations of math teachers. One, Berkeley's old structure, is to employ no lecturers. Another is to employ a lot of lecturers, whose job is simply to teach as well as possible. But I think the most common organization is to employ a small number of lecturers who do a small amount of teaching, but whose real job is to handle the administrative details of teaching, such as placement of freshmen, curriculum design, and instructing graduate students in teaching. I think the complaints make most sense in the context of the department expecting him to grow into such a job.
"Align more with department standards" sounds like shorthand for some more specific concerns. Coward doesn't spell out what those concerns are.
Yep. Bureaucracies chew up and spit out people who deviate from norms. You apparently think that you are a better teacher. How relevant is that to your success in the bureaucracy? Is it necessarily beneficial? Do your students get a vote on whether you get tenure? Get a raise? Get a lab? Some people at work work on the purported purpose of the bureaucracy Others work the bureaucratic reward and punishment system.

Some people disagree with his version of events.

Strange. Tenured professors get paid the same regardless of how many students they teach so it helps them if another instructor attracts lots of students thereby reducing the tenured professor's teaching burden.
Open thread, Sep. 21 - Sep. 27, 2015

How Soylent and Oculus Could Fix The Prison System

here’s one way we could rebuild the prison system:

Step 1: Soylent

Step 2: Oculus Rift

Step 3: Health and hygiene

Step 4: A simulation that rewards good behavior

Step 5: Administration


Prisoners have cellmates and gym time and free time in the prison yard because solitary confinement makes you go nuts. You need human contact if you don’t want to pop out of prison a crazy person. The problem is these places are where all the violence happens.

However, you could take the fear factor out of prisons by s

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LOL. You don't often see proposals that far removed from reality.
Open thread, Sep. 14 - Sep. 20, 2015

26 Things I Learned in the Deep Learning Summer School

In the beginning of August I got the chance to attend the Deep Learning Summer School in Montreal. It consisted of 10 days of talks from some of the most well-known neural network researchers. During this time I learned a lot, way more than I could ever fit into a blog post. Instead of trying to pass on 60 hours worth of neural network knowledge, I have made a list of small interesting nuggets of information that I was able to summarise in a paragraph.

At the moment of writing, the summer school websit

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Open thread, Sep. 14 - Sep. 20, 2015

The Fallacy of Placing Confidence in Confidence Intervals

Welcome to the web site for the upcoming paper "The Fallacy of Placing Confidence in Confidence Intervals." Here you will find a number of resources connected to the paper, including the itself, the supplement, teaching resources and in the future, links to discussion of the content.

The paper is accepted for publication in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.


Interval estimates – estimates of parameters that include an allowance for sampling uncertainty – have long been touted as a k

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I just read through this, and it sounds like they're trying to squish a frequentist interpretation on a Bayesian tool. They keep saying how the confidence intervals don't correspond with reality, but confidence intervals are supposed to be measuring degrees of belief. Am I missing something here?
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