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Topics - Kai

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Or Kill Me / The German Guide to Arguing.
« on: October 23, 2013, 09:53:42 pm »
There's a Bavarian professor in my department. Originally from Munich, he moved to get his PhD, married a Canadian citizen, and ended up moving again to the US (his kids are tri-citizens, which is pretty cool, but irrelevant to this story).

Having spent many hours speaking with Germans, Canadians, and Americans, he found that our conversations are kind of broken, that the way we argue (or avoid arguing) is a bit unhealthy. Given my German heritage, I have been following his instruction in the German fine art of arguing, and have gleaned a few rules which may or may not be of interest. As I internalize these lessons, I am becoming less full of butthurt, and more prone to having fun.

1. Never take anything personally. In a German argument, insults are often thrown, people get excited, and it may seem outwardly that the interlocutors really hate each other. Do not be fooled! German arguments are almost always in the spirit of kind contentiousness. When a topic is exhausted, the discussion moves on, and there are no hard feelings. This is of course, opposed to the American spirit of argument, which is to wound, and the Canadian tendency to avoid argument all together. Arguing like a German should always be done in good spirits. If the situation truly gets nasty, you'll know because the talking stops.

2. Never intend anything personally. This goes with lesson one. When insults are intended to be personal, then you no longer have a German argument, you have a German fight, which, in contrast to arguing and similar to Discordia, is not nice at all.

3. Be quick to forgive incorrectness, and to correct when incorrect (i.e. give and take). When an argument becomes stuck in a circle, it stops being fun. If no one is willing to give in, to allow room for consideration, you have entered the American school of argument. Recommended actions are giving in, if even momentarily. Or just not arguing with this person in the future.

4. Go balls out. Part of the fun of German arguing is getting excited. Don't be afraid to raise your voice. And while keeping in mind lessons one and two, don't be afraid to throw insults. If it starts getting personal, then it's time to back things off. This is about having fun, not making enemies.

5. Surround yourself with people who know the German school of arguing. If the only people you argue with practice the American school, chances are they will take everything you say personally, even if (in the true spirit of German argument) you never intend it as so. Local pubs can be good for this, sometimes. Universities are often hotbeds of people trained in German argument. Put the two together, and you'll usually find at least one person to practice with. It also takes time and effort to master Lesson One, which is only possible in the presence of others trained in this art. There's no sign for the German school, and on the internet it can be even more difficult to feel this out, even for people with low autism ratings.

6. Mastery of the German school is difficult. Especially for Americans. We are so used to taking and giving offense, to digging our feet in and breaking up flow, or to the opposite, to backing out of any situation where things get heated. Practicing these lessons has added benefits as well: lower butthurt levels, higher fun levels, and stabilized stress levels.

Or, you know, we could all just attempt to wound each other until everyone stops talking.


I know [that it should have been rejected] because I wrote the paper. Ocorrafoo Cobange does not exist, nor does the Wassee Institute of Medicine. Over the past 10 months, I have submitted 304 versions of the wonder drug paper to open-access journals. More than half of the journals accepted the paper, failing to notice its fatal flaws. Beyond that headline result, the data from this sting operation reveal the contours of an emerging Wild West in academic publishing.

The paper took this form: Molecule X from lichen species Y inhibits the growth of cancer cell Z. To substitute for those variables, I created a database of molecules, lichens, and cancer cell lines and wrote a computer program to generate hundreds of unique papers. Other than those differences, the scientific content of each paper is identical.

The fictitious authors are affiliated with fictitious African institutions. I generated the authors, such as Ocorrafoo M. L. Cobange, by randomly permuting African first and last names harvested from online databases, and then randomly adding middle initials. For the affiliations, such as the Wassee Institute of Medicine, I randomly combined Swahili words and African names with generic institutional words and African capital cities. My hope was that using developing world authors and institutions would arouse less suspicion if a curious editor were to find nothing about them on the Internet.

There are numerous red flags in the papers, with the most obvious in the first data plot. The graph's caption claims that it shows a "dose-dependent" effect on cell growth—the paper's linchpin result—but the data clearly show the opposite. The molecule is tested across a staggering five orders of magnitude of concentrations, all the way down to picomolar levels. And yet, the effect on the cells is modest and identical at every concentration.

One glance at the paper's Materials & Methods section reveals the obvious explanation for this outlandish result. The molecule was dissolved in a buffer containing an unusually large amount of ethanol. The control group of cells should have been treated with the same buffer, but they were not. Thus, the molecule's observed "effect" on cell growth is nothing more than the well-known cytotoxic effect of alcohol.

In short, of the 255 journals that the fake paper was submitted to (not counting the derelict journals), 157 of them passed peer review.

Michael Eisen points out the hilarity of this expose being published in Science:

My sting exposed the seedy underside of “subscription-based” scholarly publishing, where some journals routinely lower their standards – in this case by sending the paper to reviewers they knew would be sympathetic - in order to pump up their impact factor and increase subscription revenue. Maybe there are journals out there who do subscription-based publishing right – but my experience should serve as a warning to people thinking about submitting their work to Science and other journals like it.

OK – this isn’t exactly what happened. I didn’t actually write the paper. Far more frighteningly, it was a real paper that contained all of the flaws described above that was actually accepted, and ultimately published, by Science.

That's right, the arsenic-eating bacteria paper from last year was published by Science, a big name, "closed-access" journal. He goes on to argue:

But it’s nuts to construe this as a problem unique to open access publishing, if for no other reason than the study, didn’t do the control of submitting the same paper to subscription-based publishers (UPDATE: The author, Bohannon emailed to say that, while his original intention was to look at all journals, practical constraints limited him to OA journals, and that Science played no role in this decision). We obviously don’t know what subscription journals would have done with this paper, but there is every reason to believe that a large number of them would also have accepted the paper (it has many features in common with the arsenic DNA paper afterall). Like OA journals, a lot of subscription-based journals have businesses based on accepting lots of papers with little regard to their importance or even validity. When Elsevier and other big commercial publishers pitch their “big deal”, the main thing they push is the number of papers they have in their collection. And one look at many of their journals shows that they also will accept almost anything.

None of this will stop anti-open access campaigners  (hello Scholarly Kitchen) from spinning this as a repudiation for enabling fraud. But the real story is that a fair number of journals who actually carried out peer review still accepted the paper, and the lesson people should take home from this story not that open access is bad, but that peer review is a joke. If a nakedly bogus paper is able to get through journals that actually peer reviewed it, think about how many legitimate, but deeply flawed, papers must also get through. Any scientist can quickly point to dozens of papers – including, and perhaps especially, in high impact journals – that are deeply, deeply flawed – the arsenic DNA story is one of many recent examples. As you probably know there has been a lot of smoke lately about the “reproducibility” problem in biomedical science, in which people have found that a majority of published papers report facts that turn out not to be true. This all adds up to showing that peer review simply doesn’t work.

While I agree that pre-publication peer review is inconsistent, I don't think it's broken. It does reasonably well when the reviewers and editors are on task and not just passing papers through a pipeline. Once in a while a paper like the above gets through a big name journal, where the checks on methods weren't strict enough, but for the most part, pre-publication peer review does exactly what it is supposed to.

My disagreement with all these folks is on the /purpose/ of pre-PR: it is NOT to judge the scientific value of a paper.

Pre-PR is, at best, a low pass filter. It insures that editors don't get shamed (often) for publishing gaffs, and that scientists in a particular field of research don't have to trudge through miles and miles of dreck just to find a paper that might be worthwhile. As such, reviewers and editors clean up the writing, make sure the methods follow from the introduction and the conclusion follows from all of the above, check logical consistency and reasoning, read the methods carefully, and look over the statistics. This is the job of pre-PR.

The job of judging the scientific /worth/ of a paper is what POST-publication peer review is for. I have spent many hours during my graduate career in these classes called "journal clubs". A group of students meet and one of us presents a paper, which we have all read, and the rest of the hour is spent tearing it to shreds. This is Post-PR, and it is absolutely necessary and far, far more important than Pre-PR could ever be. This is where the judgement comes in. All this training wasn't to make me a better pre-PR reviewer, it was to make me a post-PR reviewer who is not bound by the opinions of a few, usually anonymous people.

The problem is, people treat pre-PR as if it is the be all, end all of the peer review process, as if what is published is automatically worthy, or correct, or not fraudulent, just because it "passed peer review". The solution isn't to change the pre-PR process, the solution is to actually do post-PR review, to not simply trust the contents of a paper because it has Science or Nature or PLoSOne in the header. If I am simply taking what I find in an article as Word of God because some unnamed people got together and decided it was good enough to go, then what is /my/ worth as a scientist? How am I any more useful than people who take whatever media spin gets distributed?

This semester, I'm taking a journal club like class, with a bit more structure, but the main event every week is always a paper presentation and discussion. I spend HOURS carefully reading through these papers, even if I am not myself presenting. I go through the steps on this page, not only so I have good questions to ask, but so I train this skill until it becomes second nature. This is how every scientist should address a paper they are doing more than a skim over, or considering for use in their research, or as background for a paper, or if controversial. It is necessary, it is not just a game, and it plays a far more important role than the so called "broken" pre-publication peer review.

Or Kill Me / On Jazz.
« on: October 12, 2013, 10:49:49 pm »
I'd like to revoke what I said about Jazz in the past.

I can't find the exact quote, but it was something to the effect of "Jazz is noise". This was revised from my previous, rather naive statement about Jazz from a dilletantte's perspective (and given that I don't play the genre, that's likely all I'll ever be).

Perhaps not revoke, but a further revision. Like taxonomy, sometimes new information comes to light and the evolutionary relationships that seemed so clear yesterday are suddenly a polyphyly or polytomy, or worse, a premise based on some study in Science proclaiming arsenic-eating bacteria. The model needs updating.

And it stems from something that I think many people here agree with, in at least the basic premise, and that is that music worth listening to doesn't have to be easy listening. And I don't mean in the sense of LOUD or having controversial lyrics, though these are also acceptable. I'm talking about difficult listening in the form of sounds and rhythms that are outside my comfort zone. Because, like the definition of "weed", noise is sound where it's not wanted.

If I had to pick any genre that tends to go outside that comfortable range, it's Jazz. Complicated, dissonant, often including nothing resembling a melody, definitely not easy listening. Even if your preffered music is death metal at ear drum bursting levels, Jazz is still difficult. Why should being uncomfortable mean it's not worth anything? Once again, uncomfortable being "that which is incongruent to my MO".

The obvious answer is that many people find Jazz worth quite a lot, and not just dilettante hipsters either. I know I'm really going against the grain here (some might even call it groupthink) to say that I'm willing to give more Jazz some listening. Hell, I'm listening to Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage right now, and you know what? It hurts. It /feels/ in great part like noise but for goddsake I'm never going to grow musically if I don't get over some shallow notion of what constitutes music. There's plenty of discussion in the Apple Zone thread right now on musical stagnation, and I think it applies equally to this.

In closing: fuck what you think you know about noise. It's worth listening to at least once, if my ears aren't destroyed in the process. This isn't about taste, this about a willingness to explore, lest I become some sort of horrible narrow-minded critic that listens to the same 5 tracks over, and over, and over...

Techmology and Scientism / Labhacks.
« on: September 27, 2013, 08:10:15 pm »

Two things from this site that I want to/will be using in the future.

1. One of the major pains of presenting a poster at a scientific meeting is keeping it from getting damaged in transit. With a fabric poster, I no longer have that issue. Hell, I don't even need to use a tube! Just fold or scrunch that thing up and it can fit in my suitcase.

2. I didn't really care about 3-D printing either way until I discovered all the useful tools I could make. These include standard tools I can purchase, or custom things that don't exist. I've been looking to make some custom tool storage systems for my dissection kit, and I just realized how easy this would be with a 3-D printer.

Or Kill Me / Stupid Omniscence and Novelty.
« on: September 21, 2013, 05:08:49 pm »
When we bring people from out of university for departmental seminars, we usually have a grad student lunch with the speaker before the talk. This generally starts out with everyone going round table introducing themselves and their research, after which we talk about various things, often relating to research or grad school.

Last week's grad lunch was atypical. The enthusiastic speaker lead a discussion/lecture from the whiteboard (pausing only for a bite of sandwich), and it was by far the most stimulating grad lunch we've ever had, and also simultaneously the most interesting and most infuriating. This wasn't even the seminar, this was just him holding court in grad lunch. Topics covered everything from Mendel to Memeology, but the focus was these three questions:

What is novelty?
What is an idea?
What is chance?

Now, I'm not going to try to cover the whole talk right now because it was a long, rambling, and dense, but one of the things he mentioned was technological omniscience.

30 years ago, and for the majority of time that there has been universities, the academics have acted as a repository for knowledge. We needed them because it was much faster to ask them than to try to find the information for ourselves. Hundreds of years ago it was sometimes the /only/ way to get this information, because it was either not written down or only written in very rare books only a few people possessed.

But now, he said, pointing to a smart phone on the table, we all carry a second brain along with us. We are essentially omniscent with the rest of humanity. So academics can't rely on their job as knowledge repository anymore, they have to find something else to do.

And his answer was the generation of novelty, which comes from the "remixing" of ideas in the brain. He said it was like natural selection in practice. And I generally agreed with his assessment of novelty, that it takes a great many ideas remixed in the brain to actually generate novelty.

But I had a big problem with his idea of technological omniscience. Never mind he had already peeved me a bit with his statements about genetics being "dead" and essentially "engineering" at this point (since only work at the bleeding edge is science, I guess). His sort of omniscience with the tricorder reference we carry around with us seems to be a very stupid sort of omniscience. It doesn't generate novelty, it doesn't communicate new ideas, PEOPLE do that. If intelligence is the ability to absorb, integrate, and communicate information, then technological omniscience is only the absorb portion of that, and the really interesting stuff happens in the integrate and communicate portions. It's in those parts that novelty is generated.

So, you can be walking around with the sum of all knowledge in your hands, but if you don't actually /have any of it in your brain/, that knowledge is not generating novelty. Cain has said as much here before, and I'm pretty sure that Yudkowsky has as well. Which means that despite professors being no longer necessary as a repository for language /for everyone else/, that repository of language is necessary /for their own work/.

I hear undergrads bemoan having to remember things, why do we have to remember this if we can just look it up? Because that sort of all knowing "power" is about as dumb as an automaton. Technological omniscience is about as stupid as people who think intelligence is all about how many digits of pi you can remember. I'm not reducing the significance of having humanity's amassed knowledge at my fingertips, I'm saying that complete reliance upon such things eliminates novelty. Like the person with no short term memory, technological omniscience only supplies that which was known years ago, and that which is right in front of me. It doesn't give novel solutions, and if used too often it becomes a brain crutch.

Techmology and Scientism / Cronodon: Museum of the Future.
« on: September 20, 2013, 06:56:51 pm »

I really don't even know what to make of this. Writings on just about every subject, including fantastical things. The stuff on biology is accurate and quite well written.

Apple Talk / ATTN Nigel: Creepy temple with dolls everywhere.
« on: September 13, 2013, 03:28:47 am »
So, I was looking at the videos for Abandoned Japan (I gave you a playlist before, but /this/ is the channel:, and I found a tumbler linked (

One of the photoseries was of this abandoned Buddhist temple for missing children. Parents would bring a doll for the priest to bless and keep, and so many of the dolls have names on them.

ETA: Should clarify, that tumblr is /not/ connected to those youtube accounts. It's a completely different person, which I just realized.

Or Kill Me / The Collective "You" (short).
« on: September 11, 2013, 06:28:37 pm »
There's this tendency to generalize when making statements of opinion. And I don't mean the "all sheep are black" sorts of opinions. I'm talking about making declarative statements as if they are fact which use the collective "you". Example: "You know when you go outside and it's raining, and you didn't know beforehand, and you end up wet and irritated and crabby with your co workers? This is why you should always bring an umbrella." Completely made up, I'm sure you could provide your own. (Hey, there's another one!).

What it seems is that these are projection. The speaker assumes everyone else shares his or her experience, and projects their opinions into the ether. This is annoying. Maybe I check the weather before going outside, or don't get crabby when I get soaking wet. The collective you not only pretends that the opinions are general, but also avoids taking responsibility for those opinions.

Antero Ali has a segment on this in Angel Tech, and I can't remember it exactly but it goes something like this: When stating an opinion, use "I" or "me" or "myself" instead of "you". This takes responsibility and agency into the hands of the wielder, and avoids passing the buck. At which point I can say, "Sorry, I don't share your experience", because it's quite clear that the statement is opinion and theirs. I don't have to pretend it's fact because there's no collective you.

Techmology and Scientism / Why is Kai so obsessed with Insect Genitalia?
« on: September 04, 2013, 10:07:30 pm »
I figured this weirdness needed some explaining.

Start off by reading Bug Girl's excellent bit on the Phalloblaster. It's either not what you think, or exactly what you think.

First, a practical reason. If you go outside and collect a bug, and you want to find out what kind of bug it is, chances are it's going to be small. 99% [citation needed] of all animals are smaller than a bumble bee. Second chance is that it's going to be rather nondescript. Entomologists call these LBBs (little brown bugs), and there are /tons/ of them. Third chance is that it's going to be of a rather large group, one with hundreds or more species in North America (or whatever other godforsaken place you live).

When entomologists (that's people who study insects) first started doing in depth microscope work, they discovered something really different. You could have two different insects that looked outwardly identical, but when you look closely you find the genitalia strikingly different. And not just different, but /consistently/ different. Consistently different enough that you can tell these very closely related species apart with a glance. And it turns out these differences and similarities have a lot of phylogenetic signal. That is, they can tell us a great deal about the evolutionary history of these related species. Questions like: which are most closely related? Are these groups we had previously designated good ones? Are there any correlations with ecology or behavior?

And, they're kinda weird looking. I've recently characterized insect genitalia as being "a costume party on Lovecraft's birthday". Spines and hairs and membranous sacs and clasping arms with hooks and all sorts of non-euclidean geometry. And that's just the males! The females have all sorts of other weird, internal structures, sometimes with large, piercing external structures like ovipositors.

Here's just one example: a recently new to science forcepfly with massive clasping arms on the male genitalia Male sure to check out the damselfly genitalia near the bottom.

So, they're great for identification, weird and different among species, but why?

This isn't just an insect question, by the way. This is something that researchers on many groups of animals have been asking, about duck penises, for example, which are tightly wound helixes (the female orifice winds the /opposite/ direction, if you were wondering). Or Hyenas. Yeah, I'll just leave that one there.

The answer is sexual selection. Or, really, it's three answers, three hypotheses, and not necessarily competing hypotheses. All of which lead to a rapid and divergent evolution of insect genitalia.

The first is called sexual antagonistic selection. The "interest" of the male is to get his spermatozoa as close to the ova as possible, so he evolves all sorts of structures to make that happen. The problem is, these structures often are sharp spines and hairs, hooks, and in extreme cases, a piercing structure that goes straight through the body wall in an act called traumatic insemination. This is what bedbugs do. There are also often fluids included, ones that sometimes alter the behavior of the female, make her less prone to further mating, for example.

As you might imagine, the female doesn't benefit much from these insertions. They can lower the overall ability of the female to produce offspring, shorten their lifespans, and depress their immune systems. So she is heavily selected upon for defenses to combat the male structures. Over time this becomes an arms race between males and females, the females evolving better defenses, the males evolving spinier phalluses. In bed bugs, the females have an elaborate internal system of sacs to reduce the male's impact upon her immune system when he puts a big hole in her abdomen. Some even have a groove that directs the piercing phallus into a particular place of weakness, reducing the overall damage. Summary: sexual antagonistic selection is an arms race between males and females with the males initiating.

The second hypothesis is sperm competition. Sex in most animals goes a particular way. The males are promiscuous, and attempt to mate with multiple females. The females are passive and choosy. The main driver for this is that males generally have a low energy investment for reproduction. Sperm, in most cases, are cheap to make. Females on the other hand have a high energy investment, as eggs (or pregnancy in mammals) are expensive. In pretty much all cases the female investment is higher, and so there is reason for her to be more choosy in her mating. (When the opposite happens, as it does in some species, it's called a sex role reversal. Think seahorses). In cases where both parents take near equal energy investment, including post-natal parental care, both tend to do the choosing. Humans, for example.

So, if multiple males are mating with a single female, as is often the case, there is going to be competition between male sperm to reach the ova. The male that gets the sperm closest is the male that wins. Thus, elaborate genitalic structures, or sperm plugs, or genitalia that actually can't get out of the female once they're put in (the male just leaves them behind; think about that for a few minutes.), or just better sperm. Anything that will maximize the chance that that one male's sperm will get to the eggs first. Summary: Sperm competition is where males are competing with each other.

The third is female choice. Since females have the most energy invested in reproduction, there is reason for selection to act on their systems to maximize their ability to choose between spermatozoa, both before and after mating. The best example of pre-mating choice is the tail of male peacocks. Or courtship rituals. Or wing spots. Or nuptual offerings (that's a cool one; check out these balloon flies.) Basically, anything the female can sense about potential mates which would allow her to pick ones that have characters indicative of health and genetic fitness. Post-mating choice is a bit...stranger. Somehow, females are often able to choose between sperm that she has received. This can be a matter of chemical constituents of the reproductive tract, or also how they are stored in a sac called the spermatheca. In any case, the female chooses and therefore the males are forced into an arms race with the female to try to catch up, finding ways to bypass these barriers. It's the inverse of sexual antagonistic selection. Summary: Female choice is an arms race between males and females where females are the initiators.

All of the above happen in combination, in most cases. It's seldom just sperm competition, or just antagonistic selection. Since there's all these arms races and competition, there's selection for insect genitalia to be flexible in construction. Or, more precisely, the fundamental flexibility of insect genitalia may be the greatest cause of their diversity, behind wings and the general segmented ground plan.

Two recent articles: - A story about spiky beetle phalluses. - A story about flies with hooks, and how one entomologist is shaving them off with a laser.

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of my obsession. Or you're disgusted, or terrified.

Or Kill Me / Dear MRAs and PUAs.
« on: September 02, 2013, 02:20:57 am »
Dear MRAs/PUAs,

          I am truly sorry for your predicament. You have one desire in life, to have sex with women (who meet your arbitrarily high set of standards), and you can't seem to meet this goal. I hear you complaining about the "bitches" who put you in "the friend zone", and I feel your pain. I sympathize with your inability to get dates through "negging", despite all the evolutionary psychology papers you've read. It seems no woman on the planet will have sex with you, the whole world is against you, people are discriminating against you, and you're living in your mother's basement and practicing poor hygiene. It's sad.

         I'm writing this friendly letter to ofter some wisdom on the problem and solutions. It's my gift to you, no cost, no thanks needed. No reply, even.

          There are two fundamental reasons you are in this unfortunate situation. The most obvious (and as should be clear shortly, most minor) problem is that women find you having nothing. I don't mean nothing in terms of limited money, or physical possessions, but rather in terms of self-currency. You are, as aforementioned, living in your mother's basement, you have no life aspirations aside from having sex with women, very few skills beyond your work (if you work at all), even more limited social skills, the hygiene issue I already mentioned, and no ambition. You have, in plainer terms, nothing going for you. Baring the Second Reason, women like having sex with people who are interesting, through muscle mass, intelligence, humor, charisma, technical skill in the bedroom, all of these are possible avenues. You have none of these, at least not in ways that are obvious. Without some extraordinary willpower, this is not likely to change.

            Which brings me to the Second Reason, which is, you're a douchebag. WOAH WOAH, CALM DOWN! I'm using the term in a technical manner here, not as an insult. A douchebag is person (typically male) women find annoying and unpleasant, and often even harmful. Much like the namesake object, women do not enjoy the presence of a douchebag. Sometimes the qualities listen in the First Reason can overcome this syndrome, but given the prevalence of feminists this is becoming more difficult. 

                  What may come as a shock is that you're a douchebag precisely because of your greatest and only desire. Yes, you are a douchebag because you just want to have sex with women. And I'm not saying that women don't enjoy sex; many do. The douchebaggery comes from that little word "just". You just want to have sex with women. You don't want to be friends, you don't want to have nice conversations, to build relationships, to actually care about their lives and their desires. You just want to have them as an object you can stick your ding dong into (and what's so bad about that, really? Your onahole doesn't complain). 

            The truth is, women are people. Yes, people just like everyone else. Albeit usually with different kinds of parts than you (the parts your ding dong likes so much). And as people, they don't generally like being objectified. And if they do, they like it more as a game that is quickly over, and with someone who has qualities of the First Reason. Baring that, they like building relationships and good conversation that includes their interests, having friendships, doing things they consider fun. I'm sure you could build a long list of things that people enjoy doing. Go ahead if you need to, I can wait.

          Got your list? Good. Now realize this: if you want to have sex with women, and you don't have any First Reason qualites, it's okay, you can still end up having sex with women. You just have to treat them as people and take a sincere interest in their lives and eventually there will be a woman who will enjoy your company enough to have sex with you. It's far more likely than you might think.

          I know, I can hear your protestations. "But Kai, I don't care about women's interests, I don't care about their lives, I just want to stick my ding dong where the sun don't shine!" Then my admonition to you is: FAKE IT. Fake it with all your mind and all your heart and all your adipose cells and all your neck hairs. Fake empathy, fake caring, fake interest, fake it as hard as you can, as long as you can. Fake it so hard it becomes second nature.

          Eventually, it won't be fake anymore. You'll have pulled out of your misogynistic narcissism and actually start caring about women as people. You might even gain some social skills in the process (point to reason one qualities!). Women will sense that you actually care about them, and eventually one of them will want to have sex with you. By that point, sex will have a back seat in your mind because those other things like empathy and love will actually be important to you. You'll be happy, they'll be happier, and everyone else will be ecstatic because we'll no longer have to suffer a douchebag. It's a non-zero sum game, everyone wins!

Warm Regards,


P.S.: You might also want to do something about that neckbeard.

Before you begin: some general advice
Reading a scientific paper is a completely different process than reading an article about science in a blog or newspaper. Not only do you read the sections in a different order than they’re presented, but you also have to take notes, read it multiple times, and probably go look up other papers for some of the details. Reading a single paper may take you a very long time at first. Be patient with yourself. The process will go much faster as you gain experience.


You see, there is no uniformly sound advice on where to get good ideas. There’s no recipe for discovery. In fact, this informal claim can be made rigorous in several mathematico-computational senses and proven, something I studied earlier in my career. Furthermore, the discovery process doesn’t always give you an indication of how close you might be to the end, nor if there will be an end at all. In fact, in my work I’ve been able to prove that for some discoveries it is intrinsically impossible to know how close one is to reaching the end. For these puzzles, sudden breakthroughs—aha moments—are in fact logically required rather than due to some quirk of human psychology.

The result is that how we scientists find our ideas is ugly, and frankly embarrassing to show folks. That’s why we don’t put this part of the process into our journal articles or books.

It includes a slideshow of 1.5 years of his idea notebooks.

Apple Talk / BEES.
« on: August 22, 2013, 03:08:52 pm »

In the 9th Annual Bee Beard Competition held in Ontario, Canada competitors covered their faces with bees to form a 'beard'
The person with the heaviest and more aesthetically pleasing bee beard is declared the winner
Competitors place a queen bee in a cage around their neck to attract the rest of the colony to land on their upper body

Did someone say BEES?

Apple Talk / Ummmm, Illinois ninja?
« on: August 22, 2013, 12:29:46 am »

LMNO thought I should crosspost this from Facebook, so I am.

The first conclusion of this essay is that many of us live in different worlds with different personal belief systems. And, although many of us believe that ours is correct, it is no trivial task to convince others. Once a belief system is developed, it is, almost completely, locked in. The term epistemic closure* has been popular recently. Each of these systems is self-consistent and forms a bubble of epistemic closure. When a person is in one closed belief structure, ideas outside of that structure just seem crazy. Within the structure, things make sense. There is logical consistency and no cognitive dissonance. Trying to believe ideas outside of a belief bubble creates creates ideational tension and is not stable.

The second conclusion of this essay is that most of our fundamental knowledge is not acquired by personal interaction with the world, but is delivered by experts. People cannot just call themselves experts, however, and be experts. The set of experts that Joe trusts has no overlap with the set that Mary trusts. Both Joe and Mary think that the experts outside of their bubble are fanatics, and, possibly, evil.

It was rather challenging to read this, because as a scientist I mostly take my map for granted. I hold strongly that it can be changed, but it is still true for me as it is for everyone that at least some of my beliefs are expert derived rather than experience. Strike that, most are expert derived. When I think about this I realize just how shaky my own beliefs are, so much more so than fundamentalists who are sure of themselves. It's not the fact that they can change that make them shaky, but the lack of confidence from direct experience. I may witness firsthand certain chemical reactions, but I take the rest of the expert advice on chemistry through extrapolation and consistency. Likewise for most other things.

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