COVID-19 Origins: Investigating a “Complex and Grave Situation” Inside a Wuhan Lab | ProPublica
Of course, since this piece was published, there’s been a lot of debate and controversy about how accurate its claims are; not being an expert on CCP communications, it’s hard for me to judge. Still, worth a read:
The Wuhan lab at the center of suspicions about the pandemic’s onset was far more troubled than known, documents unearthed by a Senate team reveal. Tracing the evidence, Vanity Fair and ProPublica give the clearest view yet of a biocomplex in crisis. […]
Party speak is “its own lexicon,” explains Reid, now 44 years old. Even a native Mandarin speaker “can’t really follow it,” he says. “It’s not meant to be easily understood. It’s almost like a secret language of Chinese officialdom. When they’re talking about anything potentially embarrassing, they speak of it in innuendo and hushed tones, and there’s a certain acceptable way to allude to something.”
For 15 months, Reid loaned this unusual skill to a nine-person team dedicated to investigating the mystery of COVID-19’s origins.
List of common misconceptions | Wikipedia
This seems like the sort of Wiki page I’d have sent before, but doesn’t look like I have:
Legal tender laws in the United States do not state that a private business, a person, or an organization must accept cash for payment, though it must be regarded as valid payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. […]
Searing does not seal moisture in meat; in fact, it causes it to lose some moisture. Meat is seared to brown it, improving its color, flavor, and texture. […]
Microwave ovens are not tuned to any specific resonance frequency for water molecules in the food, but rather produce a broad spectrum of frequencies, cooking food via dielectric heating of polar molecules, including water. Several absorption peaks for water lie within the microwave range, and while it is true that these peaks are caused by quantization of molecular energy levels corresponding to a single frequency, water absorbs radiation across the entire microwave spectrum.
The end of the system of the world | Noahpinion
Some called the world system of the 2000s and early 2010s “Chimerica”. During these years, the hope that global trade would lead to a cessation of great-power conflict, even without ideological alignment, seemed justified. And although China’s politics didn’t liberalize, under Jiang and Hu the country became more open to foreign travelers, foreign workers, and foreign ideas. This might not have been the End of History, but it was a compromise most people could live with for a while. […]
Wuttke has every incentive to say that China is still oriented toward economic growth and that the China business environment is still attractive for multinational companies. And yet he is saying the opposite. I tend to believe him. There are a ton of evidence that Xi’s regime is de-prioritizing the foreign businesses whose investment helped build China up to where it is today. […]
The key thing to understand about this decoupling, I think, and the reason it’s for real, is that this is something the leaders of both the U.S. and China want. No matter what you heard in 2018, this is not a case of a protectionist U.S. trying to defend its manufacturing industries while China becomes the champion of globalism. The U.S. is acting not out of concern for its industries — indeed, its chip industry will take a huge hit from export controls — but because of how it perceives its own national security. And China’s leaders want to shift to indigenous industry, regulated industry, and even nationalized industry, even if that shift makes China grow more slowly.
The decoupling between China and the developed democracies, so long a topic of conversation and speculation, now appears to be a reality. A critical point has been reached. The old world-economic system of Chimerica is being swept away, and something new will take its place.
Chips and China | Stratechery
So is this chip ban the right move?
In the medium term, the impacts will be significant, particularly in terms of the stated target of these sanctions — AI. Only now is it becoming possible to manufacture intelligence, and the means to do so is incredibly processor intensive, both in terms of quality and quantity. Moreover, not only does AI figure to loom large in military applications, but is also likely to spur innovation in its own right, perhaps even in terms of figuring out how to keep pushing the frontier of chip design.
In the long run, meanwhile, the U.S. may have given up what would have been, thanks to the sheer amount of cost and learning curve distance involved, a permanent economic advantage. Absent politics there simply is no reason to compete with TSMC or ASML or any of the other specialized parts of the supply chain; it would simply be easier to buy instead of build. Now, though, it is possible to envision a future where China undercuts U.S. companies in chips just like they once did in more labor-intensive industries, even as its own AI capabilities catch up and, given China’s demonstrated willingness to use technology in deeply intrusive ways, potentially surpass the West with its concerns about privacy and property rights.
How China Lost America | New York Times
It’s a tough call. And just listing them all together only tells you what a hinge of history 2022 has become. But my vote goes to Chexit.
We’ve had four decades of U.S.-China economic integration that hugely benefited American consumers. It led to new export opportunities for some Americans and unemployment for others, depending on the industry they were in. It helped raise hundreds of millions of Chinese out of extreme poverty. It tamped down inflation and worked to prevent any great power wars.
On the whole, we will miss that era now that it’s gone, because our world will be less prosperous, less integrated and less geopolitically stable.
Eleven days in Taiwan | Noahpinion
I admit this is ranked higher than it should be because my family’s from Taiwan…but I do think it’s an incredible place:
The first thing I noticed about Taiwan was how laid-back everybody seemed. Megacities like New York, Tokyo, and Shanghai are suffused with a frenetic energy; in Taipei everyone just kind of seems to saunter along. People are not in a hurry, they are not obsessed with details and busy-work. In eleven days in the country, I didn’t once hear raised voices, or witness a disagreement of any kind, or see two people get in each other’s way. In Japan people dress up to go to the convenience store; in Taiwan people in trendy neighborhoods look like they shop at Target. When I asked Audrey Tang, the Minister of Digital Affairs, why Taipei doesn’t renovate more of its dilapidated old buildings, she replied “There’s no social pressure for that.”
How the U.K. Became One of the Poorest Countries in Western Europe | The Atlantic
…and maybe this is lower than it should be because I’ve recently become a British citizen, and my choice to move here apparently has some drawbacks:
Britain chose finance over industry, austerity over investment, and a closed economy over openness to the world.
Scientists Just Discovered an Entirely New Way of Measuring Time | ScienceAlert
Marking the passage of time in a world of ticking clocks and swinging pendulums is a simple case of counting the seconds between 'then' and 'now'.
Down at the quantum scale of buzzing electrons, however, 'then' can't always be anticipated. Worse still, 'now' often blurs into a haze of uncertainty. A stopwatch simply isn't going to cut it for some scenarios.
A potential solution could be found in the very shape of the quantum fog itself, according to researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden.
If every country's airspace extended up forever, which country would own the largest percentage of the galaxy at any given time? | What If?
Congratulations to Australia, new rulers of the galaxy.
Moderation Is Different From Censorship | Astral Codex Ten
This is a point I keep seeing people miss in the debate about social media.
Moderation is the normal business activity of ensuring that your customers like using your product. If a customer doesn’t want to receive harassing messages, or to be exposed to disinformation, then a business can provide them the service of a harassment-and-disinformation-free platform.
Censorship is the abnormal activity of ensuring that people in power approve of the information on your platform, regardless of what your customers want. If the sender wants to send a message and the receiver wants to receive it, but some third party bans the exchange of information, that’s censorship.
Unlikely Simultaneous Historical Events | Kottke
A few of my favorite answers:
When pilgrims were landing on Plymouth Rock, you could already visit what is now Santa Fe, New Mexico to stay at a hotel, eat at a restaurant and buy Native American silver.
Prisoners began to arrive to Auschwitz a few days after McDonald’s was founded.
The first wagon train of the Oregon Trail heads out the same year the fax machine is invented.
Redistribution and credit card debt | Marginal Revolution
Is Chase Sapphire a Pareto improvement, or does it also involve redistribution? Here is a new paper on that topic.
Interrupting Janet Yellen | Marginal Revolution
How prevalent is gender bias among U.S. politicians? We analyze the transcripts of every congressional hearing attended by the chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve from 2001 to 2020 to provide a carefully identified effect of sexism, using Janet Yellen as a bundled treatment. We find that legislators who interacted with both Yellen and at least one other male Fed chair over this period interrupt Yellen more, and interact with her using more aggressive tones. Furthermore, we show that the increase in hostility experienced by Yellen relative to her immediate predecessor and successor are absent among those legislators with daughters. Our results point to the important role of societal biases bleeding into seemingly unrelated policy domains, underscoring the vulnerability of democratic accountability and oversight mechanisms to existing gender norms and societal biases.