This was published before the tragedy in Uvalde. I sometimes feel obliged to justify a four-star rating (and I have to admit, this one was borderline to me), so I was writing a blurb in my head about how the author, Eric Barton, cleverly took sides in this article while acting as if he hadn’t. And then Uvalde happened, and as of this writing it seems the cops didn’t confront the shooter when they should have, and this thoroughly researched piece became gut-wrenchingly relevant. Now I’d say this is a must-read:
The day 17 people were shot to death inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the only armed officer on the property stood outside, apparently doing nothing. He can explain, and he does—at length. Is he trying to convince the victims’ parents? The survivors? Other cops? Or himself?
This was an incredibly compelling read, complete with student chat messages:
Why tell this story? Since this whole thing happened I’ve told the story a bunch of times, and sometimes I get requests to tell it. This is also a story for my future students about what not to do. So, here is a long form version. I’m not interested in outing my students, or casting shade on them. There were many fantastic students in my course while the cheating completely overwhelmed everything like a metastasizing slime mold. People cheat in college for lots of reasons. I don’t condone the behavior. I teach my courses because I’m interested in engaging students in the material. When cheating happens, it can reflect on me as an instructor and whether or not the course merits engagement. So, this is a story about cheating, but also about how I tried to turn things around and get students to engage in my course.
The oldest megalithic ritual monument in the world (until the Turkish discoveries) was always thought to be Ggantija, in Malta. That’s maybe 5,500 years old. So Karahan Tepe, and its penis chamber, and everything that inexplicably surrounds the chamber – shrines, cells, altars, megaliths, audience halls et al – is vastly older than anything comparable, and plumbs quite unimaginable depths of time, back before agriculture, probably back before normal pottery, right back to a time when we once thought human ‘civilisation’ was simply impossible.
After all, hunter gatherers – cavemen with flint arrowheads – without regular supplies of grain, without the regular meat and milk of domesticated animals, do not build temple-towns with water systems.
Virtually all that we can now see of Karahan Tepe has been skilfully unearthed the last two years, with remarkable ease (for reasons which we will come back to later). And although there is much more to summon from the grave, what it is already teaching us is mind stretching. Taken together with its age, complexity, sophistication, and its deep, resonant mysteriousness, and its many sister sites now being unearthed across the Harran Plains – collectively known as the Tas Tepeler, or the ‘stone hills’ – these carved, ochre-red rocks, so silent, brooding, and watchful in the hard whirring breezes of the semi-desert, constitute what might just be the greatest archaeological revelation in the history of humankind.
I decided to apply for early admission to Princeton after sitting in on Professor Joshua Katz’s seminar in April of 2012. I’m afraid I don’t remember the content of the seminar, but I do remember the way he captivated the classroom—the way his students hung onto his every word and the way he hung onto theirs.
Last summer, I married him. This week, Princeton fired him.
He isn’t the Princeton Charming I expected to win in my undergraduate years. I entered college in 2013 under the shadow of Susan Patton, a Princeton alumna and mom who had some months before written a widely read letter to female students in the Daily Princetonian, urging them to find a husband on campus before they graduated. My friends and I mocked Patton relentlessly, and yet deep down we knew what she said was true: Smart women have a hard time finding worthy men. We set out to find ours. […]
In 2022, it seems, all sex is to be celebrated—except between older men and younger women. Student-teacher relationships are unwise for all sorts of reasons, and Joshua will be the first to tell you why. But when the same people who think that children can consent to puberty blockers claim that a 21-year-old woman cannot possibly consent to a relationship with her professor, it’s hard to take them seriously.
Let me tell you about our relationship. We wake up, we compare Wordle scores (and Dordle and Quordle), I make him exercise. We clean the dishes from the night before while singing made-up songs about bears, he chides me for not squeezing out the sponge, we spend some hours apart writing, I tell him what I want for lunch, he makes it for me, we go back to writing, we pick a new recipe to cook for dinner, I chop the onions, he minces the garlic, and then I make him dance with me around the kitchen. We’re weird, but we’re extremely well-matched.
My point here is that we are a relationship of equals. Power transfers back and forth in any relationship, and my relationship with Joshua is no different. But ask anyone who knows us: I am the alpha.
I normally don’t write about cryptocurrency in Bits about Money. It gets far too many column inches relative to its actual importance in the world, which is minimal compared to other financial infrastructure. I prefer writing about that extremely undercovered topic. But, much like Matt Levine feels professionally obligated to keep up with Elon Musk drama, I can’t avoid writing about stablecoins after the May 2022 collapse of Terra (UST). […]
Was this a complicated bit of financial engineering? Was it conducted in secret by an elite priesthood who needed years of education to even understand the acronyms at play? Nope. It wore its I’m Going To Blow Up And Take You Down With Me heart on its sleeve. I looked at it about two minutes and then confidently tweeted about the mechanism and inevitable fate. […]
The technical term for this is a “death spiral.”
On May 8th, Terra was the 3rd largest stablecoin in the world, with $18 billion in assets. Luna had recently been worth more than $30 billion.
It is, as of this writing, less than two weeks later. The shenanigans aren’t over, because Terra Labs thinks that it can trick people again, but many tens of billions of dollars were lost and will not be recovered.
From the Book Review Contest:
The world of scientific publishing is organized as a hierarchy of status, much like the hierarchy of angels in the Abrahamic religions. At the bottom are the non-peer-reviewed blog posts and Twitter threads. Slightly above are the preprint servers like arXiv, and then big peer-reviewed journals like PLOS One. Above those are all the field-specific journals, some with higher reputation than others. And at the top, near the divine presence, are the CNS journals: Cell, Nature, and Science. […]
But how, exactly, did Nature and Science become so prestigious? This is the question I hoped Making Nature: The History of a Scientific Journal, a 2015 book by historian of science Melinda Baldwin, might answer. It focuses on Nature, but much of its lessons can likely be extrapolated to Science considering their similarity.
Nate Hilger’s has written a brave book. Almost everyone will find something to hate about The Parent Trap. Indeed, I hated parts of it. Yet Hilger is willing to say truths that are often not said and for that I would rather applaud than cancel.
Hilger argues that the problems of poverty, pathology and inequality that bedevil the United States are not primarily due to poor schools, discrimination, or low incomes per se. The primary cause is parents: parents who are unable to teach their children the skills that are necessary to succeed in the modern world. Since parents can’t teach the necessary skills, Hilger calls for the state to take their place with a dramatic expansion of not just child care but collective parenting.
Crypto is a solution in search of a problem — or problems. […]
When it comes to crypto, all the questions sort of boil down to one: What, actually, is the point of it? Crypto is supposed to be special, i.e., not like other markets — at least if you listen to its boosters. But what if it’s not? It’s felt pretty spectacularly unspecial lately.
The crypto market has been in a bit of a meltdown. The price of bitcoin, the godfather of the space, has fallen by more than half of its 2021 peak, and billions of dollars of value were lost from cryptocurrencies in a matter of hours. Coins that are supposed to be “stable” are looking anything but, and one of the major trading platforms in the space has warned users their money might not always be safe there.
The claims proponents have long made about cryptocurrency — that it’s an inflation hedge, that it’s digital gold — appear increasingly dubious. Well before the current downturn, a lot of what was going on was fishy. Hackers have stolen tens of millions of dollars in crypto, and the sector is rife with stories about various scams. One big trend in the space might pretty blatantly be a Ponzi scheme.
In other words, crypto is having … a time. The type of time that makes you question why anyone is even investing in it.
From the Dynomight blog: You, Your Parents, And The Hotness Of Who You Marry.
They start with a traditional situation: some romance novel heroine wants to marry a tall, dark stranger. But her parents want her to marry a much older nobleman/doctor/engineer who can provide her with a stable income. Or the gender-flipped version: the young man courts a beautiful debutante, while his parents try to force him to marry the plain-faced daughter of their business partner.
Evolutionary psychology has pat explanations for both sides here. People want attractive partners because attraction correlates with health, fertility, and status (eg the debutante’s wide hips and large breasts mean she’ll be able to give birth and nurse effectively; the stranger’s height means he must be strong and healthy). But people also want wealthy partners from good families, because they’ll be able to give more resources to the children.
Dynomight’s question is: why do the suitors and the parents disagree here? Everyone involved (evolutionarily) wants the same thing: lots of healthy, successful descendants. Sexual attractiveness and financial resources both contribute to that some amount, but suitors and parents shouldn’t differ on the relative importance of each? So why is it traditionally the suitors who care about attractiveness and the parents who care about resources?
A lot of Americans are focused on disasters and threats these days — terror attacks, Supreme Court decisions, war, or the threat of disputed elections. Sometimes the parade of dire news can make it seem like everything is going wrong in the country. But there are some bright spots if you look for them. One of these is the new labor movement.
Starbucks is leading the charge. Unionization at the iconic coffee chain started with a store in Buffalo and is quickly spreading nationwide. About 70 stores are now unionized. […]
But the new movement is significant, because it focuses on a sector that isn’t very unionized — retail. As I’ll explain in a later section, local services like retail have long been the industries most in need of unions.
Before I explain why that is, however, I want to address some of the doubts that many of my readers are likely to have about unions. I’m not dogmatically pro-union, and I think there are many cases in which organized labor has been counterproductive. But it’s important to understand why those problems occurred, so that we can know when unions are and aren’t a good idea.
Max Tabarrok has an interesting new idea for governance, Interland:
Interland takes the intersection of the law codes of a large group of nations. This will produce a minimal reasonable set of laws which is highly resistant to lobbying and growth.
Anyone who wants to add a new agricultural subsidy, building height limit, or immigration restriction has to convince everyone in this group to add it before it passes in Interland. This makes the institutions of the country consistent and durable.
Greetings from Japan! I’m here for a two-week trip, so I think I’ll write a few posts about the country. Let’s start with the economy.
The first thing most people notice about Japan is how amazing the cities are. Tokyo in particular is a modern marvel. Gorgeously manicured plants surround immaculate, well-designed buildings. The restaurants and shops and entertainment options are intoxicatingly, fabulously infinite. The space is crowded yet always somehow serene, and you’re always within a few minutes’ walk of a train station that will take you anywhere you need to go. Japan has achieved feats of urban design and planning that no other country approaches, supported by a culture both unusually peaceful and startlingly creative.
But underneath the gloss of that fantasy-land exterior, Japan as a whole is not exactly thriving. For decades, the country’s real wages have drifted downward. […]
As I wrote in a post for Bloomberg back in 2019, the extent of poverty in Japan is particularly galling to those who believe life outcomes are a result of our personal choices. Rates of drug abuse, teen pregnancy, out-of-wedlock birth, and crime in Japan are extremely low; Japanese poor people play by the rules and get screwed by the system anyway.
Where to even begin? I mean, first of all, we killed a guy. My general rule of thumb is this: if I have to witness someone’s death, you’re not getting above three stars (exception: my four-star review of Lee’s Ten Pin Lanes).
You can’t expect luxury on public transit, but the seats were very uncomfortable, and we were packed in so tight that I had a guy basically sitting in my lap. Also, the brakes failed, and we began barreling uncontrollably down the tracks toward several innocent people that had been inexplicably tied to the tracks. Maybe the uncontrolled barreling made the seat seem more uncomfortable than it really was, I can’t say for sure.
It’s not just that we ran over the guy (it happens, I get it). But on the return trip, and every subsequent trip I’ve taken on that trolley, there is always a slightly different combination of people tied to the tracks. Sometimes it’s a relative of the person trackside who is manning the lever. Sometimes it’s a scientist, or an older person, or a kid.
That brings me to my next issue. I’ve taken plenty of bus rides where people constantly pull the string, causing the ride to take forever. But I’ve never, in my life, been on a form of public transportation that can suddenly be diverted to a different set of tracks by some random passerby. I don’t want to act like I know all there is to know about the trolley business, but it seems like the trolley route should fall only under the purview of transit authority employees. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think they should have a lever that allows any old idiot to divert the whole group of us to Westport on a whim.
On the topic of income redistribution, if you just ask them how much should happen, on a scale of 1 to 7:
Perhaps the most striking evidence of polarization is that in the 1–7 scale, the modal response among Republicans is 1, and the modal response among Democrats is 7.
If you look at their actual behavior, Republicans for instance are only slightly more likely to contest an increase in their tax property assessments. Or this:
One question in the online survey…asks about property taxes instead of federal taxes: “Do you consider the amount of property taxes you pay to be too low, about right, or too high?”…the share of Democrats responding that property taxes are too high (36.9 percent) is not much lower than the corresponding share of Republicans (42.9 percent).
Or if you ask people if they should pay lower property taxes, the difference is real but modest:
…the desired tax reduction is 28.46 percent for Republicans versus 23.42 percent for Democrats.
Or if you ask them how property taxes should be distributed across different income classes:
Democrats want to assign 25.92 percent of property taxes to the poorer household, and Republicans want to assign 25.71 percent to the poorer household…
The Democrats do favor somewhat more taxation for the wealthiest class of households. Yet:
The results indicate that as the difference in home values increases, the modal respondent still desires proportional taxes.
…Republicans and Democrats may say that they feel differently about income redistribution, but those differences disappear when facing real, high-stakes choices. We posit a different, yet still simple, explanation: partisan differences in preferences for redistribution are exaggerated by some, but not all, survey questions.
The conclusion of the US congressional hearing on UAPs, formerly known as UFOs, is an opportunity to take stock of where matters stand on a question that has captivated humankind for centuries: Have we been visited by aliens or not? […]
Don’t expect more details anytime soon. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say — and recent conversations with knowledgeable people have led me to believe — that the US government has standard radar and satellite evidence of these phenomena. If these moving vehicles were pure phantoms, not showing up in any other sensor readings, why would the government have held these hearings in the first place? It would have been easier to simply dismiss UAP reports and move on. […]
But the question is not binary. What if we thought about it probabilistically? More specifically: What are the three best reasons to think UAPs might be of alien origin? And what are the three best reasons for thinking this is quite unlikely? At the end I’ll give you my probabilities — and I hope you will think carefully about yours.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) accounts for about 37% of sudden unexpected infant deaths a year in the U.S., and the cause of SIDS has remained largely unknown. On Saturday, researchers from The Children's Hospital Westmead in Sydney released a study that has identified the first biochemical marker that could help detect babies more at risk of SIDS while they are alive.
But early on, customers were wary of shopping carts, much to the surprise of the man who is responsible for making them an object of everyday life.
"I thought it would be an immediate success," Sylvan Goldman, an Oklahoma grocery store owner who is considered the father of the modern shopping cart, said in a 1977 television interview. "I was so enthused about the cart."
On the first day they appeared in his stores, Goldman expected long lines of customers waiting to use them. "There were people shopping. Not a one was using a cart."
Consistent with beauty-blind admissions, alumni’s beauty is uncorrelated with the rank of the school they attended in China. In the US, White men who attended high-ranked schools are better looking, especially attendees of private schools. A one percentage point increase in beauty rank corresponds to a half-point increase in the school rank.
Jackdaws use a "democratic" process to decide when to leave their roosts en masse, scientists have discovered.
Thousands of jackdaws can suddenly take to the morning skies in winter, creating a whirling black cloud of creatures.
Researchers have now found that the birds call out when they want to leave.
Then when the noise reaches a critical level, it signals the roost is ready to depart, and the birds fly away.
Many stories of AI risk focus on how single-minded AIs are: how they can focus literally every action on the exact right course to achieve some predetermined goal. Such single-minded AIs are theoretically possible, and we’ll probably get them eventually. But before that, we might get AIs that have weakness of will, just like we do.
During the pandemic, New York State allocated $100 million to turn struggling New York City hotels into low-cost housing. What could be simpler? Hotels are already used to house people so converting a hotel to more longer-term housing ought to be much simpler and cheaper than building from scratch or converting a parking structure into housing. Nope.