What I’ve been reading
Slime Mold on tricameral legislatures. What if there were three houses of Congress, the third one being composed of randomly selected members of the population, and laws could be approved by any two out of three of the houses? This post works through that idea.
Some scepticism about the behavioural genetics literature that finds that parenting doesn’t matter.
Scott Alexander argues that the FDA is too conservative:
“A bunch of laboratories, universities, and health care groups came up with COVID tests before the virus was even in the US, and were 100% ready to deploy them. But when the US declared that the coronavirus was a “public health emergency”, the FDA announced that the emergency was so grave that they were banning all coronavirus testing, so that nobody could take advantage of the emergency to peddle shoddy tests. Perhaps you might feel like this is exactly the opposite of what you should do during an emergency? This is a sure sign that you will never work for the FDA.”
Also, an argument that kids missing school due to COVID will not end up being that harmful.
Does X cause Y? An excellent, and funny, allegory about the difficulties of causal inference. This is from the new blog Cold Takes, by GiveWell co-founder Holden Karnofsky, which readers of this blog would enjoy.
Applied Divinity Studies argues in favour of allowing doping in the Olympics. I agree that the argument that the Olympics should be “fair” is bogus (genetic differences >> doping differences) but the social effects of allowing doping are not well understood. If we could be sure that the doping would be consigned to the actual tournament, that would be fine.
David Perell essay on saving the liberal arts. This article was about two times longer than it needed to be and it had a lot of fluff, however the subject matter is interesting.
Tanner Greer on the myth of panic. The risk of COVID was repeatedly downplayed by governments and health authorities to prevent “panic”, despite the lack of actual instances of panic in situations like this throughout history. If you don’t know about Palladium, I recommend checking out some of their other articles.
“With the sole exception of the Black Plague—and there only in Germany and the Low Countries—no premodern epidemic spawned violence, persecution, or chaos.”
Tim Urban on what he learned from visiting North Korea.
A post on why there has been such an economic divergence between Haiti and the Dominican Republic since the 1960s. Debt owed to France? Racism? Persistence? Here is also a Vox video on that subject from three years ago.
A game: antidepressant or character from the Lord of the Rings? Harder than you might think – I got tripped up on ‘Narmacil’ among others.
What I’ve been listening to
Andrew Sullivan on Conversations with Tyler. Also, Niall Ferguson on CWT. These podcasts are nice compliments to one another, and Sullivan talks about his Oxford days with Ferguson. CWT has been unusually good recently. The team that produces the podcast sent me and my girlfriend some swag because they liked my post about my favourite episodes, which was very kind of them.
Cal Newport on the 80,000 Hours podcast talking about how to improve productivity and improving attention as a potential EA cause area.
Steven Strogatz on the new 3Blue1Brown podcast.
Moanin’ (expanded edition) I’m working on a listening guide to Lee Morgan, who was the trumpeter for a while for Art Blakey’s band. This album was released in 1959 and was their first major hit. It never gets old.
What I’ve been watching
Steven Mould has been making great videos explaining hydrodynamic mechanisms with 2D setups. Here’s one on Heron’s fountain.
Grant Sanderson chatting with Dillon Berger on his YouTube stream Physics After Hours.
You probably know Tom Lehrer’s periodic table song. However, my favourite track of his is actually his song about the mathematician Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky. “In my first book, I plagiarise everything. The index was taken from old Vladivostok telephone directory.”
Another mathematical song that’s been stuck in my head: a musical proof that Euler’s number is irrational.
Fantastic Mr. Fox Watched it twice in a week, my favourite Wes Anderson film.
Philomena An excellent film, about a relative no less. Which is really not saying much, because everyone in Ireland is related.
Godfather Part I Am I the last person on Earth to watch this film?