Monday, January 7, 2019

First Links of 2019

  • Researchers in Germany recently conducted an ingenious experiment designed to determine how the degree of freshness of polyunsaturated fats affects the metabolism of those fats in female lactating rats. They divided female rats into two groups, and the only difference between the test group and the controls was that the test group was given fats that had been left in a relatively warm place for 25 days, which caused considerable oxidative damage, whereas the controls were fed fresh fats instead. The rats' unusual diet was begun on the day that they gave birth to a litter. The researchers examined the mammary glands and the milk produced by the two groups for apparent differences. They found that the test group's milk was markedly reduced in the amount of fat it contained, and their mammary glands correspondingly took up less fat from the blood supply. One might surmise that the rats' metabolic mechanisms were able to detect oxidative damage to the fats, and therefore rejected them, prefering to do without rather than to risk the consequences of feeding their pups oxidized fats. Consequently, the pups of the test group gained significantly less weight than the control group's pups. [Stephanie Seneff]
  • Romney's main complaint in the piece is that Donald Trump is a mercurial and divisive leader. That's true, of course. But beneath the personal slights, Romney has a policy critique of Trump. He seems genuinely angry that Trump might pull American troops out of the Syrian civil war. Romney doesn't explain how staying in Syria would benefit America. He doesn't appear to consider that a relevant question. More policing in the Middle East is always better. We know that. Virtually everyone in Washington agrees. [Tucker Carlson]
  • Bret, I'm from a low caste background in the Midwest and currently attend your alma mater in Chicago. Cost of attendance is an eye-popping $78000 per year and the majority of teens walk around campus in Canada Goose and Moncler parkas, which retail for $1200-2000. Several times last quarter, my classmates would party, lose their posh parka, and chuckle about it the next morning. Back home over winter break – in one of those downscale Olive Garden equipped opioid plagued places you made fun of via proxy characters – over 1500 desperate locals just waited in freezing temps to apply for 300 positions at a new factory. The pay? 13 bucks an hour. Back of the envelope math tells me four or five weeks of net wages for a lucky local man to bootstrap his way to one of the parkas my teenage classmates casually laugh off losing. Thanks for this landscape, elites. [NYT]
  • Exactly who qualifies for racial/ethnic preferences is an interesting but highly obscure question. Bezos is a fun test case. We are not supposed to think about who exactly qualifies for affirmative action, in part because nobody seems to know the real rules, second because if you think about it, you come to the realization that, Elizabeth Warren aside, white people generally behave pretty honorably over not exploiting ambiguities in quotas for their own benefits (which is why Warren's opportunism remains a big story). [Sailer]
  • It turns out that the average rake at Priceline Group is even higher today, as they allow merchants to voluntarily bid up their rake for better placement in the network (you can see this in the table above). This is one of my favorite marketplace business model "tweaks." You start with a low rake to get broad-based supplier adoption, and you add in a market-driven pricing dynamic that allows those suppliers who want more volume or exposure to pay more on an opt-in basis. This way no one leaves the network due to excessive fees, yet you end up with a higher average rake over time due to the competitive dynamic. And when prices go up due to bidding and competition, the suppliers blame their competition not the platform (part of the genius of the Google AdWords business model). [Bill Gurley]
  • The magnesium supplementation was harmful enough to do a lot of cumulative damage over the months involved (I could have done a lot of writing September 2013 - June 2014), but not so blatantly harmful enough as to be noticeable without a randomized blind self-experiment or at least systematic data collection - neither of which are common among people who would be supplementing magnesium I would much prefer it if my magnesium overdose had come with visible harm (such as waking up in the middle of the night after a nightmare soaked in sweat), since then I'd know quickly and surely, as would anyone else taking magnesium. But the harm I observed in my data? For all I know, that could be affecting every user of magnesium supplements! How would we know otherwise? [Gwern]
  • The L-39 is a big step toward the reality of upset training. Here is a well-mannered aircraft capable of 8 G's. Although there is no need for that kind of "G", the strength of the airframe leads to a feeling of confidence when we are subjected to 4 G pulls. The L-39 is perfect for demonstration of descending spirals at airspeeds of 400 knots. Its high wing loading allows excellent stall demonstrations. It is also equipped with factory switching that allows failure of airspeed indicators, altitude indicators and directional gyros. [link]
  • Every year ancient DNA research deepens our understanding of history a bit more, and 2018 was truly a remarkable year for ancient DNA research. By February the total number of genomes characterized from ancient individuals surpassed 1,300. I want to highlight five of what I think are the most interesting discoveries made this year, although I had to cheat a bit by grouping multiple papers together under each topic. [Jennifer Raff]
  • "Fetal cells don't simply migrate around their mothers' bodies. They sense the tissue around them and develop into the same type of cells. In 2010, Gerald Udolph, a biologist in Singapore, and his colleagues documented this transformation with a line of engineered mice. they altered the Y chromosomes in the male mice so they glowed with the addition of a chemical. Udolph and his colleagues bred the mice, and then later they dissected the brains of the mothers. They found that the fetal cells from their sons reached into their brains, sprouted branches, and pumped out neurotransmitters. Their sons helped shape their thoughts." [Jennifer Raff]
  • We saw in the first study that metformin blunts the benefits of exercise. Therefore metformin has risks as well as benefits. It is not cost-free. The close relation between obesity and aging means that it’s difficult to separate the effects of one from the other. If you are lean, have low fasting insulin, exercise regularly and have a high VO2max, and do not eat ultra-processed foods made of refined grains, sugar, and seed oils, then it appears that any benefit of metformin would be minimal to none. [PD Mangan]
  • The wine program alone remains a thrilling pilgrimage for oenophiles. I don't know of a more profound selection in America. The tome has been pared down to around 200 manageable pages, with lists of marquee producers from around the world, many offering vertical vintages that go back fifty years or more.[Eater]
  • Without fresh cash, many of these businesses will collapse—quite rapidly. That is because they aren't businesses—they are market share grabs in highly competitive industries with few barriers to entry. Adding an ampersand to the logo and selling a product for a loss isn't viable if you cannot find someone to fund it. More importantly, after a decade of Profitless Prosperity, investors have a false sense of confidence. When the bubble unwinds, it will be fast and vicious as there is no natural buyer of a money losing business that's run out of capital. It took half a decade to create the internet bubble yet it all vaporized in a few months. This bubble will also collapse at a similar rate. [AiC]
  • Since the identification of the Messinian age by Austrian naturalist Karl Mayer (late nineteenth century) we know that the marine connections between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean became small by the end of the Miocene. Modern chronostratigraphy has dated this at 6 million years ago, the time when our earliest ancestors started walking on two legs in Central Africa. As a result, the Mediterranean became a huge salt pan that accumulated about 10% of the salt dissolved in the world's oceans, during the so-called Messinian salinity crisis. The ongoing tectonic uplift of the Gibraltar Arc region finally emerged the last Atlantic seaway and isolated completely the Mediterranean from the ocean, about 5.6 million years ago. The Mediterranean then became largely evaporated as a result of the dry climate of its watershed. Finally, about 5.3 million years ago the Mediterranean was refilled from the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar. The indications that this occurred geologically very fast (namely, the abrupt change from Miocene to Pliocene sedimentary layers) made this event be known as the Zanclean flood. [link]
  • It seems that all the Kennedy half dollars and Sacagawea dollar coins have ended up here. [Marginal Revolution]
  • Taleb went on a Twitter rant about how IQ is a "pseudoscientific swindle". His observation was based on his experience with "quants", high-IQ math people who work for financial firms. He found them to be good at numbers but lacking at other skills, e.g. LARPing like a New York downtown mafioso or taking instagram pics doing low-weight deadlifts. [Bloody Shovel]
  • Thirteen states have fewer white people living in them today than they did in 1970. We're not talking in terms of population percentages here–every state except for the Imperial Capital has seen a decline in its white population share over the last half century–we're talking in terms of absolute numbers of white people. Another way of putting this is that 100% of the population growth over the last fifty years in New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Ohio, Michigan, Rhode Island, Iowa, Maryland, and West Virginia has come from non-whites. [Audacious Epigone]
  • At dinner my brother-in-law reminded me of a conversation we had a few years earlier when we were at the far end of Cape Cod in New England. (He lives in Boston.) An older couple were describing the dream home they were hoping to retire to. I advised them to consider a more central location instead. The nearest medical center is way off in Hyannis an hour or more away on a narrow county road. That road is bumper-to-bumper during the summer tourist season. The Cape is susceptible to winter storms. The older we all get the more dependent we become on external services. Do you really want to be 85 living that far from civilization? [Granola Shotgun]
  • Cuba was richer, per capita, than Singapore in 1959 (Forbes) and Havana was the richest part of Cuba. As such, the city enjoyed world class physical infrastructure circa 1959: roads, sidewalks, beautiful houses and colonial buildings, etc. Except for some central business district areas and parts of the city that have been restored for tourist, Havana today is essentially in ruins. [Phil G]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

“I love myself!” the group of mostly black children shouted in unison. “I love my hair, I love my skin!” When it was time to settle down, their teacher raised her fist in a black power salute. The students did the same, and the room hushed. As children filed out of the cramped school auditorium on their way to class, they walked by posters of Colin Kaepernick and Harriet Tubman.

It was a typical morning at Ember Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, an Afrocentric school that sits in a squat building on a quiet block in a neighborhood long known as a center of black political power.