Monday, July 1, 2019

July 1st Links

  • The state—or, to make the matter more concrete, the government—consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods. [Mencken]
  • Goldfinches feed their newborn broods a strict diet of regurgitated seeds rather than high-protein insects or a mix of seeds and insects favored by other passerine (perching) birds. Coincidentally, this habit offers a distinct advantage against an occasional parasite, the cowbird. Cowbirds are known for depositing their eggs in other birds' nests, where the large cowbird nestling often receives an unfair share of food from the unsuspecting parent, risking starvation for the other chicks. But baby cowbirds can't survive off seeds, and a cowbird hatchling in a goldfinch nest is doomed. [link]
  • The development of a caries lesion is now recognized as an imbalance in the demineralization and remineralization cycle. Many researchers are now investigating the use of techniques to induce remineralization of the affected tooth structure. The use of fluoride is an effective method for promoting the remineralization of an early lesion in enamel through the formation of fluorapatite. However, for every two fluoride ions, ten calcium ions and six phosphate ions are required to form one unit cell of fluorapatite (Ca10(PO4)6F2). Hence, when topically applying fluoride, an inadequate amount of available calcium and phosphate ions can limit net enamel remineralization. Another option to enhance remineralization is to supply calcium and phosphate, and to deliver fluoride more effectively. [NLM]
  • The early naturalists had a gift for description you just don't see anymore. In 1929, Edward Forbush called the Chipping Sparrow "the little brown-capped pensioner of the dooryard and lawn, that comes about farmhouse doors to glean crumbs shaken from the tablecloth by thrifty housewives." [link]
  • Bernd writes about Lynn in One Wild Bird at a Time. As the couple sat around a winter bonfire at night, sipping red wine, he noticed that his beloved barred owl had shown up by surprise, and he regarded its arrival, equally appreciated by Lynn, as the most wonderful thing he could hope for. "In the moment of joy and mystery," he wrote, "I felt connected with all the moments of my past and now my prospects for the future." [Outside]
  • I often find it helpful to put things in rank order and then stare at the top items and the bottom items. If you put these 300 confounders in order of effect size, what's at the top of the list? (Age, I hope, or, say, having cancer.) What percentage of the total effect do the top 10 confounders have? The top 25? Next, do the confounders in this study correlate closely with confounders in studies of general mortality? Or are there confounders that cause particularly high mortality in people who take sleeping pills but not among the general public? It could be that seemingly odd high effect confounders turn out to offer important insights. For example, if, say, living in a 2 story house rather than a 1 story house correlates with much higher mortality among sleeping pill takers, but not among non-takers, maybe falling down the stairs after taking a sleeping pill is a big problem. [Sailer]
  • Only a few visionaries considered the hypothesis that the most complex and subtle of human traits might depend on more than one protein? Only the boldest revolutionaries dared to ask whether maybe cystic fibrosis was not the best model for the entirety of human experience? This side of the veil, instead of looking for the "gene for intelligence", we try to find "polygenic scores". Given a person's entire genome, what function best predicts their intelligence? The most recent such effort uses over a thousand genes and is able to predict 10% of variability in educational attainment. This isn't much, but it's a heck of a lot better than anyone was able to do under the old "dozen genes" model, and it's getting better every year in the way healthy paradigms are supposed to. Genetics is interesting as an example of a science that overcame a diseased paradigm. For years, basically all candidate gene studies were fake. "How come we can't find genes for anything?" was never as popular as "where's my flying car?" as a symbol of how science never advances in the way we optimistically feel like it should. But it could have been. And now it works. What lessons can we draw from this, for domains that still seem disappointing and intractable? Turn-of-the-millennium behavioral genetics was intractable because it was more polycausal than anyone expected. Everything interesting was an excruciating interaction of a thousand different things. [SSC]
  • Trump has energized and alarmed the left, while he did nothing to protect his followers or sympathizers, did nothing to go after the tech giants where a case could be made that they broke some laws, and accomplished very little to nothing of the things which could have been expected of him (like slowing down illegal immigration or building the wall). Overall nationalism or the Hard Right are probably worse off than would be without him. [Karlin]
  • When fintechs or banks introduce new media of exchange or payments systems, they invariably piggy back off of the existing national units of account. For instance, when PayPal debuted in 2001, it didn't set up a new unit called PayPalios. [link]
  • Until that moment, it had not really occurred to me — or my mothers, even though one is an ObGyn — that I might have half siblings out there. It makes no sense that we didn't think about that, because my parents deliberately chose a donor whose sperm had successfully produced at least one live birth, whose sperm had, in a sense, "worked." I think they were just so focused on thinking about the new family they were creating that they never stopped to think about the implications of the huge, inadvertent social experiment they were joining. [NY Times]
  • In the years between his youthful passion for little sports cars (Fiat 850, Alfa Spider, etc.) and his later less flexible and more comfort-oriented self, he'd come to like creature comforts, modern accouterments, and the like. The narrow seats, floor-hinged pedals, narrow dash, and haphazard cockpit layout just didn't suit his then-Lexus-driving self. I implored him to give it a shot, but at the asking price he was having none of it, and we left the dealership. About 3 months later, he bought a brand new 5th Generation Honda Prelude which suited him just fine, and he kept reminding me how he'd saved something like $50K and still got a great fun little car. And, well, he did. [Bring a Trailer]
  • Students who came from lower-income households were much less likely to drink than their wealthier peers; 35 percent of respondents whose parents make less than $40,000 in combined income drank at least once a week while that figure was 69 percent for students whose parents make at least a combined $250,000. [Harvard Crimson]
  • A walk around the block revealed a classic 1920s district of modest craftsman bungalows, Spanish revival cottages, tudors, and colonials mixed with more than a few large impressive homes all beautifully maintained and thoughtfully landscaped. Comparable properties in Los Angeles or San Francisco sell for millions. Stockton is a bargain basement Pasadena.[Granola Shotgun]
  • One of the most enjoyable things in the world is seeing the dude with the $200K car show up at an open track event and watch as his ego gets absolutely shattered by the dude with a sub $20K race car who laps him repeatedly during a 20min session. Buy a $40K race car and get really, really fast with it. Then when you show up with you $200K car you aren't part of the 99% who cannot use even 7/10th the performance of it. [Jalopnik]
  • The cash conversion cycle (CCC) refers to the time span between the outlay of cash for purchases to the receipt of cash from sales. It is a widely used metric to gauge the effectiveness of a firm's management and intrinsic need for external financing. This paper shows that a zero-investment portfolio that buys stocks in the lowest CCC decile and shorts stocks in the highest CCC decile earns 5 to 7% alphas per year. The CCC effect is prevalent across industries and remains even for large capitalization stocks. The CCC effect is distinct from the known return predictors. The returns of high-CCC stocks are more sensitive to the health of the financial intermediaries than low-CCC stocks. This suggests that the CCC-based strategy cannot be explained by the financial intermediary leverage risk. [SSRN]

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