Monday, October 5, 2020

Monday Morning Links

  • When BPA enters the body via the oral route, it is absorbed into the mesenteric blood vessels, transported to the liver, and rapidly metabolized in a process referred to as ‘first pass metabolism’. Such processes mean that the majority of BPA that circulates in the bloodstream following oral exposure is in the conjugated form (e.g., BPA-glucuronide, BPA-sulfate) although some unconjugated BPA does reach circulation. In contrast, when BPA enters the body via alternative routes (e.g., dermal or inhalation), it circumvents first-pass metabolism, allowing significantly more unconjugated BPA to circulate in the bloodstream. These toxicokinetic data suggest that the route of exposure can have a large influence on the concentration of BPA that circulates as unconjugated BPA. This is important because, for BPA, only the unconjugated form can bind to estrogen receptor, leading some groups to conclude that only the unconjugated form is biologically active and therefore hazardous. [NLM]
  • "Our Fragile Intellect" is a 2012 article by American biochemist Gerald Crabtree, published in the journal Trends in Genetics. Crabtree's speculative and controversial thesis argues that human intelligence peaked sometime between 2,000 and 6,000 years ago and has been in steady decline since the advent of agriculture and increasing urbanization. Modern humans, according to Crabtree, have been losing their intellectual and emotional abilities due to accumulating gene mutations that are not being selected against as they once were in our hunter-gatherer past. This theory is sometimes referred to as the Idiocracy hypothesis. [Wiki]
  • I might start repeating something like this as a mantra: the most important thing in the world no one knows is that children born after the onset of autism epidemic are mentally and (the focus of these tweets) physically fucked up. Four years back a study was published that compared the grip strength of US millenials with those of a 1985 reference group and found a half standard deviation decline in grip strength during that period, equivalent to a 7 point drop in IQ. An earlier Australian study found virtually the same thing, which is that their young people are also becoming alarmingly limp wristed. [Changing work patterns are] the standard explanation, although it omits the relevant fact that the '85 study found that within a factory a worker’s job had no relationship with grip strength: those who worked with their hands were no stronger than those who didn’t (although hobbies did matter). I don’t hold this view. I think that what you’re witnessing is a cohort effect and that people born after 1980 (not a year I chose arbitrarily) are actually weaker for innate reasons. An easy way to test this would be to look at elite armwrestlers. If the decline in Western grip strength is due to a decline in daily hand exercise, you wouldn’t expect to see unusual age differences in top level armwrestling because everyone at that level is training hard. But if millennials are just fucked up, you would expect them to do badly in armwrestling compared to other sports and that is exactly what you see. Papers on grip consistently find a decline in strength beginning around age 30 ( the age at which athletes decline in most sports). But very strangely, the North American with the strongest hands (or very close) is the 45 year old Devon Larratt. Two years ago it took everything Larattt had to defeat the 56 year old Ron Bath in a tournament. Armwrestling is not a big money sport, so it can hard to find good rankings or birth dates for the best guys. I managed to track down some names using this outdated list as a guide. I found birth years for 16 guys and the average age was 42. At the time those rankings were compiled there were as many competitors in their 20's (2) as in their 50's. Only 2 of the 16 were under 35 with 5/16 being between 42-45. This suggests that it is ideal to be young as possible while staying on the right side of the millenial line. The really frightening part is when you compare the American armwrestlers to their primary competition, who are all from Eastern Bloc countries. 10 of the top 15 arm wrestlers come from this group and their average age is just 29. Say you’re a millennial patriot and don’t like hearing my taunts about how girly you are. You might point to today’s ultra-muscular and athletic millennial athletes. And you’d be right, even more right than you knew. But grip strength is only marginally related to overall muscle. There is zero relationship between hormones and grip, which means that many muscular men have surprisingly weak hands. A 1979 study measured the grip strength of NFL football players and found them to be only about 2/3rds sds stronger than average. To give a concrete example, every person who first laid eyes on the totally unmuscular Larry Bird found it strange he was a professional athlete, let alone the greatest basketball player in the world. One of Bird’s secrets was that he had the most powerful hands in the NBA: he could bitchslap stray balls into his teammate’s hands at light speed. I’ve always been fascinated by that guy. He was so bizarrely different from everyone else, like a guy who was raised in the Depression and traveled forward in time to the 1980’s. He was athletic, but in a way people had trouble defining. Richard Carson recently wrote an enormous paper arguing that grip strength is primarily independent of muscle mass in other parts of the body and that individual variations in grip strength are for the most part due to variations in neural health. To give an idea of what “neural” means here, grip strength is positively correlated with a large number of fmri brain measures such as primary motor cortex volume. Grip declines with age in a way independent of muscle mass and is a better predictor of mortality than sarcopenia. When fingers flex as a unit they generate half as much force as when moved individually, so "in these circumstances the level of neural drive received by the actuating muscles is also diminished, suggesting that the limiting factor is neural rather than biomechanical." The central argument I’m making here is the apparent physical decline in grip strength suffered by millennials is actually a mental defect in disguise, a failure of their nerdy brains to effectively coordinate muscle at every level of the body. I am the only person in a million years who would have this thought, but I think the underlying factor is the same one driving the autism epidemic. Autistics are about 1 sd weaker than normal and interestingly their weakness correlates with their autism. One of the ways people born after the onset of the autism epidemic resemble autistics is in the dulled emotional tone of their voices: they have a hard time sounding genuinely threatening when they need to be or charming or...any emotion really. There are generational changes that everyone notices but never really talks about. When you listen to tape recordings of even average Joes from the 50’s or 60’s it’s remarkable how crisp and clear their diction is, whereas millennials slur together syllables like drunks. When people notice this they tend to say things like “we need to start emphasizing enunciation just like the old schools did”, but again I think this is actually a cohort effect and you can tell by looking at elite talkers: sports broadcasters, talk show hosts, etc. It used to be that just about every famous broadcaster had this rapidfire auctioneer’s patter: Chick Hearn, Vin Scully, Bob Uecker, Hot Rod Hundley or the best known example Johnny Carson. They could speak at incredible speed while never sacrificing emotional inflection. [crimkadid]
  • A recent study by the National Institute on Aging Interventions Testing Program (ITP) finding an SGLT2 inhibitor (SGLT2i) extended the lifespan in male mice. To date, seven compounds tested by the ITP have shown a statistically significant extension of lifespan in mice:  Aspirin (males only), Rapamycin (males and females), 17-α-Estradiol (males only), Acarbose (males and females), Nordihydroguaiaretic acid (males only), Protandim® (males only), Canagliflozin (males only). [Peter Attia]
  • A major empirical achievement of the sociology of science is the evidence of the ubiquity of simultaneous invention. If many scientists are trying variations on the same corpus of current scientific knowledge, and if their trials are being edited by the same stable external reality, then the selected variants are apt to be similar, the same discovery encountered independently by numerous workers. This process is no more mysterious than that all of a set of blind rats, each starting with quite different patterns of initial responses, learn the same maze pattern, under the maze's common editorship of the varied response repertoires. Their learning is actually their independent invention or discovery of the same response pattern. In doubly reflexively appropriateness, the theory of natural selection was itself multiply independently invented, not only by Wallace but by many others. Moreover, the ubiquity of independent invention in science has itself been independently discovered. [CBS]
  • In 1513, awed by the cannons which had recently brought down castle walls across Italy, Machiavelli argued that fortresses were obsolete. Just seven years later, in The Art of War, he detailed the kind of fortifications a prince should build—fortress design had caught up to the offensive power of cannons. So it always is in war: new weapons alter the battlefield, but the change is always far more gradual than it first appears. Drone maximalists tend to imagine buzzing drones filling the sky and vaporizing any ground forces, but don’t think through what that would entail. Just as artillery in the First World War and bombers in the Second failed to simply wipe out the enemy from afar, UAVs will take their place in modern armies as one piece of a complex, slowly-evolving system. [Bazaar of War]
  • This is the story of engineering: when you fix one problem, you reveal another. The extra power of jet engines was wasted when straight wings held them back. In buildings, the extra strength of improved masonry was wasted when no one wanted an eighth-floor walkup (the elevator solved that). When you meet a new problem, don’t be discouraged: it means you just solved your last one. [@dbentley]
  • The way this happened is pretty simple. At Strong Towns, we call it the Growth Ponzi Scheme. Through a combination of federal incentives, state programs and private capital, cities were able to rapidly grow by expanding horizontally. This provided the local government with the immediate revenues that come from new growth -- permit fees, utility fees, property tax increases, sales tax -- and, in exchange, the city takes on the long term responsibility of servicing and maintaining all the new infrastructure. The money comes in handy in the present while the future obligation is, well....a long time in the future. [Strong Towns]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The greatest difference between now and the 90s for me was the lack of immediacy.

Videogames were available but were scarce, so you played the same thing for months. There were many boring periods with nothing to do. I'd stare at my atlases and dinosaur books, sometimes I just lay in bed daydreaming. Every time I closed my eyes I could see strange shapes and patterns forming in the dark; all that disappeared with time.

I was lucky to play in the street with other kids with a lot of freedom, but that was already an anachronism. Streets became too unsafe just as I was turning 10. Afterwards, they became silent. You'd go outside as a matter of course, because real life was there, with the other kids. Sometimes they'd stand below shouting at my window, so I'd hurry up eating and come down. Someone would have a ball and they wanted to make teams.

Most of my childhood memories involve blue skies and gentle breezes, even the videogames memories. They were dreams, not simulacra. I'd have to walk across town to play Golden Axe and Prince of Persia with my cousins, because I didn't yet have a computer or consoles. We'd play together, then get all sweaty playing football in the hallway, while my aunt prepared milk and sandwiches. Sometimes a new floppy disk of mysterious origins would come up, containing some new game, and it was like finding a new country in the map. I'd spend days dreaming about it until I could play it again.

For me, the world of virtual simulation grew out of that relatively inconsequential an naive experience of childhood. A few years later, I'd be posting in forums talking about abstract subjects using a second language, downloading entire albums from IRC, etc. The process of disconnection was irreversible. Yet the period had its own identity and is unrepeatable, because it was a juncture between worlds. Unfortunately, it had to destroy what came before it.