Unrelated to all that, 8/15 edition

This picture shows the top referring sites to someone’s latest study 


(The study is here)

A questionable use of animals


This is definitely a game that I would want to play


‘Crime and Punishment’ to become a board game

“Literature lovers will soon be able to retrace Raskolnikov’s steps around St. Petersburg by playing a new board game.”

The real question: why?!

The Obscure Neuroscience Problem That’s Plaguing VR

But there’s another, less obvious flaw that could add to that off-kilter sensation: an eye-focusing problem called vergence-accommodation conflict. It’s only less obvious because, well, you rarely experience it outside of virtual reality…

Okay okay, so what’s the big deal with the vergence-accommodation conflict? Two things happen when you simply “look” at an object. First, you point your eyeballs. If an object is close, your eyes naturally converge on it; if it’s far, they diverge. Hence, vergence. If your eyes don’t line up correctly, you end up seeing double.

The second thing that happens is the lenses inside your eyes focus on the object, aka accommodation. Normally, vergence and accommodation are coupled…Strap on an Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR, though, and all bets are off.

The Neuron’s Secret Partner

When we speak of brain cells we usually mean neurons: those gregarious, energetic darlings of cell biology that intertwine their many branches in complex webs and constantly crackle with their own electric chatter. But neurons make up only half the cells in the brain. The rest, known as neuroglia or simply glia, have long lived in the neuron’s shadow.

Welcome to Liberland, the World’s Newest Country (Maybe)

‘‘No, no, you cannot,’’ the ambassador said. ‘‘It is not safe, it is impossible to take Uber here, you will not be safe. There is no time, and we must take the Metro. It will be quick. We do not even have to change the train.’’

The President relented. But he would draw the official line at being filmed carrying his own bag. Pillar, however, would not be arriving in Paris for another seven hours; the President’s assistant had once again failed to check him in, and he had been left at Heathrow.

The President turned to me with a look of anguish. He understood that this was a violation of propriety, but he also very strongly did not want to be filmed by French television carrying his own bag. I felt sorry for him and accepted a short tenure as his bag man.

Jedlicka was briefly mollified, but he was still very embarrassed to be seen on camera taking the Metro at all. Perhaps to compensate for the indignity, Boitel proceeded to cut a very long line of people to buy tickets, claiming that he was traveling on urgent official business.

Red algae are the “also-ran” of evolution. How come they didn’t make it?

Though they are by far the most diverse seaweeds in the ocean, they rarely occur in freshwater and never on land, and so almost no one has ever heard of them (though if you’ve ever eaten sushi, you’ve certainly had an intimate red algal encounter).

Why this might be has long been a mystery. But a team of European scientists discovered in 2013 that they have shockingly few genes for a multicellular organism – far fewer even than several single-celled green algae. And this may explain why such a diverse and abundant group of algae never packed their bags for land and why, when you look outside your window, you see a sea of green and not red. What happened to the poor red algae?

This Man Has Been Trying to Live Life as a Goat


I have nothing to say about this.

How a Kalman filter works, in pictures

You can use a Kalman filter in any place where you have uncertain information about some dynamic system, and you can make an educated guess about what the system is going to do next. Even if messy reality comes along and interferes with the clean motion you guessed about, the Kalman filter will often do a very good job of figuring out what actually happened. And it can take advantage of correlations between crazy phenomena that you maybe wouldn’t have thought to exploit!

Kalman filters are ideal for systems which are continuously changing. They have the advantage that they are light on memory (they don’t need to keep any history other than the previous state), and they are very fast, making them well suited for real time problems and embedded systems.

Detecting Betrayal in Diplomacy Games

Working from these linguistic cues, a computer program could peg future betrayal 57 percent of the time. That might not sound like much, but it was better than the accuracy of the human players, who never saw it coming. And remember that by definition, a betrayer conceals the intention to betray; the breach is unexpected (that whole trust thing). Given that inherent deceit, 57 percent isn’t so bad.


What economics really is

Economics as a whole is really a combination of two kinds of people: those who are very practically oriented and those who are more like mathematical philosophers. The mathematical philosophers get most of the attention. They deal with the big unanswerable questions. Labor economists try to be more scientific: looking for very specific predictions and trying to test these as carefully as possible. The mathematical philosophers get very frustrated by labor economists. They come up with a broad general theory, and we tell them it doesn’t fit the evidence.

(via Noah Smith)


This is the best movie released this year that I have seen

The paper rejection repository

Nobody likes to receive a letter from the editor of your favorite journal letting you know that your paper was rejected. Some journals have begun including reviewers’ comments with accepted papers to make the views of experts available to the reader. However, often the paper has been submitted to several journals and rejected before it is finally accepted. The rejection letters and comments are equally useful in helping to judge what kind of papers might be acceptable to a journal, and what kind of comments lead to rejections. Rather than hiding these low points in the trajectory of a scientific paper, this forum offers a place to publish these letters and comments to educate others.

[via Prerana Shrestha]

 A ‘curated’ list of data science blogs

[via Chris Said]

How to study dopamine in humans


The last days of the polymath

In the first half of 1802 a physician and scientist called Thomas Young gave a series of 50 lectures at London’s new Royal Institution, arranged into subjects like “Mechanics” and “Hydro­dynamics”. By the end, says Young’s biographer Andrew Robinson, he had pretty much laid out the sum of scientific knowledge. Robinson called his book “The Last Man Who Knew Everything”.

Young’s achievements are staggering. He smashed Newtonian orthodoxy by showing that light is a wave, not just a particle; he described how the eye can vary its focus; and he proposed the three-colour theory of vision. In materials science, engineers dealing with elasticity still talk about Young’s modulus; in linguistics, Young studied the grammar and voc­abulary of 400 or so languages and coined the term “Indo-European”; in Egyptology, Jean-François Champollion drew on his work to decode the Rosetta stone. Young even tinkered around with life insurance.

When Young was alive the world contained about a billion people. Few of them were literate and fewer still had the chance to experiment on the nature of light or to examine the Rosetta stone. Today the planet teems with 6.7 billion minds. Never have so many been taught to read and write and think, and then been free to choose what they would do with their lives. The electronic age has broken the shackles of knowledge. Never has it been easier to find something out, or to get someone to explain it to you.

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