Tag: links

Novel reading phenomenon

Posted by – January 14, 2011

Here’s an experience I don’t remember having before: reading two articles in two tabs and doing numerous other things at the same time (my powers of concentration are inexistent) and noticing halfway through that I’ve been mentally putting all the bits of them in the same place, confusing the two articles for a single one. One was this New Yorker piece about the “composure class”, made up of surreally balanced and successful people and new ideas in the mind sciences, and this Atlantic one about the world’s financial future and specifically its new, meritocratic, internationalist elite.

edit: …by which I didn’t mean to say that they were so similar, but they shared some themes (or people types), and overall the effect of mixing them up was very interesting. Maybe they should have been the same article.

Human bio- and conditioning diversity

Posted by – January 14, 2011

There are many interesting resources for visual artists on the Internet: exercises, catalogues of objects, environments and scenarios etc. Here’s a very interesting one with different athletic body types. Some of my favourites:

  • This one is practically all about different types of conditioning – the most striking thing to me about it was Olga Karmansky’s gymnast’s posture.
  • This one for the long-distance runners. While Bob Kennedy, John Kagwe and Joseph Chebet have certain similarities, you get a feeling for the competitive edge the Kenyan runners’ (who look so similar to each other they could be from the same ethnic group as well, perhaps Kalenjin, known for runners) body types have.
  • This one for Allan Houston’s lower abdominal muscle curve, David Zhuang just in general and Clint Mathis’s classic flat footballer’s body. Clint Mathis brings to mind Christiano Ronaldo who isn’t flat but quite muscular, which I suspect is for aesthetic reasons.
  • This one for the tall Amy Acuff – the proportions seem different, but where? I think in the legs, they’re very long. Of course everything else is longer too. When someone is described as “squat”, picture Gary Kolat.
  • This one for monster trapezius muscles on the guy on the right.
  • This one for the very mannish body of Maureen O’Toole.

A recommendation

Posted by – October 6, 2010

In the vein of the previous post, if I recommend something, it should probably be something a little surprising that you might not have heard about otherwise. So please, surprise yourself, take a chance on Harry Potter fan fiction, and read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Might be difficult to appreciate if you don’t know anything about the Harry Potter series.

Pickup in Vicky Christina Barcelona analyzed by Roissy

Posted by – May 15, 2010

Back when I saw Woody Allen’s movie Vicky Christina Barcelona I wrote that it had some remarkable pieces of seduction technique. This has been confirmed by analysis by one of my favourite Internet hate figures, Roissy:

0:46 – 0:55 Juan’s body language is half his game. His gait is steady and slow, his face expressionless except for the flash of a slight wry smile. When he approaches, he takes his sweet time getting there. Also notice how he lets his gaze deliberately linger on the less attractive/less playful Vicky first, and then switches looking at Cristina. He knows, before he’s even said one word, who the potential cockblock is and how the process of disarming her takes precedence before anything else. Always address the less attractive/more anal retentive girls in a group first, unless it’s a mixed group of men and women, in which case address the men first.


Posted by – September 26, 2009

I get the impression this is fairly accurate about the US these days (the part about low expectations applies to Helsinki as well, but people here just want to pass, not to be praised). One of the many reasons empires tend to crumble? Branford Marsalis on student attitudes:

What if the world were made of pudding?

Posted by – August 8, 2009

Story from North America. First it’s kind of silly, then it’s kind of catchy, then it’s just great.

For people who are annoyed by bad behaviour in cinemas.

The end remains in the hand of the puller

Posted by – March 31, 2009

Some time ago I linked to a contentious blog post hosted by Psychology Today regarding height, intelligence and sex. The blogger in question, The Scientific Fundamentalist, seems to like hate mail: here’s another one about the possible innateness of strictly mental sex differences.

Alexander and Hines gave two stereotypically masculine toys (a ball and a police car), two stereotypically feminine toys (a soft doll and a cooking pot), and two neutral toys (a picture book and a stuffed dog) to 44 male and 44 female vervet monkeys. They then assessed the monkeys’ preference for each toy by measuring how much time they spent with each. Their data demonstrated that male vervet monkeys showed significantly greater interest in the masculine toys, and the female vervet monkeys showed significantly greater interest in the feminine toys. The two sexes did not differ in their preference for the neutral toys.

I mentioned a theory about the biology of homosexuality I’d heard about to my sister the biologist a while ago (she was very sceptical). It seems pretty crazy to me too, but I’m still interested because I don’t know of any really satisfying way to explain homosexuality. The basic idea is that a part of homosexuality could be explained by the (surprisingly common) chimerism between mothers and fetuses & multiple fetuses of which some often terminate before birth.

A fun visualisation of the languages people consider incomprehensible, as in “that’s Greek to me” or “täyttä hepreaa”.

For programmers: if you have people telling you whether they like something, what’s the best way to measure overall likedness? Apparently it’s the lower bound of the Wilson score confidence interval for a Bernoulli parameter.

Tomorrow come trouble

Posted by – January 31, 2009

Evolutionary explanations for human biodiversity are creeping into the mainstream: Why are taller people more intelligent than shorter people?

In our paper, Reyniers and I propose a second possible explanation […]
1. Assortative mating of tall men and beautiful women. […]
2. Assortative mating of intelligent men and beautiful women. […]
3. Extrinsic correlation between height and physical attractiveness (produced by Mechanism 1 above) and extrinsic correlation between intelligence and physical attractiveness (produced by Mechanism 2 above) will create a second-order extrinsic correlation between height and intelligence.

We believe that this may be why taller people are more intelligent than shorter people. Another factor contributing to the seeming male advantage in intelligence is that taller parents are more likely to have sons than shorter parents. So, over many generations, more sons will inherit their parents’ genes inclining them to be taller and more intelligent, and more daughters will inherit their parents’ genes inclining them to be shorter and less intelligent. But, once again, the crucial factor is height, not sex.

In our paper, we present evidence for all of the crucial mechanisms: Taller people are on average physically more attractive than shorter people; physically more attractive people are on average more intelligent than physically less attractive people; taller people are on average more intelligent than shorter people; and taller parents are more likely to have sons than shorter parents.

I have no idea whether this particular hypothesis will turn out to be correct, but in general I suppose there must be numerous human selection mechanisms of this kind waiting to be discovered. I expect they will explain some surprising things, confirm some unpopular but well-known truths and raise much ire. As danimal, that steely fist of Internet logic, put it:

Theodosius Dobzhansky famously wrote: “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.” This includes relationships between men and women.

It surprises me that the obvious extensions of this haven’t been researched much, at least as far as I know.

If you’re into science, you’ve probably heard people complaining about scientific information and contemporary results being too proprietary and hard to discover, especially considering they’re mostly funded by the public. The Science Commons is looking to change that; let’s hope it takes off.

For math geeks: a series of Project Euler puzzles revealed something shocking to me:
– once you’ve solved problem 64 and have a good way of handling continued fractions (it’s not feasible to do this with floating point approximations)
– gone on to 65 and learned about convergents
– you run into 66 which seems to be completely unrelated and again too slow for naive bruteforce methods, so after banging your head for a while you google quadratic diophantine equations and find out that the way to solve these equations is to find the right convergents for the square roots – and this is guaranteed to find the minimal solution for every equation of this type! Check it out.

There’s a program called Microsoft Songsmith that’s supposed to allow users to sing over a backing track that follows their singing. It doesn’t really work. Except for hilarity:

To two women one half pint of bitter ale

Posted by – January 15, 2009

Glenn Gould anecdote with sound clip. This is apropos of Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, which also reminded me I want to have a Glenn Gould evening (where we’d just listen to Glenn Gould records).

One of these days I will be asked to perform on the fourth of July, I’m sure, and when I do I figured out that by leaving out the repeats in the Star Spangled Banner and starting your entry on the thirteenth bar of God Save The King and then playing God Save the King over again and altering the harmony in the second half of The King to modulate to the supertonic region, it has the most marvelous effect.

Macintosh Stories. Utterly engrossing (if you’re into that sort of thing) stories about the people and events behind the early days of Apple.

Kiss Hank’s Ass.

John: “Well, if I’d known you were one of those I wouldn’t have wasted my time. When Hank kicks the shit out of you I’ll be there, counting my money and laughing. I’ll kiss Hank’s ass for you, you bunless cut-wienered kraut-eater.”

The End of Wall Street’s Boom, a rather long article about the craziness in the finance markets for the past couple of decades.

To this day, the willingness of a Wall Street investment bank to pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispense investment advice to grownups remains a mystery to me. I was 24 years old, with no experience of, or particular interest in, guessing which stocks and bonds would rise and which would fall. The essential function of Wall Street is to allocate capital—to decide who should get it and who should not. Believe me when I tell you that I hadn’t the first clue.

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower, an article about the reality of expecting higher education of everyone.

My students take English 101 and English 102 not because they want to but because they must. Both colleges I teach at require that all students, no matter what their majors or career objectives, pass these two courses. For many of my students, this is difficult. Some of the young guys, the police-officers-to-be, have wonderfully open faces across which play their every passing emotion, and when we start reading “Araby” or “Barn Burning,” their boredom quickly becomes apparent. They fidget; they prop their heads on their arms; they yawn and sometimes appear to grimace in pain, as though they had been tasered. Their eyes implore: How could you do this to me?

They call me the Sturgeon Surgeon

Posted by – December 1, 2008

(The New Yorker) John Cassidy: Anatomy of a Meltdown – an in-depth look at Ben Bernanke and the people behind the ongoing disaster in world finance

For programmers: some interesting ideas about readable code

The ad hominem fallacy fallacy. A guide to the ad hominem argument. Highlights:

A: “All rodents are mammals, but a weasel isn’t a rodent, so it can’t be a mammal.”
B: “This does not logically follow. And you’re an asshole.”

B is abusive, but his argument is still not ad hominem.

Lecture: Stephen Pinker on whether Jews really are smarter

For people who like computers: a perspective on what computers spend time on. Highlight: when you look something up from L1 cache, your processor has time for ~3 cycles. L2 cache, ~14 cycles. RAM, ~250 cycles. Reading from the disk, ~41 million cycles. Reading from the Internet, ~240 million cycles.

For people who have time on their hands: one of ye olde webcomic classics, the long defunct Sexy Losers. It has sex.

For those with less time on their hands, a digest:

#7 (Suicide prevention week)
#83 (highlight: Good God, she sucks some mean cock for a 72 year old transsexual.)
#22 (highlight: Your fuck is shit, dickass.)