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Yonatan Zunger
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Yonatan Zunger

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A brief note to those lacking sense: The Queen's Guard are not animatronic Disney exhibits. They are soldiers on guard duty. This might be indicated to you by the large, loaded rifle with bayonet fixed which is normally found resting on their shoulder.

Think of them as brightly colored and unusually heavily armed Secret Service agents.
What a fucking idiot.

Why would you even think it was ok to disrespect someone on duty in uniform like that, no matter the place?
A video showing the dramatic moment a soldier from the Queen's Guard turned his rifle on a tourist outside Windsor Castle has emerged online
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+Rhys Taylor Spot on.
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I find these reports both interesting and uninteresting. On the one hand, they're trying to capture an important quantity: How happy are people? They do this by directly surveying people (targeting 1,000 people per country per year) in what's called the "Gallup World Poll," which asks people about a range of aspects of their lives. This chart is based on just one question from the poll: "it asks respondents to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10, and the worst possible life being a 0. They are then asked to rate their own current lives on that 0 to 10 scale." The colored segments of the bars are the attempts of the team to use regression to figure out how different factors contribute to happiness; the big gray area is the part that wasn't explained by any of these factors.

So that's the good part, and it's also good that the study is done by people who actually know how to do statistics correctly. (You can follow the link for detailed FAQs)

But there are two issues here: one about the question asked, and the other about statistics.

The problem with the question is that it's all about comparing people's perceived happiness to their imagined minimum and maximum. That's really not a measure of their overall happiness; it's a measure of how optimistic they feel about their world versus their realm of possibilities. As several researchers have noted, it's likely more useful to measure unhappiness; that turns out to both be easier to measure, and tell you more about people's day-to-day happiness.

The reason is tied to the fact that "money can't buy you happiness, but poverty can buy you a whole lot of misery." When people's wealth increases, happiness increases sharply – up to a point, at which it basically stops. That's because most of those happiness increases come from the elimination of things like worrying about food, shelter, medicine, and so on. In practice, a good measure of happiness is something like "mean time between bad events." Quantifying that is tricky, but is more likely to give a much better measure. The data below is largely not, I think, a real measure of happiness.

(An excellent article about measuring unhappiness is . Thanks to +Peter Scully for that find!)

There's also a statistical thing which, I suspect, hides a tremendous amount of information. For each country, the happiness scores are combined into a mean.

Why is a mean a problem? Of all the methods of averaging, mean is one of the most susceptible to outliers. There's an old joke about two guys sitting in a bar in Seattle, grousing about how broke they are, when Bill Gates walks into the room. One of them thinks hard for a few moments, then, wide-eyed, jumps up and yells "A round of drinks on me!" As the patrons cheer, his friend asks him, "What? I thought you said you were broke!" "Yeah, but I just did the math – on average, everyone in this bar is a millionaire!"

In particular, a country with a small number of extremely happy people and lots of unhappy people and a country with a large number of kind of happy people would look the same on this measure.

Not only do means hide variation in general, they could be specifically important for happiness measurements: people's response to everyone around them being unhappy is very different from their response to a few people being very happy and everyone else being miserable.

So while this study is interesting, what I'd really like to see is a further breakdown of the numbers. For example, we could divide each country into four quartiles, and ask how happy the least, middle two, and top quartiles of the country are. (I picked four quartiles because the more you break it down, the more data you need, so I doubt there's enough data to go further) Then you could show a plot of the countries of the world, ranked by one number – maybe the happiness of the top quartile, or the bottom quartile, or the median happiness – and plot all four numbers on one graph. (Say, through splitting up bars with colors)

That sort of graph would tell you a lot more. Wide spacing between top and bottom is very different from narrow spacing. And it may reveal other statistical correlations of the sort that the graph below tends to show: For example, is the mean happiness of a country correlated to the size of the difference between top and bottom? Is there a link between "homogeneity of happiness" (or homogeneity of any other metric) and overall happiness?

There's a lot to learn here. I'm actually quite interested in the measurement of overall happiness; we tend to focus a lot on financial metrics like GDP or health metrics like life expectancy, but we have to be careful of the metric effect: Whatever you measure is what you end up optimizing for. Money and life expectancy contribute to the underlying goal of a better world, but they aren't themselves equal to that goal. By having the right things to measure, we can better allocate resources and solve problems.

You can read the full results at , and poll methodology at .

h/t +Ward Plunet.
According to the 2015 World Happiness Report, Switzerland is the happiest country in the world.
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I see that the full report comments on the loss of happiness in Greece, Italy and Spain, and how, more than due to the economic crisis, this is caused by a lack of social support and loss of trust. Absolutely agree, the problem isn't the crisis in itself, but how your government handles it, and that's why Ireland and Iceland have had a very different reaction to their economic situation.
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Our history is full of silent heroes: people who did something to change the world, without great fanfare. Nicholas Winton's story only came to light in 1988, when his wife found an old scrapbook of his in the attic and pressed him about it. (Not that he had been idle in the years before that; he had been knighted five years earlier for his work for refugees around the world)

The world lost one of its great men today. But thanks to him, it has nearly a thousand more.
A London stockbroker in 1938, he rescued 669 youngsters from Czechoslovakia but then said nothing about his deeds for 50 years.
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+Perry Ismangil Probably so.  It's a different world today -- a less good world.  Hopefully, we can change that.
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Bree Newsome asks a great question, and +Andreas Schou gives an excellent answer. We should absolutely tackle white supremacy with great seriousness; we should not tackle it the way we tackled Islamic extremism, because that was a terrible idea and pretty much the worst possible way to go about it.
No. It's not. 

The way the United States went after Islamic extremism was a moral and practical disaster: the government lashed out almost at random, imprisoning Muslims virtually at random, attacking countries with no connection to the problem at hand, and instituting mass surveillance programs that produced virtually no results. The orgy of misplaced state violence which occurred in the aftermath of 9/11 was a powerful statement against Islamic extremism -- but the state does not exist to make statements. 

Wars shouldn't happen simply to communicate that yes, we're taking this seriously. Arrests shouldn't happen simply to demonstrate a heightened level of suspicion. When states delegate the right to use violence on their behalf, those people to whom we've delegated have a responsibility to do what's effective, and what causes the least collateral damage, not what is most satisfying to those aggrieved by the state's failure to act.

I do not trust the laws which would empower the police to pursue white supremacists with omnipresent surveillance and indiscriminate violence. I do not trust the police implementing those laws to use them to the benefit of black Americans. I do not understand why anyone else would, other than -- perhaps -- as a metaphorical howl of despair that the official outlets of state violence can't be trusted to deploy that violence reasonably. 
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+Alan Light Gravity is demonstrably true, and it's morally neutral. Your claims are demonstrably false, and morally repugnant.
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This story is finally starting to hit the major press: in the past week, six black churches have burned down. Three of them are being investigated as arson, and the other three are still being examined by fire investigators -- but are highly likely to be arson as well.

I try to put this into my own world and imagine: if six synagogues had been torched the week after a major anti-Semitic terrorist attack, I would be thinking about nothing else. It would be front page, above the fold, in every newspaper in the country. Why, then, is this only now receiving proper coverage?

If you ask why these churches are so important -- why these aren't just ordinary arsons, or arsons against churches first and black churches second -- you can go back to what President Obama said in his eulogy for Clementa Pinckney a few days ago (which people are starting to refer to as "the 'grace' speech"):

The church is and always has been the center of African American life; a place to call our own in a too-often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

Over the course of centuries, black churches served as hush harbors, where slaves could worship in safety, praise houses, where their free descendants could gather and shout “Hallelujah.” Rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad, bunkers for the foot soldiers of the civil-rights movement.

They have been and continue to be community centers, where we organize for jobs and justice, places of scholarship and network, places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm's way and told that they are beautiful and smart and taught that they matter.

That’s what happens in church. That’s what the black church means — our beating heart, the place where our dignity as a people is inviolate.

"The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate:" one of the best distillations of an idea I have heard. A phrase likely to enter the English lexicon. These churches are not simply houses of worship to a god you or I may not share; they are the centers of their communities, and more, they are and have been the refuges and safe harbors of their communities since the days of slavery.

I am glad to see that the news is finally covering this, but why has it taken so long? And how long will it take to stop those responsible, and bring the ones who have already burned buildings to justice?

#WhoIsBurningBlackChurches  ?
All of them happened after the Charleston shooting, but none are being called hate crimes.
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Steve S
+Tony Guntharp I think we know enough about the history of arson in black churches in the South to be quite confident about who lit them up.
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Some excellent words from Bree Newsome on what she did, the story behind it, and why. 
"I removed the flag not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people globally in 2015, including the ongoing ethnic cleansing in the Dominican Republic. I did it in solidarity with the South African students who toppled a statue of the white supremacist, colonialist Cecil Rhodes. I did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free."  #takeitdown #keepitdown #blacklivesmatter  
Social justice activist Bree Newsome released the following statement exclusively to Blue Nation Review.
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+Charlie L I accept your concession.
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Yonatan Zunger

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A fantastic invention: Jie Bao (of Tsinghua University) and Moungi Bawendi (of MIT) have invented an optical spectrometer small and cheap enough to attach to a cell phone, which can nonetheless perform comparably well to serious professional equipment.

Spectrometers are amazingly useful devices: they simply break light up through a prism, and report on how bright the light is in each frequency. That lets you recognize chemicals (each molecule has a distinctive color "fingerprint"), measure temperature (when you heat an object, it glows with a spectrum that's a simple function of temperature), and even measure the speed of objects. (If you know something's color when it's still, its colors in motion are shifted by the Doppler effect, just like an approaching siren's pitch goes up and a receding one goes down. The fingerprints of chemical colors give you an excellent reference point for that)

Bao and Bawendi's device is completely different from traditional spectrometers: Rather than using a prism and precision optics, they use an array of 195 carefully chosen inks and a CCD light sensor. The result is rugged and cheap – a few dollars, instead of a few hundred or thousand.

This is a tool that could revolutionize all sorts of devices; the authors give an example of a tool that could identify skin cancer just by pointing at it. (Cancers contain specific chemicals which produce specific optical fingerprints, after all!)

And more to the point, it's neat.

Dear Drs. Bao and Bawendi: TAKE MY MONEY!

Via +California Academy of Sciences.
A spectrometer that fits in your mobile devices could let you scan yourself for skin cancer.
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What next? 
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Despite this article's title, it's about more than just women of color in technology: it's about recruiting and retaining people from underrepresented groups across the board. And that's something extremely important to the success of any technology company.

Why? There are three major reasons.

(1) Diverse groups avoid stupid product mistakes. This is in literally every sense of the word "diverse:" if you have people from different groups in your team, they'll notice – and you'll prioritize – problems that you never would have spotted otherwise. If your system doesn't work for the deaf and someone on your team is deaf, or if it requires hitting tiny affordances all the time and you have someone with a motion disability, you're never going to ship it that way, and that means more users. If your system has a price structure, or a branding, or a visual style that would never appeal to users outside of Silicon Valley, you'll catch that if people on your team are from a very different world. If women experience a different kind of abuse on your system than men do, then you'll build entirely different protections into your system if there are women in the room when you're making the design decisions.

The key point is that these are just examples: nobody can predict what an extra set of eyeballs, especially different eyeballs, will catch. The one thing that's reliable is that each set of eyeballs – not just working grunt jobs, but in the core decision-making process – means you don't make a mistake that shuts out a bunch of potential customers.

(2) Diversity interrupts groupthink. It's really easy for a room full of similar people to start to talk in similar ways. Not only do you not make the right decisions, you don't even realize there are decisions that you're implicitly making. More different eyes prevent that.

(3) You get to hire the best people. People who haven't been in this game very long think "Recruit minorities? You mean lower the bar!" People who have played this for a while hear that and think "Sucker."

The thing about structural racism/sexism/etc. is that a lot of people from the various underrepresented groups don't have the "traditional signifiers" of being good. They won't have gone to the top-tier schools, or they won't have any contacts, or their job history will be so-so. What you quickly learn in engineering, though, is that these signifiers are simply signals that you use when trying to find good people – and overall, as signals, they kind of suck. Terribly.

I've lost count of how many people I've interviewed who came from top-tier schools and had a glowing résumé and couldn't think an independent thought or design a system on their own to save their lives. Top-tier schools don't provide a systematically better education in CS; often, CS departments are so mathematically inclined that students that don't actively go the extra mile come out with a degree in theory and no ability to code. They used to claim that they were "filtering out the best of the best," but in practice, they do a lot of that filtering starting from "people with enough contacts to get in." 

Job histories are sometimes useful, sometimes not, especially in an era where so many people end up unable to find a job for months or years at a stretch anyway. 

References are great, but they're only a positive signal: the lack of references tells you nothing.

And the important thing is, that unless you're a tiny company hiring a temp, or hiring a senior specialist, you shouldn't be hiring for experience: you should be hiring for brains. You can teach CS; you can't teach smart.

What this means is that among these "underrepresented groups," there are a bunch of smart people out there who, lacking these traditional signifiers, aren't getting the right job offers. And that means smart people that you can hire. Lots of them. All you have to do is hire them and treat them with respect.

(As a side note: I attended GHC, the biggest annual conference for women in CS last year, for recruiting purposes. The quality of people looking for jobs there was insane compared to any other CS event.)

But.... if you want to hire and retain these people, you have to make an active effort. This open letter has a bunch of specific suggestions in it which I personally think are all individually excellent: I endorse these ideas wholeheartedly.

(NB: It also makes several statements about how various companies do things. I have it on good authority that several of these statements are incorrect, but I have no personal knowledge either way and so am neither affirming nor negating that part. My endorsement of this letter is about all of the courses of action it favors, which I think are excellent ideas; on the rest, I have no opinion)

I will add: In my groups, people of all genders, races, and backgrounds are not only welcome but actively desired. This is the case now and will continue to be the case in every team I run in the future.

Thanks to +Erica Joy for pointing me at this great letter.

[DISCLAIMER: I am writing this post in my personal capacity and am not speaking on behalf of Google. I make no assertions as to the truth or falsity of any of the claims of fact made within the letter, nor of any conclusions of law. Those of you who have been in the field for a while know why I have to state this, too]
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+Rob Gordon cool I've just given it to our ISP team in Movidius to have a look at
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This story has got to be the best use of tungsten carbide ever. 

(However, I must offer a correction to the story: Nobody would ever mistake that for Uranium. That would very clearly be mistaken for spheres of Plutonium, which for numerous reasons are even more alarming.)

It reminds me a bit of some things I did to mess with my students, back when I was a physicist. Once, I was teaching the advanced freshman lab, and since we were soon going to be doing radiation experiments, I started drilling them on radiation safety a few weeks in advance, because you have to know this stuff when you're a physicist. The core point of that training was all "the stuff we're working with here is all quite safe, so long as you don't do anything radically stupid."

Now, on the day of the first lab, I showed up in the room pushing our biggest source on a cart -- a big blue barrel full of paraffin shielding around a neutron source.

And, as it happened, I knew someone who owned an NBC suit -- the full-body rubber bunny-suit-with-visor sort of thing. An NBC suit I could borrow.

So I walk into a roomful of freshmen, casually wheeling in the source and talking to them, while wearing a full-body radiation suit.

"Um... you said this stuff was safe, right?"
"Oh, yeah, certainly."
"So why are you wearing that?"
"Oh, this? Just for safety's sake, you know."
"No... I mean, why are you wearing that?"
"Ah. Well you see, there's one of me, and there are twenty of you. And there's one bunny suit."

Just to make it worse, I was getting ready to do this to another class, and just as I had finally gotten in to that damned suit, the fire alarm went off.

I decided to take the time to remove the suit before evacuating the building, on the theory that a fire alarm in the physics building followed by someone leaving quickly while wearing an NBC suit was likely to alarm people a little bit.

h/t to +Amber Yust for finding the lovely story linked...
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+Yonatan Zunger What are Nooglers and interns for, then?
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In excellent news of the day, California SB277 has just been signed into law: all non-medical exemptions for school vaccination requirements are now gone. California has several hubs of people who have been refusing critical vaccinations based largely on rumors that They're Bad For You, and has had serious outbreaks of diseases like measles and pertussis as a result. 

No more. The personal and religious exemptions (basically, the "I don't wanna" exemptions) have been eliminated.

I'm incredibly happy to see the state legislature move so quickly on an issue that put thousands of lives across the state at risk. 
Ending months of speculation, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed into law Senate Bill 277, which requires almost all California schoolchildren to be fully vaccinated in order to attend public or private school, regardless of their parents' personal or religious beliefs. California now joins only two other states -- Mississippi and West Virginia -- that permit only medical exemptions as legitimate reasons to sidestep vaccinations.
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+Joseph Moosman more simply the finger pointing at the moon  .......... could you forget the finger ?
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Successful experiment tonight:

1 1/2 oz. Bulleit rye
1 oz. Dram pine syrup
6 shakes Dram "Hair of the Dog" bitters
2 oz. soda

Shake all ingredients but soda thoroughly with ice, strain and add soda.

It should have been in a shorter glass, used a better rye, and it could definitely use a maraschino cherry (a real one, not the fluorescent variety) as a garnish, but this definitely works.
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+rare avis And once you are done candying the candles, don't forget to pick some of those new green needles and make a tisane from them. I'm trying to figure out the best way to incorporate that into simple syrup... Any advice if you have done it before would be welcome.
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I just thought I would mark today with a post I made four years ago, welcoming everyone on board just a few minutes after we flipped the switch and launched Google+. 

Over the course of the week that followed, I decided to try something a bit crazy and not really "traditional Google:" I spent lots of time running around the service, talking to everyone I encountered, and welcoming them aboard. What I found was that there were tremendous numbers of people out there who wanted to talk: not just about the service, but about all the things they cared about in their lives, from their pets to geopolitics. And the results changed my life.

It's been an amazing four years here: I've seen the project grow from a crazy idea to a giant, thriving community, spread around the world.  I've had so many conversations on so many subjects, and learned so much in the process, that I can't even count. I've learned to write much more effectively, and what it is to have a real conversation about incredibly sensitive subjects where people nonetheless treat each other with respect and seriousness. I've made an amazing group of friends here, people I love and trust and talk to every day. And I even met the love of my life, my brilliant and beloved wife, through the service.

So looking back on four years of what we've built here, I can say: this is going really well. I'm exceptionally glad to have met all of you, and to have had some part in building this community we share, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the next four years take us!
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That's definitely two words, Hugh.
And if +Google+​ had it, people could troll on in a separate thread here without disrupting the flow of the original thread. 
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  • Stanford University
    Ph. D., Physics, 2003
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
    B. A., Mathematics, Physics, 1997
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Chief Architect, Google+
Lots of people ask me what my job title means. I'm the senior engineer on the Google+ team, and my primary responsibility is to oversee and guide the technical design of Google+ and all of the things related to it. In practice, I'm also involved in lots of non-technical issues as well: my job is to make Google as fun, exciting, social, and pleasant a place to be as it can possibly be.

(I've been at Google since 2003, but you probably haven't seen me before this, because I worked deep in the back end: planet-scale storage, very large-scale search, ranking, and so on. Lots of teams whose unofficial motto is "if we told you, we'd have to kill you" -- as opposed to Google+, where we get to go out and talk and interact with our users.)

For those who just came here, welcome to the Google+ Project. It's something that we're all very passionate about, and which (as its name indicates) is going to continue to develop and improve at what we hope is an amazing rate. I'm avidly interested in hearing user feedback, and while I can't guarantee that I'll have time to respond to all of it, it will most certainly be listened to.

And the obligatory (very important!) disclaimer: I'm not on this system as an official representative. While I'm listening to user feedback and interacting about the system, I'm also here for perfectly ordinary social networking purposes. If I am saying something official on behalf of Google, I will make that explicitly clear; anything else that I say here is not the position of Google, or of anyone other than myself.

In fact, most of what I post about has nothing to do with CS at all. If you want a taste of it, take a look at my blog.
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