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Yonatan Zunger
Writer and Engineer. I helped build this network, long ago...
Writer and Engineer. I helped build this network, long ago...


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People's moral reasoning changes when they think in their native language or in a second language: in a second language, they appear to respond less from the "gut" and with a more intellectual balancing of consequences. More generally, emotional responses to language are muted in non-native languages.

Now I'm wondering whether my sense of English as a relatively dry language is just a side effect of my not speaking it natively. I learned it very young (first around age 3 or so), but is that enough to make a difference? And why don't I feel it that strongly around French or Spanish, languages I didn't learn until a few years later?

The effect of having a non-native language as one's daily language may be quite profound...

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A harsh, but reasonable, discussion of the structural problems within the non-Trumpist wings of the Republican Party, and why they have managed to marginalize themselves.
What horrifies people like Romney is not Trump and the Trumpists being in the party; it's them being in control of the party.

These Republicans want to revert to a situation where "normal" Republicans are in charge, but Trump and his base still feel included enough in the party to vote Republican. If retaking control of the party entails pushing Trump's people out entirely, the electoral math won't work anymore and Democrats will win.

So Romney can't apologize for the 2012 endorsement event because that was how things were supposed to work: Trump running his mouth so Romney can run the government.

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With saber-rattling being the new theme of the day in the North Pacific, +A.V. Flox and I have been getting worried questions from friends and family in Guam and the Mariana Islands. So we put together some useful tips: if you're worried about how to survive a potential North Korean nuclear attack, here's what you need to know and do.

The odds of this happening are very slim, but (a) better safe than sorry, and (b) almost all of this will help you prepare for a typhoon, too.

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A thorough and well-written short course in one of the parts of American history that (if your school was anything like mine) you never learned about: the Nadir, the period from roughly 1890 to 1930 where race took on its modern outlines in our country.

h/t +A.V. Flox

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This isn't just a critique of the #manifestbro; it's a solid discussion of how to think of recruitment as a quality control process, whose objective is to produce a steady stream of adequate (by any input definition) candidates.
if the Google Manifesto was correct, then you would expect to see that Google was full of mediocre female employees, who had been hired by a process biased in their favour despite being inadequate to the task. Whatever the author of the manifesto thinks, Google does not believe this to be the case and as far as I can tell from industry blogs, it isn’t – female employees in tech are generally very good. This would, of course, be consistent with the hypothesis that the current selection process is biased against them.
If, on the other hand, one had a situation where the writers of windy conservative manifestoes about not getting fair treatment were in fact mediocre whiners who inflated their CVs, then that would be evidence that there wasn’t a bias in the recruitment and retention system, and that in fact there was probably an inefficiency caused by the extent to which mediocrities were able to bump along because their face fitted in a homogeneous techbro culture. The concentration on star engineers, senior executives and Sheryl Sandberg C-Suite geniuses is entirely wrong; the progress of gender equality in the workplace ought to be measured by the extent to which women can get into the ranks of time-serving dead-wood middle management roles.

True equality will be reached when mediocrities of all kinds exist at every level. The fact that minority hires are consistently excellent is an indicator that we aren't there yet.

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This news story was slightly buried in the flood a few days ago, but it's important enough to highlight. An Australian court has backed the decision of a local council to block building permission for a synagogue in Sydney, on the grounds that the risk of anti-Semitic terrorism makes it unsuitable to build such things near residential areas.

Note several points in this:

- All sides are conceding that anti-Semitic violence is such a high probability that everything needs to be built around it. The proposal had considerable security features already, but the suggestion to build additional security features to ensure public safety was rejected as "too unsightly."

- The government's response to "people may try to kill Jews" isn't "maybe the police needs to take a more active role in preventing this," but "we therefore need to keep concentrations of Jews away from the public." And therefore, implicitly, that concentrations of Jews aren't part of the public.

When governments use the logic of "the risk of violence by others against you is so high that we can't let you be here," they're saying that protecting that group against violence is ultimately not the government's priority. This is something which is just as true for groups I despise as it is for groups I belong to; the government ceding its responsibility to preserve civic order for any one case is a terrifying precedent. And when the targeted group isn't being targeted because they're deliberately engaging in some outrageous provocation intended to draw fire, but for their very existence, that's even worse.

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Williamina Fleming was the founder of one of the most important astronomy research teams of the 20th century, one whose luminaries included Henrietta Leavitt (discoverer of Cepheid variables and the way we measure interstellar distances), Annie Jump Cannon (developer of the first modern stellar classification system), and Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (discoverer of the chemical composition of the Sun).

Her career in astronomy began in housekeeping.

Literally: she was working as maid and housekeeper for Charles Pickering, head of the Harvard Observatory, who was increasingly frustrated with his team of Computers (what we'd today call data analysis). One day he famously yelled, "My Scottish maid could do better!," and to prove the point, sacked the lot of them and gave her the job instead. Evidence shows he was very right about that.

Her story below...
In celebration of the solar eclipse later this month, I am sharing stories of amazing women in astronomy in my series of Guiding Stars in Astronomy. Today's post shares the story of Scottish-American astronomer Williamina Fleming, who went from being a single mother working as a maid to one of the most proficient astronomers of the late-19th century.

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Some very solid thoughts from +Karen Wickre about why HR is often terrible – and things that can make it better.

h/t +Ferdinand Zebua for the link.

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This is those wonderful bits of math that look so simple at first, and turn out to be insanely complicated. Despite the use of fruits instead of variable names, this is not a kid's problem; the smallest positive whole values (as the problem asks for) which solve it are about 80 digits long!

What's crazier is how fast the solutions grow if you change the numbers. If the number on the right-hand side were 178 instead of four, you would need nearly four hundred million digits for the answer. Not a number around four hundred million: a number with four hundred million digits. Just printing that out would require a book about six times the size of the (twenty-volume) Oxford English Dictionary for each of the three numbers. If the number were 896, we'd need trillions of digits just to write the answer. This is why Diophantine equations – algebraic equations where the goal is to find an answer out of whole numbers – are so hard.

If you want to see how this works, +John Baez's post links through to a Quora answer that gives a sketch of how it's actually solved – although it has to hand-wave over a few tricky bits as well.
Don't try this puzzle

It looks childish, but this puzzle is sadistically difficult. Saying that 95% of people can't solve this is like saying 95% of people can't jump over a skyscraper.

Here is the simplest solution:

apple = 154476802108746166441951315019919837485664325669565431700026634898253202035277999

banana =

pineapple =

You need a serious course on number theory to learn how to solve this. So it's easier than jumping over a skyscraper: you can learn to do it. But without some education, it's pretty much impossible.

The trick is to transform the equation into an elliptic curve. An elliptic curve is a kind of curve whose points form a group. That means if you find one point on the curve, you can find more. So if you can find one solution of this puzzle, you can find more.

Umm, but then you still need to find a solution! Luckily there's a small solution where the variables are integers that aren't positive:

apple = 4

banana = -1

pineapple = 11

From this you can turn the crank and get more solutions, but they get bigger and bigger, and the first one where all three variables are positive is the one I showed you.

I got all this from a wonderful Quora post by Alon Amit:

but I heard about that from +David Eppstein, here on G+. So: add David Eppstein to your list of cool people you follow on G+!

The post by Alon Amit is worth reading, because he leads you through the number theory without getting too technical (leaving out lots of juicy details that you'd get in a course on elliptic curves), and he gives some examples of similar problems that are much harder - if you don't know the trick.

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