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For the dispelling of a few myths.

h/t +Boris Borcic 
Most important thing I have heard on the Koran.

Noteworthy for me was Lesley Hazelton statement that radical fundamentalists and those critically minded about Islam produced comparable translations.
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There are controls that can be placed on hazards to reduce risks.

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Have to reblog this on the basis of previous post about the Pope. I don't care about Kim Davis.

The Pope still has his anti-gay record from his days as cardinal to contend with. See my previous post on the Pope.
Kim Davis is simply a pawn. 
See what happens when you try to throw His Holiness under the bus? Apparently the Liberty Counsel wasn't expecting this.
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The Pope has been, and probably always will be, a conservative (especially on "social" issues).

That church doctrine happens to favor ethical treatment of laborers and the poor, and that this is a contrast to what political "conservatives" advocate, doesn't change that.

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And resources to hack your brain

h/t +Keith Wilson 
Sugar - hungry areas of the brain show signs of being able to grow and develop well into adulthood
Scientists thought that the brain used to stop growing in late adolescence and early adulthood. But a new study in Cell Metabolism shows that parts of the brain continue growing throughout life, and that these parts of the brain consume ext...ra sugar for energy and share many traits with the developing brain. Young brains consume high levels of energy as they develop, burning sugar in a process known as aerobic glycolysis. Researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science hypothesized that they could identify areas of the adult brain that continued to grow and develop throughout life by measuring their rates of aerobic glycolysis. The scientists measured this process and identified 16 different areas of the brain that had higher than expected levels of aerobic glycolysis had gene expression levels that matched those seen in the developing brain. Many of these genes helped with the formation and development of axons and synapses, as well as potassium ion channels and other functions. Understanding the normal aging process in the human brain may help scientists better understand neurodegenerative diseases, the researchers say.

Journal article: Aerobic Glycolysis in the Human Brain Is Associated with Development and Neotenous Gene Expression. Cell Metabolism, 2013. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2013.11.020

Story via Neuroscience Research Techniques
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+Boris Borcic​ today I made a cup of tea, but instead of pouring the hot water in the cup I poured it in the jar full of sugar.

I should have waited for it to cool and put my brain in it.

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Do we need UN observers in the US elections?

I think we need UN observers of US elections.
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Newcomb's paradox, voting, and carbon emissions

Newcomb's paradox

Newcomb's paradox is the following beautiful and famous thought experiment. A wizard arrives in town and claims to be able to predict the future. He then makes you the following offer. He has placed two envelopes in front of you and you have the option of either choosing just the envelope on the left (as you look at them) or choosing both envelopes. He, meanwhile, has put money into the envelopes according to the following rules: if he knows that you will just pick the envelope on the left, he puts in $1000 in that envelope and $100 in the envelope on the right; if he knows that you will pick both envelopes, he puts in just the $100 in the envelope on the right. When you've chosen your envelopes, you get to keep the money you find in them. What should you do?

There are two powerful lines of reasoning, and they give different answers. One argument is that the envelope on the right contains $100, so whatever the wizard has put in the two envelopes you will end up with $100 more if you choose both envelopes. The other argument is that if you choose just the envelope on the left, then you will end up with $1000 (since the wizard will have predicted this and acted accordingly), whereas if you pick both envelopes, then you will end up with $100.

Most people have a strong instinct one way or the other, but people's instincts differ. I, for example, am a one-envelope person, but I know several people who think that I'm just obviously wrong to take that view. The interesting thing about discussions of Newcomb's paradox is that they tend to be little more than repetitions of the above two arguments in louder and louder voices. (There are a few preliminary arguments to get out of the way, such as why you should have any reason to trust the wizard. A possible answer to that is that you are the 50th person that the wizard has made the offer to, and his predictions have been correct every time so far.)


Several people argue that it is irrational to bother to vote, because the chance of your vote making a difference to the outcome is just too small to make it worth the effort. But others have a strong instinct that it is worth voting, even if they can't quite explain why.

Carbon emissions

There is a tempting line of argument that is quite similar to the argument against voting: it is that individual action to combat climate change, such as driving and flying less, insulating your house better, etc., is just a tiny drop in the ocean and therefore not worth taking. We just have to wait until our governments make deals that will have a global impact.

Why these three topics in one post?

In the run-up to the last general election, I had the thought that Newcomb's paradox is related to the voting question as follows. Suppose that I regard myself as a reasonably typical person. Not necessarily an average person, but just a person with views that are similar to the views of a reasonably large number of other people.

For simplicity, let's suppose that I belong to a social group S and that people in S vote independently for party P with probability p. However, I don't actually know what p is. What can I say about it? One possibility is to look at it in a Bayesian way. I start off with some prior distribution on p (that is, a distribution that tells me the probability that p lies in any give range [a,b]). Then I use the additional information that I am intending to vote for party P. The conditional probability that I will vote for party P given that Probability[person in S votes for P] is p is, naturally, p, since I am a person in S. Using Bayes's theorem, I can get from that to a posterior distribution on p -- that is, a new updated probability distribution given the information that I plan to vote for party P. 

The main point here is that the mean of the posterior distribution will be higher than the mean of the prior distribution. So if I vote for party P, then the expected number of people in social group S who will also vote for party P goes up. Similarly, if I don't vote for party P, it goes down.

To put all this less formally, if I assume that I am a reasonably typical member of group S, then the decision I make is likely to be mirrored by many other people in group S. So my voting power is amplified -- I really can make a difference.

Of course, to a two-envelope person all this reasoning will seem like a load of nonsense. Once I'm in the voting booth, my vote has no causal effect on anybody else's (assuming that I don't go out and campaign about it). But to a one-envelope person the "I am reasonably representative" hypothesis plays a role similar to the "the wizard knows what I'm going to do" hypothesis in Newcomb's paradox, and the reasoning is much more appealing. 

I wondered whether anybody else had had this thought, and, not surprisingly, they had. I found it articulated very nicely in the following blog post:

And what about climate change?

For a while now I've felt guilty about taking the attitude that it is for governments rather than individuals to reduce carbon emissions. (I favour taxes on emissions that are high enough to change behaviour, coupled with subsidies for renewable energy.) And now I have a way of articulating my guilt. I just apply the same reasoning to another form of collective action: if I take steps to reduce my carbon emissions, it probably means that plenty of other people have reached their own tipping points, whereas if I don't, then it doesn't; so I should.

One of the things I have felt worst about is driving my children to school/nursery. But finally, after doing that for several years, I have invested in a Dutch bike (second hand, but still expensive) with a box on the front into which you can put two children, provided they aren't too big. A rough calculation suggests that it will pay for itself in a year or so, thanks to the petrol I will no longer buy, or less if I eventually sell it for a reasonable price. But my main motivation is not that I'll save money by not buying that petrol: it's that I won't then burn that petrol. And it will also mean I get more exercise. Today was the first day when I would have used the car but didn't. There are quite a lot of similar bikes in Cambridge these days -- so maybe I'm vindicating someone else's one-envelope decision.
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Went to the beach today. Slip slop slap with suntan lotion but couldn't reach everywhere on my bod. Also hairy which makes applying lotion messy.

Several hrs later I notice parts of my upper torso are red raw in the mirror.

Go to the beach they said. You'll enjoy it they said!

Well I must admit I did catch a few waves. And a few caught me.

Still, not as embarrassing as having a sunburnt peeling face, being the RSO, and training staff and students about UV radiation safety.

The headache and general malaise followed by a sunburn are coming on. Took two melatonins so hopefully sleep will be possible. Have to go into work tomorrow. No rest for the wicked. 
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Lynn H
Feel better soon! That's no fun!

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Just because
Unattributed, from Facebook. The analogy is pretty devastating, IMO. 
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With police on one side and gun owners going nuts on the other, it's open season on Americans, by Americans, all year round.
Congratulations USA. 274 days into the year and you have had 294 mass shootings. At this rate, your country will soon be empty of people :)

On a serious note though, is it not time you had a hard look at this ongoing problem and addressed your gun control laws? Or is the cowboy mentality still alive and well in the 21st century?
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+Norman Ma don't let them compare with Syria. We wouldn't see the end of boatloads of American refugees we have to send to Manus island.

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I know it's 5 months old, but still worth reminding people of it.

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tl;dr I found the article too difficult to read. Not for the length (adhd) but for the language and the assumptions.

So my caveat aside, I don't think these discussions consider human faults.

Faults like greed, addiction, avarice, ambition. You can't simply hope to breed these out of the species. They are not necessarily entirely evil, and I'm sure some can successfully argue that part of the reason how we have evolved, and developed to harness nature, lift ourselves by our proverbial bootstraps to where we have come thus far in the evolutionary scheme of things has been due to our faults, as much as our strengths.

Let me give specifics.

These articles, of which I don't disagree with the premises with wholly by the way, assume that a basic wage will fix things like our desire to have cake as well as staple food, or own our own home and garden instead of paying for someone elses mortgage in the form of rent, or a fancier car.

Even stuff like alcohol, drugs, sex as a service, ... I'm sure those who are addicted to these will need more than staple income. And I don't think introducing a basic income is suddenly going to wipe those faults out of our species.

Back to me as an example. Supposing I tell my employer I've had enough of their basic salary, where they pay me (imho) 1/3 of the market rates for my profession, yet withhold legislative authority to do my job, and am forced to the mercy of superiors to wield the stick, and take the credit for my positions authority, yet still leave me vulnerable to liability when they themselves cannot stomach the hard decisions. What if I said 'no' to my employer? I'd be out of a job and on this hypothetical income, and if I wanted to do stuff I'd rather do, it would cost me a bomb and a half. Lets start with the basics.

The cheapest lathe costs about $5k. A good one probably $50k. I would probably need three of those. And then a whole hangar full of very expensive machine tools as well as laboratory equipment. In short an entire university's arsenal of  laboratories. Or access to NIST and NASA labs at the same time.

I'm not going to get that with a $1,000 a month.

And I can tell you, if I had a choice to say no, the lathe makers employees too would say no to building my lathe, and lathes would soon cost $10k minimum. Not $5k.

This isn't as easy as these articles make it out to be. Entire generations of the finest economic minds wrestled with labour and capital. From Marx to Nash and many others I know very little about.

Those of you who follow me know I'm in favour of a minimum liveable wage. I have always been supportive and see the benefit of all that minimum liveable wage actually benefit the manufacturers, commercial industries, and the capitalists in the end. As minimum liveable wage does not allow for disposable income or savings and it all goes back in the community.

But a free income  is a different kettle of fish. Here, people don't have to do work. They don't have to get up and drag their sorry arse into work every day to earn rent, food money. And the providers of those services will have to pay extra to attract workers. The cost of which even an idiot like me can see will increase the price of everything such that $1k monthly basic income will once again be worthless.

Several examples I have seen in my short lifetime have been subsidised solar panels, subsidised lpg tanks, subsidised insulation, etc. This only allowed the prices of such services to increase substantially that it was once again out of the reach of most low income earners.

Eg LPG tank installations used to cost between $200 to $300 back in the 90's. But when state and federal governments decided to subsidise the installation of them they skyrocketed to $3k and more. My car wasn't worth $500, which didn't justify the $3k. I could get a newer used car.

Ditto for the other subsidised examples. And I understand why the government would regulate it heavily when out of the grass-roots all the sharks would emerge when it is announced the government is paying them to install solar/lpg for the masses.

End of rant.
h/t +Simone Oech 
Freedom for all… this is an idea so far only spoken about in rhetoric and hypotheticals. There will never be true freedom from exploitation and all forms of slavery until freedom is actually granted unconditionally to all, with unconditional basic income.
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+Chris Blackmore wise decision. It is after all a rant.
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